About Our Programs
Workshops, Retreats, Expeditions. We offer hands-on, in-depth educational programs and cultural immersion experiences with experts in their field who know how to teach. In small groups, limited to 10 people, you develop skills and explore your creativity with lots of personal attention. We pride ourselves on giving you an authentic, affordable learning experience that is safe and inviting. Come with us to discover Oaxaca as you deepen your knowledge and enrich your connection.
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Immerse yourself in the food culture of Oaxaca during this all-inclusive, 5-day, 4-night eating, cooking workshop extravaganza from Thursday-Monday, February 21-25, 2013. Oaxaca is known for her chocolate, mezcal, organic maize (corn), fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant chiles, savory spices and family operated kitchens. Superb meals are around every street corner and in fine dining establishments. Hand to mouth. Market basket to kitchen. Pan to plate. We will explore it all.
Make this your perfect winter getaway! Limited to 6 people.
Come with us to enjoy meals in fine-dining restaurants. Sample some of the finest mezcal made in Oaxaca not available for export. Taste humble street and market food from trusted vendors. Participate in food shopping and tasting to learn about local ingredients. Roll up your sleeves and make one of Oaxaca’s famous moles with a cooking class from a noted local chef.
Cooking class includes a complete multi-course menu, from soup or salad through dessert. Your experienced cooking instructor has recorded traditional recipes passed down through the generations. You will receive complete recipes printed in English that you can adapt to available ingredients at home.
Taste Oaxaca is limited to 6 participants.
What Taste Oaxaca includes:
- 1 cooking class
- 4 breakfasts
- 3 tasting dinners
- 3 lunches
- 4 nights lodging
- Mescal tasting
- Market excursions
- Associated on-ground transportation
Day 1: Thursday, February 21, arrive in Oaxaca and check in to our hotel, overnight Oaxaca
Day 2: Friday, February 22, market shopping and cooking class, afternoon visit to Oaxaca’s biggest cooking supply store, fine-dining at one of Oaxaca’s top restaurants, overnight Oaxaca (B, L, D)
Day 3: Saturday, February 23, eat Oaxaca style, explore organic market food stalls, afternoon on your own with options of what to see and explore, taste great mezcal, and experience fine-dining, overnight Oaxaca (B, D)
Day 4: Sunday, February 24, travel to the famed Sunday market in Tlacolula, meet for lunch at a local comedor, travel to Teotitlan in late afternoon for a weaving demonstration, return to Oaxaca for a farewell supper. (B, L, D)
Day 5: Monday, February 25, depart after breakfast.
Cost: The base cost is $995 USD per person, double occupancy and private bath. Programs of this type and length cost more than twice as much! Single supplement is $1,295.
It does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation not included in the itinerary.
In Oaxaca city, we will stay in a lovely upscale bed and breakfast featured in many travel articles and rated very highly. We will dine at some of my favorite restaurants.
Please indicate your preference on the registration form.
Reservations, and Cancellations
A 50% deposit ($800) is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by January 1, 2012. We request Payment with PayPal. We will be happy to send you an invoice.
If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After April 1, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space. If you cancel before April 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit. We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.
To register or for questions, contact: email@example.com
This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. For more information, see: http://oaxacaculture.com
Who could ask for more? We are in Tlaxcala (Tuh-las-cah-lah), the first city Cortes came to after landing in Veracruz. The oldest churches in the New World are here. The compact zocalo is ringed with 16th century buildings decorated with frilly stucco and carved stone. The town of 73,000, tucked into a hillside, is one hour from Puebla and about three hours from Mexico City. It is elegant, prosperous and refined with excellent restaurants and pedestrian ambience.
After eating a noteworthy late breakfast/early lunch of conejo con huitlacoche (rabbit and corn fungus) and enchiladas de Tlaxcalteco con flor de calabasas (squash blossoms) at Fonda de Exconvento on Plaza Xicotencatl, we decided on the spot to visit the archeological sites of Cacaxtla (Cah-cas-tlah) and Xochitecatl (So-chee-teh-cachl). The manager at Fonda de Exconvento was extremely helpful. After I asked her what we should pay a taxi to drive us to the ruins, she made a call, got us a secure driver and negotiated a price of 350 pesos for the afternoon (four hours). We were thrilled! Muy facile. Thank you for visiting our country, she said.
Cacaxtla and sister site, Xochitecatl, were inhabited by the Olmec-Xicalancas, who wielded political and economic control over the central, southern, and western parts of the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley. They occupied a strategic position on the trade route between the Central Highlands of Mexico and the Gulf Coast. Cacaxtla reached its zenith between 650 and 900 AD following the decline of Teotihuacan, at the same time that other cities, such as El Tajin in Veracruz and Xochicalco in Morelos, consolidated their power.
The mural paintings here are distinctive for blending Teotithuacan and Maya elements into its own unique style. The murals, many in pristine condition and painted with natural pigments, were discovered in the 1970′s. They depict a battle, a bird man, a jaguar man, and sea and land creatures. The site is less than an hour from Tlaxcala and incredible.
Templo de Venus: These figures, above, are female (left) and male (right) figures wearing skirts with the Venus symbol. The presence of Venus on the garments allude to some astronomical phenomenon or calendrical date associated with the planet, which at that time was related to warfare and sacrifice.
Xochitecatl is distinguished by four pyramids and when you reach the top of the plateau where they are located, you are treated with a panoramic, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the valley. This is the lesser of the two sites in terms of archeological restoration. There are about a dozen Olmec carved figures on display in an outside garden.
Great Dining Experience: Vinos y Piedra on the Zocalo. Try the Cafecita, a filet mignon topped with a carmelized coffee sauce. This is cowboy country with large haciendas and cattle ranches. The beef here is tender and juicy!
Travel Tip: Go to the Tourism Office first to get a map. They are very helpful there and speak English. Bullfight season is November through the first weekend in March. We just missed it!
Our route to Tlaxcala: In Cuetzalan, we bought a one-way bus ticket (116 pesos each) to Huamantla on the Texcoco bus line (first class with TV and toilet). This was a 3-1/2 hour trip. In Huamantla, we walked two blocks towing our rolling luggage and backpacks to a collectivo bus stop, where, within minutes, a commuter van picked us up for the 45-minute trip to Tlaxcala (about 25 pesos each). It dropped us off at the central market, where we walked around a corner and hopped a taxi (30 pesos) to our Hotel Mision San Francisco on the zocalo.
I love to visit Puebla. This Friday I will be making a repeat visit — the second one in two weeks. Puebla has a lot going for it, including a regal cathedral and friendly zocalo.
This is a city built by Spaniards to replicate Old World charm. It has a European feel with wide pedestrian avenues. Ten days ago I had the pleasure of traveling with Jane, Dave, Mari, Helene and Suzanne. We all started together in Oaxaca on a Friday morning and returned on a Monday afternoon (except Helene who flew in and out of Mexico City from Connecticut). I took over 350 photographs and lost them all in the upload because I deleted by memory card before I checked whether the upload was complete (it wasn’t, thanks to iPhoto or a bad internet connection). Doomed, I called on my fellow travelers for help and all the photos shown here are courtesy of them. Definitely lesson learned!
Open wide and don’t miss those huge Puebla sandwiches called cemitas. The best are at Cemitas las Poblanitas in the Mercado del Carmen. I challenge you to get your mouth around this one, stuffed with grilled onions, chiles, pounded and breaded chicken breast, a mound of avocado, and three kinds of cheese. The assembly line satisfies the customers who wait. Photo on left by Dave Emerson; on right, Helene has her hands full. You can see I don’t want you to miss these! I ate there two days in a row.
Excellent upscale restaurants rival any four-star in the major cities of the world. We had dinner at a few of them: El Mural de los Poblanos, the restaurant at CasaReyna hotel, and La Conjura.
Suzanne Kinney took this beautiful photo of Talavera ceramics that adorn the facades of 18th century buildings. The decorative pieces add visual punch to dinner tables. Dave Emerson’s photo of Talavera de la Reyna dinnerware says it all.
To read more about Puebla, see David Emerson’s Oaxaca Chapulines blog and from there link to his Picasa album that features the stunning photos of the city, some of which I have borrowed here. Dave managed to capture a Carnavale parade/dance celebration we stumbled upon at the Zocalo. It was magical.
I’m meeting my sister in Puebla this Friday afternoon. She is arriving from San Francisco into Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. I am arriving from Oaxaca. We’ll both catch a bus. She will get on the Estrella Roja bus just outside the International Terminal Two (Be sure you check your arrival terminal. If you come into Terminal One, you have to take the Air Train to Terminal Two.) From the airport to Puebla is about two hours. But, time goes fast — there’s free WiFi. My trip on ADO will take a little more than four hours.
- The Museo Amparo is open but it is undergoing renovations and the entrance is around the corner on 7 Oriente; gift shop is a shadow of its former self.
- The Exconvento Santa Rosa is closed for renovations.
- Take an extraordinary guided visit at Talavera de la Reyna in their Cholula workshop; called ahead to arrange this — muy amable.
- Discover Talavera Celia, excellent quality, D04, at about 30% less than Talavera Uriarte and Talavera de la Reyna, though their patterns and use of color is not as complex. Their shop/cafe is in the antique district on 5 Oriente #608 (222-242-3663). Didn’t get to their taller/workshop at Manzano #8, Col. Arboledas de Guadalupe. 222-235-1891.
- Dine at CasaReyna, a boutique hotel with gorgeous ambience, excellent food, reasonably priced with good wine list also reasonably priced.
- La Conjura is a Spanish restaurant in a cave that served as an aging cellar for meat long ago. Unusual menu. Intimate and pricey.
- Ekos Restaurant in the Casona de la China Poblana has the best breakfasts with scrambled eggs and huitlacoche.
- A favorite shopping spot is the only artisan cooperative in town — Siuamej Puebla Crafts Cooperative, representing the indigenous groups of the Sierra Norte — Av. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza #206 just off the Zocalo. Lovely quechquemitls with natural dyes woven on backstrap looms, embroidered work, pottery, beaded jewelry.
- Fabulous antique Poblano silver jewelry at La Quinta de San Antonio antique shop owned by Antonio & Alfonso, 2 Sur 509 enter on 7 Oriente,firstname.lastname@example.org –call or email them (222-232-1189); reasonably priced, very special.
- New photography museum is across the street. They have an exhibition of the best Oaxaca and Mexico photographers.
- Take in the Sunday flea market. Lots of fleas, antique coins, out of circulation Mexican bills, a few good things. Most all the good stuff is in the stores.
- Stay at the Hotel Colonial — excellent value but noisy if on the street or pedestrian walkway (a spot for street theatre past my bedtime); within walking distance to everything.
- Love staying at Puebla de Atano — used to be the Italian consulate; within walking distance to everything. I book this on hotels.com and save 15-20% off the advertised rate.
- Went to Tonanzintla church — fabulous! That and the visit and explanation of the talavera process at de la Reyna was the highlight of the weekend.
They say there is more rain here in Palenque than anywhere else in Mexico. We are in the middle of a rainforest. It is a jungle of green, and with the shroud of fog, drizzle, and mist that hangs over us all day, the archeological site is a photograph of sepia and gray tones only punctuated by occasional green grass, moss, or red lichens.
Tracey and I spent most of the morning and early afternoon in the extraordinary museum filled with glyphs and bas relief carvings and jade funerary masks. The highlight was the every half hour on the hour entry into the exhibit of the tomb of Palenque ruler Pakal that was discovered in 1952. By 2 pm the heavy rain had subsided, and covered by plastic parkas, we entered the park.
The temple steps are slippery. Were the Mayans that tall? I grab onto the stone steps in front of me for balance and foothold. Sometimes I slip on the wet moss covered stones and I look below to the ground, afraid of tumbling. I am a mountain goat, careful, one step at a time. I made it to the top of the palace! Hurray. And at the end of the day, when the park closes at 4:30 pm, the guard says it is time to leave. I say, I need your hand to help me down those steep steps. He frowns. Pretend I am your mother! I say. And he does.
Where to stay in Palenque? I highly recommend Hotel Xibalba. I booked online on booking.com and saved about 20% off the going rate. The hotel is located close to the bus station, is clean, delightful, safe, with helpful staff and a good breakfast (extra). A taxi to the archeological site costs about 70 pesos and the collectivo from the main highway a few blocks away is 10 pesos.
Right next door to the hotel is a fantastic seafood restaurant, El Huachanango Feliz. I ate dinner there three nights in a row. First night was grilled tilapia. Second night was the Caldo de Mariscos (seafood soup) and the third night was the Cazuela de Mariscos (they added cheese to the seafood soup). Each meal was fabulous and more than I could eat for 85 pesos, including a ceviche of shrimp and octopus.