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Mexico City

Neil, Margie, Don and I fly to Mexico City. The airport seems to have an unusually high police presence, many in riot gear. Our driver informs us that they are expecting trouble.

It’s November 20 – Revolution Day, the perfect day for a protest. The Mexican people have a few things to protest about, at the top of the list is the fate of 43 students, missing since September.

The students are now believed to have been executed. Their abduction resulted in the arrest of the City Mayor and his wife. Protests have broken out across the country.

We are warned not to venture into the Centro Historico that night. The news reports show that most of the activity culminated at the Plaza de la Constitución.

We ventured a look the following day, there was no sign of any disturbance. It was like: OK, you’ve had your fun, now go home and we’ll clean-up.

Mexico City confronts all your senses: it’s crowded, chaotic and polluted. It reminds me of Asia, the hustle and bustle on the streets and the erratic crazy driving.

Apparently you don’t need to sit a driving test or take any lessons. Just pay the US$45 license fee and it’s straight on to the road, learn as you go!  Not suprising, the road toll in Mexico is outrageous.

Word of advice: belt-up and hold on when you get in a taxi!

The city sits at an altitude of 2,240m, high enough to induce the effects of altitude sickness. Something I have never suffered from until now!

It also sits in a valley, with a intoxicating haze hanging over it. It rates in the top 10 most polluted cities in the world.

All this aside, it is also an enticing city, we found it surprisingly charming. It’s many layers require more than 2/3 days to unwrap.

We however, have only three days to explore the city with Neil and Margie. Then they head home and we join the first organised tour of our trip.

Aside from wandering through the Centro Historico and ticking off the regular tourist spots, the highlight in our exploration has to be Mexican Food Tours.

The tour explores Polanco, a trendy cosmopolitan neighborhood. Our host, Connie was fantastic; passionate and knowledgable about food, Mexican history and culture.

We had such a great time with Connie, we invited her for a drink afterwards. She took us to Jules Basement a ‘speakeasy’ bar. The bouncer secrets us through a coolroom door positioned at the back of a taco restaurant.

We decend down into a strikingly modern bar. Large white skulls encased in glass serve as tables and the walls are covered with black leather panels. It serves a range of exotic and traditional cocktails.

Connie provided us with further recommendations on places to eat in the city. We followed her recommendations for breakfast and dinner the following night. Enjoying both.

Well, it’s time to bid farewell to Neil and Margie who are the last of Don’s birthday crew to leave the party. It’s been a long party!

Don and I spend our last day on the Hop-on-off bus.  We’ve now done a few of these around the world and always find it a good way to get an overview of the city.

We leave the bus at Coyoacan, one of the 16 boroughs.  It’s a charming part of the city, with cobblestone streets, colonial mansions and colourful villas.

The local markets overflow with fresh produce with colourful piñatas hanging from the roof.  Tantalizing smells linger in the air from the food vendors cooking up fresh  mexican fare.

Also in the area is the former home, now museum, of artist and  international icon; Frida Kahlo.  Her self portraits feature on bags, t-shirts and other tourist memorabilia you find throughout Mexico.

Frida has been described as “one of history’s grand divas…a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker.  She was renowned for her lavish indigenous dress and festive dinner parties, she hosted for the likes of Leon Trotsky and Nelson Rockefeller.

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