I'm always thinking about Mexico City, all the time. It's always buzzing around in my head, I'm always thinking of a way or reason to get down there except for just going, which seems too easy. Earlier this year I had thought I'd go there to celebrate my birthday, but I didn't get around to it. But a month-ish ago I realized the 20th anniversary of the end of my mission was coming right up and thought to ask Mom if she wanted to go down to celebrate the milestone. I thought I had a good chance of getting her on board because I had seen Southwest now flies to Mexico City.
Flash forward to two Wednesdays ago, and here we are on our way to catch an early morning flight from Chicago to Houston.
Here's Houston. A thing about Mexico City is it's not very far away. (Geographically.) It was a two something hour flight to Houston and then just an hour and a half down to Mexico City. And there's direct flights! Southwest is still working on that.
As we approached Mexico City it was covered in clouds, but as they parted, I saw this hill covered in antennas that I had forgotten about seeing every day down in Mexico and it was like a bolt of lightning striking me. It was unbelievable, but rather believable, to finally be back and to get a great look at the city as we were coming in.
And here we are, at the airport. By following something I glimpsed up an escalator out of the corner of my eye I found (after a false start) the customs area I arrived through 21 years ago when I first arrived in Mexico. We looked down on it from the terrace that I remembered looking up at people on while my suitcases were being searched through.
Here's a tip for Mexico City: Just Uber. Uber all around. Uber everywhere. Uber is the way to do it. And I say this as a person who had only hired two Ubers before this trip (as practice to make sure I could do it). It would've been cool if I had taken a portrait of each driver we had, they were a varied but consistently professional bunch. I bet Mom can remember each one to you if you wanted. Our first driver needed to stop for gas, there was only one more hiccup after that, I'll tell you about it in the Day Two post. Here are views of heading from the airport to the Historic Center of the city.
Mom found us a great Hampton Inn to stay at. The service and facilities were top notch and the ceiling was beautiful. We stayed on the sixth floor ABOVE the beautiful ceiling. It turns out you really can have it all in this world!
Settled into our room we wasted no time getting right down to the adventures and headed straight for Polanco, one of Mexico City's fanciest neighborhoods. Because adventures don't always have to be dangerous, they can be nice, too.
Two pictures from our drive over. Our driver for this drive wore a tie and had classic music playing on his radio. Mom thought he was great. And he really helped me break in my Spanish, which I had been keeping in a guilty dusty box off to the side, but not quite hidden, in my brain.
Our first destination in Polanco was Museo Somaya, which shares a plaza with, among other things, the Jumex Museum, a mall, and a Costco.
Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men, built the Soumaya Museum to house his 60,000 piece art collection. And as shiny and modern as it is on the outside of this building (designed by his son in law), it's mostly old stuff on the inside. We took an elevator to the top and worked our way down.
Then we dipped into the Jumex Museum. All the exhibits were being installed or uninstalled that day, but they did have a video installation playing in the basement and very impressive bathrooms.
Then we walked down the street and across the street and through another mall and then down another street. See that curved apartment building? It has a helipad on top!
We passed a Chinese buffet that was handing out samples. These samples would be the first food I ate back in Mexico City. Not bad!
Our next destination was Parque Lincoln, a nice, nice-sized park running through Polanco with beautiful old manor buildings around its perimeter. And a statue of Abraham Lincoln. And a statue of Martin Luther King (with very big hands).
A little more Polanco walking passing, among other things, an Aston Martin dealership and a MAGNOLIA BAKERY. Wow. That one did me a surprise.
And then, our keynote Polanco activity: Dinner at Pujol, Enrique Olvera's first restaurant. It's been sitting in the Top 50 for a long time and, being a big Cosme fan and a mixed-feelings Atla fan, I was very very pleased to have snagged reservations for the trip. Although there is no menu-overlap, the food is very similar to Cosme's but the restaurant itself is worlds beyond anything you could hope to build in New York and the clientele made for extremely good people watching. It's a five course dinner where you have a selection of selections to choose from for each course, Mom and I did a good job of not ordering the same thing ever, so we were able to sample a wide-range of Pujol food.
Now, the food.
To begin, a pair of street snacks. A tiny little wagyu beef gordita and little elotes serves in a gourd full of smoking corn husks.
Next course: Mom had the sea bass with cacahuatzintle juice and celery, I had octobus with habanero ink, ayocote, and veracruzana sauce.
Next: Mom had the cauliflower with almond salsa macha and chile de arbol, I had the lobster sope.
Next: Mom had the pork chop with red chichilo and nixtamalized butternut squash. I had lamb with mint mole, lime and baby potato.
The next course: Pujol's famed Mole Madre, which at this date had been stewing for 1400 days, served with a dollop of one day old mole in the center. The new mole tasted fresh and bright, the nearly four year old mole tasted impossibly deep and ashen, primeval, almost. And I don't mean to be too dramatic, it was only 1400 days old, which for most things isn't very old. But I have not eaten many things that have been cooking for that long. Please allow me the hyperbolic moment!
Finally, dessert. Mom had the avocado, coconut, lime and macadamia dessert. I had the chocolate, pennyroyal, pinole and caramalized banana. Oh! And we were both served a charred orange ice cream with guajillo pepper palate cleanser. And a little pinwheel of churro showed up just as we were finishing up.
All in all: Excellent meal, exceptional service, extremely beautiful space. Highly recommend, worth the trouble.
Back out into Polanco we went with one last destination in mind, Taqueria Turix, renowned for its cochinita pibil. Also: check out the synagogue across the street from Pujol. And other Polanco night street sights.
On this trip we mostly ate at places that were on lists, and Turix was on all the lists. I found it to be quite list-worthy and tasty, a great way to finish up the night. Cochinita pibil is a slow-cooked pork dish from the Yucitan, Turix serves it with a spicy onion/habañero mix and, for an American, it was absolutely thrilling to watch the taquero fish my serving out of the tray of wet pork with his bare hands that had just been roasting and chopping peppers and plop it onto my tortilla. Bare hands!
Late night taco eating at the side of the street, that's the life for me.
Then one more Uber took us back to the hotel, safe and satisfied, our first half day in Mexico City a tremendous success.