Our hotel owner is a nice man with some decent English, so it was extremely useful to get some basic information and a map of the city. We were somewhat unsure about the safety of the area as the previous evening we arrived in the dark, and the place looked pretty ghetto… Rest assured, we were told that this is not a bad part of the town, and just keep the usual standard tourist precautions and we should be fine.
Being extremely hungry, the owner told us to head to the local “Bips”, where they had an English menu. The first thing that comes to mind is that could only mean that their food is probably not that authentic, but should work well for us. Walking outside, the area looks rather peaceful with a Metro station and a supermarket within 50m. “Bips” was pretty close too, and we were welcomed into the restaurant with some soothing Christmas caroles!
The place is actually spelled “Vips”, but it seems like the two syllables are pronounced similarly (made a quick note to ourselves). We asked for an English menu, but had to make good use of our Spanish as the servers did not seem to understand. The food was pretty darn good, and it felt like a Mexican upscale Denny’s. The craziest part was the service, they were working at blazing speeds unseen since we have left Hong Kong.
Hopping onto the Metro, we headed up to the historic centre. Walking out of the Zocalo subway, we were greeted with the spectacular cathedral, which is aptly named, “The Cathedral”, as this is the biggest cathedral in all of the Americas. Flanking the cathedral to the east is the National Palace, while the two buildings overlook the massive Plaza de la Constitución, which is supposedly the third largest square in the world after Red and Tiananmen.
We were drawn towards the Cathedral right away, and went inside to the massive atrium with towering sculptures. It may also be that for the past couple of months, all we saw were Buddhist or Hindu temples, so it was nice to get a change of scenery. It also helps that the building itself is beautifully sculpted, and the spaces outside makes it even more impressive.
Taking a stroll down the historical centre, we were also amazed at the number of McDonalds and Starbucks they’ve managed to build in a 1km radius. Walking for about 20mins we arrived upon what would be Mexico City’s own “Museum Mile”. The National Art Musuem is one of the main attractions, and it was relatively empty as we spent well over 2hrs wandering the art gallery which had a broad collection of Mexican artists, particularly Diego Rivera. The curator also seems to enjoy juxtaposing religious art with modern art elements. The museum building itself was really impressive, too!
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the historical centre, and particularly along the main road, La Reforma. It seems like this was the ‘downtown’ area of the city, as the sides of the road were lined with offices and upscale hotels. Walking along, we were getting rather hungry and headed to the loudest place with the most people along the road.
Walking through the doors of the Cantina, we could barely hear ourselves think as the band was loud, and the guests were even louder! The whole place was filled with suits, quite possibly on some sort of Christmas holiday part as it was barely past 5pm when we sat down inside. We asked the server for a menu, and both the server and the menu was in Spanish. The menu was small and contained only 8 lines of Spanish, before the server crossed out about 4 more items off the list leaving us with very little choices. Literally, we pointed what the table next to us was having and ordered the same along with two “cervecas”. The food arrived quickly, and the two slabs of meat with the spicy green sauce was quite tasty, and washing it down with a beer made for a good time! The whole place continued to party as the office workers were downing shots left right and centre! When the bill came, we were sort of weirded out as they only charged us for the two beers! The ONLY logical explanation for this was that we stumbled upon a company-sponsored Christmas party, and somehow the servers thought we were part of whatever company it was. Ha ha, we quickly walked out of the cantina and back into the streets.
Next, we walked towards this large square with a building resembling the L’Arc de Triomphe, but with a cool all-glass elevator in the centre. Around the square, kids were playing in the water fountain, bikers were riding around, couples were making out, and we even saw a group of dancers, performing interpretive dance to Metallica’s One…. This place is freaking amazing.
To avoid any unwanted mishaps, and the fact that we were pretty tired from walking all day, we called it a day by 8pm, hopping onto the vast reaches of the Metro back to our hotel. It’s only been one day, but we’re really liking Mexico City already!!
- This city is lively and extremely interesting. Architecture spans from the modern to very cool colonial styles, while public art displays can be found everywhere. Walking along the main city road, La Reforma, the benches were all designed differently!!!!
- People on the street seem genuinely happy with big smiles everywhere, and they were very polite if you approached them for anything.
- Public display of affection seems very common, as there are couples young and old, hugging and kissing everywhere you look.
- People must think we’re locals, as everyone talks to us in Spanish!
- Nobody seems to treat us like tourists, and even at the small street vendors buying water, you know that they aren’t trying to figure out in their head how much to rip you off…. unlike the vendors in Nepal who seem to over-inflate everything everywhere. Possibly due to the much worst economic conditions back in Nepal, but we were never treated that way anywhere else no matter how bad the economy was…