Monthly Archives: June 2012

Antiques & Folk Art in Puebla, Mexico–La Quinta de San Antonio

Directly across from our Hotel Real Santander is treasure trove of collectibles, antiques, folk art, sculpture, chandeliers, textiles, and jewelry.  Everything inside La Quinta de San Antonio Antiguedades y Arte Popular is at least mid-century and much, much older.  I would measure the contents in cubic rather than square feet.  Look up across the 20-foot high colonial ceilings of this 16th century structure and scan the room so you are sure not to miss anything.  Here is a visual journey of this fabulous shop operated by Antonio and Alfonso.







Antonio Ramirez Priesca prowls the villages and towns throughout the Puebla valley to find the very best treasures.  Old Puebla families call him when they want to dispose of an heirloom estate.  Antonio’s family has been in Puebla for a long time.  He and Alfonso have extraordinary taste and an excellent eye for the unusual.



The colors and textures and shapes are assemblages that tell a story.  Hard and soft surfaces are combined.  Clay, metal, dried flowers create a still life that any great painter would appreciate.


Find La Quinta de San Antonio at Calle 7 Oriente #10, Centro Historico Puebla, (222) 232-1189.   You’ll recognize Antonio by the photo below!




On Sundays you might find Alfonso at the flea market on Calle 6 Sur between Calles 5 and 7 Oriente near the fountain.  Today,  he had the antique sterling silver earring box with him.  Who could resist?

El Mural de los Poblanos, Puebla, Mexico Restaurant Continues to Please

“It was wonderful, close to perfect.” That’s what I told NY Times travel writer Freda Moon this morning when she asked how my meal was at El Mural de los Poblanos.
Hollie and I settled in after escaping a particularly violent thunderstorm, rain pellets pounding our umbrellas as we stepped carefully along the slippery paving stones from the Zocalo to the restaurant two blocks away.  It was impossible to hurry despite the weather.
First, Isaias welcomed and escorted us to a table, brought fresh baked rolls, butter, two glasses of Mexican Baja Tempranillo-Cabernet house wine (yummy), and an amuse de bouche of spicy, hearty red-broth with chicharrones.
Then, we got into the serious ordering:  fresh fish in casserole (cazuela) with garlic and butter.  Simple, succulent.  I think it was sea bass. Cooked to glossy perfection. We shared this and the ribeye steak (this is beef country), seasoned with just a bit of heat, grilled medium-rare (more on the rare side) to perfection, then topped with grilled, crunchy garlic slices.  The dish was accompanied by a skewer of roasted, grilled baby potatoes and baby onions. The sprout salad with walnuts and avocado was big enough to share and a great interlude to entree bites.
After dinner, we ordered the almond tart with a small scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream to share.  It was a perfect ending to the meal.  But, we brought our own Talavera de las Americas mezcal cups, so topped it all off by sharing a shot glass of El Cortijo Añejo — a smokey, aged mezcal that is one of my favorites.
Total cost of all this, including two entrees, salad, two glasses of wine each, dessert and mezcal was $1,195 pesos for two, not including tip (we left 15 percent).  Translated to the current exchange rate of 13.8 pesos to the dollar, we spent $43.00USD each.
Chef Lisette Galicia Solis is offering cooking classes Monday-Saturday with 2-day notice, 1,000 pesos per person, no minimum.
Service by Isaias and Enrique was attentive, not overbearing.
It’s still my favorite Puebla restaurant. We ate there twice during this trip. I would choose dining here before La Conjura or the restaurants at La Purificadora and Casa Reyna any day.
P.S.  I pay full price for every meal I eat, take no discounts or complimentary giveaways, FYI.

Flea Market and Antiques Finds in Puebla, Mexico

Shopping in Puebla, Mexico during Saturday and Sunday Flea Market days is a treasure hunt.  Vendors begin to set up on the sidewalk around 11 a.m. each Saturday on Calle 6 Sur between Calle 7 Oriente and Calle 5 Oriente.  This is a pedestrian walkway lined with open-every-day, higher quality antique and folk art shops like Rene Nieto, where I found this great antique hand-painted angel figure that has a coin slot.  Could it be a bank or an offering vessel?


Most of the fleas are aged, rusted metal corroded for interest, old coins and out-of-circulation peso notes, a mish-mash of old and new jewelry, posters, pottery, books, and rusted tools.  A careful look can take an hour or more.  Enjoy.  Food vendors and musicians set up shop there, too.  And, you can even say a prayer at the outdoor altar.  Hollie bought old copper milagros for her mixed media art here.


The block between Calle 5 Oriente and Calle 3 Oriente is more upscale with antique and jewelry and clothing shops.  Flower pots spilling over with color adorn the street.


Don’t miss the antique shops along both sides of 5 Oriente and 3 Oriente.  Many have unusual pieces of furniture, lamps, redware handpainted pottery and old Talavera tiles.

This exquisite old chest of drawers is 12,000 pesos.  That’s roughly $900 USD.  If you can buy it, then you would need to figure out how to ship it.  No small feat.


Old and new masks, table linens, embroidered blouses, shawls in various stages of use can all be found here, along with delicious fresh fried potato chip snacks drizzled with chile powder, limes, and salt.


When you plan your visit to Puebla, make sure you are here over the weekend!  You won’t be disappointed.  Hollie wasn’t and neither was I.

 Where to stay?  Hotel Real Santander, Calle 7 Oriente #13.  This is my home away from home in Puebla where they take really good care of us.  Ask for Carolina or Yolande if you want special service.  1,000 pesos per night double, 850 pesos per night single.   Two blocks from the Zocalo and from the Flea Market, one block from my favorite restaurant El Mural de los Poblanos.


Faces of Puebla, Mexico

We’ve landed in Puebla!  After settling into one of my favorites, Hotel Real Santander, Room #2, 7 Oriente #13, (Tel: 222-246-3553), my traveling companion Hollie and I walked two blocks to the Zocalo to extract ATM money (best exchange rate, which today is 13.78 to the US dollar), and settled into the sidewalk cafe at The Italian Coffee Company to people watch.  Our people watching idea turned into an hour-long interaction with street musicians, beggars, and women selling cheap necklaces, their faces more interesting than their wares, their stories about coming from the villages looking for pesos compelling.


Her rebozo was in tatters, but it did not seem to impact her pride and self-respect.  A gentle woman, we hugged and I squeezed her hand.

Monet?  The woman selling glass and seed bead necklaces came to us with a huge smile and two handfuls of adornment.  We needed nothing.  She kept saying Monet.  Where’s the exhibition.  Monay.  Okay, finally we got it.  Money.  I bought a necklace and then gave it back to her!

This nun is Franciscan from a pueblo called La Resurrecion near the volcano La Malinche.  She needed support for her convent and I provided.


The guitar player strummed one note to a plaintive song I could not understand but it didn’t matter.  His face told stories of the centuries.  His hands were an insight to his heart.  He got 20 pesos, too.

After lunch at La Poblana cemitas restaurant (next to Hotel Real Santander) we hopped into a taxi.  Destination:  the church at Santa MariaTonantzintla.  First stop, San Francisco Acatepec to see the Baroque church.  More faces revealed themselves in deeply carved and guilded walls and ceilings, and within the Talavera tile.



This is Hollie’s first visit to Mexico (the border towns don’t count, she told me).  As she sits next to me sipping rich, strong coffee and editing her photos, she dips a fresh tortilla chip into salsa and beans with the exclamation:  These people know how to live!  I think SO.

We are traveling on our way to the Oaxaca Photography Workshop: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.

Next workshop:  October Day of the Dead Photography Expedition with Bill Bamberger.


Linking Oaxaca Past to Present Through Arts and Design

The New York Times featured Oaxaca as a living example of how to best marry past and present in its June 15, 2013 feature story,  The Past Has a Presence Here written by Edward Rothstein in The Critic’s Notebook in the Times Arts & Design section.  Says Rothstein, “In the museums and gardens of Oaxaca, Mexico, unlike those of the United States, the character of history is unvarnished.”

History converges in Oaxaca, Mexico because her indigenous people have survived for millenia despite conquest, wars, disease, poverty and malnutrition.  The archeological ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla are evidence through extraordinary physical remains of the building and destruction of great civilizations.  Descendants live in the valleys below with language, culture and art intact.  Her food — mole, squash, corn, beans, chiles — are also a living testimony to creativity and adaptation in a harsh land.

Rothstein uses a good part of his “column inches” to discuss the importance and impact of the Ethnobotanical Gardens designed and developed by Alejandro de Avila B.  It is a living centerpiece of Oaxaca’s cultural history — a compendium of native plants that people have and continue to depend on for fiber, natural color, shelter, and beauty.

Oaxaca is rich in tradition that has not died out and is only accessible through memory and museum exhibitions.

He goes on to say, “But how different all of this is from images of the indigenous past north of the border! There are few areas where evidence of ancient state-size power exists (mainly in the 2,000-year-old relics of societies that once thrived along the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers). There are few places where cultural continuity is even remotely clear, and where ancient languages are still widely spoken. Even before colonization, cultures disappeared, leaving behind neither oral traditions nor written records. And forced migrations and centuries of warfare so disrupted native traditions that the past now seems little more than an identity-affirming fantasy.”

I think of the Taos pueblo, the Four Corners in Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, the dioramas and exhibitions in the Museum of the American Indian,  annual Indiana pow-wows of the Potawatomi to bring far-flung tribal members together, and the painful history of exile, annihilation and reservations.

What do you think of when you read Rothstein’s article?

And, yes, Oaxaca is safe.  I am on an airplane today to Mexico City, then Puebla.  I’ll pick back up on my posts in a few days.

Plus, thanks to friend Leslie Fiske Larson for bringing this NY Times article to my attention! Leslie spent several months volunteering at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and knows a great pushcart fruit stand right around the corner!  Yummy papaya.