I rang in 2017 in a velvet-roped club in Buenos Aires.
It was a completely amazing accident.
I like to travel, but my primary places of interest have always been in Europe. Maybe it’s because I was born there and spent summers at camp in the South of France, or wandering in the streets of Munich, or in the freezing cold waters of Langeoog (a very small island on the north see of Germany). With the exception of a few weeks in Phuket and a week in Israel, my travels have revolved around Europe. It wasn’t that I was against going to South America, I just didn’t have much interest in it.
My outlook on travel changed late last year. I had just started playing polo and also learned that I had a little over 2 weeks off of work during our winter closing. One thing led to another, and I found myself booking a solo trip to Argentina to ride horses in the middle of nowhere. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t pick Argentina because of the amazing food, art, or culture. I wanted to hang out on a polo field and heard that it was the best place to do it.
After 10 days of doing exactly that, with the biggest smile on my face and dirt on every pair of my jeans, I decided to check out Buenos Aires for a day trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful old buildings, tree-lined streets, and wonderful food. Parts of it felt like Paris. Other parts were reminiscent of Soho, NYC. This was not the South America that I had pictured. A last minute hotel in Palermo was booked and I spent the next 5 days exploring Buenos Aires. I fell in love with the food, the art, and the culture. Who knew that the best sushi you’ll ever have can be found at Oska, a Peruvian-Japenese restaurant? And my favorite museum to this day is the MALBA (The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires). The opulence of the brunch at the Four Seasons there rivals any brunch I’ve ever seen stateside. Bottomless Moet. Raw bar. Handmade gelato.
I returned to Arizona with a newfound appreciation for Buenos Aires, but struggled how to properly explain why it is so special. “Isn’t it dirty?” “I heard it is really dangerous,” “I just don’t have any interest in going to South America,” were all common remarks. I get it. That used to be me.
I didn’t know how to explain that Buenos Aires is everything that Paris or Munich is (great architecture and design, incredible food, wonderful museums) only with the addition of amazing shopping, and an exchange rate that makes your fine dining cheaper than ‘normal’ dining stateside. Most importantly, it truly was a cultural experience that awakened my soul. Everything felt different. Every street corner contained inspiration.
A few months later, I began throwing around ideas with a friend for a group trip. We wanted to go somewhere that had really good food, an interesting culture, and was easily accessible to Phoenix and New York. He suggested Mexico City. My only experience with Mexico City was from when I was 15 years old. I was in summer camp in France and noticed a group of 4–5 incredibly good-looking boys who all hung out together. They were all impeccably dressed in linen button down shirts, Gucci loafers, and colorful chino shorts. Again, these are kids at a summer camp. I asked someone about them and she told me, “ahh, they are from Mexico City.” Two things instantly came to my mind: I should have paid better attention in Spanish class, and Mexico City looks pretty nice. Sold.
We began planning the trip. By planning, I mean making restaurant reservations. Mexico City is home to many of the world’s best restaurants, including PUJOL (ranked at 17th best in the world). We rented an apartment in the trendy area of Polanco and set to work inviting a few cool people to join us.
“My parents won’t let me go, it’s too dangerous.” “You’re going to get kidnapped.” “Are you sure you want to go? It’s so dangerous.” The usual sentiments reappeared. I’ll admit, after the 7th or 8th person told me that, I too, became a little nervous.
That fear all changed when we dined at Dulce Patria on our first night in Mexico. Every dish was absolutely incredible. Chef Martha Ortiz reinvented classic Mexican dishes and serves them in a playful, imaginative way. Every detail, from the decor, to the service, to the tiny candies that were presented to us with our check was absolute perfection. Her hibiscus-infused mezcal cocktail made me a mezcal fan. Her take on a quesadilla was a mini empanada-style bite served with an assortment of salsas and sea salt flakes. Tortilla chips? Those would be miniature blue and white maize bites in the form of perfect circles. Best of all, the total price for our incredible dining experience was around $45USD a head.
El Moro churreria serves up the most wonderfully crispy, flavorful churros accompanied with dulce de leche, a gooey chocolate sauce, and a big mug of creamy Mexican hot chocolate. We started with 1 order and quickly returned for seconds. And if it wasn’t for our impending dinner reservations at PUJOL, we would have returned for thirds.
The San Angel Inn, an old hacienda, has a garden and patio that feels like you are dining in the most luscious private estate. Blue and white china, big copper pitchers, and beautiful white linens only add to the glamour. They also happen to serve some of the most delicious prime ribeye tacos complete with all the traditional fixings. After dinner, the dessert cart rolls around. Mexican chocolate cake, vanilla bean flan, and fluffy pillows of meringue make their way onto one’s plate with ease.
We didn’t just eat. Sunday afternoon was spent aboard a colorful boat floating down the canals of Xochimilco. Flower shops, cafes, and bars dotted the canals. Vendors pulled up to your boat with pastries, drinks, and fun trinkets. Mariachi bands floated by and locals got up to dance.
One day while strolling through Polanco, a few wrong turns led to us entering one of the most beautiful malls I have ever been in. I have to preface by saying I am not into shopping and can’t remember the last time that I entered a mall. El Palacio de Hierro was like a much, much, nicer version of Harrods or Galeries Lafayette. A rooftop food court turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.
The Museum Tamayo has an incredible collection of modern and old Latin American art, all viewed alongside large expansive windows that peek into Chapultepec park, one of Mexico city’s largest parks. It makes Central Park look quaint. If you prefer to get up close to a Rembrandt or Renior, Museo Soumaya, Carlos Slim’s private collection, will not disappoint.
I enjoyed every second of my time in Mexico City. I found the people to be wonderfully warm and welcoming. I know that some people may have concerns over safety, but I never felt unsafe. In fact, I actually felt safer in Mexico City and Buenos Aires than when I was in London in April.
To me, Mexico City offers the perfect getaway for someone looking for fine dining, art and culture, and inspiration. Best of all, it’s a 3hr flight from Arizona and 5hrs from JFK. I hope that you will consider it for your next trip. I’m already planning my return.