Mexico City – April 2016
After our visit to Mexico City, it is hard to understand why it receives such a bad rap. Maybe this perception comes from those who have visited other areas of Mexico and they are assuming Mexico City is more of the same. Mark and I experienced a wonderful city full of culture, fantastic food, and pleasant people. As in any urban city in the world, you wouldn’t frequent particular locales at night. We felt very safe in the areas we visited. Mexico City is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and flanked by two volcanoes. This can cause an undesirable mix of altitude, heat, and smog. Perhaps this pertains more to the summer months because the spring weather (hot sunny days and cool nights) we experienced was beautiful. Also, we got to see the beauty of the whimsical Jacaranda trees. Scattered all throughout the city, you will see pops of violet-blue puffs all around.
We arrived late Friday night and headed to dinner with a co-worker of my husband and his wife, who live in Mexico City. My husband’s co-worker is from Columbia and his wife from Mexico. They have both lived in Mexico City for over 5 years and were the most courteous and perfect couple for us to spend time with. Mexico City is similar to Europe and they don’t eat dinner until around 9pm we were in luck. He made reservations at one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants: Dulce Patria in the Polanco neighborhood which is also where our hotel was located. We enjoyed an authentic, creative and well-plated dinner with unexpected great Mexican red wine. We also got a personal good-bye from the chef, Martha Ortiz on the way out!
Mark and I started Saturday off by walking from our hotel to Chapultepec Parc, which is the largest city park in Latin America (double the size of Central Park)! We stopped at contemporary artist Jorge Marin’s bronzed “Alas de la Ciudad” (or “wings of the city”) for a great photo-op which was at the entrance to the park on Paseo de la Reforma. The artist himself even “liked” my photo on Instagram (@alasjorgemarin). After a quick walk through of the Park we met up with my husband’s co-worker and wife and bought a day pass for the hop-on-hop-off TuriBus. This was a great way for us to see the entire city (and get a great sun tan) for about $10/person. It stopped at all the major sites and provided audio information about the City and sites along the way.
First stop was the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes. It is the main cultural center that contains the opera, dance performances, and art exhibits among other events. The entire exterior is made of white Italian marble with beautiful architectural elements that make for good photos opps.
Afterwards, we took a short walk to the Centro Historico and enjoyed some tasty beverages at the El Balcón del Zócalo hotel. The hotel has a great outdoor restaurant on the 6th floor with a spectacular view of the city overlooking the Catedral Metropolitana and Zocalo Square. We didn’t eat here, but the brunch buffet looked amazing. This place also had a very good beer and cocktail menu.
For lunch our mission was to find authentic tacos and street corn and thanks to our friends we accomplished it! We had tacos al pastor at a local dive nearby. Pastor is marinated pork that is cooked on a vertical revolving pole then thinly sliced off onto warm corn tortillas. Add a Pacifico or Corona and some various dipping sauces and it was magnificent! Later on we found a street vendor selling street corn at the entrance to Chapultepec Park. Grilled corn on the cob lathered with mayo and coated with cotija white cheese was heaven! I have been obsessed with finding real street corn in Mexico ever since I had a dish called Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotilja at Toro in NYC which my friend and I call “crack corn.”
Next we got back on the bus and toured around the picturesque neighborhoods of Polanco, Roma and La Condesa. These are arguably the nicest neighborhoods in Mexico City. The tree-lined streets are filled with boutiques, great restaurants and bars, nightclubs, etc. We hoped off the bus in La Condesa and had some Mezcal (tequila) cocktails at an outside bar called El Pecado De Noe. If we were to live in Mexico City, this would be the area to call home.
Dinner Saturday night was at Biko, which is rated one of the top 50 restaurants in the World and top 10 in Latin America. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed. I am very big on atmosphere at restaurants and this felt a little cold. Also, there was no English version of the menu and there was only one waiter who could semi-translate. Even Mark’s co-worker and wife who speak Spanish fluently had trouble understanding the menu. The appetizers we ordered were very good. For dinner the four of us split the wagyu beef which was too fatty and not that tasty for wagyu standards.
We started Sunday out by visiting the Castillo de Chapultepec in Chapultepec Park. There is a picturesque walk uphill to the Castillo. Ticket purchases for non-Mexico City residents was located at the top of the hill at the entrance of the Castillo. The outside of the castle includes beautiful panoramic views of Mexico City. We explored most of the Castillo inside but found it hard to understand the history and details of the exhibits due to the information being in Spanish only. That being said, it was a lovely castle and is worth it just for the views of Mexico City from the castle grounds.
We then ventured back downhill and walked to El Pescadito in the La Condesa neighborhood for highly rated fish tacos. It was a little local dive with a line out the door, which is always a good sign. They had a few options such as fried marlin, fried shrimp or vegetarian chile relleno. After getting your taco, there is a self-serve topping bar with everything you can imagine. Washed down with some cervezas this was one of our best meals of the trip.
We then took an Uber over to the Polanco shopping area. There is an outdoor mall with unique boutiques that were thankfully open on Sunday. After stopping in a few shops to buy souvenirs and gifts, we had an afternoon cocktail outdoors at Butcher & Sons. Nice relaxing place with an interesting cocktail and beer menu. The burgers looked great as well but we were pretty full at that juncture.
Sunday night we got tickets to the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico Amalia Hernandez at the Palacio de Bellas Artes which I highly recommend! This was a spectacular and unique show with about 40-50 dancers and an 8 piece band showing the traditional culture of Mexico. The costumes and dancing were beyond my expectations. We had about an hour to kill before the show so we hit up some shops in the area (the Zara on Av Francisco I. Madero was one of the best Zara’s we’ve ever been in). The street gets a little crazy at night with crowds and street performers. After shopping, we were starving and only had 20 minutes to quickly eat something. Word of the wise….don’t eat tacos anywhere without researching reputable places first. We ate at the Salon Corona Filomeno Mata off of Madero and both got food poisoning the next day. I could barely get out of bed. Thankfully my husband’s co-worker’s wife came to my aid or I’m not sure if I could have made it on the flight the following day.
Minus the food poisoning, we had an amazing time in Mexico City. The people, the sites, the food, all reasons why we would definitely go back.
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