For many years Marité and I, had thought about visiting Mexico. We had visited many times our neighboring country to the north, Canada, but for one reason or for another, we hadn’t got around to visit our southern bordering country. Early this year, we finally made the decision to visit Mexico. I started to my usual research and we decided that a good time to travel would be early in May. However, the sudden illness of Marité’s brother put our plans on hold. She had to fly back to Buenos Aires and be with him and her family, until he sadly passed away.
Furthermore, after Marité returned from Buenos Aires, the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico City put a further damp to us going there. Nevertheless, after we analyzed the situation we figured that the matter had been overblown, especially by the press; thus, we decided that this time (late Spring) was good as any other time. Perhaps, even better than other times: we wouldn’t find too many tourists and the prices would be more enticing for “daring” tourists like us. (The first assumption was true, the second not so much.)
So, on June 2, 2009 and after a pleasant 5-hour flight we arrived at Mexico City’s International airport. Less than an hour later, we were checking-in in a comfortable hotel in the Zona Rosa of the Federal District (D.F.)
We stayed in Mexico City 8 days, and visited most of the sites that Frommer’s Travel Guide and some of our friends that had lived in Mexico (thanks Nancy, María Esmeralda and Raúl!) recommended us.
We found that Mexico City has an excellent (and inexpensive) public transportation system. The subway is modern, fast and the trains run with very short intervals between each of them. Although we had been warned that they are always very crowded, we didn’t find it so. What they hadn’t warned us about, were the vendors of pirated musical CDs, who offer they wares with blaring portable systems while crossing the length of the cars. Sometimes it was pretty annoying.
Talking about vendors: we never saw so many street vendors as we saw in Mexico City. Any place you walk about you will find them. They offer food, drinks, souvenirs, and a myriad of other stuff. The city appears to be a wide open market.
Besides the subway (called Metro in Mexico) there is a transportation system called Metro Bus, with articulated buses that run on exclusive lines on busy avenues, such as one called Insurgentes. This avenue (reputed to be the longest in the World) is 28 kms long (18.8 mi) from North to South, crossing 5 of the 16 Mexico City’s colonias (boroughs). It is a good thing the Metro Buses use exclusive lines because traffic on Insurgentes Avenue, most of the times, is like traffic on 42nd Street at rush hour.
Actually traffic in Mexico City (at least in the downtown areas) is maddening. The many avenues and boulevards are congested at any time of the day. Traffic police (sometimes 3 or 4 of them) at many intersections whistle constantly trying to keep the vehicles moving. Pedestrians are usually left to their own devices. Mexicans don’t seem to mind. We observed many pedestrians, either darting between heavy, but slow traffic or calmly crossing streets in front of rushing incoming vehicles.
Continuing with public transportation, we also tried the Peseros, (called so because they use to charge one peso for trip) that crisscross the city. These are generally old minibuses, which don’t seem to be regulated by any transportation authority, but appear to be very popular among the native population.
We didn’t try the trolebus (electric cable bus), which is a non-polluting transportation network that covers more than 450 kms of distance in the city. But, we took the similar, but more modern tren ligero (light train) that runs on rails and serves the southern part of Mexico City, ending in Xochimilco (see the Attractions section).
Food and drink
We were not too adventurous when it came to food and drink, although we ate in some good Mexican restaurants and tried several dishes of their varied cuisine. But, due to our digestive problems we had to be careful of what we ate, especially the spicy stuff. Luckily, the waiting staff was always helpful trying to cater to our needs. (See note below.)
Although wine is not very popular in Mexico, we tried some decent domestic and imported brands. However, I did prefer to have my meals with beer, which is very good down there.
Water, always in a bottle, cold and without ice. Even though, in some occasions, when they didn’t have cold water we accepted ice, as our waiter assured us that it was made from purified water. It must have been true, as we avoided “Monteczuma’s Revenge.”
We also made sure that we would wash our teeth with bottled water. Both hotels, were we stayed, did provide us with two small bottles of water daily.
Note: We found that Mexicans, especially those that are engaged in the service industry, are generally very polite and helpful. They are also very proud of their history and traditions, and will engage in animated conversations about any topic. They appreciate if you show interest about their culture and will try to answer any questions that you may have about it.