Mexico City travel diary

As I mentioned on Tuesday, it seems like Mexico City is THE place to go right now, and for good reason—it's really affordable, it has world-class museums and restaurants, and it's a quick flight from most of the US (it was only about 4.5 hours from San Francisco). There's so much to see and do that it's hard to pack it into a single trip; we were there for five days and definitely feel like we need to (and want to) go back for more.  That said, I was happy with what we accomplished in our time there. So without further ado, here's what did, where we ate, how we got around, and why we loved Mexico City so much.

Day 1
Our flight arrived around 8pm and after quite a bit of traffic, we checked into our Airbnb and headed out to dinner. We chose to stay in Roma Norte, which is the neighborhood from Alfonso Cuarón's movie Roma, and I've heard it referred to as the West Village of Mexico City, which is more or less accurate. Normally I'm more of a hotel person versus an Airbnb person, but we were traveling with another couple and wanted to stay together, and this way we were able to do so in a cool neighborhood, in a very modern, newly renovated place. (Our Airbnb was seriously super nice, and it was only $120 a night total, which was even kind of steep for Mexico City.)  Anyway, I had ended up sitting next to a former coworker on the plane (yes, small world!) who now lives in Mexico City, and she recommended La Docena Roma, which was just a few blocks from our place, for dinner. We were able to walk in and get a table, and we feasted on oysters, octopus, shrimp, scallops, and even some tasty Mexican wine (yes, that's actually a thing). We had a nightcap next door at El Palenquito, a mezcal bar—as I discovered, people drink mezcal in Mexico City, not tequila. It's an acquired taste, but I found that I enjoyed it more in a cocktail versus straight up.

Day 2
On my coworker's recommendation, we booked a food tour in Polanco, which is one of the ritzier neighborhoods. It was good for getting the lay of the land, as well as introducing us to all of the cuisines of Mexico. We had everything from sopes and tamales to pulque (a fermented cactus drink) and tostadas, including two rounds of deserts. My advice: come hungry.

Then we walked through Chapultepec (the Central Park of Mexico) to the National Anthropology Museum, which goes into a lot of detail about all the regional tribes and ethnicities of Mexico, and their ways of life. It has some cool ruins too; be prepared to spend hours here, although pace yourself—you don't have to read everything.

We kept walking—this was the day I did 20,000 steps—to Condesa, which is the other hip neighborhood (more of a Williamsburg). We grabbed drinks on the rooftop at the Hotel Condesa DF, which was quite the hotspot on a Saturday night, then dinner at La Capital, which was unexpectedly amazing (and reasonable—the four of us spent less than $100 on dinner, total).

Day 3
We tried to have breakfast at Lalo, which was several blocks away from our place but a total madhouse on a Sunday, so we ended up at Ojo de Agua, which had amazing avocado toast, so I was a happy camper. We then took an Uber to Xochomilco, which is basically a series of canals, and you can charter a boat for $20 an hour. There are people partying it up, and not just tourists—there were lots of locals too, and everyone was there to have a good time. The weekends are a bit crowded, so you can't be in a hurry, but it's fun to bring food and beer (you can always buy more from the boats going by) and sing. You can also hire mariachi bands to play for you! It's a very unique experience, and the people-watching is off the charts.

Speaking of things I'd never done before, several friends had recommended Lucha Libre, so we got tickets for that. Yes, it's like WWE wrestling, but way beyond. It was incredibly fun to watch, and the crowd gets really into it, cheering and booing Plus, the wrestlers go out into the audience and dump water on each other, fall over the barriers, and use the fans to taunt each other. You don't even need to speak Spanish—Lucha Libre is a universal language!

Even though we'd been grazing all day, we still had room for tacos, so we hit El Califa, which was recommended to us by several people (and they have multiple locations all over town). They're famous for their el pastor tacos, and those were definitely my favorite here. We finished with a nightcap at Waikiki Tiki Room, outside. Sunday was surprisingly a pretty hoppin' night in CDMX!

Day 4
I couldn't get reservations at Lardo for dinner, so we went for breakfast, which I'd definitely recommend. The food is definitely more continental, although they did have chilaquiles and more standard Mexican fare as well. We then decided to hit Centro Historico, the historic district, which was nice because it wasn't super crowded, but also kind of dumb on our part because most of the museums are closed on Mondays. The Templo Mayor museum has a bunch of ruins, and we were able to see some of them because they're literally out there in the open, without actually going through the museum itself. I was bummed not to be able to see the famous Diego Rivera murals at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, but we did get a photo op at the House of Tiles, and at El Balcon del Zocalo, which has an incredible view of the Plaza de la Constitucion. (The drinks were not cheap, but it was worth it for the view.)

After a precarious Uber ride (traffic in Mexico City is no joke), we began our late lunch at Quintonil, which is one of the best restaurants in the world, and one of the best tasting menus I've had to date. Our meal was 10 courses with wine pairings, the service was stellar, and the food was a revelation. My favorite course was roasted beets in this thick, onion-beef sauce that kind of tasted like French onion soup, but thicker. I had never eaten anything like that before, and it pretty much blew my mind. A meal at Quintonil is a three-hour affair, so plan accordingly if you go.

We did a bit of walking through Polanco afterward, and ended up at El Palacio de Hierro, which was like the Neiman Marcus of Mexico. I didn't buy anything; all of a sudden, it didn't feel like we were in Mexico City anymore. Thankfully, it did once again at Baltra Bar, where we wrapped up the night with some of the best cocktails we had on the entire trip.

Day 5
At long last, we walked right into Lalo and I finally had my chilaquiles. Although I will say, their pastry selection was nothing to sneeze at—I also had a croissant so light and buttery, I'm still thinking about it.

We then headed to Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo museum, which was hands down one of my favorite parts of the trip. I knew Frida Kahlo had been paralyzed by polio, but hadn't known the extent of her injuries and how she channeled her pain into her artwork. It was truly inspiring to hear her story and see the private rooms in which she lived and worked. Plus, the house and grounds were just peaceful and beautiful.

We had not yet visited a market, so we hit the Coyoacan market, which was a maze-like structure of booths and vendors selling everything from souvenirs to crickets (which, yes, people do eat). I would have spent more time there, but I was getting claustrophobic and everyone else was hungry, so we ended up at Los Danzantes in the town square, where I had some of the best ceviche I've ever had.

I always like to shop on my last day of vacation, and while we had hit the department store, I wanted to experience "real" Mexico City shopping. Thankfully, our book had recommended Audette, which was in a showroom-type place near our apartment; they share the space with a jewelry brand and a swimwear line. The owner of Audette is a lovely French woman, and her bags are brightly colored yet minimally designed Italian leather. I decided to treat myself to a forest green round style that reminds me of a hatbox; it will make an appearance here soon!

Finally, it was time for the meal I'd been waiting for: Contramar, which is the sister restaurant to Cala in San Francisco. The food was excellent. The service was...not. We had an early reservation; the waiters clearly had a mandate to get the place cleared for the next seating, because they completely rushed us through our first two courses. If you go, my advice would be to get a reservation for 8pm or later. Or, eat your meal passive-aggressively slowly, as my friend and I did.

After drinks at the Four Seasons (which were incredibly reasonable), we finally had churros for dessert at El Morro, and it was worth the wait. We all went to bed with full bellies, and full hearts.

Thank you to my boo, Pictures of Loud Noises, for taking most of the photos here, and to my friends Alison, Chris, Maria, and Anthony, for appearing in these photos!


Carrie said...

Wow! What a fun vacation and so unique from what I normally do! I would love to see Mexico City someday though. That Lucha Libre looks intense! haha! I love all of the sights you got to see and the food!


Mica said...

What an amazing trip! it looks like you had such a good time, you saw a lot and had some very yummy food! cute outfits too! :) I'd like to see Mexico one day :)

Hope that you are having a great weekend! We had our son's birthday party yesterday, it was loud but fun :)

Away From Blue

Lizzie said...

This sounds like such a fun trip! I'd love to visit someday!