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Sunday, 23 February 2014

MEXICO - OAXACA CITY


kEYWORDS: tourism, travel, Mexico, monuments, pyramids, food, markets, landscape, history, art, paintings, churches, cathedrals.

02/10/2008.
We left our backpacks in the room at Hostel Pochon (checkout time 11.00hrs) and went out, found a laundry and left our dirty clothes there and strolled up the street. The girl at the checkout at  hostel Pochon suggested Hostel San Mateo, a dreary place at 340 pesos per night. So we walked on and entered Calle Faustino G. Olivera no. 203. A woman was cleaning the steps and the door was open, we could see a very clean patio, with a fountain in the centre and trees and potted plants, so I said good morning and enquired if she rented rooms for travellers. The house was newly painted and looked like a private house. The lady very graciously told us to wait, went inside and a few minutes later, came back with another lady, who was the owner.

We said good morning again and were told that rooms were available for rent. So we entered the house and chose the room on the first floor, a very clean room with fresh bed clothes, two beds, bed side table lamps and a table and chair to sit on, with a potted plant, in which later I found a huge butterfly, snuggled among its leaves. Attached bath room was gleaming clean as was the whole house, inside and out.

The rate for the room was 430 pesos per night, but after talking about the world economic situation in general and the economic situation in Mexico in particular, higher prices of corn, wheat and rice in Mexico and how the tourism had caused the prices of hotel accommodation to shoot up, the rate was brought down to 350 pesos. Both parties were satisfied and we went back to hostel Pochon, took our backpacks and settled in our new lodgings. The huge butterfly had not stirred a bit. May be it was the approaching Siesta Time for the resident butterfly too.

The tourist guides describe Oaxaca as one of Mexico's beautiful and vibrant cities and this is true. A colonial city with tree shaded Central Square (EL Zocalo), its Cathedral and many churches, art galleries and even a book store selling English books. It is city to relax, to take cooking lessons and learn spanish. (The young woman running Hostel Pochon also gave cooking lessons and charged US$20.00 per lesson). Calles Alcala and Garcia Vigil, two parallel streets will take you down to the city centre and you can sit on the terrace of a Cafe or a restaurant, have fresh fruit juice, sip a cold Corono or Dos Equis, maybe  a Mojito or two ( a mojito is a traditional Mexican cocktail that consists of five ingredients: white rum, cane sugar (traditionally cane juice), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint leaves) and then  stroll further down to the muncipal markets in calle 20 de Noviembre, the date on which the Mexican revolution started.

Beginning early in the mornings, long tables are placed in the courtyards of churches and temples, on which clay jars containing fresh juices, are placed. There are the usual flavors, such as horchata (a rice and cinnamon based beverage), Jamaica (prepared with hibiscus flowers), mango, tamarind, watermelon and lemon with chia (a small seed). There are also exotic flavors such as rose petals, prickly pear and nut. Here they also sell tejate, a traditional drink prepared with cocoa and corn. The perfect complement for breakfast is egg yolk bread, prepared with egg and baked daily in traditional bakeries, and chocolate prepared with milk or water and served with a lot of foam in a clay cup.

In the market you will find women selling browned grasshoppers with garlic, lemon and salt. Don’t just take a picture of them: dare to try them! You will be surprised by their delicious flavor and crunchy texture. You should also try the tlayudas, giant tortillas with mashed beans, cheese and salsa. For dessert, there is nothing better than sherbets in flavors such as burnt milk, cheese and mescal.
 

There are two municipal  markets, in El Mercado Juarez  you will find clothes, hats, handicrafts etc, and in the other, El Mercado de Merced,  just across the street, a maze of stalls selling fresh bread and cakes, pastries and chocolates, food and spices. A separate section is just for cooked food, fried and grilled meat an sausages, green chillies and fried grass hoppers. For 50 pesos you can have a basket of 500gms grilled meat. Salads are 10 pesos each, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, cucumbers, a real delight. Fried grasshoppers with lemon, garlic and sprinkled with salt are very popular and women hawkers sell mounds of this delicacy on the streets and inside the market. Alex and me had a plate each. Crunchy and tasty. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.


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