6-hour flight misery – didn’t drink enough water! We land, but they won’t let us off the plane – we’re trapped. Through the video screen on the seat-back, a guy in row 37B texts: LET US OUT!! My partner texts back: we are prisoners, help! As if we were in a B-movie, we wait for the hero to save us. No one comes. Finally, an hour later we walk down the plane’s stairs and cram onto a bus that will take us 12 minutes to the terminal at Benito Juarez International Airport.
Freed, I take a deep breath.
Off the bus, into the terminal, we’re confronted by a mob trying to get through customs – three flights have arrived at the same time. My head spins and I feel like vomiting, but I stand and stand (and at times crouch) for yet another hour. We are the last to be checked through. Bad luck?
I finally get a gulp of cold water. Relief.
Won’t let the month-long trip be coloured by a bad beginning.
We wander the streets of Mexico City towards the Templo Mayor – the area previously known as Tenochtitlan, where the Mexicas people thrived. Now they dance for tourists in the square. Impressive structures stood from AD 1325 until the Spanish conquered 200 years later destroying most of the temples and surrounding buildings. But today, the ornate architecture of the Cathedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad Mexico sits juxtaposed behind the temple ruins. The glorious (sarcasm) church towers over the remains of a once powerful people.
Sigh (isn’t that always the way).
A quartet (3 violins and a cello) play Vivaldi as we stroll down the street, 16th of September (Independence Day from Spaniards) and reach Constitution Square where a ‘plastic’ ice rink sits beside a Christmas tree of poinsettias. We skate awkwardly on the plastic in 25-degree heat. We wipe the sweat from our faces, trying not to melt before the plastic ice does.
We head back to our hotel, merging with the hoard of people along Franciso I. Madero Street, closed to traffic, but not to vendors shouting, handing out flyers. We weave and dodge through the mayhem. Mexico City, with a population of 21 million…I think we’ve met them all today.
We pass another group of musicians with a young woman singing opera. Her clear voice bounces off the buildings and onlookers. She coats the street with elegance.
Our room in the Hotel Isabel has 17-foot ceilings and overlooks the Republica de el Salvador street, bursting with loud trucks and more music. This time Bing Crosby sings Jingle bells, which morphs into a rap… stimulation at every corner.
For a brief moment, I forget where I’m from or where I am – feeling the air, atmosphere, creativity, music, heat – the city vibrates with energy.