The New York Times just published 36 Hours in Puebla, Mexico by travel writer Freda Moon, who did a similar feature about Oaxaca a few months ago. Freda listed many of my favorite things to do, see, visit, shop for and eat. Puebla is unique. The city is a blend of Spanish colonial with Moorish-Moslem influences brought from Spain during the conquest. This is evident in both architecture and food. In the early 1900′s, the city became a favorite of German immigrants, one reason Volkswagen selected Puebla as a manufacturing and assembly site in the 1960′s.
Here are a few extra tidbits of WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN PUEBLA to supplement Freda’s list:
1. Pan de Zacatlan: Relleno de Queso. I stumbled upon this authentic European-style bakery walking from Talavera Uriarte to Talavera Celia and after a meditative moment at The Rosary Chapel in Santo Domingo Church.
The pastries here are amazing. Most are stuffed with sweetened queso fresco and taste like eating a cheesecake empañada. The shop sells fresh cheesecakes, cheese, the flan ranks a 9+ in my book, and it’s OMG for the Pan de Elote. I sampled just about everything and my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I had the empañada con queso for dinner during a rain-thunder-lightening storm so strong that I didn’t want to leave my comfortable hotel room. The rest of the goody bag came back to the U.S. with me. My son and I ate what was left for breakfast in Long Beach, California, the next day.
Pan de Zacatlan, 4 Oriente No. 402, Puebla, Pue., Mexico, tel (222) 246 5676, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open every day, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, Sundays and festivals, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Hungry for meat? Turn left out the door and a couple of doors down is a traditional restaurant serving lamb grilled on a spit with homemade pan Arabe (pita bread). These are all over town, a testimony to the influences of pre-Catholic Spain imported to Mexico.
2. Talavera Uriarte, 4 Poniente, No. 911. So much has been written about this venerable ceramics house that there’s not much left to say. Their customer service is impeccable, quality superb, and packing and shipping always reliable. Nothing ever arrives broken. Ask for Ana!
3. Talavera de las Americas, 7 Poniente 510 . Col. San Pedro Cholula, Cholula, Puebla. Tel. (222)261-0367. Their operation is a very small, family-owned business and they “bend over backwards” for the customer. It’s worth the visit to Cholula since the painting on the clay is very fine and detailed, the clay body is very light, and the work rivals it’s better known competitors at half the price! We have purchased here directly and enjoyed the experience.
4. Hotel Real Santander, 7 Oriente, No. 13, Puebla, two-blocks from the Zocalo. These are not rooms, they are spacious luxury suites with thick comforters and towels, and excellent beds, starting at 800 pesos a night in the off-season. Hotel Real Santander is a perfect, quiet hideaway between the Museo Amparo, the photography museum, and …
6. Churches on every corner, too numerous to list them all. When you get there, follow the city guide and map to explore. But, be certain to FIRST VISIT the Rosary Chapel at Santo Domingo Church. The gold and glitz dazzles.
Some of the sculpted heads here remind me of the interior carved wood and painted figures in the extraordinary indigenous church at Tonanzintla.
7. Talavera Celia. You can find this good quality DO4 Talavera ceramics at Celia’s Café. 5 Oriente 608, Centro Histórico Puebla, Puebla. C.P. 72000. Tel: 01 (222) 242 36 63, near the antiques district and weekend flea market.
A note on Talavera Ceramics: there are only 10 authorized DO4 makers of traditional talavera ceramics in Puebla, Mexico. More talavera is produced here than is Spain where the antique methods have almost died out. I list only the best quality talavera ceramics makers on this blog and you can be assured that they all produce DO4 highest quality. I would steer you away from buying from Talavera Armando — their customer service and shipping is poor and their products arrive broken.
On a personal note: I will usually book a flight in and out of Mexico City, take the ADO bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, spend a night or two, and capture the colonial charm that makes Puebla so special. Then, I will go to the Estrella Roja bus station on 4 Poniente to buy and board a luxury Saab Scania bus complete with WiFi heading to the Benito Juarez International Airport for my flight to the U.S.