Days 47-50: Mexico City
Hello Mexico City!!
On the recommendation of friends we’d rented a tiny apartment in La Condesa neighborhood. It was lovely: tree-lined streets, corner bakeries, and nearby parks.
On our first day we went down to the Zocolo, the large square in Mexico City. Upon stepping out of the Uber, we were greeted by a wall of police and their crowd control shields – hundreds of them. Chris and I looked around cautiously, wondering if perhaps we’d stepped into the midst of a protest march or if some terrorist attack had occurred in the half hour since we’d left the apartment.
But judging by the number of officers chatting or checking their phones, we soon determined that we were not in the middle of a hot zone. Mexico’s National Palace is also located on the square; these were standard security measures.
Confidence restored, we crossed the street to the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, also known as the largest Catholic cathedral in the Americas. It was constructed directly on top of an Aztec temple; you can peer down through windows in the floor to see portions of the remaining structure.
The kids had never been inside a cathedral and were suitably impressed by the cavernous interior, copious quantities of gold leaf, and the fancy candles. It was beautiful. Ben was particularly fascinated by the statues of Christ on the cross; I’d forgotten how graphic (and life-like) they can be. This precipitated a long discussion about early torture devices (Wait, mom, they put nails THROUGH his hands and feet?!) which was not exactly the conversation I thought we’d be having upon entering a historic architectural landmark. I suppose every experience can be a learning moment. World schooling at its finest!
Emma, for her part, was just tired of walking.
She cheered up after suitable refreshment, however.
No visit to CDMX would be complete without a stop for churros at El Moro, which is probably a bit like traveling to Seattle and zipping up the Space Needle (aka Something only tourists do). BUT I will never willingly turn down churros so this was clearly a necessary stop.
Our very favorite part of our visit? The food. So delicious. After two months of basic road fare, we were desperate for a little variation. Our neighborhood was home to a french cafe, a mexican bakery, and a hip little joint serving caprese salads and fancy croissant sandwiches. We ate there twice, swooning over crisp tomatoes and rich olive oil. The food all over town was incredible and we gratefully gobbled it up, never once visiting a proper grocery store for basic staples.
“Dad, I really, really need to buy this Pokemon magazine, despite the fact that it’s all in Spanish”
Ben’s favorite meal: spicy green enchiladas. Emma has been struggling a bit more: She decided very early on that she strongly dislikes beans and is sick of cheese quesadillas. This has limited her available food options considerably. The rest of us are not terribly sympathetic, frankly, much to her eternal consternation.
We took a trip over to the new aquarium, the pet project of Carlos Slim, Mexico’s (and occasionally, the World’s) richest man. They truck the seawater in from the coast and while it was mobbed with school children, our own ninos had a nice time spying piranhas and touching sting rays.
We also toured the palace in CDMX’s gigantic Chapoltapec Park. The park was lovely: cool, quiet, and deserted. I couldn’t believe we were in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities.
Despite the fabulous food and cool sights, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by Mexico City: so many people, so much traffic, loud music blaring outside our window at 3 AM.
Emma got car sick every time we got in a taxi and the one time we tried the subway we had to bail halfway through because Ben almost passed out in the hot and crowded train car. It was just feeling like a little too much – of everything.
But then we met up with Jennifer and Miguel, a couple that we had met weeks age at a hotel in La Paz. They are longtime residents of CDMX and introduced us to the cult of Tacos al Pastor and ice cream at Roxy’s. They recommended local parks and encouraged us to check out the crazy, kitschy world of Lucha Libre (mexican wrestling). The best part of this trip has been meeting new people. Having a personal connection in the city – especially folks as delightful as them – made me instantly feel more welcomed and settled.
After that we’d clearly hit our groove.
It helped that Emma stopped getting sick in the car, too, as Uber was our primary form of transportation. Chris and Ben LOVED Lucha Libre – while Emma and I opted for a rather more sedate evening at home. It was nice to have a bit of non-travel time in one location.
In the end, we were all sad to move on. Our stomachs are still in mourning over the lost gastronomy opportunities and I feel like we only scratched the surface – we’ll be back for sure.