After every trip, I want to write about it, mostly to remember the places I went to before the names become completely unfamiliar and the photographs become a pile of awkward-shots-in-front-of-random-buildings that are no longer worth sorting or framing.
In April we were in Mexico and it was every bit glorious. Mexico was never on my list of places to go, it somehow felt like all of North America was going to be there and simply too touristy for my liking or maybe because of its proximity (things close home never feel exotic enough). I was so wrong, the vibrant colourful country has so much to offer both to the all-inclusive resort goer and for someone who is looking to understand art, culture, and history. We did both!
We spent 4 days in Mexico City and 4 in Playa Del Carmen, the mix of both city and white beaches really made our trip memorable. Here are some of the things we loved about Mexico and what we recommend when travelling with kids.
4 Days in Mexico City
While in Mexico City we booked an Airbnb apartment in Cuauhtemoc, a very accessible and safe neighbourhood that was very close to several tourist attractions and two trendy neighbourhoods like Condesa and Roma. The apartment was cute and well stocked. My 4-year-old daughter was only too happy to have her own room.
The other feature we love about Air BnB is the experience that locals share with tourist. We use it everywhere we go. In Mexico City, it was well curated and really took us all over the city. We walked around old city one day, ate our weight in tacos another day and even did crazy street graffiti another day. In three days we covered so much of the city and learnt a lot from the locals. I don't think we could have put this together ourselves.
We learned quickly that Uber was the best way to get around the city, it was very safe, convenient and cheap. Most places in Mexico have wifi it was easy to use our app in the city without blowing our data.
I don’t know about you but we love keeping some of our regular routines while navigating a new place. The little rituals, like sipping on a cup of tea, or making breakfast, gathering around the table or even laundry makes me (and the rest of my team) feel grounded. I know it sounds crazy, most want to get away from this, but it helps keep our sanity.
By the time we left Mexico City we were quite Tacoed out, but in the best way possible. I highly recommend doing a food tour here, there is so much good food in this city it really helps to have a local guide you to the best eats. We booked a Condesa Taco Tour (an Airbnb Experience) and that truly was the highlight of our trip. Rob and Ernesto gave us fascinating insight into this wonderful city and the amazing cuisine it has to offer. They had vegetarian options for me, so I was beyond thrilled. We were so inspired by this tour we found ourselves at the local market to pick up spices to make our own Mexican inspired sauces. I highly highly recommend it, even our 4-year-old could keep up. Rob gave us some great recommendation of places to eat as a vegetarian and he also does a vegan taco tour. You can check out his tour at Tasty Bites
2. La Pitahaya Vegana
There is a lot this city (and country) has to offer for vegetarians, so you are not just eating guac and chips - although that wouldn’t be too bad in this city. We found a cute little cafe in the trendy neighbourhood of Roma called La Pitahaya Vegana (recommended by Rob). The name literally translates into dragon fruit which is the owner Maie’s favourite fruit. I highly recommend the Pastor De Detas, which is a vegan version of the infamous pork tacos. The original Taco Al Pastor that is ubiquitous in Mexico city area, was introduced by the Lebanese immigrants in the 1950s. It is a thinly sliced seasoned pork served with a big chunk of pineapple. Like its predecessor, the vegan version is also served with a sweet spicy pineapple salsa that I find beautifully offsets the smoky mushrooms. Maie has hit this one out of the park, I was delighted by the perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy and savoury notes. All the tortillas at Pitahaya are made of amaranth and corn and they use beet juice to give it a vibrant pink colour. Although this is not traditional, it makes it quite hearty and satisfying. I am really dying to recreate this for my own blog.
3. Mercado Roma
Mercado Roma is an urban food court of sorts. It has food counters from some of Mexico’s best restaurants and cafes and it offers a lot of vegetarian choices. Don’t leave without eating Bendita palettas or Churros with Dulce de leche at El Murro.
Xochimilco an extensive network of canals around an artificial island of Chinampas, or floating gardens. The chinampas are primarily used for agriculture and has been declared a world heritage site. This was about 35 kilometres from Cuauhtemoc and the ideal time to get there is a lazy Sunday afternoon. The $20 Uber ride brought us right to the canals. There are colourful boats or Trajinera navigating these canals, and it is quite the sight to see. These boats can hold up to 20 people and they transform into party boats in the evening with music and lights. Our hour-long ride on our Trajinera allowed us to relax while slowing traversing through the canals between little houses and fields. You will find hawkers in little boats selling all sorts of interesting things, we were stopped by little boats selling jewellery, art, food and of course beer. Just ensure you carry cash with you on the boat to shop the Canal. Also, let us not forget the boats with musicians they are such a delight, you can pay them to sing for you.
5. Azul Condesa
This is a trendy restaurant in the Condesa neighbourhood with quite a few vegetarian options. Right in the lobby, you will find a gorgeous Mexican lady dressed in all the traditional attire (almost looking like Frida Kahlo in my opinion) making all kinds of tortilla. We had to wait about half an hour for our table, but I was totally okay with that since I learned how to make Salsa verde watching her - in my books this was dinner and a show. I ordered ‘Enchiladas de Jamaica organica’ which was sensational, the menu described it as Corn tortillas rolled and filled with sauteed hibiscus flowers, slathered with a slightly spicy red chipotle chile salsa, and topped with purple cabbage, “crema” (Mexican creme fraiche) and cheese. The chef came up with this dish to support the hibiscus flower growers in the State of Michoacán. My only recommendation is to make a reservation at Azul Condesa before you show up for dinner.
Chapultepec a huge park located in the heart of Mexico City, it is a great place for art and history lovers and picnic goers alike. At the entrance is a magnificent monument (Monumento a los Niños Heroes) that honours young cadets who died protecting the castle that is housed within this park. The castle, located at the top of the hill, has since been converted into the National Museum of history. It is a light hike up to the castle, but with long lineups and the heat it can get quite exhausting, I recommend coming prepared with water and snacks. Now the museum was beautiful, but everything was in Spanish, so unless you go there with a local, you pretty much don’t know what you are looking at. Regardless, I still recommend the trek since the castle offers magnificent views of the city and it feels very serene. There is also a zoo and a botanical garden, we sort of ended up there accidentally and my daughter was delighted. The park is expansive it also has the museum of modern art and the national museum of anthropology which we did not visit or know off until later.
7. Parque De La Condesa
I loved the Condesa neighbourhood, it is trendy, highly walkable and filled with interesting shops and restaurants. My favourite spot was ‘Parque de Condesa’, every evening after our little adventure we would find ourselves here. In was perfect since our daughter got her dose of the park and we got to relax and unwind. One interesting thing about this park is they have an open gym right next to the kids' play area, which means you can work out while your kids play. They also have a doggie training school here so you will find all kinds of dogs here. Apparently, on the weekends they even have a little train that takes kids around the park.
Our Next stop was Playa Del Carmen a beach town teaming with resorts and tourists from North America. This was a short flight from Mexico City to Cancun and from there it about a 45-minute bus ride to Playa Del Carmen. Everything about this beach town is far more expensive than the city since it is far more touristy. I recommend doing all your shopping in Mexico City.
8. The Pitted Date
The Pitted Date is a cute restaurant in Playa del Carmen serving up vegan comfort food and we were only too happy to discover it. It is a little off 5th avenue and we found it easiest to take a cab there. Their breakfast/ lunch spread is amazing. They had pancakes, omelettes, smoothie bowl, grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and wrap. My daughter couldn’t tell she was eating a vegan grilled cheese sandwich but was delighted to see ‘cheese’ oozing when she bit into the sandwich. She wolfed her lunch down and we literally did not hear a peep from her. Fun fact, the owner of this restaurant is Canadian!
9. Clorofila 'Green & Vegan'
This is an exotic semi-raw/ vegan/ gluten-free restaurant that had their plates decorated with flowers! I have never seen such artistic plates before. Their Tapipitsa pizza was my favourite - it had a yucca flour and carrot crust and was topped with peanut cheese, grilled eggplant and peppers, onions and arugula leaves. Peanut cheese was new to us, it tasted like any other nut cheese and was not peanutty at all. We also got an assortment of their spreads and breads and we loved it, I particularly recommend the Sisl Pak a bittersweet jam based on an ancient Mayan recipe. This restaurant, however, was not my daughters favourite, the food might have been a bit too unconventional for her.
If you are visiting Playa del Carmen I highly recommend a day trip to Cozumel, a tiny island only a 30-minute boat ride away. The beaches here are pristine, blue and beautiful and for most parts seaweed free. The best way to get around this island is to rent a car and I also recommend carrying cash on your day trip - everything here is expensive and the wifi here is quite patchy.
Form exploring the city to being absolute beach bums we did it all in Mexico. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people and glorious food and I simply can't recommend it enough. I only identified some of our highlights from our trip but there is so much more to do, see, and eat in this country. This short adventure of ours was perfect and it was so wonderful to see our daughter blossom into this curious little traveller.
I will leave you with this when in Mexico eat an avocado every day - it is cheap, delicious and locally grown and also drink lots of Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus water) it is refreshing and pairs well with spicy food!