Did you know that Mexico City is the city with the most museums in the world? Even more than New York or London. Once you walk around the streets or open a map, it becomes apparent. They are everywhere.
Like Lima and Quito, Mexico City is big, like really big. My hostel, which is more like a hotel - it has keycards, is in the historic center, another UNESCO site. It is really nice to walk around. I just love old buildings, and I mean properly old buildings. The European type of old, not the Australian idea of old.
Each day I spent in Mexico City can be summed up by one word or activity. Everyday is walking and taco day.
Day one is history day. I started off my day with a map of Centro Histórico, a highlighter and the Mexico Triposo app. It's time to design another DIY walking tour. I start at the main square which is huge even by Spanish standards. It measures 240m on each side. Currently it's occupied with a free exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Mexican Army. I wandered through the exhibition to the Sagrario Metropolitano which is the big cathedral. Like always it's façade is beautiful and although I appreciate each one because they are beautiful, churches are starting to wear thin. Rookie error to wear shorts because I then couldn't go inside the church. Then it was on to Templo Mayor, an old Aztec temple and something I was quite excited to see. It cost me an astonishingly low $5.20 to get access to the temple and it's accompanying museum. The site was fascinating but then I'm into all that Inca, Maya, Aztec stuff. You do have to marvel at the temple though. Due to flooding and landslides, parts of it kept getting covered up so the Aztec leader at the time would order a new and higher level to be built. They haven't even excavated the whole temple and parts of it are buried under modern Mexico City. On my way to the temple I was stopped by three teenage girls, probably 14 or 15 who wanted to know of spoke English. Once I confirmed this they asked if they could interview and record me for a school project. They asked me the usual questions (name/age/where from) and then questions about Valentines Day and friendship. They were so cute and astonishly good at English.
More walking, trying not to walk too fast. First to enjoy and take everything in and second to pass the time. I find myself rushing too much so I'm trying to work on it. Time, I have got. I walked through Alameda Central Park which is lovely, green and filled with fountains, statues and lovely places to sit. I stopped at the tourist information booth to get a bigger map of Mexico City and the lady at the booth was so delightful. Like everyone I've encountered here she was patient and encouraging of my Spanish and of course very knowledgeable and helpful. I know it's her job but I thoroughly appreciated the excellent service. Plus once I mentioned that Mexican food is my favourite cuisine she recommended some local places nearby to my hostel. Can't wait to try them out!
Talking about food made me hungry and right at that moment I stumbled across three taco stands. Holy guacamole. Real Mexican tacos. I am in food heaven. They were incredible. I don't even know what the fillings were. I just pointed at the ones that looked good, said yes to cheese and helped myself to some hot sauce, fresh chillies and lime. Each taco stand cooks up your tortilla, filling and cheese and then you can put on the toppings yourself. Totally genius. And so tasty.
After that I successfully navigated myself to some monuments and a huuuuge park filled with street vendors, greenery, lakes, museums (of course) and the zoo. It was here that I got myself to the second museum of the day, Museo Nacional de Anthropología. The museum is huge and super, super interesting. It basically covers the pre-Columbian history of Mexico and is filled with archeological artifacts and explanations. Not having visited many museums in my travels so far, I'm keen to soak up information and see wonderful things. Here in Mexico City on focusing on ancient (or very old at least) history mostly. I know come NYC I'll be inundated with art museums so I don't want to see too much art and become complacent about it like I have churches.
Wondering why my feet were so sore, I looked up the distance of my trip when I got back to the hostel. Turns out it was a 12km+ round trip!
Not feeling super hungry after a late lunch, I decide to have a snack. I originally planned on another taco however the ice cream shop came first. Lime sorbet is the best ever.
Day two is culture day. I start the day with lime flavoured yogurt for breakfast. Freaking awesome. Then it's off to Teotihuacan to see me some big ass pyramids and learn some more ancient world facts. We start the day at Tlatelolco, an Aztec site in town. It's pretty cool but it is similar to Templo Mayor. Like said temple, the Spanish destroyed a fair bit of the temple and built a big ass church on the site. Thankfully archaeologists have been able to excavate a fair bit of the temple. The tradition of the Aztec and Maya leaders was to use the existing pyramid and build over the top of it (creating layers). It was their stamp on their rule, their very own temple.
Then we hit the motorway out of Mexico City to the suburbs. And here we find Teotihuacan. Our guide took us through Temple of the Moon and explained some of the building practices, murals and more. Interestingly this site is neither Aztec nor Maya. It was built before and abandoned, historians are not sure why and the Aztecs found it and used the site. After the tour we had some free time to explore. Teotihuacan is awesome in the fact that tourists are allowed to climb the pyramids. Due to some tombs being found and a subsequent tunnel being made into the Temple of the Moon, access is restricted to halfway only. One of the others in my tour group is a German girl and we mosey over to the Temple of the Sun, constantly swatting away irritating peddlers. I'll have you know I climbed the worlds third largest pyramid today. What did you do? The view from the top was pretty spectacular and we just sat up their for our remaining time enjoying the scenery and chatting.
Similar to a tour in Asia, there was a local culture component. We heard about the different uses of the agave plant, it's not just for tequila guys. There were some basic demonstrations and then we learn about the pre-Hispanic rock carving techniques. Then we were invited to taste three different fermentation of agave. The first was white and tasted sort of like beer. It is quite nice. Second was a liqueur type flavoured with almond and honey. Again quite nice. Third was tequila. Apparently we're doing tequila shots wrong in Australia. The custom here is to shake salt on to your lime, squeeze the juice in your mouth and hold it there, shot the tequila, let it mix with the time and swallow. I tried this and I like our way better. As per usual this all ended in an overpriced handcrafts shop where we were being given a 'special 10% discount'. Then the shop lead to an overpriced buffet. It was tempting - the guacamole and roasted capsicums look so good, but I'm not prepared to spend 100 pesos (just shy of $10) when I can eat in the city for 20 pesos maximum.
Our last stop on the tour is the Lady of Guadalupe. We visit in the afternoon when it will hopefully we a little quieter. Apparently 10,000 people visited in the morning. There is a religious pilgrimage happening at the moment and in the square between the two churches (the old and new) there are thousands of people camped out in tents and under tarpaulins. The old church had to be closed for restoration as it was sinking - Mexico City has sunk 5m over the last X years. The new church which is 100m in diameter and holds 4000 people, houses the image of Guadalupe. It's supposed to have appeared on the poncho of an Indian. NASA have tested the fabric and not been able to find traces of oil, thread, paints etc.
After we get back into the city the German girl and I head out for some food cause we're hungry! Cue more delicious tacos. We wander round for a little while and after a little interlude watching kids playing in the park fountains, we head for some ice cream. I have another motive. I do want ice cream but even more so I want to buy some Santa Clara yogurt. I had some for breakfast this morning, not so satisfied with my hostel provided one and it was amazing. I know it sounds weird but lime yogurt is so tasty. After ice cream we part ways. We're both heading to Playa del Carmen so chances are we bump into each other at some point.
Then it's time to get ready. In spirit of my culture day, I have purchased a ticket to the Ballet Folklorico. The ballet is housed at the gorgeous Palacio de Bellas Artes and my ticket only cost me $60. You'd never catch a professional ballet performance at this kind of venue for that price at home.
The ballet is hit and miss for me. Some segments are excellent and some almost about send me to sleep. The performance features a choir and instrumentalists apart from the requisite dancers. I prefer my ballet a little more contemporary but given the subject matter I understand why it's not. The costumes were fantastic and were my favourite part of the performance.
Day three is shopping day. But not before stopping at Viva Aerobus to organise a flight to the beach. Upon finding out the bus takes 24 hours, I was immediately sold on flying. I am so sick of buses and when you can fly for cheap, why not?
Getting a flight proved to be major frustration and took me hours, literally. I rock up to the Hotel Ritz where the airline was a desk, go to said desk and am told they don't sell bus or airline tickets anymore, and moment later the desk is pulled away. So then I take a taxi to a ticket agency I'm told does still exist. Get there, it's all going well. I ask for a ticket, understanding what she says to me and suddenly it gets to the price, which is more than I was expecting and I'm 200 pesos short. Skyscanner of course quoted me the cheapest price but this being a budget airline, you have to pay extra for baggage. b*****! The lady asks me if I have a credit card. Sure do but that, along with the rest of my money and bank card are back at my hostel. I have to walk back not wanting to waste money on another taxi. Consulting my trusty tourist map I realise the nearest metro station is on the same line as my hostel. For 3 pesos (about 27c) I can ride the metro close to my hostel and save me a lot of time. Even so by the time I walk to the stop, catch the metro, walk to my hostel, get more money, walk back to the metro, catch the metro back and walk to the ticket agency, I find the place inexplicably closed. Oh. The other ticket agencies are really far out into the suburbs and I need to book my flight cause I'm leaving the next day, so I just have to wait it out. Luckily there's a bus stop outside where I can sit. There's another woman in a similar predicament who eventually gives up and walks away after having waited 45 minutes. Of course at that moment the travel agent comes back. I wave at the woman and luckily she sees me and crosses the road back to the travel agency. Anyhow I do end up booking my flight and that is all that matters in the end.
Lunch is more Mexican cuisine. I lunch at the well known Cafe de Tacuba. While infinitely more expensive than street tacos, the food is tasty and is far cheaper than dining at an exclusive restaurant here or at home. My lunch includes my first authentic Mexican frijoles and they are gooooood. Have I mentioned how much I love Mexican food?
And then finally it's on to my actual intended activity for the day, shopping. I head to the local handcraft markets, which just like all those before, are an array of bright colours. But the stuff here is expensive. First of all things are labelled with prices, so bartering seems out of the question and things are a lot higher priced than in South America. That being said it's still fun to walk around and peruse the offerings. I find a couple of small, inexpensive things and they are purchased, but nothing like my previous market purchases.
I walk on to another market but it's much of a muchness so I don't bother looking too hard and don't buy anything there.
After dropping my purchases back a d catching up on the all important happenings of social media, I head out again, this time to the mall. I had originally intended to visit some mega mall out in the suburbs but my airline ticket hassles delayed me a fair bit. Although it's still early enough to go, the trip back into the city would be fairly late and given I don't know the area, I think that's probably not such a good idea. I walk around a big spacious mall off the main boulevard in town and enjoy trying clothes on, perusing the stores and just generally wasting time. They have a Zara Home store here and it is amazing. Kinda like Country Road home only better. So please bring that to Australia Zara! In regular Zara I try on a bunch of stuff and have to resist the temptation to buy it all. In the end I settle on a slouchy jumper that will be very useful come Washington DC and beyond, where the 90% summer wardrobe I packed will be rendered useless. In my haste to get dressed into my own clothes, I'm slipping my sandals back on and one of them breaks. This is upsetting for a few reasons. First, I really like those sandals. Second, the walk back to my hostel is a fair distance and will be super fun with a shoe that is falling off my foot. Third, now I only have thongs and hiking boots, and I had been planning on wearing those sandals at DisneyWorld.
As mentioned above the walk back with a broken sandal is not ideal. I can't really walk as fast as I would like and I have to keep stopping to adjust my shoe. A man asks me what time it is. I'm not wearing a watch and can't be bothered to open my purse to check my phone so I just shake my head and point at my watchless arm, not remembering the word for watch. It turns out he speaks a little English and reminds me of the word. He asks me the usual, where I'm from, how long I'm in Mexico City, do I like it, what do I do back home etc. I start to feel a little trapped in the conversation and apologise, saying I'm on my way to meet friends for dinner. At this point he is telling me about his business, something to do with shoes and he bends down to rub each of my sandals. Um, what? Then he farewells me and asks for 1 peso. I'm confused. I ask him why and he doesn't give a reason, just asks again. I say he hasn't done anything for me so I'm not giving him a peso. I'm not dumb enough to open my purse and give him the chance to potentially rob me. I say goodbye and walk away, noticing that he changes directions and walks the same way. So broken sandal and all, I hot foot it down the street and easily lose him in the throngs of people on the street.
Safely back at the hostel - actually he had asked where I was staying. Don't worry, I'm not dumb enough to reveal that information to a stranger, just said Centro Histórico which is a large area. Anyhow, it was time to repack my bag, not one of my favourite activities. And s***, it is getting full! Expander opened and at some point (when more purchase are made) I am going to have to do some serious rolling in order to fit everything in!
My favourite big cities so far...
1 Mexico City.
3 Buenos Aires.