Oaxaca MX Trip Recap
04 December 2017
Our Sunday 26Nov bus ride to Guatemala City was just as we’d hoped, no construction road closures. We left the RioD around 9:30am and were checked into our hotel by 4pm. Still daylight under mostly sunny skies. What a treat!; usually we arrive after dark and it’s raining. The following morning we enjoy the hotel’s fantastic buffet breakfast (fresh fruit, pastries, custom omelets, hot sides, cold meats & cheeses, muesli / cereals, excellent coffee, and more…choose what looks best to you) before being shuttled to the airport, which is nearby. In fact our room has a excellent view of the airport, and also a view of several of the volcanos to the west of the city, giving us a delightful orange sunset. An excellent start to our get-away trip.
Our arrival air journey was equally uneventful: long lines in MX Migration and Customs, yes; a long wait until our collectivo taxi-van leaves the airport, yes, yet we’re the first dropped off; our airbnb host isn’t around however her mom answers our doorbell ring & lets us into our apt. It’s 8pm by the time we’re settled. Nonetheless we head out to a nearby area of good restaurants and enjoy a lovely shared mole negro dish accompanied by live jazz music.
During our stay, we do a lot of walking about town. So much so that after just a couple of days I know where we are by sight on the streets around our apt, and to / from the zocolo. Oaxaca feels and looks similar to Antigua to us in that it’s an old city, lots of stone buildings built to withstand frequent earthquakes, numerous churches & traditions / festivals / events, well-stocked open air markets as well as a small tienda on every block and one supermarket, clean streets (many still cobblestone), welcoming people, lots to see and do in town and around the valley, a culture of delicious food, and artisans of all crafts. We enjoy our time here, in fact on several occasions discussed changing our plane tickets to stay longer.
Oaxaca Valley tours: One day, we take an organized tour to see several of the must-see sites; Mitla (archeological ruins of the Zapotec’s tribe’s sacred burial site), a town of artisan weavers (Teotitlan), the petrified waterfall (Hierve el Agua) which included a steep hike down & back, and a visit to one of the many mezcal farms / sellers. It was a very full day with our pickup at 9:25am and drop-off nearly 8pm. For the other Oaxaca Valley must-see site, Monte Alban, we buy roundtrip tickets on a tour-like mini-bus, to tour the archaeological site of the important Zapotec capital city / state. We declined the option of another full day tour with other stops because frankly none of others appealed to us enough to spend the time or money. At Monte Alban we use a guide book and the multilingual informational signs to inform us while we walk around this impressive ruin.
One cannot talk about a Oaxaca stay without talking about food and mezcal. Mexico, and Oaxaca in particular, is know for it’s moles (7 official recipes, with variations that are primarily embellishments of the mole rojo) and mezcal (did you know that tequila is a mezcal? tequila is made by one type of agave cactus; each mezcal is made with one of the several other species of the agave cacti.). Moles are complex sauces used a number of ways, most commonly over / with cooked meat yet meat is not a requirement to enjoy the sauce with rice, veggies, tamales and/or freshly made tortillas. There’s lots of info on the internet about Mexican / Oaxaca moles so I won’t repeat it here. During our visit we enjoyed several mole dishes, some more than others, so when we located a well-stocked tienda in the vibrant open air Juarez market which stocks mother’s recipes (yep, she’s there in the pix) of mole pastes & dry mixes we knew just what we wanted to bring back - mole negro, mole amarillo, mole verde & mole de ajonjoli. In another shop we purchase local drinking chocolate, a commonly enjoyed beverage here.
Bars, restaurants, tour places are defiantly cashing in on the relatively recent mezcal craze; prices are high for an order of mezcal so trying several just to see what is liked best is cost prohibitive for us. Besides, I’d rather spend the cost of 2-3 portions on an entire bottle. So we gamble a bit and purchase, also in the Juarez market, several bottles to bring back. Along with our duty free purchase, our (1) checked bag is nearly filled to the weight limit with alcohol; good thing we packed minimal clothing!
Weather-wise the entire week is beautiful with clear sunny skies. A bit cold at dark and in the AM if not in the sun. Our airbnb apt is well insulated, meaning colder inside than outside temps, which is great if the days are hot yet chilly at current temps (mid-70’s). Jerry regularly wore fleece, jeans & socks. I wear one of my newest (Guatemala) Lake Atitlan shawls pretty much nonstop. Outside while walking around during the day the sun is comfortably warm. Even with the cool nighttime temps, we take in the very large full moon; a beautiful sight from the zocalo while listening to local musicians entertain the weekend crowd.
It was a throughly enjoyable getaway. We look forward to a return stay in Oaxaca. Pictures will be uploaded to the 2017 Rio Dulce gallery when I get a decent internet connection (yep, back in the RioD…)