Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mexico City: Besame Mucho

When people hear I'm going to Mexico, most people assume I'm planning to lounge at a sandy beach with a Coronita in hand. But when I tell them, "No, I'm actually going to Mexico City" their usual reaction is: "Oh! Be safe."

I've been to Mexico City twice now (first time in 2008 and recently at the beginning of the month) and I've never felt unsafe walking around the streets of the D.F. (Districto Federal). As always, I'm aware of my surroundings and try to stay out of sketchy areas after dark (smart to do that anywhere!). I've actually walked in a sketchier area of Paris before and I never came across anything like that in the D.F.

When people ask me about the city, I can't praise it enough. I've thoroughly enjoyed it every time and I think everyone should visit (brush up on your espanol, though). It slightly reminds me of Vietnam with its flurry of people and chaotic traffic. You can walk along and smell exhaust fumes but then the fumes are overpowered by the intoxicating smell of freshly made blue corn gorditas on the street corner. The historic center is also a UNESCO world heritage site and city is home to dozens of museums, Aztec ruins and so much more. Just go!

After my 2008 trip with my friend Frida, I was just itching for a reason to go back. When my friend Mandy approached me about it a few months ago (after seeing the D.F. featured on 007's Spectre!) we decided to make it happen. I invited my other partners in crime (sister and Frida) to join us on this weekend adventure.

Day 1

Since Mandy and I landed first, we immediately dropped off our bags at the Hilton Mexico City Reforma Hotel and headed to the streets to find some food. The hotel is nicely situated just one block west of Belles Artes.

The first thing we found were these sizzling hot gorditas with chorizo.

The ladies topped the gordita with nopales, queso fresco and lettuce and yummy salsa. It was perfect. 

We also stumbled into the San Juan Mercado

The market was full of fresh fruit, veggies and my fave: aguas frescas.

After seeing Chef Jorge Vallejo, of Quintonil restaurant in Mexico City, taking Rick Bayless to one of his favorite taco joints Taqueria Los Cocuyos, I had to make a stop there. 

The owner literally has a vat of eyeballs, tongue, tripe and other innards/cuts of meat he braises.

We both ordered the campechano (combination of several meats) and it was glorious. 

The fatty meats nestled on top of two small corn tortillas that were perfectly crisp on the edges was heaven for a measly 16 pesos (about 85 cents). 

We wandered through the Zocalo a bit before returning to our hotel to meet up with Linda and Frida. 

Our BIG dinner that night was at Quintonil. One of the top-rated restaurants in Mexico City right now.

After getting a slight buzz from a total of nine drink pairings (one of which was non-alcoholic) we decided dancing would be the next best thing. We were planning on going to a latin nightclub but as we were walking there, there were some fun jams coming from La Piedra, a rooftop restaurant/bar that lured us there.

We saddled up to the bar, grabbed a couple of drinks and proceeded to dance with some locals and even the bartenders. It was the perfect night cap.

"I got this feeling inside my bones. It goes electric wavy when I turn it on." 

Day 2

The last time Frida and I were in the D.F. we walked a million miles, went to numerous museums and experienced a lot of things, but we didn't get to visit Xochimilco, so that was on our top to-do list. 

We took a $14 45-minute Uber ride down there to explore the old canals that were built for agriculture and transportation purposes 1,000 years ago. While some of the canals are still used for agriculture now, most of the waterways are used for tourism. 

For 350 pesos you can rent a brightly colored gondola for 1 hour. While on it, we decided we were having so much fun that we got the 2-hour tour. It was worth it. 

To make sure we were properly hydrated, we also got these 40 oz. micheladas. I mean, if the locals are drinking we should be too!

Elotes for sale by a passing vendor
The gondolas traverse the waterways with all the other gondolas along with food and trinket vendors. Want a mariachi band to serenade you? No problem! They're on their own small boats and the full band can jump onto your boat with ease (about 100 pesos for one song). 

In order to get the full Xochimilco experience, Frida waved a mariachi boat down and a great time ensued.

Locals bring their picnics, booze and have a fiesta on the boat!

After a full day in Xochimilco, we headed home to get ready for dinner with a couple whom Frida and I stayed with in 2008. 

We ended up eating dinner at Azul Historico in the mixed-used development called Downtown Mexico. It's in an old building in the historic district that was remodeled about five years ago to include dining, shopping, bars, a boutique hotel and even a hostel. There is also a fabulous rooftop bar!

The main restaurant space with real trees and tons of candlight
Living wall

We started our meal with a mezcal served in the cutest bowl along with some orange slices. The mezcal was super smoky and luxurious, but it was muy fuerte (strong). We all had various dishes and all were solid, I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional tortilla soup. 

Our friends were utterly amazing and charming as usual. Even though we hadn't seen Alicia and Carlos in eight years, it was like we've known them forever and restarted our conversation seamlessly. So great to be able to reconnect with old friends!

After dinner, we roamed around Centro Historico and then finished out the night at the Mojito Room, a nightclub with a live salsa band.

Day 3

On Sunday we woke up early and roamed the nearby streets for some breakfast tacos before we made our way to the Teotihuacan ruins.

Just to be clear, breakfast tacos in Mexico City do not contain any scrambled eggs--it just happens to be tacos for breakfast, although you can get a boiled egg added. The tacos shown above were 5 peso a piece! and these were chicharron and picadillo.

Since the ruins are situated about an hour north of Mexico City, we took the subway to Autobuses del Norte bus station. Once there, we bought tickets from the Teotihuacan bus stall for 90 pesos round trip. The charter bus ride was smooth and by the time I woke up from my nap, we were there. The ruins cost about 50 pesos to get in.

You should definitely give yourself about four hours to go up the various pyramids and really take in the vista views.

Best Tip: Make sure you also put on sunblock and wear comfortable shoes!

On top of the Sun Pyramid looking towards the Moon Pyramid.

The queen on top of the Moon Pyramid!

Sisters conquering the world!

The whole time we were walking through the ruins, we kept hearing rave music coming from a distance. We realized there was a full weekend rave happening not far from the ruins. It's definitely weird to traverse something so historic and hear raving music in the background.

After getting our glute workout in, we wandered the outskirts of the ruins to find some snacks.

A little girl tracked us down and told us to check out her family's food stall. Since she was so persuasive we followed her to the brightly colored stall and settled in with a couple of micheladas and some nomz.

My delicious mushroom sopes!

After our bellies were happy, we got back on the bus and made our way back to the hotel to get ready for a night out.

Unfortunately we had to shorten our evening walk once it started raining.

We ended up hanging out with some friends in the Polanco area before calling it a night.

Day 4

Since Frida's flight was the earliest out of all of ours, we made a mad dash to find some breakfast.

We found a great place that had a cheap but filling breakfast. For less than $4-$5 you got a fresh juice, a fruit plate, a coffee and the main entree.

I opted for the chilaquiles with verde sauce. It had the perfect tang although I did have to scrape of some of the excess cheese!

After breakfast, we rushed back to the hotel to get Frida on her flight.

Since the rest of us weren't flying out until 6 p.m., we spent the rest of the day checking out the Coyocan neighborhood where Frida Kahlo's museum is located. Because it was a Monday all the museums were closed!

Since we couldn't get into the blue house, we roamed around, shopped and took some photos.

The Coyocan neighborhood is so bright and lively! Even on a Monday morning the shops were buzzing as were the parks.

Parroquia San Juan Bautista in the Coyoacan area is a beautiful 16th century church.

There was also this artist who was stationed in the Jardin Centanario painting the wolf fountain.

For our last official meal, we decided on mole at Oaxaca en Mexico Restaurante Tipico, which was a place suggested to us by an Uber driver. 

The meal started with these adorable little tamales and delicious sauces. Since it was my last meal, I ordered a mezcal to go with my meal, that's how I roll!

My mole negra enchiladas. The mole was well-balanced with the darkness of the chocolate and spices. Glorious! Why can't I find mole like this in the U.S.?

Linda's dish was a lighter mole which kind of reminded me of a curry!

After lunch we made a trip to the Zocalo one last time and went inside the Cathedral of Mexico City.

Since we were still having so much fun, we kind of lost track of time so we had to mall-walk back to the hotel to make sure we got to the airport in time! 

As we boarded the plane and said adios to the largest city in North America, I know it won't be the last time I visit the D.F.

To be able to travel to exciting places with people you adore, life doesn't get any better than that!

Parting shots of the D.F.
Making tacos al pastor early in the morning

China Town!
Angel of Independence

Blue tile building

Belles Artes

Derricious crickets. I wouldn't eat them solo but with some cerveza, yes!

And just a little GIF Action of my sis doing a handstand at the ruins.

Hasta Luego!