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.
Casa Manzano’s Menu
The beautiful courtyard at Casa Manzano
Enchiladas de Guajillo con Requesón
Huevos devorciados…I love the analogy!
The famous Cactus Smoothie
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!!!
Palacio de las Bellas Artes
The stunning iron gate at Chapultepec Castle
Side view of Chapultepec Castle
The beautiful stain-glass windows at the castle
The dramatic “Affresco” at the entrance stairway
The jade imperial door
The viewing tower
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.
Cathedral at the Zócalo
Mexican flag standing proud at the center of the Zócolo
Cafe de Tacuba front window
Mariachi’s playing in Cafe Tacuba
Our lovely waitresses
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).
Puerto Madero Menu
Puerto Madero’s signature potatoes
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!
After an easy, quick flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City on a much-improved United Airlines (www.united.com) I’m finally here! Mexico is a real paradox and a bag of mixed emotions; It’s chaotic and extremely disorganized, everything seems to be an afterthought. Buildings and freeways seem to raise as they go with no specific engineering or planning of any sort; a real opposite from the many gorgeous 17-18th century Spanish and Colonial towns that pepper the entire country. And yet, this urban jungle is on of the most vibrant cities in the world, not to mention the biggest. If you can look beyond the chaos and the brutal traffic, you will find a true metropolis filled with amazing energy, stunning neighborhoods, top notch museums, incredible history, restaurants of every kind, amazing artisan markets, more history and shopping galore. It’s not for everyone…but I love it!!!!
I’m staying at my dear friend’s Eugenio’s spectacular penthouse in Polanco, overlooking the Woods of Chapultepek (which is Mexico City’s version of NYC’s central park). I’ll be staying here for a few weeks, including a visit at my mom’s house in Cuernavaca, which is just 1 hour outside the city. There are several museums I want to see on this trip, most of all, Eugenio’s Jumex Museo that I followed through all of it’s stages: it’s inception and design, construction and the spectacular opening weekend just about one years ago, which I will report on as a “Throwback” post at some point.
But today I’m doing something totally different from my usual comfort zone, something I’ve never done before and I’m soooooo exited!!!!!! A dear friend of mine: Eduardo Serio, started a foundation some time ago in Mexico that dedicates itself to saving, healing and providing shelter to felines of all types that are left behind by private people, circuses and zoo’s. The operation is divided in two parts: the baby felines, from birth to a few months old, are hosted at his own home in Pedregal de San Angel; once grown, they are moved to the larger sanctuary for more space, protection and supervision.
I’ve been salivating over Eduardo’s Instagram page for a while (@blackjaguarwhitetiger), watching all his posts of the cutes panthers, lions and tigers I’ve ever seen and videos of the amazing relation he has with these animals. I promised myself that on my next trip to Mexico I would beg him to give me the grand tour; So here I am and after a few texts later, Eduardo has agreed to show me his fascinating new world. Our super cool driver: Jose Luis, picks us up in the morning for the 30 minute drive to Pedregal de San Angel, a wealthy suburb of Mexico City, to go to Eduardo’s own home to visit the baby felines. There is really nothing I can say to describe the amazement you experience once I am taken in a room with three baby tigers; I guess the photos will do more justice than anything I can say.
I am so happy with these little fluff balls that they have to drag me out by force. We move to the gardens where they keep the adolescent cats, one month to 6 months old, depending on the breed. Here that cats are definitely larger and very playful, I’m shocked at the strength they have at such a young age. It’s rough and painful some times, specially when one of the lions though my ankles was a lamp chop and pounced on it…teeth and all!!! It’s extraordinary how these cats have such different personalities from one another.
Driving to Eduardo’s “Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation” sanctuary with Raphael Tessier, our driver Jose Luis and Coronas
Being viciously attacked by two white lions and a tiger
Trying to hang with the Puma but the jealous Panther won’t have it!
The time has come to drive to the actual sanctuary hosting all the big cats, just 45 minutes away. Eduardo has purchased over a 100 acres of land in an area just off the highway to Acapulco and has built a state of the art sanctuary for his growing number of adult cats. There are no cages just fenced areas to separate the different animals; each one has plenty of space to roam around, they have pools to swim and cool down and they are fed individually according to their health needs. Here I see fully-grown panthers, white tigers, tiger, lions, jaguars and more. They all arrived at the sanctuary sick, diseased and bone-thin, but you would never know, because they have all been treated and brought back to a healthy life.
We are all mesmerized by the beauty of these animals and the incredible efforts made to built this oasis and give these felines a second chance; suddenly Eduardo asks me if I want to play with two adult lions…before I could even think it through, he opens a gate to one of the enclosures and two fully grown lions come charging in our area and plop themselves just next to my feet. The combination of sheer terror and adrenaline was paralyzing, but I after a few moments I am compelled to pet the 500 Lbs. beasts and finally relax enough to start taking photos with my mates…equally terrified. That, of course, is until one of the lions decided that, yet again, my leg looks like a delicious snack and in a split-second movement, the lion turns around and locks his jaws on my ankle (in a playful way of course, if the cat was serious he could snap my leg apart with no effort at all). Eduardo, who consistently keeps a watchful eye on all of us and the animals, doesn’t miss a beat and quickly grabs the lions jaws and pry them open releasing my skinny and now dented ankle. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s time to leave before I turn into a meal; but not before watching Eduardo lying on the ground playing with 1-2-3 lions on top of him as if they were house cats!! It’s definitely not for the light hearted and things can easily go south in a split-moment; I am so impressed by Eduardo’s work, his courage and dedication to these animals.
After spending 5 hours with the kitties, it’s time to go back to the city. Thank you Eduardo for such an amazing experience…I’ll never look at a cat the same way from now on. Now it’s time to get ready for tonight’s opening of Becco restaurant at the newly redone Four Season Hotel in Mexico City.
In the cage with two full grown lioness
Stunning white tigers
White tiger sucking Eduardo’s finger
Lion sticking his tongue out at us
Cielo the Panther
Robert Kass, Raphael Tessier and Raul Olivo in the cage with two lions
Having a screaming match with the white tiger
Eduardo playing with two full grown lions…insanity!
Robert Kass and Eduardo Serio at his sanctuary in Mexico City
Los Angeles has made a giant leap when it comes to Museums in the last 20 years and LACMA (www.lacma.org) stands on top of my list with it’s amazing transformation from a mediocre, local museum, to an international leader, especially when it comes to contemporary art. LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States; it attracts nearly a million visitors annually and holds more than 120,000 works spanning the history of art from ancient times to the present. The super charismatic Michael Govan, the latest LACMA director, has done an amazing job raising a gazillion dollars to bring this museum to it’s current place among the best in the art world.
The evening starts at home trying to stuff myself into a very slender cut Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo that could definitely be one size larger to accommodate my recent weight gain. As they say: You can’t squeeze a ten pound sausage into a five pound bag! Anyway… it’s time to Uber (www.uber.com) my fat ass to the museum. The arrival on Wilshire Blvd is very glamorous and definitely sets the tone for the evening; the entrance is lined with hundreds of Valet guys and girls in red and black uniforms. After checking in, we are ushered though the amazing installation “Urban light” by the artist Chris Burden, through the press line with armies of paparazzi, over the long corridor lined with black-tied waiters serving Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne and into the Bar Lounge.
These kind of events bring out the crème de la crème of the art world, and this one has them all, including: Hitoshi Abe, Doug Aitken, Frank Gehry, Mark Grotjahn, Alex Israel, Toba Khedoori, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed Ruscha, Paul Schimmel and Firooz Zahedi. after an hour of mingling, Michael Govan finally announces the opening of the exiting new exhibit followed by dinner and show in the main pavilion. Thanks to the enormeous generosity of benefactors such as Jane and Marc Nathanson and Lynda and Stewart Resnick, LACMA’s new exhibit boasts pieces by Damien Hirst, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Schnabel, Frank Sa, Hans Memling, Giambologna, François Boucher and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Robert Kass being silly at the “Urban Light” sculpture, by Chris Burden
Red carpet entrance lined with servers serving Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne
The arrival cocktail Lounge
Robert Kass and the fabulous Irena Medavoy
I am a guest of my dear friend Eugenio Lopez who not only is one of the most important collectors of contemporary art in the world, but he’s also a generous benefactors to the arts at large and to the most important museums in Los Angeles. At the table are all of Eugenio’s friends, including the fire-cracker art dealer Esthella Provas, Veronica (one of Eugenio’s good friend and curator at his Mexico City Jumex Museum) and Priscilla (curator at the Museo de la Bellas Artes in Mexico City). Noticeably missing is out host Eugenio, who is tied up in New York at another event…literally!
The evening topic at the tables is clearly art, which happens to be one of my favorite subjects, being as I am a frustrated artist at heart; but the highlight of the evening must be the surprise performance of the one and only Seal! This is a pretty stuffy room but as soon as Seal takes over, it is finally a party! Running into my wifey Loree Rodkin, is also a treat; she never seems to miss a good party…how does she do it! Among the dancing guests there are a slew of celebrities including: Julie Bowen, Jim Carrey, Laura Dern, Will Ferrell, Armie Hammer, Dustin Hoffman, Anjelica Huston, Liev Schreiber, Seal, Barbra Streisand Naomi Watts and our city leaders, Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
LACMA Dining Room
Robert Kass and Raphael Tessier
Surprise performance by the one and only Seal
The Cinderella moment has come and I must leave this beautiful evening to go home and pack; tomorrow I am off to Mexico City for a one month South America trip that will be sure to bring some amazing experiences. If I don’t get kidnapped by the Mexican cartel, you’ll be sure to hear from me soon!!