Day One: A Stop in Mexico City
The day had finally come-- the day that I would be flying down to Mexico to scope out whether Cholula, Puebla would be a good place for my son and I to start our Worldschooling journey. Instead of flying directly into Puebla, I decided to save a couple of hundred bucks and fly into Mexico City, spend a night there, and then take a charter bus to Puebla the next day. The good thing is, I had a friend who lived nearby, so I would also be able to spend some time with them and have a little fun.
As the plane descended, the first thing I noticed was the murky brown haze hovering over the city and surrounding areas. I guess what others had told me prior to then was true: Mexico City was very polluted. One thing that others had also warned me about was the altitude change. I was told to be prepared to take it slow, because going from sea level to nearly 7400 ft. above sea level would certainly have an effect on me. The research that I did afterwards confirmed that my oxygen level would decrease by 25%. Well, this was no joke. I found myself winded while casually walking and having conversations. It was the strangest feeling, and for a moment I felt as if I could relate to those who had asthma.
The Customs and Immigration line was excruciatingly long. It stopped before we even got to the bottom of the stairs to the entrance of the area, and crept along around several turns afterwards. I felt as though I was going to pass out at one point, as there were SO many people and not much air passing through. Nearly 90 minutes later, I finally made it out.
My friend from Acapulco met me at the airport, which I was immediately thankful for. Although he wasn’t from that particular area, he knew the language and the culture, something that helped me more than I expected throughout the trip. We were quickly and easily able to call an Uber, using the app that I use at home-- no special international app needed. Within 20 minutes, we were at my beautiful Airbnb in downtown Mexico City.
The first thing we did after getting settled was head to a seafood taco and quesadilla spot a couple of blocks from the Airbnb. This place was buzzing with locals, and had the most delicious shrimp and fish tacos. The horchata was some of the best I’ve ever had and perfectly complimented the spiciness of the various salsas. I inhaled three tacos with ease-- it had hit the spot.
Next, we took a slow walk through Parque Mexico, which was absolutely beautiful, green, and buzzing with locals and tourists alike. Cotton candy, snacks, and balloons were being sold. There were people holding hands and walking, or just sitting and having intimate conversations. Children of all ages were playing at the playground and engaged in organized group activities. There were several dogs being walked by their owners, some without leashes. Young adults were playing violins and singing. On the outskirts of the park were several fancy restaurants and shops. We noticed a few buildings that were still badly damaged and blocked off from the September earthquake, a sad reminder of what the city had gone through.
That evening, I noticed quite a few groups of Americans out and about in the area. My friend from Mexico City told me that the area of Condesa was most often frequented by Americans and other tourists. I must admit that it made me feel a sense of comfort knowing that I wasn’t the only one in the area that did not fluently speak Spanish! The highlight of the evening was watching two people walk their hog down the street. No, that wasn’t a typo-- they were literally walking a hog. Not sure what was worse: That, or the guy we saw walking down the street in purple hot shorts earlier that afternoon!
The weather during the day was absolutely perfect; however, during the evening and night it was cold and windy. Somewhere along the way I had completely forgotten that there were no central heating systems in Mexico City and there certainly was no space heater in our Airbnb. Luckily, there were wool and fleece-lined blankets which were a life-saver when the sun set and it became time for bed!
The night ended in one of Condesa’s popular nightclubs, Dembow Club Condesa. We walked to the club from our Airbnb without a problem. It was a great time regardless of the fact that they only took “efectivo” (cash), and that they allowed smoking on the inside. I found the place to be VERY affordable for drinks and bottle service than what you’d find in Washington, DC: a single mixed drink cost around $100 MX (a little over $5 USD), a bottle of Absolut with full table service only cost $1600 MX (a little over $85 USD) and a bottle of water only cost $20 MX (a little over $1.00). This price may seem outrageous to some, but in the DC metro area, I would have paid between $500-$600 USD for the same exact thing! During one of my bathroom visits, I tipped the bathroom attendant $100 MX. Considering her job, $5.00 USD seemed completely normal to me...but by the look on her face as well as the reaction of my friend when I told him how much I had tipped, apparently I was EXTREMELY generous! At the end of the night, we walked back. The streets were much quieter at that time, but felt extremely safe.
The next morning, we stuffed our faces with some delicious pork tacos from a small placed named Taco Naco (yes, tacos for breakfast), which were priced at 2 for 1 until 11am. We ended up ordering a total of 14 mini tacos and two drinks between the two of us. Our total bill when we were finished? $140 MX. That is roughly $7.50 USD. Wow. Similar restaurants in Alexandria, VA would have charged at least $40 for the same meal.
After eating, we headed to the nearby bus station to catch the next bus to Puebla. There were several bus companies that each had several options to consider, depending on how much we wanted to spend, how fast we wanted to get there, and how comfortable we wanted our ride. Considering how tired I was from the night before and how long the bus ride was estimated to be (around 2 hours direct), I opted for the most comfortable bus with the shortest ride: the “Primera Clase” direct service by Estrella Roja, which cost only $196 MX per ticket (roughly $10.50 USD).
The ride was relaxing. The seats reclined, and a movie played the entire time. The driver introduced himself and drove very carefully. It seemed as though at every toll stop, there were people using traffic to their advantage to try and sell things. I had to giggle at one person in particular who was in a baseball polo trying to sell baseball bats. Now WHY in the world would anyone randomly need a baseball bat while driving down the highway? Wait-- don’t answer that...I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why you would want one, depending on where you are. BUT the fact of the matter is, this isn’t exactly the type of item that one frequently needs at a moment’s notice.
As the bus made its way across the mountains and through the twisty roads, I could see the sky getting bluer and bluer. As we departed the bus, I could smell the freshly baked pastries and cemitas. I inhaled the much fresher air and immediately felt a sense of peace and calm. At that moment, I knew I was in a good place.
What happens next? Stay tuned for the next blog post, Day Two: Arriving to Cholula.
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