Oaxaca. Bright colours, dark moles

Back to Mexico, a favourite destination whichever town or city we happen to visit. On this occasion, it’s a first trip for both of us to the charming town of Oaxaca, that Chaos is organizing as a wonderful birthday present. As it requires a transfer in Mexico City, this means starting from home at an unearthly hour, so early, that even the puppies seem disinclined to seeing us off in our taxi to the airport. Anyway, uneventful trip, punctuated by a hideous airport breakfast in CDMX before we roll-up at our really cute hotel, the Palacio Borghese.

Our room at the Hotel Palacio Borghese.

Really nice property with great rooms, though a little anticlimactic once the owners told us that the hotel was originally a stable for horses, this is an example of where they should have told us what Plato called a gennaion pseudos, or noble lie and bragged that the place had once been a palace for visiting royalty from Spain. We would have happily believed them. But all credit to the interior designers for having transformed it into such a gorgeous boutique hotel.

Properly installed, we go off to explore and forage. The town is beautiful and we’re in time for a glorious afternoon light that bathes the church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in a sumptuous golden glow. The inside of the church is spectacular, and reassuringly full for evening Mass.

We’ve been sent to Tierra del Sol a short march from the church. No reservation, so we’re relegated to the tables close to the kitchen, which is not always as fun and glamorous as it sounds. I start my Mezcal education. The plates are taco-y things, nice without being a re-invention of the wheel, though the really cool thing is that a waiter comes over with a portable table of various spices and chilis and pounds and creates your own customized relish for your tacos. Great theatre.

We return to the hotel for a bath in the mammoth sized tub, though knowing what we now know about the hotel’s previous incarnation, it was probably a space used to wash the mares, anyway, we still had a seriously good night’s sleep.

Breakfast and staff are excellent, a great foundation upon which to start our days exploring. Really a lot of colonial buildings, churches, speckled with a thousand brightly painted homes and shops. The Zócalo with the cathedral and gardens is beautifully picturesque, or in today’s terminology, worth a few Selfies. There is a huge covered market on the far side of the gardens where we buy so many kilos of Mole paste that some shoes and dresses will have to be sacrificed for suitcase space.  

Gosh, its lunch time already and we find a great terrace on the peaks of the Hotel Los Amantes, a spot that has some of the best views of the Santo Domingo, not to mention a nearby rooftop where construction is taking place, but if you artfully place your bags, the table flowers and a couple of bottles, you can block those views out.

Dressing your terrace.

The nibbles, particularly a beef taco are great, a Mezcal cocktail, the Mary Famous, is so delicious I had to have three. Honestly, had to.

Terrace at Los Amantes

More exploring. There are some great art galleries lining the square around the Santo Domingo, try and find the work of the local artist Francisco Toledo.

We have dinner on the terrace at the Restaurante Pitiona. Nice.

Terrace at the Pitiona

Next morning we’re off to Monte Albán, a pre-Colombian archeological site a few miles outside of town. Despite our usual indolent, breakfast-loving habits that mean we never really start a holiday morning early, we manage to be amongst the first to arrive and can enjoy the site without thousands of people cluttering-up the views in their fluorescent purple, green and orange sports leisure outfits. Clambering to the top of the pyramid structure, there is not a single noise other than the chirping of birds and you can play a make-believe game of imagining yourself in the very same spot, only seven hundred years earlier.

Back to town and Chaos is exhausted so I have dinner alone and chose the ground floor bar of the same Hotel Los Amantes. I manage a few hours of reading before the place explodes with people later in the evening. More Mezcal cocktails, more Guacamole and toasted Tacos.

Bar at Los Amantes

Another glorious nights sleep. The next day we find an excellent exhibition at the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños,a few of Chaos’ favourite Ruffino Tamayo, as well as the temporary exhibition on the first floor of lesser mortals.

Back in time for dinner. We’re turned away from one restaurant where we had made a reservation, but hadn’t been able to reconfirm during the day as we hadn’t a local number, earning the perfidious maitre d’ hotel my eternal animosity. Anyway, we stumble upon the Quinta Real hotel. Structurally, the place is spectacular, and we almost stayed here, but the rooms looked a bit spartan, you know, like the rooms the CIA use at their rendition sites. However, the common areas are stunning, particularly the internal gardens.

Quinta Real

The next day, we go to some cultural event where we’re promised by our hotel, there would be local gastronomy and dance. Actually, the first day is just for officials and others worthy’s, yet Chaos manages to blag our way in. Really fun morning. We feel we deserve a relaxed day, so find yet another roof terrace overlooking the church. This one is La Rueca, a French restaurant that is kind of lovely. We hang out for a boozy calorie-fest, and end up staying for dinner as well.

The rest of the stay was spent walking the streets, enjoying the numerous galleries that are as ubiquitous as mobile phone shops in London. Oaxaca is yet another extraordinary Mexican experience. If we had had more time, we would have gone the extra few (hundred) miles to the beaches that lounge languorously on the Pacific coast. Another time.

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