Centre. Metro Zócalo.
The idea for this part of the blog was inspired by ("shamelessly stolen from") a book I found in the US, called 50 Places To Find Peace and Quiet in New York City. It was an odd guide book to have as company, as I didn't really go to New York to find peace and quiet, but nevertheless it was an addictive read. Some of the places were obvious, some were obscure, some were frankly disappointing. But it satisfied the urge to go hunting for places that the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, and probably a great deal of the city's residents, knew nothing about.
I'd forgotten all about this book by the time I'd arrived in Mexico City, until I found myself in the Botanical Garden at the National Palace, which reminded me of all the better out-of-the-way places in NYC. Anyway, below is a small handful of places which I think are worth the visit, if only to escape for an hour or so the relentless buzz of Mexican city life.
I have no idea what the equivalent of a zócalo is back home. Do we have town squares any longer? Did we ever have them? Have I just made them up? If we did have them, and they were, say, enormous open spaces, right in the centre of town, with a church on one side and maybe a town hall on the other, and with hundreds of people milling about and generally thronging, then they have an exact equivalent right here in Mexico. The zócalo. The one in Mexico City is huge, and extremely busy at all times, and has a strange pull to it, so you will at some point find yourself there, perhaps a bit frazzled by everything around you.
So, head off the east side of the square into the National Palace. You'll still be accompanied by a fair number of tourists and locals at this point, as it's definitely on the tourist trail - the main draw being Diego Rivera's murals. But delve further inside and eventually you'll come across the Botanical Gardens. To be honest, it's probably best not to go there expecting rare orchids or exotic flowers of any description, because there aren't any. It's actually not much of a botanical garden at all. But it's still a garden, with benches and stuff, and is, considering its location in the heart of the city, ridiculously peaceful.