I am ashamed.
Mexico City has been aconstant neighbor for centuries.
It is responsible for much of the food that Icannot conceive of my life without.
My home state of California was part ofMexico until 1850 and is still home to more Hispanics than any other ethnicgroup in the state.
Mexico's influence on modern California and America isincalculable and invaluable.
But I know embarrassingly little about this cityabout this country other than what has been prepackaged, distilled, and isresilient enough to make the treacherous border crossing from Mexico intoAmerican popular culture.
I am going to fix that right now.
When you stop for a second, take a breathand look around you you realize something pretty quickly – Mexico City isgargantuan.
The largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere and thebiggest Spanish-speaking city on earth, this is a human hive of staggeringproportions.
1700 neighbourhoods are home to the nearly 20 million people thatmake Mexico City hum.
That makes it the biggest city in North America bypopulation.
This is a densely packed highly populous place no matter how youmeasure it or how you experience it.
And the airport is a great example ofthis Benito Juarez international located just a few miles east of the city.
This airport is bursting at the seams.
It was due to be replaced by a brandnew airport designed by Norman Foster but after public outcry over spiralingcosts and the expropriation of thousands of acres of public land the project wasput on indefinite hold late last year so for now this is your gateway to MexicoCity.
As with pretty much every country in theworld there is a little bit of paperwork to fill out before you arrive in Mexicoand before is the important word here.
Fill out this paperwork on the planeotherwise it's going to delay your entry into the country.
Now you can pre-fill it online before you even leave your home country butwhen you print it out you must do it on a color printer otherwise you'll get besent back to the back of the queue to fill out one of these.
The second reallyimportant thing to remember is when you go through immigration they're goingkeep one piece of this and they're going give you back another piece – you must keep hold of this until you leave Mexico otherwise they won't letyou leave until you pay a little bit of a fine and spend a long time refillingout all the paperwork, so take 30 seconds to get it right on the airplane, invest that time.
To get from the airport you can jump in a taxi for whichyou can buy a ticket at one of the marked stands or kiosks inside the airportterminal.
The journey will cost between 100 and 300 pesos depending on the typeof vehicle you choose and of course how far you're going and the journey willtake between 30 and 90 minutes really depending on the traffic now avoid taxitowns and unlicensed taxis like the plague not only will you invariably paymore than you need to in rare cases they can actually be quitedangerous so make the right choice alternatively you can use uber from theairport just be sure to select which door to meet your driver at and you'llbe good to go the journey will cost around 180 pesos how do you move 20 million people arounda city all day every day by the second half of the 20th century Mexico City'spublic transport infrastructure was grinding to a halt the city was entirelydependent on its overly congested roads and highways so in 1967 ground wasbroken on the Mexico City metro Mexico City has one of the most extensive andbusiest metro systems in the world it's a great way to get around to because the12 lines cover most of the city it's very easy to use despite the lack ofEnglish language signs because the system was designed with illiteracy inmind so through the use of color and iconography the whole network isaccessible to really everybody our system to be a truly effectivedecongestant the Metro needed to be accessible by all not just the wealthyor educated in addition to the easy-to-understand signage a discount onthe standard 5 peso fare has always been available to the unemployed female headsof household and low-income students and it's free for the elderly and thedisabled democratization of public transport is how you keep 20 millionpeople Mexico City's stored-value transit card is that they'll head to DFnot only does it work on the Metro but on Metro buses and the city's trolleybus and light rail systems too it can be purchased and recharged at ticket boothsor ticket machines in most metro stations where you can also purchaseyour single journey Metro ticket – as you go through the turnstile just tapyour tarjeta or insert your ticket to begin your journeysee the speed interference assume they mean diseases a variety of bus servicesswarm the city taking passengers to the nooks and crannies of Mexico City thatthe Metro just can't reach the government and municipal e run metro andRTP buses cost between two and six spaces depending on the type of serviceand how far you're going but they will take you to any destination along theirroute the privately owned slightly less formal for several buses well they willtake you anywhere but the routes are a little more fluid and the driving stylea little more avant-garde shall we say so choose wisely Metro bus and trolleybus services complete this varied and extensive suite of bus services inMexico City all of them start at less than 35 American cents and will with alittle luck get you where you need to go taxis are a great way to get around thecity but you will need to take a few precautions local producer and friend ofattache and weekly Rizzo explains in I think in general taxis are a very goodway to move around the city there's a lot of working class people and Mexicanpeople that they don't use public transport they they can afford taxis andMexico City as there are so many cars sometimes it's even more affordable toonly use uber and taxis rather than owning a car so what if you don't haveenough signal to Halon uber and Rica explains the safer option if you need tograb a taxi the old-fashioned way so the safer option was to take taxisfrom stands so these official stands you have the taxis park and they are a lotsafer and they would be a bit more expensive but that that way you weren'trisking it so if you find yourself as the old saying goes up shit creekwithout an uber find a taxi stand it's always suggestible to take to use thisthis app's I would say and never street taxis mas morning in Mexico City and 20 millionpeople are on the move their hard work in many cases for very low paycontributes to Mexico City being one of the most productive urban areas on earthand as you take your place in this river of humanity flowing across the cityyou'll discover what fuels this ultra productive people Paola Cristina Floresand her family have been feeding Mexico City from this same spot for over 65years but it was Perlas mother Rosario who created a dish 20 years ago thatturned this humble Street food stall into a Mexico City legend tortoise thatSheila Kuehl a derided as a culinary abomination when first introducedtortillas in a roll who would do such a thingTorche esta chilaquiles are now a beloved staple across the city red orgreen chilaquiles stuffed into a French roll topped with chicken milanesacochinita pibil or shredded chicken that is already sold out so we are stuck withthe Roja which is just as good different flavor but just as good always in linemuch longer around breakfast time but this is my new favorite Mexicanbreakfast or just street food it's so good in the ten years it's been since I leftCalifornia I've learned to my eternal heartbreak the Mexican food just doesn'ttravel well further you move away from Mexico the less authentic the lesssatisfying and frankly the less good it becomes to the point of beingunrecognizable and dare I say insulting I've given up trying to find goodMexican food outside of North America I've been kicked out of enough Mexicanand burrito restaurants and London Hong Kong in Paris to have learned my lessonI just cannot take the disappointment anymore so this brings me cure unbridledjoy I'm gonna start crying yeah and if the food doesn't travel well youbetter believe I'm going to eat my fill whilst I'm local local food expert andcook Nico Garcia is a passionate advocate for Mexico City's street foodpurveyors like la Castilla a mainstay of the city since 1970 there garlictostadas are a great start to the conversation really good right and what doesn't tastebetter without a splash of salsa Nico explains the surprising complexity ofthis classic Mexican accoutrement the salsas don't really have a recipe thatyou can follow it's just like a general style so every cell said you try on anyplace any restaurant any streets then it's gonna be different and what I liketo do is what we what I did just now to have everything but not in the same biteyou know like some drops of wine some drop of theater so each bite is slightlydifferent by costea's signature dish is the imposing of all kind so it's apoblano the rib eye and they're using a type of cheese called Casa era but fearnot the Vulcan gets its name not from its heat but from the Cascade of meltingcheese that tops it we wouldn't consider this spicy food and people actuallywould that spice yeah generally most many people like spice and Mexicanpeople usually start eating spicy food when we're like 2 or 3 years old that'swhen you're considered old enough to start with the lowest kind of spice butyour parents will give you candy with a little bit of chilli if you're jonesingfor some spice this place will almost certainly be okso this place is called Pakistani Tony has the craziest hours it's easier forme to tell you when these guys are close that when they're open so Tony's closestfrom 5 a.
till 8 a.
and that's it the other 21 hours of a these places inbusiness and like this having such long opening hours gives Tony's a certainadvantage over the competition so in every second yeah do you know the hoursand you know that you want to be there like 6 hours after they bit after theyopen you don't wanna be there at night because this weather is gonna be dry andovercooked and if you're too early it's gonna be chewy still and the great thingabout this place is because they work all day long every few minutes they puta new piece of meat so anytime you come you're going to have a piece that isSwatara a cut of beef similar to brisket is placed in a bath of water and fatfor several hours until the beef is essentially called feed and it's servedwith rocket fuel this space we have to be very very careful with the cellsthey're really spicy even for Mexican standards so if it's spicy for Mexicansfor non Mexican people it's gonna be really spicy so be very careful okayand Nico was not kidding SWAT arrow might be my new favoritestyle of tacos but I cannot come to Mexico and not pay my respects to thegreatest of all taco styles our past or the place is really really uniquebecause actually by day this is a car mechanic an auto repair shop so theplace has been open for one hour exactly and you can see how it's already fulltheir biggest hours are actually after people go drinking so from 10:30 11:00till 4:00 a.
this is absolutely crazy you have three or four times as muchpeople as you have right now I adore tacos al pastor the crispy butmoist grilled pork the Fleck of tangy pineapple topped with cilantro andchopped onion pure Mexican goodness beautiful and now for something veryspecial a Mexican cantina is a really unique place so let's go inside and wecan see Mexican canteen is are the exception to the old drinking ruleeating is cheating 100 dishes completely free even if you don't believe it and weconvinced and then over here it says consumer or consumption for and you havefour little drinks this means that in order to in eat in this place you needto order for drinks and it's not for table its purpose but once you do onceyou are therefore you get free access to the menu and it becomes an old you caneat place everything is cooked fresh and really there is no limited nobody isquite sure where cantinas came from but they sure have their fans it's a littleplate that clients get after being here 1, 500 times that's 1500 times andactually it tells you how long it took them so these two guys what happens hereI will convey were here 1500 times from the 9th of October 92 to the 9th ofOctober 2012 so if you do the math this means that these people have beendrinking at the same place like three times a week for almost 30 years that'sa lot of drink and a lot of food I was happy just to have tallied my firstvisit just 1499 to go after a night of tradition it feels onlyappropriate to end the night in the traditional way with a mezcal nightcap acommon misconception is that muscala is a form of tequila on the contrary aschef when Vera explains if you want to name it tequila you have to produce itin a certain area which is tequila Jalisco it's just a town in Jalisco andsurroundings and using one single type of agave which is blue agon and so missCal is a highly varied artisanal creation with an incredible spectrum offlavor stemming from the agave plant Moscow recipes have been mastered andrefined from generation to generation muscala is taken a backseat to its morefamous cousin for decades but with such variety and taste and provenance it'seasy to see why mezcal is reclaiming shelf space in bars across Mexico Mexico's currency is the Pacer nowhere's the weird thing the peso is represented by the dollar signbut since the dollar sign was first used to represent the spanish-american pesoit is safe to say that Mexico got there first so there you have it this is avery easy City in which to transact debit cards and credit cards are widelyaccepted and there are ATMs everywhere which is a great thing because as withso many other cities in the world Street food vendors and smaller market stallholders will really only accept cash so with that combination you really can'tgo wrong here and you could enjoy what is generally agreed upon as a very lowcost of living and on that note let's do the rundown a beautiful can coffee willcost you your 20 business that's a beautiful Mexican beer cost you around40 pesos and for the most reliable indicator of a nation's cost the good olBig Mac you're gonna pay around 52 pesos or two dollars and seventy two cents asa January 2019 at about half-past two so the cost of living is very low and thequality is very high so it's only appropriate to show some appreciation all right let's get it over and donewith tipping it is absolutely a thing here in Mexico especially in Mexico Cityso do it 10% in a restaurant if you've had a goodmeal and good services though the bare minimum but feel free to do more and theway it works is simply when they bring your car you have the option on the cardreader machine to select how much you want it tips before you punch in yourPIN or sign on the dotted line in any service environment Hotel coffeeshop and everything in between it's also the done thing a few pesos here andthere added to your bill or just in coins while not going this so do it thiscity comes with a reputation a reputation magnified by the lens of theoutsider Mexico City is quantifiably a safe city compared with many othercapital cities but as friend of attache cath Cuevas explains there are pocketsof the city which require a little extra precaution just in Mexico City for thepast couple of months there's bit there's been a situation where there'sbeen kidnapping so as soon as they spot a lady getting out of the subway andwalk into it someplace a guy would appear and try to mock her and like likegrab her and people if people would see them fighting the guy would go like ohjust she's just having an episode she's fine she's my girlfriend so it's like anactual thing this morning yeah so what's happening right now and has beenhappening for the past couple of years is that as soon as we know we're gettingout of the house we report to someone as soon as we know we're getting out of thecoffee shop we report to someone as soon as we get into the louver we share whywe're where we are saying that you're okay it's part of the survival thingthat you have to do I have never fallen in love with a cityas quickly as I fell from Mexico City it was I can safely say a revelation sure Iarrived with preconceptions and hopes of what this city might be what it mightoffer but with each new sight sound smell and taste my expectations werehumbled how could anything anywhere possibly be this good Mexico City iseverything I want in a city hectic sprawling loud creative friendly andabsolutely friggin delicious I will look for every possible excuse orjustification to get back here as soon as humanly possible but until then Iurge you experience Mexico City eat its food meet its impossibly warm andfriendly people you will not be disappointed.