Oaxaca

It is no secret that there is something very special about Oaxaca.  The vibrant and colonial streets are a delight.  Ponder the culture at Monte Alban, browse the fascinating food markets, feast on gourmet or sumptuous street food, enjoy a street festival and then the round off the evening in a Mezcal bar.   If you can tear yourself away, there are some absolutely stunning day trips to be enjoyed too.  

Don’t make the mistake of not giving yourself enough time here.  Or do and then, like us, you have a reason to come back and keep coming back.   There will be more Oaxaca posts coming soon.  For now, a few immortal words…

These are a few of my favourite things…

Julie Andrews

The Food

Undeniably a foodie destination, Oaxaca is Mole central.  (Thats ‘Moh-ley’ a sauce and not the subterranean dwelling mammal!).  I am proud to admit we tried all seven moles, a feat only the dedicated manage (and only in Oaxaca).   We have a food map and guide coming out soon, so for now I will tease you with the thoughts of a smokey BBQ alley, artisan cheeses, street food and restaurants worth writing home about.  Its not just Tacos and Tamales here. A wander round the market to see the number of different chillies on offer will give you a clear idea of how seriously they take their food here. 

Tip : Try the local delicacy  – The best grasshoppers are in the local market and a tub will cost just a few pennies. 

Monte Alban

Day trips from Oaxaca
Just one of the many pyramids at Monte Alban

One of the most spectacular archeological sites in the whole of Latin America is perched 400m high on a hill overlooking the city.   Monte Alban is breath-takingly incredible and affords amazing views.  Unlike the more famous Chichen Itza, Monte Alban is virtually crowd free and you are free to explore the pyramids by climbing the same steps as the Zapotecans did 2000 years ago.  

Tip :  Pack a picnic and hop on the bus/get a taxi.  Don’t forget the camera.

Day trip from Oaxaca

Look how steep those steps are behind me!  Those are the last few steps to the stop of a Pyramid to take the photo shown below.  Those dots on the grass are people!!Monte Alban - Day trip from Oaxaca

Exploring the City

Pop on your walking shoes, this is a city best explored on foot. When you are exhausted, which you will be as there is so much to see, savour a coffee in one of the courtyard coffee houses or soak up the atmosphere of the colourful colonial streets and join a local on one of the many benches. Everyone is very friendly here and are often full of useful tips too. If you want to be serenaded by music, head to a Plaza for your beverage where there is usually something entertaining happening by day and by night. You certainly won’t get bored in this City.

Tip : Don’t forget to investigate some of the many unique shops dotted around.


The Mezcal

Day trip from Oaxaca - visit a Mezcal distillery

Tequila anyone ? Not here. It’s all about the Mezcal, a complex and smoky drink for grown ups. If you already follow our blog you will know that we ALWAYS try the local food and drink, so hunting out the best Mezcaleria in town was inevitable. I think we found it. A bar with over 180 different Mezcals and the nicest staff to explain all the differences and subtleties of Mezcal. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were in the presence of a Mezcal Guru. My tip is to plant your self down and work your way through a few until you find your favourite. Just don’t blame me if you have a headache in the morning – although they say a good Mezcal won’t let you suffer. Or something like that.

Best Place to taste Mezcal in Oaxaca


The Most Amazing Day Trips

Best Day trips from Oaxaca

This is me on the top of the world. Or rather on the edge of Hierve El Agua. High up in the mountains, it is a bubbling spring of mineral water. Not the kind you would want to drink, but you can swim/sit where it has pooled. Over the years water has tumbled down the mountainside and created two stunning calcified waterfalls.

Day trip from Oaxaca
A lone tree grows from one of the colourful mineral pools
Best Day trip from Oaxaca
Can you see the people on the top?

There are so many wonderful places to visit on day trips from the City.

The archeological ruins of Mitla grabbed our attention. You might prefer the quirky – How about the largest tree in the world? (El Tule). It is 11m wide!

There are so many day trips easily accessible from Oaxaca. The indigenous farmers markets make for an interesting shopping experience. History and government incentives have created many villages specialising in a specific type of craft. There are pottery, jewellery, textile design villages which are great places to see artisans in action. There are no pushy sales techniques involved, but these craftsmen are happy to share with you their passion.

Oaxaca state seemed to be the best place for shopping, but more about that another time. We are very happy to have purchased a handmade kitchen knife in a village about an hour from Oaxaca. It was made by very the same hands that crafted the sword used by Conan the Barbarian.

Coming soon –  Day Trips not to miss – all the details you need.

Coming soon – Food Map of the Culinary marvels of Oaxaca. 

Coming soon –  City guide to Oaxaca

Bologna – La Grassa

Rick Stein, the renowned Cornish chef turned TV Gourmet-Traveller has been responsible for many of our destination choices recently.  It was his influence that fuelled our desire to visit the food capital of Italy and is one of the reasons we head off to Mexico in the next few weeks.  

Before you start to think that we know him personally, we don’t.  It is his TV programs that have ignited a thought or fanned the flame on an already burning desire to visit somewhere new. 

The city of Bologna certainly made for a delicious destination choice.  It’s reputation is well founded – Bologna is a foodie adventure playground. Food aside, there were so many memorable moments – the beautiful medieval city is bustling with excitement – the towers and porticos that define the city made it unique and very, very special.  

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Since the Middle Ages Bologna has  been affectionately known by three nicknames:

La Grassa (The Fat One)

The country’s most famous ragu sauce is named after the city, but did you know that many of Italy’s most important and truly iconic ingredients are produced within 35km of the city walls including Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto de Parma and the world renowned Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.   

They say people of this region talk more about, eat more and care more about food than anywhere else in Italy.   We did too while here!  I am reliably informed that La Grassa relates to the size of the Mortadella Sausages rather than the waistlines! 

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La Dotta (The Learned) 

Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, founded in 1088 and still occupying some of the medieval and Renaissance buildings within the city walls.  Mozart and Rossini were both students here ; the old palazzo building is still home to the music college. As was literally just behind our apartment we were privileged to enjoythe most amazing music floating through the windows during practice times. 

La Rossa (The Red)

This nickname relates to the terra-cotta coloured buildings, which glow red in the sunlight. The left-wing, revolutionary tendencies are sometimes referred as La Rossa too.  And I did hear a cheeky comment that it could relate to the abundance of red wine produces around the region.  

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We had so much fun discovering the many difference sides to the wonderful city that is Bologna. We climbed medieval towers (some leaning precariously), enjoyed picnics in medieval bars and spend ages trying to find the best gelato.  Finding the mortadella men  proved a little easier.  Finding Spaghetti Bolognese proved impossible.  Why?   Well we will share all these tips and more over the next few posts. 

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