The Franciscans created Puebla as the first true (ha, ha) Spanish city in Mexico, building it from the ground up, not on top of destroyed indigenous religious sites as they had a habit of doing. The Paseo Viejo de San Francisco is a cobblestone walking promenade that connects the church named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi where Hernan Cortes worshipped with upscale shopping, restaurants and hotels. This is a renovated historic area — the oldest part of the city where Puebla was founded. It’s the neighborhood I’m staying in on this visit.
I’m back in Puebla for an overnight before heading to Mexico City and then on to San Francisco for Thanksgiving with my family. I’ve been here so many times in recent years that I can negotiate the avenues by foot and not get lost, returning to some of my favorite spots. It was an all-day walkabout — eight hours total.
Today as I meander, I decide to take a different approach. I look into courtyards where tall, heavy wood gates open slightly give me a glimpse of an interior life. I peer into obscurely lit stores. I see shadows and light, profiles and outlines of figures. I look inside instead of at the stunning Talavera tile and wedding cake plaster facades that captivate visitors.
Still life hides behind high plaster walls through the cracks of gated doors, between the bars of gated churches at altars where no one worships, down alleyways where laundry dries, through windows into storage rooms.
A shop clerk hangs against a door jam, take a drag on a cigarette. Women establish themselves in business with a pile of masa dough and a garbage container filled with charcoal topped with a comal. They will stuff tacos with cheese, chilis, bits of chicken for passersby to grab and eat as they walk on.
Before I leave Puebla, I treat myself to a lunch at what I undoubtedly believe is the best restaurant in the city, El Mural de los Poblanos. Don’t miss it. Spectacular service and perfectly prepared food.
It was a mezcal kind of day for me: first a tamarind mezcal margarita, then a shot glass of Puebla origin mezcal (with worm salt and orange slices) compliments of the manager (that I managed to nurse throughout the 2-1/2 hour meal), a sunflower sprout salad, and shrimps sauteed in mezcal. I finished with a small scoop of house made pumpkin ice cream and a raisin liqueur. Who’s hungry? Did anyone say bed time?