Our first full day in Oaxaca was a long one, and we slept well that night.
The next day, first we decided to walk around the centro for a good place to get desayuno (breakfast). We found a clean little restaurant that is also a tour place and a bike store! We had tacos de canasta (basket tacos).
This restaurant is also a bike store
Since we had a generally good time with our tour, we decided to use the same people again to go to one more attraction out of the city: the ruins at Monte Albán!
Monte Albán grounds
It was nice to see both the grounds at Mitla and Monte Albán in the same trip. Mitla is a small ruin with lots of detail because it is about 95% original. Monte Albán is vast with many edifices and groups of buildings, danzantes, tombs, and even a ball-game field,
A stadium for the game of "ball"
but the ruins at Monte Albán are only about 10-15% original. By that I mean that archeologists and scholars know that the site was there, actually there are even more ruins of the perimeters of houses and buildings being excavated as I write this, but earthquakes, colonization, and other phenomena required the buildings to be almost completely rebuilt. Also the only vendors that they let inside the site grounds are indigenous and actual descendents of the civilization that once thrived there.
For the rest of the trip we decided to ditch the tours because we wanted to take our time at some of the other places, and the tours often rush you along at certain stops. We knew that there was some good mole to be tasted, and tamales to be devoured at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre.
According to this source, “Mole more or less translates to “concoction”, and is derived from the Nahuatl word Molli.” Mole is made primarily from using dried chiles. You can buy the chiles to make your own, or buy it in paste or powder form. For some dishes you dilute it with cooked veggies and other things, other times you just cook the meat and veggies in it. Virtually every restaurant serving traditional Mexican food has a Mole Negro (black mole) dish, which includes cocoa with the chiles, but there are also other kinds of mole native to Oaxaca, and harder to find outside of the area including: verde (green), rojo (red), amarillo (yellow), almondrado (almond), coloradito, and many other varieties to be sure. Oh, and it’s delicious. Well, I have yet to encounter a mole that I did not enjoy.
We also had some authentic Oaxaqueñan Tamales, which are kind of steamed corn meal and pulled chicken, pork, or beef in a mole sauce, encased in either a corn husk or banana leaf. They are hearty and delicious. I don’t know if the concept of “comfort food” exists here, but they automatically skyrocketed into my top 5 comfort foods. It’s too bad that they’re difficult and time consuming to make, and even hard to find good ones in the city, although there is a man who rides a bicycle by our apartment daily who would beg to differ. This is the recording he plays over and over again!
We hear this ad nauseum http://youtu.be/AhhM2F2S8tk
According to our friend Diego, we should not try their tamales, and so we have not (though we’ve tasted a few tamales in the city.)
The other main food items that we investigated is pan de yema (literally “yolk bread,” or an egg bread, which is delicious) and cocoa –> chocolate!
cocoa in the raw
Which turns into this yumminess!
After we ate and shopped a bit we went back to visit some of the amazing churches where we could see them in better, natural lighting (since we had only really previously seen them at dusk.)
the Spanish didn't do anything on a small scale
We also visited the ex-convent-turned-hotel CAMINO REAL
It's a really lovely place
And we spent a good bit of time in Mary E’s favorite church (and I think that it’s lovely too), the Sto. Domingo.
It really is impressive on the inside
The last things that we did was shop at a really amazing craft market that sells only authentic handmade items by women of Oaxaca and its surrounding pueblos. Then we had a nice late dinner on the rooftop at a funky restaurant. The food and drinks were good. We didn’t get back to the hotel too late because we had yet another day in Oaxaca before we headed back home.
Authentic, handmade crafts
Cool lights/decorations made from colored plastic salad spinners
Until next time, tune in again Mexifriends…same oaxaqueñan time, same oaxaqueñan channel!