Three Perfect Days: Mexico City

September 2016

Mexico city is definitely a culinary destination. From the bicycle vendors selling tamales at night (2 tamales for $1.50) to the small taquerias where tortillas are made and cooked right in front of you (food + drink for $5), to restaurants that make it to the world’s top 50 – you can never go wrong in this city. We were so happy to have picked a hotel in the trendy neighborhood of Condesa. It’s such a delight walking up and down its streets, with so many little charming restaurants, all with few outdoor seatings, and none of the big high rise hotels nor the fancy shops.

On Day 1, we got ourselves acquainted with the city’s extensive but easy to use metro system. Our agenda for the day was the historic center, starting from one of the world’s largest square, Mexico City’s Zòcalo. From the cathedrals bell tower, we could see the vastness of the square, flanked with huge colonial government buildings. It’s hard to imagine that this city is actually sitting on top of what used to be a lake bed and that this plaza was built on top of an Aztec City, wrecked by the Spaniards so they can build their own. We walked through the zòcalo, marveling at some sort of aura-cleansing Aztec ceremonies and making our way through the markets in the square.

We continued with our own walking tour through the pedestrian avenue by the square to the elegant Palacio de Bella’s artes and made our way to a taqueria to rest our feet and satisfy our palates.

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After our late lunch, we decided to check out the Polanco neighborhood, maybe sit in some cafe with some cold refreshments. I thought I needed my passport stamped as we walked through the main thoroughfare of this neighborhood. It might as well be a different country. I was afraid I’d get escorted out looking grungy after walking all day in my grungy jeans and shirt. We couldn’t even find a cafe casual enough for us to just sit and rest, we ended up at a Starbucks. I watched in awe at how different this neighborhood is, families going in and out of restaurants with their cars being valet-ed, everyone all dressed up definitely belonging to the privileged few of this city. We finished our Starbucks drinks and headed back to Condesa.

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Condesa neighborhood
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Condesa neighborhood

Day 2 brought us to the ruins of Teotihuacan which is about an hour bus ride from the city’s northern bus terminal. We bought sandwiches at the bus terminal for our pack lunch and hoped we boarded the right bus (Spanish struggles! Lol). Teotihuacan is Mexico’s biggest ancient city (yes, LOTS of walking) and is known for its two massive pyramids, the Temple of the Sun (3rd largest ancient pyramid in the world) and Temple of the Moon. We climbed the former, resting at every section and holding tightly to the ropes, and didn’t have enough energy left for the latter. Though inhabited by the Aztecs, the origin of this city is still unknown and majority still unexcavated. The lush green landscape surrounding the sprawling ancient city reminded us of the Tikal pyramids in Guatemala.

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We got back in time to our hotel to rest for a bit and freshen up before we headed back to Polanco for some drinks and a nice dinner at Biko Restaurant.

Day 3 was a museum and sit-in-the-park kind of day. We really liked the Condesa/Roma Norte neighborhood so we spent time wandering it’s tree-lined streets, checking out street markets, sitting in park benches and watching people go by. We also went to the Museum of Modern Arts and the Castillo de Chapultepec, once Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlita’s residence, continued to house the country’s presidents until it got converted to a natural history museum in 1939. Both the castle and Museum of Modern Art, among other museums, zoo, lakes, and the current presidential residence, are in the city’s largest green space called Bosque de Chapultepec.

Three days is not nearly enough for this city, but there’s always a next time and there’s more colonial towns in the central Highlands waiting to be explored. Til next time CDMX!

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