Whilst we didn’t get much sleep on the flight we got in the morning and immediately headed out to explore the city. First thing we noticed is that the morning is chilly but standing in the sun is incredibly hot! Two extremes that really surprised us.
Our Airbnb isn’t as nice as it appears and was a lot more....rustic than expected. No matter over the next few days we started to make it homely, new rug on the floor, candles for night lighting etc
Best thing is we had 6 days, which is ample time to unwind, explore and take hints easy - Mexican style! Losing our London rush (always difficult) and finding cafes that served amazing chocolate and coffees (all deslactosada of course,) and shady spots in the Zocalo (main square) to watch pan pipers bust out tunes, be offered treats, jewellery and balloons.
Despite the tourism and colour of the city, Oaxaca stare is one of the poorest in Mexico which is evident once you take the collectives (share taxis) out of the city to smaller villagers, or even the famous Monte Alban. Metal shacks, dirty children and dusty yards with mud walled homes, all combine to paint a rather sad picture of what should be a thriving country. Especially with 1.6million tourists a year.
However despite his the Oaxacan people are incredibly kind, helpful and inquisitive. As I write this I’m sitting in the Zocalo and a little boy and his dad sit next to me, we’ve just spent he last 20min chatting and listening to the little boy Get very excited over the men taking down the grande arbol (Big xmas tree in the square, they are using a cherry picker crane and he is loving it!). It seems every night there is a new festival in the Zocalo, last nigh there was a brass band and dancing, previously markets and fireworks, a wedding, and festivities.
I was also asked to act in a film, and do a photo shoot promoting the artisanal market!
I also got a haircut here ....it was great! and the cost? £6 I was pretty impressed with the results!
Mercado Benito Juarez named after the Oaxacan boy who overcame poverty to become Mexico’s president in 1867 and re-elected for four terms. This one has juice stores (expect huge servings), shoes, hats, bags, and of course fresh produce.
Meal for two was around £150 including non alcoholic drinks (£6). THis was our fav!
Of course I couldn’t resist an alebrijes again paintstakingly painted by the store holders family. Hilariously mine resembles Stirch from the Disney film!
We also settled on a tablecloth that was so cheap I think it was machine made. But this is a great market, however don’t go expecting to bargain, there was very little movement from the sellers, whether that’s because it’s a tourist city or because it’s their way, we’ve found this to be true across our travels here in Oaxaca state.
We visited Mitla first, (more on that next post) then onto Tlacolula markets. Wow! Unlike any markets we’ve seen this was the fair that brings all the local and Nono local traders along. Markets in the street with hastily set up tarps over the various stalls and sort of creating a covered walkway. Fruit, vegetables, loud calls of agua fresca, and Helado (Icecream) mixed with people selling trinkets (painted skulls) pots, leather workers and kids toys. There was no order just jumbles of different stalls all rich with smells, colours and noise. It was awesome.
Afterwards we caught a collectivo to Teotitlan, a small carpet weaving community with one famous restaurant a la Rick steins netlfix show, Tlamanalli. The restaurant of five sisters who famously grind all their own corn, and ingredients for their food. Using traditional methods they make great food.
Then we visited rug stores to buy a carpet!
What to eat??
Memelas - toasted masa cake with queso our fav snack!
Tetelas - tortilla triangle with cheese good for breakfast
Tlayuda - a pizza, order with whatever meat you prefer
Empanada - not what you’d think! It’s more like a lightly deep fried tortilla with things stuffed in it. Not as nice as the Bolivian empanadas or (saltenas)
Tamales - our other fav snack. Corn meal based snack steamed in banana leaves either by itself sweet or with pollo chicken and raisins, olives yum!
Tejate - cacao flower drink (no milk) made only with the white cacao bean flowers
Chocolate anything -of course this is the favourite! Now bear in mind his choclate is actually cacao bean ground up with sugar. So the choclate itself is quite earthy, nutty and pastelike. Not my taste. But once they add milk or water to it and make it. A drink! Wow! More like a hot cocoa. Keep an eye out for Major Domo stores that sell choco mil (cold chocolate shake). Or get it as a breakfast drink with Pan Dulce (sweet dry bread that you dip into the drink) or have it after dinner as your postres! With agua or Leche.
Mezcal - try a cocktail, this is rough drink. Tougher than tequila which is refined but made the same way from the agave plant. See below for my amazing Marmalade Cocktail that I had at a new mezcal bar at Pal Dolor - RECOMMENDED
Mole -of course as any guidebook will tell you Mole is the main thing to try in Oaxaca. There are seven types here and to be honest I tried two. They were interesting and seemed to have a hell of a lot of work put into them to create but ultimately I wasn’t that impressed!
Lactose intolerant Tip: if you’re lactose intolerant like me the best news is deslactosada (non lactose milk) is everywhere!!! So just ask for “choclate con leche deslactosada”.
Mezcal Bar - Pal Dolor try the marmalade mezcal cocktail
Restaurant Chilhaucle Rojo - owner comes out and tells you what he has available and cooks to your tastes!
Pitiona - we didnt get to try but heard amazing things
Origen - again Greg's tummy prevented us from going but please let us know what you think!
Fonda Florecita in Le Merced - good breakfast!
El Son Istmeno - little known and off the beaten track but so good we went back twice for tlaydas and tamales
Of course all market restaurants are GREAT.
Cafe Bre - Hands down the BEST COFFEE IN TOWN. Also good wifi - as good as it gets in Oaxaca.
Cafe Brujula - cappucino frio please!