A Tale of Two Mexicos

Mexico City has become one of my favorite travel destinations -- quite surprisingly, given my completely ignorant dismissal of our southern neighbor during most of my early adulthood. (¡Viva España!) I went for the first time in 2007 quite randomly, inspired by an article about a Frida Kahlo exhibition in the city center.

It was a total delight. And I'm the type who likes to revisit delightful locations, so el D.F. resurfaces each time I think about a future vacation destination. That first long weekend in la ciudad de México was exciting enough that I planned a nine-week stay in 2009.

And even that didn't satiate my thirst for chilango culture, so I made it a priority for a summer 2012 trip. But I faced a bit of resistance from the boyfriend, whose desire for beach time while on vacation battles my preference for urban adventures. So, like the adult I desperately don't want to be, I compromised: a few days at my beloved Red Tree House in Mexico City's chic and relaxing Colonia Condesa, followed by a few days in Cancún, and a closing weekend back in the capital.

View Mexico City, Federal District in a larger map

The trip started off well -- and early. A pre-dawn arrival time meant we had a couple of hours to kill roaming the neighborhood before checking in, but the incredible folks at the Red Tree House, where I stayed for each of those nine weeks in 2009, found us a room to rest and freshen up in while we waited for our real room to be ready. And the guys actually upgraded us to their ridiculous penthouse, featuring a swanky suite with full kitchen along with a private rooftop patio and detached but fully appointed second bedroom with bathroom. (By the by, despite a pretty serious expansion since 2009, the place remains lovely and chaos-free.) We split those first few days between revisiting old favorites like El Péndulo and discovering new gems like Lilit.

With plenty of rad spots to explore and comida riquísima to devour, I was content to stay put. I mean, I was seriously not looking forward to Cancún. It seems odd, right? Warm, crystal-clear water. An all-inclusive resort with unlimited tasty vittles and strong booze.

Seriously, what's not to like? I'll tell you: insane, intense, maddening humidity. And insects. And loud, obnoxious, drunk-ass tourists -- you know, the kind who regularly visit all-inclusive Mexican resorts.

Now, the heat and humidity really were insane, but to be fair, the overall experience was a good one. Solid food and beverages, beautiful pools, a nice beach and even some baby sea turtles.

But after a few days of doing next to nothing (and still sweating), I was ready to head back to the drier valle de México, where I got my fill of queso fundido, tacos al pastor and pollo rostizado (not to mention my first mezcal, cabrón).

With three trips totaling 11 weeks during the past six years, I can finally move on to another Latin American metropolis, right?



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