So here we are in Oaxaca and yes, it’s charming!
(Quick side note about the writing itself: We’ve been in Oaxaca for a full week and my post here is a tad too sequential for my liking; the product of quick daily jot notes. I think I write quite “unemotionally”, but to be clear, let me tell you…we are having a blast!!! At almost any moment in time, I am overcome with elation, noticing how FUN this is! Happy days!)
For me to be truly enjoying myself, I seem to have to feel physically comfortable with the climate! And I do! And I need to be free of bugs. And I am! The weather is a hot 33*C in the day, but it’s really dry (no humidity) which feels much more comfortable than heat with humidity (although my tanned skin appears scaly with dryness and in need of moisturizer which is unusual for me). The sun rises and sets at 6:45 a.m./p.m. and by sunrise the temperatures have slowly dropped down to a cool 12*-14*C. (Some nights it’s still very warm at midnight while on other nights it’s refreshing already immediately after sunset, by 7:00 pm.)
We rented an Airbnb in the Xochimilco neighbourhood for $1190 for a full month including all fees ($38 Cdn per night, for 31 nights). The reviews were fabulous and the place has a huge patio that’s fully shaded in the afternoon and evening, and it’s very QUIET (no traffic, no crowing roosters and no barking dogs except far in the distance). I love the smooth tiled floors beneath by feet and the two comfortable couches! And, it didn’t need any cleaning whatsoever; it was spotless!
The hosts, Paulina and Julian are awesome, as is our Colorado neighbour Maddie in the apartment next to ours (and her Swedish boyfriend Simon who also lives in this city). They both do on-line work here for long hours and are madly in love, so we don’t see much of them.
The next door apartment has a king bed, but our two doubles are ever-so-fine and comfy. 🙂
Paulina and Julian designed the place beautifully.
We had dinner with our neighbours tonight, served on our patio, prepared by our host Paulina. How sweet is that?!
A home-cooked mole served with chicken, rice and veggies. We were joined by two of her sisters too. Hoping Julian sends me his photos. We had a great time!
It’s a lot of fun heading out the door to go for a walk where, once again, everything is new and intriguing. The blue misty mountains in the background with the predominantly violet, fuchsia and rose flowering trees, along with the colourful painted buildings make the streets vibrant and beautiful!
Just down the street from us there’s this street corner that’s particularly stunning, but the camera can not capture what I feel and see here.
On our first morning in Mexico, we walk a few blocks down a cobblestone street, meeting locals walking hand-in-hand, until we reach Mercado Organico La Cosecha.
We are hungry and eager to have fresh tortillas cooked on a wood-burning fire. The menu is completely foreign to me: entomatadas, enfrijoladas, memelas, tetelas (rather than the familiar empanadas, tamales, tacos, quesadillas, etc.)
We order the first two and try each other’s. They are delicious! There’s a notable special ingredient or quality in these corn tortillas that is especially tasty.
We have some USD$ on us but no pesos at all, and the ladies make an exception to take our US cash. (Two large breakfast plates for a total of $7 USD or $9 Cdn.) After breakfast, we easily find an ATM at a Scotia Bank to withdraw pesos at no cost to us (free card and ZERO fees to withdraw….the reason we applied for this card.) It all adds up, right?
Then, with my MapsMe app, we walk to the end of the next block and another block to the right to find Mercado Sanchez Pascua where we purchase eggs, fresh Oaxacan cheese, fresh butter in a plastic bag (scooped from a huge sack in the freezer), fresh yogurt, avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, canned refried beans, and lots of fruits including limes, mangos, grapefruits, oranges, pineapple, and figs. Also raw honey, little tied-up bags of fresh salsas, and tostadas (deep-fried whole tortillas to be broken into taco chips, so much tastier than the bagged, processed ones!)
There are SO MANY varieties of chile peppers…..orange, yellow, green, and every hue of red and purple. I have hundreds more photos than I post because it’s too much.
I photoed these because Harold and I pretty well ate these daily for a full year, when we lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Directly across the street from the entrance to the market is a Rito Chocolateria & Tienda where we purchase a bar of 70% chocolate with the most complex flavors I can recall, and also good coffee (for Harold).
Immediately next door we purchase fresh hot corn tortillas at the Tortilleria Tienda. We have all the essentials for small bites at home in the upcoming week. We just didn’t find whole-grain bread today.
We return to relax for the afternoon at home; I’m reviewing and deleting photos from the past week. See how the shade returns to our deck early in the aft!
For dinner, just a 5-minute walk from our Airbnb, we find the lovely Ancestral Cocina Tradicional (ancestor’s traditional kitchen) set in a spacious treed patio far from the street, with a guitarist playing and singing Spanish songs. I order Tlayuda (toppings laid out over a large baked tortilla and folded), while Harold has the Mole negro served over chicken. Oaxaca is the birthplace of mole; mole is a rich and complex sauce slow-cooked and made from dozens of ingredients such as chiles, nuts, seeds, onions, garlic, fruits, and herbs. Black mole (negro) is the most complex with over 30 ingredients, and contains lots of dark unsweetened chocolate.
The cousine in Oaxaca is outstanding so we’re keen to experience it; although more costly than cooking for ourselves, it is not expensive. We eat for $29 for the two of us, including an alcoholic beverage each and including the 10% tip. Some dishes certainly run higher than that, and finding more hole-in-the-wall family restaurants would be delicious too and cost still less.
Sunday, Day 2 in Oaxaca, we catch the crimson, orange and pink sunrise on the patio and have breakfast at home.
Then walk down the cool, shady cobblestone street to the organic market to purchase a loaf of whole grain bread. Harold enjoys his breakfasts: two pieces of toast with peanut butter. All I need is fresh fruit and yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds.
Then to Santo Domingo Cathedral with it’s ornate Baroque interior with a carved family-tree ceiling unlike any I’ve seen (below). Jesus’ family, the Dominican order/family, and a lineage of priests in this local community. The interior was worked on and added to year after year and a single painting or piece reveals philosophies. Some are created by great painters. Perhaps we’ll hire a guide to learn more, we’ll see.
We pass by the cathedral and square daily and it’s seems to be growing more beautiful, seen in different light of day, with changing activities surrounding it.
We walk to the Zócalo, the hub of the city, exploring the center until the early afternoon. This square is ALIVE with music, families, eateries, and vendors. On the weekends, Mexican families spend hours at the square…walking, eating, visiting, and dancing.
We return for a late taco lunch at home, relaxing on the patio in the afternoon.
Have supper at a wood-fired-oven roof-top restaurant called Mezzaluna with views of the Templo de Santo Domingo. Beautiful warmth embraces us but there’s a gorgeous comfortable breeze.
At night, the Cathedral and Zócalo plazas are bursting with activity….so many sellers with their colourful cotton textiles, many street food stands, and much music. Orchestras, marimba bands, solo accordion players, traditional Spanish, rock and blues.
Monday, Day 3 – We’re taking it in slowly. The city streets feel relaxed and comfortable. There are pedestrian-only streets and narrow one-way streets too, so no exhaust to deal with, sidewalks are in great condition and swept clean, and walls are bright and colourful. There’s plenty of places to check out!
Mezcal is huge here! People are excited to introduce it to us. I didn’t think I’d care for it, but what’s not to love about the cream-based ones?! The fruity ones are refreshing and delicious too, and we keep a bottle in the fridge. We have too many drink choices…..awesome coffee, exceptional hot and cold choclate drinks we make with a frother, pure fruit juices and smoothies made in our blender, artisanal beers, and now mezcal added to the mix. Wines are on hold (consumed in Argentina and Chile).
This is one “happening” cafe!
The bakery/restaurant called Boulenc is filled with people, and line-ups are waiting to get in (4 photos above). It looks like a hole in the wall, but, it offers croissants, for example, to match those in France, no question about it. We discover the doorway that offers items “to go”, and purchase fabulous treats…..potato/onion/cheese biscuits to die for, homemade peanut and almond butters, pineapple and mango marmelade, whole wheat bread, pickles, basil pesto, nutty granola, and humus. A place to return to!
Dinner at a “just down the street” restaurant called a.m. Siempre Cafe with it’s refreshing patio wasn’t a traditional Mexican dinner but the portobello mushroom and roasted pepper burger with salsas and chutneys and homemade bread was exceptional, with drinks and tip for just under $20 in total.
Tuesday, Day 4: We walk around our Xochimilco neighbourhood, finding the Templo de Santo Toma (church) with it’s empty park and benches which will fill during the weekend market. Harold enjoys a chicken taco on the street, keen to support a local (above). We love to “mix it up” you know….from pretty swanky dining to eating on the street!
We walk through the unique structure that is the Children’s Library named after Jorge Luis Borges where I find a few books in both English and Spanish but none with both languages. (I’m not studying these days anyway; perhaps it’s because I am waking earlier and naps have been coming to me several afternoons in succession, and I’m not resisting!)
We also enter the Office Depot on the big Hwy #190 in search of a gift for the little artist on the street. I’m feeling a sweet spot for him in my heart. For him, we purchase a large book of drawing paper, 24 Prismacolor Crayons in a nifty metal case, HB pencils, eraser, and 4 good quality sharpeners. We’re hoping he’s in school on the weekdays but expect to see him selling his drawings on the street again next weekend and look forward to sharing these supplies with his mother (and him). I hope it’s appropriate as I couldn’t resist the gesture. Hoping he’ll pursue his art; he’s very good for a 6 year-old! Every day, we pass by his mother with a baby.
Other than this, the day is uneventful, which is just lovely! The patio is gloriously comfortable….so fortunate that it’s situated as it is, with early afternoon shade!
Eventually, we will look into excursions, but for now, the patio is too good to leave. There are posters around town alerting us to many special events taking place also.
On menus everywhere, described dishes include “queso de Mennonita”, so I inquired, “Where does the Mennonita cheese come from?” “From Chihuahua”, we’re told. No surprise there, of course.
Tonight, after the yummiest tortilla soup at Casa Taviche (I don’t need more than a starter given the hot temps and inactivity of the day)…we finish the meal with deep-fried cinnamon-spiced plantain topped with blueberries, sesame seeds, and…..the divine flavor of eating flowers! It was exceptional and I told the young chef so.
He confirmed that yes, the dessert contained the petals of roses. Sublime! I took this photo in the market….a huge barrel of rose petals, a common ingredient. 🙂
I like walking away from the downtown to the darker, quieter neighbourhood of our Airbnb. This aqueduct is a few steps from our Airbnb and we pass it daily, with a little park above it. The air temperature is cooling down earlier tonight; already feeling super comfy at 9:30 p.m. I read, write, or listen to audio before bedtime….a day is never long enough to get it all in. Meanwhile there are countless activities, festivities, concerts, galeries, events, and excursions to take in. I just haven’t felt like a lot of it. There’s plenty of stimulation just exploring the streets and I’m loving the downtime too, during our first week in Oaxaca.
Dinners at La Biznaga and at Calabacitas with their pleasant courtyards open to the sky were two gems we’d happily return to, if there weren’t so many new ones to try! Enjoyed the live music by a native Buenos Aires singer.
Just outside our place, we encountered a guy from Connecticut named Gary and joined him in walking up to the Guelaguetza (an open air concert hall), and the planetarium, where we had panoramic views of the city and the ruins in the distant hilltops.
Ended our walk with a coffee in Cafe Brujola, an upper-end local chain of coffee shops. There, we encountered Beverly and her friend Phil (folks from NYC); she was so attractive, vibrant and vital I couldn’t help but engage with her. She was 81, a former psychologist, and she left me feeling inspired (talking about age and what’s important).
I feel particularly energetic today, because I figured out this morning that for the past two days I was suffering from a weightiness above my eyes which was a result of allergies. That has lifted, and I hope it doesn’t return. I took an antihistamine today.
The jacarandas are in full bloom presently (so gorgeous!) and we have heard they can cause more allergy symptoms than most plants. But I’ve been feeling perfect since!
I had fun getting a haircut and purchasing a poncho and an embroidered cotton blouse. I also found some simple rayon/cotton dresses I absolutely love but they are priced at 2400 pesos which is $166 Cdn. 😦 I’m no longer interested. My cotton blouse was 50 pesos ($3.50 Cdn) so perhaps I’ll get a few more of those.
Yesterday was Saturday, and we discovered this fresh fruit and veggie market under this beautiful shade tree just a block from our Airbnb. For 110 pesos ($7 Cdn) we purchased a big bag of mangoes and TONS of fruits and a few veggies too…melons, pineapple, etc. (Me with my hair cut, yeah!)
And now, I’ll insert just a few more random shots.
More about this folklore another time!
When girls turn 15, they have big celebrations! She’s 15 on this day!
I am concluding this post with a few shots of the manual construction labor we observe. Harold will appreciate these inclusions, when he reads my blog. Keeping him interested, lol!
Was this the longest post ever or what? Cheers! Much more to come. I tell you, it’s VIBRANT here!