Tall shady trees with fountains and nymphs at Alameda Central Park.

So two friends, Marjorie and Mayann, my husband Alex and I went out of the subway into bright noonday sun on the busy Avenida de Hidalgo. We reached the Alameda Central Park, a huge garden constructed at around the 16th century. The authorities, as early as the colonial period, understood that the population needed a place away from the bustle of city life, a cool oasis where they could do their afternoon paseos. This 400-year-old garden was full of shady elm trees, well-manicured hedges, fountains, gazebos, and the eye-catching Hemicycle of Jurez, a white semi-circular colonnaded tribute to Benito Jurez (five-time Mexican president and reformer) and inaugurated in 1910 during the centennial celebration of the Mexican independence.

Across the avenue was an attractive gray granite building, and we learned that it was the Palacio de Minera, built in 1793. A statue of the Spanish monarch Carlos IV mounted on his steed, El Caballito, stood in front of the building on a wide, rectangular plaza. This was the Plaza de Manuel Tlsa, named after the venerated architect who did the sculpture. The palacio itself was historical, as it started out housing engineering and metallurgical schools, at a time when New Spains (Mexico) wealth rested on iron and precious metal mining.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes. The Torre Latinoamericana is behind it

We then reached a palatial and historical building, the Quinta Casa de Correos (Fifth Postal Building), so-called because the postal building moved its location four times until this final destination. The building was initially constructed in 1761 as a Franciscan hospital, but was later renovated during the term of President Porfirio Diaz.

As we stood at the vestibule, we gazed with awe at the majestic marble stairs, winding up like two enormous wings; the gleaming walls of bronze and marble (from Florence, it was said); the porticoes, and the small windows reminiscent of the Doges Palace in Venice. There were four floors, and it took five years of renovation to reach its present splendor. There was a glass dome that allowed bright sunlight through its crystal panes. Again, we put this under our must-come-back-and-explore file.

And who could resist the open air, second-hand bookshops? The alley of endless books between two tall buildings seemed to wind itself all the way to the next block. We browsed through books by Latin American authors, Spanish translations of the latest crime thrillers, and even a hefty Mafalda (beloved comic book character) volume.

Open-air bookshops on the Avenida de Hidalgo

We also saw a shop announcing, in large letters Petacas! selling wallets and leather goods (pitakas, anyone?), a perfumery shop for custom-made scents, and a street named Simon Bolivar.

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Visiting the heart of Mexico City

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April 8, 2015 at 6:07 am by admin
Category: Gazebos