Oaxaca - The Home of Mexican Chocolate
Trip Start Jan 23, 2011
195Trip End Feb 14, 2012
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Along the way we passed a number of cyclists and people walking with big posters, flags and pictures on frames on their backs. Following behind them were statues and crucifixes with Jesus on them on cars, trucks and buses, all covered in tinsel, streamers, balloons and more decor. Sometimes there were even a bunch of decorated Tuk-Tuk's (which still raced and hooted at each other :-) Everything about the processions was religious and we thought it was all about "Maria" but it was all actually for "Guadeloupe", the symbol of all Catholic Mexicans
Oaxaca, pronounced "Wahaka" (could never have guessed that :-) is a really lovely Colonial city, complete with the mandatory square or two, giant and beautiful churches on every other corner, friendly people, street vendors selling everything from giant helium-filled balloons to hammocks for 1 or 2, music being played in the squares, and the most wonderful markets.
On one day we were walking to buy our bus tickets and, as we crossed the square we heard beautiful classical music being played. It turned out to be the Oaxaca Symphony Orchestra giving a free, open-air concert, how wonderful! We joined the rest of the crowd and enjoyed a real musical treat.
As for our bus ticket salesman, what a lovely man. I started in Spanish and he replied in English and we both got to practice on each other and correct where necessary. That's one thing we have found a lot; when we try in Spanish, people will be patient and helpful and, even though we have only a smattering of the language, we have managed to have a lot of Spinglish fun :-)
Our hostel, the Casa Angel Youth Hostel, gave a really bad first impression but turned out to be a real gem
But enough of all that, Oaxaca is about food and they really are big foodies here;
- the market half a block from our hostel would be the envy of any organic market stall owner in the Western world! The fruit and veggies were the best we have seen in ages and were as fresh and colourful as they are meant to be, the fish and meat counters were the most hygienic we have seen in a market, and the breads and pastries were enough to send a French patisserie into shock :-) We bought yellow cling peaches, a real rarity for us, and Annie made veggie soup accompanied by granary rolls. Atypical Mexican food it may be, wonderfully delicious it certainly was! :-)
- the main market of the city was GINORMOUS, stretching through two giant buildings, spilling out onto all the surrounding streets, and split into so many different sections – clothing, tourist trinkets, alcohol, chocolate, fresh fish and meat, fresh fruit and veggies, and, the part we were heading to; the eating area :-) We found "Commodore Betty" which just had the right look and feel
- Oaxaca has two other delicacies: Mezcal, a Tequila style drink, which we had samples of in two different shops. One was vile, the other not bad but not as good as the Tequila we had in San Cristobal. An acquired taste perhaps? As for acquired tastes, all throughout the market, even while we were eating our lunch, we were constantly offered a snack of GRASSHOPPERS
- as part of our food fest it was only right that we tasted the famous hot chocolate. Fortunately we were almost at the end of our stay in Oaxaca when we did, its soooooo good it could easily become addictive and would definitely not be good for the waistline :-) We were recommended a specific place to go for our experience and what an experience it was; we ordered our drinks and watched the lady going through the very precise preparation process – melting the chocolate, stirring the chocolate, using the cinnamon as necessary and finally, presenting a piping hot cup-bowl of this wonderfully aromatic chocolate drink accompanied, as the name says “chocolate y pan”, by a hunk of sliced up sweet bread. OMG OMG OMG!!! I was a chocoholic in chocolate heaven :-) This establishment which I wanted to rename “home” also prepared chocolate paste filled with whatever quantities of nuts and cinnamon the customer wanted and a HUGE amount of sugar to make sure it was sweet enough :-) We watched with fascination at the process of pouring, mixing, melting, re-pouring, re-mixing and, when satisfied that the consistency was just right, packaging and presenting to the eagerly awaiting customer. The staff were just so kind, they saw my White Cane and Annie explaining to me so they allowed us into the restricted area and gave us more explanations and happily let us take all our photos
We happily brought our food fest to an end with a stroll back through town towards our hostel. One of the shops we stopped in was our second Mezcal sipping spot, the better one :-) and we passed a whole lot of people queuing outside a shop for tortillas(!). We watched the production for a while but, as good as they must be, passed on tasting them, they just seemed too “normal” after everything else we had enjoyed :-)
Our plan next is to head north towards Copper Canyon. We have been undecided about Mexico City as we have had such varied reports and, when Annie visited some 20 years ago, it was not great. But, how can we not stop and look, it’s en route after all. So that’s where our bus will take us next.
And, in case it’s not quite clear, Oaxaca - The Home of Mexican Chocolate - is a FABULOUS place to visit and eat your way around :-)