Mexico City: The Unicorn Card

I’m moving to Mexico City. The End.

Before my recent trips to Mexico City and Oaxaca, I had only experienced the quintessential winter escapes to Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo. These glimpses into our neighbor’s yard were enough to make me fall in love with the people, crave authentic Mexican cuisine, and want to see more of “real” Mexico.

CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) and Oaxaca had been on our short list for a while, but it was always floating just beyond immediate grasp. It’s one of those rare places that has the perfect equation for a no-brainer trip: new culture, new adventure, delicious food, relatively easy flight, and affordable on ground. Not to mention, the people are awesome and you have your choice of city, outdoor, beach, or rural life . It was like a rare unicorn card, and I almost wanted to keep it in my back pocket for as long as I could- you know, for travel bug emergencies. 😉

CDMX always fell in limbo between an easy, long weekend trip and a more committed trip down to Oaxaca. Who knew I would do both within two months!

For our one year anniversary, Ross organized a long weekend in Mexico City. In our 4 days, we felt like we did it all. We wandered the entire city by foot, stuffed ourselves with every delicious street food we came across, dined at the best restaurants in the World, experienced nightlife, went shopping for crafts, explored markets, ate ice cream, discovered cafes, saw the beauty of urban life, observed socioeconomic disparity, witnessed the devastation of the recent earthquakes, absorbed the warmth of the people … and we loved every moment.

Tune in for CDMX 2.0 + Oaxaca, Sisters’ Trip! It was a completely different tune.

IMG_2483What to Know: Mexico is the shit. Whatever preconceived notions you have about Mexico, throw them out the window, and get ready to be wow-ed. CDMX is a very urban and modern city. It’s safe. It offers a breadth of experiences through its food, architecture, and people. You’ll see the clear pride and deep roots in their culture and history, all the while embracing surprising levels of modernity. Get excited!

Travel Logistics: 34 days was perfect for Mexico City. Ross and I flew out Friday after work over Columbus Day Weekend, and flew back Tuesday evening. We went in October, and the weather was perfect. My sister was in CDMX for 4 days, and I flew the next day for 3, in early December. The weather was just as perfect as October.39302005-C385-4DFA-9DC3-C484176FBE18 2What to Pack: Don’t expect hot, humid, beach weather. Mexico City is in the mountains, so expect cooler temperatures. We had perfect fall weather: light leather jacket or sweater to throw on and off during the day, definitely needed at night. Pack comfy shoes, you’ll be walking, and a pair of heels for night. I packed lightly but perfectly for the weekend. In general, I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to be flashy, but in retrospect, I could have upped my wardrobe a bit. Aside from the usual travel leggings, tee, and cap which transitions nicely for casual morning walks, I packed outfits that were easy to walk around in: an outfit that transitioned nicely from day to night, a casual day outfit that paired well with sneakers, a dress for a nice dinner, and a pair of jeans, a sweater and tee just in case. Basically, what I would wear in New York. Good choice, as it was definitely an urban, walking city.


Where to Stay: AirBnB is hands down the best option in CDMX. We were amazed by the number of quality options – newly built, modern architecture with delicious interior design. I mean, swoon, the homemaker in me died a little as I combed the options. Our apartment was sickkkk. Our USD$ went a long way, so we went a little extra for our anniversary and rented a 3 story townhouse to ourselves. Check out the beautiful windows, private outdoor space, and if only I had pictures of the interior design. It was the perfect place to rest in-between our jaunts around the city, and have a little mezcal-hammock break. We love a good hammock.

I stayed in La Condesa both times. Ross and I loved our neighborhood, but also loved Roma Norte. My sister thought we had to walk too far from La Condesa, and would have preferred being closer to Roma Norte.

How to Get Around: Ross and I loved wandering the city by foot, going from one neighborhood to the next. Uber is also available in Mexico, and so affordable. My sister and I Uber’d everywhere the second time around. Traffic and air pollution can be pretty bad.

Local Tips There are mixed reviews about the tap water, err on the side of caution and buy bottled water (IMO). Tip (10-15%). We went to one restaurant where the waiter suggested 20% – which is higher than average – but in the end, it’s usually not much. While I felt safe on both trips, always have your city wits and be mindful of your personal items.

Travel Tips Exchange MXP$. While credit cards are widely accepted, it’s always good to have pesos on hand, especially for all the street food you are going to want!! Uber from the airport, very convenient, very cheap.

What to Eat: This trip was all about eating. See below and next entry for more detail

  • Street Food heaven
  • Modern Food ingenious
  • Baked goods better than Paris… 😍
  • Ice cream my favorite food group
  • Tequila, Mezcal, Pulque olé, also see next entry

Shopping: Handmade crafts, art, and more…

JPEG image-49CCCD8BA7CF-1
If only he looked at me the way he looks at food…😍

Day 1: Street Food, Wander, Fine Dining. Wake up in your awesome AirBnb because you flew in late last night. It’s early, you gained an hour traveling from NY, so you’re one hour ahead of schedule. The whole day is ahead of you, so throw on some comfy clothes, a cap to hide that nest, you’ll shower later, grab your favorite eating partner, and go for a morning walk. Let’s find  breakfast!

Don’t overthink it, but don’t overdo it. Every time we saw something that made our eyes light up, we got it – just one though, we need to pace ourselves!, I said. We walked by a couple stands where locals sat under sidewalk tents, enjoying breakfast before a day’s work. Locals are always a good sign. We got a delicious sope con pastor, just a snack. We wandered off another block and found a delicious bakery 😍 this is where the “just one” rule goes out the window. I’m a sucker for pastries! We ordered two… and then another to go. We did not make it more than 1-2 blocks at a time. IMG_2355.jpgWe wandered through the western ends of Condesa, and found our spot. A corner with the most delicious tacos, fresh juices, and other Mexican deliciousness. We never would have come across this corner crowded with locals if we hadn’t wandered through the most random roads. Grab a stool, stuff your face, stay a while. At this point we were near the Bosque de Chapultepec, so we took a leisurely stroll through the park, back to our apartment, where we lounged around, got decent, and decided where to wander off to next.49A3E4A2-404F-4C3E-86AF-4A76F0F98208.jpgWe took an Uber down to Bazaar Sabado, San Angel, a Saturday market great for people watching and treasure hunting. Plaza San Jacinto is filled with art stalls, my kind of heaven. From there we walked towards Mercado de Coyoacan. In retrospect we should have taken an Uber; though it was only a 30 minute walk, it wasn’t very scenic, and our feet started to hurt. MamazotasThat said, I would not have discovered the most charming and delicious gluten free/vegan bakery that had just opened a few months earlier, Las Mamazotas Kitchen ❤ How absolutely darling? The pecan tart was phenomenal. Now, this just goes to show you the wide variety that Mexico City has to offer. I went from having pastries for I don’t even know, less than $1, pretty sure we had 3 pastries and coffee for less than $5 in the morning, to having one slice of GFV pecan tart and coffee for $12 – more than (or close to) NY! The socioeconomic populations vary greatly…IMG_2436Mercado de Coyoacan is bustling with all kinds of tiendas, and it is snack heaven. The most notable thing here is the ESQUITES. OH BABY. I could eat these street corn cups alllll day. 😭 Now I really want esquites.

Off to Polanco. A quick Uber, shoe change, refresh, and Uber ride later, we were in Polanco, the upscale neighborhood of CDMX. So remember when I said I didn’t want to be too flashy in Mexico City? Well, this neighborhood… I mean, here I am in my day to evening outfit: a playful DVF skirt, my understated Celine trio, my black MB pumps, and vintage Valentino earrings for pizzazz, thinking I think this is the right amount of understated, and not too flashy – are the earrings too much? And then I go to Polanco, and there are women decked in Chanel, Christian Louboutin, and all kinds of sparkles. So… yea. Take note of the social construct.

IMG_6073We had drinks at a gin cocktail lounge before heading over to our dinner reservations at the famed Quintonil, one of the World’s top 50 restaurants.

About the gin lounge real quick – don’t go to a gin cocktail bar when you’re in Mexico City. Especially if you know a thing or two about gin, and cocktails. Though it was close to dinner and got stellar reviews, it’s definitely more a hit with locals who are willing to pay extra for imported gin. We wanted tequila, mezcal, and pulque!

Anyway, QUINTONIL. What a meal, I highly recommend it. 11-12 courses, modestly priced at around $100ish per person before drinks, this meal was so worth it. If you’re going to take something that is so classic, like Mexican food, and put a modern twist to it – you better freakin’ do it right. And they did.

So funny story about this dish that’s pictured here. The waiter described it as avocado tartare with caviar. Mmm, doesn’t that sound delicious? So here I am, eating this course, and I am someone who really gets curious about my food. So there are these round, white, pearl-like ingredients, and I isolate it to figure out what it is. I’m chewing it, and I can’t figure it out. So I call the waiter over – Excuse me, what is this? It’s the caviar. But not fish caviar. Oh…? What kind of caviar then? Ant eggs. Cue gag reflex. No, but it was good. Seriously, fabulous meal.

Bendita Paleta, in Mercado Roma

Day 2: Discovering Local Life. Another leisurely morning in Mexico City. We got ready for the day and ventured off for a day of wandering. What do you think the first stop was? A bakery, of course. García Madero. I got a pear spiced pain au raisin- it was so good, I literally said, mejor que Paris (better than Paris). Dudes – Mexican bakeries ARE DA SHIET. Trust me, I was born eating pastries. I was so so sad when I went back in December – I literally walked by this place every morning, and it was never open. I think they closed… 😩

IMG_2222Continuing our walk through Condesa to Roma Norte, we stumbled across a Japanese grocery store where we grabbed a Japanese-Mexican snack because… why not. This was the moment when I was like… OK, Asian groceries, I could totally live here. Little did I know I would soon stumble into Koreatown. *Mind blown* Immediate convert, where do I sign up. We even walked by an Indonesian restaurant – pretty cool.

It was so nice to casually wander the local neighborhoods. We grabbed coffee and a snack at Panadería Rosetta, a very popular local favorite. We had awesome ice cream at Mercado Roma, a hip food hall you definitely need to check out. These places are so hip, I almost forgot I was in another country, let alone a different city. It’s such a livable city.

So here we are, wandering these local neighborhoods, everything is so beautiful and charming, and then you have a sudden reminder – you almost forget about the devastating earthquake that hit just a few weeks ago. But sure enough, there are buildings and homes that have completely collapsed, and then you start to notice the cracks in foundations, and reno that is not just day-to-day NYC construction. Crazy. I asked a friend who lives in CDMX if I could bring anything with me to donate, but I think it will just come down to rebuilding.

Day 3: Markets & PUJOL. We checked out La Ciudadela for traditional Mexican handcrafts, and Mercado de San Juan, a huge food market, great for fresh fruit, fish, meats and cheese. Grab a snack at one of the tapas bars – wine is included with your tapas! We went to the Antiques Center Plaza del Angel before stopping at Café Nin for a cocktail and snack.

IMG_2565After a cultural exchange (see below), we hurried home to freshen up and head to our anniversary dinner at Pujol, one of the World’s top 50 restaurants. Fantastic. First, the space is breathtaking. Second, the food is phenomenal. I have to say though… I’ve been to Cosme in NYC twice (same chef), and I was never impressed. I revisited more recently after CDMX, to make sure it wasn’t an off day for my taste buds, but there is something about the food… maybe it’s catered to an American palate? Pujol, on the other hand, was excellent, so if you are a fan of Cosme, you will definitely love Pujol.

Day 4: Walk around, eat delicious vegan chilaquiles at Vegamo, revisit street food corner, fly home.

Happy Anniversary to my amazing husband, you are the best.

IMG_0127Cultural Exchange. Our favorite moments when traveling are when we encounter a meaningful exchange with someone local. And usually, somehow, we end up in their homes…

After ice cream at Mercado Roma the day before, we had come across a little lady on the sidewalk, with beautiful handmade crafts on her blanket. She caught our attention, one because her crafts were so beautiful and so clearly hand made with bright beading that were individually applied, but she was also striking. Her facial features, her traditional garb, her silent energy, all drew us in. Then we met her husband who was equally striking and fascinating. I had said to Ross, just think about it, we can come back tomorrow. (Just about the worst thing you can say when you’re traveling) We said we would come back tomorrow, and got their phone number.

After all the markets the next day, Ross said he was still thinking about these hand carved, beaded crafts (la chaquira) we had walked by the day before. So I called our friend, and he didn’t pick up. Oh man… We went to Mercado Roma, and they weren’t there. So we got ice cream, and we called him again, and again, and he eventually picked up! He came to meet us, and invited us to his home a few blocks away.

Home grown peyote

Cooool. So first, it’s always a unique experience to be invited into someone’s home, and see how a local lives. This couple was particularly interesting, because he and his wife are of direct Huichol descent, an indigenous people of northern Mexico. Guys, wiki this. It’s so interesting! He was telling us he is a shaman, and peyote is one of their deities, and he goes on vision quests where all of his art work comes from- visions. He even grows his own peyote. HOW COOL. We were so happy to have learned so much in our exchange, and have the honor of purchasing crafts with so much meaning. If you ever see these two around Mercado Roma, support their art and their culture!

Writing this entry on CDMX brings so much nostalgia. We really loved this trip, and we can’t wait to go back. Remember how I posed the rhetorical question, where do New Yorkers go after New York? Honestly there are only 3 cities we would live in – Paris, Buenos Aires, and now at the top of our list, Mexico City.

Tune in for CDMX Part 2, when I return with my sister < 2 months later, and fall in love with Oaxaca!

  • 2014: 1 Week / 2-3-Winter / Family Trip / Playa Del Carmen
  • 2015: Week / 3-Winter / Family Trip / Playa Del Carmen
  • 2017: 4 Day Long Weekend / 10-Fall / 1 Year Anniversary / Mexico City
  • 2017: 1.5 Weeks / 12-Fall / Sisters’ Trip / Mexico City + Oaxaca + Puerto Escondido

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