5. Mexico City (Day One)
First thoughts: language barrier. Our Spanish was limited to stereotypical words you hear on TV, including hola, gracias and cerveza. And yes, we initially pronounced the 'h' at the front of 'hola'. Throughout Europe we were extremely lucky that 99% of the people we met spoke English. Here, not so lucky. Time to learn a new language.
Once we arrived in Mexico City and were completely ripped off by the taxi driver, we attempted to check in to our hotel. Language barrier problem #1. We could convey our name and confirm that we had a room booking, but we had no idea what room number they were saying or which floor. We couldn't ask questions such as what the wifi password was, where we could do laundry and how close was the nearest bar. With some sign language, plenty of laughter (on their behalf) and trial and error we worked out all these things over the next few days.
First impression of the city: it was MASSIVE! I couldn't believe how big the place was, but considering the population is just under 9 million people (which doesn't even include the greater metropolitan area) it shouldn't have come as a shock. Surprisingly, there weren't many skyscrapers or obvious landmarks that are common in most cities. The Centro Historico was beautiful and unexpected. I could have been in Spain or Italy, with the colonial architecture, monstrous cathedrals and large plazas, yet the crowds, disorganisation and street vendors clearly screamed Asia.
The stunning European architecture. This is the cathedral, sitting on the Zocalo.
First priority was the obligatory food and drink stop on the Zocalo (centre square), where we happily downed some taquitos and a one litre margarita (no doing things by halves here). This wet our appetite for some more local delights. So off we trudged to the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal (no translation needed). We politely pretended to be interested in the museum, admired the thousand or so bottles they had on display then happily took part in their tequila and mezcal tasting. I usually prefer my tequila with lime and salt but I attempted it the local way: straight up. It may take some getting used to.
Tequila in every shape, colour and size.
We loved walking through the old town, watching the day become night and the lights turning on. The main pedestrian fare, avenue Madero, was strangely but gladly absent of souvenir shops. If you wanted perfume, jewellery or shoes though, you came to the right spot. We settled on a cheap, busy restaurant serving tacos and tortas for dinner, partaking in our first try of prickly pear cactus (pretty good), along with mole (not a fan) plus salad (keeping up the appearance of being healthy). The best part was that they were served with a complimentary basket of cooked chili carrots and whole chilies, which alone would have satisfied me for dinner. I may have indulged a little too much, as my stomach was on fire by the end. Worth it.