Tag Archives: Cholula

Tour Puebla, Mexico: Cooking & Culture, From the Humble to the Divine

August 13-18, starting at $895 per person double occupancy–

  • Chiles en Nogada Cooking Class
  • Sumptuous Dinner Party in a Private Historic Home
  • Elegant Dining and Neighborhood Eating
  • Flea Market and Antique Shopping
  • Museums, Churches, Archeology, History

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Puebla, Mexico, is a short two hours from Mexico City by bus direct from the international airport. It is one of my favorite Mexican cities and I often stop here going to and from Oaxaca. It is the home of Talavera tile, Cinco de Mayo, Mole Poblano, chiles en nogada, and cemitas. It has a weekend antiques and flea market that draws crowds, gilded churches, Baroque architecture with pastel and tiled facades topped with white plaster meringue, great chefs, outstanding restaurants, and ancient archeological sites.  At 7,000 feet altitude, visitors enjoy moderate temperatures year ’round, even in summer!

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Your five night, 6-day visit includes:

  • 5 nights lodging in a lovely, highly rated historic center hotel
  • guided visits to famed, certified Talavera ceramics studios
  • visits to extraordinary museums like Museo Amparo
  • chiles en nogada cooking class in a private home featured in Mexicocina with market tour, and lunch
  • sumptuous candlelit dinner that evening presented by our cooking teachers/hosts
  • gourmet dining and neighborhood/market fare experiences
  • time on your own to explore the incredible weekend antique/flea market
  • in-depth visits to archeological and religious sites of Cholula and Tonantzintla
  • Plus, lots more.

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Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest city, cosmopolitan without being overwhelming.  It is relaxed, accessible, and easily experienced in several days. Known as the ‘City of the Angels’” or Angelopolis, Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded in 1531 as a purely colonial Spanish city built from the ground up—not on top of an existing indigenous temple — at the trading crossroads between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City.  More than 5,000 Baroque-designed buildings date mostly from the 16th century and are covered in handcrafted Talavera.

 Talavera Reyna

Puebla is also about shopping! The highlight is Talavera pottery. And, there are many other local crafts: Tree of Life clay figures, bark paper paintings, woven and embroidered textiles from the Sierra Norte, red clay cooking vessels and dinnerware, and unique onyx and marble sculptures. You can find these and much more at the traditional markets, the stalls that line Puebla’s beautiful plazas, and at the weekend flea and antique market.


Puebla is known throughout Mexico for its excellent cuisine, a blend of pre-Hispanic, Arabic, French and Spanish influences.  There are many outstanding Tesoros de Mexico-rated (Mexico’s highest) restaurants, and we’ll be dining at a few!


We’ll also go to Cholula, an indigenous village just outside Puebla with the world’s widest ancient pyramid, Quetzalcoatl. The Spanish built the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remidios with its amazing 24-carat gold basilica atop the pyramid.  On a clear day you can see snow-capped Popocatepetl, an active volcano, showing off his powerful plume.

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Preliminary Itinerary:

  • Day 1, August 13: Travel to Puebla, check-in to our historic center hotel
  • Day 2, August 14: Chiles en Nogada Cooking class with market tour & lunch, followed by sumptuous private dinner
  • Day 3, August 15: Cholula archeology site, Tonantzintla church, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics
  • Day 4, August 16: Antiques and flea market, museums, market lunch
  • Day 5, August 17: Gallery hopping and shopping, fine dining
  • Day 6, August 18: Departure

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Our stops will include:

  • Antique market & Barrio del Artista
  • Museo Amparo
  • Talavera galleries and shops
  • Tonantzintla Templo de Santa Maria
  • La Purificadora Hotel, an architectural wonder, designed by Ricardo and Victor Legorreta
  • Uriarte and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios

We include private transportation on a day-trip to Cholula, Tonantzintla, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios.

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Transportation to Puebla:  Puebla is easily accessed by Estrella Roja first class bus direct from the Benito Juarez International Airport (Terminal One and Terminal Two) and from Oaxaca on ADO.  If you are coming from the U.S. be sure to reserve your round trip air travel to/from Mexico City. When you register, we will give you complete “how to get there” information.

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What is Not Included:

  • meals, snacks, alcoholic beverages
  • entrance fees to local museums/attractions
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • transportation to/from Puebla
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services 


  • $895 per person double occupancy, shared room and bath
  • $1,195 per person single occupancy, private room and bath

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance is due on or before July 1, 2014.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

Helene's Cemita Fish Market Puebla SK

Please understand that we make lodging and other arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email.   After July 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before July 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We ask that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since accidents happen.

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Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

To register, email us at  normahawthorne@mac.com.  If you have questions, send us an email. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary.





The McAllister Family Whirlwind Winter Holiday in Mexico

Walter and Annette McAllister took their family to Mexico during the Christmas holidays.  Walter had subscribed to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and did his homework.   I’ve never met them, but Walt, a chef, would write me periodically with questions or comments.  … Continue reading

Four Days in Puebla: Part Three or Stairmaster to the Sky

Packing it in once again, this third day in Puebla began with breakfast once again at Hotel Royalty (yes, we like it) and then a stroll around the Zocalo toward the Museo Amparo.  I had arranged with our taxi driver earlier this morning to pick us up at the Zocalo at 1 p.m. and take us to Cholula where there is an archeological site and some remarkable churches.  The Museo Amparo has an outstanding pre-Hispanic art collection, stone carvings, Mayan stele, ceramics, jewelry, funerary objects, and traditional European 17th and 18th century home furnishings fitting the Spanish nobility that settled the city.  A lovely gift shop of Mexican handcrafts, a coffee shop/cafe, and a retail shop for Talavera de la Reyna that makes produces some of the highest quality pottery in town can also be found.   A Diego Rivera portrait of Sra. Amparo graces the lobby space of what was once her majestic home.  An exhibit of the work of contemporary Mexican artist Betsabee Romero captured our attention, especially the tires carved in Aztec patterns and then used to print designs on cloth.  We spent about two hours browsing through the galleries.  At noon, Sam and Tom decided to stroll around the Zocalo while I caught a taxi to the Uriarte Talavera gallery and factory at 4 Poniente 911 at Calle 11 Norte.  I promised to be back at the Zocalo by 1 p.m. for our taxi trip to Cholula and I was!

I wanted to see for myself if there was indeed a distinction in quality between the work we saw yesterday strolling the Parian district and this pottery house that has been touted as one of the best in Puebla.  Indeed, Uriarte Talavera is of exceptional quality and also carries the mark DO4.  And, the prices reflect this.  Pieces of equivalent size were double the cost of what we saw previously.  But, I discovered the two rooms with the “seconds”  which were marked down 50 percent from the original price.  Okay, there were flaws.  The glazes weren’t even or ran and blurred or skipped.  Maybe the foot was imperfect or a piece had a missing lid.  In hunting through the piles of plates, soup bowls, sinks, serving pieces, demitasse cups and mugs, I managed to find some treasures where the flaws were barely noticeable if at all.  I found one lovely large globe handsomely painted in varying shades of deep and light blue, the glazes thick and juicy that distinguish fine Talavera, and made the purchase.  Original price, 650 pesos, sold to me for 325 pesos.  Now, it was 12:45 p.m. and I stepped out in front of the shop, hopped in a taxi seconds later, and easily made it to the Zocalo for the 1 p.m. reunion with minutes to spare.

We had negotiated a 90 pesos taxi fare to Cholula and it took a good 30 minutes to get there.  We are finding that taxi fares in Puebla are more reasonable than in Oaxaca, but we have seen very few European visitors during this trip, also unlike Oaxaca, where there is a mix of travelers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Cholula’s main attraction is the Mixteca archeological site that was once a pyramid like those we see in Oaxaca however, without the fine detail.  However, this one is unique in that there are tunnels running up, down and sideways throughout the interior of this structure.  Walking through the tunnel after paying the 35 pesos admission fee made me wonder what would happen if there was an earthquake (Puebla has frequent quakes).  The walls are narrow and the ceilings are low, shaped like a pointed vault.  We twisted and snaked through the underground passageways for at least 30-40 minutes before seeing daylight.

The other attraction is the extraordinary church built over this pyramid, something the Spanish did repeatedly to lure indigenous people to the new religion.  To get there is like taking a stairmaster to the sky.  I must have stopped 10 times to catch my breath as I climbed nearly vertical stairs to the top.  But the effort was well worth it.  The gilded sanctuary is remarkable and behind it lies another smaller sanctuary (don’t miss it, it’s a gem) totally covered in gold leaf with stained glass windows of cherubs.  The 360 degree views of Puebla and the valley are spectacular from this vantage point far above the town, and I could see the curl of steam coming out from the Popo volcano in the not too far distance.  I spent a good 45 minutes at the top before going down.  Otherwise, Cholula is a small market town, as much as I could see, with vendors selling candies, Guatemalan textiles, knock-off Talavera, and cheap jewelry.  Worth a half a day if you have the time.

Our taxi driver returned to pick us up exactly at 5:30 p.m. as arranged, and by 6:00 p.m. we were sitting under the arcade of the Hotel Royalty.  Corona for Tom, margarita for Sam, and a mojito for me.  We each had our own huge bowl of guacamole and chips for dinner, and now adequately zonked, we headed back to the hotel for R&R.

The commotion, hubbub, honking, cacaphony of music, noise, traffic and rush of people is beginning to overwhelm me, and I’m now ready to get back to Teotitlan del Valle for a shiatsu massage with Annie, the comfort of the Zapotec countryside and village life.  Four days in Puebla is definitely enough for me.