We find Casa Gonzales, white stucco with blood red trim, on tree-lined Rio Sena across the street from the back door to the British Embassy. Parked cars choke the street and our gate is marked with a street number different from the one provided by our hotel wholesaler. David noses the rental into the entry and I jump out and ring the bell. In time a woman opens the gate and much ado is made over juggling vehicles in the narrow driveway before we are able to squeeze in and the metal gate clanks shut.
The casa is actually three houses with 22 guest rooms, representing three generations of the owner’s family. Jorge is the most recent. The main house was built in the 1920s or 30s and has an old fashioned feel, a bit run down at the heel, but still holding it’s head up. The compound occupies almost a quarter of a city block and is surrounded by the expected twelve foot wall. Inside, gardens and courtyards lure me to forget that we’re in a city with over 20 million people, that is until I hear the police shrill by. I order a cappuccino from the barista in reception and rest.
We draw the second house as our residence. Next door a gaggle of noisy co-eds party into the wee hours and upstairs are our new friends, John and Anita from Canada, who we meet at dinner. Our room is pretty awful. I reserved a double with a “matrimonio” sized bed and we have two tiny twins, their thin mattresses sagging into the wooden bed-frames.
The view from our tall, multipaned window looks over a service patio, housing water heaters and garbage bins. I close the curtains after we marvel at the beautiful but uneven blond, golden and red oak parquet floor. David flips on the ornate gold pendant-light strung with grimy crystals that form the bowl and picks the bed by the door. I slump onto my bed and drag my journal out of the jumble of my carry-on.
Dinner is delightful: sweet, ripe melon balls in lime enhanced sopa de lechuga, breaded whitefish, crisp-tender green beans, asperagus quiche and pan tostada. (The vino tinto was cloying, and the sulfites clogged me up.) For dessert we enjoyed helado de sapote—an ice made from the black sapote fruit. Yummmmm. The dining room, in the original house, is hung with striking portraits obviously painted by the same artist as the sultry woman under her white mantilla, contemplating me from her frame on the opposite wall as I write. Anita tells a story about Jorge’s grandmother who refused to allow the painter to set up a portrait studio in his room, but he managed to paint every beautiful woman who passed through. Were the paintings given to the family in lieu of rent? The woman in our room wears a carved wooden cross nestled in her cleavage and her dress and earrings are sumptuous.
We have coffee with Anita and John. They met in Paris, at the Louvre in 1959. John was born in England but has lived in Canada most of his adult life. Anita is a Capitalina, from right here in Mexico City.They direct us to a nearby Superama where we pick up some snacks and bottled water for our room. It turns out that Wal Mart bought the Superama chain. I am disappointed by this news. I find the fresh pan dulces and eat three before bed. How cold I resist?
We wander the Colonia: past the US Embassy back door where young Marines guard shiny, black limos parked in the lot, around the corner onto Reforma and say “good evening” to the embassy guards at the main gate, although they don’t appear to understand, and past the Sheraton and Starbucks. It is on Rio Tiber, roaring with traffic racing Zona Rosa that David says, “You’ve come home.” I am pleased he notices how I love Mexico City and in a way, yes, I am home. And I love California, too. Can’t I divide my time?