When I arrive into a foreign country by plane, I always find the trip from the airport to my hotel, one big blur. I try to take it all in, but all the buildings and billboards, and cars and colours all just mash past and flash up so that there are no details, just a vague sense of the place. This is especially the case, when you’re zipping in and out of traffic in a terrifying manner in a beat up old car at 90km / hour.
My friend Christian came to my hotel to pick me up. I had met Christian in Wollongong five or six years ago, when he was studying at the University where i worked. Christian’s half Mexican and half Cuban. His father was a very famous featherweight boxer. Christian is one of Mexico’s true gentlemen. I teared up when I saw him. I think because, while we talked about it years ago – I just never really believed that one day I would be visiting him in his home town. I was in goddamn freaking Mexico!
The City spans an area of approx 1500 sq km, which is approximately the size of Hobart. There are some 8.8 million people living in Mexico City compared to about 212,000 in Hobart.
So it’s a good thing, my friend knows this city like the back of his hand. He immediately hailed a cab to a pretty area called Coyoacan. Because I was absolutely starving, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in one of the little makeshift market places, where pop-up kitchens were moving Mexican morsels quicker than your local bartender can open a Modela Special.
We then made our way to a gorgeous old stone building housing a restaurant and bar which overlooked a park, where families strolled around with balloons, and young lovers sat on park benches, kissing and canoodling.
We caught up over cervezas and mezcal cocktails, while deflecting the attention of street urchins selling candy and trinkets and things we had no need for. We bantered with them, gave them our orange slices, and sent them on their way – they seemed pleased enough with that.
Claire later called to say she was in town and so Christian saw me back to the hotel which I had booked for us two gals. Claire would have to be one of most favorite people; and she had changed her flights just so she could see me for a few days. I was most complimented and very excited to be seeing her again.
She had been travelling throughout Mexico and South America for more than a year now, and her Spanish was most impressive. She had so many stories to tell and some good advice to give me.
As she climbed into her bed, she sighed over how luxurious the place was. As i climbed into bed, I told her i thought we were going to have very different nights, as it was possibly one of the hardest mattresses i’d ever slept on. And having come from the Intercontifuckingnental… I just wasn’t sure how i was going to deal. She called me a princess. We laughed.
We hung out for the next four days, doing a lot of that, as well as eating, drinking, shopping, gossiping, philosophizing, and just generally talking shit.
On Sunday, we cruised around Centro Historico, saw the Catedral, got a juice (you can fill an hour like this, when you’re in Mexico), mooched around the markets and had a kip. We had dinner in one of Claire’s favorite tacareias, where they make a great alambre – which is a tasty mixed plate of finely chopped barbecued style meat & bacon, onions & peppers, all grilled with a hot layer of cheese on top and served tortillas. We then proceeded to the top of the Latin American Tower for cocktails and the best, free! views of the whole city. It was virtually empty when we went there, which I just couldn’t get over. The marketer in me, just wanted to tell them to start promoting it, and charging. I’m glad they don’t.
The next day, Claire took me to a swish restaurant for breaky and we set off to find Frida’s house. We took our time, stalling in a very modern mall where Mexico’s elite upper class shop. It was filled with shops just like we have back home. Claire attempted some shopping and I had some very expensive but fresh sashimi and sushi.
We finally made it to the Museo, only to discover that it (as all museums are in Mexico) was closed on Mondays. I suggested we go find the lovely bar that Christian had took me to, as it was very close by.
We stopped and asked a sweet old lady in a tourist information van for directions. A lot of walking, asking more folk for directions, a lot of bum steers, a short train trip, a collectivo bus ride, and oh, approximately two hours later we got to the bar which was- as fate woud have it about 50meters from where we first asked the sweet old lady in the tourist information van- who we now wanted to stab in the forehead with a blunt instrument – for directions.
It took a lot of alternate venting for each of us to get our heads around just how close we were to where we wanted to be, when we asked for directions. And why this woman would send us on such a wild good chase if she had NO FRICKING IDEA where the bar was.
Tuesday, i just read, wrote, and slept while Claire did some Embassy admin and we had dinner that night in an area called Condesa at a beatiful seafood restaurant called Lampuga. We shared a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio to commiserate Claire’s last night in Mexico. She had been on quite a journey in more ways than one, which had started with her visiting her English father in Guadalajara, who had married a Mexican lady, and meeting her half brothers and sisters for the first time.
The next day I went to see the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a gorgeous building which is home to some of the more famous Mexican muralists’ works, including a couple of Diego Rivera’s pieces. I met up with Claire for last drinks, and waved her off in a cab. Hasta pronto, me amiga xxx
On Thursday, I went to Chupaltepec to the very famous Anthropology Museum. It rivals the Louvre, in terms of space and provides such a rich detailed history of mankind… I highly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in these sorts of things. I forgot, I don’t. Actually that’s not true. I do have an interest in these sorts of things. Just when contextualised by human stories. When told through the eyes of artist or photographer or writer. I’d choose a gallery or a book or film over a museum any day. There I said it.
On Friday i decided i’d get a pedicure, as my feet were starting to resemble a homeless man’s feet. Lucky i didn’t have anywhere to be, as it took nearly 3 hours from the time I walked in, to the time I walked out. Iguanas move faster than the folk of Mexico. Love it.
I met up with a local boy, Walle who’d contacted me via Couchsurfing to accompany me to Frida’s home. Finally! Such a gorgeous peaceful space, that housed so many stories, affairs, fights, parties, and sadness. And filled with a bunch of her really famous pieces. She was such a juxtaposition in every sense. I loved it. It was nice to have Walle’s take on things, it was like having my own personal guide. We hung out at a bar, swapping travel stories – until Christian came to pick me up for dinner.
A few of his closest friends were having a dinner party just up the road. An Australian girl, Melissa – who had moved to the city a few years before, who had come here with no prior knowledge of Spanish, who had completed a Masters (in Spanish), and who had set up her own catering business – was overseeing the cooking when I arrived. It was an amazing vegetarian meal with a lot of Asian influence. Lots of fresh vegetables. I was in heaven!
There was a lot of wine, translating, laughter and dancing. I’m not sure if it’s the altitude but I only had maybe 3 wines and I was very merry and most ready for bed by 230am.
The next day, with a raging hangover (wtf?) – all i wanted was a bacon & egg roll with BBQ sauce and a quick dip in the sea at Bondi with my mate Tobes. I treated myself to a BLT with views of the Zocalo from the top of the Holiday Inn, instead. Close enough.
Christian came by to pick me up again and we went to the markets, stopping in at a freakish farmers market where they sold all sorts of surely illegal animals in their whole and otherwise forms. I was offered fried crickets as I walked in. I was still feeling hungover, so declined. What we saw would be enough to turn most people into vegetarians. Bird eggs still attached to their ‘mothers’, the testicles of some unidentified animal, skinning in actions, roos with their paws still in tact… Having grown up with parents who once brought home a live duck to slaughter in the backyard of our suburban home, I have a fairly strong stomach for this sort of thing but it was pretty full on.
We wandered through some artisan markets which was far more pleasant. More drinks, dinner, and Christian and I sadly, said our farewells. It had been so lovely to catch up with him after all this time.
It struck me as i had my last breakfast, in the simply beautiful Cafe Tacuba with a mariachi band serenading me – I was now on my own. I had no plans to meet anyone else. I had had such a brilliant time jetsetting across the States to meet Naomi, Angie, Charlotte, Faith, Maya, Dave, Rita and Jamie. Then to Mexico to meet Christian and Claire.
Now it was just me, myself and I. I knew there would be times ahead when I was going to feel lonely, and really miss my friends, or just having some easy company. But I also knew I was going to love the solitude and i was also excited about all the people, who would come into my life for a moment or more.
Smiling, I left for Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean.