We had heard lots about the state of Oaxaca and were excited to be entering a new territory with anew culture,cuisine, and climate. The hills of San Cristobal were chilly at night, and we were looking forward to some warmer weather(we hadn't packed nearly enough warm clothing for aMexico trip!) Westopped at fivetowns on the Oaxacan coastline.. here's a little about them.
To get to the coast, we had a long coach journey from San Cristobal. To avoid traveling overnight, we planned a one night stop-over inSalina Cruz.We hadn't heard a great deal about this area, and what we had heard was "give it a miss". We've been misled in the past with comments like this, sowe usually take them with a pinch of salt.We were ready to give Salina Cruz a chance.
I was excited to be by the coast again, and thought it would be a great opportunity to taste some fresh fish from this region. It was no where to be found, no street food, no fishermen. Our taxi driver dropped us off at "the b...
All those weeks back in Cancun, spending a day at the coast (known as The Riviera Maya), we had noticed a few opportunities to go sea fishing in the Caribbean. However, we didn't jump at the rip-off prices. I had the image I would get chatting to some working fishermen and pay them rather than pay one of the glitzy boats aimed at sports fisherman, kitted out with GPS to find the fish. I don't like that idea. I would rather not go fishing at all, for me the excitement is not knowing when you're going to get a bite. So we decided to wait, in the small hope we might come across a real fisherman later in our trip. We only had one more coastal trip planned at this point, which would be when we arrive in Oaxaca. I saw this as my next serious chance to find a real fishing boat, without the GPS, without the extortiantate prices, just a rod and a bit of shade would be just fine.
It’s hard not to eat well in this city - so far on our trip, this city has had the widest variety of foods on offer, with a huge offering for vegans and vegetarians, and a strong importance placed on organic and local produce. The food here is bound to make you feel good, but if you want a few pointers of where not to miss, these are our recommendations.
Típica - Mexican
Av. Belisario Dominguez 11a col. centro
We loved the quirky concept here - a neatly written black board from which you choose:
1. The base of your dish, such as tostadas or huaraches.
2. The main meat / veggie topping, such as nopales (cactus) or beef cooked with apples.
3. The Salsa it is topped with, such as spicy avocado or mocha salsa- local peanut, dried smoky chilli and toasted sesame seeds.
The food is fresh and colourful - a modern approach to traditional Mexican with friendly casual service.
Huaraches at Típica - topped with beef cooked in apples
San Cristobal de Las Casas is cocktail of cultures and feelings. You will instantly see things you love and things you really won't want to see.
The winding eight hour coach journey from Palenque, slowly ascending through the lush green mountains to get here really sets the scene for your arrival in this town. We were now in the cooler climes of higher land, 2200m above sea level, allowing for some much needed cooler, lighter air after our time in the rainforest.
Smaller side streets of San Cristobal
The colourful artisan market
Our Airbnb host was one of the friendliest we've ever had, Rosario, and on our arrival she walked with us into the centre to show us the way. The centre of San Cristobal is a perfectly imperfect little grid of colourful, cobbled streets, all accessible by foot. The main street, Real de Guadalupe (or Guadders as we began calling it for short) runs like a spine East to West, pedestrianised and populated with people sitting at café tables on either side....
I look like a complete disaster. Despite many talkings to, my hair refuses to behave and tangles a little bit more everytime I look away. The skin on my face is shiny, sticky and flushed pink, the whites of my eyes less white, more beige. We're in the rainforest, Palenque, and there's really not a lot to prepare you for the heat and humidity here other than sheer determination, lack of desire to look presentable, and lots of ice lollies.
Palenque is a very small town, deep in the jungle in the region of Chiapas. We're now South from our previous stops in Mérida and Campeche, 250km inland from the nearest coastline and plonked right on the edge of a national park. The major draw here is to see the very well preserved ancient Mayan city, but for me the lure of the dense greenery is enough of a reason to visit. Plus, a few days off-grid, away from the scrambling cities is the sort of thing you read about in travel books and fancy blogs. Perfect, I thought, here's a chance for us to disco...
OK, so it’s a little more on the pricey side as far as Mérida goes, but if you’re looking for something a little different than the local favourites of papadzules or lime soup, check this place out. It has a modern menu using local ingredients, and it was refreshing to see some vegetables on the menu in such a meat-loving city. We loved the fresh tomato and habanero salsas with the thinnest crisp-baked tostadas, beef short rib tiradito with pineapple butter, and seared tuna with squash, tiny potatoes and fresh leaves with a punchy dressing. Sit in the square as the sun sets and hope for some local dancing on the stage nearby. Don't forget to ask your waiter about the secret ‘speakeasy’ bar hidden round the back. Shhh.
Beef Short Rib Tiradito at Apoala Restaurant
Lucas de Galves market
Calle 65 y 69 x 56 y 56a, Centro
It’s heaving, It’s loud, It’s smelly and hot. However, if you really want to see real life in full sw...
Cochinita pork rolls. Beef tongue tostadas. Pollo Asada. So far, Mexico has been pretty meaty, so we decided to take the opportunity whilst in Mérida to hop on over to sleepy Celestún on the coast for a day to hunt down some good seafood.
Until this day, we’d had only good experiences with bus journeys in Mexico, but reading this you’re probably already starting to predict, the journey between Mérida and Celestún was far from the luxury of the big, shiny, air conditioned ADO coaches we’d been used to. For two very long, uncomfortable hours that Sunday we sweated it out on an old bus carrying every trader, screaming child, musician, goat herder, you-name-it, who lived in Mérida. We really couldn’t wait to redeem our pre-purchased return ticket so that we could repeat the whole experience just a few hours later.
Our immediate reaction to getting off the bus, as you’d expect, was to fall into the first bar we came across when we arrived in Celestún. We were on the bea...
We are sat in one of Mérida’s Cantinas as I scribble this down in my note pad. It’s a great way to shelter from the harsh midday heat (and I’m slowly working my way through a long list of Mexican beers - don’t worry Mum they're only 4%). Today is a hot one, but no way near as hot as yesterday…
Earlier in the week we had spent the day visiting Cenotes with Jorge and Brenda (as mentioned in the previous post) in the small village of Homún, about an hour south of Mérida. That day, we stopped for lunch at ‘Mama Grande Cocina Economica’, a restaurant that serves wholesome and usually traditional food that is prepared from scratch, daily. The dishes are priced so they are accessible for everyone to afford, and many local people buy them to take home. We learnt this after a chat with Hector the owner.
Mama Grande Cocina Economica, Homún
As we chatted, Jorge mentioned I was a chef and in true Mexican style, Hector invited us both to spend a day, or even longer, at their place later that week....
We were lucky enough to spend a day behind the scenes in a Cocina Economica close to Mérida in the Yucatan - you can read about it here. Below is a more detailed description of some of the dishes.
Brasa de Reina - We were treated with this for breakfast!
Brasa de Reina - A famous tamale made with masa corn dough which is green from the added chaya leaves. It is layered with toasted sunflower seeds, cooked black beans, cooked eggs and chaya leaves. The people of the Yucatan are very proud of this dish. I enjoyed the nutty flavours from the sunflower seeds and fresh tomato sauce, but it’s something I may have to adjust to for breakfast. We were lucky to try this dish as it’s usually only prepared around Easter time.
Potato cakes - These were served with a rice and black bean soup known as ‘Frijol Colado’. It is black beans cooked with habanero chilli, onion and salt. It was a heavy, carbohydrate packed breakfast. The potato cakes were similar to hash browns but made with mashed potato...
Merida - the capital of the Yucatan state. It's a name that pops up regularly when reading about this region, adorned with adjectives like colonial, vibrant, buzzing. After spending 9 nights here, we can't exactly disagree, but thanks to a friendly couple we organised to meet here, we quickly found out the city hides even more than it lets on to it's guide books.
Streets of Mérida
Piled high with backpacks and satchel bags, we arrived in Mérida early one afternoon with a plan for lunch already made. Obviously this isn't particularly unusual when travelling with Dave but this time the plan had been made by Jorge, one half of Jorge and Brenda, a couple from Mérida we had contacted through Couchsurfing. Even though we weren't staying with them, with tens of glowing reviews on their profile, it seemed foolish not to arrange to meet them.
We thudded our bags into the boot of his car, and he told us we were en-route to one of the most popular restaurants in town. In the car he s...