I woke up on the first morning in Mexico City, and threw open the doors of the rooftop balcony. The sun was just starting to rise over the trees in the park beyond the apartment, a woman was rolling her bicycle with a steaming bin of tamales on the back into the crosswalk below, settling herself to sell to the passers-by heading to work. I watched her cheerfully greeting her customers for some time; long enough for the colors in the sky to change from pink to orange to gold, for the birds to start chirping loudly and the chilly air to warm.
It was a complete dreamscape as far as I was concerned. From the rooftop, I could see out over the neighborhoods of Condesa and could see into the cupola of the church across the street. The jacaranda trees below had strewn ultra-violet petals all over the ground in carpets. It had been a long time since I had been anywhere new. A long time since I had been anywhere new on my own, and even though I had been tormented about whether the trip was opulent, those jacaranda petals seemed to be rolled out in a carpet just for me.
My gut instinct has come to be my compass; in all areas of my life, it tells me when to push a little harder, back off the gas, to make the leap, to hold my tongue, to yell from the rooftops. To eat the cookie, to have a salad instead. But recently, a few things have happened that had me questioning whether my gut was a good voice of reason. It told me that the trip was a good idea – the only way I would learn to trust myself again was to go and see what happened.
The past couple of years have been a whirlwind; I was divorced from my best friend, I left a job, started a company, became an entrepreneur, traveled too much, forgot how to balance, and learned how to hustle.Then, an important member of my family became quite sick. In a moment when I was already wondering where to go next, I found myself absolutely lost in the next chapter (and I hadn’t really digested the introduction yet.)
For the longest time, the way I get found again emotionally is to get lost physically; to ride deep into the mountains, to struggle through languages, to navigate cuisines or dark corners. So that’s exactly what I did; I flew to Mexico City to get a tattoo, to place a beautiful scar on the outside of my body, where a beautiful scar on the inside of my body already existed. I can’t explain really, why or how this felt like the only logical thing to do. It just did.
And, I can’t explain how – as the ink was being pumped into my arm, I felt a sense of release; it was as if the tattoo brought out a truth in me that I’d been struggling to bring to the surface for some time.
I walked out of the tattoo studio and into the sun, immediately knowing that I was in the right place, at the right time. That my intuition had led me in the right direction and so long as I kept listening, everything would end up right in the world. For the next four days, I didn’t have any of my “usual” responsibilities, or anxieties; there were no bicycles to ride or hikes to have, no kitchen to clean or laundry to do. In their place, was a color-scape, rich with history, flavors, art and culture to explore. All I had to do was keep listening, keep myself alive and fed, to not go broke (which is hard to do in this city,) get kidnapped or lost.
All of that seemed reasonably within my grasp, and in the end, it was.
Mexico City is a great business trip if you’re in the “business-of-eating” as I am. The culinary scene is literally bursting right as I type with interesting restaurants, an emerging café culture, and creative chefs from every corner of the country, shedding light on centuries-old traditions.
I ate at a smattering of restaurants both fine dining and late-night-taco joints, I stopped in the afternoons to sit in the park and soak up the sounds of the city, all the while getting used to seeing the new art on my arm popping out as I ordered, sipped a drink, went to take a picture.
I visited museums and walked for miles and miles – sometimes for transportation, sometimes to see pockets of neighborhoods in a new way. I went for a few runs, did some yoga. I got that tattoo, and dipped a toe into a vast culinary world that I can’t wait to return to. I brought home armloads of spices, chiles, jams and other ingredients to play with. On the plane home, I didn’t feel the need to question my gut instincts anymore – the trip was perfection in my eyes; timely, easy, enjoyable, relaxing. My intuition told me to let the stewardess continue to fill my wine glass and to just keep reading magazines. I felt renewed in my instincts, my sense of wanderlust refreshed – for far-flung places and for the adventures immediate on the horizon.
Mexico, thanks and I’ll be back for more of you.
I’m still getting used to seeing this beautiful scar on my arm – that represents my entire life, all of its challenges and lessons to this point – and feel that Mexico City was tattooed on me at that moment as well. Below, I’ve shared some of my favorite moments, places to eat and things to do below but there are literally enough special, inspiring places to visit and things to do in Mexico City that you could fill a week and still not hit them all. Every museum I visited was worth the time (though I didn’t always include them in the list below.) Pick the genres of art you’re interested in and go for it. In making my selections I used a beta from a few good friends, as well as from here, here and here.
- Weaving through Mercado San Juan + Merced – chatting about tacos + tradition – with these new friends.
- Wandering La Lagunilla on a Sunday afternoon, hunting antiques (and vintage Gucci!)
- Hunting down the Aztec sacrificial stone at happy hour in this museum in the heart of the city.
- Basking in the colorful glow of Luis Barragan and Frida Kahlo.
- Stashing traditional sweets for friends, along with guava jam and some special finds from this cool outpost.
- Getting inked in this gallery-like tattoo studio.
- Wandering Colima Street in La Roma.
- Finding a way to eat the guava jam bun each day from this sweet spot.
- Running to the palace in Chapultepec park. (And, returning for sunset, people watching + elotes!)
- Stocking up on cool kitchen wares here, and covetable textiles and decor for the dining room here.
- The quiet streets in Condesa en route to coffee here.
- Discovering the greatest green juices (and best bfast vibes) on the patio here.
- Gorgeous kale salad + genius cocktails. (This city is after my heart. Full stop.)
- The leisurely late lunch that turned into early dinner and made the whole trip.
- People watching from the rooftop.
- Churros for breakfast.
- The buzz of brunch: here, here and here.
- Tacos tacos tacos!
- Mysterious mezcal.
- And the cardamom cone.
I hope these suggestions and the images that follow are inspiration enough for you to get lost and found again, wherever you find yourself.