This past December, Jason and I spent two weeks in Mexico City. We went over Christmas and New Year’s Eve to escape the ghost town that is New York over the holidays. We aren’t big on beach vacations (or at least I am not and Jason has to struggle along), so we chose CDMX because of its convenient proximity and thrifty prices.
Neither of us speak Spanish, so we had to figure our way around the city with the help of Google Translate and hand gestures. We quickly bonded with most of the locals via “Hola” and “Hasta luego.” Which, at the time, I was assured was spelled as, “Astalavejo.” People would always say that with a smile, sometimes making an attempt to continue the conversation, but always finding us dumbfounded, they’d retrieve to a gentle smile with a “ahh you people are so silly” smirk in their eyes.
Having the luxury of a two week vacation really played in our favour. We’re lazy tourists and don’t like to make big plans when traveling to a new place. We like to wake up, leisurely get ready, find some coffee and a snack and then wonder around. So even though Mexico City has the most number of museums in the world, after London, we didn’t try to hit even 1/10th of them.
We did see two of the houses built by Mexican landmark architect Luis Barragán. He was certainly ahead of his time, having designed extremely Instagram-friendly spaces. But I had to curb my enthusiasm since the majority of the museums charge extra if you want to take photos. Which is, honestly, the smartest strategy, as it saves you the stress of selfie-taking crowds and forces you to take in the surroundings instead of constantly snapping pictures. Which I’m guilty of. Girls at the office can corroborate.
We also went to the Anthropology Museum, but I got so bored looking at the painted stones I escaped outside to skype my family, admiring the museum’s architecture in the meantime. Jason had to nerd out on his own, and when he was done, he kindly offered to take me to the most interesting galleries.
So, even though we aren’t the most energetic tourists, we still got to see a lot. And, honestly, the most exciting things came out of the AirBnB experiences we bought. It’s truly a game changer!
For a tour to the Teotihuacan Pyramids, a guy picked us up in his Toyota Camry. He had a group of four people total, and all of us had to fit into one skinny car. But that did not overshadow our experience. This gentleman, Lebanese by birth, spent most of his life in Mexico City and worked as an Archeologist on the Teotihuacan Pyramids project. He had a lot to share. About Teotihuacan Culture, current life in Mexico, and the city’s growth, as well as the growth of poor neighborhoods just outside of it.
We took full advantage of the AirBnB experiences: Lucha Libre and mezcal tastings, Frida Kahlo’s house tour, Conchas making class, and a vegan street food walking tour.
Street food in Mexico…oh mama!
As much as we tried to find a restaurant that would satisfy our cravings, we didn’t really find anything as exciting as the food made by hand by a blue corn lady (this is how our food tour guide referred to them, I didn’t make that up). Yes we ate vegetarian/vegan, but that’s not a show stopper in Mexico. While the restaurant scene isn’t yet accustomed to tasty meatless options, those blue corn ladies make mushroom quesadillas to die for. And a vegan taco stand. My mouth waters right now just thinking about it. Tacos Veganos is the name. There’d always be at least a dozen of people standing around, chewing their tacos at any time of the day.
Because we walked at least 6 miles every day, our appetite was monstrous. So we’d always make sure to find room for another gordita or a cup of fresh mango at the very least. And when the sun started to set, we’d set out on a journey for the best mezcal-based cocktails. Or before the sun set. Who said that a shot of tequila at 2pm at the dive-y Cantina Tio Pepe was a bad idea? It was after that said shot that I ended up getting a new tattoo. Cheers for the win!
Mexico City with its culture, cheerful people and delicious food, has definitely become one of the most exciting destinations I’ve ever traveled to. Beautiful architecture, clean streets, warmth. Just thinking about it now makes me want to book a ticket and escape there for a couple of days.
And although I loved it so much, there are definitely a lot of things that make your heart ache, and those are usually overlooked by the glamorous city guide lists. Poor areas, referred to as slums, that our pyramids guide told us about – what appears to be a colorful blob of homes on a hill, is in reality, the poorest area where as many as 3 million people live in horrible living conditions. Adults and kids selling any piece of unnecessary souvenir just to get a peso or two. It’s impossible to overlook the sight of them. And we shouldn’t. There’s definitely a privilege tax we can pay as tourists, that can make a little difference. A bigger tip, a stack of pesos for the kids on the street. Or a slice of pizza from the pizzeria that gives back to the community.
Here’re some recommendations of some of my favorite places in CDMX:
FOOD + COFFEE: Rosetta Bakery, Nima Local House Hotel (email to book a breakfast), Tacos Veganos, Boicot Cafe Condesa, Cafe Regina, Gatorta (vegan street food), El Moro Churreria, Cicatriz Cafe, Pixza (charitable pizzeria), Expendio de Maiz Sin Nombre (best gastronomy experience of my life), Maque (bakery)
DRINK: El Palenquito, Xaman Bar, Cantina Tio Pepe, Gin Gin Polanco
SHOPPING: TUZA (jewelry), VOID (luxury vintage), Loose Blues (apparel), Ben & Frank (locally made sunglasses), Taxonomia (apparel and home decor)
MASSAGE: Sanar Masajes