… And we have now exhausted 40% of my Spanish knowledge!
A few weeks ago, I went to Mexico City with Jamie (of Provincetown fame) and it. was. awesome.
I’ll be 100% honest: My main motivation for this trip was the desire to be warm. Yes, I understand that I’m from Michigan, and went to school in upstate New York, and currently live in New England and blah blah blah I should be one with the cold by now. BUT I’M NOT. Luckily, Jamie’s desire to visit Mexico City aligned perfectly with my quest for heat and a longing to finally see my own legs again.
(Sidenote: Mexico City is apparently the new “It” destination for basic Instagram girls now? I had no idea until after I returned. Oh well. Some things are popular for a reason.)
SO. Here are the deets.
WHEN WE VISITED
February 28th – March 4th (but really, 5th. I’ll get to that.)
WHERE WE STAYED
Consensus was that the places to be (if you’re a tourist) were either Condesa or Roma, and we happened to find an Air BnB located pretty much on the border of both in Roma Norte.
(Another sidenote: I was surprised by the outcry of concern from both my mom and boss alike when they found out I was going to Mexico City. According to the average mother, you have a 98% chance of getting kidnapped and murdered in Mexico City – never mind the fact that Detroit has a waaaay higher murder rate. I will admit that I’m not the most anxious person when it comes to my own safety and well-being, but I also never felt nervous or fearful the entire time we were there. Have common sense and you’ll be fine.)
WHAT WE DID:
Bosque de Chapultepec:
Basically, the Mexico City version of Central Park. This green space is huuuge and encompasses a lot – we made a stop in the park nearly every day of the trip trying to check out as many things as possible and still barely scratched the surface. Here’s what we did manage:
National Museum of Anthropology:
Just know that you will not see everything in one trip. We made it all the way around the first floor (going in reverse chronological order, whoops – make sure you go counter-clockwise!) and felt pretty accomplished until we realized there was a whole ‘nother floor. My favorite part was the water feature at the entrance and the subterranean mammoth bones.
Hot tip: This is cool, but the grounds surrounding the greenhouse are just as – if not more – interesting. Definitely stop by, even if the greenhouse is closed.
Hot take: This wasn’t that cool? It was… fine. It’s a long walk up the hill to the castle, and once you get there, it’s just a lot of furniture and a garden and some cool stained glass. (I’m an uncultured buffoon, I know.) Basically, don’t kill yourself trying to visit if you have other things on your list.
Wandering! We walked through the park as many times as possible, and I highly recommend a stroll for the sole purpose of checking out all the vendors and street food carts. It’s a little overwhelming, but also really fascinating just to see the breadth of junk food they have in Mexico. (Skip the pork rinds and get some street corn.)
The Blue House:
Frida Kahlo’s home-slash-museum of her artwork. It is highly recommended that you reserve your tickets ahead of time as they limit the number of visitors allowed in at a time. We also paid a small extra fee to be able to take photos, but no one seemed to be enforcing that.
As far as non-food-related activities went, this was the one I was weirdly most excited about (don’t ask why, I’ve never been interested in wrestling here in the States). We very easily bought our tickets at the box office when we got to the arena (and also immediately purchased two ginormous micheladas).
The match itself was lots of fun, and I had a great time yelling and cheering even though I didn’t know what was going on half the time. Highly recommend.
First things first, this isn’t ballet. It’s a mix of dance routines that are meant to tell the history of Mexico and highlight various elements of Mexican culture. We snagged some cheapo balcony seats, and I was able to see everything just fine (including the insane stained glass “curtain” the stage uses), and since we didn’t shell out a ton of money for it, I wasn’t annoyed that the show felt a little long at parts and included some particularly head-scratching costume choices. Overall, I’d recommend it. (We bought our tickets at the actual box office when we were there to meet up with our food tour group.)
This was a last-minute rec from my boss and we just happened to be near it one day, so we went into this having no clue even what type of museum this was. If you’re into art, you’ll probably enjoy this, but honestly what interested me more than the paintings and artifacts were the architecture and layout of the museum itself. Admission was free when we went, so it was a worthy way to kill a couple hours.
One of Jamie’s friends recommended this stop, which is legit just a public library. BUT. It’s one of the trippiest, coolest libraries I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth a stop – it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. (There’s also some cool street art on the walk over.)
Club Tengo Hambre Food Tour:
Spoiler alert: The best part of Mexico City is the food. (I was consistently disappointed in myself for not being able to eat more while we were there.) And while Jamie & I actually managed to taste-test a lot of the more wild foods that were on this food tour before the tour itself, I would still highly recommend it for anyone who’s a more adventurous eater. Our tour guide was great, and we had some really bomb-ass tacos. This was one of the more expensive things we did (about $90), and it was well worth the cost.
A giant artisan market where you’re sure to find a souvenir. It’s basically a maze of independent sellers, and you can find anything from huarache shoes and embroidered peasant tops to sugar skulls and woven blankets. I bought one of my two souvenir pillow cases here.
WHERE WE ATE:
Taqueria La Negra:
This was the first place we ate, literally as soon as we dropped off our luggage. At this point, we were both so starving that anything would have been delicious, but I feel confident that this spot wouldn’t have disappointed either way. (Yes, we were handed the English menu almost immediately. No, we had no shame at this point – too hungry to worry about attempting real Spanish conversation.)
We got a hot tip from one of Jamie’s friends to stop here for breakfast one of our mornings, and it wasn’t too out of the way on our journey to the Frida Kahlo Museum, so our first real day in Mexico City started off with what ended up being one of my favorite meals of the trip. This article from Bon Appetit should be enough to convince if my own glowing review isn’t – the frijoles negro con huevos were so. fucking. good. (And shaped like a torpedo!) I was also a fan of the surprisingly sweet and mild coffee they served us.
Second to the food, the people watching and overall ambiance was a treat; we shared a large communal table and sat across from the most fastidious couple I’ve ever seen. (Meanwhile, I went through probably half a stack of napkins in my attempts to slurp down the chicharron en verde.)
Oh, El Moro. At first, we thought we’d been led astray by all who had raved about this place, but do not be deceived. There are several locations of this popular churro chain, and it’s very important to hit the right one in order to get the best churro experience possible. It was during our food tour that we finally had the El Moro experience we were looking for; make sure you go to the location in the Historic Center neighborhood (and order the chocolate dipping sauce – it’s served cold and closer to chocolate pudding that simply melted chocolate).
Of Chef’s Table fame! Jamie is a superfan and I’ve never really eaten at a super-nice restaurant before, so we jumped at the chance to dine at a Michelin-starred spot. Reservations are a must, and even though we made ours months in advance, we were only able to get in for a lunch service (which was still totally fine). You can choose to do a traditional or taco tasting menu (the taco option wasn’t available when we made our rez), and the very attentive staff will bring out the courses one by one, telling you allll about each one. We ordered one of each menu so we could try everything, and while it was all delicious, my favorite was ultimately their take on street corn, covered in a sauce made with crushed up ants. (Seriously.) Definitely worth it.
I wish we had found out about this place earlier in the trip so we could have gone more than once. It’s a tiny space pretty much guaranteed to have a line down the street, but you can order everything to go and it’ll be your turn in no time. I dream of going back and tasting everything on the menu.
This place was a rec from one of our fellow food tourers, and we managed to grab breakfast here on our “last” day, the FIRST time our flight was delayed. Try the chilaquiles and fruit & granola yogurt bowl – the portions here are huge and easy to share.
Yet another food tour rec. This is where we got lunch/dinner the SECOND time our flight was delayed (and then ultimately canceled). This one’s the wildcard and is not Mexican food at all… but maybe at this point in your trip, you’re okay with that? Everything was quite good and it was a great spot to kill time while on the phone with Jet Blue, trying to figure out WHAT IS HAPPENING.
This place is just plain fun. Our canceled flight ended up being a blessing in disguise, because it meant we had one more morning and, therefore, the chance to check this place off our list. Seating is mostly long, shared tables, and we were able to watch one of the chef’s make pasta for the evening while we waited for our food to arrive. I forget the exact name of what I ordered, but it was scrambled eggs and chorizo, and came with avocado, tortillas, and black beans. IT WAS SO GOOD. We also split a fruit bowl, which was perfection.
La Pantera Fresca:
This popsicle stand was located literally outside the front entrance of our Air BnB and yet we only managed to eat here once. SO DUMB. The key lime pie popsicle was amazing. I’m very into these newfangled, ice cream-y popsicle concoctions.
WHERE WE DRANK
There were, of course, drinks consumed at all of the establishments above, but if you’re strictly looking for libations, try these.
Our mezcal experience the first night before was pretty ho hum, so we were determined to remedy that. Jamie came across this spot in her research and it ended up being a splendid antidote. One of the lovely servers hooked us up with a double tasting of various recommended mezcals, explaining the difference between each of the varieties as we went. (Oh, and we also opted to snack on fried crickets as an accompaniment. Not terrible, honestly. There was also excellent guac.) (And, oh look! Another Bon Appetit article!)
A bar in the super-bougie neighborhood of Polanco, this was a rec from our food tour guide when we realized we’d done mezcal, we’d done micheladas, but we’d yet to have a fancy cocktail. And boy are these things FANCY.
La Burra Blanca:
We were game for trying anything and everything Mexico City could throw at us, including the very polarizing beverage, pulque. Pulque is a fermented drink traditional to the area, and while I hear it’s better mixed in with cocktails, this spot served it straight-up in gigantic clay pitchers. Unsurprisingly, Jamie was a fan and I was not, though I really tried to drink my fair share of our jug. More than anything, the smell was what got me – it’s hard to describe, but very sour – along with the consistency, which offered a sort of liquid-y snot mouthfeel. I’m glad we tried, it though! This particular spot was nothing to write home about, but if you’ve ever been to dive bars in Allston, MA, you’ll feel right at home.
How much cash?
One of the big questions we had on the flight over was how much cash to take out, and we ended up managing just fine with withdrawing what equated to about $55 USD for the six days we were there. Between the two of us, we always had enough cash and in reasonable denominations, but if you’re flying solo, maybe get slightly more. (Those street food stands will be calling your name!) Most brick & mortar businesses will accept a credit card.
How to get around?
We walked a TON pretty much every day, and it was a great way to see even more of the city and get a feel for the different neighborhoods. When we needed to get somewhere fast (or were too tired/lazy), we Ubered. Rides were rarely more than $10 whenever we needed one, so as much as I would have loved to experience the Women-Only cars on the metro, it was just always way more convenient and still cost-efficient to Uber when walking wasn’t an option.
What’s up with the toilets?
I would say a good 10% of the trip was me trying to figure out what to do in the bathroom. At our Air BnB, there was a sign instructing that all toilet paper go in the trash rather than flushed, and similar signs appeared in public restrooms, too. (Until they didn’t, and then I wasn’t sure if the rule was simply implied instead of overtly spelled out.) All of this is to say that I still don’t understand how Mexicans do this on a daily basis in their own home without stinking up the joint, and I’m very glad to be back to flushing most things.