2018 was a doozy of a year for us. After 18 months of paperwork and home studies, we officially began our journey as foster parents. To a 16 year old. Which is about 15 years older than the placement we were licensed for or expecting. Danielle got a promotion the next business day. Peyto was still in obstinate puppyhood. It was a rollercoaster of a year.
We couldn’t do much travel this year, but December found us once again childfree so we jetted off to Mexico City for six days. Why Mexico City? It’s a cheap, direct flight from Boston. It’s warm and Spanish-speaking. And a dear colleague of mine was born and raised there so we had someone to guide our planning.
We stayed in an Airbnb rooftop apartment right off of a bustling rotary in the Condesa neighborhood. It was loud all night, but that was fine with us. We didn’t come for a quiet, relaxing atmosphere.
The temperatures were perfect, hovering around 70 degrees most days. Though Mexico City is at about 7,400 feet and has unhealthy air quality the vast majority of the year, we got by with nothing more than a bit of a lingering headache.
We spoke Spanish (or our attempt to) to everyone, but we did find a few folks who were happy to practice their English on us. I was so happy to have a chance to practice daily. It felt refreshing and truly got my mind off anything happening at home.
Food & Drink
Food and drink were by far the highlight of the trip. We went expecting to not be too surprised. Margaritas and tacos, right? Far from it! Margaritas aren’t even really a thing there. Instead, micheladas take their place: Beer served with a glass of lime juice and a salted rim. Or you can order a cubana, which is similar, just with a strange mixture of tomato juice and what tastes like steak sauce. We sampled an interesting mix of mezcals as well at La Clandestina. But my main beverage focus was pulque. After learning about the traditional fermented agave sap before we went, I definitely wanted to experience it for myself. As it’s a bit hard to find, my friend Jorge set us up with his friends who took us out for the night. What a treat! We went to a pulqueria and then ended the night sharing a bottle of mezcal at a salsa club. We stuck out like sore thumbs, but we had a blast taking it all in.
As far as food goes, we could barely keep up learning new dishes every day. Jorge got daily texts from me asking what something actually was after we had tried it. Street food was everywhere and we were constantly tiptoeing up and hesitantly ordering something, only to scarf it down in seconds once it was served.
My favorites were tortas and sopes. Tortas are grilled sandwiches with any constellation related to meat, cheese, avocado, refried beans, peppers, and more. I loved working up the courage and confidence over the week to approach a street food vendor as a gringa who knows what she wants in her torta. Sopes are a thick tortilla with topped with refried beans, crumbled cheese, lettuce, onions, red or green salsa, and sour cream. There’s nothing not to love!
Nate’s favorite were tacos, which came in all kinds of varieties from dinky street food tacos (easy to eat 5 at a time) to elaborate, colorful restaurant tacos. He preferred “the ones with the random meat” when I asked him what his favorite kinds were; That is where he and I differ on our food preferences.
Coyoacán is a historic center in the south of Mexico City, far from the city center. The native people of the area welcomed Cortés (as opposed to being under the rule of the Aztecs), and thus it was used as a headquarters during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec in 1521. It’s a cute little colonial village that offers a bit of fresh air outside the crowded city. It’s the birthplace of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and you can’t go two feet without seeing her distinct face.
About 45 minutes from Mexico City (and a surprisingly cheap Uber ride) is the ancient city of Teotihuacán, which is super fun to say once you get it down.
The origins of Teotihuacán are still largely a mystery. The city was built a thousand years prior to the arrival of the Aztec, who gave it its name. And for something so old, its structures are incredibly intact. We arrived around 8:30am, wanting to get there before the tour buses dumped off loads of visitors. It was almost too early. We were the first people on the grounds and it was cold, foggy, and creepy. It took us a few hours to walk around the excavated parts of the city, including climbing the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. We mostly wandered around, volleying theories about these ancient people and their handiwork. We almost didn’t go to Teotihuacán as we were tempted to spend the day hiking the Nevado de Toluca volcano instead, but we’re so glad we did!
Other Sights & Outings
We spent many days simply walking and exploring the city (with lots of taco breaks, of course). Our first day was spent strolling through Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere at 1,695 acres. The northern limits of the park border the Museum of Anthropology, which we spent a few hours in, learning all about the different ancient people groups and cultures of Mexico.
The next day we walked the other way and explored the Zócalo, which is the main central square of Mexico City. This was actually the center of the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, until the Spanish conquest in the 1500s by Cortés. The Spanish built the Metropolitan Cathedral directly over the Aztec’s temple. The Aztec’s Templo Mayor was forgotten; It wasn’t discovered until the 1940s and wasn’t excavated until the 1970s.
We also went to the top of the Monumento a la Revolución and got a gorgeous view over the city. In the same plaza, the city was celebrating Christmas by hosting sledding and ice skating in a park using manufactured snow and ice.
One of my favorite things we did was have dinner at the rooftop restaurant Miralto. The sunset was simply stunning and the 360° view from the 41st floor had us speechless. The food and drink was surprisingly good for a restaurant only known for its view. And I learned how to order my steak in Spanish – muy importante.
Mexico City was the perfect refreshing break for us. Our trip was only six days, but it felt like plenty of time to reset, explore, and return to Boston energized for the holiday season ahead. We can definitely see ourselves jetting back down for a quick escape sometime soon. And more tortas, of course.