Saturday, April 27, 2013

X: Oh, the places you'll go!

This is my contribution to the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited.

X is for Oaxaca, Mexico (February 1996)

Right before I got pregnant with Christopher, and soon after I just took on a massive new position at work, with tons more responsibility, we spent a little over a week in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was our first time to Mexico, and as we tend to do, we decided to focus on one area instead of moving around through the country.

I remember our initial discomfort when we arrived, because even though we'd traveled in a number of developing countries, including India, you get out of the habit. It had been six and a half years since our big trip. It took us a bit of getting used to at first.

Oaxaca city
We loved Oaxaca...it was the perfect first trip to Mexico for us. We stayed in a simple Mexican hotel there, Hotel Las Rosas, which was only a block from the zocalo. The zocalo (city's main square) was our favorite place to be--it had fantastic people watching, free musical entertainment, and great restaurants ringed around the square. 
Free marimba music one night in the zocalo

We enjoyed going to the markets, both in and outside of the city, and one day we went to see Monte Alban, a great archaeological site. Oaxaca is known as a city of artisans, and it's especially famous for its painted wood sculptures and black pottery.

Art in a shop

Black pottery in the market
As is typical for us, we ran into our friend Judith in Oaxaca! We knew she would be there around the same time, but we hadn't had any luck planning a time to meet. While in a market about 1/2 hour outside of the city, guess who we should run into? Judith was there with her sister, so we hung out with them for the rest of the day and had dinner with them that night.

Chiles in the market
The food in Oaxaca is amazing. We found it interesting that food is served with bread rolls instead of tortillas--not a tortilla to be found, really! Oaxaca does a lot of moles, which we love. And one night Mike sampled another Oaxacan delicacy, deep-fried grasshoppers. Crunchy...tastes like chicken!

Grasshoppers in the market

Zocalo restaurant--lovely!
Panorama of zocalo

We went into Oaxaca's church in the main square, Catedral de Oaxaca, or the Cathedral of Our Lady the Assumption, which offered a fascinating glimpse into the ornate Catholicism of Mexico, full of gaudy statues.

Catedral de Oaxaca
Ornate statue of Mary

Mike in the zocalo
The best thing we got out of Oaxaca, though, was our friendship with a couple from New York City, Jerry and Carolyn. They used to go to Oaxaca for a month every year and knew all the best spots. Jerry came to Mike's aid one day in the hotel lobby when Mike was trying to help an older tourist who thought he was having a heart attack (the guy didn't speak any Spanish). Mike was attempting to get the hotel clerk to call an ambulance, but was struggling with his Spanish. Fortunately Jerry appeared and helped translate more effectively. And with that, our friendship was born!

They took us on an adventure one day, to Zaachila, where they had some great ruins and a wonderful market. Of course, Jerry and Carolyn seemed to know everyone at the market! I took a risk and had fresh pineapple on a stick with chile powder. (I did have fresh fruit in Mexico, and I was okay...but when my sister and her husband went to stay in an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, she ended up getting sick...so you never know!)

Then we went to the most amazing outdoor restaurant, called La Capilla, where we had the best food during our entire trip. The other thing Jerry introduced us to was the drink "michelada," which is like a beer cocktail--made of beer, lime juice, tomato juice, maggi, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. We attempted to make it when we returned to Oregon, but it just didn't taste the same without the warm weather, Mexican vibe, and of course Jerry and Carolyn.
Jerry and Carolyn on the bus

Church ruins
At the ruins

Zaachila market
Mike in Oaxaca

Altar in a restaurant

Drinking micheladas in a little hole-in-the-wall cantina in Oaxaca
(with Jerry's son and daughter-in-law)
Visiting Jerry and Carolyn's apartment in 2007, 11 years after we me them
We have visited Jerry and Carolyn a few times in Manhattan, but we always talked about returning to Oaxaca one day...and we have yet to go back...now 17 years later. I hope we can return one of these days!

Lovely Oaxaca at night
Visit here to read my A-W posts. Monday, back to Indonesia. 

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