Tag Archives: lodging

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

Morocco Journal 4: From the Medina to the Palace

From North Africa, the land of coucous, tagine, lamb, prunes, dates, figs and apricots:  We moved from the cozy, neighborhood riad on a busy street in the Marrakech medina near the crush of the souq and Jemaa el-Fnaa square to an oasis about 15 minutes beyond the city center.

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The Mosaic Palais Aziza & Spa driver fetched and spirited us away in a new Rolls Royce to a neighborhood of gated palaces, mature date palms, lush gardens, climbing pink bougainvillea and aromatic jasmine.  We entered a refuge, a rose-colored enclave of repose and serenity.  Luxury and 5-star boutique hotel only begins to describe where I landed, thanks to Judith Reitman-Texier and skin care and lifestyle company La Bedouine.

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Marrakech is a desert sanctuary. Known as the Red City for her mandated salmon pink buildings, travelers come to experience her legendary romantic appeal, great craftsmanship, outstanding food, and focus on personal health.

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Spa life is an integral part of desert culture where both men and women of all economic levels take a weekly cleansing hammam.  Small guesthouses, luxury boutique hotels, and grand international hotels all offer spa treatment services. Here beauty is more than skin deep.  It is a meditation whose source comes from deep within for spiritual and emotional cleansing and purification.

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Mosaic Palais Aziz & Spa is a perfect spot for the frenzied.  There’s not much to do here except lounge on pristine white divans on a patio outside the room or at the pool and swim.  Take your time.  North Africa is slower paced, just like Mexico. Enjoy a spa treatment, take a turn in the fully equipped gym, and sleep at any hour of the day.  Reading a book seems to be the preferred entertainment for guests stretched out around the two pools.

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You can dine at two extraordinary restaurants where Daniele Tourco, director of food and beverage and chef de cuisine, ensures that guests have the best fresh-made Moroccan and Italian specialties.

Have you ever had scorpion fish?  Karim el Ghazzawi, President and CEO, recommended I try this last night.  Otherwise, I would never have ventured there with a name like that.  I know scorpions. I find them in my Oaxaca casita and I would never eat one!  I step on them.  But, the name belies the delicacy and Morocco is famed for her fresh fish and oysters.

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There is even delicious Halana brand merlot available at the hotel that is made in Morocco to sip at your leisure.

Arabian Nights architecture and decor, lemon, olive, date and pomegranate trees heavy with fruit surround me.  I’ve just emerged from a four-hands massage (imagine that).  I feel so fortunate to be here at this moment, far away from stress and the decisions at hand.

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I did venture out on my own on Day Two, stopping periodically to consult a map, with no difficulty.  Though Morocco is an Arabic and French-speaking country, I found myself able to get along in both Spanish and English, using Spanish as my primary language.  In tourist areas and hotels, most people speak enough English for basic communication.  

Now, for another glass of mint tea before dinner!  I’m six hours ahead of you.

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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.

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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.









Yaxchilan: Remote Mayan Site in Chiapas Jungle–Get There By Boat!


Yaxchilan (Yash-chee-lahn) is situated on the high banks of the Usumacinta River that borders Mexico and Guatemala, three hours southeast of Palenque.  The secluded ruins are in a dense jungle only accessible by river boat, a good 30-minute ride from the launch site.  The boat ride is a wonderful transition from now to then.  In years past, Lacandon Mayas made this passage in open dugout canoes.  Today, the wood-planked boats are covered in palm thatch.


Alligator or crocodile?


Yaxchilan rivaled Palenque (Mexico) and Tikal (Guatemala) as these three “super-powers” vied for control over the surrounding lesser Mayan centers that provided food, tribute and able fighters.

This magnificent archeological site is worthy of several hours of your time.  It is a space that is dark jungle, moss-covered, limestone rocks tumbled and crumbling, and with only the beginnings of a restoration in process.


As you walk into the space you feel as if you were an archeologist discovering it for the first time. It speaks of antiquity.  The howler monkeys calling back and forth across the river are haunting, adding a sense of mystery to the place. I pass through a compact Mayan arch into a vast plaza.


Situated high on a river bank, the site offers a strategic location on the wide and magnificent Usumacinta River, testifying to the power and influence of this once-great city.   Huge bromeliads hang from hundred foot high trees with mahogany colored trunks.  I walk beneath a tall canopy of leaves, vines, roots and flowering succulents, careful not to trip on toppled stones.



Yaxchilan is probably like Palenque was 30 years ago.  The only nearby lodging is at the boat launch site, where there are also a couple of good restaurants.  If you contact Daniel Chank In, the Selva Lacandon guide, he can help you make lodging and boat travel arrangements instead of taking the cookie-cutter day trip.

My journal scrawlings about the Palenque to Yaxchilan passage:

The languages of travel are Czech, German, three varieties of English (Brit, American, Aussie), Spanish, French, Dutch. These are my traveling companions. In Palenque they speak Chol. We stopped for breakfast at a simple comedor with tree trunks for stools and a dirt floor and GREAT coffee, dark and rich, locally grown and organic.  I have not been sick since I arrived in Mexico a month ago.

We are western women taught to cover our breasts, be modest. From the window of the van I see a woman at the water source, one large breast exposed, suspended, full of milk walking toward a toddler waiting for nourishment.  Plank wood and palm thatch cover the humans at night.  Shelter is simple for man, woman, cows, chickens.  Chiapas, siempre verde is the state motto.  It is always damp here.  We are on flat land now, clear-cut for growing corn and lumbering, heading toward the frontier.  Maize scrabble, hard-scrabble, bare feet, dirt, bare chests, men at work with machetes.  We pass a sign: This is Zapatista country.  Land of campesinos.

Grazing land, cattle, horses.  Ceiba trees, overcast skies, animals are thin I see their bones.  We pass through pueblos of resistance, a village sign announces this, the sign is rough wood with white paint. The land is flat, vast, green scrub.  This is the road to the Guatemala border.  We pass military sentries, checkpoints, men heavily armed, some masked.  Put your cameras down and cell phones away, says the driver, as we approach one. They wave us through.  On the way back, away from the border, we are stopped and I show my passport.  Of course they are checking for drugs and I know that the pipeline works its way across the river through the jungle to the vast cities and towns of America where demand keeps this business in business.  Did I feel in danger?  No.



Palenque. Mayan Temples in the Chiapas Rainforest

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.