I just experienced my first trip to Mexico. You’d think living in California would afford ample opportunities to venture south of the border and partake in adventures in the birthplace of the Aztecs, most of the American southwest and California, and the taco. But alas, this was my first trek and unfortunately it only lasted 36 hours. I accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
It was not lost on me that one of my literary heroes, Jack Kerouac, wrote of many Mexican adventures and I was hoping to have a similar Beatnik experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to explore even a fraction of what Mexico City has to offer. The New York Times’ Damien Cave actually went in search of Kerouac’s Mexico.
“I found Jack Kerouac’s Mexico on a strip of beach that separated the old hotels from the heaving Pacific, at a bar near where he sat on the sea wall and watched the sunset 61 years ago.” Damien Cave, New York Times
I landed at Toluca International Airport, (Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport), which was out in the weeds. The bus ride into Mexico City was long and winding. The sun went down shortly after landing so I didn’t get to see much. It gets dark quickly this time of year.
I stayed in a hotel near Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec), which many liken to New York’s Central Park. A colleague mentioned that it takes an hour to walk around the perimeter of the park.
After getting checked in I met up with a pair of colleagues/friends, Ambrosio and Fernando, who are natives of Mexico. I must admit it was really cool to drink authentic Mexican beer (Modelo Negro) with a couple of authentic Mexicans.
Mexico City, and Mexico in general, has a reputation among many people I have known. Much of that reputation is undeserved as far I can tell. Home to more than 20 million people, it is much like any other mega-city with sprawling neighborhoods, mixed eras of architecture, upscale areas, down-trodden sections, and everything between. The traffic sucks and the place definitely qualifies as a sprawling metropolis.
After a few Modelo Negros, mis amigos and I set out to find some authentic tacos. We had a rough idea of where we were headed, but Fernando felt the need to ask directions every other block. We came across a Mariachi band serenading some tourists. The lead singer gave us the stink eye as Fernando began singing along as he was trying to put his mack down.
The three of us came across a couple of police officers walking the beat, and they pointed us in the right direction. Never mind the next set of cops we saw, who were apparently in the middle of a sting operation. I didn’t want to stick around for that.
We eventually found our destination – El Farolito – a neighborhood taqueria (18 locations). The first thing you notice when you walk in is the taco “chef” slicing pork off a giant rotisserie. The second thing you notice is the aroma. Your sense of smell is bombarded with the amazing aromas of several roasted, smoked and grilled meats. We enjoyed pork, chorizo and carne asada tacos. The first bite sent me into a tizzy. These were the best tacos I have ever had. And I’ve had authentic before.
Before you travel to Mexico, you hear all the stories and admonitions. Don’t drink the water, don’t eat this, don’t eat that. When you are with folks who grew up there, you trust them and my pals didn’t steer me wrong. Another Modelo Negro accompanied our meal.
We definitely needed the walk back to the hotel to burn off some calories. The evening ended with a couple of obligatory pours of tequila. When in Rome (do as the Romans do).
If you are a loyal reader, or know me at all, you know that I like to go running in the cities I visit. I went on 10 trips in 2015 and ran in nine cities. So far this year I have gone running in New Orleans, Nashville (twice), Baltimore, Jacksonville and Tampa. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to run in Bagshot, which is not too far from London, England. So, of course I was going to go running in Mexico City. I met up with two other colleagues, one a native of Mexico, and we set out for Chapultepec Park.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mexico City sits at 7,382 feet above sea level. I have run in Denver, the Mile High City, which sits between 5,130–5,690 feet above sea level. The last time I went running in Denver, the altitude didn’t bother me. Maybe that was because I run regularly. The time before, I was miserable but that was at the beginning of my fitness journey. Last winter I rather enjoyed my cold three-mile run in Denver.
I haven’t run in three weeks for various reasons. My back has been bothering me, and I had a head cold, which graduated into electric yellow snot flowing sinus infection.
Let’s just say I wasn’t ready for the elevation in Mexico City. We lost one pal less than half a mile in. I could call him out, but I won’t be mean. My other friend, Sal, and I managed a mile non-stop before I needed a break. After that we took a break every half mile or so. My body felt pretty good but I just couldn’t catch my breath.
We ran around part of and through part of Chapultepec Park. The park was stunning. The natural beauty was interrupted with historical monuments. That’s not a bad thing. Visitors walked, ran and paddle-boated their way through the expanse.
My run time wasn’t horrible had it been non-stop. That’s what I get for taking three weeks off from running. I highly doubt it would have made a difference. At my age, with my body, taking any time off from exercise is almost catastrophic. It is so easy to get out of shape, and so hard to get back in shape. I only feel good when I am exercising – or eating amazing chorizo tacos.
As I mentioned, I was only in Mexico City for 36 hours or so, and I was there to work. I didn’t get a chance to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan, or the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. But I did enjoy authentic tacos and I got to go running in another exotic locale.
Muchas gracias, Ciudad de México.