20 June 2012

Oaxaca City

So I make this joke about having been to Mexico three times but never actually having been to Mexico. My three previous trips, while lovely and fun, were on (the same) resort outside Cancun. All I ever saw was the resort and the very long road between it and the airport. However thanks to my job I can no longer say that.

I just returned from a great trip to Oaxaca, which is so Mexican that the majority of people there speak Spanish as a second language and an indigenous language first. I loved it. I wasn't able to travel around the state but stayed in Oaxaca City.  Fascinatingly enough, the entire city is a World Heritage Site; and you can see why.

You can't help but be charmed by the city and all the color!

 Are balloons really that good a business? I used to see this in Serbia a lot too.

 This street is kept free of traffic for pedestrians. Mostly it's lined with shops and restaurants as you would expect on a pedestrian street.

 Color! DC may have some great architecture (even if copied from styles developed elsewhere) but it definitely lacks in color.

The Cathedral of the Virgin of the Assumption
(and more balloons)

I don't know the name of this church but there was also a large church just to the left of the frame...my kingdom for a wide angle lens!

Also yes, those kids are walking on stilts.

I have no idea why.

Taxis are super cheap but it's quite a waling friendly city. I often took a cab to the office in the morning but usually walked back in the evening. The central city area is quite easy to get around in and you quickly are familiar with everything and find your way around.

Oaxaca by night is just as beautiful!


The city deserves the World Heritage title not just for how lovely it is, but also because it preserves a lot of its culture and, well, heritage.

 These are called alebrije, carved, brightly painted wooden figures. I was kind of tempted by the praying mantis and wanted it for my office.

I think the pictures below might be people in the traditional Zapotec costume (please someone let me know if I'm wrong). Zaptoecs, at 31% of the total indigenous population in Oaxaca are the largest of the indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately I arrived just at the beginning of the rainy season (which is why the sky in most of my pictures is kind of crap). The downside was that it would start raining in the early afternoon and often not stop; but the mornings were brightly sunny and the rain kept the temperature down.

The Zocalo, or main plaza, was a great place to pass time sitting in one of the many cafes, shopping from street vendors selling everything from clothes to hammocks, listening to the band that played occasionally in the gazebo, and have fun people watching!

Staying dry under umbrellas in a cafe around the Zocalo.

And not too fussed about the rain when there are Coronas (that cost about $1.10) and pina coladas!

And speaking of food, while I greatly enjoyed the moles and other real Mexican dishes, I was very excited to try the local specialty, chapurinas; or, in English, grasshoppers. Chapurinas come in all sizes and flavors although I was warned that the smaller ones are better. Not for any particular taste reason, because the taste depends entirely on how they're prepared, but because there's more a danger with the large ones of getting legs caught in your teeth!

I didn't eat the whole bag but I have to say that they weren't nearly as creepy to eat as I thought they might be. And they tasted pretty good. Spicy and kind of chewy/crunchy.

While in Oaxaca I stayed at a hotel in the city center call Las Golondrinas. Lovely hotel, comfortable enough rooms, great breakfast menu, really inexpensive ($50/night for a room with a double bed), and the most amazing garden! Every morning at breakfast, which is in the garden, I was surrounded by a veritable jungle of flowers.

If you stay at Las Golondrinas though beware...cash only. I didn't pay attention to that and was unprepared. I would definitely like to return to Oaxaca sometime for a holiday. Since I was working I was unable to go out of the city to the nearby pyramids, Monte Alban, or visit any of the beaches along the state's coast.

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