Adventures of an Editor: Mexico City

I took my second ever trip out of country from Oct. 30-Nov. 3 to Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, and while I had an awesome time, there were some travel caveats I learned along the way.

My wife, Maddie, and I joined my in-laws in Mexico City late on Oct. 30 after a frightful day of travel that began with missing our flight out of Las Vegas.

We had driven down the night before our flight, with full intentions to awake early enough to get to the airport well before our boarding time.

We printed off two boarding passes and all was going smoothly until we got to the TSA security checkpoint, when I looked a little closer at the passes and realized they both had Maddie’s name on them: one for the connecting flight to Los Angeles and one bound for Mexico.

As it turns out, my sweet wife had failed to check me in the day before, thinking we would be checked in together, however this was not the case.

Most people in this situation would probably have a nervous breakdown. We could not be put on another flight, because everything was booked to Mexico City for the holiday weekend.

Fortunately, my father-in-law travels for work, and within half an hour had us booked on a direct flight via Volaris, a Mexican-based airline, for our destination that afternoon.

While we breathed a sigh of relief, upon boarding our plane, I realized the seats were not designed to accommodate a 6’4” tall man like myself.

Lightning flashes in the clouds during our final descent

Despite having to sit practically sideways to fit for the 4 hour duration of the flight, I found myself so exhausted that I slept for most of the trip.

As we began our descent over Mexico City, I captured a couple of photos of lightning dancing around the stormy black clouds that made for an exciting landing.

We touched down safely on Mexican soil, however we soon found ourselves at the end of a line of roughly 250 people attempting to make it through customs.

Fast forward 2 hours and we are now at the front of that line, with our only obstacle to food and lodging being a means to our Airbnb. 

That proved to be more difficult than we had ever anticipated.

Though my wife has visited Mexico City several times, she had always disembarked at terminal 1. We were at terminal 3 and quite turned around, to be frank.

I have international cellular service on my phone, but amidst my efforts to locate our condo, summon an Uber, and navigate to the appropriate pick-up point, the Uber app was not working.

After about an hour wandering about the terminal getting soaked by rain from the occasional microburst, we finally were able to secure an UberPool ride.

In about twenty more minutes, we were drying off at our condo, eating some authentic tacos and gringas as we prepared for the festivities to come.

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We visited the pyramids of Teotihuacan, where street vendors were peddling their jaguar calls every 20 feet and hundreds of visitors were huffing and puffing up to the top of the ancient structures.

After burning a lot of calories walking around the Aztec city, we had lunch at the La Gruta restaurant, which is nestled in an underground cavity of volcanic origin.

The hour-long bus ride through the most densely-packed suburbs I’ve ever seen was well worth it to visit the partially-reconstructed ancient foundations of one of the world’s largest cities.

We toured parts of the city on the top deck of a Turibus, including the historic district, which sits atop were the ancient city Tenochtitlan was founded in the 14th century.

Many of the historic buildings visible today reflect the architecture of the city’s 15th century spanish conquerors, as well as European Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

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This was an especially exciting time of year to visit, as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one of the most highly anticipated holidays in the country.

Everywhere we turned, people’s faces were painted like skulls, immaculate and colorful floats were being constructed to resemble the undead, and the city was bustling with visitors both foreign and domestic ready for a fiesta.

We went to a luchador match, which is masked Mexican wrestling similar to WWE. The event was themed with calaveras, or skulls, much like the rest of the city during the three-day celebration.

A recent development in Mexico City’s celebration is the addition of a parade which came about as a result of 2015’s James Bond film, Spectre. In the opening sequences, a massive parade took place through Centro Historico.

Since then, the parade has become an annual tradition and one of the culminating features of the holiday honoring the spirits of the dead.

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This year’s parade was delayed by heavy rain in the morning, and while huddling under an umbrella in the Plaza del Zocalo, the main square adjacent to the Catedral Metropolitana, I began to feel a little ill.

My wife and mother-in-law aborted the mission and went back to the condo, leaving myself, my father-in-law and my wife’s grandpa standing in the cold rain hoping for a break.

We got a call shortly after that the parade would pass by our condo, but by the time we had walked the 15 minutes back, I was pretty much down for the count with a fever.

I saw about 20 minutes of the parade before retiring to bed at about 3 p.m. It was an unfortunate turn, but I was just glad the fever broke by the evening.

I was in full health for our flight home the next day, and I even snagged a New England Patriots hat for about $4 at the markets before we departed.

The trip was overall a success in my books, and I had an excellent time. I don’t speak spanish either, but that didn’t deter from getting around and having a great experience.

Although, I have been dealing with the after-effects of all that fine Mexican cuisine in the digestive system, if one gets my drift.

My advice for travelers is to arrive at least three hours early before your boarding time, check in well in advance for your flight and have a good plan (with backups) of how you’re going to navigate and get around.

Story and Photos by: Reyce Knutson