The heat was most definitely not on.
I was wearing a pair of yoga pants and the only long-sleeve top I brought, (with the exception of my denim jacket and chambray shirt—not necessarily sleepwear). I was tucked under three blankets, and my keyboard felt like it had been refrigerated.
I was not in New York. Not even London. Though, it could’ve very well been a flashback to the exact day last year, Jan. 14, 2013, when I arrived at my new flat in Wapping. The heat was most definitely not on there either. But I adjusted. The newness and unfamiliarity of my surroundings were too exciting to be worried about silly things like warmth.
I felt the same waking up on my first day, in Mexico City. Where the sun inevitably rose, increasing the temperature significantly. (But still maybe not as much as I anticipated!) Where the scent of beans and café con leche wafted up to my room at a quaint little B&B in the Colonia Roma district of the “D.F.”, as the capital is known. Where some buildings are blindingly colorful and others look as if they might crumble if you lean against it them too hard. Where little old Mexican ladies warm up flautas and fill them with sweet-scented corn and carne, right on the street. Where you want one so badly, but worry about what it’ll do to your stomach if you indulge.
I arrived Monday afternoon, flustered and discombobulated as I always am when arriving in a new city. A little bit anxious and nervous, a lot a bit wide-eyed and hungry. Not just for something to eat—because I am always ravished post-flying—but for what I’ll find when I start roaming about. To my surprise, I nearly found myself back in Blighty.
See, I asked the lovely owner of my four-month old, charming (but still rickety) guesthouse to suggest a place to eat. He rattled off directions, tossing in a “left and a right” here and there. But between his accent and the fact that I’d been up since 5:45a.m. and eaten nothing more than an apple and a bland buttered roll courtesy of Aeromexico, there was only so much I could take in. The one street name I did catch? Londres. I kid you not, I spent the better half of my first afternoon in Mexico City, a year to the day from when I arrived across the pond last year, walking up and down a street called Londres.
OK, so pretty much all the blocks in the area are named for European cities—there’s Berlin, Liverpool, Amsterdam and my favorite “Hamburgo.” But still, kinda funny that he directed me to Londres, no? Full circle, baby!
I got a sopa. Or maybe it was a toquita. I’m not quite sure. The menu was entirely in Spanish and despite there being photos of the dishes, I never can quite tell the difference between many of them. Some have beans. Some have beans and meat. Some have just cheese. Some come in a flat hard tortilla shell. Some are soft and rounded. But they usually all taste pretty similar, to varying degrees. Plus, let’s not forget I took French this summer. Whatever I ordered, I practically ate it in five bites, washing it down with a Fresca.
By this point, it was nearly 4p.m. The day was waning, and of course I was feeling rushed to familiarize myself with my surroundings. Not only because I’d be in Mexico City for just a few days and want to get the most out of it, but because my sister was arriving the next day and, well, we don’t have the greatest history of getting on so well in foreign cities when both of us have agendas and are clueless on how to go about executing them. But we are both dead-set on changing that this time-around, our third attempt. (The first was Madrid/Barcelona. The second was Athens/Istanbul. More on that some other time.)
I’m pretty good at getting the lay of the land, though. Give me a map—a real, hand-held, non-digitized map—and after going the wrong direction once (OK, maybe twice; sometimes three times) I become fairly acquainted with my surroundings pretty quick. That said, I found my way back from the tourist area that the guy unfortunately directed me towards, went up to my room, threw on a few more layers and some mascara, and hit the town in the other direction. It was dark by now, but I wasn’t done exploring and wanted a drink.
After walking back and forth in front of a handful of hip-looking spots, trying to determine which one was worth my pesos, I finally settled on some place called Nonsolo. Which, again, was kind of funny because, well, I was not “non solo.” To top it off, there was a two-for-one special going on and while the waiter clearly saw I was just one person, he still brought me two full glasses of “Trempranillo” (spelled just like that).
I sat outside, drinking one of my “Trempranillo’s,” listening to the casual conversations in Spanish around me with a perma-smile on my face. That same perma-smile you could say I had a year prior on my first day in Londres. The day that was bitter cold and I walked over the Tower Bridge for the hell of it (despite my thinking it was the London Bridge.) The day I left my new flat in Wapping searching for hangers for my closet and a SIM card for my phone.
My love affair with London, while brief, was so intense and fulfilling that it’s no wonder I continue to be reminded of my time there, and the effect it had on me. Like any break-up, said my sister, the “getting over it” part always seems to last a lot longer than the actual relationship itself.
I suspect I’ve still got a few more months of “Last year, this time’s”, but there’s something about a whole year passing from the start of something that sorta forces you to move from the Then into the Now.
In fact, I’ve been so busy doing just that over the past 36 hours, it’s taken me three days to finish and publish this post! While I can’t promise I won’t get wistful for the Londres of yesterday, knowing that the Now will inevitably bring warmth into whatever initial chill I find myself in—be it in a foreign place like Mexico City or maybe (gasp!) a more familiar one like home—continues to bring me joy.
Viva la vida!