Mexico

Teotihuacan

Arriving in Mexico City at 6 am, our first impression was ‘holy cow, it’s cold!’. Having left the high 30s of Rio in shorts and t-shirt, the 9c in Mexico City reminded us what it was to be cold (and home). The hoodies were back with vengeance.

It was my insistence that lead us to Mexico, based on a gut feeling that it would be cool. Despite its reputation as dangerous, everyone we had met whilst travelling raved about the city and reassured us we’d love it. It didn’t disappoint. Mexico City is great; easy to navigate, lots of culture, beautiful architecture, and it felt safe. Saying that, there are police everywhere. On the streets, in the shops, directing traffic, on the metro – even following you down canals in ugly modern speedboats, totally killing the mood. We never actually saw them do any crime fighting, but their presence alone was reassuring.

We had 1 week in Mexico City, during which we tried to squeeze in as many of the sites as possible. First up was main plaza, which had the biggest flag I have ever seen, and is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral. The city is sinking, and this is most clearly seen in the sloping floors and leaning brickwork of it’s cathedrals.

Annie in traditional Mariachi costumeMexico City is packed with museums, but two that jumped out were the Memory & Tolerance Museum and the Tequila and Mezcal Museum. Two completely different experiences; whilst the first covered genocides throughout the 20th century in quite vivid detail, the second taught us about the history and processing of Mexico’s national drinks.

I think the Memory & Tolerance museum is probably one of the best I’ve ever been in. The hours quickly passed by thanks to the amazing (and often harrowing) interactive displays, and it is definitely something I would recommend to anyone visiting the city. On the otherhand, the Tequila museum gave us free shots (hooray!) and also let us dress up in traditional mariachi clothes as part of their brief history of Mexico’s traditional music.

Xochimilco CanalsAs well as museums, we visited parks, pyramids, a city amusement park, and the Xochimilco canals. For this, we hired a trajinera (kind of like a massive gondola) and took a tour of the waterways, during which passing boats offered us food, gifts, and musical entertainment. It was a very surreal experience, especially coming from the crowds of the city, and a lovely escape for a few hours.

Paul’s highlight was our evening of Lucho Libre. I went in to this not knowing what to expect other than fake fighting and over-acting, which is pretty much exactly what we got. Despite the arena only being half full, the atmosphere was brilliant, with the crowd really getting into the spirit.

The sun in Brazil had meant we had only been able to run crazy early in the morning before the heat kicked in. Mexico, being much cooler, resolved this problem, and so were were happy to take advantage of the Sunday tradition of closing the main roads to vehicles so that pedestrians, runners, and cyclists can take over. Given that the city is usually overrun with cars, it is quite amazing that this happens, and it was a great feeling running down the main avenue without having to worry about traffic lights or cars.

Paul and a TlayudaBefore arriving, the one thing we had been confident of was that we would love the food here, but it turns out, real Mexican food isn’t anything like what we get at home. Whilst Paul quickly became a fan of the bargain basement taco stalls, I struggled with mystery meats and corn tortillas. My saviour came in 2 forms: street stalls selling corn on the cob covered in chilli and cheese, and the most amazing patisserie I have ever been in. Our visit coincided with La Rosca de Reyes, a tradition to celebrate epiphany. This day (6 January) is celebrated with huge ring cakes. It meant eating cake, so we got involved (albeit a day late, hoping to get knock-down prices). Yum. They also love their spice, in everything. Even guacamole was a silent killer, quietly burning your lips off after a few bites.