Mexico City, Mexico
Long layover sucks. On the way to New York from South America, we had a 10 hour layover in Mexico City. We decided to get out of the airport to enjoy a little bit of the city since it definitely beats moping around at the airport. Especially after we found ourselves stamped in into Mexico, 30 minutes after landing even though in theory we were ‘in-transit’.
It was our first time in Mexico. Well, actually it was technically my 2nd time, but since the only thing I remember from my first visit is having been put for a photo on top of a donkey, crying my 7 year old heart out, with a gigantic sombrero that says ‘Tijuana’ at the front, it doesn’t really count.
In Latin America, a lot of fun things can be found around the main plaza. So naturally, we took a taxi to Zocalo – the main plaza in Mexico City. It was early enough in the day that all the shops were still closed and there wasn’t anybody in the plaza around.
Nobody except for these rows and rows of gigantic figures – the ‘alebrijes’
What are ‘alebrijes’? They’re giant creatures made of paper mache, wood, wires, and more – fantastical creatures of wings, tusks, fangs, and more – created by Mexican artists from across the country. Some of them look like it would take a completely deranged individual to design.
We were like, “What’s going on?” Well apparently these guys will be paraded around in order to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos – the Mexican version of Halloween. At the end of the parade, they’ll be put on display for judging. How fun! We wish we could’ve stayed long enough to see it.
Don’t know who’ll be doing the judging, but this guy right here would win our vote:
Templo Mayor was another site recommended for us to check out located just next to the main church. There we got a glimpse of the Aztec civilization that used to occupy the very place the museum was built on. When the Spanish came, they demolished this great temple – Templo Mayor – that was one of the most important buildings for the Aztec people at that time.
If you don’t have much time, we’d recommend heading straight to the museum towards the end. It displays artifacts and trinkets found during excavation. Some of them are very well preserved. Even though it wasn’t as entertaining as the erotic pottery museum in Lima, for $4 – it was definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.
Our favorite tidbit we learned from the museum? Not only were the Aztecs big on human sacrificing through bloodletting and heart wrenching – they were pretty big on flaying their captives and wearing their skins as well. Aren’t you glad you weren’t living there and then? We definitely are.
The colonial buildings around the Zocalo and the street market around the plaza might have reminded us of South America – albeit with a lot more skulls thrown in…
But as soon as we tasted the street food, we knew that we were not in South America anymore
It was the heat. Whoa! The food here is spicy!
We had the best tamales we’ve ever had from a guy selling them off his bike. The best thing about it? It was spicy! There’s some spicy food in South America, but usually it comes in the form of ‘aji’ – a condiment made from chile that you add to your meal. If we piled enough of it, we could taste the spice alright. But the tamales that we had – there was no avoiding the spice, it was blended right in with the sauce – and it was HOT! Just look at that red, spicy goodness left on the wrapping.
It had been awhile since we had food that bites back!
Zocalo is only a 20 minute ride from the airport (minus the traffic). So if you happen to have a layover in Mexico City and wonder what to do – Mexico City’s main plaza (and its market) is definitely worth checking out. It’s one of the largest squares in the world (guess which is the largest? – the answer might surprise you). You can easily spend many hours there browsing the market, the buildings, and the museums.
Just make sure you take note which terminal your flight is flying out from. We ended up being dropped at the wrong terminal. It took us some time to figure out that out, and even longer to get to the right one.
Who knows – that little peek into Mexico might have the same affect it had on us: our layover went by so quick and we left with an unhealthy craving of Mexican food.
Who would’ve thought that a long layover can be so much fun? It was definitely the best quickie trip we’ve ever had. If you have more time in Mexico City, check out this city guide.