Writing from memory is sometimes harder than writing within one moment. It seems to me that a certain magic arouses from memories and having to retrace your footsteps, going over each important event that took place during that time. Still, I sometimes wish that I had kept notes of my travels, the way I used to do during my college days: emotions seem more accurate through words rather than through the memory.
What I had recently discovered by method of questioning, is that the idea of taking travel notes is to me perhaps redundant, I no longer keep a journal, but I share my experiences via text and photographs with my friends, resulting in a somewhat similar effect to notes.
This year I found myself travelling back to Mexico City for the second time in less than 6 months. Needless to say that I had more than one reason to comeback to this restless city.
The first time around this magnetic place was not enough and a month into this Mexican journey just flew by becoming blurred memories of discoveries, encounters and road adventures.
To my advantage my first travel was led by local friends, whom I met during an exchange year in Germany. The trip was loaded with short weekend escapes, visiting federal districts of Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi and Chiapas. Places including Xilitla, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque, Zinacantán, San Juan Chamula, and Taxco. My days exploring Mexico City were spent mainly driving around with my friend visiting the flea market in Coyoacán, about 10minutes walks from Frida Kahlo’s home museum, The National Museum of Anthropology situated within the Chapultepec Park, The Zócalo –the main square in central Mexico City and the neighbourhoods of Roma, Condesa, Juárez, Polanco and Zona Rosa. Friends made sure I had full grasps of the city, taking me out to dine, from La Casa de Toño to Maria Bonita in Polanco, passing by Las Pizzas del Perro Negro, La Bipolar, Cassius, Mercado Roma and my favorite restaurant find, Yuban. I tried a decent mezcal in the Mil Amores Mezcalería and Pulque at the Pulquería La Nuclear (Pulque is a pre-hispanic alcoholic beverage made of fermented sap from the Maguey plant).
My time in Mexico concluded with a race to the airport, battling with the famous traffic of the city, to get to the counter just in time to check in and a procedural race to board my plane -to my advantage and surprise the flight was delayed an hour, which in fact made it possible for me to catch the flight.
Certainly that first experience in Mexico City left me craving more adventures in the unconventional metropolis. It would be good for me to mention at this point the reason why I almost did not make it in time to the airport. As it happens my friends were trying to persuade me to stay and get a job, but my sense of rationality told me that it was too much of an insane and idyllic idea to simply stay there and an improvise a living plan.
The notion of living in Mexico City prevailed in my mind from the moment I was airborne. I had had strong enough reasons for returning. One being: A month is too short to truly get to know the vast city of Mexico, Two: I had a supportive group of friends encouraging me to experience the ups and downs of living in a Latin American Capital and Three: I had not only fallen in love with the city but also with a local man.
Back in England all I could think of was Mexico and the amazing time spent there: The culture, the city, it`s vibrant diversity, the locals, the turbulent and compromising life choices, and, the food… it was all playing on my mind, a repetitive loop. By this stage I knew that my Mexican Affair had began.
Caught between focusing on investing time in my career after graduation and contemplating my move to Mexico, I had made a grand decision, here busying researching and finding out as much information as I could about the city and its history. Purchase ideas, Tank Magazine issue dedicated to Mexico, pre-ordering Francisco’s Goldman-‘Interior Circuit’ book based on Chronicles of Mexico City and read every article I could find related to the city. Finally, in less than a month, I had booked a ticket to return to Mexico and managed to save about enough to spend another month in the capital.
Preparing myself for the next encounter was not easy; I knew from my previous travelling experiences the second time around a city is never the same as the first trial and error. This time I craved seeing the city with real eyes and a evermore sentimental heart, as we all know first impressions can be misleading and clouded by a romanticized naïve perception.
Organizing my second trip I realised that in this occasion I was going to be left to my own devices to explore the city and wander around the neighbourhoods. This time there was not going to be a friend driving me around or unravelling the secrets of the city for me. A downside of Mexico City is the crazy working hours; there is a starting time to arrive to work, but never a time to finish, meeting with friends was as complex as finding your way around the city. I guess this alludes to the charm of the place, because yes! Nothing can ever be perfect. The only two secure plans I had this time was meeting with a British friend that was travelling around South America, the other one was a trip to Oaxaca with my new love.
The first few days in the city were spent with my fellow Brit trying to figure out how the metro worked in the city, every metro in each city is different and has it trade secrets. Mexico Cities transports are an epiphany, with street vendors that walk up and down the wagons trying to sell anything and everything, chewing gum to headphones to head lights. Metrobuses are a whole different ball game, most locals prefer the Metrobus to the actual Metro, I found that even in off-peak times the buses were Jam-packed and impossible to stand.
I encountered the best days when walking around and sight-seeing the most important monuments and museums. My favorite breakfasts were discovered by merely wandering Los Danzantes in Coyoacán, Pérfida café and bistro in Condesa and Origenes in Roma. Finding good places to eat and relax was very easy, hipster areas are filled with bars, restaurants and cafes that will please all kinds of tastes. Bósforo, situated in Colonia Centro and El Depósito in Colonia Roma are among new favourites. Also the Pata Negra in Colonia Condesa which if you feel in the mood for Salsa dancing, free classes are offered on Wednesday nights. Mama Rumba in Roma is another renowned place for Salsa and classes, live orchestra Wednesdays and Thursdays. However if you are more into dance music and subculture you should try the Patrick Miller club - fancy something more glamours you can try El Imperial (clubs, are in Colonia, Roma).
After 5 days of company I now ventured around the city alone, although it was good to enjoy my solitude, after a few days I felt that Mexico City was more fun when I was sharing adventures and experiences. This, my second week in Mexico, my new love and I were ready to travel to Oaxaca and spend a few days relaxing by the beach. We arrived at the airport in Huatulco-Oaxaca where we took a taxi to our accommodation in Playa Estacahauite, a remote Fishermans beach. We stayed in a wonderful, quiet and relaxing cabaña with beautiful sea view. The owners of the cabañas are Antonieta and Benoit a cheerful French-Mexican couple that decided to leave the city, fulfilling their dreams of living by the sea and constructing a modest set of cabañas to rent.
La playa Estacahauite is the perfect getaway from the city to reconnect with nature. Antonieta and Benoit offered us all the advice we needed, showing us where we could find places to eat, grocery shop and took us snorkeling. Whilst in Estacahuite we decided to visit the nearby Nudist beach in Zipolite, situated 40 minutes away by taxi. On my return back from Oaxaca I decided to follow my friend’s advice and write to locals in Couchsurfing to socialize with them during the day. This was probably one of the best ideas and most pleasant experiences. I wrote to a variety of locals that kindly offered to show me places I had not yet seen, some of them had excellent knowledge about the city’s architecture, some others would engage me with deep political and cross-cultural conversations. With them I visited the U.N.A.M. (National Autonomous Mexican University), the Cineteca Nacional (an institute for films dissemination and preservation) and Tlatelolco where in 1968 a student massacre occurred in Plaza de las tres Culturas. I also visited the old neighborhood of San Ángel and ate ice cream at Nevería Roxy in Condesa, where you find artisan ice creams with traditional recipes preserved since their opening in 1946. Being an ice cream lover I could not resist the temptation to also try the gourmet handmade ice creams at Helado Oscuro in Colonia Roma, where you retreat to ice creams made with alcohol, the experience is equal to sipping an exotic cocktail. Discovering most ice cream shops have two-for-one Thursdays, this was the case when I visited the Tlalpan neighborhood and ended up eating four ice creams with my Couchsurfing fellows.
This second Mexico was far more realistic and down to earth than the first, having experienced the city through my own eyes as well as the eyes of my friends and the locals, I now felt I could belong to this city. If there is something I have learned from all my travels is to not put all your eggs in one basket, keeping and open mind and making friends with a variety of locals that can offer their own insight into your escapades of a city. My Mexican Affair was still growing strong and so are my developing thoughts of living there for a while.
Can I find the guts to follow my heart and leave my comfort zone?