‘Is this it?’ Dani asked to no one in particular.
Without much trouble at all, the cab driver located the corner building, number 77, on Icazbalceta Street in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City, but the house looked like any other in this local neighborhood.
A man in skinny jean cutoffs and long sleeves leaning casually against the brick next to the giant iron doors offered to take our bags inside.
‘Um, is this it? Is this El Patio 77?’ we both asked again.
‘Yes, of course, I am not just a friendly stranger,’ said Diego, the co-owner, charming us with his French accent. Carrying our heavy packs, he led us in to the first of two gorgeous patios of this beautifully restored colonial mansion which he and partner Alan renovated and turned in to Mexico’s first-ever eco-friendly hotel.
Within a few minutes of chatting with Diego while our room was prepared, we already had plans to visit the nearby Museo Del Chopo art museum, had a map in our hands with a self-guided neighborhood walking tour of the area and we felt completely at home. We knew right away that this was exactly the intimate experience we were looking for during our stay in Mexico City, a metropolis of over 22 million people. The quiet bed and breakfast is set in an assuming working class neighborhood that is just three short stops on the metro from the buzzing hub of the Zocalo, or city center.
What we came to discover throughout our stay is that El Patio 77 is a sophisticated layering of Mexico’s past, present and future.
The past is represented in the high ceilings, wooden floors and delicious antique furniture sparsely decorating the 19th century building. Our room, the Michoacán, has a simple yet comfortable queen bed, an armchair, a wardrobe and a simple table in the center. Two sliding glass doors open to faux, wrought iron balconies and floor to ceiling wooden shutters inside are thick enough to keep out all noise and light from the world outside. I enjoyed the butterflies on the light fixtures around the room that glow in the dark. Named after states of Mexico, each room is similarly furnished, punctuated by a collection of modern Mexican art by emerging young artists also featured in their on-site art gallery – The 77.
The colorful art reflects a modern-day Mexico weaving past traditions and current culture, while the service of the hotel staff provided a type of tourism geared toward travel-savvy guests. We were informed, not spoon-fed generic experiences, and the focus was on the local surroundings. Rooms are provided with a thick binder with information, maps of local restaurants (try as many of them as you can for deliciously affordable and authentic Mexican fare) and tours, including the free, self-guided walking tour through San Rafael and the surrounding neighborhoods. On Sunday morning, we set off with our map and walked through the streets as the city woke up. We dodged joggers in the parks, passed several churches already in session and watched street food vendors setting up on street corners and in front of those churches, ready to feed the devout as they poured out after religious services. Although we spent two weeks here in 2010, this walk gave us the most personal glimpse of the city we had ever had.
From Diego and Alan, to the next in command, also named Diego, all the way to the friendly woman who makes breakfasts and cleans the rooms, the staff is knowledgeable, welcoming and made us feel entirely at home. The rooms are spotless, as are the shared bathrooms, which are also decorated with creative artistic touches. All but three suites share bathrooms, which for the higher room rates might be a bit unorthodox for some. However, I suspect that the well-traveled clientele that makes up the majority of guests have no problem with that. While it would be unfair to label it a hostel for grown-ups, El Patio 77 has the feeling of an avant-garde bed and breakfast for American and Europeans in their thirties who have done the round-the-world, grungy hostel thing in their twenties and are now looking for original, independent accommodation. Breakfast is served daily in one of two cozy covered patios, and includes fair-trade coffee, homemade jams, toast, fresh fruit and a traditional Mexican breakfast dish.
The discreet, almost unseen layer here is the future-focused eco-friendly policies of this Mexico City B&B. Solar panels on the roof heat the water for the showers, while water recollection tanks collect the water to be filtered and re-used in toilets and to water plants. Guests are requested to use a special shampoo/body soap combo which is easier on the filters, but other than that, the eco-friendly aspects of the hotel are present but non-intrusive.
Stand Out Feature: The Staff
We must have emailed fifteen times with the staff between our initial inquiries and their follow-up emails asking us about our stay. They genuinely care about the quality of the experience and providing a place where travelers feel at home. We felt welcomed, yet were given plenty of privacy and space. Anytime we had a question, there was someone there to answer it, fully and with an interesting story behind it as well.
Room for improvement: Breakfast
For all the thoughtful touches in all other aspects of our stay, we felt that, as a Bed and Breakfast, the breakfast came up a bit short. Though the ingredients are fresh and high-quality, we would prefer to see two main dish options, either potatoes or beans on the side to round out the meal in addition to toast, and a carafe of water with two glasses on the table in addition to the freshly squeezed juice and fair-trade coffee.
El Patio 77 is perfect for travelers looking for a simple yet stylish hotel reflecting real life in Mexico City.
Location: Icazbalceta 77, Colonia San Rafael C.P. 06470, Mexico D.F.
Price: Starting at US$70.30 + tax per night for 2 persons breakfast included
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, patio and big lounge room on the ground floor