MEXICO

Ignacia Guest House: A Colonia Roma Gem in Mexico City

Looking for Mexico City hotels? Book one of the color-themed suites at this charming and chic boutique hotel in one of CDMX’s safest neighborhoods.

 The back courtyard of Ignacia, with its cactus garden and fountain, lies between the old house and the new suites

The back courtyard of Ignacia, with its cactus garden and fountain, lies between the old house and the new suites

In Chicago it had begun to feel a lot like winter and we’d already experienced our first snowfall. So the opportunity for Wally and I to temporarily escape the cold weather for sunshine and 70-degree temperatures in Mexico City (aka CDMX) was just what the doctor ordered.

 The staff serves up a different cocktail each evening at this al fresco bar

The staff serves up a different cocktail each evening at this al fresco bar

The Ignacia Guest House

The first thing I do when planning a trip is secure lodging. In my research, I had discovered a couple of charming neighborhoods, or colonias — one of which was Colonia Roma.

This charming tree-lined neighborhood, filled with a mix of Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture, is the setting for Alfonso Cuarón’s latest movie, the critical darling Roma. Located on Jalapa Street, one of these historic gems is the Ignacia Guest House, which was our home away from home for five nights. The stylish boutique hotel takes its name from its former beloved housekeeper Ignacia, who lived and worked at the house for more than 70 years.

 This woodcut, off the check-in area, shows the beloved housekeeper-cook-nanny Ignacia as a young woman

This woodcut, off the check-in area, shows the beloved housekeeper-cook-nanny Ignacia as a young woman

 And here’s the other woodcut of Ignacia, as an older woman. Note the signature cows below

And here’s the other woodcut of Ignacia, as an older woman. Note the signature cows below

Inside the former estate, the palette is restrained to pale pink-colored walls, which truly allows the custom furnishings, lighting and artisanal objects chosen by interior designer Andrés Gutiérrez to shine.

 The front sitting room at the hotel

The front sitting room at the hotel

 A variety of magazines and other publications are available

A variety of magazines and other publications are available

(Make sure to check out the super-chic bathroom with its oxblood channel tufted wall panels and illuminated vanity mirror located next to the reception desk — you’ll thank me later.)

On every trip I become obsessed with a particular item, and in this case it happened to be the burnished terra cotta vacas, or cows, that could be seen atop the console table beneath a woodcut image of Ignacia in the main house and on the countertop of the patio bar. Romina Argüelles, one of the guest house managers, told us that the artisans who make these only create one or two per year. Needless to say, there’s quite a waiting list.

 Across from the breakfast seating area is the small library

Across from the breakfast seating area is the small library

Elements of the historic mansion, which dates to around 1913, have been lovingly preserved and restored, including the window frames, doors, wood floors, ornate plasterwork and pressed tin moldings. That’s thanks to Fermín Espinosa, architect and cofounder of Factor Eficiencia, a Mexico City-based design and construction firm. While the common rooms have been repurposed, the largest and most luxurious suite, Negra, is the only one located in the former mansion and is connected to the additional rooms by an enclosed steel and glass corridor.

 This glass corridor leads from the original house to the new modern wing

This glass corridor leads from the original house to the new modern wing

Between the two structures is an intimate central courtyard patio containing cacti typical of Oaxaca, with ivy-covered walls and a rectilinear steel-clad fountain gently gurgling in the middle. The garden also contains a pair of majestic orange trees planted by Ignacia herself after she began working at the house in 1929.

 Looking down upon the courtyard patio

Looking down upon the courtyard patio

 Wally and Duke, mimicking a shot they had seen of a gay couple taking wedding photos the day before

Wally and Duke, mimicking a shot they had seen of a gay couple taking wedding photos the day before

 The view from our room’s door. You can see Ignacia’s orange trees to either side, along with the balcony of the Negra suite

The view from our room’s door. You can see Ignacia’s orange trees to either side, along with the balcony of the Negra suite

The modern two-story addition stands just beyond the original home and is a geometric combination of glass and steel where the other four monochromatic suites, Rosa, Amarilla, Azul and Verde, are found. The palette was inspired by Ignacia’s memories of growing up in the town of Guerrero.

Breakfast is made daily from scratch in the kitchen, the recipes culled from Ignacia’s extensive repertoire. Each breakfast comes with freshly squeezed orange juice, a choice of coffee or espresso drink, seasonal fruit with muesli, yogurt and honey, and a basket filled with buttery puff-pastry orejas — as well as a main dish. One nice touch: They remembered how we liked our coffee the following morning, and every morning thereafter, bringing me a café americano and Wally his latte with leche light, the local colloquialism for reduced fat milk.

 Where breakfast is served each morning

Where breakfast is served each morning

 The curlicue pastries they call orejas, or “ears,” a main dish (this one with cecina, rehydrated salted dried beef) and coffee

The curlicue pastries they call orejas, or “ears,” a main dish (this one with cecina, rehydrated salted dried beef) and coffee

 Another delicious breakfast from Ignacia’s recipe book

Another delicious breakfast from Ignacia’s recipe book

After our first breakfast, the delightful Romina checked in with us to see how our flight was and gave us a quick tour of the guest house, pointing out the two woodcut portraits of Ignacia by the artist Pau Masiques and commissioned by the property’s co-owner Gina Lozado. One depicts the Ignacia at the age of 16, the other at 87. “She was the heart of the home,” Romina told us. As she finished the tour, she let us know that cocktail hour is held between 5-7 p.m. “Maybe we’ll have some local snacks,” she said with a grin. I had a sneaking suspicion of what that might mean.

 The Azul room

The Azul room

Azul Like It

We stayed in the Azul suite located off the central courtyard to the left. Our room included a screen print of the Castillo de Chapultepec by graphic designer Miguel Alpulche and maple flooring with inlaid dark walnut arrows that led us to guess, correctly, that it was reclaimed from bowling alley lanes!

 There’s plenty of storage in the rooms, including this dresser

There’s plenty of storage in the rooms, including this dresser

A Nespresso machine sat atop the dresser and we were told that the television is set up with Netflix, a nice feature we didn’t bother to use. There’s artesian bottled water from Casa del Agua adorned with line drawings of whimsical steampunk contraptions (never drink the local water, and use bottled water even when brushing your teeth!), and natural bath products by CDMX brand Loredana inside the bathroom, which is covered floor to ceiling in Carrara marble.

 When we visited in November, the weather was in the 70s, so we spent a lot of time in the courtyard

When we visited in November, the weather was in the 70s, so we spent a lot of time in the courtyard

Courtyard Cocktails and Our First Crickets

The courtyard patio was also where we returned in the evening to enjoy cocktails and snacks at the bar. Our first evening, the cocktail was a refreshing combination of freshly squeezed fruit juice, mezcal and an ancho chile liqueur rimmed with sal de gusano, pulverized maguey worms with chili powder, and garnished with a sprig of mint, which reminded me of the rebujitos Wally and I enjoyed in Seville during Feria.

We struck up a conversation with Magda Navarrete, another one of Ignacia’s managers, who asked if we’d be interested in trying a local snack. I perhaps too eagerly agreed. When she returned from the kitchen, she had a small ramekin filled with crispy, salted chalupines, or crickets. She was so endearing, we figured what the hell, we might as well try it.

I popped the cricket into my mouth. “Respect!” Magda called out. Wally, meanwhile, grimaced as he swallowed his chalupine. “It’s not bad — except when you feel the little legs catching on your throat,” he said.

If you’d prefer to embark on a hands-on culinary adventure, you can take a cooking class and spend the day with chefs Beto Estúa and Jorge Fitz at Casa Jacaranda, located in the same building as the Ignacia.

 Duke and Wally imitating Ignacia’s pose

Duke and Wally imitating Ignacia’s pose

With so much to see, it was impossible for us to fit everything on our original itinerary into one trip. Wally and I are already dreaming of our next visit to CDMX and staying in one of the suites at 208 Jalapa Street. And while the spirit of Ignacia may have lent the property its character, it was the incredible staff that made our experience memorable. –Duke

 A chic and friendly option in one of the safest neighborhoods in Mexico City

A chic and friendly option in one of the safest neighborhoods in Mexico City

Ignacia Guest House
Jalapa 208
Roma Norte
06700 Ciudad de México
CDMX
México

Girls Trip to Tulum, Mexico

The best restaurants, bars and things to do in this Riviera Maya hotspot.

 Girls gone wild! What a day in the sun (and too many margaritas) can inspire you to do in Tulum #freethenips

Girls gone wild! What a day in the sun (and too many margaritas) can inspire you to do in Tulum #freethenips

It was the picture of a line of topless girls on the beach (seen from behind) that really got me.

I asked my former colleague and friend Megan if she’d be willing to write up a post about her trip to Tulum, Mexico. When I visited about 15 years ago, it was a sleepy getaway from Playa del Carmen, popular with backpackers and yoga enthusiasts. Then the Hartwood came.

The water is so vibrant it practically burned my retinas. We took to the ocean immediately and dove in and out of the waves, channeling our inner mermaids.

Megan really captured the spirit of the coastal town that has grown up so rapidly in the past decade. –Wally

 Megan, a swinging single having a blast in Tulum

Megan, a swinging single having a blast in Tulum

Paradise Found

After spending weeks resisting responding to a chain of emails with the subject “February girls trip to Mexico!!!” I gave in and bought a flight on New Year's Eve. I didn't think I really wanted to go to Tulum with 10 girls I didn't know, but I'm easily persuaded by champagne. The girl organizing the trip was a close friend of mine, but everyone else was either an acquaintance or someone I'd never met.

 The amazing Airbnb the girls found in Tulum (the hot neighbor was an added bonus)

The amazing Airbnb the girls found in Tulum (the hot neighbor was an added bonus)

Fast-forward to February 2018, and we descend upon Tulum from every corner of the U.S. and Europe (thanks to The Organizer having friends in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, Illinois and Germany). We rented a wicked Airbnb with a pool, two kitchens and a really hot next-door neighbor who was sunning himself in the communal pool upon arrival (we aptly named him Mexican Jesus, to give you a visual). We all decided we like this place and I decided these girls are probably pretty cool after all.

 Photos can’t fully capture the cerulean beauty of the Caribbean

Photos can’t fully capture the cerulean beauty of the Caribbean

Setting sight on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula after a grueling 12-hour trek from L.A. was when Tulum really hit me. The water is so vibrant it practically burned my retinas. We took to the ocean immediately and dove in and out of the waves, channeling our inner mermaids. Tulum has a spectacular natural landscape, with lush jungle on one side and wild cerulean ocean on the other. Pictures can't do it justice.

 The girls hunkered down at Aura beach club all day, then changed into their party dresses for nights on the town. Look closely: You can see one of the gals flirting with a hot Spaniard

The girls hunkered down at Aura beach club all day, then changed into their party dresses for nights on the town. Look closely: You can see one of the gals flirting with a hot Spaniard

It didn't take us long to figure out that getting cabs with 10 girls was a nightmare. As dope as it was, our house was far from the beach bars and clubs Tulum is known for. We managed by taking everything we needed for the day and night to the beach with us to minimize our commute and maximize drinking time. We spent most of our days bunkered out at the beach club our Airbnb host recommended, Aura. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it was run by three tattooed Spaniards who brought us an endless supply of margaritas and giggles, so we were happy.

 Not a bad place to spend your days…

Not a bad place to spend your days…

Megan's Best of Tulum

 The tasty ceviche at La Zebra, washed down with a great local IPA

The tasty ceviche at La Zebra, washed down with a great local IPA

Top Restaurants

La Zebra Hotel: Gorge views, great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, even if you're not a guest.

Hartwood: Wood-fired restaurant with hyperlocal fare. Dinner only.

 

Top Places for Drinks

Gitano: Chic jungle restaurant. Slip on a sexy dress and be ready to dance.

Papaya Playa: Good old-fashioned beach party, from what I remember (not much).

when you happen upon the perfect daybed in the jungle #elevatedlounging

A post shared by Megan Dawson (@megpandawson) on

Top Pool

Casa Malca: Pablo Escobar's old digs turned funky-sexy hotel. Great photo op.

 Seven girls swim into a cave… No trip to Tulum is complete without an exploration of the limestone sinkholes called cenotes

Seven girls swim into a cave… No trip to Tulum is complete without an exploration of the limestone sinkholes called cenotes

Top Things to Do

Tulum ruins and cenotes with Sergio: Private tour of the beachfront Maya temple complex and limestone sinkholes in an air-conditioned van stocked with snacks and beer with the coolest local.

Biking along the beach strip: So much more efficient than taking cabs and also a fun way to explore.

Mayan Clay Spa: Get a mud treatment at this spa — it's insane. They massage warm mud into your whole body, including your face and hair, and then you rinse it off in an outdoor shower in the jungle.

 Go glamping! Megan peeks her head out of her “tent” at Nativus Tulum

Go glamping! Megan peeks her head out of her “tent” at Nativus Tulum

Top Place to Stay

Nativus Tulum: Glamping locale I stayed at for a night when the first round of girls left. You're literally in a tent, but a big nice tent, with a full bathroom that's outside. It's incredible, and they serve an amazing breakfast. Plus it has a private cenote and is on the beach road you'll want to be located on.

 Yes, the waters of the Caribbean are delightful — but it’s nice to have a private pool as well

Yes, the waters of the Caribbean are delightful — but it’s nice to have a private pool as well

Top Tips

  • Brush up on your Spanish — you'll need it.
  • Stay within walking or biking distance to the beach.
  • Get to the ruins very early in the morning to avoid crowds (and heat).

 

Favorite Moments

  • Taking the spontaneous topless photo with all the girls after too much sun and too many margaritas.
  • Trying to score weed with Mexican Jesus and failing miserably.
  • Running into my older brother, his husband, and my nephews by complete coincidence.
Tulum has a spectacular natural landscape, with lush jungle on one side and wild cerulean ocean on the other. Pictures can’t do it justice.

What is the Day of the Dead?

Don’t be scared of Día de los Muertos! With sugar skulls and homemade altars, it’s an exuberant celebration to honor those who have died.

 Every year Duke and Wally head to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago to see its Day of the Dead exhibit

Every year Duke and Wally head to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago to see its Day of the Dead exhibit

To an outsider, it can seem a bit odd. I remember the first time I saw the representations of skeletons dressed up in outlandish clothes as part of the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It seemed as if people were mocking death — and, in a way, that’s exactly what they’re doing. By laughing at death, it takes away some of its power; death becomes something you fear a little bit less.

You might leave out toys for little ones who have died — or booze and cigarettes for adults who indulged during their lives.

What are the origins of the Day of the Dead?

The Aztecs honored their ancestors, particularly at the monthlong festival for Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead, So there’s part of that tradition kept alive by the Aztecs’ descendants. But the holiday is also affiliated with the Catholic holy days, All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, first brought over by the Spanish conquistadors. (Halloween’s name derives from All Hallow’s Eve, meaning it’s the night before All Hallows’, or All Saints’ Day.)

Día de los Muertos became a way to celebrate with your loved ones — even those who have passed on.

 Surprise! Fall is the time of the year when the dead are said to come back to visit this world

Surprise! Fall is the time of the year when the dead are said to come back to visit this world

Is the Day of the Dead a scary time?

Don’t let its potentially frightening name fool you. Unlike Halloween, when people love to play up the spooky (hands reaching out from graves, evil clowns, fake blood, giant spiders, ghosts), the Day of the Dead is actually a joyful holiday.

In many parts of the world, this is the time of year when people honor those who have died, and the veil between the world of the living and the dead is said to be at its thinnest.

What about all those skulls and skeletons?

Skulls and skeletons are everywhere during the Day of the Dead. Artwork and food depict them, including skull-shaped bread (pan de muerto) and sugar skulls that you inscribe with the name of someone who has died. People will do elaborate Day of the Dead makeup to give the illusion that they’re skeletons.

 Duke went as a Day of the Dead skeleton recently for Halloween

Duke went as a Day of the Dead skeleton recently for Halloween

Why did these icons become so prolific? It traces back to the pre-Hispanic era, when skulls were kept as trophies and used during rituals, according to HuffPost.

 Families make altars for their loved ones who have died, decorating them with photos and offering treats

Families make altars for their loved ones who have died, decorating them with photos and offering treats

 The fun bright orange marigolds are common decorations during el Día de los Muertos

The fun bright orange marigolds are common decorations during el Día de los Muertos

How is the Day of the Dead celebrated?

Families will set up altars, or ofrendas, in their homes to honor those who have died. A photo of the dead person, candles, bright orange marigolds and colorful paper banners are popular. Family members put out the favorite food and drinks of the deceased, along with various items that they loved in life (a musical instrument or book, for instance). You might leave out toys for little ones who have died (angelitos) — or booze and cigarettes for adults who indulged during their lives.

 This ofrenda at the National Museum of Mexican Art was created by a graphic novelist, Raúl the Third

This ofrenda at the National Museum of Mexican Art was created by a graphic novelist, Raúl the Third

 Another stylized altar for the Day of the Dead exhibit in Chicago

Another stylized altar for the Day of the Dead exhibit in Chicago

What’s this about a party in the graveyard?!

That’s right. Mexican families will camp out at their loved ones’ graves and have a huge feast. That probably sounds creepy to a lot of you — but they’re just including those who have passed away to join the party. They’ll sing songs, talk to the dead and introduce them to new family members. It’s also a good time to clean their loved ones’ tombstones.

In some villages, people will leave a trail of marigolds from the deceased’s grave back to their home, so the dead can join them there.

 These sugar skulls were crafted by the Mondragón family in Mexico, a specialty they’ve worked on for generations. The name of the deceased is written on the forehead of the skull

These sugar skulls were crafted by the Mondragón family in Mexico, a specialty they’ve worked on for generations. The name of the deceased is written on the forehead of the skull

There are some lovely Day of the Dead practices that could become a part of your family’s Halloween traditions. Duke and I have started collecting sugar skulls, and we’ve always loved the skeleton artwork.

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos! –Wally

Mexican families camp out at their loved ones’ graves and have a huge feast. That probably sounds creepy to a lot of you — but they’re just including those who have passed away to join the party.