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The great, grand city: Ciudad de Mexico!

I have traveled to Mexico a fair few times now, mostly for good food, and dog shelter work with the rescue organization. A few months ago, our HR/company owner at work traveled to CDMX and came back talking amazing things about the city! I was intrigued, and got an email somehow the same day about freshly dropped prices. Was it a sign of the heavens above? I do not know. Did I act on it? Heck, yes!

Also, this marked the first international(well, we arent counting 5-6 hours spent in Rosarito and Ensenada) together. We were a ball of mush and quite cutesy together, and how gross! It’s cute to travel together on flights and be my grumpy self during early morning flights. I am pretty adorable like that.

We bought some insanely cheap round trip tickets from Tijuana, MX to CDMX and purchased bridge crossing tickets as well. If you dont know about it, CBX is a service that connects San Diego with Tijuana airport and you get to clear border security, immigration and all that jazz right away! It’s a pretty nifty deal and extremely convenient! Make sure you give it enough time in case there are lines. We did not find any crowds! Easy-peasy!

We landed in CDMX on Friday late at night due to flight delays, and so obviously, we did not explore the city at all. Our AirBnB was a private room in a guy’s house who works as a digital artist. The house was old, charming and beautifully done with a rustic appeal. The best part? It was in one of the best locations of the city for a walkable, fun, food and mezcal scene, with all places of touristical importance a short uber ride away!

We woke up nice and late on Saturday morning with a lot of coaxing from the boy about it being late at 10.15 am, without him actually getting up though. We got dressed, and headed out to check out Chapultepec Castle and the park. We had, had a nice brunch at Panderia Rosetta and the climb up the hill to get to the castle, took care of the calories, or so I wish to think. The castle is known to be the only one in this side of the world where aristocracy actually lived. I really wish I could tell you more about the place, but alas, all the information was in Spanish. Our spattering language skills were not enough to overcome the impatience. We looked at the architecture, paintings, displays, admired them and moved on. The castle is a beautiful sight though, and worth spending time at. While meandering through the park, we spotted Parque de Gandhi on the map and decided to check that out. We felt like we were on our own personal Dandi March because of the amount that we walked just to locate that statue and the park. We did find it, it was nice, albeit it was missing the glasses. But before the evasive statue was found, we bumped into such a fun circuit training area of the park called, you can guess it, Gandhi Circuit.

We walked a bit more around the Polanco area, exploring the posh area and finally discovered the expensive joys of e-scooters. We had some yummy gelato at what looked like an upscale place, and headed back to Condensa to enjoy the rest of our evening. We missed out on the Frida Kahlo museum during this trip because of crazy traffic in that area. We made up for it by tasting some smoothest mezcal at the 11th best bar in the world. Licoreria Limantour was phenomenal and the unexpected rains late in the evening added some noir charm to the evening. The server we had, went an extra mile to get us drunk on some complimentary taster shot and some particularly delicious drinks. We ended the night with a sugar rush at El Moro with churros and chocolate sauce. It is one of the must-do things in CDMX, but I can pass on it in the future as churros are not in my top 5.

The second day also arrived bright and late and we were totally in a relaxation mode. We explored the park next to our AirBnB that had a Sunday flea market. A big chunk of it was for dogs! They had a walk-in trailer clinic, some exercise areas, adoption posts and a lot of stalls for dogs and humans. There was a ball pit for dogs where an exuberant huskie was scaring all the terriers away! We bought some fresh fruit, yummy mango-tajin flavored popcorn and fresh coconut water. We visited the museo de anthropologico after a sumptious brunch at Bisquette Obregon with a staff that went out of the way to please us. The museum is quite stunning with a lot of information and this time in English as well. The displays are spectacular and arranged zone and age wise. The museum talks about the history of north-central-south America and the culture since thousands of years ago. The Spanish invasion was a turning point in history and we all are aware of what it did to the indigenous population. It also talks about the origin of man and that was my favorite part indeed. We explored Insurgentes that evening and had dinner at the most outstanding pizza place ever! We had a pizza with huitlacoche which is a sort of corn smut or fungi that infects corn. As disgusting as it sounds, it is delicious and is a delicacy, bringing more revenue to the farmers than healthy corn itself! Go figure! We scootered around a bit more and had some more mezcal at a dive bar, but a splitting headache made us head back home and call it a night.

The final day in CDMX was reserved for Teotihuacan pyramids. I dropped the ball here and did not book a tour on time. We ubered to the pyramids which is an hour or so on the freeway and paid around USD$40 plus some toll. When we got there, the guides seemed rather expensive and I started feeling the pinch of disappointment on my failed planning. But we started to talk to people about their tour and guides and while I was buying a hat to protect myself from the heat, the boy ended up talking to a guide and his group and he asked us to simply join him! He told us not to worry about any payments because what he did was for the love of his city! Oh my heart! We had a great time around the ruins and learning about the history of the pyramids. We learned about the Gods and how nature was such an important part of the culture. We also learnt more about the brutality of European invasion. But nothing was more intriguing than learning about the ‘ballgame’! Seriously, look that up! The winner of the game used to be sacrificed to the Gods! Real motivational! The highlight of the trip was climbing the gazillion steps to the top of the Temple of the Moon and then the Temple of the Sun. That was my workout of the month. After the tour we shopped around at the local tiendas and spent more than we normally would have. But thank you, exchange rate! We didn’t quite bargain a lot because it just felt wrong to us, to see the shacks and the people actually working hard in that heat. Were we gullible? Yes. Were we upset about it? Nope. We found out about buses at the last moment that were insanely cost-effective, and rode back to the city for chump change practically.

The last evening of the trip was spent at an upscale, classy restaurant called Azul Historico and the dinner was divine! We had some of the most creative meals and the boy even tried ant eggs! The service was phenomenal and the place was stunning! I had a soup made out of 18 flowers, and enchilada with hibiscus flowers. Wut?! Mango was the flavor of the month and my Mango Manguita was exceptional! That was pretty much it for us and the only space we had for dessert, barely accommodated the chocolate we got with the check.

Mexico City, you were stunning! We had a fabulous time and we hope in our hearts to see you again. But for now, onto the next trip!

Tips:

  1. We have been learning Spanish, and we had a bunch of trouble with things getting lost in translation, but it was fun! Not everyone can speak in English here. An app called ‘Spanishdict’ is a real life-saver! Some restaurants do have English menus though.
  2. Try all the local foods, but keep common sense in mind by asking for freshly cut fruits and keeping an eye out on hygiene. But don’t be that person who goes ‘ewwww’.
  3. CDMX deserves 3-4 days to soak in all the culture! Stay in the central part of town as per budget since that makes traveling easier. Condesa, Roma, are some of the best spots with a lot of walkable places around. The cafes and restaurants are exceptional here!
  4. Take Ubers and avoid cabs! E-scooters and bikes are in abundance here, but the costs somehow add up more than shared ubers.
  5. Chapultepec Park should be divided in to multiple days because each attraction takes up a few hours atleast.
  6. The city is mostly closed on Mondays, including the attractions, except the Teotihuacan Pyramids.
  7. You can book tours or AirBnB experience to go to the pyramids. There are buses running every 20 minutes to and from the pyramids that take about an hour to complete a one-way journey. The buses are fast and comfortable enough, and insanely cheap. You will find guides at the door, but bargaining is a must. You can even chat up a group or couple and share a guide.
  8. Hats and sunscreen are a MUST at Teotihuacan. There are zero trees and no shade. You will want to climb everything and the sun beats down on you. Stay hydrated!
  9. Tips are not manadatory in restaurants, but they do ask if you would like to tip/propina. I find it awkward to say no, and hence I succumbed each time.
  10. If you are vegan/vegetarian, CDMX is very cosmopolitan, and you will get a lot of good food choices. Go nuts!

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Travelogue : Weekend-ing at Baltimore-Washinton DC

I had a tryst with a different part of America over the last weekend.

I was over to visit my bestie AH over at Baltimore who is in US for 3 weeks on some training session through his work. It was a trip that I had to take because I am going to miss his wedding in January which is such a bummer. All in all, it turned out great because I even got to meet my very special friends! Murat, his wife and his brand new baby girl Damla! He isn’t big on Facebook but he was scrolling through the feed to read about what was going on in Ankara. He came across my picture and he noticed it was tagged in Maryland. He asked Becca if he was seeing it right. He texted me right away and we made plans within the next 15 min and AH and I drove off to Murat’s about an hour outside Baltimore. I was under the impression that he was far away! Haha! They are my buddies who got married in Turkey in September! Boy, Murat did a great job timingwise. 😛 We were teasing him about his, ahem, strong swimmers. Baby Damla is beyond cute. She is a sweetheart and she wouldn’t stop staring at me with her big gray eyes and smiling with her tongue poking out! It was a great drive with lush greens on both sides of the road and it was a great evening with friends.

In Baltimore, the location of AH’s hotel was at the harbor and it was so picture perfect with graffiti, cobbled streets, street-side cafes. I have heard a lot about the issues plaguing Baltimore currently and how it can be a rough neighborhood, and from what people told me, the downtown is a much nicer area. I did not go to the highly recommended Aquarium because I have been to Sea World 3 times and I am perhaps done with fishes for a loooooong time.

 

We took a day trip to Washington DC and saw most of the iconic buildings and monuments. We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian and I cannot recommend enough the Air and Space museum and Natural History museum. Please do not miss the Smithsonian! Here are some pictures.

Travel tip:

  1. Perhaps the most important tip would be to factor in atleast $15 parking charges a day into your budget. We did a lot of car moving here and there and saved some dough. It’s a horrible situation with very expensive parking rates in both Baltimore and Washington DC. In hindsight, do check ZipCar availabilities around your place of stay.
  2. Wear your best walking shoes possible.

 


This trip was a particularly special one. We had always wanted to take some sort of vacation together since college days. But with me here and the boys and girls in India, it was obviously very hard. The boys do go on way more trips than my girl friends though and I feel jealous that I miss all those. Moo and I managed to travel together to Turkey, meet up in US and all that, and that ways, we are quite satisfied. With AH, we had never thought that we’ll meet up in America like this! I would have loved to have him come home and see California but financially it wasn’t possible for him and so I flew out to meet him. It was worthwhile also because of meeting Murat and ticking off DC from my list.

I cant help it, but this trip was also bittersweet. He was visibly upset when I left and he said this. ‘PB things are going to change now’. His words could not have been truer, however much in denial I am. Things are changing and they will continue to change. I am trying to hold on to those days but they are like sand between my fingers. The more I forcefully hold on, the more they escape.

Maybe I just need to let go. Everything.