In this journal
I drank something that kept fermenting in the cup;
I ate a few cats and pet a few tacos;
I climbed a pyramid-wait, something is not right.
Scientists say that the most detrimental thing to one’s body, well, besides cancer, is loneliness. They found out that if one is constantly in need of a friend or someone to talk to, the negative emotions, or simply the fact of nobody to talk to, can significantly impact one’s state of physiology. Basically, a loner ages magnitudes faster. Thus, I always make use of my time and try to do as much as possible in my short life, given that loneliness is my only companion. However, after achieving Executive Platinum status with American Airlines last year, I had a new way to be lonely: at somewhere else! Because I can get upgraded to business class while I fly domestically infinite amount of times, so why not give weekend trips a shot? First destination: Mexico City. Cheap weekend economy ticket turned into a business class adventure, isn’t that worth it？
Day 1: Los Angeles —> Mexico City
Day 2: Mexico City center
Day 3: the famous pre-Columbian pyramid, Teotihuacan
Day 4: Mexico City center
Day 5: Mexico City —> Los Angeles
Onward, to Mexico!
Let me be clear, this is not a comprehensive guide to Mexico City. I do not believe there are many cities in the world that can be fully explored in 48 hours. However, this is definitely enough to grasp a feeling of the city. I do not consider myself an expert of the town, unbeknownst to the old me back then that I would have to visit this place another 5 times just in the year of 2017! However, I do think this post can let you get a feeling of this marvelous metropolis, just like what I did during my weekend there.I will try to be brief, given this trip was as much an impromptu getaway as a quick glance around.
Onworld Lounge, Los Angeles
American Airlines has a red-eye flight to Mexico City, and thankfully I was upgraded 4 days before departure. It was rather fascinating that Mexico City counts as one of the very few cities that one can access international lounges on an AA’s North American flight. After stuffing myself with the great buffet Oneworld business class lounge had to offer, I gracefully wafted to the plane to board early. Thankfully, the four hour flight time was more than enough for me to get a bit of a power nap, and before I knew it, I was on the early metro towards city center.
I was famished, so for breakfast I went 200% Mexicano. Tamales with some kind of warm corn drink. It was surprisingly filling, and gave me enough energy to begin the marvelous, yet slightly chilly, winter day in the capital.
tamales in a park
Nothing beats the central location of Zócalo, the biggest square, as well as the location of the metropolitan cathedral. The square was supposed to be given a name like Plaza of Constitution or something similar, but everyone now calls it Zócalo (which means a plinth, the pedestal beneath the statue) because only the base of a proposed monument was ever erected. The square is surrounded by the palace, the cathedral and the commercial district.
Zócalo, CDMX stands for Cuidad De MeXico
Catedral Metropolitana’s front gate
Since the entire city was an ancient capital of the Aztecs called Technotitlan, the cathedral had to be built in the most conquistadorian style. The brutal Spanish built this seat of Catholicism on top of a sacred Aztec temple as a symbol of the new power. Construction began in the 1570s, but it took over 200 years to complete.
inside the cathedral
While on my way to the next destination, Torre Latinoamericana, I passed by the beautiful museum of Bellas Artes. Its beautiful façade complemented the sunny day perfectly. The exterior Art Nouveau style decor was extravagant yet elegant, and I could not help but take a break and admire, while sitting in one of the chairs in the plaza.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Then I ascended to the top of the iconic Torre Latinoamericana, one of the landmarks of the city. This is not just the tallest building in Mexico once, but also the first skyscraper to be proven sturdy in the event of a major earthquake. It survived the 1985 8.1 magnitude earthquake without any damage, now that is impressive.
a cleaning worker atop Torre Latinoamericana
lunch for 3$!
After a hearty lunch, I paid a visit to the famous Park of Tepeyac. This is one of the most visited religious sites in the world. The legend says here Saint Juan Diego was given the image of the Guadalupe Lady. Thus, during my visit, thousands flooded the tiny path up top to the tiny Basilica to see a statue of the Lady. (Virgin Lady of Guadalupe is a Latin American way of saying Virgin Mary, origin is from the legend that took place on this hill.)
statue of Lady of Guadalupe, the drape is said to be possessed by Virgin Mary while Juan Diego was wearing it
a new rendering of the legend
One thing I have to mention, however, is that Mexico is really, really cheap to go around. This is one of the best things about the country south of the border. Fresh, cheap food could be found virtually anywhere. A popular culture here is the trend of fresh fruit juices. Stands line the streets, selling all kinds of juice pressed fresh, costing less than 2 dollars. Want a milkshake made of guava and cactus? No problem. No sugar, no water, and do not filter out the fiber? Done and done, all for prices cheaper than a jumbo slurpee in an American 7-11. Living in Mexico City means good food, good laughs, and a happy wallet.
a taco stand
I don’t remember what this is called, but I remember it being delicious
The next day was a day trip for the famous Teotihuacan. This enormous compound, one of the largest cities in the world during its zenith, was likely religious in nature, and predates the Aztecs by almost a millennia. Whether or not it was a capital of an empire was subject to debate, but it was clear that this was the granddaddy of all cultures in Mesoamerica. Aztecs claimed to be direct descendants of the Teotihuacans just to associate themselves with those ruins. Mayans also had a lot of influences originating from this area.
the 65-meter tall Pyramid of the Sun
The city was built along a giant avenue called Avenue of the Dead. One end was the Pyramid of the Moon, and the tallest structure was the Pyramid of the Sun along the east side. Numerous other workshops and multi-leveled apartments lined the avenue. The large pyramid is the third biggest of its kind in the world. These stellar names are given by the Aztecs, since it is highly unlikely that the Teotihuacans worshiped the sun as well. The city has a guardian goddess carved on the walls, or the bird god worshiping culture could be a possible religion as well.
on top of Pyramid of the Sun
Sitting just 40km northeast of the city center, Teotihuacan made for a perfect day trip from Mexico City. Walking along the undulating Avenue of the Dead, brushing my hands against the once-perfectly-cut bricks that have been battered by rain and time, I was transported back in the eons, to a period when an empire was constructing the largest structure the Americas had ever seen…
sunset in Mexico City
One great thing about Mexico City is that it has a rather decent public transport system. Over a dozen metro and train lines connect the city corners for less than a dollar. The metro trains have special carriages only for women and kids in order to prohibit harassments. Unlike other places with this kind of policy, Mexico City actually has guards enforcing this rule in every station.
“men towards the front; women and children under 12 only”
Another interesting quirk about the metro is that the stations are most prominently displayed by pictures instead of words, so that illiterate people can still take the metro with ease. Thus, I ended up remembering stations by pictures as well. After having been to the city half a dozen times, I still remember that if I want to change trains, then I must get off at the “giant canon station”.
metro line station illustration
For the last day, I just walked around and ate a lot of cheap food, thanks to my impregnable digestive system. It was a relaxing day due to my lack of sleep in the past few days. I knew I would come back to the city sooner or later, so I was not worried to finish visiting all major sights.
Angel de la Independencia
To finish off my last day, I had to have tacos for my last meal. However, I wanted something special for the drink. In comes pulque, a special fermented agave drink that has been traditional for thousands of years here. The maguey agave required to make this drink needs 12 years to mature, so the drink is very expensive in Mexican standards, costing a hefty 2 dollars. The trick is to drink it fast, since it will keep fermenting in the cup, and as the alcohol content keeps growing, so does the strength of its signature yeast taste.
pulque, with a cup rim full of chilli powder and salt
On Monday morning, I took a taxi to the airport, since no public transport was available that early. I boarded my flight back to Los Angeles, despite the fact that I was still thinking about the juicy taco from the day before…
business class breakfast
This was such a brilliant trip. Instead of sitting at home in Los Angeles and drink vodka alone, I decided to adventure into a new city. Beautiful cathedrals, marvelous religious compounds, ancient pyramids, these aren’t destinations for a normal weekend. Mexico City is a shining example of why I love Latin America. Good people, cheap expenses, rich history, all wrapped in a familiar yet foreign, uh, let’s say, tortilla.
do you know? the inverse of “tacocat” is also “tacocat”!
I think this type of trip is great for preparing me to visit again. Now that I have familiarized myself with the logistics, next time I spend considerable time in Mexico City I would feel right at home.
does someone need a mariachi band?
As I began my class on Monday, I couldn’t help but feel giddy at the fact that I was in Mexico this morning! I said to myself:”hey, this is a brilliant idea!” So why not do it more? Next weekend tiny vacation destination: Cancun!
Other times I have visited Mexico City: