Throughout the years, I have heard many things about Mexico City (don’t know if all these references come from the many soap operas that take place in this metropolis). Smog. Street Food. Museums. Arts. Boats (Trajineras) in Xochimilco. Hordes of People. Plus, those skillful pickpockets that seem to be everywhere.
I have wanted to visit the city for a long time. My recent trip to Cancun gave me the perfect opportunity (or excuse) to make a short stop at the “DF”. Entirely on purpose, I chose to fly from Cancun to Mexico City really early in the morning. Then, I booked my flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles in the late evening. That move left me a layover of about 12 hours in Mexico City. Twelve precious hours to wander around. Granted. Twelve hours is a microscopic amount of time to see such a huge city. But a glimpse is better than nothing. Therefore, with the minimal amount of possession on our bodies, we proceed to see the morning light in Mexico City.
From the airport, it was a quick cab ride to the center. We were dropped at the Constitution Plaza (Plaza de la Constitucion), better known as the Zocalo. This is one of the biggest plazas or open urban spaces in the world. The Zocalo is surrounded by historic buildings. In fact, the city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From all the wonderful buildings surrounding the plaza, two stand out.
First, I am referring to the Metropolitan Cathedral which is the biggest cathedral in the Americas.
Additionally, the National Palace stands elegantly at one side of the Zocalo.
During our visit, we couldn’t run freely thru the Zocalo or enter the National Palace. The day before our visit, Mexicans were celebrating Revolution Day. A big party took place at the city’s center. Some cleaning and organizing was still taking place when we were around. At least, we were able to admire the cathedral.
For some reason, I wasn’t expecting a lot of colonial architecture. When strolling around the 5 de Mayo Avenue, I was surprised by all the colorful buildings and handsome trees. Everything looked so beautiful. I felt like walking street by street to explore the buildings and its details.
But not everything was peaches and cream. I had an “incident” in front of the Fine Arts Palace (Palacio de Bellas Artes). I was about to take a picture of my husband in front of the Palace when two kids (they looked like they were 15) approached me. They asked me something (which I didn’t understand) and then my husband grabbed me and told them to back off. We started to walk away from them. My husband believes they wanted to rob me. He said one probably was going to take my camera and the other my bag. Then, they would run in different directions making it difficult to catch them. I am not sure of their real intentions. I had my camera secured to my neck and had a crossbody bag. In my mind, I looked like a difficult target. But who knows. What I know is that I got nervous and continued in that state for the rest of the day. It is not nice to feel like that but I tried hard to make out the most of the day.
When “running away” from the “criminals”, we got into the Alameda Park. A Carrara marble monument honoring the memory of Benito Juarez is located around the park. A group of young people were cheering for their country. It was so fun to watch.
We continued admiring the buildings, checking out the book stores, drinking some coffee and ascending to the top of the Latin American Tower.
Of course, I got proof of two of the things Mexico City is known for.
First, we tried the famous and delicious food of the city.
We started by trying some fried goodies at the Alameda Park. It was beyond good.
For lunch, we decided to visit this amazing restaurant located at the 5 de Mayo Avenue (Potzollcalli). Everything in the menu looked so exquisite. It was difficult to decide. We ended up ordering a parrillada which included arrachera, cecina, chorizo and chicken. It came with onions, peppers, nopales and melted cheese. When it is difficult to decide, well, you have to try a little of everything. The food is one of the top reasons why we want to go back to the city.
Second, we were able to admire the huge amount of people living in the city. Tons and tons of people were walking around the historic center. I think I have only seen so many people in Shanghai. Then, they were having a big sale similar to Black Friday in the United States (El Buen Fin). So, there were more people than usual trying to get advantage of the discounts. Just take a look at the pictures below. It is really insane.
What a city. This is probably the best layover I have experienced in my life.
If you want to visit, here are some tips based on my experience:
Tip #1: Take registered (official) taxis.
Tip #2: There are several quiosks offering touristic information and maps. There is one next to the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Tip #3: If you need to ask for directions, do it in a discreet way. Consider to ask a police officer or at an establishment for information.
Tip #4: Take a lot of precautions when strolling around the historic center. There are police officers but they get lost in the multitude. Take the minimal amount of material possessions. Be aware if somebody approaches you to “ask something”. Take good care of electronics like cameras.
Have you visited Mexico City? What you liked most about the city? Let me know in the comments section below.