After being in America for over a month, arriving in Mexico City was a bit of a shock to the system… my first realisation after 3 minutes in Mexico City- this place is hectic, loud, and messy; it’s hard to comprehend where and what all the sounds are when you are bombarded with suffocating heat and humidity. Realisation after 3 hours in Mexico City- should have persevered with those Spanish lessons; people aren’t so keen on ‘stab in the dark’ Spanish when ordering during Friday night prime time. Realisation after 3 days in Mexico City- every park or green space needs a water feature, police are everywhere, and everything I thought I knew about Mexican food was wrong. Hmm, maybe I already suspected that one… but that’s the whole point of traveling!
We spent a day being swept up in the crowds around the Zocalo, soaking up the hustle and bustle of their weekend. We watched families gather for christenings at the Metropolitan Cathedral, admired Diego’s murals at the National Palace, stumbled upon some interesting art galleries for a break from the heat. We also got lost in the maze of backstreet markets where you can buy a snack, some perfume, and metres of fabric without taking more than 3 steps. We wandered down Reforma Avenue on a Sunday morning when the speeding cars are shunned and the road is only opened to walkers, runners, and cyclists. The rest of the day was spent at Bosque de Chapultec– a massive park where families gathered to picnic, visit the zoo, take the paddle boats for a spin, and generally whittle the day away in each other’s company. We headed up the hill to visit Castillo de Chapultec, a former castle which is now the National History Museum, before heading back down the hill for a bite to eat at one of the many food stalls… tortillas all round!
The crash course in Mexican cuisine could only begin with… tacos! Small, simple, sometimes spicy, sometimes a little soggy- tacos, unsurprisingly, are everywhere. My favourite would be the tacos al pastor– pork shaved off the spit (think kebab shop but smaller) and served with pineapple; then of course I top it with some coriander and onion, salsa, and guacamole. Yes, I do have an issue with overloading the tacos and things can get messy, fast.
There were also some gorditas– a little corn cake stuffed with chicken, taquitos– a crispy rolled taco, fajitas, and that time I ordered the random pork dish because ‘cerdo’ was a word I recognised. It came slathered in sauce with tomato rice on the side, two things I love so this time the gamble paid off.
Another night we indulged in a parrilla platter (technically Argentinian?)- grilled flank steak, chorizo, chicken, and short ribs, with a side of chimichurri, tomatoey sauce, and guacamole. It was delicious, and it confirmed why we will probably never be vegetarians. I washed that down with a margherita because you can’t be in Mexico and not knock back some tequila cocktails, right?!
So after a full on few days, we were almost dominating the altitude, grasping a little more Spanish, and getting over the novelty of tortillas with every meal, but that was only the beginning- welcome to Mexico!