This summer I traveled outside the country for the first time in almost three years, which is hard to believe for a girl who used to travel outside the country multiple times each year. Then life happened, particularly my life, and my foreign wanderlust and avid beach-bumming was put on hold. Until this summer, when I headed down to meet my girlfriend, Michelle, for a week in the capital city of Mexico — she was working, but said she would love the company and would have plenty of room, all I needed to do was buy my plane ticket.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The Kid was with my folks in Georgia for a month, and I hadn’t taken more than two days off at a time from work — I needed this trip. So I treated myself to a business class ticket and headed down south.
Mexico City, the capital of the country and also its most populous city, is located in the Valle de México, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico. Formerly known as the Distrito Federal, in January of 2016, Mexico City officially became Ciudad de México or CDMX. The name change wasn’t all that was updated — the city has also liberalized its politics, allowing for abortion on request, a limited form of euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage.
And after spending some time in CDMX, none of that surprises me. The city is a combination of the old and the new, the religious and the irreverent. It’s one of vast wealth next to dire poverty, business next to cathedral, artist next to executive. It’s vivid and alive and full of magic.
And there is a feeling everywhere you turn: art matters.
From the stunning Diego Rivera murals tucked away on the walls of the National Palace to the street musicians on the corner to the loving attention to every detail of the Frida Kahlo museum to the delicious beauty of the cuisine to poetry of the city itself, you cannot walk the streets of CDMX and not feel energized.
It is impossible.
The city demands it of you.
It’s as if the ghosts of past artists and writers and composers — the revolutionaries and thinkers and creators — are whispering encouragement in your ear with every step you take along the old city streets. They’re begging you to take a moment, sip a cocktail, and write that poem that’s been banging around in your head for days, the one about love and time and old bricks of a crumbling facade. And when you climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and toss your head back and laugh because you’re giddy and life is goddamned good, they’re smiling because they agree: life is goddamned good.
That is CDMX.
My heart breaks for the city I grew to love in six too-short days, and its citizens as it recovers from the September 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck on a Tuesday afternoon of this year. I’ve read accounts of tremors being a part of life in CDMX, buildings shake and you move on. I mean, the city sits upon an ancient lakebed – there’s a reason building codes have been updated and earthquake drills are the norm. But still – the horror one must experience watching the earth buckle and rip at the seams, I cannot imagine. I can only hope the recovery is swift and the good people of CDMX move on from their collective experience stronger and more determined.
Something tells me all those ghosts and all of that magic wouldn’t have it any other way.
And now, for my photos. Or some of them. Not that you want to see them…but then again, maybe you do.
Contramar – the best lunch I’ve had in my life
even the street vendors are delicious
I feel all kinds of way about ice cream
Azul – grasshoppers on my guacamole
The food is divine – the colors, the textures, the ingredients, the creativity with which all of it comes together to play on your tongue and make your tummy do a happy dance. I can’t say enough about it, or the drinks, or the ice cream. Because you know, I feel some ways about ice cream. Even the hotel breakfasts Michelle would order for us and have waiting every morning when I returned from my run on the treadmill were delicious. I’m not the girl who IGs all of her meals, and I sure as hell never thought I’d blog my food, but everything I put into my mouth over those six days kind of demanded a little space in this post. Especially my lunch at Contramar – thank you, Lissette – it was so good, I went there twice.
It wasn’t just the food though – it was the alcohol, too. We lost ourselves in the most amazing tequilas poured by the most skilled bartenders. We did shots, we laughed, we sipped cocktails at one of the top bars in the world – thank you, Limantour – we roamed the liquor store for wine and whiskey, we drank, we sampled, and we did it all again the next day.
And I drank coffee. Lots of it. Because it was so good – even Starbucks was delicious. And cheap. Oh, and for those of you who have followed my name game antics at the green mermaid, in CDMX I am nothing but smiles:
Of course, the trip wasn’t one big drunken meal.
Or maybe it was, with some sightseeing thrown in to break up the imbibing. Either way, we did it – sightseeing, that is – sometimes together, like the weekend when we arrived, or on my own, during the week while Michelle slaved away at the job. I had a good time dragging her butt around town, making her visit places she never thought to visit or never had the time because she’s always in CDMX for work (poor her) not play (yea me). Like the Zócalo and the Palacio Nacional and the Museo Frida Kahlo. Or the street markets and the mummies outside the Catedral Metropolitana and the cafes of Centro Histórico.
My book One Thousand Places to See Before You Die lists Teotihuacan as one of the places you must see if you’re visiting CDMX. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and really, anyone who’s been to CDMX is going to tell you to make the trip. And do it with a guide (I did an early morning tour with an archaeologist and he was amazing, so thank you, Viator). And be ready to be wowed. And be ready to not fully understand the magnitude of that “wow” until your own feet trod the Avenue of the Dead, linking the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. And you really can’t understand that “wow” until you climb all the way to the very top of the Pyramid of the Sun, take a look around, and smile. Because like I said before, life is goddamned good.
Also, I cannot post about Teotihuacan without a nod of admiration to the dogs of the pyramids. They are many and they are fierce. Please, respect their gangsta.
A big part of this trip for me was being able to wander. I love being by myself and because Michelle worked during the day, I had plenty of time alone. And it was fabulous. I was able to write and explore and watch, people and life and an entire city do its thing, at my own pace, on my own time, accountable to no one but myself. Anyone who has a child knows this is rare. Those of us doing the single-parent thing know not only is it rare, it’s freaking sacred. (Thank you mom and dad for allowing this trip to happen, and for being the best grandparents ever.) Sometimes my travels were purposeful, like the days I visited the Monumento a la Revolución or the Palacio de Bellas Artes, other times I came upon the stunning and beautiful by turning a random corner and stumbling into a garden or a cathedral or mariachis waiting for the bus. And one afternoon, I just chilled by the pool. It’s CDMX – anything is possible.
Finally, there is Michelle.
We’ve known each other forever, having crossed paths years ago while working together at Paul Weiss, remaining friends ever since. She is funny and lovable and the kind of woman you want by your side when shit hits the fan. Also, she’s fun AF to travel with – we had a blast and I can’t wait to hit the road again together. Thank you for letting me be your plus one. I love you, mama.