How is it possible that a city of 22 million people and a metro area that extends farther than the eye can see, be so inviting and accessible? You would think the size would make it intimidating and the number of people would seem overwhelming but it is neither of those things. Of course you need weeks to be able to explore everything and I was only able to fit in a miniscule amount when you consider what I missed. It is one of those cities that when I leave I am already thinking about when I can go back.
This trip, I did the expected touristy things like the Museo Frida Kahlo which I saw the last time I was there but a great addition to the visit was the Trotsky Museum. Seeing the difference in Trotsky’s lifestyle versus Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s was fascinating. I read about Trotsky and the Russian Revolution in high school and college but seeing where he lived and how he lived made the history more relevant. Also, exploring the neighborhood of Coyoacan is a must do. The chapels, fountains and alleyways are full of surprises.
My favorite meal, while in Mexico City, was at Restaurante Nicos. This place is an institution. It has been around since 1957 and eating there is an event. The food is simple yet delicious and the staff is amazing. Definitely order the guacamole and the Caesar salad as both are made tableside. Be prepared to have a long meal as part of the pleasure is the leisurely pace of eating and the continuous arrival of more food, not to mention the in-house musicians. Our lunch started at 3:30 and ended at 6:30. We were so full that dinner wasn’t even an option.
As I have gotten older and traveled more, one of my go-to adventures is a food tour. I feel like when they are good, they give such a great view of a city and allow you to immerse yourself in the culture for the few hours that you are on it. Mexico Underground definitely provided that experience. Our guide was Ubish Yaren and he was phenomenal. His English was great and his love of his city came through with every stop we made. Not only did we try food that we normally wouldn’t have, think tongue tacos and grasshoppers, but we were also exposed to traditions like Pulque (a drink like Kombucha but alcoholic) and street art that if you didn’t know when to look up you would miss it.
My favorite part of the tour was the food. We went to taco stands for tacos al pastor, campechanos (a mix of meat including beef and pork), huitlacoche (called corn smut in English) and squash blossom to name a few. Each stand had its own personality and following. If I lived in Mexico City, I would probably eat at these stands every day. Not only are the tacos good but they are so cheap. Think $1.60 for 5 small tacos!
Another food stop was to Mercado 77 San Juan. This market is where chefs and regular people shop for their meat, produce and spices. We stopped at a produce stand and tried Custard Apple, Mamey, Golden Passionfruit, something that looked like a lemon but was sweet, and of course mango. We learned that the Alphonso mango adored by all in India actually comes from Mexico. (Don’t tell that to any Indians you know.) The market is clean and easy to navigate with stands for snacks and drinks and is a great place to rest before taking on another taco stand or in our case churros and chocolate.
Our last stop was Churros El Moro. We were able to try Mexican and Spanish hot chocolate. Spanish chocolate is thicker while Mexican is foamier with more cinnamon. Instead of ordering traditional churros, we had ice cream sandwiches. How can you go wrong with ice cream book-ended by churros? The milkshakes (malteadas) looked amazing and I wish I had ordered one.
For my next trip the must-sees will be the Museo Dolores Olmedo which has one of the world’s largest collections of Diego Rivera’s work, the Pyramids of Teotihuacan (I am embarrassed that I still haven’t been there), the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Museo Soumaya. All I need to do now is figure out when I have the time to go back.
Photo Credits: Clea Blockey, Michael Grochau & Christopher Worley