Mexico Trip Journal – Day 7 – Oaxaca

categories: mexico travel

The strangest day about day 7 of the trip was that I was still in Oaxaca. My usual travel pace would have put me on the road again after two days in one spot and it would have been simple to turn my back on Oaxaca and head elsewhere. But I had booked this trip with 2 more days in the area in part to force myself to slow down a bit.

Sarah Menkedick had sent me the following suggestions of other places to see:

Ethno-botanical garden (not sure if they have tours in English today, but if not they have them other days, three times a week)

IAGO – the Instituto De Artes Graficas, designed by Francisco Toledo, one of the most revered Latin American artists… they have a great library and the building is beautiful. They’re on Alcala, the pedestrian street, right past Santo Domingo.

Casa de la Ciudad – not sure what they have now, but usually they have great exhibits. They’re on Porfirio Diaz, on the corner of that street and Morelos.

For prehispanic art, the Museo Rufino Tamayo is supposed to be great – I have to shamefully confess I haven’t been but my boyfriend raves about it. It’s on Morelos between Tinoco y Palacios and Porfirio Diaz.

The MUFI (stamp museum) is also really cool with great architecture and a cool courtyard. That is on Reforma…not sure of the exact address, sorry!

And to eat – definitely recommend the Merced market. Walking north from the Zocalo (towards the mountains) take a right on Murguia and follow it East all the way until you see the entrance to a market on your left. It’ll be right before you hit the periphery road. They have a great little courtyard there with the best chilaquiles in town. Inside the market are awesome empanadas, quesedillas, etc. A bit of a walk but worth it.

Sanchez Pascuas is another good market – walk up the hill on Porfirio Diaz and you’ll see the entrance on your left, marked by a big Laurel tree.

I met Andre at breakfast who is originally from Normandy in France but now works as a forester in British Columbia. Because there is still snow on the ground it is not a good time to plant trees so he is on a longer trip to Mexico. After a few days in Oaxaca he got a bit bored so he started taking Spanish lessons and his reading of Spanish in particular was improving. He had been hiking in the Sierra Norte mountains north of town as Sarah had recommended on the Travel to Oaxaca episode. He had been hiking with another backpacker and they had been told without a guide they would get lost. They did not hire a guide. They did get lost.

I dropped off some clothes to be washed at the laundry place located next door to the hostel which would wash about 3.5 kilos of clothes for about $3. I then checked out the Casa de la Ciudad which had an exhibit upstairs where they had two very large (roughly 15 feet across) pictures of Oaxaca taken from the air from recently and from a few decades ago. It was like a large Google Earth.

The Museo Rufino Tamayo had a good collection of pre-columbian art although not a particularly large collection. The museum can be seen in about 15 minutes.

I wandered through the Sanchez Pascuas market which is a market aimed mostly at locals. It looks like a good place to buy your chicken or your produce. I also found a smaller organic market further up the hill between Sanchez Pascuas and Santo Domingo.

The Instituto De Artes Graficas is an interesting building but did not have much of an exhibit to see when I was there.

I wandered over to Merced market but I was still on a quest for molé so I wandered back to Los Pacos where Sarah had mentioned I could get a sampler. I was able to order a lunch with 6 of the 7 types of molés. Colorado and negro were probably my favorite but I liked them all. I did not catch all the names but I had from left to right and top to bottom amarillo, colorado, something, verde, something and negro.

I sat at the zocalo and did people watching for a bit when I ran into a local 3rd generation weaver named Filipe Hernandez. We struck up a conversation and he invited me to come out and see his weaving production but first offered to be my tour guide the next day to some of the other sites in the valley. It is probably just as well that my mother did not know I was accepting a ride from a stranger. Filipe’s family speaks Zapotec at home so his family may have been in this valley for something like 2500 years.

I spent more time wandering through the local markets in the afternoon and then ate dinner at one of the many upscale restaurants called La Catrina de Alcala. I was literally the only customer and I was only having a bowl of blue cheese soup. They brought a hot towel to cleanup before dinner and were sprinkling scented water on the floor in anticipation of a larger dinner crowd. I came the the realization that I had been asking for the bill all week in Italian instead of Spanish, but when you do the right pantomime with it people know what you mean.

I stopped by a local bakery for a pastry and the zocalo for a hot chocolate. Then Andre and I returned to the zocalo and had beer and hot chocolate until after midnight as we talked about our various travels.

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

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