I happened to find myself in Mexico City for a few days, without many real plans a few weeks ago. A trip with no itinerary of things to do would have stressed me out a few years ago, but I’ve since become a different traveller, one that trusts that adventures will find me if I leave myself open to the opportunity.
So just over a month since I’d last been in Mexico City, I hopped on a plane to return settled in the knowledge that I’d have no problem filling a few days wandering the streets and taking it all in. I am a fortunate solo-traveller to this city though because I have some secret weapons up my sleeve to combat any loneliness that may occur.
In my past few visits to Mexico, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great “influential” locals who have been wonderful in sharing their time and knowledge to help me get to know their city better.
On my first morning, just as I was figuring out what I was going to do for the day, I received an invitation from The Curious Mexican to join her on one of her tours. I met Anais last year when she arranged an impromptu walking cantina crawl, but had never been on one of her real tours before. She had already started the day exploring Roma, but I realized if I hurried, I’d be able to join her to check out El Mercado de Jamaica. Seeing as Anais is one of the most lovely people I know, with great energy and a wealth of knowledge, I jumped at the opportunity. I quickly hopped in an Uber to meet up with her, feeling fortunate to be included on what I knew would be an incredible afternoon.
My first stop on the tour was La Flor de Jamaica for a chile workshop led by Fernando. I’m always drawn to the giant displays of beautiful chiles in the markets, choosing treasures to take home with me with little idea of what I’m purchasing, so I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about them.
After our initial overview, we were led into a back room for the second part of the workshop, where we had the opportunity to make our own individual salsas in a molcojete. We were instructed on how to properly hold the tejolote and the way to grind and smash the ingredients.
Fernando took us through the different characteristics of the fresh and dried chiles on the plate in front of us and we learned how the different ratios of the fresh and dried would result in a salsa that took you from mild to burn your head off hot.
As we worked on our salsas, Fernando brought in a plate filled with simple ingredients, and the most delicious chicharrón I’ve ever tasted, to make taco placero, (meaning whatever is available/left in the market). We prepared our tacos and topped them a sampling of all the salsas we had prepared.
The workshop was informative and I gained a greater appreciation for the wonderful capsicums I’m always woo-ing over in the markets in Mexico. This one experience alone made my trip to Mexico City worthwhile, but lucky me, this was just the first stop of many on our tour of the market.
After the workshop, we wandered towards the main part of Mercado de Jamaica, but made few quick detours before we entered.
We made our way into the market where we wandered in and around the colourful stalls, made more vibrant and alive with Anais’ wonderful stories. Her enthusiasm is infectious and you can’t help but love everything in front of you.
We wandered through the flower market, which as Anais explained, leading up to Day of the Dead overflows in floral abundance, but even on a Tuesday in January, there was enough there to have me swooning over the colours and fragrances of the flowers on display .
We slowed in front of the corn vendor carefully grilling cobs over the coals. Corn is my favorite food, but after a very bad (stomach) incident many years ago, I have mostly stayed away from Mexican street corn. But my trust in Anais out-weighed my feelings of fear of latter stomach consequences.
Anais chose 3 samples from the vats of bubbling corn mixed with various with in front of us to try.
I was hitting full satiation from all the food sampling, but Anais mentioned there were just a few more things we had to try.
Feeling completely full from our market adventures, we hopped back in a car and made our way back to Roma for one last stop before the tour ended. While I’ve been to different locations of Churreía El Moro on previous trips, I’ve never enjoyed it as much as I did on this visit. There’s something about sharing a table full of sweets with a group of enthusiastic indulgers that made each bite of warm crispy sweet churros taste more delicious than I had remembered from past visits.
Sitting happily munching on my sweet churro, I was so thankful for the day that Anais had included me on. Sure, I would have thought it perfectly wonderful, wandering around the city solo for the day, but this adventure was a much more delightful way to spend the day. Anais is passionate about her city, happy to show it off in all its glory and generous in sharing her knowledge and “secret” finds. I don’t want to wear out my welcome, but I am eagerly anticipating spending more time with her again in the near future.