Impromptu escape to Mexico City for Christmas
When my (secret) plans to escape to the snowcapped Himalayas and train to be a ninja and spend the holidays with my family went downhill, I fell into an emotional rut. Thank you, US visa complications! After getting the vaccinations required for mexico, on a whim, I just booked a one-way ticket to Mexico city. Common sense dictated that I stay put in the US because I didn’t know if I could re-enter the US or afford to fly to India from Mexico city without selling both my kidneys. Of course logic didn’t prevail and I just hopped on the flight and headed straight to Mexico’s capital. My idea was to spend a night in Mexico city and take the first bus out to Guanajuato the next morning. Guanajuato is a former silver-mining town about five hours way from the city and Christmas was around the corner. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I love to see how people from different countries celebrate it, especially Mexicans with their nine days of posadas and piñatas (More about this later!). I had myself booked into a villa similar to these mexico villa rentals and ready to enjoy my vacation.
Oh no, you didn’t!!
I sat next to an Indian businessman on the flight to Mexico City. He was flabbergasted when I told him I was traveling to Mexico city all by myself and I didn’t know a single soul there or speak Spanish. He warned me of the crime, corruption, and drug rings and asked me not to venture out much (As if!). Not that I didn’t know of that already, but I was a bit shaken. What had I done? Would I be safe?
En route to Zocalo
Around 11:30 pm, we began to descend into the 20 million-strong metropole. From above, it seemed like there was no limit to the vast bejeweled city, twinkling in all its glory as it sprawled on endlessly. Strangely I felt a bit more empowered seeing that, it was almost like the city radiated strength and energy even at that time of the hour.
Upon landing, I booked a taxi at the airport to take me to my hostel in the downtown area of Zocalo. The taxi weaved the silent roads and alleys for half an hour before dropping me in front of my hostel. My first impression of Mexico city was that it reminded me so much of Chennai, my hometown in India. The roads, the massive billboards on buildings, the casual disdain for traffic rules and lights, the smells, the sounds, punctuated by the howls of sleepy stray dogs, I couldn’t believe I was only two hours away from the US. Everything seemed so foreign and yet so familiar at the same time. Regardless of narrow-minded BS I had heard in the past few hours, I decided to take a chance on this city, just like what the Aztecs had. The legend goes that the Aztec chiefs were instructed in a vision from the gods to settle where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its mouth. That place turned out to be the Zocalo, the main plaza in Mexico City and the second biggest central square of any city in the world. I could hardly believe my 6$ hostel was smack-dab in the middle of this historical plaza. I checked in and walked into my 4-bed dorm, I was greeted with the most amazing view from the window: the silhouette of the Metropolitan cathedral in the heart of the Zocalo.
I saw a few guards strolling the plaza, so I felt safe and braved a midnight walk around the plaza. I bought a few bottles of water in a corner grocery store and got a harsh down-stare from the store owner. I think I look kind of Mexican, shadily showed up at that hour and didn’t speak Spanish, perhaps she thought I was playing a prank on her lol. Then, I walked to the cathedral and saw the gigantic bedecked Christmas tree in front. After drinking in the sights of the silent plaza for a few minutes, I retired to my creaking bunk bed in the dorm, trying my best not make a sound and miserably failing. Thankfully all the other girls there were fast asleep and very soon I passed out too, exhausted but excited.
Buenos días México!
I woke up early next morning to see a soft sunrise behind the cathedral and made a plan to explore the Zocalo area for two hours before heading to the bus stand to take my bus to Guanajuato. Merry decorations hung over the Zócalo’s buildings, surrounding the giant Christmas tree in the middle of the plaza and giving a festive mood to the area. It was clear that the plaza was the beating heart of city’s capital. Within a few steps, I saw majestic colonial buildings and in no time, the plaza began to swarm with dapper executives, school children, and fashionistas, as well as street food vendors, makeshift shoe-polish stations, demonstrators, and Aztec dancers. It was noisy, chaotic, and wonderful. Then I meandered through the back alleys behind the palatial buildings, helped myself to a healthy churro breakfast. When in Mexico, right?
Here are some postcards from my wanders:
Back to Mexico City for 24 hours
After a week in Guanajuato, I spent 24 hours in Mexico city before flying back to Atlanta. More photos and stories about that in a subsequent post. In a nutshell, I ate my weight in Mexican street food,
attending a traditional Posada with Marisol and her small family of 150 odd people,
and last but not least, I checked out the Teotihuacan pyramids on the outskirts of the city. YAS, there are pyramids outside Egypt and YOU MUST GO.
Adios amigos and drop me a note if you enjoyed these photos, sì? 🙂