Fourteen hours of sleep was much needed and I felt nice and refreshed. The Mexican breakfast at the hostel looked interesting although I stuck to scrambled eggs on toast. It was then off out into the city, possibly the biggest on Earth depending on which figures you believe. With the benefit of hindsight (and I’m writing this having left Mexico) I needn’t have worried too much about security. When you tell people that you are visiting Mexico City it is common to be looked at as though you aren’t the full Shilling. Someone in the US (who I’m not sure if they’d even been to Mexico) told me that I’d almost certainly be mugged in Mexico City and there’s a good chance that I’d be kidnapped or worse. This person wasn’t Donald Trump by the way! Having done quite a bit of research I discovered that as long as you use a bit of common sense, the chance of being a crime victim in Mexico City is fairly low. I tried to blend in with the local dress, where approximately 95% of men wear a t-shirt/shirt, jeans/trousers, shoes/trainers combo. In other words wearing shorts in Mexico (unless you are exercising or in the vicinity of the beach), will single you out as being either a gringo or effeminate. The person who told me this used a slightly less politically correct word than effeminate. Speaking of political correctness, I still don’t know whether gringo is an offensive term. I’ve heard conflicting things, and as language often does, it can depend upon the context used. However as pretty much the pastiest person out of 25 million in Mexico City I reserve the right to use it a couple of times in this blog! Back to security, there seems to be an abundance of it in the city centre. It’s slightly alarming to see bakeries and cafes with armed guards. There’s also police all over the place. Every crossing has two police officers with whistles and wands, essentially duplicating the job of the green/red man. However with a population of this size there’s a lot of jobs to find for everyone.
Mexico City shares some common traits with other Latin American cities I’ve been too. They love naming a street after a historical date. So far I’ve seen 5 de mayo and 16 de septiembre. Walking around gives your senses plenty of work to do. There’s smells, both good (from taco stands) and bad (the obvious). Plenty of noise comes from the usually gridlocked traffic and lots of shouting. You have to look out where you are going due to the uneven surfaces and not bumping into the people who are buzzing around everywhere. So far I’ve noticed a pleasant lack of stray dogs and people going to the toilet in the street!
During the afternoon I attended a walking tour in Coyoacan, what would probably be described as a leafy Mexico City suburb. It’s a lovely colonial area with nice houses aligning its cobbled streets, with well-to-do Mexicans walking their poodles. The tour guide Mar (from Mexico City) was nice. There were lots of Frida Kahlo references, the painter probably most famous in the UK from the Salma Hayek film, Freda. Mar told us how Freda got into painting. A major accident would have sufficed for the explanation but Mar went into graphic detail. Freda was impaled by a metal bar that, “passed through her hip and out of her vagina.” Too much information Mar! She pronounced it as “var-yeena,” which made me chuckle though. After walking across Coyoacan, the trip ended at Freda’s old house, Casa Frida Kahlo, now a museum and a very popular attraction judging by the queue size. Around the corner was the equally imaginatively named Casa Leon Trotsky, also a museum, and site of where he was on the wrong end of the dreaded ice pick. The communism museum had closed by the time I got round there but someone who’d visited said it was a bit grisly inside, containing graphic details of Trotsky’s murder. The tour was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon/early evening.
On the way back to the hostel I stopped off for some food in Chinatown, somewhat lacking in Chinese-looking people and restaurants. In fact the whole Chinatown seems to consist of a pedestrianised street that’s maybe about 30 yards long. My pollo chow mein was nice though.