Mexico Trip Journal – Day 1 – to Mexico City

categories: mexico travel

Packing for a trip is always a little stressful but it adds an extra level of stress when you go to get something from your garage and find that the garage door has crumpled it on itself after one of the hinges broke. We managed to get the cars out of the garage and then I left that mess for my wife to deal with this week. It could have been worse, because of an early flight out of San Francisco I had decided to spend the night near the airport and use the free shuttle rather than make my wife get up at 4am or take a shuttle in the morning. A shuttle from the house was about the same cost as the hotel room and staying at the hotel bought me an extra hour of sleep. So at least we were not running to catch a flight at 5am when this happened.

The stay at the Travelodge was uneventful except that on the shuttle to the airport I found that I have already misplaced my iPhone ear buds. Hopefully they are still at home.

My flight to Mexico City was also uneventful. I was placed in an exit row for more legroom but then did not have access to my backpack as we had minor turbulence the whole trip but enough to keep the fasten seatbelt light lit. I cleared customs and stopped at the ATM to pick up money. I had to laugh at myself because I did the math in my head wrong the first time and walked away with only 200 pesos which is only about $14. That would not even have paid for the cab ride into the city which was 205 pesos.

Mexico City Cathedral

I am staying in the Mexico City Hostel which is a nice hostel right by the Zocalo, the main square (and the second largest public square in the world behind red square in Moscow I am told). I am sharing a room with 5 other guys (could have been 7) but the place seems very clean and the staff that I have met so far are very helpful.

After settling in I went to the cathedral which is practically across the street. It is the largest cathedral in latin america and was built over the course of 3 centuries so it reflects a variety of styles. I had the opportunity to hear part of a service. I was only able to make out some of the Spanish, like the Lord’s Prayer, but the music was beautiful. It gives you more understanding of why cathedrals this large were build when you hear them full of music.

Mexico City Cathedral

Outside the cathedral were a number of vendors, a few beggars, and some groups dressed in Aztec garb dancing and a woman who seemed to be clearing the bad luck(?) from someone with smoke from various herbs. I decided not to tour the ruins of the old Aztec temple yet that is right behind the cathedral. I have to leave some things for later in the trip. A woman offered me a guided tour of the site but I was having trouble understanding her english (granted it was better than my spanish) so it did not seem like the best option.

Mexico City Cathedral

As we drove past the Zocalo on the way to the hostel it was filled with Scouts de Mexico who apparently had just had a big recycling drive based on the huge pile of aluminum cans in the square.

Lunch or dinner or whatever the meal that will tide me over until tomorrow was a quesadilla and a gordida from three ladies who have a small stall just inside the entrance to the Hotel Buenos Aires. The quesadilla was only 10 pesos. Both were made fresh from blue corn meal. They had about 5 small benches lining the entrance way. I sat on a bench between two of the Scouts de Mexico scout masters.

Mexico City - Palace of Fine Arts

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around shooting pictures of the interesting architecture in the central historic district from the Zocalo to the Alameda neighborhood to the west. Probably the most striking building is the art deco Palace of Fine Arts.

I imagine that more people were out on the streets because it is Sunday but I will fine out tomorrow if that is true. There was a cello player, a 6 piece band, street performers, many living statues, and an organ grinder (can you ever really tune one of those) and a group playing songs on bagpipes (yes wearing kilts except the guy in the Aztec outfit). There were lots of vendors out in the part by the Palace of Fine Arts and by the cathedral.

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

2 Responses to “Mexico Trip Journal – Day 1 – to Mexico City”



Enjoying following your trip in one of my favorite cities! And to answer your question about the organ grinders, check out David Lida’s recent blog on the subject:



Hey Chris,

Just wondering how you found traveling from the airport to your hostel Im currently trying to decide wether to book a hotel or a hostel I’d prefer a hostel but i know most hotels have airport-hotel shuttles available. I don’t speak Spanish and haven’t been to mexico before.

Any advice would be great.



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