Rather ravenous (as per), the first thing we did after touching down in Mexico City was hunt down a traditional but inexpensive Mexican restaurant. TripAdviser assisted us in picking Tacos Beatriz which was perfectly located above some jewellery shops overlooking the main square. So that we could sample a bit of everything (not because we’re greedy…), we opted for the All You Can Eat option for $120 MXN. Start as you mean to go on, as they say. We tried an array of tacos and quesadillas, although it was difficult to distinguish the difference – something we found for almost all of our Mexican dining experiences. We tried ‘mole poblano’ for the first time which is a dark sauce containing chocolate and chilli; it’s usually paired with chicken, and we tried ours within a taco. Perhaps we didn’t try the best one, but none of us were particularly bowled over by it. The food was surprisingly bland, and there was a distinct lack of guacamole for my liking. Not what I expected from Mexico! But the location was absolutely perfect for our first night and the service by our lovely waitress named Miriam was very good too.
The next day we headed to a Supermarket to pick up our Coldplay tickets and treated ourselves to our first Starbucks – a sign, along with all the Walmarts, that we were getting ever closer to the U.S. On the way back Amy and I stopped outside the metro station for a ‘Gringo’ taco which had a delicious mix of meat, cheese, pineapple and coriander, amongst other things. We both agreed this was probably the best taco we had during our three weeks in Mexico, and it only cost us $38 MXN for two. Tacos are nothing like how we know them in the UK; a traditional Mexican taco is a small corn tortilla with kebab style meat and probably some cheese and coriander. We mostly disliked the thick, doughy and tasteless tortillas, and the meat was sometimes questionable too. The spicy sauces that accompany it seemed to be the main source of flavour. Burritos contained no rice (so were essentially a fajita…or taco) and guacamole was mostly nowhere to be seen. Ergo, and I really hate to admit this but, I think I prefer our western take on Mexican food to the traditional food we sampled on our visit. Although Mexico is the only place where it’s fully acceptable to have nachos alongside your fruit and granola for breakfast. And I can get behind that.
In the evening we went to see Coldplay at Foro Sol, which is a massive open air stadium. You’d be forgiven for not believing it, but Coldplay shows are very interactive, brightly coloured and upbeat. We slightly over judged the cheap vodka we bought for pre-drinks, but from what we remember we had a good and very glittery night. Andrea lost her purse (but thankfully got it back) and I have a vague recollection of getting overly emotional at one of their more mellow songs, and crying onto a small Mexican man’s shoulder.
The next morning we were joined by Carolin, Amy’s German friend. Hungover and tired, we decided the best way to get out and do some sight-seeing would be on an open top tour bus. It cost $170 MXN for a full days use up until 9pm. It was a welcome alternative to our normal organised walking tours or aimless rambles, although the unrelenting traffic would be of annoyance to the impatient or restless. Which was not us that day! Perhaps still a bit drunk, we thought it would be hilarious to buy bright pink pop-up hats – super practical for traveller’s like us… We drove down Mexico City’s seemingly endless avenues lined with Jacaranda trees blossoming an impossibly bright shade of purple. A fresh sight for our eyes, Mexico City was a complete contrast to the countless Colonial Cities we had visited in South America. A number of Art Deco buildings sit amongst modern skyscrapers. Closer to the historical centre you’ll walk alongside buildings completely covered in tiles making up beautiful and intricate patterns. Even though I hate the colour orange, the Palacio de Bella Artes building had to be one of my favourites. It’s right next to a park full of the aforementioned purple trees, streets of shops and other interesting buildings, so it’s very easy to lose track of time in this area. We also noticed an abundance of shops selling brightly coloured and garish meringue shaped dresses (think My Big Fat Gyspy Wedding). So if anyone has a prom/wedding coming up and wants to look like my Grandma’s weird Barbie doll toilet-roll holder then you now know where to head.
On our last full day we wanted to explore some areas outside the city. Most of the hostels will offer about six different tours, but none of the ones we were interested in took place on a Sunday so we decided to arrange a tour to Puebla ourselves. We took the metro to San Lorenzo station, from which you can directly access the Tapo Terminal. From here we got on a two hour coach with Estella Roja to Puebla which cost us $312 MXN each for a return. The bus station in Puebla is a little way out of town so you have to hop in a taxi which costs the fixed price of $70 MXN; you have to pre-buy the fare inside the bus terminal and then take the payment confirmation to the taxi drivers outside. Puebla was a super cute town, with Mexicans dancing in the street and kids blowing bubbles. It has countless beautiful buildings just like Mexico City, but with a cleaner and more family-friendly feel. After a quick visit to the church we went searching for Biblioteca Palafoxiana and met an English girl equally as baffled by its location. Founded in 1646, it is the oldest library in the Americas and has books dating backing to the 15th century. The library is barely signposted (and most of the signposts are wrong) and the locals seem to have conflicting ideas, but between us we found it in the end! If you are also on the hunt: face the front of the church and take the road on the right. About half way down the road pass through a large door on the right, cross the open courtyard and then head up two flights of stairs. Good luck!
If you have a sweet tooth and like your food to be luminous colours then certainly consider heading to Puebla. There is a whole street dedicated just to confectionaries. As we wandered around town I gaped and subsequently sampled some of the most novel street food I’ve seen yet, including garlic fried insects, a whole mango on a stick shaped into a flower and fruit sorbets in a plastic cup coated with chilli, salt, sugar and tamarindo.
Later in the afternoon we took a local bus to Cholula which took about an hour and cost around $8 MXN, although don’t quote me on that because I forgot to jot it down! The photos of Cholula portray the image a beautiful church sat on top a hill with a majestic volcano as a backdrop, but in reality I felt it was one of those places that only looks so good because the photos are taken from helicopters or viewpoints you don’t know to visit on that one perfect day in the year, plus a whole load of Photoshop to finish it off. The Great Pyramid also didn’t seem so great to me. It was cool to see kids flying kites with a volcano in the distance, but I’m not sure I’d tell anyone to make a special trip there, nor the local town.
Mexico City is one of the world’s biggest cities and we only experienced a tiny fraction of it. It’s only when driving or flying into/out of the city that you begin to realise the extent of its magnitude. Seeing it from the air when the sun has gone down is quite a treat! The next day we headed to the airport around 4pm for our 6.15pm flight to Cancun. Our flight ended up being delayed for over 4 hours due to a storm, meaning we didn’t arrive at our hostel until about 3am the next morning. On the bright side we watched in awe as the lightning lit up the clouds and the whole sky outside of our plane window, which was a pretty unique sight to see. We only planned to stay one night in Cancun so we picked a cheap hostel to rest our heads for the few hours of precious sleep that we managed to get before getting up early for our energetic surfing lesson.
Which was f**king awesome! I’d only attempted surfing once on the cold shores of Devon and was really keen to give it another go somewhere a bit more exotic. So I got in touch with Dave at 360 Surf School, explaining my penniless pocket but burning desire to surf in Latin America. Luckily Dave is a really nice guy and gave us a discounted price of 75 USD per person for a two hour private lesson. We arrived at Surfing Burrito Bar at 10.30am, immediately greeted by Todd and Vick – two American 30 something surfers that looked exactly like you might imagine. They were hilarious and super encouraging which really added to our enjoyment of the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Devonshire beaches, but Cancun was definitely a fantastic place to learn to surf. The bright blue waves roll in at the perfect strength for beginners and there is only soft white sand for when you inevitably make your descent. We all picked it up really quickly thanks to their brilliant teaching; I even managed to stand up on my first wave! When we were out on the water we were joined by three extra helpers meaning there was more than one instructor to each student; so we certainly got our monies worth. We finished up back at the surfin’ burrito bar and had a made to order western style burrito, just like we like them.
(…to be continued in Mexico: Part 2)
Love, Lottie xx