For my journey to Mexico City i decided to take the cheap bus overnight for 15 hrs to remind of the fun and tough times on buses i have had for the last year...this one was particularly authentic as a beep went off every 3 seconds disturbing what sleep I could get and the toilet broke so the last 3 hrs i had a urine smell a foot away!! Leaving all that that behind now as only a plane to London left.
It was great to get back to a big city as i feel this is where my heart is...love the vibrancy, culture, diversity and for Mexico City the volume of people...c.20m at my last count! This is in contrast to where i have been for the last 2 months...probably Medellin, Colombia mid July. The other odd thing with Mexico (and a good thing) is that there are no guns...at least those i can see. Coffee shops, restaurants and bus stations are all gun free...there is an abundance of police around protecting you to make up for this. Feels safer but then in a city you can never let your guard down! Other amusing thing being in a city is the coffee shop routine...they always ask for my name for the cup...Graham doesnt come naturally...Gram is a little easier...Juan is my Spanish name except sometimes have to fight for the coffee with the many Juan's around!!
The bonus for me has been the city being painted in green, white and red to celebrte independence day the previous week.
The city is vast and so much to see both in the centre and within an hour or two by bus. Being here for 6 days has meant I have ticked a lot off and soaked up the cool city vibe and atmosphere.
First big stop was Teotihuacan a pyramid city built in 200BC so before the Mayan's. Its the first urban settlement in Mesoamerica. Their culture fell between 700-750 AD. The structures and pyramids are really neat and big...Pyramid of the Sun is largest pre-Hispanic building of its times. Great contrast to the Mayan ruins plus nice to see people working on the site to uncover new treasures.
I also took another day away from Mexico DF to the delightful colonial town of Puebla. My logic for going on Monday was that DF museums are closed...brain has definately turned to mush as Puebla museums are also closed on Monday's!
Puebla is another colonial town so managed to cover most parts in a day but didnt do the outlying areas...for next time! Nice churches but highlight was the modern art museum...had some awesome pieces along with a great roof terrace.
Also managed to become a local celebrity...photo with the police and an interview with some students. The police also gave me a lift to the bank but unfortunately without the blue sirens...had an issue with my entry tax payment that they/immigration helped with...they wanted a publicity photo after!!
- Cafes - old school coffee houses like Cafe de Taguca and Sanborns at Casa de los Azulejos. All the waitresses dress like they are in old school nurses outfits. Can imagine life here 100 years ago when they opened. Also many pastry shops like La Palestina and Pasteleria Ideal evoke life from yesteryear!
- Salon Espana - First night i found this neat little bar called Salon Espana near my hostel. After work bar as had people through various stages of drunkenness...particularly amusing was their out of sync impromptu U2 "One Love" rendition. Given there were 140 tequilas to choose from i reckon they were on double figures. Like all dishes in Mexico it comes with tortillas so decided to invent the 'chip tortilla butty' and start to reminisce about home!
- Lucha Libre - as a fan of the original WWF (not the animal fund...its now all about saving Rhinos) and characters like Legion of Doom, Million Dollar Man and Ultimate Warrior (RIP brother!) it was with much excitement that i went to its Mexican brother. What a show and spectacle with more acrobatics than i was expecting...plus your usual characters of good vs evil. It was also an opportunity to practice my Spanish cuss words like "Puta Madre" and "Punta Cabron" as wrestlers expect to be shouted out (reminds me of the Deuce Bigalow movie!). It was also entertainment when the wrestlers brought in their midget sidekicks dressed as yoda and turtles...they also took a beating!!
- Football (soccer to my yank friends) - Having hosted 2 World Cup's i knew i was in good company for the Cruz Azul vs Leon match on a sunny Saturday afternoon. With football loving Ozzie's for company we set down in out top priced seats at $7! Like the wrestling the locals look after their guests...stewards show you to your seat...food vendors wonder past every minute...and most importantly the beer seller keeps you topped up...all without leaving your seat! The entertainment is top class even if the football is average. The band and flags from the hard core did not stop for longer than the 90 minutes. With only 15,000 fans it was still great atmosphere...imagine over 100k for Club America!! Only cause for concern were the number of riot police...They even rushed to protect players taking corners!!
- Food - before saying you have tried "Old El Paso" therefore you know Mexican food think again...most is influenced from the Tex-Mex genre of food. Everyone who comes to Mexico raves about the food and I join that long list of praisers. From street food to nice eateries to top restaurants all the food is tasty...plus if you throw in some decent picante it can also get spicy!! Unlike cities like London where "trendy" street food or cafes start charging ridiculous prices in Mexico City the street stalls or little shop fronts stick to their roots and keep prices down...probably to avoid local uproar. In a trendy area called La Condesa i had a great "taco de bistec" for $1 from the local market/hole in the hole and cooked in front on me. Then a short walk away in a restaurant the "Taco Parnita Casa" special were $2 each and equally good. Then upped the stakes at "El Cardenal" downtown at $3 a taco. All a great tastebud experience catering for different wallet sizes...or in my case credit card limits!!
- Bella Artes - after wrestling one night and football the next I balanced things out with a night at the grand theatre built in the art deco era...thought i would check out the local posh totty! Given i don't have smart garb with me I was definitely the outcast in my wife beater vest and thongs! The show was essentially "Riverdance" Mexican style so saw and heard all styles from Aztec drumming, lassoing and of course the Mariachi! The artistic director obviously didnt use Michael Flatley's stance of snipers in the gods as the timing was usually off. Nonetheless good to try something different.
- La Torre Latino - tallest G&T in Mexico...41st floor with amazing views across the city...appreciate just how big the city is plus avoids entry fee as well!!
- Diego Riviera (1886-1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) (married) - if you haven't heard of them before after leaving Mexico City you will know them inside and out; their favourite colour and favourite cerveza! My favourite spots being the murals in Secretaria De Education Publica and Museo Dolores Olmedo. There are at least 5 museums plus numerous places with murals around the city so you can always get your fix! Also a movie called "Frida" about her life...so pretty big around here!!
- Plaza Garibaldi - its like the job centre for Mariachi bands! They just mill about waiting for tourists in their spangly garb. If they aren't there then they buy a boat and ply their trade on the Xochimilco canals.
- Palacio Postal - has to be one of the spectacular looking post offices in the world...beats Santiago and Saigon in terms of grandeur.
- Organ Grinders - if you love organ grinders then you will walk the whole of Mexico City with a smile...if you dont like them then bring an axe as they are the only form of buskers downtown i found!
- Metro/Buses - you can get anything...vitamin C tablets, knock off viagra pills, nail clippers, chocolate and CD's (the dude had a speaker in his backpack) to name a few. Makes any journey interesting aside from just people watching. Having said that hawkers are everywhere on every street and on every corner...its an intense attack on your eyes and ears as well as tolerance to be polite!! People in general are friendly although stare a lot as not too many gingers in Mexico City...have to wear a cap to help de-gringo myself! Also get the occasional guitarist and singer jumping on/off the major routes.