The majority of our second week was spent doing as little as possible apart from a trip across to Isla Mujeres and casually overcoming my fear of the sea (I wouldn’t say we’re best mates yet, but we’re acquaintances now, rather than the enemies we once were).
The very end of our last week saw us leave our airbnb (can’t say we’d entirely recommend it, so won’t post the details here) and head off to Mexico City. The rest of our journey down through Central America will take 65 days from our arrival in ‘CDMX’ and we’ll be guided by Intrepid Travel on their Complete Central America tour. We arrived a day ahead of the tour beginning so did some research on places nearby to our first hotel and set off exploring on our own.
That first night we discovered that food and drink is really reasonably priced; ok so we’re Londoners and almost anywhere other than London seems cheap to us but seriously, it’s very cheap. We wandered the local area trying to decide where to grab some dinner and came across The Patio Container. The concept is that you sit where you like and order from any of the surrounding containers and the food/drink is brought to you – similar to the street food stalls you might find in Asia. In London, they’d have made us pay at each container and take our own food across to our tables. Is it just me that feels the rest of the world are so much more trusting when it comes to payment of bills in these sort of open markets?
We settled on sharing some tacos and ‘gringas’ (a sort of toasted flatbread) and ordered ourselves a couple of cervezas, in particular ‘Victoria’ which is local to Mexico and really good! The cost of the beers worked out at less than £1.50 a bottle, so in the end we had 2 each. We know how to live. In fact, the whole bill was around £10 and we left full!
The next morning we set off from our hotel to find some breakfast and soon discovered that Mexicans do not rise early. At 9am we were fairly alone in the streets and were the first to sit down in the cafe we eventually decided upon. The cheap food streak continued. In Mexico many cafes offer ‘Desayuno’ for a fixed price which includes coffee and fruit or fruit juice. That morning we had two huge plates of eggs, freshly squeezed juices, sampled the bread from one of the 3(!) baskets they left us on our table (bread, tortillas and pastries) and enjoyed a couple of coffee refills each. The total bill was less than a fiver.
Because it was right around the corner from breakfast, we headed to Museo Memoria y Tolerancia (Museum of Memory and Tolerance). I have so many thoughts on it that I’m still now struggling to put in to words. It’s main focus is the history of the world’s recognised genocides with a small end section on how we should tolerate others no matter what their religion/race/sex/physical ability/sexuality/gender et al.
I know what you’re thinking, what an uplifting way to start! But if you ever have chance to go, please do (it’s free and an audio guide costs 100 pesos each – about £3.80 as at Jan 2018). It is haunting and shocking and holds a mirror up to the face of humanity in the blunt way that the subject deserves. We may well know the general history of our world’s genocides, but there is nothing more sobering than reading about them all in detail. A point the museum reminds us of in particular is that these atrocities were not committed by uneducated, angry people, they were committed by very clever, highly educated people who planned their actions and intended to take steps to wipe out whole races of people. We were reminded that by not engaging in what is happening in our world we may be standing by while our fellow humans are treated in this way. Could apathy towards world events be almost criminal? The phrase ‘never again’ has been used many times in relation to genocide, yet the people of Darfur are living through it as I type.
After the museum we felt we should wander in the fresh air for a while to lighten our moods, so we explored the historical centre some more and ate lunch next to a bunch of street performers. We spent the rest of our afternoon wandering towards the Zocalo (the main square that many Mexican cities have) and having a bit of a scuffle with a pickpocket.
It was soon time to head back to our hotel for our tour’s welcome meeting. We met our tour leader Edwin, otherwise known as ‘Vin’, and our fellow travellers and went out all together for a group dinner at Cafe de Tacuba (the oldest restaurant in the city). We tried ‘tamales’ and shared a mixed platter of local foods which we matched with a Mezcal cocktail (when in Mexico, etc.). During dinner we were serenaded by a talented group of mariachi, which he enjoyed very much!
Our final stop of the night (and Week 2) was Garibaldi Plaza. This square is home to every Mariachi band in CDMX (at least, that was how it sounded). We all piled in to a bar in which 3 or 4, maybe more, Mariachi bands were competing for each table’s requests for tunes. At times 2 bands would be playing different songs side by side; a real assault on the senses! It was mostly full of locals (the area was actually one we’d been advised not to visit unaccompanied) who had bottles of spirits on the table and had clearly settled in for the night. With a big group of friends (girls, I’m looking at you) this could be a very fun night out! The Mariachi’s had their own dance routines and really put everything in to their performances. We stayed for a couple of songs, enjoyed a beer then made our way back to the hotel.