Mexico City: Part 3
Updated: Oct 11, 2018
After spending the entire previous day visiting nearly every landmark in Mexico City, we decided to take a break from the chaos and head east to explore the ruins of Teotihuacan ($13.38 for entrance + parking for 3 people). We also wanted to be sure to get there on a weekday to prevent too many fanny packs from photobombing our pictures.
Our feet were not fully healed, but the moment we first saw the pyramids that no longer mattered. We spent over six hours checking out every square inch of the ancient city, including a mandatory trip to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, even if our lungs, still not adjusted to the altitude and full of smog, were not prepared. Remember the extra tortas from the night before? We ate them at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Probably the best view we’ve ever had for a meal.
That evening we headed back to the city to have the best meal from our time in Mexico City. Felicia’s aunt Marlenne invited us to join her beautiful family for dinner at her mother-in-law’s house. We were honored, not only to be invited to dinner, but to also be treated to the time-consuming, complex dish of mole verde. It was a memorable night full of delicious food, jokes in broken Spanish and English, plenty of passes of the tequila bottles, and amazing people.
We ended the night with a walk down to the corner for these life-altering fried plantains covered in condensed milk, cream, and strawberry jam.
The next day, we headed to Xochimilco, a neighborhood in the southern part of the city. Xochimilco is famous for its artificial islands, canals, and boats that navigate them. Think of it as a gritty Venice with tequila and reggaeton. Of course, we grabbed a couple of micheladas ($8.56 for 2), hopped on a boat ($27.17 for an hour), and watched the surrounding chaos ensue. The boats are captained by a man with nothing but a 10-15 foot wooden pole and his feet to push off of the surrounding boats. Simply pulling out of the dock, amongst the dozens of haphazardly parked boats, is like solving a very complex puzzle that requires a great sense of balance.
Once we undocked and rounded the corner, the source of the “woo”s and thumping bass was instantly apparent. Colorful boats, each carrying anywhere from two to twenty people, lined the canals. Despite the near gridlock, each boat traveled along the canal. Some carried a couple just out for a “peaceful” afternoon ride, others ferried along whole parties. What do you do when you have more than twenty friends that want to join in? Tie two...or four boats together and just move freely between the boats. Or if your friends are boring you, just jump to the next boat full of drunk girls doing their best Shakira renditions, like one (obviously American) frat boy we witnessed. Don’t worry about heading back to land if you run out of beer or food, there are vendors traversing the mayhem, on what are basically carved out canoes. Nothing but themselves and pot of corn for elotes or a cooler full of beer.
That evening we were again invited to dinner at Marlenne’s mother-in-law’s house. This night it was one of favorites, enchiladas verdes.
It’s going to be hard to eat enchiladas verdes again. They were that good…
Our fifth full day in Mexico City started with a return visit to Chapultepec. This time we visited the castle and enjoyed the views of the city from atop the hill it sits on. On Sundays, Mexican citizens are able to visit for free. Felicia got in for free, apparently she’s Mexican. Six-foot-two, bearded gringos don’t get mistaken for Mexicans (Andy paid $3.75 to get in).
That afternoon, we headed up into the mountains to get away from all of the city noise and spend a few hours at Desiertos de los Leones National Park. As much as we’ve mentioned the surprising cleanliness of the city, the air pollution is a very real thing and this was just the break our lungs needed. We toured the 17th century monastery, although we barely understood a word the guide said. As she explained things well beyond our Spanish comprehension level, our eyes would wander about the monastery, only rejoining the group to laugh along to what we presumed were pretty funny jokes.
While at Desiertos, we also tried quite a few new foods, including pambazos (sandwiches made with bread dipped in pepper sauce and filled with chorizo and potatoes), flor de calabaza (squash blossom flower), and huitlacoche (corn fungus) quesadillas. Don’t turn your nose up at huitlacoche! The best way to describe it is like a corn-flavored mushroom, and it’s the best thing you never knew you needed.
That day was supposed to be our last in Mexico City, but we felt we needed a couple more to revisit some of our favorite sights and eat a few more meals. The next two days consisted of some more time walking around Coyoacan, another trip to the Zocalo, more churros in Parque Mexico, eighteen more tacos, and about four hours to do one load of laundry in a barely functioning washing machine.
Mexico City is overwhelming. From the constant noise, whether unnecessary car horns or the call of the tamale man riding down the street, to the smell of food on the corner of every block, the city is constant sensory overload. The city surprised us in many ways. We knew we were going to eat well, and we knew we were going to eat a lot. We didn’t realize how many beautiful parks there were in the city or how clean it actually was. We’re not sure why we thought five days would be enough to explore one of the largest cities in the world. One week was just enough time for us to scratch the surface. We were expecting to make one post for each week, but here we are on part three on Mexico City.
Though we were ready to move on from the noise and air pollution, Mexico City was everything we expected and much more. We were able to eat foods that we had dreamt of for years, cooked by the true experts on the street. Our experience confirmed that you can’t let the negatives of a place keep you from stepping off the tour bus or walking outside your hotel door. Obviously, you must be cautious and avoid certain areas, but you would get the same advice if you were visiting New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
By far the best memories of Mexico City were being able to spend a good portion of our week with family that we hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Having family dinner and familiar faces to help us navigate the city and deal with the language barrier helped ease us into this crazy adventure. From this point on, the only familiar faces would be each other's.