Adventures in Oaxaca

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Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, is known for its food, culture, chocolate and mezcal – just my kind of place.

We stayed in a quirky little AirBnB place with a rustic kitchen and four friendly dogs, a walkable distance from the vibrant town centre. The streets of central Oaxaca are full of personality with brightly coloured colonial style buildings, street art, sign painting, and pot plants everywhere! As a major tourist destination in Mexico it’s all very nicely manicured and catered to the industry, although we did a couple of tours during our stay which took us a little off the beaten path. For a quiet day we visited the beautiful old monastery, now a museum, which detailed the history of the region and had an awesome exhibition of vintage illustrated music posters.

Being around the new year, the atmosphere was festive and busy, although we left things too late to book anything special for New Year’s Eve and ended up falling asleep before midnight after a stay-in dinner of pastries and beer. On our last night in Oaxaca, we stopped to eat paletas and watch a wedding celebration in the street, complete with traditional dancers and a marching band.

Foodie Notes

There’s a LOT for foodies to love in Oaxaca – here’s a few places we visited:

  • Paletas – popsicles – are sold from little street carts everywhere and come in a very large number of flavours, some more unusual than others.
  • Mole – complex spiced sauces – are a must in Oaxaca, and it’s quite different even to other regions that serve mole. It comes in many varieties, coloured by the kinds of chillies used and in the case of mole negro (black mole), cacao.
  • As with most (all?) of Mexico, pretty much everything is served with soft corn tortilla – necessary for mopping up sauce or mole.
  • Mezcal is similar to tequila, a drink which holds memories of low quality shots in clubs for me – but I find it a lot more palatable. It still uses the agave plant but is tied to different regions, and often has a delicious smokey flavour. We didn’t manage to get a booking in the Mezcaloteca, but the bottle shop next door was obliging in giving us a free tasting and explanation of the varieties.
  • Hot chocolate might be a little different to what you’re used to – it’s sweet, spiced and traditionally mixed with hot water rather than milk (I still prefer it milky!).
  • Chapulines – fried grasshoppers – sound and look a bit confronting, but actually make great beer snacks. They mostly taste like the spices they are fried with.

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Winter Down South (with a dog)

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To celebrate both mine and The Boy’s birthdays this year, we headed down south again – this time with our little puppy Jasper. Here’s a self-indulgent post of food, beaches and puppy.

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The rainy July weather unfortunately isn’t ideal for doing the kind of things we hoped to do with Jasper in tow – hiking, playing at the beach and visiting dog friendly cafes (which tend to only be dog friendly if you sit outside). It did however mean a relaxing long weekend of lounging in the dog-friendly studio apartment we rented via AirBnB (who run Temper Temper Chocolate), napping, reading, drinking wine and eating cheese.

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Staying right next to the beach, we managed to dash out during breaks in rain for quick walks with a deliriously happy Jasper. Even in the cold and wet weather, I’m always struck by how beautiful our bit of the world is. It also made for some pretty dramatic rainbows!

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We only managed one wine tasting stop, at the wonderfully welcoming Stella Bella Wines, the most dog friendly cellar door in the region. The best thing about wine tasting in winter (and at 11am at that…) is actually getting a chance to chat to the staff about the wine rather than just quaffing it. Since it’s possible to get some of the Stella Bella wines in bottleshops in Perth, I made sure to try some of the more special cellar door ones. Everything was impressive, but the Otro Vino was a favourite.

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Whilst the son of our hosts looked after Jasper, we ducked away for a fancy celebratory lunch at Knee Deep Wines. They had a bit of an Asian Fusion thing going on (but in a good way), although admittedly I was glad to have the more Western slow cooked beef with potatoes main, which felt more appropriate for the weather.

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I think we’ll have to bring Jasper again in warmer weather so we can go on longer walks and have more beach time as planned, but it was still a nice way to celebrate turning 31.down south July 2016-33

Adventures in Mexico City

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Way back in December, The Boy and I went on a huge amazing trip around Mexico and Texas. I’ve put off posting here due to laziness, but I always look back so fondly on these travel diary posts so better late than never!

It took us days to reach Mexico city – not just because flying there took over a day, but due to extreme weather in Dallas, which was our transit stop. After our flight was cancelled (after several hours of hopeful delays), not once but twice, the third time was lucky and we finally made it to our destination, a few days short of when we hoped to arrive. It was frustrating and exhausting, but considering almost every flight through Dallas was in the same boat, and in the area people were losing their homes or their lives, we came out pretty alright.

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Loved the decor in our little Mexico City apartment!

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Once we (finally) arrived, we were welcomed into our beautiful little AirBnB apartment, decorated with pot plants, quirky prints, a piano and a type case. I like to try and make our first stop after a long journey a nice one, assuming we’ll have to recover from jet lag, but after our 3 day transit in Dallas we were ready to explore. Our host left us with a list of local sights and eateries to try out.

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Fournier Rousseau, great pastries and coffee
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Known for their almond crossaints (which were sold out!)
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Catedral Metropolitana

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The Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City, was festive and bustling with people traveling and celebrating Christmas and the New Year. We visited the cathedral and Templo Mayor – a huge Aztec temple complex from when the city was the Aztec city Tenochtitlan. The Spanish had flattened and built their cathedral over it, and the remaining ruins weren’t excavated until the 70’s.

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Lots of lovely colonial architecture in Mexico city
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Templo Mayor
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Offerings found under Templo Mayor

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One Aztec food in particular seems to remain popular in Mexico City – escamoles, or ant eggs! We had ours at El Cardinal, a traditional restaurant recommended by our host an very popular amongst locals. These are harvested from the giant ants that live amongst the agave plants, and surprisingly taste buttery, nutty and creamy, a bit like ricotta or a creamy risotto. Like almost all meals in Mexico, the dishes were served with housemade salsas of various heat levels, and plenty of steaming hot corn tortillas lovingly wrapped in a tea towel.

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Ant eggs! Tastier than you would think

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Our final stop was breakfast at Lalo, a quirky little cafe with modern and traditional dishes (ant eggs for breakfast anyone?). Our time in Mexico City was much shorter than intended, but we managed to see (and eat) a lot for a quick visit. Our first taste of Mexico confirmed it was exactly what we had hoped!

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Our final breakfast at Lalo

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