The first thing I did when I arrived in Mexico City last Friday was accidentally send my uber driver to the zoo instead of the airport. I had a good laugh to myself, but as much as I believe in respecting other peoples’ cultures, I knew I needed to get my act together quickly.
Leading up to the trip last weekend, I felt like people thought I was going to North Korea or something. The amount of pushback was staggering. It was Mexico City, and if you get some insight from people who have actually been there before, you would know it has become quite the cultural destination. A little edgy as is every city, but otherwise, awesome. Sounds like my kind of place.
The city is gigantic, super smoggy, and at a staggering 7,000+ feet above sea level, the altitude will pop you in the face. So I got to my hotel (Winston Churchill stayed there previously), dropped my bags, and took off on foot immediately, per usual. My first Mexican meal was very ordinary. I then walked a good 5 miles to explore the historic part of the city. I attended Catholic Mass (I’m not Catholic!). I went to the square of the opening scene in James Bond’s Spectre. I bought a new “Zorro” hat from Mexican legends Tardan. And then I met up with my friend Drew and his wife Sarah (who were randomly in Mexico City the same weekend) for a Friday night on the town. We drank local cervezas, 70 year old tequila, and had Cuban cigars. We laughed, and the conversation was super interesting…just 3 Americans enjoying Mexico City from a rooftop bar. We got wind of this excellent hole in the wall taco place some 2 blocks away, and we decided to go. It was roughly 11pm, and it was packed. We squeezed in, ate 12 of the most delicious tacos between the 3 of us, and then said goodnight shortly thereafter. That would be all I would see of them.
Saturday, time to explore some more. I walked the SoHo of Mexico City and the Rodeo Drive. In between, I hit some less glamorous places. Always enjoy that. I did some vintage shopping at this store called Void that is one of the coolest stores I have ever been to. I walked through their Central Park. I got what is sure to be the most unique bathing suit for this summer, and ate vina rosa ice cream that was unreal.
If I am honest, I was a little worried about Saturday night. I was headed to the magnificent Estadio Azteca for Club America vs. Santos, where rumor has it sometimes Americans have bottles of urine thrown on them. So I did my best to blend in with the crowd. Keep mouth shut, check. Be aware of surroundings, check. Have 5,000 military police with machine guns around at all times, check. What a cool experience, and what a thrill to successfully navigate the 2 metro rides, the 1 train ride, the acquiring of my ticket, watching the game, and getting back to my hotel safely at midnight. Score! Or better yet, gooooollll!
I wasn’t worried about game # 2 on Sunday at noon. Broad daylight. I had navigated the first one so easily. Wrong. Here’s the deal. I bought my tickets on the international version of a StubHub type site, but in Mexico you don’t actually take possession of the ticket until 2 hours before game time. You have a meeting place (Starbucks). A name and telephone number (too many digits). Worked perfectly Saturday night at Azteca. Not so much Sunday. My phone apparently doesn’t dial phone numbers with like 600 digits. Good to know. So I had to be flexible about an hour before game time, when it became apparent I wasn’t going to get my ticket. I calmly got another uber, made my way to the stadium, and bought tickets there. No problem. The atmosphere of game 2 (Pumas vs. Queretaro) was much more fun, although I did get beer poured on my head. I then took in the legendary Frida Kahlo museum, Casa Azul, before I was officially whipped. In 48 hours I had walked probably 15 miles in the Mexican heat. Ate. Drank. Shopped. Played. And I was literally done. So I went and took a nap at my hotel. Yes, you heard that correctly. I flew to Mexico City and took a nap. And then I awoke, watched sunset at El Angel, and called it a night.
Takeaways? Everything is ridiculously inexpensive. 25 cent tacos and metro rides. $5 ubers anywhere it seemed. $20 handmade silver. Montezuma’s Revenge is real. The city has loads of energy. The people are kind and warm and simply want you to enjoy their city and country. It’s bright and colorful, and the culture is electric. I felt more unsafe at the gas station back in Charlotte Tuesday than I did at any point in Mexico City. You probably want to be a bit of a seasoned traveler and do your due diligence to make this trip, but if you are, it is right at the freaking top of the list.
One thing niggled at me the entire trip. Prior to, so many people were telling me everything bad about Mexico City that I assume they had heard on the news or some other BS communication. And I just kept wondering how much life do people miss by listening to all of the noise, all of the time? Because if I had heeded the noise (which wasn’t true at all), I would have missed out on navigating one of the biggest, most culturally fascinating cities in the world. What an absolute thrill!
PS-apologies to the nice young lady at the restaurant who asked for my name for the order, and I gave her my phone number. Oops.
Have a great week.-Benj
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