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