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Short Vacation to Mexico City, Mexico

San Jose, CA, USA

Working now in a setting that requires me to learn to speak more Spanish was a great precursor to this trip. I was able to get around, order food, and fit in (sort of) by speaking the lingo. Since our trip to Cabo, my husband and I have been curious about visiting other parts of Mexico to see what's different (or the same) and to explore more historical sites. 


Our Itinerary

Our trip was about 3.5 days, if you take into account the fact that we had a full day on our first day because of a red eye flight and left about midday on our last day (and spent the remainder of our day on our return flight). It was a short trip, but a nice change to our routine. The COVID pandemic aside, what I was also concerned with was safety, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I never really felt "in danger." Then again, my husband and I researched areas to avoid, and avoided those areas like the plague. 

Day 1

- Fly out (red eye) with Aeromexico
Since I work 4 days a week, a red eye flight was the only way of maximizing our time in Mexico City. Needless to say, it was a very, very long day. I was able to get in a short 2-3 hour nap. 

It was our first flight with Aeromexico, and we wished the experience could have been better. Our (standard sized) carry on luggages were deemed too big, so we ended up boarding the flight much later than our "group" because we had to stand aside to get our baggage checked in at the counter. Also, the person who tagged our bags removed all of the backing from the sticky luggage tag, making our luggage handle very sticky when we removed the tags at the end of our vacation. 

Upon arrival, the day was just beginning in Mexico City. We arrived at our hotel, the NH Collection in Zona Rosa, but no rooms were available because we had arrived so early in the day. We checked our bags in, and decided to explore the city, at least locally, for the time being. 

- Exploring the city
We explored the local neighborhood and took a walk around the block. We didn't really have food plans for our first meal, since we had originally planned to take a short nap at the hotel upon check-in, then enjoy the rest of our day. Since we were exploring around, we figured we would check out some local food places as well. 

- Food from a nearby street vendor on Calle Amberes
The exploring nearby our hotel led us to find a small street stall run by a husband and wife who sold fresh made-to-order tortas, churros, and assorted breads. I placed an order for two chicken tortas, and they got to cooking. We love churros, so we decided to get our first taste of authentic Mexican churros from this little street stall as well. The food didn't disappoint. The tortas were hot -- temperature wise and in terms of spiciness. There was a small kick and a good ratio of chicken to bread with each bite. The churros weren't made to order, but were fresh nonetheless with a crispy, cinnamon-y outer layer and a soft, chewy center. 

Although my husband and I weren't able to rest and check in just quite yet, we decided to explore the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle). We walked through a part of the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) before making our way to the entrance of the castle. 

We purchased some tickets from the booth, then made our way to the ticketing checkpoint, where security checked us for tickets. For any students, be sure to bring your student ID for free/discounted entry. At the security/ticket check point, there were some lockers to place large items or bags. We're not sure if those lockers were rented versus free to ticketed visitors, but the only other option would be to lug the bags and items through the entirety of the walkway, then as people toured the castle.

The beginning walkway that led from security to the gates leading to the castle was quite the walk, especially for someone who has been sedentary for most of the pandemic. There was some incline to the lengthy walk, and the walk was lined with beautiful, well-kept trees and shrubs, and a view of the city (of course nothing as impressive as reaching the top of the castle). Once we reached the castle gates, we had to present our tickets again. Then, we toured the outside of the castle courtyard.

The castle was immense and immaculate. And yes, there was more walking around and stair climbing to be done, but this time, inside and through the castle. For the most part, the castle has been converted to a museum with a collection of art and historical pieces depicting the past. One exhibit, for example, had a display of different face powder compacts used. Another, larger exhibit, had the different carriages the families of the castle used during different time periods. 

The far end of the castle on the topmost floor open to visitors (2nd) boasts a balcony with a beautiful city view. Around the same area, there is a gated courtyard with a huge fountain. In the middle of the castle, there is a courtyard with a small tower in the center (closed for entry at the time of our visit). 

My husband and I were glad we made this our first stop of the day because we were able to obtain several photos without anyone else photobombing us and without the heat of the sun making the long walk more tiring. The castle also became more crowded by the time we were finishing up and on our way out. We definitely recommend going early, as we had done.

After our castle tour, we walked back to the NH Collection Hotel in Zona Rosa and checked in. We had our bags taken out of storage and the bellhop helped us get our bags to our room on the 13th floor. 

Zona Rosa is a pretty safe neighborhood. My husband and I walked through the streets without seeing/coming across any shady people. As there are other hotels nearby, we mainly saw locals and other tourists in the area. Yes, there were armed police present in several street areas, but there was no ruckus during our stay that caused them to take any action. 

The hotel and our room was clean and spotless. There was room service daily. Our room was a "premium" room and boasted a view of the city. It was the perfect accommodation for just us two. My husband and I took a short power nap, since we were exhausted from our red eye flight and exploring thus far. 

We ate at their breakfast buffet the following days of our stay, and there was quite a variety of food to choose from, mostly Mexican fare. We recommend checking out the grill if you want omelettes or eggs as part of your breakfast, and recommend checking out their fruit section, where they serve fruits local to the area (ie. guava), or their juice bar, where they serve freshly squeezed juices ranging from grapefruit to their green juice. We don't recommend trying their churros. There are other places in the city that are worth getting those from. 

After our two hour power nap, our next pit stop was for lunch. When in Mexico, you have to try some authentic tacos. Since we wanted to get more steps in for the day, we walked over to El Pescadito Taquerias in Zona Rosa. We tried their taco de camarón and their taco de marlitún. Their tacos were made fresh to order. 

How it works is:  we placed our orders; waited for the chef to serve up some fresh hot tacos; then proceeded to the condiment section, where another worker was there to help stuff that taco with other veggies and sauces. When our tacos were to our liking, we were able to sit wherever we wanted. Another worker brought out a tin bucket with napkins and our receipt (to be paid at the end of our meal). 

We both agreed that the taco de camarón was the better choice. The taco de marlitún was good too and fresh, but wasn't quite tasty to us. We had two tacos each and were full at the end and ready to go off on our next adventure after we paid. 

After lunch, our next exploration point was the Palacio de Bellas Artes. We took an Uber to the Alameda Central Park, which houses/borders the Palacio de Bellas Artes. 

After being dropped off nearby, we first explored the park. The park was lush with a lot of green trees and plants along paved walkways. There were statues in the center of where some of the walkways crossed paths. The crowd became more and more as we walked towards the Palacio de Bellas Artes. 

When we reached the outside of the building, the crowd was literally a sea of people. There were people sitting or standing around, and many street stalls selling food. We made it through the crowd eventually and to the front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The building was grand and stood tall in the middle of an otherwise regular city. We didn't go inside the building since we didn't purchase tickets, but the crowd outside was telling enough that this site is a "must visit."

Our next stop was a bit of a walk away. Because of traffic from Palacio de Bellas Artes, it was difficult hailing an Uber driver, so walking it was! The plaza was a large empty square surrounded by buildings all around. Despite the square sounding boring, it was decorated with tinsel in the colors of the Mexican flag (red, white, and green) in various Aztec-esque shapes. The square was spacious but also vibrant with several street vendors on foot, selling toys and other knick knacks. There were mainly people, perhaps visitors or local tourists, walking around on foot taking pictures here and there. There weren't any special events or activities the day or time of our visit, but we could definitely see larger city events being held at this plaza. 

- Dinner - La Casa de Toño
Our last stop and meal of the day was La Casa de Toño, also located conveniently in Zona Rosa. We each ordered a pozole, a popular soup dish at this restaurant; one flan de abuela; and one flan napolitano. We ordered our food to-go, so we could enjoy in the comfort of our hotel room without needing to wait for a table inside the restaurant. Did I also mention that there was a very long line/big crowd waiting outside the restaurant?

Our food took some time to prepare, but we were on our way afterwards. Although we got our food to-go, the soup was hot and we had all the same condiments and veggies to mix in. The pozole was tasty and full of flavor without being overly salty or oily. Being a flan fan, having the opportunity to try two different kinds of flan was perfect. Both flans were equally creamy and delicious. The real difference we noted was that the flan de abuela had more of a creamy caramel syrup, while the flan napolitano had a more watery, dark, not-overly-sweet syrup. Overall, we recommend trying both flan styles if you visit. 

Day 2

My husband and I visited the popular Blue House, although we just saw the outside since we didn't book tickets ahead of time. We were reading that, in the past (pre-pandemic), walk-ins may be accommodated, but that wasn't the case when we visited. So, we literally just took pictures of the blue walls of the blue house from outside the house. 

We later (the following day) ran into some other California travellers who did go inside the Blue House. Hearing them say it was overrated helped to quell my husband's and my FOMO (fear of missing out). 

Since our attempt to be "walk ins" for the Blue House didn't work out, we decided to take a stroll at the Hidalgo Coyoacán Garden. There were no events going on at the garden, but there sure we're a lot of people -- mostly locals and local travellers with a sprinkle of international travellers like us (at least our guess since they spoke perfect American English). 

The garden was expansive, but similar to all the larger parks in the area. They have their iconic "Coyoacán" sign (missing the "y" when we went) to take a picture of/with. 

Our next walking-heavy stop was exploring the San Ángel neighborhood. It is a cute and quiet neighborhood with cobblestoned streets. We went down a street with large gated homes. We walked through several parks in the neighborhood, each bustling with people walking through and shopping at the arts and crafts booths set up for the day. We had fun walking and people watching while exploring this unique neighborhood!

Ever wondered where and how the iconic artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo lived? Well, now you don't need to wonder anymore! Just an Uber ride away from the park, are the homes of both Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo turned into a museum. Entry to this attraction was free; and because of COVID, only small numbers were allowed entry at a time. My husband and I were able to use the restroom on site while we waited to tour the homes.

Each of the homes were artistic, unique, and modern (especially for the time built). What made the homes unique was that both homes are located on the same lot and connected through a rooftop bridge. I suppose if they wanted to see each other, there was the bridge to cross instead of the conventional "walking over" on the ground like everyone else. Each home had pictures and artwork of each respectively. 

It is a not as well known attraction in the area and a hidden gem to visit if you want to avoid the crowds and see something not as touristy. All of the other museum goers were local to the area or to the country.

- Lunch at Mariscos Orizaba street stall
We wanted to try some seafood, so our next food adventure was to Mariscos Orizaba street stall. We ordered their coctel de camarón, two of their pescaditos especiales, two of their tostadas, and camarones al mojo. After the street stall owner took our order, he got right to the cooking. Everything was made fresh to order, and the street stall owner multi-tasked to get our order completed in a timely manner. 

We took our food back to the hotel to eat, and we regretted not buying more because the food was so fresh and tasty! The cooked but cold-prepared shrimp didn't have any fishy smell or taste to them. The portion was reasonable, if not a steal, for the price paid. They have limited bar style seating at their food stall and is located next door to a juice stall. 

- Churros from Churrería El Moro
A trip to Mexico wouldn't be complete without some churros, and my husband and I definitely recommend that you try the churros at Churrería El Moro. Their churros are batch made daily and made in large rounds, that are then cut into your typical churro length when ordered. We wanted to try some plain and simple churros, so we went with some cinnamon sugar dipped ones. Each churro piece was perfectly crispy on the outside with a bit of chewiness on the inside. They also offer other special flavors, such as chocolate or condensed milk dipped, and sells other typical cafe items -- coffee, chocolate, malt, sandwiches (tortas), drinks, and snacks. 

 My husband and I have visited several towers in the larger international cities we've visited, so we made no exception when we visited Mexico City. The 44-floor tower was fun to visit, just as other towers during our international trips. We enjoyed the unobstructed aerial 360 degree views of the city. The tower also overlooks the Palacio de Bellas Artes as well as the neighboring Alameda Central Park. It was quite a beautiful sight to see, and we took our time exploring the different public floors available. Tickets can be easily bought in person by waiting in line. There is also an open air deck available to explore as well. 

- Dinner - La Casa de Toño
We were impressed with the food from La Casa de Toño and returned again for another meal. This time, we ordered their tacos de cochinita, sope sensillo, flautas, and their flan napolitano. We enjoyed every single dish, as with the last time we visited, but we thought the flautas were rather dry. The flautas were served plain and didn't include all the topping as pictured on their menu. After this dinner and having tried maybe more than half the items on their menu, we decided we would explore a new dinner place the following night.

Day 3

Our day consisted of, what felt like, an all-day tour with Liverpool Tours company. We found them and booked the tour through our hotel. They offer several well-priced tour packages that you can mix and match. My husband and I went with the basílica and pirámides de teotihuacán tour, which was about 6 hours long and included private tour van transportation to and from the site. They were prompt with picking us up on the day of the tour as well. My husband and I highly recommend the tour company. If you're interested in booking a tour with them or for more information, you can call 52-28-99-28, ext. 1683 (per their brochure). 

Our first stop was to the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas, a site of some pyramidal remains. The surrounding area were apartment buildings and a street. Unfortunately, due to COVID, no one was allowed entry into the plaza, but visitors were welcomed to take a look from the outside. The tour group was ushered to one of the sides of the site, where we were able to look over and see the pyramidal remains, namely the base of the pyramids. 

- Tour of Teotihuacán
Our next stop was the pyramids of Teotihuacán. The pyramids were quite a sight to see. The tour guide explained that the area was full of pyramids that represented the sun, moon, and planets. He mentioned that there was some logic behind the placement of each of the pyramids. He explained that some of the pyramids have since been reinforced with new stone (fun fact: you can tell because there are several little stones surrounding the bigger stones of the pyramid when looking closely at the walls). Due to COVID and to maintain the pyramids, climbing up the stairs of the pyramid of the sun was closed and not allowed when we visited. Expect to do a lot of walking to get to the main area of the pyramids. Also, expect to see tons of street sellers and sellers on foot. 

Lunch was not included with our tour package, but we were surely hungry once we left the pyramids. En route back to the freeway was our next stop for lunch at Restaurante Mayahuel Teotihuacán. Yes, the restaurant is touristy. After all, it is one of the few restaurants in the area unless you drive back into town. My husband and I wanted to try something unique to the area, and our tour guide recommended trying their cactus or nopales. We both each ordered an ensalada de nopales (or cactus salad), and each order came along with a stack of fresh, hot corn tortillas. You can enjoy the ensalada de nopales however you'd like, but it's best eaten wrapped in the corn tortilla. The flavors of the salad gives the plain corn tortilla a little bit of something, and the moistness/stickiness of the cactus makes it easier to eat the otherwise dry corn tortilla.

The basilica was the final stop of our tour before being dropped off at our hotel. The basilica was beautiful and expansive with a large courtyard area for people to walk around freely. From one part of the current basilica, you can see where the previous/original basilica used to be (up on a hill). There was a service being held in the main hall, and an area where people passing through can make a quick prayer without necessarily staying for or disturbing those attending the service. 

The day ended with a rainy night, which was perfect for our planned dinner at Rico Caldos de Gallina "Luis." Rico caldos de gallina literally translates to rich chicken broth, and my husband and I aren't sure of the significance of "Luis." In any case, we made our way walking over in the rain to this restaurant and placed our order, which took some time because they ended up being out of the dishes we wanted to try. Their store sold everything chicken -- from the meat itself to other more organ-y meat. We ended up settling with an order of chicken gizzard. We were surprised to see about 60% of the restaurant full with people dining in, as we had thought most people would stay home because of the rain.  

Our food took some time to make and was made fresh to order. We ended up taking the food back to our hotel to eat, but were provided with all the same condiments as if we were eating at the shop. Our soups were well-packed without spillage and still piping hot, despite the time it took us to speed walk back to the hotel in the rain. The portions were large, and the flavors were "rich" and lived up to their name. My husband and I wished we had ordered different things so that we could have tried a bit more of what the shop offered. After all, chicken broth was their specialty. We definitely recommend their rich chicken broth on a cool and/or rainy day. 

Day 4

- Return flight with Aeromexico
The return flight went pretty smoothly. This time around, there were no issues with the size of our carry-on sized luggages. In order to fly back, we had completed COVID antigen testing at a local pharmacy chain Farmacia del Ahorro 72 hours prior to our departure. Of course, the testing could have been completed at the airport, but it would have cost a lot more money. 

On the flight, we were served American food for lunch, with choices of an omelette or french toast. The television touch screen on my husband's seat was broken, and we were able to move to an empty row at the back, which was an extra plus because we were able to have the row to ourselves. 

Once we arrived back home, we finished up the usual errands and chores to close up the week and get ready for yet another workweek. 


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And just like that, our short trip was over, but we had so much fun in the short time spent away from the usual routine! Where will our travels take us to next? We'll see!

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