After deftly navigating the light rail and two Metro lines through throngs of soccer fans Saturday evening, we woke up ready to tackle Mexico City by public transit Sunday morning.
With it being Sunday, our first move was to find a place for Mass. Our first instinct had been to go to the church staffed by the same fraternity as the priest traveling with us, but since the itinerary has us there for Mass later in the week, we decided to go to the Metropolitan Cathedral instead.
While the cathedral is grand and beautiful, we had trouble figuring out what time Mass was supposed to start. It looked like the main altar had a Mass earlier in the morning, but they were removing candles when we arrived, so I assumed we had the wrong place. However, it looked like a Mass about to begin at the chapel attached to the cathedral, so we found a seat there. It was 9:15 am, so I figured I had about 15 minutes to pray a rosary, but before I had even finished the first Our Father, everyone rose for the entrance procession. Perhaps we found some special devotion, because the priest seemed to be blessing everything and everyone. At 9:30 am, we heard the pipe organ from the main church and knew we’d made a mistake. Still, it was Sunday, and it was a Mass as far as I could tell, so it counts.
After Mass, we were quite hungry, so we made our way to a churro place I’d read about, one that reportedly had been in business since 1935 and served amazing hot chocolate. It was about a twenty-minute walk away through the historic center of Mexico City. The churro place had a line out the door, so that was a good sign. The chocolate lived up to its reputation, and was at least as thick as the African chocolate at Angelina in Paris, but a little sweeter. The churros were light and crispy; we could have eaten them all morning.
After filling up on churros and chocolate, we made the five-minute walk to our next Metro stop, which happened to take us past the church we didn’t attend. Mass was still in progress, and Kathryn cracked the door open just far enough for me to hear the chanting and smell the incense. Next time perhaps we’ll trust our first instincts.
Our next stop was Bosque de Chapultepec. I’d been wanting to visit Mexico City for almost thirty years, and this is one of the places I’d read about all along. In particular, Kathryn and I wanted to visit Castillo de Chapultepec, the imperial castle at the top of the hill in the middle of the park.
Just past the entrance to Bosque de Chapultepec, there’s a grand monument recognizing those Mexicans who died for their country in 1846-1847. For a moment I struggled to think who the Mexicans were fighting at that time. Then I remembered those sames dates from U.S. history. Oh, right.
Our plan had been to go directly to the castle, but we got lost in the crowds. I didn’t realize how lost we were until we started seeing lakes, as which point I pulled out the phone and realized we’d have to backtrack quite a distance. At least we got to see part of the lake, since we probably wouldn’t have had the energy after hiking the hill to the castle.
When we arrived at the gates of Castillo de Chapultepec, we found out why there were so many crowds. It turned out Mexican nationals got in free yesterday. Not being Mexican nationals, we dutifully bought two tickets, which were never checked. On our way out, we discovered why. There were two lines to get in, one for Mexicans, and one for everyone else. We got in the wrong line, and no one asked any questions. As a result, yesterday will be remembered as the day Kathryn and I, in full tourist gear, were mistaken for Mexicans. Anyway, once inside, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the park and the city below.
Castillo de Chapultepec is now a museum of national history. The interpretive material was entirely in Spanish, so I lost a lot of the details, but it appeared to focus on the period between Mexican Independence and the Mexican Revolution. Having exactly zero knowledge of Mexican history, I don’t even know if that last sentence makes sense. For us, the cool stuff was the imperial treasure, like the apartments. I thought the carriage exhibit was also pretty neat.
After all the walking, we were beat. We decided to use the last of our strength to get back to the hotel by Metro. At the station, we got our first bit of Mexico City street food, a couple of mini pizzas. We’d eaten worse. The locals covered their pizza with hot sauce, so I tried some. It wasn’t bad. Once we got back to the hotel, we enjoyed some downtime before heading out for dinner.