The descent into Mexico City’s airport provides a glimpse at the vast expanse of the city — it’s not quite what William Gibson imagined in Neuromancer, but all I could think of was the Sprawl as I peered out the plane window at the seemingly endless city surrounded by distant mountains.

mexico from plane
The view of Mexico City before arrival

If airports are the basis for first impressions, Mexico City does not come off well. It seemed a bit old and crumbling — it was not a welcoming airport for international arrivals, and Wi-Fi did not function outside the doors, thus forcing me to take a city taxi to my hotel for about twice the price of Uber. But immigration was polite and efficient — the officer even stamped between pages to save space in my passport, which is now on its last blank page.

reforma street
Tree-lined streets in Reforma neighborhood

Traffic from the airport to Hotel Segovia Regency, which wasn’t that far to Roma Norte, was miserable. It reminded me of early commutes from the Jersey suburbs to Newark, except Mexico City traffic was slower. It took over an hour to get to the hotel at midday. The hotel itself was fine, especially for only $40, but I thought it odd that they wanted to change the curtains in my room immediately after I checked in.

mexico sculpture
Interesting public art to enjoy while wandering around

But I digress. I was starving because I hadn’t eaten since breakfast because United doesn’t serve food on international flights of less than 6 hours. The hotel concierge gave me directions to a popular pedestrian street, Calle Genova — and it was crowded on a Friday afternoon with locals getting out of work early. It was nearly impossible to get a table outside, and I had to settle for an inside table that prevented me from people watching. But the service at the restaurant was exceptional — the waiter spoke English to help with my poor Spanish and explained a few menu items that I didn’t recognize.

calle genova mexico
The busy Calle Genova on a Friday afternoon

From that point, I wandered around the adjacent streets for the evening — it’s a safe neighborhood with plenty of light, people, and police. I definitely made the right choice to stay nearby.

mexico city
Downtown Mexico City

During my eight days in Mexico (five in Mexico City), I was impressed by the amount to see and do. There are just too many museums and historic sites to visit during one trip — it’s overwhelming. I visited my top choices, but I missed out on a lot of other places that I would have enjoyed (also two art museums had their exhibition halls closed during my visit, putting a bit of a damper on that experience).

More than just the things to do around Mexico City, I was pleased to find such a welcoming atmosphere from the locals. While most of my interactions were with hotel and restaurant staff, I was still amazed by the level of service — it’s not like I was staying at 5-star hotels. I like to think they were more helpful because I attempted to speak Spanish, but they probably would’ve done the same if I only spoke English.

gorilla mexico
Is this Professor Banjo from Futurama?

There’s more than enough just in the capital city to get me to take a second trip (though I would like to visit some other places like Oaxaca). The fact that I got sick during my vacation means that I didn’t get the opportunity to fully stuff my face, which is another reason I have to return to Mexico — the aromas wafting from the restaurants and street vendors was beautiful.

There was little to dislike about this vacation. Illness aside, it was a terrific holiday.

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