We arrived in Mexico City (Mexico City = Ciudad de Mexico in espanol = CDMX) with very little difficulty. Our plane was on time, our bags turned up on the carousel, and it was simple enough to pre-pay for a taxi to our hotel. I had no idea what to expect from CDMX, and more than a few people had warned us how dangerous it is. Car jackings. Random shootings. Corrupt policia. Tap water that you can’t drink, and spicy food that makes you explode out of both ends. So it came as a surprise when the start of our journey progressed with no hiccups.
In fact, the first place that we ate was a vegetarian / vegan cafe next to the restaurant. And it was divine. Very relaxed, tasty food, incredibly hipster. It was not what we had expected at all.
That’s not to say that we didn’t sample the traditional Mexican food that CDMX had to offer! After our walking tour, we took our guide’s recommendation and found a tacquiera with the longest line, and queued for tacos al pastor (pork cooked in a kebab-type style with onion), and I was delighted to see that pineapple was an option for the toppings, along with guacamole and salsa picante (hot!). Grasshoppers on tacos is another local staple, but we haven’t tried them as yet… still plenty of time!
Every meal that we ordered in a restaurant came with a large portion of bread and corn chips, accompanied by a variety of salsas as standard. There were more than a few times the I filled up on salsa before my main has arrived.
In Mexico, tacos are soft and generally quite small. We have not come across one hard taco – it’s probably a lie fed to us by Old El Paso back home. Burritos also don’t seem to exist, and the salsa is a LOT more spicy than I’m used to, but it really adds to the experience.
During the walking tour we were introduced to the Aztec’s version of the after-life, which they called Mictlan. They believed that those that drowned would automatically ascend to a paradise, as their death was deemed bad enough to warrant it. If you were a warrior who perished in battle, or a woman who expired during child-birth, you were granted the ability to peer upon the world by day as an eagle and by night as a jaguar. However if you died by natural causes, or something equally unimpressive, you would be forced to tackle the nine stages of Mictlan – each more terrifying than the last.
CDMX has a lot to offer tourists. It has a great mix of old and new, from the recently excavated Aztec ruins that lie in the middle of the city and the golden Post Office, to the buzzing Francesco Madero Avenue with its roof top bars, variety of eateries, and modern high-street fashion stores nestled in traditional European-style buildings. The Metropolitan Cathedral houses a black Jesus, and there is a monument to Pope John Paul II who’s first trip as Pope was to CDMX. You may also notice that the buildings are quite uneven along the streets. This is because CDMX was founded on a series of artificial islands on top of a lake, and over time it is sinking. It is a great city to walk, as there is something new to discover around every corner, with many beautiful buildings, monuments, and parks scattered around the city.
Considering that I was genuinely quite fearful for our safety, CDMX appeared to be a city with a bright future. As an environmentalist, I loved seeing recycle bins available in public spaces, a photographic exhibition that highlighted the effects of climate change around the globe greeted visitors on their way to Chapultepec Park, and another display illustrating the theory of evolution lined one of the walks between platforms at one of the main Metro stations. The streets were quite clean , although many were uneven or undergoing maintenance. And while we were always cautious, we thankfully didn’t encounter any trouble during our stay. I would highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone and checking out CDMX if you ever get the chance.