February 20, 2020
Travel DaddyGO When You Can!

Mexico City Surprised Me… It Was Awesome!

You’ve finally made it to Mexico City, and you‘ve been taken aback by the sheer size and beauty of the city. You’ve got a few days to absorb everything so here’s why Mexico City surprised me and why I think it was awesome. Saddle up and grab a sombrero, because it’s going to be a trip you’ll never forget!

Family in traditional Mexican wear with sombreros in Mexico
VALE!

Mexico City surprised me because of the prevalence of fine dining, amazing museums, great local hospitality, and historical sites. It was amazing that you could immediately start learning Spanish, try new things and (because of the many rich folks) have access to the amenities of modern society. Most importantly it felt relatively safe!

In my humble opinion, travelling to foreign countries is one surefire way to combat ignorance, dispel stereotypes and allow a revisit of inherent biases. In the case of Mexico, I had only been to border towns where Mexican culture, although existent, failed to promote itself among widespread poverty and the obvious flashpoint of geopolitics. Taking my family with me to Mexico City proved to be a memorable experience and one we’d do again in a heartbeat for these reasons listed below:

FINE DINING

Mexico City has made my top 5 food destinations, bar none! During our stay in Polanco, we were within walking distance from a slew of world-class restaurants. Many blogs and travel sites give a detailed description of Mexico City’s food scene. The food is of such high quality that 2 made the 2018 list of best restaurants (don’t blink) IN THE WORLD! On our first morning, we ate breakfast at El Bajío Cocina Mexicana, which set the bar for the level of culinary excellence we’d experience in the city. Mexico City is definitely a foodie destination.

El Bajio Cocina Mexicana restaurant exterior
Amazing Breakfast
Interior of El Bajio restaurant
El Bajio Restaurant Interior

Among the list of other notable places we ate, I recommend Cafe Chai, Quintonil, Pujol, Porfirios, and the Marriott Polanco’s breakfast buffet– it’s quite amazing. Here’s a glimpse of some dining experiences I had..

KUH restaurant entrees
KUH
Exquisite salad at Porfirios Polanco Mexico City
PORFIRIOS
Breakfast meals at CHAI Polanco Mexico City
CHAI

AMAZING MUSEUMS

Move over Smithsonian… I think Mexico City may have a greater assortment of natural museums I’ve seen. Great care, funding, and pride have been channeled into the displays which reflect Mexico’s past and storied heritage. Among the many inexpensive museum options at your disposal, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia was my favorite and most impressive IMO. Here’s a Google Maps snapshot of the various museums within a short cab ride…

GOOGLE MAPS SNAPSHOT OF MUSEUMS IN MEXICO CITY
So Many Museums…

GREAT LOCAL HOSPITALITY

Show me the people- and I’ll tell you the place. The locals were warm, friendly, and very eager to dispel any negative perceptions one might have gleaned through some for-profit media channels. The customer service was top notch from fancy restaurants to store cashiers. The Mexican people were definitely a high point.

HISTORY, CULTURE & ART EVERYWHERE

Aside from the natural museums, there is history everywhere. The pyramids are a sight to behold. You can still see architectural influences which pay homage to an era long gone. Walk on cobblestone streets, and catch the local Mariachis belting out upbeat tunes. Within the Zocalo, you’ll see many performers recreate the Indigenous ancestors’ dances of celebration, war and worship. If you’re a fan of history Mexico City is definitely the place for you.

Indigenous performer chats with tourist near Zocalo Mexico City
One of the many performers near the Zocalo…

Mexico is most definitely an artistic haven. The vibrant colors, murals, and architecture of Mexican culture permeates throughout the streets. You can also score world-class artwork from amazing artists every Saturday in San Angel. This Bazaar showcases hundreds of artists promoting paintings, sculptures, music, and tapestry. My wife purchased a phenomenal modern piece for a few hundred dollars which now hangs on my wall at home. You can check out my feature of local artist Alejandro Galaviz.

Saturday bazaar San Angel Mexico City
El Bazar Sabado de San Angel

LEARN SPANISH

You’ll be rewarded for your attempts to speak Spanish and collectively people have the patience to try to make sense of what you’re trying to say. My conversational Spanish most definitely improved after a day or two of forcing my brain to find the words to express myself. Full immersion has been argued as the best method of becoming a polyglot, so make the most of your bucket list experience in Mexico City, and ‘Habla Español‘.

Here are some less common but super useful translations to get you by during your visit:

  • Where’s the closest bathroom? ¿Dónde está el baño más cercano?
  • What’s the fare to <name location>? ¿Cuál es la Tarifa para <name location>?
  • Can you tell me where <name place> is? ¿Puedes decirme dónde está <name place>?
  • No thank you; I’m fine… No gracias; Estoy Bien…

TRY UNIQUE THINGS

A plate of Escamoles in Mexico City
Escamoles or Ant larvae… Yum!

I finally ate Escamoles, drank Pulque, and learned how to properly take a tequila shot! It boggles the mind when I see people spend great fortunes and travel long distances, only to do the very same things they would at home. I make it a point to knock off bucket list items and fill my memory banks with amazing experiences. In fact, while at Kuh restaurant in San Angel, the bartender recommended a ‘special surprise’ wine; I argued that I’d tasted all varieties of wine. He then responded, “ahh Señor, but you’ve never had blue wine I bet!”

Travel Daddy with a glass of blue wine at KUH restaurant San Angel Mexico City.
Blue Wine at KUH

THE MANY (VERY) RICH PEOPLE

Sadly due to the media and ignorant never-travelers, Mexico is often perceived as the immediate slum-like appearance of the towns you see from the border. The reality is that for the 13th largest country on the planet, there’s bound to be social, geographical and economic variety. Mexico City, like any other megacity, is home to extreme displays of poverty and also hosts some uber-wealthy citizens. I’ve seen supercars driving past shanty towns and walls separate barrios from affluent neighborhoods in Santa Fe.

IT FELT RELATIVELY SAFE!

The day before we left, my wife gave me a hall pass and let me sample the nightlife as long as I promised to stay in Polanco. I left the hotel closer to midnight, strolled through the city by myself, then made my way back around 4 am- no issues. There were policemen everywhere, which mirrored their presence during the daytime. I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of locals to give you directions and even say hi. I would NOT stroll through Port-of-Spain or Los Angeles by myself after midnight.

There was, however, one instance where my spider-sense tingled, and it was a creep who kept hovering near my wife and kid in a church of all places. I approached him, switched my demeanor and watched him like a hawk, especially since he was carrying a backpack. I get really nervous with backpacks since the Honolulu incident while my wife was 7 months pregnant but that’s for another time. My verdict was that Mexico City would require the same level of common sense and discretion as to any other place where over 20 Million humans reside.

THE FILMING OF BAD BOYS 3

No ladies- I didn’t see Will Smith; however, while we were near the Zocalo, heading to the Templo Mayor Museum, we saw crowds of onlookers and movie equipment. What a crazy feeling it was to finally see the movie and recognize the balcony scene where we were below. Mexico City is definitely a film destination and I’d expect more scenes of the city in movies to come. 

Bad Boys 3 Movie Set in Zocalo, Mexico City
Filming of Bad Boys 3… Do You Recognize the Scene?

GREAT FOR KIDS

I saw quite a few families out there with young kids in tow, and they seemed to be having a blast. Culturally, Latin folks love kids and although my son can be a poopy-head at times, he was very popular with the locals. Restaurants often gave him free treats and offered to babysit. There was most definitely an abundance of activities for kids. You can check out my article on 10 Things To Do in Mexico City (with Kids).

THE ZOO SUCKS

Sorry Mexico City- I thought Honolulu had the worst zoo on the planet until I experienced yours in the sweltering heat. Among the often empty displays, the few animals that were there looked dehydrated and malnourished. I expected more of an homage to local animals in the Central American region, and while I didn’t expect to see a Polar Bear, the attempts of presenting Africa in Mexico was a bit underwhelming. Those animals need water- no, scrap that- Gatorade from an IV line!

malnourished camel at Mexico city zoo
Hey Camel experts… is this natural shedding?

CONCLUSIÓN

Next time you plan a getaway with the family, loved one or solo, give Mexico City a shot. I highly recommend it as a consideration for fascinating culture, amazing food, friendly people and relatively safe environment. Maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was…. remember, Go When You Can!

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