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  • Travel Challenges
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    5 Days in Mexico City, Mexico (February 2019)

    Ciudad de México

    Hola amigos! I guess thanks again to the flight gods (who may be a little mad at us this year since I haven’t been able to find cheap flights for February or April break trips!), Hubby and I were dictated to travel to Mexico City for our February break last year (~$300/pp on Interjet). Mexico City is vibrant, warm, and culturally and historically immersive, and best of all – super affordable for budget-minded folks like me. In efforts to prepare to be more legit travelers, we both upped time on our Duo-Lingo apps and ultimately got by fine using our basic Spanish and handy Google Translate for additional support. I also binged watched “Made In Mexico” on Netflix… if that counts as preparation as well (I mean, I did take note of the attractions they went to, guey!). More after the jump.

    Day 1 – Sun

    • Flew from JFK -> MEX; landed at 3:35PM
    • Check-in to AirBnB in La Condesa
    • Dinner at La Casa de Toño

    Day 2 – Mon

    • Breakfast at Panificadora Condesa (Bakery)
    • Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán (Teotihuacán Pyramids)
      • Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol)
      • Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna)
      • Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly (Palacio Quetzalpapalotl)
      • Patio de los Jaguares y Caracoles Emplumados
      • Museo de Sitio Teotihuacan
    • Lunch at La Gruta (Restaurant inside a cave!)
    • Dinner at El Tizoncito

    Day 3 – Tue

    • Tianguis de Condesa (Farmer’s Market in La Condesa)
    • Historico Centro
    • National Palace
    • Zocalo
    • Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
    • Templo Mayor
    • House of Tiles
    • Churreria El Moro (Chocolate Churros)
    • Chinatown
    • Lunch at random street cart near Chinatown
    • Dinner at El Pescadito
    • Lucha Libre at Arena México

    Day 4 – Wed

    • Chapultepec Park
    • Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec)
    • National History Museum (inside the castle)
    • Lunch at El Huequito (Condesa Location)
    • Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología)
    • Dinner at El Califa

    Day 5 – Thu

    • Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
    • Lunch at “Burrito Y Taco Chu-Chin” near train station
    • Walk around La Condesa
    • Dinner at El Tizoncito

    Day 6 – Fri

    • MEX -> JFK at 9:45AM

    Accommodations

    As I did some research, I narrowed it down to two areas that I wanted to stay in, based on the majority of the activities we did – Centro Historico or near Chapultepec Park. I heard La Condesa was a trendy/chic and family-friendly neighborhood right next to the park, and we figured it’d be nice to have the option of walking the park if we were bored; thus, we chose La Condesa. We have really grown fond of AirBnBs so we found one that was right across the park that was also modern and cheap: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22797304. Location was nearby the train (only $5 pesos!), multiple convenience stores, restaurants, bakery and grocery store. It’s also less than 10 minute walk into the Chapultepec park. Uber is also really cheap around CDMX; I can’t recall paying more than $5 USD for a ride, except to/from the airport… which was like $8 USD for a 30 minute ride. Muy bien.

    Things We Did

    1. Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán (Teotihuacán Pyramids)

    On top of the Pyramid of the Moon, looking at the Pyramid of the Sun

    This was on the top of our list and we read that the earlier in the day and week we visited, the better since it gets super crowded. There are tours you can book that will take you here but we didn’t like to be restrained to the tour’s itinerary and timing so we challenged ourselves to get here on our own… which wasn’t bad at all (this article helped). Plus, we beat all the tour groups and saved monies! On this day, we ate a quick breakfast at the nearby bakery, packed some water, granola bars and sunscreen and took a 20 minute Uber to Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte around 7:15AM. Once at the bus terminal, we went to Puerta (gate) 8 (has a sign that says Piramides) and bought round trip bus tickets. They told us what bay the bus would be at. Finding the right bus to board was probably the most challenging part, only because we initially didn’t see our bus anywhere and kept asking tourists and staff if our ticket matched the bus line they were on. The correct bus finally parked and also, I believe it had a sign that said Piramides on it. Boarded and boom, around an hour later, we got off at Puerta 1 (the bus driver also shouted Piramides). Once you buy entrance tickets, you’ll be able to visit multiple sites inside. It gets very warm with minimal shade so prepare wisely. The pyramid climbs weren’t strenuous but the steps were steep. We exited the area and ate lunch at La Gruta, which was really cool eating inside a cave. Details in the next section. Leaving, we returned to Puerta 2 and walked through the parking lot to the main road, where there was a bus stop sign (and others waiting).

    • Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol)
    • Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna)
    • Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly (Palacio Quetzalpapalotl)
    • Patio de los Jaguares y Caracoles Emplumados
    • Museo de Sitio Teotihuacan
    Avenue of the Dead is the main strip that connects the sights together.

    2. Tianguis de Condesa (Farmer’s Market in La Condesa)

    Our AirBnB host actually told us about this street market that only pops up on Tuesdays, for 3 blocks in west Condesa. We didn’t buy anything but surely window-shopped fresh fruits, vegetables and other goods.

    3. The Angel of Independence (Paseo de la Reforma)

    4. Historico Centro

    Metropolitan Cathedral was pretty

    This area had several points of interest, all walkable to each other.

    • Zocalo
    • National Palace (didn’t go inside, need tickets to tour)
    • Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
    • Templo Mayor (didn’t go inside, need tickets)
    • House of Tiles (Casa de los Azulejos)
    • Chinatown (super small and totally non-authentic but I have to pay homage to every Chinatown in each city)
    House of Tiles

    5. Lucha Libre at Arena México

    The place was jumpin’ (sorry for poor quality)

    Growing up as a WWE fan, this was a must for me. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top, overly dramatic. It’s super fun. Most wrestlers wear masks but it’s pretty clear who the good guy and bad guy are in each match. You cheer and boo and scream. It’s a grand ole time. They have multiple shows throughout the week, only on certain days of the week, at various arenas. Arena Mexico hosts shows on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday nights. We bought tickets at the ticket window and sat fairly close to the front, for like $20. The area around the arena isn’t the best I hear, so right after the show, we just Ubered back to the Airbnb.

    6. Chapultepec Park

    View of the city from the castle

    This park is pretty big, filled with multiple sights to see. There are also vendors inside the park, selling food, drinks, snacks and other knick-knacks. Bring your student/teacher IDs because they give you discounts

    • Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec)
    • National History Museum (Galería de Historia… inside the castle)
    • Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología)

    7. Floating Gardens of Xochimilco

    Decorative boats

    “The Venice of Mexico”. Very touristy but hey, we’re tourists and it looked awesome. We took 2 trains to get to Xochimilco. The second train required a separate ticket but you couldn’t buy it from the machines and no staff member was working the window either. So, you have to find a kind soul with money on their train card to swipe you in (and you give them the $3 pesos fare in cash). Kind of awkward but the natives were super nice and knew exactly what situation we were in. Once off the train, we walked to one of the embarcaderos that had signage leading up to it from the train. We knew we needed to barter for a boat ride and there are stories of people getting ripped off.. but for our experience that morning, it was very early, there were no other customers and only 1-2 boats there. The rates are per boat, not person, so if your party is small, it’s not the best value. This article was pretty helpful in explaining what to expect. The first company gave us a really expensive quote so we walked. The second company caught us on our way out and got us for a 30-minute ride… forgot how much. The ride was pretty cool and I do wish it was longer but the price they wanted wasn’t worth it. Maybe a larger group would have made it out better.

    Where We Ate

    Yelp had a fair following in CDMX. I also checked TripAdvisor for restaurant reviews. I ate a lot of tacos. Like a lot.

    La Casa de Toño
    I think we had to wait 15 minutes; pretty busy place but turnover is fast. For our first meal in Mexico, based off of Trip Advisor recs, we ordered a chicken and beef tostada, 3 tacos de cochinita pibil (pork tacos), and 1 chicken pozole. We also got an order of the chicharron (crispy pork rinds) to try. I remember it being a good meal; I didn’t love the chicken pozole but it was good to try.

    Panificadora Condesa (Bakery)
    Mexican bakery goods are cheap and tasty. I don’t think they match the Chinese bakery buns/treats (I’m definitely biased) but they were great breakfast and snack items in Mexico. My favorite bun was the concha.

    La Gruta

    La Gruta (Restaurant inside a cave!)
    People call it a tourist trap but I thought the food + ambiance were good. We went for a late lunch so we didn’t have a wait at all. Service wasn’t terrible but it took a while to get our food. The food was slightly more expensive than other places because the restaurant was inside a freaking cave! It’s actually average US prices so it’s really not too bad. Plus, free chips and salsa with your meal. I had the flank steak fajitas and hubby had some kind of meat wrapped in leaves. Sorry, we don’t remember!

    Lunch at La Gruta
    I love that the al pastor tacos here came with a piece of pineapple

    El Tizoncito
    Free chips and salsa/dips here. Tacos al pastor were delicious and cheap. We came here twice.

    We saw this place in Somebody Feed Phil and it looked amazing.

    Churreria El Moro
    This place is famous for its hot churros, accompanied by a thick chocolate dipping sauce.

    Hearty pile of toppings on top of my seafood tacos

    El Pescadito
    Best fish/seafood tacos over hur. Okay, I guess it’s not fair for me to say best because I only had one place but it was crazy good and cheap… and highly rated. They have a toppings bar where you can customize your taco after ordering.

    El Huequito
    Average tacos/tortas. Convenient since it was close to the park and on the next block from our AirBnB.

    El Califa
    Chain restaurant; much more “English” friendly but tacos were only okay.

    Cooked right in front of us.

    Burrito Y Taco Chu-Chin
    We stumbled upon this small shop on our way to the Xochimilco train station to head back. Really cheap and good tacos and tortas! Outside the shop, there was a lady selling sweet fresh mangos too.

    *Honorable Mentions* Not restaurants but definitely try different juices and snacks around the city on street carts! I had at least one fresh orange juice every day. I tried to find good elotes and dorilocos but I failed.

    Other Places We Didn’t Go To

    We weren’t really interested in visiting these places but they were pretty popular on various recommended itineraries/blogs.

    • Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo’s house) – need tickets in advance
    • National Art Museum (Museo Nacional De Arte)
    • Modern Art Museum (Museo de Arte Moderno)
    • Basilica de Guadalupe
    • Alameda Park
    • Panaderia Rosetta
    • Paseo de la Reforma
    • Roma Norte Neighborhood
    • Coyoacan Neighborhood
    • San Angel Neighborhood
    • Palacio Postal (Postal Palace)
    • Mercado de San Juan
    • Chapultepec Zoo
    • Palacio de Bellas Artes

    Until next time; hasta luego!

    xoxo Eileen

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