31.10.17

3 Days in Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City was a wonderful surprise after a lot of anxiety. I'm no fan of solo travel; I've done it several times and every time it either ends up a disaster or I'm bored and lonely. I avoid it whenever possible, but my trip to Mexico was bound to be solo. My well-meaning family and friends peppered me with "Isn't that dangerous?" "Should you really go there alone?" "Don't tourists get kidnapped there?". I'm no amateur traveler, and I've been to some dangerous places, but my ability to write off other's concerns was markedly absent. And so the night before my flight, I had a breakdown. I considered canceling the trip, or else finding a way to bring someone with me (forgetting that though I was flying alone, I would be meeting friends upon arrival). But my dear husband convinced me I was being dramatic and everything would be fine - more than fine, in fact, and that I would have a great time. And so I entered Mexico City full of anxiety, and left with lovely memories (and a stomach full of quesadillas). 
Phil and I are lucky to have friends living around the world, including a couple with a home in Mexico City. They picked me up from the airport, and took me to their favorite spots around the city. They fed me delicious food and let me borrow a (local) cell phone and were all around the greatest hosts I could possibly hope for. We spent my first day visiting the popular parts of downtown, and the remaining days while they went to their office jobs I wandered around on my own. Mexico City is huge, and easy to get lost in, so I didn't stray too far from the busy areas. But really there's no need to; there's so much to see and do downtown and in the big neighborhoods that I wasn't able to see it all in just three days. 
It's no surprise that one of the best things about Mexico is the food. And the best food I ate ended up being the street food. And no - I never once got food poisoning (calm down mom, street tacos are great). The most interesting thing I tried was Huevos Divorciados (pictured above) - eggs over fried cactus paddle with Chilaquiles between the two. I don't know that I'm a big cactus-for-eating fan, but I'm always glad to try *exciting new things!

*I mean, who's to say how exciting eating cactus is, but I was pretty stoked
High on the list of "coolest things to do in Mexico City" is visiting Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's home, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House). For anyone - the majority of people, my husband insists - who doesn't recognize those names, suffice to say Frida is one of the most famous female artists and feminist icons, and her husband Diego was famous artist and socialite. She had a tumultuous life and produced incredible artwork and poetry through it. Their home is, as the name implies, the most incredible shade of blue. Since their deaths, the house has been turned into a museum which showcases both of their artwork and what their lives were like. Definitely worth a visit, and one of my favorite things we did!
The architecture is beautifully varied across the city, from the ornate palaces and cathedrals to colorful stucco storefronts and homes. One of my days I spent on a hop-on-hop-off bus, and I took most of my time in a survey of the architecture. I'm now determined to paint my future home a lively, neon hue, with bougainvillea to match. 
One of the most surprising locations I visited was Chapultepec Castle - a glamorous palace on a hill overlooking the city. The castle grounds are also home to a botanical garden, zoo, and small lake with paddle-boats you can rent. It is a beautiful way to spend a day; there's more than enough to do and it's cheap to enter. For over an hour I wandered the park and didn't run into anyone, except the statues scattered throughout. 


Mexico City was a joy to visit, and I encountered nothing but pleasant people and interesting attractions. My anxiety was undue, and it was refreshing to be proved entirely wrong. If you get the chance to visit Mexico, I highly recommend a visit to the capitol city. My list of Must-see's include:
  • La Casa Azul
  • The Anthropological Museum
  • Chapultepec Castle
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes

Have you been to Mexico City before? What was you favorite thing you did?


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9.8.17

Lisbon, Portugal: The Alfama District

Lisbon: florid, effervescent, lovely. I recognized going in, Lisbon was a dangerous place. Dangerous for how much I knew I would adore it, how enchanting it's narrow city streets would be, how placid the city's personality. I wasn't wrong; I can say with certainty that Lisbon is one of my favorite European cities (and who is surprised? No one, I'm sure). We stayed in a sweet AirBNB in the Alfama District, the oldest part of the city. Our quaint apartment gave us ample access to the winding alleys, cobbled streets, cafes, and restaurants the area is known for.
If this photo of a sweet old lady feeding pigeons from her window doesn't embody the feeling of Alfama, I don't know what does. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful (a travel cliche, I know, but in this case true). We walked our entire stay in Lisbon, taking brief rides on the famous trams. The overall feeling of the area was unhurried; even the busiest street corners were relatively quiet, and we never experienced the loudness of cars honking or people shouting. As noted, Alfama is the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon; in 1755 one of the largest earthquakes in the world hit Lisbon (estimated magnitude of 9.0), and nearly the entire city was destroyed. Alfama, however, sits north on a hill, and remained intact through the disaster. This means that district is still dotted with architecture pre-dating 1755, which is pretty amazing. 
One of my favorite experiences was our first night in the city; I was exhausted from traveling, and Phil was enthusiastic about exploring the area. We compromised by wandering around the neighborhood for a few hours before choosing a cafe to eat an early dinner. As it turned out, the cafe selected was a venue for Fado, which is a traditional type of Portuguese ballad played with a 12-string guitar (listen to a sample here). The cafe was small, and it was early in the evening, so we were one of only two occupied tables. We got a private concert with two (very talented) guitarists and two (very talented) singers for nearly two hours. It was the perfect introduction to Portugal and the best way to start our trip (and end a long day). 
As you explore Alfama, you'll catch glimpses of the Tagus river, hand-painted mosaics and ceramics, and plenty of colorfully-painted homes. If you plan on visiting Lisbon, I highly recommend staying in Alfama; you won't regret experiencing its character first-hand. 

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