In our eight years in Mexico we have never had the chance nor the inclination to explore Mexico City. In fact, the only time we have ever been there was for an overnight layover on the way to Acapulco for our honeymoon in 2001. I was so intimidated by the "idea" of Mexico City that I booked us into a hotel right at the airport and didn't even consider venturing into downtown. Like most Americans, I think our impressions of Mexico City are formed by movies like "Man on Fire". Stories from friends who had worked and or done business in the City did not help. One, a personal chef to a wealthy Mexican family, had a security detail to take her to and from the market, varying the route randomly to discourage any would-be kidnappers. Another friend, a mid-level bank executive, had a well-planned hostage plan complete with a considerable ransom arranged for him whenever his work brought him into the DF. These depictions of the city managed to stick with me and, in planning this trip, did not inspire me to spend a lot of time there. We were to fly in, stay in a posh hotel, have a nice meal or two and carry on to Oaxaca. Period.

If you have not been to Mexico City before, flying into the DF makes quite an impression. It is absolutely enormous. It goes on and on and on. Regardless of which direction you enter from, you are flying over dense urban areas for quite awhile before finally arriving at Benito Juarez International Airport. This city makes Manhattan look like a postage stamp. From above, the landscape is intimidating and a bit overwhelming.

Mexico City from the Air 

In an effort to ease my stressed out husband into the idea of "vacation", I purposefully booked us into a nice hotel well-located on La Reforma, midway between the main zocalo and Parque Chapultepec. As we had no plans to spend any time in the city, I didn't bother to investigate the neighborhoods too much. I went online, found a nice hotel at a very nice price, close to the historic downtown landmarks and reserved a room. This is in stark contrast to the trip planning I did for our two-week stay coming up in Oaxaca where I spent months reading and investigating and pouring over other traveler's trip reports and itineraries. This short leg of the trip would serve one purpose: to get Rob relaxed and comfortable and eased into vacation mode.....not an easy task.

Hotel Gran Melia Reforma 

Whereas I am keen to find unusual places to stay (a certain tree-house hostel in Guatemala comes to mind) and am fine with "roughing it", my DH likes his creature comforts. Air conditioning and television are non-negotiable. High thread count sheets, hi speed internet, room service and an elegant lobby bar are a huge plus. As I want a happy husband (and he deserves every bit of it) I took all this into consideration for our Mexico City accommodations and The Hotel Gran Melia Reforma fit the bill perfectly. I got a smoking deal through an online discounter, over 150 usd off the rack rate giving us a large room with 2 queen sized beds for $115 usd/night. We stayed on "The Level" which gave us complimentary full breakfast and afternoon tea in a comfortably elegant dining room and lounge overlooking the city. The spa and indoor pool were just two floors below, easily accessible for the kids to come and go as they pleased.

Melia Mexico City 

Melia Mexico City 

As a child, I spent a lot of time in NYC with my parents. Staying in a high-rise hotel was commonplace to me and elevators were taken for granted. My kids, who have lived in Playa del Carmen for eight years, have never had the opportunity to go up higher than 3-4 stories. They spent most of their Melia time riding all the way up and down in  the glass elevator, giggling all the way and chatting up the other guests.

Melia Mexico City 

As I have mentioned, I had no intention on this trip to pack our schedule with "must see", "must do" excursions. We really wanted to take it easy and this first day in Mexico City would reflect that. We flew in, collected our bags, checked in to the hotel and lounged around on the 1000 thread count duvets. Lovely! I had done a bit of Facebook research looking for good places to eat in the city but hadn't made any firm plans. Still feeling a little out of my element, I hopped on Google to find a restaurant relatively close the hotel. I had been warned that traffic within the city was an absolute nightmare so we settled on one of Mexico City's oldest establishments, popular with businessmen and located within a few kilometers of The Melia. A cab driver easily confirmed that we had made a good pick so we had our first Mexico City meal at Danubio.

Danubio Restaurant Mexico City 

Renowned for its raw bar and seafood dishes Danubio was opened in 1936 by Basques who managed to escape the Spanish Civil War. The walls of the dining room are adorned with cloth napkins autographed by the many politicians, actors, musicians, soccer stars, writers and bullfighters who have dined in the restaurant over the years. My friends from Albany will understand when I walked in and immediately exclaimed "Oh, it's Jack's Oyster House!".

Restaurant Danubio Mexico City

A little bit smaller than Jack's but with the same ambiance, the same professional servers, the same menu, the same clientele only instead of martinis and champagne, we noticed bottles of wine and mescal on nearly every table. I also noticed that the same groups seated when we arrived were still there when we left. Course after course was laid out on the tables for everyone to share. Glass after glass of mescal was poured and tossed back with a hearty "salud"! No one was in any hurry to go anywhere. Clearly they know something we do not. I later learned that a visit to Danubio was like a visit to the "Mad Men" era when lunch on Friday afternoon could easily last for many hours with no thought to returning to the office. We enjoyed our delicious late lunch, surrounded by the city's movers-and-shakers, and retired back to the hotel as their evening was just starting to heat up!

Tomorrow, a visit to the Chapultepec Zoo and....PUJOL!!