HOU to CDMX – Mexico City, MX

Mexico City has been under the radar for quite some time now for a variety of reasons. The most talked about reason NOT to visit is definitely the safety. I’ve heard from so many people now about how safe they felt when they went. Like traveling to any other city or country, you have to be aware of your surroundings and make the best decisions.

Travel Tip: Get to the know the map of the city you’re going to like its your own city! Learn the major roads, small towns and which direction they are in relation to where you’re staying. If you’re a wanderer when you travel, this will make you feel more inclined to keep wandering!

With that being said, I felt just as safe in Mexico City as I did in Barcelona. We didn’t personally experience or even witness any pick pocketing, theft, crime, etc. while we were there. We were very precautious, especially on our first day. We were always back to our hotel by 9pm or so, and came via Uber directly to the hotel. Although it seemed safe, we avoided walking the street when the sun when down.

Airline: Southwest Airlines (We paid with points, about 15,000/person + about $100 in International fees, totally normal and I’ve even seen cheaper!)

Time of Travel to and from Houston: 1 hour 45 minute flight

HOU to CDMX – 12:30PM to 3:30PM

CDMX to Houston – 4:30PM to 6:15PM

Transportation: Everyone I talked to or any blog I read recommended taking Uber everywhere. NEVER take a taxi. They’re not reliable/safe as there is no way to technically track where you’re going. They’ll rip you off when it comes to pricing. Just don’t do it.

Uber was super convenient to find. We didn’t wait longer than 3-5 minutes for one! Additionally, we barely paid more than $6-7 dollars for some of our longest rides.

Hotel: Casa Decu – https://www.casadecu.com/ – We used Booking.com to book the hotel. This has always been a convenient way for me to book when traveling internationally, unless I’m using a Marriott friends and family rate. It was a super cute hotel and super safe. You had to knock or ring the doorbell to enter, and the 24 hour security guard would confirm you are a guest before allowing you to enter. They had water/fruit throughout the day and breakfast in the morning. All day coffee and teas and the cutest rooftop to enjoy fresh air and relax during down time. Keep in mind, a lot of accommodations don’t have air conditioning because the weather is beautiful year round. If this is a must for you, just double check wherever you’re booking! The privacy in the hotel was also kind of lacking. It may have been just where our room was situated but our windows faced courtyards so we were always able to see into other peoples rooms and because windows were always open for air, you could hear other peoples conversations in the evenings.

Exchange Rate: $18(ish) MXN Pesos to $1 USD (SO AFFORDABLE!)

We exchanged about $60 worth of pesos at the airport just in case, and exchanged the rest in the city with a regular ATM. The exchange rate in the neighborhood was much better than the airport.

Also, your ubers are all through your credit card and a lot of restaurants take credit card. Even the market shops took credit card! So just keep that in mind before converting too much. Also, make sure that the credit card you’re using is VISA as most of the places who took CC only took VISA.

Honestly, we were going to stay in Polanco which is considered the “Beverly Hills of Mexico City”. We figured it would be safe and reliable, but we noticed a lot of the areas we wanted to go to were in the Roma/Condesa area, which is considered the local “hipster” area of town. So many sources said this was definitely a safe place to stay as well. Once we found the deal on Casa Decu, we couldn’t say no!

Travel Tip: Mexico City and many Latin countries have actual “siesta” times. Meaning a lot of restaurants and bars are closed between certain hours of the afternoon. We noticed that the majority of restaurants were busy after 8:30PM. Make sure you plan accordingly.

Day 1 (Friday evening)

We went straight to our hotel to check in and refresh for dinner. This is always really crucial for us when we travel. It helps us reset and get ready for a vacation!

We had dinner at a little pizza shop down one of the busier treats. Not our top choice, but it was convenient. We ended up being pleasantly surprised trying a unique huitlacoche pizza and quinoa and chia meat balls. Both were DELISH!! It may have been too early to get an idea of what was popular based on crowds as it was probably 7PM. We had drinks at Ceverceria Polanquito. It was busy, it was gorgeously decorated, the service was great, and music was great. Would definitely recommend if you’re around the area.

We wanted to try “Gin Gin” which is a super popular bar (that only serves gin), but again, for a Friday night, we thought it was just a little too early for that type of place.

Day 2 (All Day Saturday): Frida Khalo Museum, Coyoacan Markets, Anthropology Museum & Chapultapec Park

The museum opens at 10AM and if you’re smart and schedule your trip in advance, you can purchase tickets online. This seemed to be a very smart choice 🙂 We switched our schedule around a couple of times, so we weren’t able to do so. Regardless, we got there by 9:30AM and there was already a decent line forming! It seemed like everyone without tickets was aiming to get there around the same time, so if you can get there earlier, do so! We absolutely LOVED the museum even though we didn’t know much about Frida before going. The museum is actually the house that she grew up in and eventually lived in with her husband Diego Riveria, another very famous artist.

Just a few blocks down from the Frida Museum was the Coyoacan markets which we totally loved! I wouldn’t do all of your shopping at this market unless it’s the only one you’re going too. We had the most delicious authentic lunch inside of the market and would totally recommend eating at the same place. We watched them make the tortillas from scratch and they were busy, so you know the food was fresh.  Quesadilla fritas and sopes were AMAZING!

Vegetarian tip: We tried the many vegetarian options and were not disappointed! Huitlacoche which is a fungus that grows on corn was our favorite. It actually doesn’t have much flavor, but the texture just feels like corn and mushrooms mixed? We also tried flor de calabaza which is squash blossom or pumpkin flower. Also delicious and worth trying! Tell your waiters that you are vegetarian and they will let you know what options they have. Everyone was SO accommodating!!!

Pro Tip: Start taking a probiotic a few days before your trip and during your trip. This really helps with setting your stomach up for success and digesting your foods easier. DON’T DRINK THE WATER! MAKE SURE THE FOOD IS HOT!

From the markets we went straight to the Museum of Anthropology. We were a little worried about the crowds because most people recommended that we go first thing in the morning. We only had so many days, so this one we decided to take a risk on! Luckily, when we got there, there weren’t any crowds. Just a few minutes later, the line was down the street, so we got lucky, for sure!

This museum is definitely information overload. There are so many incredible exhibits (like over 20….). You can spend A WHILE here if you don’t prioritize. We knew we wanted to see Teotihuacan (since we’d be going the next day), and the Mayans. We started with an intro to Anthropology just so we knew what we would be seeing. Many of the information boards weren’t in English, so just keep that in mind! There is still PLENTY of information and artifacts to keep you entertained. This history in this country is unbelievable.

After visiting the museum, we walked across the street to walk through the Chapultapec park. There were loads of street vendors of random knick knacks. Nothing authentic to Mexico, so not worth shopping, but very interesting to just walk through and enjoy a snack or two and people watch. Obviously I got myself some fresh made cotton candy! Chapultapec Castle is a popular attraction within the park that we had put on a list of “potential options” if we had free time. We decided not to go, but I’ve heard its cool!

After a long day, we came home, showered and relaxed a bit. We headed to dinner at Azul which was highly recommended by locals and tourist alike. The level of service and quality of food were clearly what puts this restaurant at the top. Again, we beat the crowd, so we got lucky without a reservation, but I would definitely recommend making a reservation if you know you’ll be dining there! We tried Mezcal for the first time here, and enjoyed the overall experience.

 

                         |The fear in my eyes before trying mezcal for the first time|

Day 3 (All Day Sunday): Teotihucan & Zocalo

We woke up super early to head to Teotihuacan which is where the coolest of the coolest ancient history pyramids in Mexico area.

Keep in mind: We left earlier than our hotel’s breakfast offering and earlier than opening time of any of the bakeries and restaurants nearby. We brought some Cliff bars from home to help us get through the morning. I would try to grab an extra snack or too if you’re a breakfast person, or need more fuel than that. We were prettttyyy hungry by the time we got back.

Transportation: We were told from some friends that they took an Uber there and back and it was super convenient, but after some recommendations from friends who were locals, we decided to take the public transport buses. We are so glad we did, because we ended up saving around $75 dollars (not pesos!).

How to take public transport:

  1. We took an Uber from our hotel to the bus station, Terminal Central de Autobuses de Norte.
  2. There is a long mezzanine area of bus company after bus company, all going different places. Go to the very last station on your left, station 8, and you’ll find a company called Autobuses Teotihucan. It was $104 pesos round trip, per person. (Essentially $6 a person!) They run every 20 minutes or so, and they’ll tell you which line to wait at. It’s an air conditioned charter bus, so I promise, it’s legit!

There are 3 points of the pyramids that you can be dropped off at. We were dropped off at the first stop which is in front of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl. We went straight to the Pyramid of the Sun since this is the most popular and gets really crowded. We got lucky with an overcast but if the sun was out any more, it was be REALLY hot. Be prepared with hats, sunglasses, sun screen, water, etc. We headed to the Pyramid of the Moon next and actually got the best pictures there. Seeing how many people were coming in just around the time we were leaving (12pm or so), I wouldn’t have gone any later than we did. The crowds were NUTS!

Keep in mind: All museums and attractions in Mexico City are free to locals on Sunday. The pyramids seemed EXTRA busy and we’re assuming it was because we went on a Sunday.

Bathrooms are located at the entrances of 1 and 2. Some of them didn’t have toilet paper. I came prepared with wet wipes everywhere we went, just in case. You can thank a bad experience in Thailand for that tip, ha!

We didn’t get the time to go to the museum they have, but we were starting to get hungry and tired. After visiting the Museum of Anthropology, we figured we’d seen similar artifacts.

Finding the bus to get back was a LITTLE tricky, but do-able. If you go back to entrance 1, where you get dropped off, the buses only come every 20 minutes after 12PM. They do not come for pick up anytime before 12PM. If you go to entrance 2, the buses come every 10-15 minutes starting pretty early in the morning to go back to the city. Just make sure when getting on any bus to show them your ticket and say that you’re going back to Mexico City. They will let you know if you’re getting on the right bus. We also asked a lot of the police officers there (multiple times) if we were going the right way. The bus drivers aren’t the friendliest…

We took an Uber from the bus station straight to our lunch spot, La Pithaya Vegana, a vegan Mexican taco restaurant. It was a small but mighty restaurant and would definitely recommend to any vegetarian/vegan traveler, and even non! We tried 3 different tacos and the enchiladas and loved them all.

After eating, we went straight to the hotel to shower and relax before our next adventure to Zocalo. This is the downtown area of Mexico City.

We started off at Templo Mayor which was the original pyramid of the city. The Cathedral is right next door and will literally blow your mind. There isn’t much left of Templo Mayor because the Spanish came in took over, but you can walk around and read some of the history about what this landmark meant to the city and some original photos. The Cathedral was built by the Spaniards and you can obviously tell, haha. It’s breathtaking. There is a huge main street that you walk full of all kinds of shops and street entertainment. I would definitely say this is a very congested area, and the perfect place for pick pocketers to come out and play. Keep your items close to you! We walked down this road to take us to the Palacio de Bella Artes. This building is seriously stunning and exactly what I think about when I think of Mexico City. We didn’t get to go inside because they were closing and the crowds were insane, but it was gorgeous enough to just sit in front of and enjoy the view. There is a Sears right across the street that has a bar on the top floor of the building that has the best views. We didn’t go, but I’ve heard it’s amazing!

We also wanted to go to the Post Office because of the gorgeous original decor. It’s another just amazing beautiful structure in the city, but since it was a Sunday, they were closed. Lastly, we walked to Churrareria el Moro, to FINALLY have our churros and chocolate. You walk down a very busy street to get there full of locals, so again, hold tight to your belongings.

We finished the evening a little earlier than expected, but decided to go straight to the food hall, Mercado Roma, which was in the neighborhood that we were staying in. We walked around to see what all the options were and started off with some Mexican craft beers and just enjoyed the view. We found VEGETARIAN MEXICAN GOLD, literally, at one of the stands called Gold Taco. Everything on the menu was vegetarian and could be made Vegan. It seemed like it wasn’t because they wrote the menu as if it was the original dish items like Chicharon, Bistec, Pollo, etc., but it was all made with vegetarian/vegan substitutes. They were cooked and seasoned just like real meat and tasted like traditional street tacos. We were so sad we discovered them on our last day because we literally dreamt about them all night. We finished our night exhausted and with super full, happy bellies.

Day 4 (Morning/Afternoon of Monday):

We were flying out this day, so we didn’t want to over do anything, but we didn’t want to waste the day either. Again, the weather is gorgeous at any time of the day, so we started our morning by walking 20-30 minutes to Panderia Rossetta, a small Mexican/French type bakery. We had the most delicious lattes, fresh baked cinnamon rolls and croissants. We had a little view of the back kitchen too so we could see them making all the pastries. We got lucky with 2 little open seats in the back, but this place was packed by the time we finished around 9:30AM. They even had a guy playing some live music for those waiting in line.

From there, we had some time to kill before the markets opened at 10AM, so we decided to walk to the markets which killed another 20-30 minutes. It was a Monday morning (on a holiday) for the city, so it was quiet and very safe to walk. We went to La Cuidadela markets close to downtown and the shopping was SO good!! We got some tablecloths/blankets and some gifts for friends. Nothing too fancy, but we definitely could have come home with some serious goods.

For the sake of time, we took an Uber back to Mercado Roma to eat Gold Tacos one more time before leaving and some churros 🙂 From there we got our luggage from the hotel and took an Uber to the airport. The lines at the airport weren’t super long, but the security line moved very slow.

Travel Tip: Keep your immigration papers from your flight in. When we picked up our boarding passes, they asked us for this paperwork.

Overall, we LOVED Mexico City. You don’t always find cities that you feel like you could explore for weeks and still see so much. The food, the culture, the cost, everything! We know that if there is every a chance to come back, we would do it. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Adios!

Los Angeles, CA

Vimal and I have been traveling together for over 4 years (before we even started dating) and we recently realized that we had never been on an actual trip ALONE! From Miami, to New York, and even Thailand, we never took the chance to choose a destination where we only enjoyed our own company!

I had seen some great deals on Escape Houston during April and May, but we were so busy that we couldn’t take the opportunity to go. My first time in California was in San Fransisco with friends about 2 years ago. I surprisingly didn’t fall in love like most people do! I was interested and excited about experiencing a different part of California.

I had my 25th birthday this June and Vimal surprised me with tickets to L.A.! He had adorable custom boarding passes and a invitation card like it was my birthday party which had our dinner reservations at PUMP! If you don’t already know, I love reality TV (I know, please don’t judge me), so I was blown away about how thoughtful the entire gift was.

Since it was a quick weekend trip, I’ll share our itinerary below along with some travel tips!

Flight: We both are Southwest loyal, but definitely do what we can to save money while traveling. We took the first flight out of Houston on a Friday Morning on Southwest. Our flight home was on a Monday afternoon with Spirit Airlines. Because we were traveling on a budget, we shared one luggage and packed (somewhat) lightly.

Transportation: After receiving many different opinions, we decided to rent a car. We used Hertz and got ourselves the smallest, most affordable vehicle, a Nissan Versa. It ended up coming in SO handy because we could park that little thing literally everywhere and anywhere in the city. Between 2 people, it was definitely more affordable than using lyft/uber .

*This also made our schedule MUCH more flexible. We didn’t feel like we had to commit to anything we did, and if we didn’t feel like something was worth our time, it was easy to move on to the next thing. 

Accommodations: Based on what we wanted to do, staying in an AirBnb made more sense. Again, splitting between only two people, it was more affordable. Hotels were upwards of $200/night. Secondly, having a rental car and paying for parking at hotels can definitely be an unnecessary expense. We found this adorable place in West Hollywood with great reviews. The location was central to everything we did and we had a free parking spot and SUPER hospitable host.

Day One: Houston to Los Angeles

We landed into the city around 11am, picked up our rental car (which was surprisingly an easy experience with their new virtual check ins), and wandered around to kill some time before checking into our Airbnb.

  • VERVE Coffee Roasters- Coffee/breakfast snack – There are a few of these in L.A. We had an avocado toast, pressed juice, and coffee. Loved it all!
  • Drive by/through Rodeo Drive – This is an area where all the high end stores are in one area. Most people come here to get a photo of the Rodeo Drive sign, but we enjoyed just driving through it slowly to see it all.
  • Beverly Center – We mainly only came here because it’s our mission to go to a UNIQLO in every city that we go to that has one. This is kind of like the normal main central mall in L.A. If you aren’t looking to shop for anything, I wouldn’t really recommend coming here.
  • Lunch @ Real Food Daily – RFD – We found this place close by to Beverly Center and it was the cutest little gem! I had my first vegan nachos and OMG they were amazing. I’m still craving them! We were amazed at how packed this place was at 2pm on a Friday.
  • NAP TIME!
  • Dinner Reservations @ 7:30PM @ PUMP – We left our car with Valet (only $10?! We were expecting much more). We weren’t starving, so we decided to order an appetizer plate and some cocktails. The Mediterranean Board was DELICIOUS and had 3 different types of hummus, fresh warm bread, feta, etc. I ordered a Pumptini and Vimal ordered a Pump & Glory. The service exceeded our expectations along with the food and drinks.
  • Drinks @ Gracias Madre – I found this place on L.C.’s blog. Known for their vegan Mexican food and snow cone margaritas! – If you’re not interested in the margaritas, keep reading for recommendations on their food!

Day Two: Hiking & Santa Monica

  • Porto’s Bakery & Cafe in Burbank – All I can say is this is a MUST DO! Vegetarian or meat eater, there is something for everyone! We wanted to fuel up before the hike, so we ordered some delicious pastries, fresh pressed OJ, and of course, Cafe con leche for the road.
  • Runyon Canyon – This was just a 5 mile/15 minute drive from Porto’s, and was the most recommended hiking route by the locals. If you want to find parking where the hike starts, you have to get there super early morning. We probably got there around 10-10:30am and parked a little lower down on a winding road on the hill. We found a few people doing the same thing and made our way up the hill to the entrance. I would allocated around 2 hours for this hike just because there are a few different routes and view points. Great spaces to stop, enjoy the view, and take photos! The Hollywood sign is in the distance on this hike.
  • Trader Joe’s – We didn’t bring snacks or enough water for our hike, so we stopped for some fresh pineapple and mineral water. Sat in the shade for a bit and enjoyed people watching locals!
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame/Hollywood Blvd – Unless you are looking to take a picture with a specific star, this to me was just a dirty side walk that you can drive by to see. There were a few other tourist attractions around this area to do that we decided not to. i.e. Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussaud’s, Jimmy Kimmel, etc. Also, parking over here was a nightmare anyways so we decided it wasn’t worth it either.
  • Amoeba Record Store – If you’re into records, definitely a cool place to stop. One of the largest record stores in the nation with the largest variety! Hard to travel back home with them, but we enjoyed walking around and browsing. They also have pop concerts with hot shot artists!
  • NAP TIME!
  • Lunch – Gracias Madre – This is the same restaurant we went for snow cone margaritas the night before. We had a different version of vegan nachos that had Jackfruit BBQ. OMG. This concept of turning jackfruit into a pulled pork fake was mind boggling. Their jackfruit tacos were SO delicious.
  • Hare Krishna Temple – This is actually the temple that Vimal goes to in Houston. The L.A. location was well known, but we didn’t really have plans to come. We realized on our way to Santa Monica that it was just a few minutes away and on the way so we decided to stop. It was really special and total worth the little moments of tranquility.
  • Santa Monica/ 3rd Street Promenade – We found a parking garage that was super cheap to park for the afternoon/evening. 3rd Street Promenade is basically a large strip of stores/shopping. There are a ton of aspiring artists performing for tips, recording music videos, etc. that we enjoyed just stopping and supporting! Otherwise, shopping is just the main stores that you could find anywhere. If you’re going to Santa Monica, you’ll definitely stop here!
  • Santa Monica Pier – We were pretty underwhelmed by the pier. It was obnoxiously crowded. I would try coming here earlier in the day before the evening crowd came in. We walk the beach a bit, but it sadly was ruined by a lot of litter, weird smells, and rowdy people. Something to see, but I wouldn’t spend much time there.
  • Drinks @ The Bungalow @ The Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica – This was also another recommendations from L.C.’s blog and it did not disappoint. She did recommend going during the day before the night crowd comes in, and I think we just missed the calm crowd. This bar felt like you were walking into someones how, and each room had a different bar. The people watching in here was like no other. It literally felt like we were crashing someone’s house party. One of the most interesting experiences. Their sangria was delish! Overall, we did enjoy it.

Day Three: Venice Beach

  • Breakfast @ C&O Trattoria – This place had great reviews, but I think it was mostly for their dinner selection. I throughly enjoyed my breakfast, but breakfast had a limited menu. Our server was kind of a mess, but the food itself was good. Get their Killer Garlic Bread! We didn’t find many options for breakfast in Venice unless it was a crazy popular brunch spot which we just didn’t feel like waiting in a long line.
  • Venice canals – One of my favorite little spots during the trip! Man made canals made to feel like in your in the original canals in Venice, Italy. It was a hotter day, but I could’ve walked each canal. The houses were so beautiful, unique, and the florals/greenery were so well taken care of! Great spot to come after a meal to walk off your food and enjoy a romantic walk.
  • Abbott Kinney – I know I’ve had a lot of favorite parts of the trip, but this was our FAVORITE. Abbott Kinney was really 100% window shopping for us mostly because of the price point. It’s long street with local shops with stuff like knick knacks, home goods, and clothing. It was just cool to finally see some shopping with more unique L.A. fashion and unique retail items.
  • Salt & Straw – ICE CREAM. DELICIOUS. ICE CREAM. This is a MUST do while in Abbott Kinney. We tried so many flavors that were so incredibly rich and delicious. They had unique and simple flavors, waffle cones, efficient and friendly service. We almost went back for a second round before leaving Venice and regret it to this day! I’m an ice cream snob, so seriously trust me on this one.
  • Venice Beach/Pier/Muscle Beach – We ended up loving Venice Beach wayyy more than Santa Monica. It is definitely not as “clean”, but the vibes/talent/people were just cooler. This is the “hipster” version of Santa Monica. The basketball courts at muscle beach had a tournament taking place, and we were able to sit and watch these amazing dunk contests/games for almost a whole hour! The skate park was so cool, and we saw the most talented kids! We then found a spot in the sand and just enjoyed the full experience. Overall, tons of entertainment to keep you there for a while.
  • Summer Buffalo – Thai dinner in WeHo – Our AirBnb host recommended this place along with yelp reviews. It seems like they were a better take out option. The restaurant was small and we got the spot literally next to the bathroom door. Our service was horrible, food took a long time, but it was good… Very mixed reviews.
  • LACMA – While we didn’t go to the actual museum, we went to see the lanterns lit up at night. Lots of people were here for the same reason, even people taking quince/graduation/etc. photos. Pretty unique and another must do!

Day Four: Last day, L.A. to Houston 😦

  • Blue Jam Cafe – Breakfast in WeHo – We had no ideas for breakfast and Vimal found this little gem on yelp. It was down the street from our AirBnb and it was SO GOOD! They had a great vegetarian selection for breakfast which can be a little tricky if you don’t eat eggs. A ranchero vegan tofu scramble was delicious and I got the famous french toast. A little overrated, but still good if you love french toast!
  • Griffith Observatory – We were planning to do this during sunset the day before, but we didn’t make it in time. Unfortunately the actual observatory wasn’t open on Monday’s, but it’s still a popular place to go for the scenic views. We parked on the side of the road going up the hill, but because it was closed it was fairly easy to find parking. On a day they’re open, many people said it’s important to get there super early to ensure you find parking, and find it close! We enjoyed the views, taking pictures, and the overall experience, and that wasn’t even going inside the actual observatory! We definitely have plans on coming back. We later found out they filmed part of La La Land in the observatory. Whaaaaa!
  • Lunch by the Airport – Equelecua Vegan Cuban Cuisine – YOU READ THAT RIGHT! VEGAN CUBAN FOOD! I haven’t had Cuban food since I became a vegetarian almost 4 years ago. We had tostones, a cuban sandwich, and ropa vieja, ALL VEGAN! It was all delicious and satisfied some serious cravings.

This concludes our entire trip to the magical city of L.A. We loved this city and this trip so much, and have so many things we still want to do (see below).

  • Ice cream museum (tickets were sold out and we were nervous the ones on craigslist were fakes)
  • Melrose Trading Post – Local flea market
  • Smorgasburg- Food and Flea Market
  • Downtown L.A.

If you have any questions on getting around, restaurants, traffic, logistics, etc. let me  know!

Happy Travels!

AA