1) Eat salsa with every meal. Even breakfast.
Mexican food is amazing. It’s easily among the freshest-tasting cuisines I’ve ever experienced; right up there with Italian and Portuguese. Bonus: at restaurants, every meal comes with a side of limes, homemade salsa and hot sauce. Even breakfast.
2) Grasshoppers are squishy and sour.
Two popular dishes in Mexico City are ant eggs, escamoles, and grasshoppers, chapulines. Unfortunately ant eggs were out of season when we visited and we were told the frozen ones were lousy. Too bad. But we did get to eat some ‘hoppers. Watch me eat my first bug in Mexico City »
A platter of oranges dusted with grasshopper parts surrounding a plate of toasted grasshoppers from Al Andar restaurant.
3) Trampolines are as awesome as you remember.
When I was little I had a neighbor. We’ll call her Bethany. Bethany was a brat but she had a trampoline. So I was her friend.
In Mexico City, kids don’t have to kiss up to obnoxious neighbors for trampoline access. Parque Mexico, one of the city’s top green spots, is home to two public trampolines. I know this would never fly in the states (much to the chagrin of our country’s personal injury attorneys,) but I thought it was an awesome idea.
Take that, Bethany.
4) Pollution is a total drag.
Mexico City’s air quality has dramatically improved since the 1990s, when the pollution prompted officials to ban recess and exercising outdoors. Measures like increasing emission control standards and moving factories out of the city have had their impact, as have smaller efforts like bicycle sharing and vertical gardens.
Still, the pollution is apparent. Smog is naturally trapped above the city by the mountains and volcanoes that frame the Valley of Mexico. The air always smells like someone is burning a fireplace nearby.
5) The altitude WILL get to you.
You forget that Mexico City sits about a mile and a half above sea level until you have to do anything remotely athletic. Like climb a pyramid. Or walk up four flights of stairs to a rooftop bar.
After two minutes of moderate excursion, one’s lungs start pounding and his or her leg muscles become wobbly. No one wants to admit this is happening, especially the fitter among us. It will pass in a few days.
6) I thought waiting tables as a teen was hard. I was an idiot.
Xochimilco is an area of the city constructed of man-made islands interspersed with shallow rivers. The waters are navigable by flat colorful boats called trajineras, the Mexican answer to the gondola.
Our captain was an incredibly young-looking guy who didn’t appear old enough to take on the responsibility of pushing a boat through a lagoon with little more than a stick. But he handled it with grace and brushed it aside when I called him “fuerte”.