For some reason, I’m totally unmotivated to write about the last month in the first few weeks of each month. I’d blame it on the excitement and adventure, but that’s not true. It’s probably more that I don’t want to say goodbye to these places. I keep convincing myself it’s not over. That was especially true in Mexico City (as well as Valencia). I went in with pretty low expectations. Not many people vacation in Mexico City, and I knew no one who lived there. But, boy did I fall in love. I think my whole group fell in love, actually. Our feedback was the highest for a city overall in a while.
So, what is it about Mexico City that captured our attention?? Besides the tacos, it’s hard to explain. In fact, since most of you reading this are from the US, instead of describing all of the amazing parts of Mexico City, I’m going to extend a challenge: go there. Take a break from the Mexican beaches and go visit that spectacular sinking city.
Highlights of the Month
This month’s highlights are easy! It was my three Christmases.
- I visited family in Arizona. My uncle’s family has lived there for a while, but my grandparents just moved down there last year. It was a super short trip, but it was great to spend time with them in their new home. We went to Target, Red Lobster, and Home Goods. I convinced my little cousins to do a “polar plunge” in their 50 degree pool in 70 degree weather. That’s easily one of my favorite memories with them. Lots of amazing food was also eaten, obviously. We had homemade pancakes, smoked ribs, and all sorts of cookies.
- Then an Orlando, FL, vacation with my parents and sisters. This was indescribably perfect. Christmas dinner made in a tiny timeshare kitchen. Minimal arguements. Family traditions. One-on-one time with each of my nearly-grown sisters. Visits to Disney World – our second home – and Universal Studios. I don’t think I have smiled that much in a long time. More details later in the post.
- Finally, real Christmas in Mexico City! Before Christmas, we were invited to a Posada – a traditional party complete with singing and a pinata. On Christmas Eve, my roommate and I hosted a group to make cookies and watch Christmas movies – specifically the Harry Potter movies. It ended up incredibly messy, loud, and Christmasy. Then, we had a potluck that night with the rest of our friends in town. On Christmas day, we walked around our neighborhood, enjoying the quiet, and bumped into some friends for lunch. Definitely a unique memory, but a clear example of how the holidays are more about who you’re with than the traditions, decorations, and presents.
Lowlight of the Month
Ay ay ay. Traveling from Spain to Mexico is an experience. Our travel took over 24 hours. We started our day in Valencia, dropping our bags off at the workspace – we had to be out of our accommodations early enough for them to be cleaned. After lunch, we boarded a bus for the airport, arriving our signature 3+ hours early. From Valencia, we flew to Madrid, arriving at 7:30pm. Our flight to Mexico City left at 11:55pm. That’s four and a half hours in Madrid’s small international terminal. Lots of my time was spent near outlets, charging up my electronics in preparation for a TWELVE HOUR flight to Mexico. I had an aisle in a section for two. Which could have been worse, but I’m definitely in need of a window to curl up against for any type of useful airplane sleep. So I watched a few movies, ate some weird food, and “woke up” to land at almost 5am, Mexico time.
I thought it would be hard to stay awake the next day, and it definitely wasn’t easy, but it was fine. Lots of time spent wandering and unpacking. But our move to Mexico is also when my body started its fun habit of waking up at around 7:30am or so every morning and not falling back asleep – regardless of my bedtime the night before. It could be worse, yes. But that’s still annoying.
This Month’s Mental State
Despite the feelings in this recent post, I had an incredible time in Mexico. I loved my apartment and its location. I loved the food and that most of my friends were living less than a ten minute walk from my place. I was starting to think about the future – the end of the year will do that to you – but it was still a distant idea. Mexico was a month of travel and trying to squeeze in as much as possible with family and friends. I definitely need to go back to the city for more of my own exploration. And for more tacos. And no, I won’t stop bringing up the tacos.
Recommendations for a Visit to Mexico City
Eat all the Tacos – Uh. Duh. This should be your first stop once you’ve arrived in Mexico City. Get a taco! Go to a street cart with lots of people standing around, eating, and buy one. They were usually less than ten pesos each, which is like $0.50. I never really knew what “flavor” I was eating, so if you can’t figure it out, just ask for their favorite. Or point to someone’s plate that is nearby. Be adventurous. Try the salsas. Also, buy a drink because sometimes the “guacamole” is actually an extremely spicy mix. Learn from our mistakes. And if you want a good lunch break taco place, try Tacos Don Juan in Condesa. For an amazing dinner taco place, and probably lunch too, try Chetito in Roma Norte. I’m obsessed with them. And if you’re looking for al pastor tacos, you’re in luck, my friend wrote an article about where to find the best.
Drink Lots of Water – The altitude is no joke. Drink a lot of water. Seriously. And, because it’s Mexico City, you should only drink bottled water (but hey, it’s your life, live on the edge if you feel the need). But whatever. I know what you’re thinking (especially my mom reading this now..), water is boring and gross. Well, cut up a fruit and put it in your bottle. No excuses. Your body will thank you.
Los Loosers – Who would have thought that the best vegan bread I’ve ever eaten would be from a vegan delivery service in Mexico City? But it was incredible. Everything they make is. Check out Los Loosers when you’re in the city. Or at least order from them through their facebook page. I want that bread in my life every day, please.
Tour of the Markets – This was a weird highlight of my month. It was so cool seeing the Mexican markets, but I was 110% overwhelmed. I don’t think I could handle shopping there. Our tour went through a few different markets, and, I have to admit, I really enjoyed the flower market. But the bigger markets? Way too full. So much stuff, not enough walking space. And I’ve never felt so tall in my life. But it’s worth seeing.
Local Markets/Gifts – On another note, I LOVED all the local gifts and craftspeople. We met a few different groups and I saw a few while walking around some smaller markets. I bought a necklace from a company called Achi Mariachi and met the owner during a Remote Year event. Go look at their stuff. And, if you’re ever looking for a gift for me, that’s a good place to start.
Eat a Pozole – I had my first pozole at La Casa de Tono. It’s a spicy soup with various meat or vegetarian options. Turns out they don’t eat a lot of tortilla soup there. Tortilla soup (that you would get at “mexican” restaurants in the US) is like tortilla chips or taco bell-sized tacos, a complete Tex Mex food invention. Pozole is one of my favorite authentic foods that I tried though.
Chapultepec Park – I wish I had spent more time in this park. Another reason I have to go back! It’s similar to Central Park in NYC because it’s surrounded by big city buildings. There are lots of smaller park areas inside the park to hang out in and a lot of museums to tour. Just plan to spend at least a day here. Maybe three if you’re feeling ambitious.
Pyramids of Teotihuacan – Here’s my advice: go early in the day, on a weekday, and bring water! Later in the day, the lines to climb the pyramids get really long and really hot. We arrived just after 10am and were able to go straight up on both the Sun and the Moon pyramids – no wait! And buy one of the animal whistles the vendors are selling. Because they’re a lot harder to use than they look!
There’s also a cave restaurant nearby that a lot of tourists go to. We ate lunch there. The food was meh. Very lackluster. But the setting and the atmosphere were so cool. At the end of the meal, we each got to light a candle for the new year and place it farther back in the cave. I don’t think I’d go again, but I’m glad I went.
Lucha Libre – Mexico’s version of wrestling. It’s very similar to the wrestling I grew up watching, but with masks on. It was so fun to watch, and they have HUGE cups of beer if you’re into that kind of thing. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a while. Oh, wait. I did laugh pretty hard earlier in the month when my friend fell halfway into a manhole. Mexico City streets are dangerous! But this was a close second.
Patatas Guapas – Those who know me well know that one of my life dreams is to own a potato shop – similar to Subway, but with various potato types: fried, mashed, baked, tatered, etc. Patatas Guapas is a pretty close version of that dream. They theme their potatoes around various famous women and serve them baked or mashed or on fries. They also have really good milkshakes and the decorations are adorably 50s.
Xochimilco boats – Who knew Mexico City is built on what used to be swamp land? And there used to be canals running through Mexico City? I sure didn’t. But we are lucky enough that some of those canals still exist south of the city center. We rented some boats on the canals for our exit party from Mexico and it was such a cool experience. I’m not really a fan of being stuck on a boat for multiple hours, but they ended up making this a fun outing. We had a mariachi band perform for us. A few smaller boats pulled up along side our boats and made us quesadillas. And at one point there was a conga line going around all three of our boats! It doesn’t even have to be a party thing though! A week or so before that, we had been volunteering on the canals on a bit of farm land. Such a cool ecosystem!
Bellini’s in the World Trade Center – This is a rotating restaurant at the top of one of Mexico City’s tallest buildings. The idea isn’t unique to Mexico City, that’s why it’s at the bottom of the list. But it’s still a cool idea and a cool way to have dinner. There’s something new to look at every second. And the food and drinks are pretty good too. Big portions and way more than we were prepared for. I’d definitely go back when I return!
Recap of my Visit to Orlando*
*because a true recommendation post would take too many words and pictures are more fun anyway
My family is obsessed with Disney Parks. My mom’s family worked at Disney World throughout their lives. My parents (who met in high school) went to Disney Land around prom time. I took my first real human baby steps at Disney World. My sister and I got chicken pox at Disney Land. My parents took my sisters and I to Disney World to tell us we were moving from Ohio to Minnesota. And since then, at least one person from my family has been in a Disney Park at least once a year, usually three or four times. In fact, I worked at Disney World the summer after my college graduation. And my sister just finished a college program assignment in Quick Service Food and moved to Attractions for the spring. Convinced of our obsession yet?
So, of course, when I refused to go back to the frozen northern midwest for Christmas, it only made sense that we all meet in Orlando. Here are some of the highlights of that trip!
Along with being obsessed with Disney, most people know our family to be creative and theatrical. My parents met in high school theater, so it comes as no surprise. We each have varying skill levels, but together we are multiple comedians, singers, dancers, editors, writers, designers, and actors. Starting a couple years ago, we began to turn our family vacations into music videos. Complete with choreographed dances performed in various public places. This year was obviously no different, and here is our final product.
If you haven’t had Chick Fil A, you probably don’t understand the hype. If you’ve had it and still don’t understand my excitement, I need to re-evaluate our friendship. I had a chicken sandwich or chicken nuggets with Chick Fil A sauce and waffle fries three times during my time in Florida. Do I wish I had it more? Absolutely. Am I aware how that makes me sound like a crazy person? Yes, and that doesn’t bother me. I love what I love.
Anyone who is as nerdy as I am about Disney rides (oh, cool, there’s four of us and it’s all people I’m related to? sweet) knows that the Frozen ride in Epcot’s Norway pavilion is a big deal. They took out a really old ride (Matterhorn) to Frozen-ify it. Now, I have a love-hate relationship with the movie. I love Anna. Can’t stand Elsa. So I don’t understand why other people do. I love Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven. I worked in a Frozen themed store in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and was part of Oaken’s extended family. I literally said, “Yoohoo, familyyyyy!” every time a new guest came to my register from our line. Enough gibberish, you say? Cool. Basically, it’s a big deal ride with a long wait time. So, I grabbed my youngest sister and we caught up for an hour to enjoy a two minute ride. My review? Not worth the wait, but really well designed and great technology.
While in Epcot, my family decided to take me back to “Mexico” by eating inside the Mexico pavilion. It was so much fun seeing the obviously-not-authentic menu and trying to teach my family a few Spanish words to say to our waitress. And even though the food wasn’t authentic, it was good. And the pavilion made me miss my temporary December home.
As I mentioned, my sister just finished working in Quick Service Food for the Disney College Program. While we were in Florida, she had a work shift that we got to visit the parks for. I LOVED stalking her while she made funnel cakes. Plus, she wore a BONNET!!! Now I just have to figure out how to get her to make me funnel cakes in the future without the huge vat of oil…
My ultimate favorite park (Disney’s Animal Kingdom – my first placement when I worked there) is open later into the night!! My actual favorite part about working there, besides the friends I made, was walking out of the park around sunset, seeing the Tree of Life all lit up. The park used to close around 5pm at the latest, but is recently shifting to a nighttime version of the park. Now everyone can see the Tree of Life in lights. I approve, Disney.
Disney has redone its Downtown Disney area to be Disney Springs. It’s mostly new restaurants and shops. What I’m a big fan of? This poutine stand. Like, that was the only thing they were really missing in the first place. Big waste of money on everything else, in my opinion. Write that down for next time something seems like it needs a renovation. First, try adding a poutine stand and see if sales and visits increase. That’s probably all that was missing.
Songs of the Month
At the beginning of the month, we were gifted with the Hamilton Mixtape. Here are a few of my favorites from that album (most of them don’t have links, so look for them on YouTube or Spotify!!):
- My Shot by The Roots, Nate Ruess, Joell Ortiz, and Busta Rhimes
- Wrote My Way Out by Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Aloe Blacc
- Wait For It by Usher
- Immigrants by K’NAAN, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente
- Helpless by Ashanti and Ja Rule
- Washingtons By Your Side by Wiz Khalifa
I also was obsessed with How Far I’ll Go by Auli’i Cravalho and We Know The Way by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i from Moana. Hold on a second while I cry a bit about all the feels from that movie.
And now, some Spanish songs we are obsessed with:
- Chantaje by Shakira and Maluma
- La Bicicleta by Carlos Vives and Shakira
- Otra Vez by Zion & Lennox and J Balvin
- Vente Pa’ Ca by Ricky Martin and Maluma
Learnings from the Month
I wasn’t ready to leave Mexico at the end of the month. It’s not the first city where that happened, but it was the first one where I actually kind of dreaded moving on. I felt kind of the same way two summers ago when I first went to Chihuahua, Mexico. I had a crush on the country and its people, food, and culture. And this month in Mexico City made me fall in love with it. Sorry, Scotland, you’ve got some competition for my “favorite country” title.