A Travellerspoint blog

Eating our way around Oaxaca

Mexico day six


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In a florists shop, Oaxaca

Montse had advised us to have a light breakfast ahead of our food tour, so we decided to skip the hotel breakfast and go out for coffee and a cake or pastry. We'd planned to go back to La Tertulia where we’d had good smoothies yesterday, but despite advertising an 8.00 AM opening time it was still closed. However there were several other options nearby and we were happy with our next choice, Cafeto & Baristas, where we got good coffee and banana bread in a cool little space.

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In Cafeto & Baristas

We went back to the hotel to get ourselves organised for the day, where Montse picked us up at 9.30 as arranged. What followed was a meander around the streets of the historic centre, covering some new ground but also retracing our steps from the city tour and/or our own explorations. And while the emphasis was on food, Montse also took us to a number of other places – some her personal favourites, some we had missed on the city tour and some because we showed an interest in a topic (e.g. I asked her about textiles). Our first stop was actually back at the Tierra del Sol restaurant where we had eaten last night. On its ground floor is a cafe space selling the traditional morning drink, atoles. We sampled a few flavours of which my favourite was with chocolate and cinnamon.

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Atoles pots

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Atoles cups

Street food

Our next foodie stop was at a street food market, but unlike the UK ones selling food from around the world, here it was of course all Mexican. Montse went to various stalls to buy us different dishes. First came tamales, a traditional one of beans wrapped in corn and a more modern interpretation of mushrooms wrapped in a banana leaf. I preferred the traditional version, but it needed a touch of the hot salsa to add some extra flavour. She also bought quesadillas (I liked best one with cheese and pumpkin flower) and a drink with hibiscus (here called jamaica) and pineapple – very refreshing.

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Tamales

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Making tortillas

As a break from food we stopped off at the photography gallery as she wanted to show us its beautiful courtyard, with bougainvillea all over one wall and reflected in the pool. We also took a look at the current exhibition, a photo journalism piece about the Zapistas.

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In the Centro Fotografico

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In the Centro Fotografico

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Bougainvillea in the pool

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Exhibition guide

In another gallery displaying intricately painted carved wooden animals (we'd seen these everywhere but here they were of a much better quality) Montse took down our dates of birth and, as she put it, ‘gave us our animals'. This goes back to the native interpretation of the moon calendar, attributing two animals to a person. One shapes their personality in this world, the other guides them to the next. My personality animal is apparently a rabbit and my guide animal a coyote. She told me this means I am a perfectionist (yes), have a butterfly mind (yes), am inquisitive and observant (not always) and am good with money (hmmm). Chris meanwhile was told his personal animal is a frog and his guide animal an armadillo. Among other things these indicate that he too is good with money (yes), a good teacher (yes) and gives thoughtful presents (definitely!)

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Butterfly carving in the gallery

To the markets

We popped into the cathedral but didn’t linger as a mass was in progress and Chris and I had already visited.

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The Metropolitan Cathedral

We then came to the main market, named for Benito Juarez who was born in the city. He was the first indigenous (and so far only) president of Mexico. There Montse shopped for various foods and ingredients including peanuts, grasshoppers, the traditional Oaxacan cheese, avocado and cactus.

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Grasshopper seller

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Cleaning the cactus

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Polishing avocados

From here we continued to the nearby Mercado 20 de Noviembre, where a line of stalls on each side sells and grilled meat to order. Beyond the stalls were some tables where we sat, waiting for the meats Montse had ordered to be cooked for us, beef and chorizo. These were brought to the table along with the cactus that had also been grilled, spring onions salsa and tortillas.

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Grilling meat in the Mercado 20 de Noviembre

We tore off bits of tortilla and filled them as we wished: avocado, some meat, cheese, salsa and grasshoppers for seasoning. I had already discovered by nibbling at them while we waited that these were very tasty, fried with lemon, chilli, garlic and salt. So much better than the much larger crickets we had eaten in Cambodia!

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Our grasshoppers

Our final stop was back in the Benito Juarez market where we had sorbet flavoured with tuna, which is a cactus fruit not a fish (!) and what Montse translated as burnt milk, with a flavour that took me back to the condensed milk of my childhood.

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At the ice cream stall in the Mercado Benito Juárez

We said our goodbyes outside the market as Montse wasn’t sure if it would be she taking us to the airport tomorrow and we walked back to the hotel to cool off a bit. Later in the afternoon we had a short walk in a direction we hadn’t previously walked but didn’t see much other than a couple of good pieces of street art.

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Street art in Oaxaca; the unusual one on the right is of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a tree trunk

A great last evening in the city

We didn’t feel we needed a full meal in the evening, after all the food we'd consumed earlier on the tour, so we went in search of a bar with snacks and found the wonderfully located Sur e Norte near Santo Domingo. From a prime spot on its terrace we had great views not only of the church but of the activity on the streets below which included a traditional celebration of possibly a wedding or engagement, a young girl juggling hoops of fire and a concert.

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View of the Plaza Santo Domingo from the terrace of Sur a Norte

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Wedding / engagement celebration

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Fire dancer

We had some not so traditional nachos, with crisps (potato chips) instead of tortilla chips. I felt they went soggy too easily but Chris enjoyed them. And there was no faulting the drinks – Victoria beer with the nachos, then a mezcal cocktail for me and a shot for Chris with a second beer.

When we’d finished we checked out the fire juggler from a closer perspective then walked back to the hotel for an early night after a bit of packing. It was time to move on from Oaxaca.

Posted by ToonSarah 12:53 Archived in Mexico Tagged night food flowers drink cathedral street_art oaxaca customs street_food street_photography

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Comments

I love the colourful market and night shots.

by irenevt

reading the title alone makes me eager to read the rest ... quite an experience and it seems it didn't disappointed at all!

by Ils1976

Thank you Irene and Ils - a food tour is pretty much a must in Oaxaca!

by ToonSarah

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