4 Nights in Guatemala, 5 hours in Mexico City and 1 Glass of Wine in Santa Monica
The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for me and along with a chaotic agenda has come a ton of happiness, joy, fun, productivity and a healthy dose of insight and perspective. Somewhere between 6:00 am phone calls to hotels in different time zones, international wire transfers and prepping for a live interview with Good Day Sacramento, I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a brief visit to Guatemala and enjoy a long overdue reunion with one of my besties, Ashley Todd. A pint size spitfire hailing all the way from Scotland, Ashley, despite her outlandish demeanor and sailor mouth when vacationing, is an accomplished doctor at just 23 years old. Her endless energy and ability to balance work and play serve as a constant reminder of how to live a multifaceted, think outside the box, kind of life. Seeing her was a breath of fresh air and certainly good for the mind, heart and soul.
We enjoyed our days in Antigua visiting the markets, climbing up to Cerro de la Cruz, sipping on mochas at Café La Parada by morning and mezcal at Café No Sé by night (ok…mid afternoon, you caught me). More than anything, I relished the opportunity to slowly roam the streets of a town that has become a deep part of who I am, stopping to appreciate the vibrant foliage sprawling out over stone walls that have stood there for centuries. They still amaze me.
On my final day in Guatemala I even had one of those rare lazy days on the beach that I often forget how much I need until I find myself, eyes closed, floating on the sea completely and utterly at peace. If you’re looking for some r&r check out my pal Rusty’s place in El Paredón, The Driftwood Surfer, just two hours from Antigua. Needless to say the trip was beyond rewarding and well worth the sleepless nights spent on crowded airplanes.
Perhaps one of the best parts of my mini trip was a very last minute and unexpected visit to México City, a place I quickly found myself lusting over. Upon realizing my layover in Mexico City was almost 5 hours long, I whipped out my phone and text my dear friend, and correspondent, Dominique. Sure enough within minutes she was already coordinating our agenda and managed to arrive early to Terminal 2 to greet me that next morning. Typical Dominique. We hopped in an uber and sped throughout the city making our way back to the La Condesa neighborhood where Dom and her hubby, Ray, have been living for the past year.
The neighborhood is posh with charming remnants of colonial times and just the right amount of grit to keep it hip. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Latin America’s larger capital cities (though this mindset of mine is slowly start to evolve) but Mexico City, despite its population of roughly 22.1 million people, has always intrigued me. It was a stark juxtaposition from the dreamy and picturesque streets of La Antigua Guatemala where time can often seem to stand still. México City was alive and bustling with cars, motorcycles, bikes, people and animals all zooming by, yet as we strolled through Parque México there was still a sense of peace in the air.
La Condesa was an extremely walkable part of town and the amount of vegetation in the area breathes life back into the city and its people. It’s always a welcome reminder to see so many trees and plants in the middle of a concrete jungle. As we sauntered down the streets of this enchanting barrio I noticed two interesting things:
1. Mexico City (and La Condesa particularly) is made up of a diverse community with people from all over other parts of Mexico, and the world, flocking to this metropolis. In a couple of hours I heard Spanish, English, French, German, Korean and more, it was truly remarkable.
2. Dogs are all the rage in La Condesa and you can’t walk more than a few steps without seeing a perfectly groomed pooch parading down the street with his owner, or dog walker, in tow. La Condesa is definitely chic and it seems a canine friend is this season’s #1 accessory for residents in this part of town, there is even a fancy dog park for the pups in the center of Parque México.
La Condesa boasts an array of eclectic cafes, bars, restaurants, shops are more, many with outdoor patios all which add to the neighborhood’s open and communal feel. We ducked into one of Dom and Ray’s favorite brunch spots, Que Sería De Mi, for brunch and it certainly did not disappoint. This tiny restaurant had a quaint charm to it with flower pots and tea cups on every table and is clearly a favorite among locals as there was a 30 minute wait to get a spot for three. I was tempted to go for the ricotta pancakes but ultimately settled on the chilaquiles verdes because chilaquiles are one of those vices over which I possess no power or self control. I’ll have to go back once more on a day when I have nothing else to do but digest chilaquiles AND an order of ricotta pancakes at the same time, because if my breakfast was any indication of the rest of their menu, it will be well worth a day spent nursing a food baby.
With panzas llenas and corazones contentos we continued our stroll, stopping in one of the coolest restaurant/book stores I’ve even entered in my life, El Péndulo. A multistory building with high ceilings and mezzanines looking down onto the foyer, this establishment was full of smiling faces browsing books, nibbling and noshing and getting their caffeine fix. To top it off there was live music playing in the center of main room. Mexico City was alive in a way many cities back home never quite are and despite being exhausted after days of social engagements and hours of travel I too felt awake.
As it neared noon I hugged Dominique and Ray goodbye and wished them well, more excited than ever to return to Mexico City in March. Feeling happy and inspired I chatted with my uber driver, Luis, for twenty minutes about life, love, politics, cultural differences, you name it. It was one of those conversations that’s sometimes easier to have with a complete stranger and in your second language. We became official Facebook friends and I waved goodbye ready for the next adventure which incidentally involved me being rerouted to Los Angeles that night, giving me an opportunity to catch up with my cousin. That’s a whole other story for another day.
Antigua Guatemala is amazing in and of itself, but what makes it truly magical are the people you meet there, whether you remain friends forever or you simply share a great conversation on a crowded night at Cantina Royal.
México City has something for everyone and there’s a reason it’s attracting people like flies. 5 hours wasn’t enough and I doubt 5 weeks or even 5 months would be either, but for however long you’re there a good time is surely guaranteed.
Have any travel tips for México City? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below!
Happy travels mis queridos!
– Chelsea 💕