The first few times you walk or cycle around the colonia of Condesa, it has a way of bewildering you. Firstly, you can't help feeling that you're in some kind of small town which surpises you with its somewhat European-plus-Mexican flavour and its wide leafy streets lined with Art Deco architecture. Surely you can't be in the middle of that mighty megapolis called Mexico City? Something isn't quite right. Its airy pavement cafés, potpurri of ethnic restaurants, thickly vegetated parks, hip boutiques and its air of decadence and distinctly bohemian feel may convince you that DF has its own type of Parisian Latin Quarter.
Secondly, if you find yourself going round and round in circles, don't worry. Calle Amsterdam follows the oval layout of the area's former horse racetrack (Hipodromo in Spanish) which only adds to your confusion. Keep going and you'll eventually land back up where you started. Down the centre of this street runs a leafy, bike-friendly, walkway while the street on either side is flanked by restaurants, cafés and boutiques. Despite this, Condesa is essentially a residential area and definitely one of Mexico City's most charming, character-filled colonias.
Map showing the oval layout of Calle Amsterdam, former horse racetrack
La Condesa (meaning "Countess" and named after the Countess of Miravalle who owned this land and the former racetrack) dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, hence the profusion of Art Deco and Art Nouveau-style buildings. It was home to many artistic middle and upper-class residents and foreigners, including Askenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and Spanish refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War. In the 1970s, the younger generations began to leave Condesa for other more fashionable areas. The 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, which severely damaged the neighbouring Roma district, hastened the continuing process of abandonment as residents began to move out to more up-market areas like Polanco. With prices falling and attracted by its unusual architecture, a new type of resident moved in: young businessmen, artists, musicians and others. Restaurants began to open, and chairs and tables which were set out on the pavements became an instant success with the city's mild climate. Today, it's a more relaxed community with its own pace of life, featuring the bright colours of Mexico in a bohemian setting. And a lively night life scene.
Central to this district are the two parks, Parque México and Parque España, which are not only the vital lungs of this area but an essential part of its character. In fact, this is probably the colonia with the most trees, the most dogs and maybe even the most eating places. All in all, it's a great place to wander around or have a coffee or meal, with surprises down most streets and some quirky finds waiting to be discovered on most visits. Street art, amusing posters, dogs in stripy jumpers, roundabouts with fountains, ancient vehicles which look as if they haven't been moved since I was born, colour-drenched buildings, original doors and windows with wrought-iron railings... you won't get bored. I would just love to get rid of all the ugly tangles of black spaghetti everywhere, supposedly electric wires, which disfigure the streets and façades and threaten to behead tourists on the open-topped Turibus as it passes through.
Snapshots of Condesa
One of the many pavement cafés
Tables set outside
Dog training in Parque México
Coffee, food, books and live music at El Péndulo
Typical architectural features
A man relaxing in Parque México
Blue and red
The Green Corner
Blue is a popular colour
A fancy doorway
Life-sized animals climbing up the side of a building
Crêperie de la Paix with Calvin Klein underwear advert above
Eco-bicis, Mexico City's bike-sharing scheme
Ducks on the pond
Car leftover from the last century
Eye-catching colour scheme
Exercising in the park
Purple building in Calle Tampico
Amusing sign: "Pedestrians have preference... preferably alive, please!"
A waiter waiting for some customers
"Anyone for breakfast?"
Looking inside a café-bar
Two men in suits by their red VW Beetle
Lake and fountain in the park
Adding a touch of colour to a drab building
Wallace Whisky Bar - with over 500 gallons of whisky in stock!
Detail of multi-coloured old trolley bus
Old car outside the Hotel Condesa DF - notice the key to wind it up with!
Another old Japanese trolley bus converted into a place to eat - with rooftop terrace included! The staircase is made of skateboards and the railings on the top with old bicycles
Mague pasteleria and café
Ferns peeping through window railings
Handwritten sign saying: "Please don't destroy my leaves. They provide the city with oxygen. Thank you."
Still don't know what this large figure is on top of this building
Cool shady park with water
Artwork on a house
Beautiful gardens and flowers
Different coloured houses
A bit of grafitti
Large mansion in Calle Durango
Sign seen outside a restaurant
Early morning in Parque México
Mexican food at La Flautería
He won't get bored with so many magazines to read!
Wide street in Condesa
A whole building used as an advertisement
A health food shop
Interesting sign seen in a shop window
Boutique in one of the streets
Bright red building
Artwork by a petrol station
Another popular colour combination - red and blue
Hanging trumpet flowers
An old delivery truck
Not walking the dogs, but taking them for a ride
Relaxing by a fountain
Iglesia de Santa Rosa de Lima in Condesa
Priest outside the church
Nuns at their stall and woman selling artichokes
Lombardi restaurant - I suppose the wine bottles are empty?
"Transform your world
Transform your city
Don't throw litter."