The ‘habitacion’ or bedroom is huge. I have no idea who may have slept here hundreds of years ago when the Spaniards built this city in 1531 from the ground up. We are ensconced in a chamber fit for a queen (or mother superior) in this ex-convent turned four-star hotel in the heart of Puebla’s historic district. Did I tell you earlier that we got this room online from www.hotels.com during the height of the swine flu scare for $68 USD per night prepaid? The tariff is $2300 pesos per night rack rate which converts to $198 based on 13.2 pesos to the dollar current exchange rate. The walls are so thick that they mask the sound of the party going on in the courtyard below for almost 300 people. Thick adobe walls, stuccoed and painted a glazed golden ochre, and painted with original frescoes. The ceilings have to be 20 feet high and they original wood ceiling has been restored to its original beauty.
Puebla is talavera ceramic heaven. it is definitely worth a stop for two or three days to get the flavor of the Moorish architecture and hand-painted decorated tile work that adorns the beautiful colonial buildings.
After two hours of sleep last night (since we had to awaken at 2:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight from RDU to Houston and then on to Mexico City), we have settled in. The Estrella Roja bus station is just down at the end of the large hall in the international terminal at the Mexico City airport. It was easy to take our luggage after clearing customs and immigration and walk to the bus depot, buy our tickets and get on the next bus to Puebla. Total cost: 184 pesos (about $15 USD per person) and the wait was no more than 30 minutes. The travel time was under 2 hours. The taxi into the historic district from the Puebla bus terminal cost 50 pesos and we gave a 10 pesos tip. Easy as pie!
Estrella Roja checks your bags and does a wand search before entering the bus. They also give you a little snack bag with your choice of soda or juice, cookies and ear phones to watch the movie (Crash was showing w/Spanish subtitles). Very comfy. We wind out onto the highway and not far beyond the city we are under the volcano. Fertile fields of rich volcanic soil are planted in corn and beans. The spires of a village church all gold and glistening in the morning light (we have arrived in Mexico City at 11:15 a.m.) rise above a humble village. A bicyclist pedals down a dirt road lined with eucalyptus, tall and elegant. In the distance, the volcano leaves a trail of vapor across a pure blue sky. It is a land of rolling hills, pines, live oak, moss colored. Leaves of corn are spring green. As we enter Puebla, we pass huge industrial parks and the massive, sprawling Volkswagen plant. This is a prosperous, large and productive city.
Puebla Revisited November 2009
Puebla is growing on me! This is the third visit this year and each time, it is a new discovery, a new food to savor, and a return to favorite spots. I am traveling with my sister who lives in the Bay Area and this is her first visit to Puebla, so I get to play tour guide! I arranged our stay at Camino Real Puebla, booking online using HotelsDotCom. The rack rate is about $250 USD per night and we paid approximately $85 per night based on a 13.1 exchange rate. This hotel is a former convent located two blocks from the zocalo and around the corner from my favorite restaurant El Mural de los Poblanos. We have a lovely room that was likely a cell for nuns who occupied the 17th century space. The décor is colonial with elements of the baroque. The breakfast is an exceptional buffet. This morning we had egg white omelets made to order stuffed with huitlachotle (mushrooms and organic corn) and cheese, fresh papaya, guava and orange juice mixed, delicious aromatic coffee, chilaquiles with salsas verde and rojo, fork tender roasted pork, and black beans. We started at 9 am and didn’t finish until close to 11 a.m. Thank goodness this was going to be a walking day, and it turned out that we didn’t sit down to dinner until 5:30 p.m.
After visiting the Museo Amparo, that had an extensive exhibit on performance and political art, strong enough to bring us both to tears (artists expressing themselves about the disappeareds in Chile and Argentina, or the AIDS epidemic, or the environmental degradation of our planet), we hopped a cab needing lighter fare and made our way to Uriarte Talavera. This was after we had spent a goodly amount of time ogling the beautiful work in Talavera de la Reyna shop that is part of the Museo Amparo. Next, a taxi ride to the Exconvento Santa Rosa where the famed talavera kitchen is the last part of the hour-long guided tour. The entry fee is 35 pesos each, and one cannot meander alone or take photos. Today, our guide only spoke Spanish, so I’m not sure what would have happened if our understanding was more limited.
The Dominican nuns sequestered there in the 17th century took vows of silence and participated in the rituals of mortification of the flesh. The superior slept on a wood platform without a mattress dressed in heavy, rough homespun wool year round, and wore a crown of thorns during the day. Life was interesting then.
Then, we hailed a cab to the area near the new convention center. Our destination was La Purificadora hotel and restaurant, designed by the famed Mexico City architect Legoretta. This is a stunning contemporary space amidst historic Renaissance and Baroque buildings, a punctuation mark in spectacular city resplendent in Moorish influences. This is where we had a unique and innovative dinner: a trio of appetizers that we shared – tiny squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and deep fried in tempura batter, octopus in a spicy tomato sauce on a homemade tortilla , and an organic mesclun salad with truffle oil dressing served with avocado, grilled tomato, and fresh grilled baby corn. For the entrée, Barbara had this chef’s version of the same stewed goat in tomato broth that we had the night before at El Mural. This version was definitely different. (The great chefs in the city prepare this special dish, Huaxmole or Mole de Caderas, once a year in honor of an ancient pre-Hispanic tradition.) My entrée with a sea bass steamed over corn husk, topped with onion slivers, chopped red pepper, fresh nopal cactus, and spinach bits. The sauce was a golden delicate scent of fish broth and cream.
After all this, we decided to walk back in the chill of the evening, strolling in sisterly arm-in-arm, as you soon women do together in Mexican cities, comfortable in their relationship. It was about ten blocks back to the zocalo and it was a perfect night for strolling, brisk, cool, a bit breezy. Lots of people were on the street and we felt no sense of being at risk. Tomorrow morning, we will get up early, take the bus to Oaxaca for our final evening in Mexico before flying home on Saturday.
10 Puebla Favorites:
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Food & Recipes, Travel & Tourism
Tagged Camino Real Puebla, eating and shopping in Puebla, La Purificadora, Mexico, Puebla, talavera ceramics, Talavera de la Reyna, Uriarte