I had always thought of this sprawling city as somewhere I would never ever even want to visit After all it’s a city of 8.9 million in the city itself, with a grand total of 21.7 million if you include the greater metropolitan area. Then there is its reputation of it being an epicenter of crime and pollution.
Despite all this we decided to spend 10 days in the city and surrounding area on our way to Argentina. Multiple stories from fellow travelers who had recently visited and ‘loved it’ had made us question as to whether it really was different from its reputation. Soon after we were smack bang in the heart of the Historic Center and were very pleasantly surprised.
With a mole sauce in mind, we tracked down Restaurant Azul for dinner the first night (pricey but highly recommended) and retired early to make the most of our one full day in the Historic center. All the hotel and restaurant staff were helpful, friendly and understood the concept of ‘service’ (unlike some countries we visit).
A New Aventura
Up bright and early we meandered through almost deserted streets to the Zocola. We explored the main plaza and then found the ‘The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavens’ wondering if the inside would live up to its impressive name and it did.
We wandered beneath the huge vaulted ceiling with our necks craned upward; the whole interior appeared to be carved, painted & gilded. Pausing at each stained glass window we marveled at the detail on them, the altars, the organs and even the pews. Every time we visit one of these impressive places we come away contemplative and a little bemused.
Back into the bright sunshine it dawned on us how clean the street was, mainly due to the small army of cleaners patrolling the streets all day long. The air that first day was surprisingly fresh and clean, mostly thanks to the rain shower last night. Over the next few days the air quality did deteriorate a little but never enough to warrant having to wear a face mask (as apparently was the norm just a few years ago).
And You Thought Your Job is a Grind!
There was also another army patrolling these streets an army of organ grinders. Dressed in tan uniforms and often working in pairs they tormented our senses. While one feverishly cranked away at the handle to create what can only jokingly be called a melody, the other optimistically held out their cap for tips. We did debate whether to give them money to stop but realized it would be a lost cause as the next one or two were always in hearing distance, creating a constant background dissonance.
After two nights in the center and ready for a change of scenery we headed off to visit the Pyramids. Yes in Mexico, not Egypt more on that in a post to come.
Round Two – a Different Neighborhood
Our next sample of Mexico City was a few days in the more residential area of La Condesa. We found a fabulous little Airbnb apartment, perfectly located to shop, to explore, to stroll the tree lined walkways and to relax. Best of all was the well equipped kitchen, eating restaurant meals was beginning to pale.
The bonus here was the proximity of two parks and the lovely leafy path that divided the two lanes of traffic on the road that looped around the area. Deserted in the mornings and during siesta, it was packed with courting couples, mums and strollers, cyclists and folks walking their dogs during the evenings.
Gone to the Dogs!
Speaking of dogs, the inhabitants of Condesa (like their counterparts in Miraflores Peru) love their dogs. During working hours, dog walkers and the 10 or 12 dogs they are walking head to the park. Some get to enjoy the fenced off dog area and let off some steam. Others obediently sit or lie in rows, while their handlers chat, or head off to do chores, leaving them ‘parked’ until there return.
During the weekend the parks and walkways fill with happy dogs and owners, out for a stroll, some sun and to catch up on what their counterparts have been up to. For those who had not yet succumbed to pet ownership, the adoption charities were out in full force with cute dogs, puppies, cats and kittens all clamoring to be adopted. If we were residents we would not have left that park empty handed that’s for sure.
Is Mexico City a big dirty place? In places yes, there are definitely places you do not want to go to. However the city is changing and as we found out for ourselves it does have some wonderful areas. We sampled just two but would like to return sometime as that old reputation appears to be somewhat outdated.