Ciudad de Mexico or Mexico City in English is where we landed on January 12. We had planned on Seville Spain but had outstayed our welcome in the Schengen area of the EU. As Americans we are allowed 90 days in the Schengen area and then we have to be out for 90 days. We had hoped to acquire a special visa from Spain allowing us unlimited time there but they informed us that we had to apply for non-employed resident status which was much too complicated. We were quite disappointed as we had already booked our apartment and flights and some friends had already booked their flights. Our friends Bill and Katiti will now be going to Seville without us. Our initial shock and disappointment lasted about 20 hours when after a lot of discussion and research Jim got us all excited about CDMX. Our friends and family have been either delighted or horrified with our choice. We arrived here at 7pm, whizzed through passport control and then had to wait almost an hour for our last bag which was literally the last bag off the plane. So much for the large priority tag.
Our Airbnb host, Hugo, and his mother, Cecelia, met us at the airport and took us on a little tour of our neighborhood, even stopping by a grocery store so that we could stock up on essentials. They then spent at least an hour orienting us to this high tech apartment, not leaving until just before midnight. We have had such great hosts in Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Rome and now here in Mexico City. All of the other hosts have been corporate rentals with excellent service also. Our home here is essentially two separate apartments on the fifth floor and penthouse. There are two separate exterior entrances and also an interior communicating door. We are booking up fast so if you are interested in a winter getaway you better get your request in ASAP.
So we came here with no expectations, a little fear and a lot of anticipation. We have been here for seven days and as usual the first three days were spent just nesting, shopping, re-arranging furniture and getting to know the immediate neighborhood.
We are located in the Bohemian La Condesa district which is treelined streets with sidewalk restaurants, cafes and boutiques. There are three parks within walking distance, two small ones with playgrounds, exercise stations and dog runs. The Bosque de Chapultepec or Chapultepec park is less than a mile away. It is one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere, 2.5 times larger than Central Park in NYC. We have taken a few short exploratory runs with a lot of huffing and puffing due to the 7,350 feet of elevation.
The weather is a little cooler than expected due to fairly constant high thin cloud cover. Temperatures are in the low 40’s in the morning going up to high 60’s in the afternoon. Weather data for CDMX says no rain in January but we have had one heavy rainstorm. We walked most of the Paseo de la Reforma which is a wide boulevard running diagonally across the heart of Mexico City. It was patterned after the great boulevards of Europe and is home to many of Mexico’s tallest buildings and fanciest hotels including The Four Seasons where we checked out their bar and gift shops.
Near the mid point of the Paseo de la Reforma we turned right going by the Palacio de Bellas Artes which is a dramatic marble performance hall and museum.
This district is Centro Historico and is much more crowded than our area of town and the streets are lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, fast food and all of the International store brands are represented. We ended up at the Zócalo or main square which is the largest square in Latin America. It is surrounded by the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, The National Palace, Federal District buildings and the Old Portal de Mercaderes which is mostly shops and hotels.
We briefly toured the Cathedral and then had an early dinner at El Balcon Del Zócalo which was located on the fifth floor of a hotel with views out over the square. We had a five course tasting menu with paired beverages preceded by our first Margarita in Mexico. It was a very good meal and relatively inexpensive at $160, given all that we had. We then took our first Uber over three miles to home for under $5.00 with tip. The following day we took a run to the large park Bosque de Chapultepec and explored the small but unique Botanical Gardens
after which we headed to Castillo de Chapultepec where a Mexican guide approached us and offered us an hour and a half tour for for MX$600. We only had MX$400 so he gave us an hour tour instead. Converting from MX$ to US$ involves moving the decimal point one space left and dividing by 2 so MX$400 is 20 US. Entry to the palace is apparently free for the elderly. The tour was very good and well worth the time and money as the palace is quite interesting and the guide provided us with a lot of Mexican history.
The Palace is located on the highest spot in Mexico City providing beautiful views of the large surrounding park and also a view directly down the Main Street of the city, Paseo de la Reforma. We walked home having our main meal of the day at Jack’s House Tennessee ribs and burgers, as in Jack Daniels, consisting of ribs, onion rings and beer for $20. Our cheapest meal to date was directly across the street from our house at El Tizoncito which claims to be the originator of tacos al pastor which is a shawarma meat based taco with onions, cilantro, pineapple, hot sauce and lime juice. We had an appetizer, tacos and beer for under $15 and it was quite tasty.
We haven’t tried street food yet but plan on starting tomorrow. So after one week in Mexico City, here are our initial impressions. It is a much more cosmopolitan city than we expected, indeed much more cosmopolitan than any other European cities with the exception of London. This city makes Rome, Paris and all of Europe feel quite insular. The diversity of restaurant cuisines available within a three block radius is unmatched and the availability of brands and goods from around the world is astounding. The cleanliness of the city is another thing that has been very surprising. The streets and sidewalks are kept cleanly swept and there are only occasional piles of trash. The gardens and parks are also nearly pristine with well trimmed hedges and no accumulated dead debris. The Mexican people are warm, friendly and helpful with no aggressive hawking of wares. There are few homeless people sleeping on the streets and also very little begging. The traffic moves quite gently at a slow to moderate pace with little honking of horns and cars and cycles give way to pedestrians very easily. The overall pace of life just seems much slower and gentler than anywhere else we have been. We can walk and run our neighborhood and surrounding areas without any fear of harm or injury from either people or traffic. Overall we are very happy with our last minute choice to come here and with what we have found in our first week. Given the size of this metropolitan area, reportedly the second largest in the world, and the diversity of things to do we will certainly never get bored. We have friends coming to visit us seven out of our thirteen weeks here as this is an easy winter get-away with no jet lag since we are on Central Standard Time. We still have some available space if someone would like to come visit.