The irony is I’m posting this from Boston. I’ve been in Mexico for three weeks now, and despite dealing with a cold and some difficulty in my language learning, I am enjoying myself so, so much. I had never stepped foot in Mexico before October 26. And all I knew about Mexico City was that it is big. That said, I’ve been learning a lot. Today is my first day back to work, and in this Boston cold I am missing my new city already. So, I’ve decided to round up some of my initial takeaways from my first few weeks in MEX.
Having spent time in LA, Boston and New York, I know a thing or two about this. I’m not going to say it’s worse, but Mexico City is right up there with those beacons of bumper-to-bumper in the States. It happens frequently that my GPS gives a shorter time for walking than driving. I took an Uber to school this week, one morning when I was running (more) late (than usual), and it ended up taking longer than it would have walking PLUS I had to wait for the car to arrive. The good thing was that I got to Flica stalk in the car and didn’t arrive sweaty from walk-jogging, but the lesson was learned and I won’t try that trick again. The bottom line is this: Save the taxis for late nights and airport runs and lace up your walking shoes.
This city is very walkable (The neighborhoods I stay in and frequent anyway) and I’ve been putting in 6, 8, 12 miles per day. Sometimes my feet get fatigued, but overall it’s a good way to sight-see for free and it helps to counteract all the tacos and cerveza!
A chorus of car horns, a vision of tail lights
I’m convinced everyone in this city has a dog. I see them sitting outside at cafes and restaurants by their owners’ side, tied up outside grocery stores and tiendas, and dog walkers rolling through the streets, gripping 10-20 leashes at a time. It is wild! People clearly love their pets here. One place this pup abundance is most apparent is Parque Espana. My walking route to school skirts this park, but I’ve taken to walking through it, both to save a minute or two and to peep all the cute fur babies playing. It must be where they go to doggy school or where the pet care providers like to hang out because at any given time there could be 30 dogs, chilling in the park. Sometimes they are all lined up , giving the impression of a school atmosphere, and sometimes they’re trotting around playing. One thing that has struck me is how well behaved ALL of the dogs seem to be. I have been here three weeks and seen probably a thousand pups and have yet to see any semblance of a dog fight. It is common to see dogs walking by their owner’s side, leash dragging on the ground, or without one at all. I walked by a line of these cute pooches in the park yesterday, thirty or so, all laying or sitting in an orderly row, leashes laying on the ground by their sides. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m thinking the Mexico City Dog Obedience program could be a really nice export.
Comida de Calle is King
There is good food EVERYWHERE. The neighborhood in which I live, Condesa has a European feel; Little cafes with outdoor tables and chairs nestled in between storefronts and beautifully facaded homes and big leafy trees that line the streets. In the busier sections of city, there are restaurants everywhere and you can find any type of food you desire. But the main attraction here is out of doors, no white table linnens, or even tables.
Every street corner, scratch that, every twenty feet, there is a street vendor making tacos, tlacoyos, quesadillas, and sopes on large circular grills, feeding the people. It’s a serious operation, without the hipster glamour of a food truck, but with the setup and fixings of everything you need for s seriously delicious snack or meal. Some sell sweet breads and dulces. Some, coffee and hot chocolate. Some freshly cut papaya, mango, pineapple and coconut. Further, there are open air street markets in different neighborhoods on different days of the week where you can get your produce, meats and cheeses for the week or just grab a tasty snack (or two or three). Eating on the street here is not just economical, but it’s really a way of immersing yourself into the city. The advice I’ve been given by more than one Mexican is not to eat anything fried and instead opt for one of the delights sizzling on that giant grill. This will help to avoid “Montezuma belly,” as my host Sergio so aptly put it.
Tlacoyos-delicious and vegetarian!
No idea what these are called. Patties of vegetables and grains smothered in tasty salsas.
It’s not Summer here.
I know some those of you who have been here are rolling your eyes like, “Yah, Duh.” But I also know, based on the questions I’ve been asked, that not everyone knows this and the point is worth addressing.
Far from the playas of Spring Break and cruise-ship dreams, Mexico City, with an altitude of more than 7,350 feet, is located central Mexico in a mountainous region. So, while the temperatures in Cancun range from 65-80 this time of year with scorching sun, the temps here in CDMX now are more like 50-73. It’s cool in the morning when I wake up, as the sun comes out it’s like a nice sunny spring morning on my walk to school at 9:30. By 14:00 when I leave class, the sun is at full mast and it’s time to ditch the sweater and feel the burn. Night times get chilly but never enough for a real coat or ::shiver:: gloves. It’s basically like perfect springtime weather, post rainy-season. In Boston terms, I’d liken it to mid-may, sin humidity (a big plus for me!)
Entonces, No. I will not be coming home with a tan. No, I have not been in a bathing suit in three weeks. No, I am not wearing shorts and flip flops.
There’s a looooooooooot of foreigners up in this bitch. Surprised Mexico hasn’t built a wall to keep out all the gringos gentrifying their neighborhoods and english-ing up the city.
Jk jk, but seriously AMERICANS. Get a goddamn grip.
I’ve met French, German, Brasilian, Dutch, Canadian, and of course Americans (estadounidenses, en Espanol) all living and working in MEX. The neighborhoods of Condesa, Polanco, and Roma Norte are chock full of little cafes offering cheap coffees and tasty snacks and fast Wi-Fi. It’s no wonder that Mexico City is such a haven for digital nomads. I met one French travel blogger who is on the road full time, An Argentinian couple who work in finance and doing translations for a European company, and Americans who have settled in and decided that they’d rather spend their US dollars here. I’m part of a “Foreigners and Expats in CDMX” group on Facebook which is good for finding info on events, apartments, jobs, or just learning about the city from others who have been here longer. It’s not always the ideal way to practice Spanish, but don’t you worry. I’m, working hard.
Being basic, pretending I'm a digital nomad.
Something really weird I’ve noticed here is that there is a TON of love for Boston sports teams. Every day I see a Patriots shirt or a Red Sox hat or multiples of each. It’s very common in other countries to see people with New York gear (Yankees merch or I <3 NY). But there appears to be a definite leaning to BOS here. Are there famous players who hail from Mexico? Help me out, I don’t know these things! Is it a matter of excess merchandise from all our WINS trickling down into secondary markets? Is it the universe trying to make me feel at home?
I’ll probably have to start asking people in the streets to find out the answers. Not the worst way to practice Español!
Rich Cultural History
Okay, this is another eye-roll worthy bit if you’ve explored Mexico before. But tbh I’ve thought of Mexico as a Spanish-speaking, Catholic country. And of course those things are true. But there is so much more. There are something like 26 languages spoken throughout Mexico today. There were numerous pre-hispanic civilizations in Mexico, in addition to and before the well-known Aztecs and Myans, dating all the way back to 1200 B.C. These indigenous peoples created bustling cities, trade routes, detailed artworks, political infrastructres, and incredibly impressive architecture– much of which can still be seen today. I visited the pyramids of Teotihuacan, just an hour and a half outside of Mexico City, which was built long before the Aztecs came around.
The city I’m calling “home for now” has 170 museums. But the one that shouldn’t be missed is the Museo de Anthropologia. This is the hallmark museum of mexico city and details the country’s roots and the different civilizations that have inhabited it, from human evolution and the great migration, through prehispanic cultures, the Spanish conquest and up until today. I’m not much of a museum person, but this one is so impressive, so full of information, and so vast that I ended up going two days in a row because the 3 hours I’d alloted myself on day one were insufficient. Full of ancient artifacts, stone carvings, information on ancient peoples’ customs and religious beliefs, this museum doesn’t disappoint, and I’d call it a must-see when visiting MEX.
Wonder is around every corner of the Museo de Antropologia
You can spend all day, and with an entry fee of $4 USD, why not make it two?
Just making myself at home at the pyramids of Teotihuacan
That’s all for now folks! Hit me up for my Mexico City recommendations at leisure or SEND ME YOURS! As always, thanks for reading.