Monterrey is not a place I recommend often (if ever) to potential visitors to Mexico, namely because 1) there are a fuck ton of better places to go and 2) I sort of, kind of, maybe like having Monterrey all to myself. I like that this (admittedly popular with people from the US) northern city is somewhere that few people visit and even fewer people like. Is that selfish? Probably. Monterrey feels a tiny bit like my little secret, over which I have a monopoly of useful tips and carefully crafted opinions.
This second point was never something I thought I’d find myself admitting, almost exactly two years down the line from my first ever visit to Monterrey, in the height of the motherfucking canícula.
The first time I came here was because my boyfriend had accepted a job in the city, without ever having visited the place beforehand might I add, and so I, in my final few weeks of living in Mexico (the first-time round), took a flight up to spend his birthday with him in his new home, made plans to couch surf with some locals and, as ever, knocked up a checklist of all the best things to see and do in Monterrey, Mexico. Spoiler alert: there aren’t many. Little did I know I was to be arriving in the middle of the canícula (heatwave). Now, I don’t know if you’ve realised, but I don’t cope well with the heat. And coming to Monterrey in mid-August is possibly the worst possible decision for someone who doesn’t cope well with the heat. Because it’s incessant.
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Basically, the fucking horrible weather was (and still kind of is) one of my main reasons for hating Monterrey. I mean, there are like four weeks a year when the weather is kind of temperate, and either side of that it’s bye bye productivity hot or you can’t feel your fingers cold. Kind of like how it was in my final year of university in Cardiff, except minus the whole heat part.
However, over the course of recent visits, I’ve come round to the idea of Monterrey and its somewhat spectacular mountainous surroundings. I look forward to going there (of course, a big part of this is that my boyfriend still lives here, I don’t have to look for accommodation and I know all the cool places to go now). I also get kind of sad when I have to leave and go back to Mexico City. Sure, it’s a nice relief to land in a city where getting off the plane doesn’t feel like walking into the second circle of hell (heat-wise at least), but I always feel the chill of a Mexico City morning that bit more after spending a long weekend in Monterrey.
I also really love that I can justify buying fridge-fresh big bottles of the most refreshing drink known to man in Monterrey, Topo Chico.
I feel weirdly comfortable here, in a way similar to Mexico City and Guadalajara. I also love that I can provide genuine advice and information for all of Mexico’s three biggest cities (even if everyone does just go to Tulum, Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca City instead anyway, yawn).
I also weirdly love the fact that every time I fly home from Monterrey, every single passenger on the (inevitably) delayed VivaAerobus flight is carrying their clingfilmed box of carne, ready for their Mexico City BBQ. And I like that when I’m flying into Monterrey, most passengers are either wearing some kind of cowboy hat and boot combo or slip on moccasins and a padded bodywarmer, topped off with slightly too long, slicked back hair. It’s like the population of the plane is welcoming me back to the world of the Monterrey mirreyes, you know?
However, and I stand firm on this, the one thing I really fucking hate about Monterrey is their obsession with drinking Bud Light and Tecate. I’m not about that life.
I hate having to shower about three times a day to reduce the overwhelming face sheen, but also, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of a cold shower. A really, freezing, cold, fucking amazing shower. Plus the water pressure at my boyfriend’s house was always magnificent compared to my pitiful Mexico City shower.
Finally, I love eating my way around Monterrey, although don’t confuse that with the notion that Monterrey has incredible food. No, no. Rather, I’ve carefully cultivated a list of places that serve decent food over my many, many visits. Basically, don’t head north in the hope of finding street food, and definitely not affordable street food, because the closest you’ll get is a sad street side hotdog (no corn tortilla or lime drenched tacos here, I’m afraid). Although, I do have it on good authority that Sonora, Sinaloa, and basically any state in the northwest of Mexico offers decent eats.
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However, I think that what I most loved about Monterrey was (duh) the fact that my boyfriend lived there. Now we’ve left Mexico to gallivant around South America together, there’s not that same pull to visit anymore. Even so, I’m still glad Monterrey remains my sweaty little secret.