I came to Mexico with almost no expectations. Thinking that the country would be about two things, one, the ancient Mayan sites and the tourism around it, two, the beaches and the tourism around it. I knew that perhaps I would have to do at least some of the Mayan sites if I ever wanted to start a tour here but none of the touristy beaches.
I agree a lot of my travel has been about food, the culture around it and the nature that supports it. In Croatia it is the truffles, in Norway, the Salmon, in Peru, well I could just go on and on and so in Mexico I had an idea that the food won’t disappoint me. What happened, in turn, was what this blog is about. I landed in Mexico city and immediately I was at home in India. The commotion with the bags the taxi guys shouting (not anymore in India) and a feel of organised chaos welcomed me. I took a cab to my hotel and immediately began to notice how different the streets in Mexico city or CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) as they call it, are. My comparison was with those of Lima or Santiago in the South. Maybe I was very used to being on the South American continent, that CDMX made me feel different.
It had gotten dark already as I settled in on my table but the light came from within the kitchen. The first bite of those Tacos and I thought that I might need to stay more in this country. True, I am a bit quick to judge a place. I mean if I like it in the first instance it never goes wrong later, and yes there are chances that it might go well, even if I don’t like it in the first feel. I was not expecting CDMX to impress, but it did.
I was flying from Europe and so the sleep clock was not doing so well. I woke up at 0500 hours got some workout done (Octopus Tacos was not the only thing I ate in the night), and then went to check the breakfast out at 0730. Initially, I was disappointed to know that breakfast not included but then I was glad as I stepped out. I already knew a few places that I could visit to see what the Mexicans eat on a Sunday morning. So, I took the metro bus (will explain later) and with my broken Spanish managed to get down at the right stop to walk towards the centre.
At first like any city, CDMX felt overwhelming, but then I kept reminding myself, “don’t forget you are from Mumbai”. It was still early and there were more people eating from local breakfast carts than in the restaurants. At first, I thought I should do it too, but then I am a spoilt city guy at times, so I kept walking towards, El Cardinal in the Centro Historic. My first breakfast in the country would be courtesy google. I was in Q much like the other 10 – 15 names before me. I needed coffee as I waited so I ventured out to walk a little more and came across a french bakery and that’s how breakfast started for me. It ended after 2 hours and an appetite which was very much taken care of.
Sometimes when I enjoy the time taken with food, I feel a little guilty on not perhaps giving myself enough time to explore the other parts of travel. I am never into Museums or monuments and least so in a city. But with CDMX being the centre of many Museums and art galleries I decided that it would not be a bad idea to get into some. As I had feared I got out of the first one in half the average time taken and found myself walking again. Walking was good. It was a Sunday and I don’t know if that was the reason that it felt relatively calm. I went inside the Gran Hotel and loved its glass ceiling, I got to visit a museum more and came out even earlier than the first one, and then I found myself in front of a metro station.
It had been around 4 hours and a little more than I was in the old part of the city. I am sure that I could’ve spent 4 more but I felt it was time to go to the other part. Roma is hailed as the chic colonial part of the city. This time however the metro station was not as near my destination as the bus station earlier was. So I got off, walked for a bit after some orientation with Google maps and found myself in the company of completely empty roads. Empty but not inactive. People were riding bikes mostly with their children, and many of them were enjoying a ride on the standing electric standing scooter. I downloaded the app needed to get one for myself and in time started both enjoying the ride and further liking the city. I was already in Roma and It was nice. Though I will confess that I was inclined to check out the food scene almost immediately, I rode and after sometime walked. Roma is a leafy neighborhood and it feels transported to at least 25 years behind in time if not for the BMW’s and Audi’s that frequent it’s roads. Yes, Roma is where the upper middle class and above come to spend their day, especially a Sunday lunch as I was about to realise. Roma is big enough to have two sub-districts, Roma Norte and Roma Sur but it feels small. It is no wonder pretty.
At around 5 pm, a little earlier than I would have expected, I felt like going back to the hotel and taking a nap before dinner. So, I found a metro bus station and voila! it was the line that I needed to get back to my hotel which was 8 km away from the main city. I love having the metro card of the city I am in. Sure, traveling locally is fine, using cash to pay the driver. But a metro card is not only a souvenir but for me, it tells me that I know I would come back here.
With CDMX I knew too.
From and to the Airport
There are buses that take you to the centre but I took a cab. I think it is around 250 – 300 pesos to the centre.
Where to sleep?
I was staying in the Villa part of Mexico near a mall. it was convenient with the bus to get to the city and the courtyard Marriott was not bad at $60 per night. If you are in for a longer time then Roma should be the place to stay. The classical hotels are expensive but the best western there could be an ok option to explore the neighborhood while not spending more than $60 – 80 per night.
Where to eat?
What can I say?? There are so many good places.
For breakfast or lunch while in the centre!
El Cardinal! just try this place. Their pastries are amazing and are all made fresh, so fresh that they are warm when the waiter gets them for you to choose.
There are many places but if you would like something classy then try the Casa Blanca where the menu is not so vast changes daily. A good tip might be to make a reservation.
How to travel
Metro bus zooms through traffic but it does not take cash. The machine that dispenses cards at the station does not return change to make sure you have the 20 pesos to buy the card and then a refill too has to be done with change. The same card can be used for the train as well.
Many places in Mexico do not take cards. Make sure you change money on arrival at the airport. CDMX airport has the best exchange rates in MEXICO! Also, note that the money changers at the arrival on the domestic side have a better rate. 19.85 to 19.20 at international to 17 in Cancun!