I looked at the piñatas on the ceiling while the lady stamped my passport. Recently, airplanes make me nervous instead of excited. I was thrilled the 12 hour flight from Madrid to Mexico City was the smoothest I’ve ever had. There was not a single moment of turbulence the entire time. We only wore seatbelts for take-off and landing. I kid you not.
I was eager to see him already, but when the doors opened, he was not there. It was pandemonium. We got confused with the gate, but after 45 min. searching for each other in circles, I spotted him in the crowd. You could not miss him in Mexico City. Tall, light-skinned, and blonde, he towered among the much shorter, tanned, brunette crowd – where I blend in. He was dressed up, and with sunflowers in hand. Our long-awaited adventure began! We had not seen each other for three months.
I was not just visiting Bradley in Mexico City, though. This was not only our Christmas holiday, but a chance to determine whether I will move with him this summer, or choose a different country we both can enjoy. In the weeks to follow, I would be exposed to Mexico City’s many charms. Beginning with food…
I had mixed feelings about moving to Latin America before it was even up for discussion with Bradley. My family moved from Venezuela to the United States 15 years ago in pursuit of a much safer, better life. It was scary for me to look at the possibility of us moving to Mexico. But everyone that had been there spoke wonders of it, so I became very curious. After 14 days checking out the city for myself, this is what I was pleased to find…
Mexico City is big, Big, BIg, BIG! I know there are many dangerous areas, and we stayed away from those. But the expat-friendly neighborhoods have so much to offer! The first thing I noticed was how green it was! I was excited to see the sidewalks lined up with tall, lush trees. There are trees everywhere in La Condesa neighborhood, where we took many walks around the colorful buildings and ate fancy cupcakes. We had lactose-free ice cream in Polanco, the impressive business area where we sat on the terrace of the fanciest Starbucks I have ever seen. But the winning neighborhood was La Roma, where Bradley currently lives. It has all the things I am looking for to live happily in Mexico City: colorful buildings, sidewalks full of trees, hipster coffee-shops galore, delicious taco stands, a fabulous Japanese market, a small theater (where we enjoyed a rom-com play), and plenty of elementary schools (where I hope to get a job as an English teacher).
On my last day, we visited Coyoacan, which is a more colonial neighborhood. It is the kind of pretty, lively, cultural place where people might retire. This is where Frida Kahlo’s house is, and I was so disappointed when we could not get in on my last day in Mexico. Buy your tickets in advance or go early in the morning.
After reading a book, watching a movie, and listening to a radio program about her life, I was ready to dive into her home turned museum and soak it all in! But I guess it is something to look forward to later this year. Instead, we went to Ucraine’s communist Leon Trotsky’s house.
It was not necessarily something I was eager to do, but it is quite historical, and much more accessible than the sold out Frida museum.
On the bright side, we did make it to my top sight for this particular trip: The Teotihuacan Pyramids. About an hour outside the city, we took a bus from the bus station linked to the metro stop Autobuses del Norte on the yellow line #5. The ticket to Teotihuacan was 46 pesos, the equivalent of 2.04€ .
(Mexico City is incredibly affordable if you come from the outside.)
I had heard the Teotihuacan pyramids had something to do with the Aztecs, but was not aware of their history and significance until we got home that night and watched a documentary about them. I recommend finding out some information prior to your visit, so your appreciation for them increases. We did not have a tour guide, and the signs don’t explain much. We climbed the big Pyramid of the Sun, impressive on its own. But the view was best from the Pyramid of the Moon…which we learned it is actually 7 pyramids built inside each other, just like a Russian doll. Here’s that cool documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-zSNSny9aE
Teotihuacan was bigger than the Roman Empire, and it was found by the Aztecs as they were presumably escaping a massive fire. Who built Teotihuacan, why they built it, why they abandoned it, or what language its builders even spoke is unknown. Like the documentary explains, The Aztecs believed it to be the most sacred place in the Universe, so “they named it Teotihuacan: The Place of the Gods.”
We waited about one hour in line to be able to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. The whole experience of waiting, climbing up, soaking the view, and coming down took us nearly 3 hours. But we were hardly done.
There was also the pyramid of the Moon, said to be used for ceremonies opened to the public. There was a smaller pyramid in the distance, which we did not make it to. When you visit the pyramids, expect a lot of dusty wind and bring a hat (or buy one! The place is filled with vendors, as any good tourist site). At the end of our visit we enjoyed a cup of fresh papaya, and a cup topped up with delicious coconut. They sell so much fresh fruit, and I advise you save it for the end, when you will need to regain your strength from all those steps. We had a beautiful day under the sun – an adventure to remember.
But there were a few bumps on the road during my visit. Some of them made it to the cons column of my mental list to decide if I could live here. The first thing I disliked was that toilet paper must be tossed in the trash can, not the toilet. This creates a general unpleasant smell. But I can deal with that by taking the trash out daily, and lighting incense and candles. A true downer was the public transport. The metro is not the miraculous, clean convenience I am used to in Madrid. Not to mention that safety is a true concern beyond getting pick-pocketed. Crime in Latin America tends to involve a gun or a knife, so avoid making yourself a target when visiting. Keep your jewelry simple and cheap.
When having drinks with one of Bradley’s friends, who was born and raised in Mexico City, he highly recommended walking or biking instead of frequenting the buses and metro. He also advised us to keep the cash and our identification cards in separate wallets. That way, if you get mugged, you can hand them the cash, and avoid the gruesome task of replacing your stolen i.d.’s and cards.
Mexico City is filled with contrasts, and my mind continuously noted things on the pros and cons list. When we went to the city center (Zócalo metro stop on the blue line), I was impressed by the big Cathedral and square. Had I not known I was in Mexico City, this could have been any city center in Europe.
I do feel that negative media has perhaps overpowered this city’s beauty and liveliness. At least I was not so aware of its many charms before my visit. I also admit finding the bright side to any place is not difficult when in love. Love makes all the cons on my list less troublesome. And the pros are overpowering…about Mexico…about everything.
Our goodbye was tragic. We are looking at spending the next 4-6 months apart, but we look forward to our future in Latin America with joy! I will continue to teach English in Madrid until June while applying to schools in Mexico City for this fall. “Make the most of it,” Bradley told me at the airport. He knows I have a love-affair with Europe, and the next six months will be like one big bachelorette party for me. Unexpectedly so, my friend Kristen found amazing flight deals while I was whining about leaving Bradley in Mexico. By the time I landed in Spain, my friends and I had tickets to go to Palma de Mallorca at the end of the month! Let the bachelorette travel festivities commence!
p.s. you may have noticed a format change on the blog! New year, new life, new me, new font! And for more frequent, live updates of my travels, follow me on Instagram @somewhereblog #letsgosomewhere