Every year it is my goal to visit one place I’ve never been. This year it was Mexico City. I’ll start by saying that Mexico is a very poor country. It has beautiful areas for sure, and amazing art, food, and history, but the life of a tourist in Mexico and the life of an actual Mexican is markedly different I believe. The good life is relatively cheap for a visitor, but not necessarily for the people who call Mexico home. This was my impression. Whenever I went somewhere upscale, it was mostly English that I heard. Moi does not go on vacation to rough it, so I want to say that I don’t think I had a proper Mexican experience by any means… but I did have a good one.
Lots of things in Mexico City are very inexpensive compared to the states. For one, Uber is SUUUUUUPER cheap. From the airport to my hotel it cost about $5! The same was true of almost every other ride I took. I didn’t have to worry about public transportation, because at those prices, getting around Mexico City was very hassle free and inexpensive.
Also cheap: Churros. I think out of the 5 days I was in Mexico City, I went to Chuerria El Moro three times. As far as sweet things go, that was my favorite thing I ate. I ordered mine “con canelle“ (with cinnamon). The portion is muy grande. What can I tell you dears? I need the super size portion to match my increasingly fat ass. It’s all about balance. I went to the one closest to my hotel, which is the original, dating back to 1935. Supposedly they are open 24 hours. I tested this, as any intrepid traveller would. Moi tried to get her fix around 6 one morning before hunting for street art, but the doors were locked. Piggy snout pressed against the cold glass, I was forced to return a couple hours later … but return I did. Kind of like a crack addict. Did you know studies show that sugar is more addictive than cocaine? I shit you not.
My hotel was completely fabulous. I stayed in the Historic District at a place called Downtown. It’s a lovely boutique hotel with several restaurants and fancy gift shops centered around a gorgeous open courtyard. My room was minimal with double height ceilings and old world features that went back to the 17th century from when it was originally known as the Palace of the Miravalle. I can’t recommend Downtown enough. The location was great, the rooms and the hotel are stunning, and the free breakfast … like I said, I’m looking very meaty at the moment.
Frida Kahlo Museum: This was the main reason I wanted to come to Mexico (aside from churros). I wanted to see where my favorite human lived, painted, loved, and died. It was the highlight of my adventure. I loved walking through the same gardens that Frida was photographed in time and time again, but it’s more than that. There is something so intimate about walking through her home, seeing the studio she painted in, the bed that she lay in (it had a mirror affixed to the top so that she could paint self portraits), and her final resting place: an urn in her bedroom. The Casa Azul is a beautiful, colorful, yet elegant home in a lovely region of the city known as Coyocan. Being in her home, imagining her moving through it, entertaining in her dining room, and playing with her animals in her garden… it was just so special to me. I can see why she loved Mexico so much. If I lived at Casa Azul I’d be hard pressed to leave it too. It’s clear why she found New York so dreary coming from a place like this (although she obviously had not had the clafoutis at Le Coucou). There were some beautiful art works of hers on display too, some of which I have not seen before. The experience of being where Frida walked, of touching the structures that she may have touched, it was kind of magical for me.
Later I would go to the Mexican Museum of Modern art just to see what I consider one of her most poignant works: The Two Fridas. Standing right in front of it, I felt so much emotion, I almost cried. That work says so much to me. It’s the Frida who is her true soul’s self (holding a locket of her husband Diego) trying to comfort her second self, the wife, as her heart hemorrhages. Every woman who has ever loved a man, I think, even if she couldn’t put the words to paper, would look at that painting and totally get it. It’s amazing how I’ve seen so many photos of it, yet standing in front of the real thing was such a different experience. It had the power to move me like no photograph could.
Ballet Folklorico: In the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes, every Wednesday and Saturday there is a wonderful performance by the Ballet Folklorico. It typifies what you imagine when you think of Mexico: lots of color, fun, and tons of good energy. Watching the traditional singing and dancing will definitely make you smile. If you are visiting Mexico City, especially if this is your first time, you must go. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but it was pretty freaking spectacular!
But you guys know the main reason I travel. It’s really all about the food for me. I didn’t ONLY eat churros. No, one only needs to see the way my jeans are bursting at the seams to figure that one out. There was much eating going on. MUCH.
Of all my foodie excursions, I was most excited about dining at Pujol after seeing it on NetFlix’s Chef’s Table. I just HAD to go. Even a month in advance, however, I could not get a table. There were no reservations available online, but after writing them an email, they kindly made room for little piggy Caroline. This was my first experience with a tasting menu. It was wonderful to enjoy so many little bits of deliciousness, and so many layers upon layers of coordinating flavors. It was quite a production, almost theatrical, and surprisingly lengthy, but I enjoyed every bit. This was undoubtedly the biggest extravagance of my trip. I think it cost about $160 USD, but as Pujol is considered one of the highest ranking restaurants in the world, I feel I got a bargain — well, that’s how I justify it anyway. Let’s just face it, I don’t do dollar menus. Life is too short. Next thing you know I’ll be eating Chef Boyardee out of can — quelle horreur!!
By the way, I want to mention that I was not the only woman eating alone here. I spied at least two other female solo diners. I thought this was so cool. Nod to my sistahs who aren’t afraid to get their chow on all by themselves (I absolutely hate how women eating alone in fine restaurants is so stigmatized! Dismember the patriarchy dollies, one taco at a time!!!).
The highlights of my meal included the “street corn” –presented in a smoke filled pumpkin– which actually had crushed ants on it (!), and the 1,874 day old Madre mole sauce. If you want to know more about the extravaganza, because it’s honestly quite fascinating and complex, check out Season 2 Episode 4 of Chef’s Table. Otherwise, here are some pictures:
Contramar was another fabulous restaurant I visited. This trendy and upscale seafood restaurant is the place to go for a fishy feast. I had their house special, Pescado Contramar, which is basically grilled snapper with red and green sauces. It was so spectacularly fresh! This was followed a fabulous fig tart. But the thing I loved most were the tuna tostadas. They may have been my favorite thing I ate while in Mexico.
Another thing I’d totally recommend is the street food tour given by Club Tengo Hombre. Street food is very popular in Mexico City, but as a tourist only familiar with our American verision of Mexican food, I’d walk past the stalls and have no idea what I was looking at. It was actually quite intimidating. It was wonderful going with someone who took us to the best of the best, guiding us through the labyrinth. We made lots of stops which included two markets. My favorite morsel was our last stop at Taqueria Los Cocuyos where I tried a tongue taco. Simply awesome!
Well, I now have my first Latin American stamp in my passport, and I’m looking forward to more. Mexico was a wonderful adventure. I want to end this by mentioning that before going I had people warn me I’d get sick from the food/ water (no such thing happened). I was also warned that Mexico City is dangerous (I experienced nothing of the sort). If you have any of those fears, put them aside. The only thing I can remember is some guy telling me that our president was an asshole. “Yeah, I’m sorry, I know,” I replied. He asked me for money. I gave him some change. We are lucky they don’t build a wall to keep US out.