Hola, Mexico! I’ve just returned from my work and holiday in Australia and am now off to Mexico City for a week to visit my new friend, Andrea. Andrea and I met while traveling in New Zealand and I quickly decided a trip to visit her and explore her city was necessary. Knowing and visiting people in other countries is one of the best parts of making international friends, isn’t it?!
I’ve briefly visited Mexico on family cruises but had not spent any significant amount of time in the country. Mexico has always been a curious one to me. It’s a US neighbor and many Mexicans choose to live in the United States, bringing delicious food and culture with them. I feel as though I am the most familiar with Mexican culture, and yet, my understandings and experiences were limited to my American point of view before this trip. Mexico City is vibrant, busy, and dangerous with pockets of extreme poverty and some of the best street food you’ll ever have. It’s the 8th largest city in the world and the traffic makes this statistic abundantly clear.
I planned a week around the city and made sure that food, lucha libres, and pyramids were at the top of my list. Here’s how I spent the week…
Andrea’s dad, as it turned out, owns a restaurant near their house so our first stop, naturally, was there. The food was flavorful, well priced, and filling and the margaritas were strong. This trip was already off to a great start!
Later that night, we ventured over to the Arena Coliseo for a lucha libre match. The arena is in a sketchy part of town and our Uber driver was kind enough to wait outside the venue to make sure we made it inside safely. Cameras were not allowed inside — I had to check mine at the ticket counter and watch them tag it and place it inside a large metal cage that sat in front of the venue. I was very concerned about this but knew I didn’t have any other choice. I did grab my memory card before handing over the camera, just in case.
The match, or rather, show, was incredibly entertaining. There were several matches between spandex-wearing, masked, colorful characters, both male and female, throughout the night. You can choose to be concerned by the ridiculousness of it all or grab a few beers and get into it. I would recommend the latter. We made some friends and helped cheer on our favorite luchadors as they flipped, slammed, and drop-kicked each other around the ring. It was a great show!
There are several ancient archeological sites worth a visit just outside the city. Each are unique and require a sense of adventure to fully explore and appreciate all they have to offer. I visited two sites on this trip: Teotihuacán and Tepozteco.
The Teotihuacán pyramids are arguably the most popular and about an hour’s drive from Mexico City. I joined a day-tour on a Thursday while my friend was at work. The site is mysterious because it is unknown who actually built these pyramids. The Aztec empire came and went here but it is believed that they did not build the pyramids themselves.
This location features several smaller pyramids with the two largest, the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, at either end and the central Avenue of the Dead connecting them. You can opt to climb both pyramids but be prepared for a steep and narrow climb. Those steps are small and ancient! You’ll also notice there are no trees here — plan to bring a hat, water and wear sunscreen as there’s little to no relief from the sun’s rays.
Tepozteco is located south of Mexico City and about an hour hike up from the small town of Tepoztlan. It is a challenging hike, with mostly rocks as “stairs” but worth the rewarding views at the end. I had to stop several times to catch my breath as we ascended. Once at the top, we sat along the pyramid’s ledges to enjoy the view and our well-earned break. I only saw my life flash once before my eyes as I slipped climbing up the narrow steps to the top of the pyramid. I felt quite accomplished by the end of this day.
Mexico City has many charming neighborhoods, bars and restaurants. I spent several days exploring different areas and eating at various locations around town. Side note: Uber is incredibly cheap here! The local currency, pesos, is valued much lower than the dollar and the fares reflect this. It is common knowledge that taxis can be unsafe so I knew Uber was the way to go, but when I saw 30-minute rides for only $5, I was thrilled! Thank you, America!
My two favorite spots around town were the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Frieda Kahlo house/museum. Both were unique and beautiful, well worth a visit. I also had the privilege of attending a mariachi concert with a few friends. I was both surprised and impressed to learn that a true mariachi band includes at least 12 musicians and is well-loved by all of Mexico. If you have a chance to see a live performance, go!
Like all countries, Mexico is not perfect, but there is much to explore and appreciate in this beautiful country.