Mexico City Pyramids

Five Days in Mexico City

Travel

I’m so so so sorry it’s been so long. If you follow me on Instagram (which, duh, you should) you’d know that I left my last job and have been in non stop motion since updating you last. You’d also know that I took a break from commuting and moving to go to Mexico City with my family. While the vacation was anything but relaxing, it was everything about culture. It’s undoubtedly true that Mexico’s history is part of America’s history, but we as Americans fail to learn about much other than European conquest. This trip illuminated so much about the country, like the hundreds of languages still actively spoken throughout, the many other civilizations besides the Aztecs and Mayans and the incredibly vibrant food.

After landing in the mid-afternoon on Saturday we all made a b-line for El Huequito for towers of al pastor tacos and stoneware of molten cheese and chorizo. The al pastor, being sliced from  a shawarma-esque inverted cone of pork, starred in this culinary experience, but the limes and platter of sauces were being passed around the table as we all could not decide which was the top. Naturally, we came back two days later for more sauce. Saturday was mostly a day of walking and eating. Street corn and churros made appearances on the day’s itinerary, and I’m happy to report that both changed me in different ways. The street corn just handed me an essay on why chili and lime belongs on everything (see: chili and lime on mangos) and the churros kicked any other doughnut or fried dough treat to the curb and became number one in my heart.

We knocked out that night because Sunday would be longer. We began the day at Panederia Rosetta and I’m different. The best croissant I’ve ever had made into a bowl to cradle guava jam accompanied by a cappuccino fueled our first stop: the palacio de bella artes. This art and architecture museum had Diego Rivera murals and a special exhibit on Francisco Icaza, but the physical building, completed in the 1930’s, was the masterpiece full of art deco-style interiors and multiple domes with sunset-colored roofs. In the city center (the Zocalo) a marriage of antiquity, tradition and modernity gathered between the Templo Mayor, the unearthed ruins of a civilization, the cathedral and street vendors fleeing whenever a cop entered the area. In the beating sun we ate tamales and coconut agua fresca amid street rituals and incense burning in the summertime chaos around us, a typical Sunday in Mexico.

In the evening we returned to the palacio de bellas artes for the ballet folklorico, but not before a margarita. At Miralto, at the tippy top of a sky scraper, the margaritas lived up to the view of all of Mexico City. However, the margaritas paled in comparison to the artistry and musicianship displayed at the ballet. Traditional song, dance and costume was paraded, and I swear I would’ve given all my money to watch the same two men duel on harps. I never wanted the dancing to end.

If I could recommend one place to visit in Mexico, go to Teotihuacan. I remember reading about these pyramids in fifth grade, unable to pronounce the name of the civilization. The pyramids, once colorful, were stone steps up to a high platform. The pyramids of the sun and moon (misnomers, by the way) were both sights to behold and behold from. From the tops of each, you can see the expanse of the archeological site as well as Mexico’s diverse landscape. Between the small temples lining the “street” between the pyramids, friendly wild dogs roamed protecting the space and posing politely for photos. The hike was intense up hundreds of narrow and steep steps, but it wouldn’t be right any other way. We managed another meal full of al pastor and a night of beer and mezcal to celebrate our triumph over the hike.

On our last full day we experienced some colonial beauty at the park and castle of Chapultepec. The park, like central park, opens up in the midst of the bustling city and the castle, perched atop a hill, feels like slices of Versailles stacked upon each other and dropped in Mexico. The anthropology museum, at the opposite entrance of the park, holds that massive “Mayan Calendar” that is neither Mayan nor calendar. Tired and weary, our trip was coming to a close and we had one last sight to behold.

After a 45 minute Uber drive we all arrived in Xochimilco to embark on a ride through the swampy lagoon on a vibrant boat. Sort of like a Mexican party gondola. Mariachi sang on boats floating by while other boats, packed to capacity, became floating fiestas. The celebratory boat ride signified a successful trip and a bittersweet end to a week of better-than-expected weather and planning.

Lastly on the fifth day, we returned to Panederia Rosetta for one last buttery, flakey croissant, just so sad to leave.

I know you didn’t come here for a Rick Steves Tour, so here is the best of the best: my top 5 foods from Mexico City (plus some honorable mentions).

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Mango with chili, lime and salt
  • Pulche (a traditional fermented drink)
  • Churros from El Moro
  • Guava roll from Panederia Rosetta

Honorable mentions:

  • Mezcal with the dead worm floating in it.
  • Street corn ‘con todos’ (with mayonnaise, chili, queso fresco and lime)

Inspiration

Personal

I was feeling particularly uninspired this week. I felt like I was approaching a stand still in my life: nothing was happening. I was trying to create my own work and contribute something, but it just didn’t feel genuine or important. I’ve been thinking of the things that keep my motivated and creative in order to get out of this rut.

Staying in touch with your body is so important. Are you eating right? Are you washing your face? Are you exercising? I’ve been going to the gym bright and early in the morning. It gets me out of bed and I can get creative with my breakfast once I get home (see here). I indulged in a bottle of Trader Joe’s kombucha to make my tummy feel good with all of those probiotics. Drinking kombucha makes me feel like a health queen, and that inspired me to sketch and paint for a little while. I felt that since my body was at peace with itself, my mind was also at peace and could contribute something.

The gym also gives me something to look forward to. The Thursday night yoga class at my local gym is a treat. Yoga makes me feel the most in touch with my body as it involves so much of me. Breath, movement, and mindfulness join together and bring some much inner peace.

I learned that doing something, anything, inspires me. I drove to Trader Joe’s and that energized me. I went thrifting today and that got my creative wheels turning. Whether you spend all your money, or just browse, going to thrift stores could ignite creativity. When my tiny self goes thrifting, sizes do not matter. I could see the beauty and potential in a boy’s large or a women’s medium. I think of outfits I want to wear involving those “new” pieces. I think of what I want to look like and how I can make that happen with something at the store. Thinking of all the ways to achieve an aesthetic gives me creative solace. Even if I leave with nothing, I never leave with nothing.

Finally, a trip to Michaels was the icing on this inspiration train (too much?). I love watercolors and journaling. As you read here my travel journal is my favorite souvenir from my semester abroad. I decided to continue to keep in-depth details of my trips, so for my trip to Austria coming up I bought a small journal, portable watercolor brush, and rolls of washi tape to create a journal just for those 10 days. Nothing is more inspiring than fresh art supplies. I had a great time today testing watercolors and setting up this new journal.

I finally feel like I’m out of this rut. Finally.

Merry Christmas

Photography, professional

Who doesn’t love a Spritz and an oyster? I love the way even the food at Christmastime seems to glisten and glimmer alongside the holiday spirit. I think food exemplifies a mood and a culture, and we accompanied this food with smiles, stories, and lots of laughs.

I grew up on a pretty sophisticated diet: lots of fish, lots of vegetables, and lots of smelly Italian lunches. However, it has made me a more understanding eater, and a more adventurous eater. Interestingly enough though, last Christmas was the first time I tried a raw oyster. Since then, I tried tripe, pate, raw shrimp, and who even knows what else during my travels. This time of year I think about the new things I want to experience in the new year: new food, new places, and new attitudes. What will be my next oyster?

New Photography

Personal, Photography

In my photography portfolio (seen here) I chose to include only photos from my semester in Italy. Now, since my job requires me to use my camera more and more, I found a new hobby in photography. Why deny yourself the joy of what you personally find visually pleasing? The following photos are from the last few months.

When I returned from Florence, I thought that I would never be able to assimilate back into my old life. I thrived in Italy, and discovered passions for cooking, photography, and language. So it was a real bummer to return home, having to complete one of the most challenging semesters of my college career, and encountering some unexpected roadblocks on the way. When I began my Fall semester I was at a less-than-satisfactory internship, and I did something that I never thought I would ever do. I walked away. I acknowledged that even interns (let alone “one of the best interns”-not my words) should be treated better. I fell into sadness when I heard about my great-grandma passing away, a woman who meant so much to me. I fell into anger, and pain when I heard about some other less than satisfactory occurrences. All I thought was “maybe I should’ve stayed in Italy.” Sometimes I still think that, but more so because I miss drinking an Aperol spritz in a piazza at sunset.

Why am I telling you this? Growth is important. Longing, and sadness and, anger are important to facilitate that growth. I look back on photos of myself from Freshman year and I thank whatever power above that I look and feel different. It shows that I experienced life that changed me, inside and out, and it was clearly for the better.

So here are some photos of experiences in the past few months, post-Italy, that have reminded me that getting out of bed is important.