Tag Archives: hotels

Stopover Puebla: Taking a Break Between Mexico City and Oaxaca

Puebla, Mexico, has so much to offer that a two to four-day stopover going to or from Oaxaca to Mexico City is usually in my travel plans. I like to fly out of Mexico City back and forth to the USA (it’s cheaper) and usually plan a visit to this most original Spanish city in the Americas at least twice a year.


What’s to do here? Plenty. Including vibrant street life and good music.

Puebla2015Best53-16 2015 Puebla July (5 of 133)

Talavera tile gazing for starters. All the buildings in the historic center of the city are decorated and glazed with tiles harkening back to Moorish influences in Spain. If you want Spain in the New World with a touch of the Alhambra in Granada, come here.

Go antique shopping with La Quinta de San Antonio.

Puebla2015Best53-18 Puebla2015Best53-3

Eat. Traditional food preparation rotates around the seasons based on what is freshly available for ingredients. Now, in July and August, it’s Chiles en Nogada, This is a poblano chile, usually mild, cooked, slit, stuffed with a mix of pork, almonds, apples, peaches, raisins, pears, cinnamon and a lot of other things! The fruit and seasonings are also vaguely North African, another remnant of Moorish influence brought to Mexico. Get the best at El Mural de los Poblanos.

Puebla2015Best53-5 Puebla2015Best53-8

If you come to Puebla in October, you’ll be treated to Huaxmole, a hearty stew made with goat or pork. The essential ingredient is the seed from the guaje tree pod to give it the unique flavor.


Shop. Go to Uriarte for gorgeous talavera to set your table. Go to the new government operated Best of Puebla food shop on Palafox y Mendoza just off the Zocalo to stuff your bags with goodies. Get out on the street for weekend arts vendors selling everything from Huichol art to cemitas.


Visit Cholula, Pueblo Magico. There are two Cholulas: San Pedro Cholula and San Andres Cholula.

Puebla2015Best53-24 Puebla2015Best53-39

Go first to San Pedro, start with breakfast at Restaurant Ciudad Sagrada, garden haven with amazing food. Fortified, climb the pyramid to the Our Lady of the Remedies (Remedios), then watch the voladores. Meander the 16th century Franciscan churches. They say there are over 300 churches in Puebla.

Puebla2015Best53-32 Puebla2015Best53-19 Puebla2015Best53-20

Go shopping at the best folk art boutiques in town — La Monarca, Bosque de Oyamel — operated by Celia Ruiz.

Puebla2015Best53-33 Puebla2015Best53-23 Puebla2015Best53-28

Don’t miss OCHO30 for beer and botanas. No one else does!

Puebla2015Best53-49 Puebla2015Best53-50

Make your way to adjacent San Andres Cholula when you need a thirst quencher Michelada and your tummy starts to rumble. Oder the Michelada “sin salsa” — pure Victoria beer and lime juice, with a heavily salt and chile rimmed glass.

OCHO30_2 OCHO30>1

You will be amazed at the great kitsch, excellent hospitality and delicious food. Especially the pizza! Beware. It’s packed and you may have to wait. But, well worth it.

DonAgusOCO30 OCHO30 Pizza

With owner Agustino and friends Celia and Peter on left. OCHO30 pizza.

Puebla2015Best53-34 Puebla2015Best53-42

Take your taxi back to your hotel and collapse.


Where to Stay: Descanseria Hotel for Business or Pleasure, owned by the El Mural de los Poblanos restaurant group, with excellent location, restaurant, ambience and prices.

How to Get There: ADO GL bus from Oaxaca to Puebla CAPU, about $45 USD. Estrella Roja bus directly from Mexico City airport to Puebla 4 Poniente bus terminal, about $16 USD.

Where to Eat Chiles en Nogadas: El Mural de los Poblanos.

Puebla2015Best53-45 Puebla2015Best53-48

Today, I return to Oaxaca, just in time for the last Guelaguetza performance and the best street life in Mexico.

Puebla is the Perfect Stopover Between Oaxaca and Mexico City

The New York Times just published 36 Hours in Puebla, Mexico by travel writer Freda Moon, who did a similar feature about Oaxaca a few months ago.  Freda listed many of my favorite things to do, see, visit, shop for and eat.  Puebla is unique. The city is a blend of Spanish colonial with Moorish-Moslem influences brought from Spain during the conquest.  This is evident in both architecture and food.  In the early 1900’s, the city became a favorite of German immigrants, one reason Volkswagen selected Puebla as a manufacturing and assembly site in the 1960’s.

Here are a few extra tidbits of WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN PUEBLA to supplement Freda’s list:

1. Pan de Zacatlan: Relleno de Queso.  I stumbled upon this authentic European-style bakery walking from Talavera Uriarte to Talavera Celia and after a meditative moment at The Rosary Chapel in Santo Domingo Church.


The pastries here are amazing.  Most are stuffed with sweetened queso fresco and taste like eating a cheesecake empañada. The shop sells fresh cheesecakes, cheese,  the flan ranks a 9+ in my book, and it’s OMG for the Pan de Elote.  I sampled just about everything and my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  I had the empañada con queso for dinner during a rain-thunder-lightening storm so strong that I didn’t want to leave my comfortable hotel room. The rest of the goody bag came back to the U.S. with me.  My son and I ate what was left for breakfast in Long Beach, California, the next day.


Pan de Zacatlan, 4 Oriente No. 402, Puebla, Pue., Mexico, tel (222) 246 5676, pandezacatlan@hotmail.com. Open every day, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, Sundays and festivals, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

La Dueña, Pan de Zacatlan

Hungry for meat?  Turn left out the door and a couple of doors down is a traditional  restaurant serving lamb grilled on a spit with homemade pan Arabe (pita bread).  These are all over town, a testimony to the influences of pre-Catholic Spain imported to Mexico.

2.  Talavera Uriarte, 4 Poniente, No. 911. So much has been written about this venerable ceramics house that there’s not much left to say.  Their customer service is impeccable, quality superb, and packing and shipping always reliable.  Nothing ever arrives broken.  Ask for Ana!

Maceta for my sister. Uriarte drilled a perfect drainage hole while I waited.

3.  Talavera de las Americas,  7 Poniente 510 . Col. San Pedro Cholula, Cholula, Puebla. Tel. (222)261-0367.  Their operation is a very small, family-owned business and they “bend over backwards” for the customer.  It’s worth the visit to Cholula since the painting on the clay is very fine and detailed, the clay body is very light, and the work rivals it’s better known competitors at half the price!  We have purchased here directly and enjoyed the experience.

4.  Hotel Real Santander, 7 Oriente, No. 13, Puebla, two-blocks from the Zocalo.  These are not rooms, they are spacious luxury suites with thick comforters and towels, and excellent beds,  starting at 800 pesos a night in the off-season. Hotel Real Santander is a perfect, quiet hideaway between the Museo Amparo, the photography museum, and …

5. Across the street is La Quinta de San Antonio, my favorite antiques shop in Puebla.  Contact owner Antonio Ramirex Priesca by email.

6.  Churches on every corner, too numerous to list them all.  When you get there, follow the city guide and map to explore.  But, be certain to FIRST VISIT the Rosary Chapel at Santo Domingo Church.  The gold and glitz dazzles.


Some of the sculpted heads here remind me of the interior carved wood and painted figures in the extraordinary indigenous church at Tonanzintla.


7.  Talavera Celia.  You can find this good quality DO4 Talavera ceramics at Celia’s Café. 5 Oriente 608, Centro Histórico PueblaPuebla. C.P. 72000. Tel: 01 (222) 242 36 63, near the antiques district and weekend flea market.

A note on Talavera Ceramics:  there are only 10 authorized DO4 makers of traditional talavera ceramics in Puebla, Mexico.  More talavera is produced here than is Spain where the antique methods have almost died out.  I list only the best quality talavera ceramics makers on this blog and you can be assured that they all produce DO4 highest quality.  I would steer you away from buying from Talavera Armando — their customer service and shipping is poor and their products arrive broken.

On a personal note:  I will usually book a flight in and out of Mexico City, take the ADO bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, spend a night or two, and capture the colonial charm that makes Puebla so special.  Then, I will go to the Estrella Roja bus station on 4 Poniente to buy and board a luxury Saab Scania bus complete with WiFi  heading to the Benito Juarez International Airport for my flight to the U.S.

We Are in Tlaxcala Now: Archeology, Volcanoes, Great Food

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.

Go during mid-week, as we did, to enjoy the solitude, the power of the wind, and the stunning views of Mexico’s volcanoes: Popocatepetl, La Malinche, Iztaccíhuatl, and Pico de Orizaba.


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.



Three Days in Puebla — An Easy Round Trip from Oaxaca

Puebla Zocalo at Night by Dave Emerson

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.

Puebla Carnival by Dave Emerson

Puebla Carnival Feathers by Dave Emerson

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.

Puebla Highlights 2012: NY Times travel writer Freda Moon (she wrote the feature about Oaxaca) is in Puebla this week.  She asked me what I loved about Puebla and this was what I told her:

  • 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,laquintadesanantonio@hotmail.com –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.
We are just finishing up our annual Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat in Teotitlan del Valle this week.  I have been immersed in writing free verse poetry and creative non-fiction.  I will wrote more about this and show you photos of great food, people, and yoga in posts to come.









At Home: Puebla Hotel de Atano

We are in the center of Puebla de Los Angeles one block off the zocalo at a small boutique hotel that was the former Italian Embassy. The hotel opened two years ago after extensive renovation. It is classical rococo in design and the rooms have all modern amenities including Italian bath fixtures, marble floors and a glass encased shower. Breakfast is included along with free wifi. I prepaid using hotelsdotcom and got the room for half the rack rate. A definite bargain. Buen provecho.

This message is sent from my iPhone.