Three day trip to Cusco, Urabamba and Machu Picchio

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It’s another glorious day, waking up to this marvelous view of Lima’s cost from my bedroom terrace! Today Javier and I are going for a 3 day excursion to Cusco, Urubamba and Machu Picchu; I am beyond exited and so ready to experience one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu. I’ve heard so many tails about people’s spiritual reaction to this sacred place over the years, so I’m eager to see what kind of effect, if any, it will have on Mr. Kass. The morning starts with my usual coffee and ….. carrot cake on the terrace, after which it’s time to pack for the Andes. Instead of doing my usual research that I do every time I visit exotic places, I rely on dear old Javier who tells me that all I need is good walking shoes, jeans and t-shirts…oh and yes, of course, an oxygen tank! Yes dear possums, we are going to an altitude of 15,000 ft. and there is practically NO oxygen in the air. People get altitude sickness and pass out…something to look forward to! So I pack my overnight Pradas with the bare minimum (no fashion statement required in the Andes) and off to the chaotic airport of Lima on a Uber ride…yes, Uber is also in Lima!

The first thing that a foreigner finds out when buying an airfare in Lima, is that Peruvians pay a certain amount and foreigners pay more than double for the same fair…now that’s good PR. So after throwing a tantrum at the LAN airline counter for unfairly being charged so much more than Javier, we make our way to the VIP lounge for an afternoon glass of wine…as one does. While Javier drinks his beer and reads Pinocchio books for toddlers, I do a little goggling on our destination. It’s a quick hour and a half to Cusco, and all I can think about during the flight, is arriving and passing out in the luggage hall for lack of oxygen! I work myself up so much that I am actually in a panic now. Once we arrive and get off the plane, I immediately feel the thin air but surprisingly, I’m ok with it; the only thing that immediately shocks my senses, is how damn cold it is!!! Considering I only packed t-shirts and plaid shorts, I have a feeling it’s going to be a bitch of a 3 days…Alpaca sweater here I come! The other immediate reaction is the constant yarning, which is your body’s natural reaction to a lack of oxygen.

Our driver is waiting to drive us to Javier’s family brand new house in the mountains of Urubamaba, about one hour away from Cusco. Urubamba is a small town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, located near the Urubamba River under the snow-capped mountain Ch’iqun. It’s now about 7PM and we are starving; according to our driver, there is only one good restaurant in the area: Eltluacatay (www.elhuacatay.com). This surprising gourmet restaurant is very popular with both wealthy Peruvians and “gringos”.  It’s an old home built around a garden set back from a nondescript Urubamba street, and it’s the perfect place for a lovely dinner in the warm, intimate dining room (which has only five tables). The owner is a lovely Italian lady with whom I start rambling in Italian about how cute the place is and how bloody freezing it is! She seats us in front of the fireplace just next to the house cat, who obviously knows where to place to be is. The menu is definitely eclectic and full of Andean specialties, such as quinoa soup, alpaca lasagna, and coca-infused (but street-legal!) gnocchi. We order up a storm and eventually make our way to Javier’s beautiful new retreat.

 

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My “Room with a view”

 

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Two espressos and …….’s homemade carrot cake and we are on our way!

 

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Prada carry-ons and oxygen tank…as one does!

 

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Javier having a beer and reading Pinocchio (He’s still growing up..)

 

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El Huacatay Restaurant

 

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The very homie and charming kitchen at El Huacatay

 

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The super charming 5 table dining room

 

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The house cat sleeping in the best spot in the house

 

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Lovely setting complete with local olives and fresh flowers

 

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Asian crispy shrimp

 

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Potato croquettes with saffron sorbet

 

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Braised lamb with cous cous

 

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Steak with blue cheese and truffled spaghetti

 

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Javier building a fire in the beautiful living room at his home in Urubamba

 

Now the temperature has gone down to 28 Fahrenheit and I am shivering like a leaf in my “Sky Utah” T-shirt. Javier jumps to the rescue and starts a fire in the living room just before I fall unconscious from frostbite, the temperature finally rises and all is good…for now! Oh…did I mention there is no heating in the house besides the one stove in the living room? The next part is even better; I collect every duvet I can find in the 5 bedrooms and retire to my bed fully dressed and with 3 comforters on top of me. To add to the madness, another lovely side effect of high altitude is INSOMNIA!!! Yes, you can’t fall asleep in high altitude…it’s gong to be a long, freezing night! Brrrrrrr



Peru…here I come!!!

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I am so exited to visit Peru, I’ve always wanted to experience this mystical country with all it’s different layers: the Andes and Machu Picchio, Cusco, Lima, the jungle, the ocean, the desert, the funny little Peruvian outfits…hats and all. I finally have a great reason to journey to this enchanted country thanks to my dear friend Javier Millership, an English born Peruvian that I met several years ago in Los Angeles, who has courageously offered to show me this amazing land.

Since I’m in Mexico City, a skip and a hop away from Peru (not really…), there is no better time to go! I board my night flight on Aeromexico to Lima (www.aeromexico.com); there are only coach seats on this flight but if you ask ahead for the emergency exit seat # 14A, you will have plenty of leg room since there is no seat in front of you. I arrive at 11:45 PM in the chaotic airport of Lima; after a long line through customs, I finally reach the arrival area where my dear Javier is waiting breathless with anticipation…or so I like to think. After another long line to pay for the parking, we reach Javier’s SUV where, ever so casually, he pulls out a Glock 9mm pistol and an AK47 look alike contraption and sets it between us in the middle armrest. Clearly, I’m a little taken back by the sight of “Peruvian Rambo 2.0”, but he casually reassures me with heart warming words: “This is the way it works in Peru”… So there you have it!

The ride home is dark, traffic is brutal, even at 1am, and the landscape is definitely third world, though I’m more concerned about that gun pointing my way and accidentely shooting through my thigh! By the time we arrive at his ocean side, 3 floors penthouse on the famous Maleçon, it’s 2am so there is just time for a quick “Bienvenido” cheer with Peruvian pink champagne on the rooftop overlooking the Lima coastline and off to bed…a very comfortable bed I might add!

 

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The “Terminator” Javier Millership

 

The moment I wake up and look out my window, I realize the beauty of the Lima costal landscape, to which I have a front view from my bedroom window and terrace. It’s the beginning of winter now in Peru, so the weather is tamer and there is a beautiful morning mist throughout the coast that burns out in the early afternoon. Javier know well how much I love food and my interest in restaurants; so the first day is jam-packed with visits to three of the top restaurants in Lima. We start with breakfast at the trendy “El Pan de la Chola” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Pan-de-la-Chola/100747306661527); a lovely cafe/bakery at the super-hip neighborhood: Miraflores. The place is simple, yet cleverly done; the baked goods, including croissants, home made granola, yogurt and all the usual suspects, are made in house, in fact, you can see the bakery in full action in the back of the cafe. On weekends you will have to wait for a long time to get a table. Note to all the “Chicas”: the owner is drop dead gorgeous and apparently single.

 

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El Pan de la Chola Cafe and Bakery in Miraflores, Lima

 

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Such a beautiful presentation

 

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Breads being made fresh all day in the back of the cafe

 

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Yum

 

Now it’s time for a drive around town to see the different neighborhoods that have grown so much in the last 10 years according to Javier. Real estate is booming in Lima and you can see it all around with the construction of so many new modern buildings. Traffic is brutal, though not as bad as Mexico City. Everyone drives wherever they want and traffic laws don’t apply, in fact, no one gives a rat’s ass about them! So for the first few days I am literally clawed to the dashboard in fear for my life; eventually you just join the madness and start screaming out the window, to other drivers, to get out of the way!!! If they don’t comply, you can always point the gun at them…just kidding!

We arrive at La Heradura Beach, at the end of the Lima Bay, where the local surfers are out in force, a familiar sight for me living in California. The waves are rough and the beach is only rocks, but no one seems to mind. Then off to the controversial statue of Jesus that sits on top of a hill overlooking the entire Lima. I say controversial because it was a gift from the ex president of Peru to the city of Lima, a city that he allegedly pillaged and plundered for years; but here’s the good part, he had the Jesus made out of Plexiglas!!! Yes my dear possums…Plexiglas!!! With all the dough he stole, you would think he would commission a stone Jesus like Rio de Janeiro…the cheap troll! One the hill next to it is another cross; this one a very tall metal structure that lights up in the night, a shining beckon of the Catholic church that is, without doubt, the leading religion in Peru.

 

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La Heradura Surfer Beach

 

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The breathtaking cliffs at La Heradura Beach…and my ride!

 

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The Fiberglass Jesus overlooking Lima

 

IMG_2861The Illuminated Cross overlooking Lima

 

All right, enough crosses. It’s time for lunch! Javier chooses the best lunch restaurant in Lima: El Mercado (www.rafaelosterling.pe). The owner and chef is Rafael Osterling and he is one of the best known chefs in the country; his two top restaurants in Lima are Mercado (only open for lunch) and Rafael (only open for dinner). This guy is truly amazing; his cuisine is innovative yet true to its Peruvian origins. Mercado is all about fish, which is abundant and as fresh as it gets in Lima. Our little group of misfits: Myself, Javier, Shirley and Soli are certainly not shy about food, so within minutes, a parade of dishes arrive at the table as if I we hadn’t eaten in weeks. We start with Conchas a la Parmesana, followed by the best grilled Octopus west of Mississippi and a million other dishes. We conclude this food bonanza with homemade Churros del Mercado with Chocolate Dip, Dulce de Leche & Vanilla ice cream…COMA!

As you know, I always have to visit the local museums, but I’m even more exited today to visit our friend Mario Testino’s, MATE museum in the chic Barranco neighborhood (www.mate.pe). I’ve always been a frustrated, wanna-be photographer and photography has always been a big part of my life since I was very little, specially from fashion photographers such as Mario, Herb Ritts, Steven Klein, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Avedon, Snowden, Annie Leibowitz, etc. So going to see Mario’s photo exhibit is a real treat for me. The exhibit is very small but it includes some of his best celebrity portraits and his “Claim-to-Fame” photo shoot with Princess Diana, even one of her beautiful gowns she wore is displayed in the “Diana Room”. Chic…no?

I’m pooped!!!! Back to the Maleçon for a siesta before going to another great Rafael restaurant for yet another feast…I feel like a Roman, I’ll never make it out of this country in a size 34 pants!

 

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Chef Rafael’s amazing El Mercado Restaurant in Miraflores

 

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Such an exiting and innovative menu

 

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Conchas a la Parmesana

 

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Something yummy

 

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Something with an egg…

 

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Thai style fried rice bowl

 

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Something with shrimps…I’m sorry, I forgot some of the names of these dishes

 

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Home made Churros with Chocolate dip, Dulce de Leche and Vanilla Icecream

 

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Mario Testino’s MATE museum

 

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Entrance to the restored 1930′ original building

 

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The gorgeous Kate Moss

 

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Brad baby

 

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The unforgettable Princess Diana

 

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Diana’s gown

 

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Peruvian lady in her traditional ensemble

 

Surprisingly, I am ready for the 3rd mega meal in one day; Javier and I are off to chef Rafael’s dining flagship named after him: “Rafael”, in the Miraflores neighborhood. The restaurant opens at 8PM (because they can…) and has no sign outside; it’s very reminiscing of the super trendy NYC restaurants, which, I hear, Rafael is a fan off. The interior is simple, yet cozy and welcoming with many odd “objets” around the Cuban style bar, cool art and a very subtle/chic main dining room. Javier introduces me to Rafael, who happened to stop by for a moment; I was very impressed by his charming and understated demeanor, a rarity amongst talented famous chefs…Oh no he didn’t. Of course we start the evening with Peru’s signature drink: the Pisco Sour.

A Pisco Sour is a cocktail typical of South American cuisine. The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components.
Main alcohol: Pisco
Ingredients: 1 oz Lemon Juice, 1 Egg white, 1 1/2 oz Pisco, 3/4 oz Simple syrup
Preparation: Vigorously shake and strain contents in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, then pour into glass and garnish with bitters.
Served: Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish: Angostura bitters
Drinkware: Old Fashioned glass

These little suckers are deliciously easy to drink, but make no mistake, they are lethal!!! After just one drink, your legs give away and after the second…well, it’s not pretty! Needless to say, I had two Piscos and forgot to take photos of all the dishes, I forgot to take photos of the interiors of the restaurant and, quite frankly, I don’t even remember how I got home…NO more Pisco for Roberto!!!

 

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The deadly Pisco Sour

 

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Rafael Restaurant’s bar…the only photo I managed to take prior to Pisco Sour obliteration

 

Last jammed-packed day in Mexico City before leaving for Peru…Dios mio!

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Today is my last day in Mexico City before I leave for Peru tomorrow and I have a jammed packed 15 hours in front of me! I start the day with 100 laps in the underground pool (an absolute must, considering the amount of calories I am consuming these days!!) and it’s off to Cuernavaca to have lunch with my mother. Cuernavaca is an hour and a half outside of Mexico City and it’s a beautiful weekend escape for many DF Mexicans who need a brake after a long week. It was famous in the 60′ and 70′ among all the jet-setters including “Poor little rich girl” Barbara Hutton and many European royals; that is of course until the Mexicans kidnapped the son of the Italian King, Umberto di Savoia and murdered him…that was the end of Cuernavaca amongst the world elite. They did, however, leave behind a collection of extraordinary estates that still shine today as private residences or museums open to the public.

They call it the “City of Eternal Spring” because of it’s unique climate: never too hot and never too cold (though I find it hot as hell most of the times). My Formula 1 driver Jose Luis, gets me there in just over an hour, just in time to pick up Mom and go to her new favorite hideaway: Casa Manzano (www.casamanzano.com.mx). I order the Huevos Devorciados (Divorced eggs…Humm) which are delicious and my mom’s favorite smoothie: a blend of Parsley, fresh Pineapple, fresh Oranges and cactus (nopales); though reluctant at first, I end up loving this concoction so much that I had it made every morning from there on. After the lovely lunch it’s time to go back to DF.

 

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Casa Manzano’s Menu

 

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The beautiful courtyard at Casa Manzano

 

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Enchiladas de Guajillo con Requesón

 

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Huevos devorciados…I love the analogy!

 

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The famous Cactus Smoothie

 

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More courtyard beauty

 

Once again, it’s museum time…I just can’t get enough and in Mexico City there is never a shortage of possibilities! Today we will go to the Museo De La Bellas Artes to see the Henry Cartier Bresson photo exhibit, the cathedral and government palace and the Chapultepec Castle (www.castillodechapultepec.inah.gob.mx). The castle is located on top of Chapultepec Hill in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and these buildings have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the Museo Nacional de Historia. It is the only royal castle in North America that was actually used as the residence of a sovereign: the Mexican Emperor Maximilian I, and his consort Empress Carlota, lived there during the Second Mexican Empire. Though not as opulent as it’s counter parts in Europe, there are many beautiful rooms and art pieces to look at and most of all, amazing views of Mexico City. I don’t suggest walking up the long driveway on a hot, humid day as I did; once I arrived at the top gasping for air and wet as a rag, I realized there is a little choo-choo train that goes up and down the long walk transporting smarter visitors…argh!!!

 

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Palacio de las Bellas Artes

 

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The stunning iron gate at Chapultepec Castle

 

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Side view of Chapultepec Castle

 

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The beautiful stain-glass windows at the castle

 

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The dramatic “Affresco” at the entrance stairway

 

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The jade imperial door

 

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The viewing tower

 

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The view form Chapultepec Castle

 

Alright…I am done with museums, get me to a bar!! My ever-so-resourceful driver Jose Luis doesn’t waste a moment and quickly whisks me through the infernal city traffic to the famous Cafe de Tacuba (www.cafedetacuba.com.mx), just off the Zócalo; here I have a Cafe con Leche (turns out it’s to damn early for a drink…Misery!) and a Trés Leches cake (one of my favorites…though my Mom’s is much better). This Mexican classic opened in 1912 in a section of an old convent; at the entrance to the main dining room are huge 18th-century oil paintings depicting the invention of mole poblano, a delicious Mexican classic sauce featuring a variety of chilies and chocolate that was created by the nuns in the Santa Rosa Convent in Puebla. Though touristy, this place is a must see with it’s stunning pre-colonial decor and it’s classically uniformed waitresses…chic-diner-hat and all…ya’all.

 

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Cathedral at the Zócalo

 

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Zócalo Square

 

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Mexican flag standing proud at the center of the Zócolo

 

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Cafe de Tacuba front window

 

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Mariachi’s playing in Cafe Tacuba

 

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Our lovely waitresses

 

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Cafe Tacuba interior

 

I now have been going strong for 8 hours straight and I’m officially dead to the pulp!!! I’m going home.

After a well-deserved siesta and a foot massage, its dinnertime with the handsome, Venezuelan, telenovela super-star: Raul Olivo. I’ve met Raul at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles almost 15 years ago and we became instant friends; I’ve watched his career, in both film and music, grow through the years and I am so happy with his success. He takes me, Raphael and his beautiful girlfriend to his favorite steak house: Puerto Madero from Buenos Aires, Argentina (www.puertomaderorestaurantes.com).

 

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Puerto Madero Menu

 

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Puerto Madero’s signature potatoes

 

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My delicious Ribeye

 

The place is definitely on the stuffy side and très expensive. Raul suggests the lobster tacos, which are the best I have ever had in my entire life, so much that we order another round so by the time my enormous rib eye steak arrives, I am too stuffed to enjoy it…what a waste! I did however manage to eat 35 puffed-up potatoes…a house specialty. The day is definitely taking its toll on me and by dessert time I am literally falling asleep at the table; it’s most definitely time to go to bed.

Buenas noches amigos!

Throwback Post: Museo Jumex Grand Opening weekend extravaganza, Mexico City, 2012

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Since I just wrote a post about my friend’s Museo Jumex, I think it’s appropriate to do a throwback piece on the grand opening of the museum back in 2012.

My friend Eugenio López Alonso, the man behind the amazing Jumex Collection, was the host for the two-day extravaganza where international art world figures, celebrities and Mexico’s who’s who rubbed elbows in a series of fabulous events. To say that it was one of the most spectacular and memorable events I’ve been to, is an understatement.

The weekend celebrations kicked off with a cocktail party for the international guests on Friday night at the historic 19th century mansion: Casa de la Bola, where the Hollywood set, such as Eva Longoria and Will Ferrell, mixed with art luminaries, such as Sydney Picasso, Klaus Biesenbach and Jeffrey Deitch. My posse included my dear friend and travel companion James Moore, David Cooley and Paolo Marini; we all flew into Mexico City together and joined a very large LA contingent attending the weekend extravaganza.

Saturday afternoon, after a delightful lunch at Tori Tori in Polanco with James, David, Paolo and Brooke Davenport; the doors to the museum opened for all the awaiting guests including Darren Star, Simon de Pury, and Frieze New York’s Amanda Sharp mingling with Mexico’s Soumaya Slim, Fernando Romero, Paulina Rubio, and Gabriel Orozco, to name a few. The Kass friends included: Waldo Fernandez, Eduardo de la Vega, Loree Rodkin, Yuri Bradak, Isa Jonay, Nicky Haskel, Wendy Stark, Miriam Rothbart, Ahmed Ashmawi and so many more!

Finally the grand event took place at the Deportivo Estado Mayor Presidencial, where a 1920 Hollywood style grand set was built to host the 1500 or so guests attending with a grand orchestra and gold gilded stairs on all sides of the square space emulating an inverted Aztec pyramid. Shortly after midnight, DJ Mark Ronson took over and got the dance floor rocking, bringing the party to its peak. Guests, including Michael and Eva Chow, Stavros Niarchos, Vito Schnabel, Julio Santo Domingo and many, many others, danced well into the early hours of the morning. The after party was at Eugenio’s penthouse in Polanco, but that part of the evening is off limits!

So many insane things happened over the course of this mad weekend…but thankfully, it’s all a blur!!!

 

DSC00608International guests party at the historic 19th century mansion: Casa de la Bola

 

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Robert Kass, David Cooley, the lovely Miriam Rothbart and Nicky Haskel

 

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Isa Jonay, David Cooley, Paolo Marini and Robert Kass

 

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Vanity Fair’s Wendy Stark and friend

 

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Robert Kass, David Cooley and Paolo Marini at Tori Tori

 

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Brooke Davenport and friend, James Moore, Paolo Marini and David Cooley

 

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The LA Gang: Robert Kass, James Moore, Brooke Davenport and friend,Paolo Marini and David Coooley

 

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Robert Kass and James Moore looking dapper

 

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Opening of Museo Jumex

 

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The LA boys: Paolo Marini, David Cooley, James Moore, Isa Jonay and Yuri Bradac

 

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Robert Kass and Isa Jonay

 

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Robert Kass looking super dapper

 

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Outdoor view of Museo Jumex

 

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Main event at Deportivo Estado Mayor Presidencial

 

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Grand Orchestra’s director

 

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Grand Orchestra

 

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Golden stairs and guests

 

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Being smothered by Yuri Bradac