What’s better than a long weekend?
A trip to an incredible international city over a long weekend.
After considering a couple of options, my law school buddy, Harry, and I excitedly agreed to visit Mexico City for the first time; we hopped on a plane there as Frederick Douglass Weekend began. Fortunately, we found a direct flight out of Dulles (and back a few days later), as well as an affordable Airbnb right off of Nuevo Leon – one of the main streets near the center of the city. As soon as we got settled in, an exploration characterized by fantastic food, breathtaking art, and soulful people commenced. Here’s a recap of the trip, complete with photos and various musings:
Harry and I ventured outside to find some food and explore the neighborhood. After several minutes, we stumbled upon a restaurant that had a mariachi band in full swing. We ordered a couple of Pacificos and enjoyed the catchy music, diving right into the familial feeling of the space. Upon learning that the kitchen had closed for the evening, we walked back toward the Airbnb and settled on a restaurant called Los creadores del Taco al Pastor. Only a few minutes after sitting down, we were consuming flavorful tacos de chorizo and taking in the temperate night air. As we finished the meal, fatigue fully set in, and we retired to the Airbnb for the night.
We woke up early the next morning to take on the first grand adventure: a tour of the ancient Teotihuacan pyramids. About a week prior to taking off, we booked a day-long excursion through Trip Advisor, and we were both pretty hype leading up to it.
Before we journeyed to a nearby Four Seasons to get picked up, we stopped by Ojo de Agua, a quaint breakfast spot in the neighborhood that would soon become a regular feature of the trip. After reviewing the impressive menu, we both decided on the chilaquiles, mine with pulled pork and his with an egg. A refreshing jug of mango juice and two vibrant coffees accompanied this hearty meal. Although it was all delicious, we quickly wrapped up to ensure that we would make it to the rendez-vous point on time.
We arrived at the hotel in good time, and, following a few more stops to pick up passengers, we were off. Our knowledgeable tour guide provided insight on various aspects of Mexico City as we made our way to the site of the pyramids. Admittedly, I was reading Hillbilly Elegy the entire time, but I was still plugged into her lively descriptions of myriad things.
After stopping at a shop outside of the actual site, which entailed trying mezcal (more on this later) and picking up souvenirs, we made it to the site. Two majestic pyramids – the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon – stood proudly among an impressive set of smaller ruins. We climbed both of them and explored areas in between for a couple of hours. Such an impactful initial experience set the tone for what the rest of the day and trip would have in store.
After a filling lunch at a buffet near the pyramids, we made our way to the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This beautiful edifice stands out because of its historic lore – according to legend, the Virgin Mary made an appearance on its grounds over 500 years ago. On certain days, millions of people can find themselves observing the ornate decorations and detailed architecture with one another. It certainly served as a fitting end to the tour.
Following a comprehensive and exhausting trip to the pyramids & Basilica, Harry and I decided to visit a neighborhood bar to try some mezcal. Mezcal is a smoky and distinctive Mexican liquor that is quite similar to tequila. Following a five-minute walk, we found ourselves at La Clandestina. The bar provided a laidback setting, great drinks, and a delicious combination of guacamole and pork rinds (made a mental note for any future dinner parties I host). Still full from the buffet lunch, we skipped grabbing a formal dinner and caught some rest for the second full day.
Waking up refreshed on a beautiful Sunday morning, Harry and I picked up coffees from Ojo de Agua, walked around the neighborhood for a minute, and caught a ride to the Historic District of Mexico City. Little did we know that the best breakfast of the trip awaited us.
We made it to El Cardenal, a restaurant that could hold its own against any brunch spot in D.C. After a forty minute wait, we sat down and were immediately greeted with a pastry tray. As we both admitted later, we were a bit reluctant to take one for fear of messing up our appetites. After a brief pause, we acquiesced and slid our respective pastries onto our plates – the best decision of the trip.
Folks, it’s hard to put into words how delicious, light, flaky, and airy these pastries were. It felt like we were eating clouds picked from the sky on a mild summer day. My only regret of the trip is that I didn’t take a picture of them. Our meal of huevos veracruzes (egg enchiladas covered in mole) and mango juice was phenomenal as well, but the pastries stood out as the best things we ate on the trip. I can’t recommend this place highly enough.
After breakfast, we walked to the center of the Historic District and marveled at the exciting activity around us. The scene made us both recall previous visits to Barcelona. We continued our sojourn to a nearby market, where we encountered products ranging from candles to live birds. After exploring the market for a bit, we decided to head to the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia.
The museum, housed in a magnificent building near the city’s financial district, tells the stories of the people who have contributed to Mexico’s rich history. Though we only spent around 75 minutes inside, the structures and narratives conveyed vivid, lasting images. It served as a nice transition to an anticipated lively evening.
Harry had an idea in the week leading up to the trip – to check out a Lucha Libre match. It turned out to be a marvelous one. We stopped by the Airbnb to catch a quick nap, and then we headed to the venue.
I already knew it would be a great event when we found two chicharrones quesadillas outside of the venue for thirty pesos (just under $2). Harry grabbed two ringside tickets, and we settled in for a highly entertaining two-hour match. As we enjoyed our micheladas (sans the thick tomato paste that covered the rim), several wrestlers entered the ring to put on a highly theatrical show. I never watched much WWE, but it certainly gave off that vibe – based on my limited knowledge. It was a blast from start to finish, and it was a great treat to be so close to the action.
Following the match’s conclusion, we ventured to Place Garibaldi – an open plaza filled with mariachi bands and great activity. We decided to stop at one of the bars near the center of Place Garibaldi to get some mezcal and chill out. Following a couple of hours of good conversation and great music, we went back to the neighborhood, grabbing a few more tacos de chorizo from Los creadores del Taco al Pastor before calling it a night.
The final full day felt more like a Sunday than the previous 24 hours. We woke up and completed our third and last trip to Ojo de Agua – settling on coffees and almond croissants. Following breakfast, Harry wanted to check out more of the markets near the Historic District, and I decided to take a longer walk around the neighborhood. Accordingly, we split up for a couple of hours.
I meandered throughout Condesa – our gorgeous neighborhood for the weekend – and found myself near some of the large skyscrapers in the business district. Of note, I ran into a few elaborate structures on the street, including one of the great, late Muhammad Ali.
I ended up making a large circle and rested at the Airbnb for a bit. When Harry returned, we determined that we wanted to get lunch near the Frida Kahlo Museum in southeast Mexico City. Though we later learned that the museum is closed on Mondays (along with a number of other ones), we enthusiastically headed toward its neighborhood. When we arrived, we ended up walking through a delightfully quaint part of Mexico City, complete with cobblestone roads and small shops. We eventually happened upon a restaurant that delivered the best lunch of the trip. Although I neglected to catch the name of the dining establishment, the green sauce that covered the enchiladas I ordered still stands out prominently in my mind.
Following the satisfying lunch, we took off to one of the final excursions of the trip – the Xochimilco Canals. Located about half an hour southeast of central Mexico City, these canals offer the perfect setting for a relaxing evening on the water. After arriving and grabbing some waters and brews for the boat ride, we met a cool couple from Chicago, Katie and Eddie. The four of us decided to team up for a two-hour ride that would only cost us 250 pesos a piece. Soon thereafter, we were drifting on the calm river, enjoying the perfect weather and easy-going discussions. At one point, a mariachi band joined us and serenaded the boat. We all basked in wonderful R&R that it provided.
As we rode back to Condesa from the canals, we realized how quickly the trip was coming to a close. So many memories had already been compiled from the previous 72 hours, but we still wanted to make a few more – namely by concluding the trip with a nice dinner. After doing a little research in the Airbnb, we picked Azul Condesa. The restaurant sat just under half of a mile from the Airbnb, but, upon arriving, we learned that there was a wait. We killed the time by completing one more walk throughout the neighborhood and grabbing our final glasses of mezcal at the bar next door to Azul Condesa.
After about an hour, Harry got a text indicating that our table was ready. What followed was a meal second only to the Sunday breakfast at El Cardenal. We glided through a multi-course meal, ranging from shrimp in a spicy, delectable sauce to desserts with incredible custards. For our entrees, Harry had enchiladas and I had a filet of beef – both of our dishes were covered in the most succulent mole we’d ever eaten. Best of all, this feast came out to about 600 pesos (approximately $40) for each of us.
We drifted to the Airbnb contentedly and packed our bags for the trip home.
I highly recommend Mexico City as an international travel destination. The art, the culture, and the food are unparalleled. It’s an affordable town that has plenty of attractions to keep you engaged – whether you’re staying for a weekend, a week, or a few months.
Before I sign off, I have to share the best memory and the best picture of the trip.
Best memory: Blasting Bodak Yellow in the car from Place Garibaldi back to Condesa
Hasta luego, Mexico City. Muchas gracias.