2015 Our Doings in Oaxaca City

We enjoyed our two-week stay in Oaxaca City. Our accommodations were excellent at Marialicia Suites Hotel Boutique (Miguel Hidalgo 1504, Centro Historico, Oaxaca de Juarez, Oax., Mexico, +52 951 501 1202, http://www.marialiciasuites.mx/). See our post describing our accommodations by clicking here. The city was clean and so were the sidewalks. Our experience with Mexican cities is that they are noisy. Oaxaca was quiet in comparison to San Miguel de Allende where we stayed for three months during the summer of 2013. The traffic was orderly and we could cross the streets easily. The city makes a good impression.

There were big laurel trees in the main square, called the Zócalo. Always many people were sitting in there. The south side is Palacio de Gobierno where we visited the museum (mildly interesting).
A mural at the museum of the Palacio de Gobierno; note Benito Juarez in the upper left
There were marimbas (wooden xylophones) that play music; Audre likes much more than the mariachi bands in the Jardin in San Miguel de Allende. There were many shoe shine men working there and Dimitri had his shoes shined for Mex$25/US$1.50. In the Zócolo on Monday (all Mondays, maybe) were throngs of women wearing the same red sleeveless tunic, called a huipiles, They were protesting something. Actually, people are always demonstrating about something in the Zócalo, with some of the demonstrators actually living under the porticoes of.the Palacio de Gobierno. 

The current demonstrations reminded us of the 2006 teachers strikes that caused a great deal of death, destruction and residual damage to the people and the economy. The political situation in 2015 was stable and calm. It would be difficult to over-state the adverse effect that the 2006 troubles have had on this city. Oaxaca is one of the poorest Mexican states and the city reflects that. While there have been many public works projects, and parts of the Centro Historicó look great, there are lots of abandoned buildings around town, some looking derelict. Having said that, we had a fine time in Oaxaca. The restaurants were superb; Audre gained 5 pounds! Read our 2015 Oaxaca Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM by clicking here. There were museums to visit and markets to see. We mountain biked outside the city, visited archaeological sites and drove to the Sierra Norte, visiting a town at 10,200 feet. We did everything!

We began our visit with a tourist trolley tour. It was in Spanish but totally understandable. Because it was Sunday, the traffic was light and the tour was about 50 minutes long. We got a good overview of the city. When we arrived the festival of gastronomy was in full swing. We were not able to go to the restaurants we wanted to for our first few days. Nonetheless we ate well. Click here to read our restaurant reviews. Our first meal was at a small restaurant three blocks from our hotel. We enjoyed it.

On Sunday night we went to Pitiona and immediately met a couple who we ended up joining at a large table for dinner. We had a ball with them; sharing each of the dishes that each of us ordered. The food was very good. We generally walked everywhere from our hotel in Oaxaca but if we got tired we would take a very reasonably priced taxi. No trip in the city cost more than Mex$40/US$2.50 (the exchange rate was US$1=Mex$16.37). Have a look at the photos we took at Pitonia with Montserrat and José Maria by clicking here.

On the first weekday were were in Oaxaca, we were able to get Dimitri's smart phone working with a Moviestar chip at a cost of about US$16 with enough credit for our three-week stay in Mexico. We also went to a bicycle tour company and booked a private tour for the next day. The tour cost Mex$3000/US$184 with Bicicletas Pedro Martinez (Aldama 418 indentro Meson La Brisa, Centro Oaxaca, Mexico, tel. 951-514-5935, www.bicicletaspedromartinez.com, mailto:pedrobicis@gmail.com oaxmb@prodigy.net.mx) and was all day. We were to bike on dirt roads through small towns and it was all inclusive of transport, bikes, helmets, gloves, lunch and fruit. Pedro Martinez was on time the next morning and our first stop was Santa Maria del Tule to see the famous tree.
Us at the famous tree, El Tule on our biking outing
From there we started biking and had a great time, going about 10 miles total through the small villages of Guendulain, Lachigoló, Tlacochahuaya andSan Mateo Macuilxochitl to Teotitlan del Valle.
Audre and Dimitri biking in the Valles Centrales of Oaxaca
Along the paths were two distinctive trees with white flowers: casahuate (morning glory tree) and mimosas. We saw them again and again during our stay. 

Dimitri asked for a deviation of the standard tour and Pedro agreed. The van drove us to visit the Mitla to visit the fabulous ruins there and then to Hierve de Agua to see the calcified waters and pools. They were similar to the ones we saw in Pamukkale, in southwestern Turkey in 1996. The carbonate minerals in Pamukkale contained hotsprings. In Hierve de Agua, the pools were not hot. Even so, people were soaking in them. 
Hierve de Agua
Mitla was fantastic; an ancient Zapotec religious center partially covered by a colonial church. It was at its height starting around 700. The “mosaics” are unique in Mexico. These mosaics (or fretwork) are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. The 14 different geometric designs at Mitla are thought to symbolize the sky and earth, feathered serpent and other important beings. No other site in Mexico has this.
The unique mosaics of Mitla
After our biking and our tourist site visits, Pedro took us to have lunch at the famous restaurant we had heard about in Teotitlan callled Restaurant Tlamanalli (de Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, Comida Zapoteca, Av. Juarez 39, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, tel. 951-524-4006. Have a look at the picture of the kitchen of Restaurant Tlamanalli (and all of our reviews) in our 2015 Oaxaca Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM.  It was one of our more expensive meals but not one of the best. Pedro's tour was supposed to pay for lunch somewhere; he never explained why he didn't reimburse us (even partially) for lunch. 

We enjoyed our biking and tour day but Pedro did something odd (again) that he did not explain. When we were having a look at Hierve de Agua he disappeared on his bike. The driver said that he would meet us in Teotitlan; he would bike there. He did meet us but said nothing about his absence. We might have done more biking with Pedro but we were kind of turned off by his behavior.

We joined a Spanish speakers tour of the Jardin Etnobotánico and enjoyed the tour.
Our tour group in the Jardin Etnobotanico

Getting out of a taxi, Dimitri tripped and fell on the pavement. He bled profusely and our tour guide told us about a clinic near to the Jardin Etnobotánico where he could get his wounds cleaned and dressed. Dimitri loved his doctor at Clinica Osmo, Dr. Christian Nunez, and we went back three times to have the doctor re-dress the wounds. Whatever he put on the wounds, they healed in record time (particularly for us oldsters). We learned that Dr. Christian was a chemotherapy doctor and we were very impressed that he had no compunctions about treating Dimitri's little cuts. The same day we had a look at the famous church: Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzman.

Another day in Oaxaca, we went to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and saw the famous mask from Tumba 7 at Monte Albán.
The famous mask from Tumba 7 at Monte Albán
The couple we had dinner with Pitiona recommended a guide to us for a tour of Monte Albán. It turned out that the owner of our hotel recommended we use the same guide. Rodolfo Juarez came to our hotel to meet us and make the arrangements. His company was Jade (cell: 045-951-126-5854 (24 hrs) and cell 951-126-5854 , e-mail: jadetransportation@yahoo.com) and he had a special English speaking guide for us at Monte Albán. The tour was 3 hours (at Mex$400 an hour/about US$73. We liked Rodolfo and the tour very much. We recommend his company, Jade.
Us at Monte Albán
On Saturday we went to Live At the Met to see Otello the fabulous Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.
The poster for Live At the Met in Oaxaca
Our two tickets cost Mex$300, less than the cost in Vail at CineBistro (not surprising). It was the meeting place of many of the expats living in Oaxaca and we talked to a few. One of the expats we met was Norma Schafer who has a helpful website called the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator [http://oaxacaculture.com]. We were going to meet her another day in Teotitlan del Valle but we couldn't make it happen.

On Sunday we took a public bus (easy) for Mex$24 (for the two of us) to the major market town of Tlacolula. We got seats, it was a fine bus ride and we liked walking the huge market. At the market, Audre bought pimento gorda a large black pepper corn that had a delicious black pepper and cinnamon taste when we had it at Zandunga Restaurant in Oaxaca.
The barbacoa being cooked at the inside market of Tlacolula
On Monday we went to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Hidalgo 917, Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico, tel. 501-1104 www.museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx, info@museotextil.org. We were impressed! 
At the really great Museo Textil de Oaxaca, the Katharina von Arx panel portraying Teotihuancan
We also arranged for a rental car with Europcar to drive ourselves to the Sierra Norte. We were going to hike in the mountains at 10,200 feet. Driving in Mexico is easy and the cost was reasonable (US$40 for the day). Unfortunately on the day we went, it was raining and very cold in Cuajimoloyas. We had a look, had lunch and drove back.

One evening after dinner we saw the famous dances of the Guelaguetza from the different parts of Oaxaca state. It was quaint and slightly entertaining. We were the only English speakers there.
The famous Guelaguetza
The owners of our hotel introduced us to their printer and we had beautiful, embossed name cards made by him. They cost Mex$150/$16.37 for 100 cards. Even without checking prices in the states, we decided this was too good a deal to pass up.

We bought black mole (mole negro) at the mercado Benito Jaurez one day and also vanilla. No doubt it will not be as good as the mole negro at La Teca restaurant but it was an obligatory purchase in Oaxaca. 

We toured the Centro cultural San Pablo de Fundacion Alfredo Harp Helu Oaxaca and saw the exhibit of the De La Relacion entre la Tierra y Los Seres. It was very well done and a young woman explained it all to us.
The exhibit of the relationship between man and the earth--very well done!
Before we left Vail, Audre was reading the King Soopers/City Market magazine that she periodically gets. There was an article in the magazine by Dolores (Lola) Wiarco Dweck who writes a blog: Lola's Cocina, www.lolascocina.com, e-mail: lola@lolascocina.com. We contacted her in Denver and she gave us suggestions for restaurants and things to do in Oaxaca. She also asked us to bring her some Mexican chocolate from Casa Crespo and to bring her a package her friend in Oaxaca would give us. We did get the box her friend left at our hotel in Oaxaca and we met Lola when she picked it up. She's young, beautiful and charming! 

All in all our cultural and dining adventure in Oaxaca was a great success. After a year hiatus of traveling it was fun to be back on the road too.