I ended up with a four day long weekend and I was determined to go somewhere, but none of the near-to-Vancouver destinations appealed, so I looked for cheap flights to destinations that I could manage in a not-quite four day trip. And here I am en route to Mexico City.
I booked my ticket with about a week's lead time so I didn't do my usual months of study and preparation. I feel underprepared, but it's kind of exciting. I realized, as I hurriedly scanned my newly purchased Lonely Płanet that I don't actually know very much about Mexico. Just pop-culture stuff: Chupacabra. The Three Amigos. Frida Khalo & Diego Rivera. The Tijuana Brass. A handful of writers...not much about the history or politics, aside from the fact that there were Aztecs and Mayans, but I don't know much about them. I went to Tijuana with my mother and sister when I was 11 and that was awesome. It was the first different place I went. I remember donkeys, little girls selling chicklets, and the market where I was first introduced to the concept of bargaining - the price isn't really the price? Young mind blown. I bought a skinny leather necktie. (It was the '80s.) And I've never been back. Until now.
You won't find me at a beach or resort, but Mexico City looked like it would satisfy my travel needs. A big city with lots to explore, culture, history, inexpensive everything, and maybe a little dangerous? Great. (Actually, I think the rumours of danger are overblown, a least in comparison to other cities I've been, but who knows? As I write this preamble, I am still on the plane from Vancouver.)
[several hours later]
I arrived at my hostel, the Casa San Ildefonso, in the centre historico, by metro. The metro system here is great. It's not fancy, but it's comprehensive, fast, and cheap - a ride anywhere is 5 pesos, or about 30 cents. The thing i like best about it is that each station has its own logo. Apparently, when it was built the literacy rate was low so they gave the stations names and pictures. From the airport to my hostel this was my route in pictures: kangaroo, squirrel, water twins, water pipe, aloe, church tower, pyramid, skyscraper, shoulders man, handsome man, church, decapitated Chaplin, eagle.
I walked across the Zocalo square, flanked by impressive buildings and easily found my lodgings. Simple, pleasant, and very cheap.
I went for a walk and found the Los Vegetarianos restaurant where i finally tried mole sauce. Weird and gross at first, but then i decided i loved it.
I got in at about 5:00 and part of me just wanted to hang out, but Friday night was my only chance to take in a uniquely Mexican event: lucha libres. (Mexican wrestling) I hopped the metro to the Arena Mexico. The area was a bit rough looking, but felt totally safe. The streets were lined with food vendors, cooking up savoury snacks, and vendors selling wrestling masks. Divey bars spilled cervesa holding patrons and live rock music onto the street. I wished i had gotten there earlier to explore, but i had a show to see.
I bought a ticket, mid range, for about $13 cad and entered a big stadium filled with people and noise and roving snack and beer sellers. The show was...crazy. Lights and smoke machines. Scantily clad, curvy girls danced to rock music as each wrestler was announced to cheers. The costumes were elaborate. Wings, capes, silver boots, spandex pants with stars and skulls, and teeny speedos.
I stayed for about and hour and a half, but left before it was over. I got the idea and it was quite late. I took the metro back. It was packed. It took me three tries to get on and we were crammed in. It wasn't bad though; i was easily the tallest person in my end of the car and people were polite. They do have cars for women and children which are less full (and smell better).
Back in my 'hood, i went for a walk around midnight (still feeling safe) and had a cigar. It was a great first day, even if it was only about 8 hours.