by Tyler Black
After reading about Leesa’s experience in Mexico City, I knew it was a place I had to visit. Plus, with all the things we keep seeing in the news about Mexico, I wanted to get to know the country on my own and not from some face on television. And boy am I glad I did. It was a further reminder that everything we’re fed through the media is not always true. But I digress.
I kept an eye out for flights over the summer and finally found a really good deal with American Airlines. So in early November, I set off to get to know what the city and all it had to offer. Arriving in Mexico City was more than I could have ever expected.
Day 1 – Arriving in Mexico City
As my plane descended into Mexico City, I couldn’t help but notice just how massive it was. For as far as I could see, a concrete jungle extended all the way to the horizon. The only pieces of nature in view were mountains or small parks. It was honestly impressive, but made me realize that I probably would need an extra week to even come close to seeing all this city had to show. After getting through customs and grabbing my bags, I made my way towards the exit and promptly misplaced the immigration form the customs officer had handed me. This would come back to bite me on my flight home.
For now, my main concern was figuring out how to get to my hostel. I was going to take the metro, however, after seeing how cheap the Ubers were, I decided on the more comfortable option. What’s crazy though is that it took almost an hour to go about seven miles. There was so much traffic! I thought I was a patient person, but my Uber driver took that to a whole new level. He calmly got me to my destination despite all the gridlocks and car horns. Respect.
Checking into Hostel Casa Pepe
My hostel was called Casa Pepe, located in the heart of the historic district. One of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in, the Casa Pepe easily made it to my recommendations list. It had so much to offer its guests. I could have gone to Mexico City with zero plans, and Casa Pepe would have fixed all of that. They had daily walking tours, excursions outside the city, yoga, lunch and dinner, happy hour, and bar crawls. Unfortunately, I gave myself a pretty packed itinerary for the week so I couldn’t partake in everything.
After dropping off my stuff, I headed out onto the streets of Mexico City to get an amazing little tour of the historic district by our Dreams Abroad member, and Mexico City local, Stephanie Vargas and her boyfriend, Néstor. They got my trip started off on the right foot.
Mexico City Restaurants
Taqueria Los Cocuyos
Our first stop was for some delicious tacos at Taqueria Los Cocuyos. Stephanie explained that Anthony Bourdain raved about the food here and had frequented the spot a lot. Who am I to doubt Anthony? I asked Stephanie to order me whatever she recommended. I’m not even sure what I ate but let me tell you, Mr. Bourdain was onto something. Those were some of the best tacos I’ve ever had.
Next, we went to El Moro for some churros. The restaurant had a very Spanish vibe (which obviously made me miss Spain). Néstor ran next door to grab some more tacos for us while we ordered some milkshakes and an ungodly amount of churros. While stuffing our faces we all got to know each other a little better. Stephanie and Néstor were both English teachers in Mexico City, and since I was an English teacher in Spain for a couple of years, it was something nice to have in common and chat about. We also talked about the places around the world where we had been.
Beautiful Buildings and Local Shops
Now completely stuffed, they took me to see the Palace of Fine Arts. It was a beautiful building that I regret not going into during my stay. You should most definitely add this to your itinerary of Mexico City. While admiring the bustling intersection that it sat on, they showed me some scars from the recent earthquake. Across the street was a building that was noticeably leaning. They also said that during the earthquake, they could see the Torre Latina Americana (which was also across the street) swaying. I mentioned I had never been in an earthquake and thought it would be a pretty interesting experience. Their horrified expressions made me question what things I find interesting.
We then took a stroll down Calle Francisco I. Madero towards Zócalo. The street was very rambunctious; it was full of shops, street performers, and shills. All the lights and noises put me in a bit of a trance as I admired it all. It didn’t help either that a lot of the buildings were of Spanish/French design which I absolutely love. I don’t think I spoke to Stephanie and Néstor the whole walk because I was in my own little world.
Mexico City’s Historic District
After a long stroll, we finally reached Zócalo, a rather large square in the middle of Mexico City’s historic district. The first thing that stood out to me was the prominent cathedral to the north of the square. Man, the Spanish really knew how to build compelling structures. One bell tower had a cross on top while the other did not — another tragedy of the earthquake.
Although Dia de Los Muertos was the week prior, luckily for me decorations were still on display in the middle of Zócalo. It was really neat to see how unique and detailed the set-ups were. People dressed up in skeletal face painting and walked around, taking pictures with children. I was glad I wasn’t too late to the party to witness this famous Mexican holiday.
We walked around the surrounding neighborhoods a little bit more, seeing some Aztec ruins and even some people dressed in traditional Aztec clothing dancing in the street. It was all so fascinating to see, and I’m really glad the locals keep their heritage alive. I began to feel tired after a long day of travel so we all said our goodbyes and I thanked them for a great first day. I headed right back to the hostel and called it a night.
The End of Day One After Arriving in Mexico City
Arriving in Mexico City was going to be an amazing experience that I will never forget. Don’t forget to check out my second piece where I will go more into my itinerary of traveling around the city.