When you live for half the year in a place where most from the rest of the world comes for a vacation, it’s fun to go elsewhere for a mini-vacation within that time. This year, we went to Oaxaca (pronounced wah-HA-ka), the food and arts and crafts capital of Mexico. We chose to fly, since it would be about 20 hours by ground transportation. That meant we were in our hotel on the Zocalo (town square) within the UNESCO World Heritage Site within a few hours via Mexico City airport.
Loud, fun music was playing on a stage outside our room, so we quickly got changed to a quieter room on the other side of the hotel, which was a hacienda-style historic building. The location on the Zocalo in the middle of Centro couldn’t be beat.
We found the mercado and freshly roasted Oaxacan coffee quickly, and also a new treat to us: chocolate covered churros (long donuts)! They were still crunchy inside. We spent most of our trip wandering the 300-year-old streets of the heritage part of town, where the buildings are made of volcanic rock, so some have a greenish tinge to the stone. Glorious huge churches stood every few blocks, or so it seemed. We stepped inside each when they were open. (You can click on the thumbnails for larger images.)
We were treated to fantastic food every step of the way. I happened to choose about half vegetarian meals—not that I’m vegetarian, just that the selection was good. It helped me to gain no weight on the trip. I wore my Jennyvi (Jane Austen Couture) dress out to dinner since it packed well and was the right weight for the weather, which is quite warm in the day and quite cool at night.
Some of the specialties of Oaxaca include the sauce called mole that’s served over meat or vegetables (with at least two dozen ingredients, the best mole has chocolate in it!), a sort of hard tortilla pizza called tlayudas, tamales (filled corn dough inside a banana leaf), memelas (a simple fresh open-faced thick corn tortilla with beans and cheese), and toasted, seasoned grasshoppers called chapulines. The latter was the only thing we didn’t try. They’re supposed to be quite tasty, but I had to give them a miss. Also, Oaxacan chocolate is quite different: grainy and dark.
Ancho stuffed with huitlacoche
Two of the days we visited Oaxaca were for side trips out of town. One day, we went to small towns south of the city and looked at an historical village and another town known for its black pottery. We took the bus. There are also towns with weaving (we already have two Oaxacan rugs), Alibrije art (little animals that are supposed to come out of dreams), Amate art (made from tree bark), embroidery art, and other kinds of pottery. Often, when you’re in big Mexican tourist towns, the best art you see isn’t from that city, it’s from Oaxaca state, a testament to the hundreds of indigenous tribes and their traditional crafts.
For the second day-trip, we hired a driver to head east and take us to see the “frozen waterfall” and a thousand-year-old tree. We chose not to go to the pyramids since we’d seen Teotihuacán and Chichen Itza, and they’re now not much more than tourist traps, and besides, ruins are not our thing. We saw many of Monte Alban’s artifacts at the Cultural Museum.
Our trip back home from Oaxaca was an adventure in itself. Three airplane delays in Oaxaca plus two delays and finally a cancellation in Mexico City meant we could have gotten home faster with the bus. We literally spent 14 hours in airports that day. Even though we were masked and used sanitizer, we both got Covid. We weren’t too sick, but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.
We brought back lots of coffee and chocolate, plus a nice black pottery vase and lots of cool memories. I suggest you all put Oaxaca on your bucket list.
Coming up: I have a new release planned. I mentioned on this blog that I’d been working on the Cecilia’s Mismatches series, and the first book is due out the end of March 2023. An Accomplished Woman is a shorter novel, set in Bath, with a bit of a nod to Northanger Abbey. But it’s not an Austenesque book. The characters are all new. Janet B. Taylor, Meryton Press’s cover designer, has gone all swoony over Everett Tremaine. I hope you will, too. Spread the word! And watch for the cover reveal coming up soon!