Mexico City Roundup: Tacos, Taxis and Meetings Aplenty

The Distrito Federal de México (DF) is a dizzying, sprawling city of choked exhaust and a patchwork of disparate neighborhoods called colonias. Because of my objectively insane meeting schedule, I was able to whizz through a good many of them. From the industrial Estado de Mexico to trendy Condessa, from residential Miramonte to the dynamic Polanco, I cross-crossed Mexico City like a harried contestant from The Amazing Race.  Except that I wasn’t terribly harried – I was actually having a good time.

This trip is the complete opposite of my usual ‘slow travel’ philosophy, and I do feel that painful ache of jealousy when I see backpackers exploring DF’s many sights. I wish I had the time to dig through the history and presence of this enormous city. But within the flurry of appointments and taxis, I’ve still been able to do the things I want to do: eat, and speak Spanish.

Mexico City Taco Extravaganza

tacos in mexico city
Piles of succulent meat at Polaco’s street market.

In my years away from South America, I truly missed the ability to communicate in a local language, a loss I felt most tangibly in Asia. While people were extremely friendly throughout the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, I longed for the intensity of interaction that I had in those early months of my travels, at the southern tip of South America. My time in Burma – already with its constant smell of curries and flowers and its friendly people – would have been that much more incredible were I able to speak Burmese.

Man playing harmonica for change at Polanco's Street Market in Mexico City
Man with his harmonica, playing for change in Polanco.

During this whirlwind stay of 2.5 days, I talked Spanish aplenty. Not only was that my job – to expound upon the many advantages of studying English at IH New York – but I was so starved for comprehension on the road that I practiced my Spanish wherever I could. I talked politics with my taxi drivers, talked finance with businessmen at a crowded street food stall in the chaos of Polanco’s busy market, swooned over sweet, creamy horchata at a corner drink stand, heaping lavish praise on its owner. And in doing so, I further entrenched an already-existing philosophy: it is unfathomable to me to live somewhere without learning the local language.

Of course, being me I also went on a bit of a street food bender. Not satisfied with a taco or two during my brief stint in DF, I managed to consume a dizzying variety of these succulent treats. The IH Mexico office rounded up their staff and brought me to El Farolito for tacos, introducing me to pollo pastor (a taco stuffed with chicken marinated in a sour but spicy rub, then grilled and topped with a slice of pineapple), chicharrónes de queso (a thin but impossibly big slice of cheese deep fried until it curls gently on itself in a tendril of crispy deliciousness) and of course the classic bifsteak con queso, a taco of marinated, tender beef topped with melted cheese.

Tacos at El Farolito in mexico city
El Farolito’s tacos were the best I’ve ever had.

I might be traveling in a suit an heels, but it certainly won’t stop me from scurrying into a market and trying whatever I can get my hands on. It just means I need to actually watch how I eat – with this schedule, I’ve got no time for dry cleaning!

Tacos in the market in Polanco, Mexico city
Tacos in Polanco’s crowded market.

I’m writing this entry from Peru, having already finished my short stint in Colombia. More to come from my very fun few days in Bogota and Medellin in just a bit.


Mexico City Roundup:

2.5 days
22 tacos
12 meetings
14 taxis
1 flauta
1 tired Jodi

22 thoughts on “Mexico City Roundup: Tacos, Taxis and Meetings Aplenty”

  1. I hear you about being excited to be back in a place where you can speak the local language. After spending the last two months in Berlin, I love the area but realize that to stay here longer I really need to learn German. There are just so many unanswered questions. Actually, I glommed onto some Peruvians selling cakes at the market the other day and just enjoyed being able to speak Spanish again. They probably thought I was odd, but that’s OK. I had fun.

  2. Jodi, I’m very concerned about your taco consumption rate. At your current pace, you will consume all the world’s tacos within two months.

    Please slow down, if not for your sake, then for the sake of the world’s taco supply.

  3. @Audrey I’m sure they were pretty excited to speak with you in their native tongue. It’s been a bit of a struggle at first after 10 years, but a great feeling to give a presentation in Spanish and every day feel more and more comfortable. Looking forward to your posts in Bangkok!

    @Gary Lucky for you (and the rest of the world) I am now onto Peru where tacos are scarce and arepas nonexistent. I’m relegated to custard, ceviche and skewers of succulent meat.

    @Mark Thanks for the comment! I have no idea how I went so many years without a pastor taco but they are a perfect mix of sweet and sour and spicy. I’m drooling thinking about them.

  4. Only one flauta? I guess it didn’t impress you too much.

    Your point about speaking the local language is something I completely agree with. I’ve been trying to learn some Arabic here in Syria but it’s going slowly. And it’s great that you are not afraid to practice speaking Spanish as much as possible. That always seems to be the biggest hurdle that prevents people from making progress with learning languages.

    And hopefully you were 1 tired and full Jodi by the end…

  5. I couldn’t agree more on the language. You do feel left out of the party, or in this case – a good chunk of the culture. As usual Jodi, some great eatin’. Food is so integral. Hopefully see you on the trail somewhere!

  6. Lucie, thanks so much for putting me in touch with your friends there – it was a great time.

    Sunee, I’m not sure but I definitely suspect I’ll wake up one day having gained 50 lbs overnight :)

    Earl, the flauta was good but the tacos were ridiculous, melt-in-your-mouth good. And tiny, so I could get away with eating so many of them. Yes, most absolutely full by the end of the day, fear not.

    Jeannie, one day we’ll meet up – we just have to! I hope you’re enjoying your RTW travels as well.

  7. OMG! How do you stay so thin when you’re eating 22 tacos and a flauta in 2.5 days?!? I would have exploded or developed an extra rim to my spare tire. :-) I think you really do need to challenge Adam Richman to a taco eating contest!

    I agree, I think it’s great if you can speak the local language where you’re traveling; that’s got to create a richer experience than those of us who can barely master “hello,” “please” and “thank you” in the foreign language. :-)

  8. Baconlady: I too wish I had some tacos to munch on, though the pan de yuca in Quito is definitely satiating my cravings for the moment!

    Gray: Not going to lie, I definitely put on a few pounds on this trip. Unlike Asia, where the heat and the walking around all the time help keep the balance, I’m in taxis and meetings most of the time. But I still think it’s worth it because they just taste that good :) Don’t forget my favourite expression ever, how to say no problem !

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  10. Hi Jodi,

    Mexican food is delicious for sure. Back in Québec, I first though that all Mexican was only about guacamole, chili sauce, lemon, tortillas and beef but varying in order to create different meal type. Speaking the local language is definitely something you got do even if it’s not always easy.

    I’m in Quérétaro, Mexico since Oct 5th myself appreciating and travelling the country. Leaving for Santiago de Chile on Thursday this week (nov 4th 2010) and Sydney, Australia next Tuesday.

    Best luck for your trip!

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  12. directline holidays

    That’s a lot of tacos! I did the same when I was travelling around Mexico, the sites and food were at the top of my agenda! The high rise buildings in Mexico City light up the night for some spectacular views.

  13. Pascal: I hope you’re having a great time in Oz – definitely a big change from South America! (But less from la belle province).

    Directline: Yes, many tacos were consumed and they were all delicious. Most notably with the added pineapple – I had no idea that was so popular, and it was just great.

  14. Haha, I love how you say you’re my evil stepmother. I also love telling people you’re one of the best things to happen to me! Thanks for the comment – you would have LOVED these tacos.

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