Regular readers of my blog know that I have frequently played "tour guide" to friends and relatives in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán.
I have always thought of the charming, laid-back city as the perfect introduction for first time visitors to Mexico. My traveling companions have heard me talk about Mexico and have seen pictures of my trips, so they knew enough to not believe the media image that Mexico is a dreadful place where danger lurks at every corner. Still some have admitted that prior to the trip they were a bit apprehensive. However, without exception they came home thoroughly delighted with Mérida.
Now that I am going to spend an even greater amount of time in Mexico City, a number of people who went with me to Mérida have expressed an interest in seeing the Mexican capital.
Now don't get me wrong. I think that Mexico City is one of the great cities of the world, a place filled with incredible art, architecture and museums. But I can't help but wonder, "How will they react to this monster of more than 20 million people?" It's not that they have never traveled to big cities before, but Mexico City is more than big. Will they be overwhelmed, intimidated or exhausted?
In my mind I am already planning an itinerary for prospective visitors. Of course we would have to spend a day walking around the historic center of the city, visiting places such as the National Palace with its Diego Rivera murals and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The National Museum of Anthropology, one of the great museums of the world, is a must. On my last visit to the museum I actually did a quick run-through, trying to pick out the highlights that I would show them. (Trying to see the entire museum is just too much.) I would want to get tickets for a performance of the wonderful Ballet Folklórico. Hopefully their stay would include a weekend, so that my friend Alejandro could drive us out to the impressive ruins of Teotihuacan, with its pyramids that rival those of Egypt. Out of the myriad of restaurants, which ones would I choose to give them a taste of the city's culinary wealth?
The one aspect of Mexico City which I hate is the horrendous traffic. Will my guests be traumatized? Even when I am in the car with Alejandro I often let out a silent gasp... not because of his driving, but because of the crazy people on the road. Other times I want to jump out of my skin because of the snarled traffic traveling at a snail's pace. Public transportation, the Metrobus and the subway, are very efficient and inexpensive, but can be very crowded.
Maybe I should just stop worrying, and remember the phone conversation I overheard as I was waiting for my luggage at Houston airport at the end of my last trip. There was a businessman talking on his cell phone. He obviously had been very frightened about the prospect of traveling to Mexico City. He said, " I just wanted to let you know that I was totally wrong about Mexico City. It was great!"