Latin American Travels: Mexico City – Puebla – Oaxaca

Mexico City

The air in Mexico City was warm and dry; I had expected rich, clogging humidity. Mexico City has a crazy high altitude (2,250m), so it is a lot cooler than the Cancun shores that bejewel our Insta feeds – similarly to Bogota, Colombia.  

There was an enduring softness to the people there. I had not realised how acclimatised I had become to the quotidian irritability of the British public. Accidental collisions in streets did not induce the usual tuts and eye-rolls. People simply… got on with their day? Taxi drivers animatedly imparted histories and facts of their beloved hometown. Perhaps it was this kindness that rendered me entirely undaunted by the prospect of being away from the UK for so long. I expected an ‘Oh Shit!’ moment, when my aloneness became suddenly tangible and frightening. But travelling independently feels like the most natural way to spend my time (and painstakingly preserved savings) at present. My spirit is calm.  

I texted a friend from Mexico that I had met on Gap Yaah #1 nearly 5 years ago. He invited me to a mansion in Tepotzotlán, just South of Mexico City, for a weekend of indulgence with a big group of very hospitable Bright Young Things. The Mexican spirit embodies a sweet and tantalising generosity laced with a propensity for wicked fun, and it was a fabulous weekend of Mezcal and karaoke.

Chilling in Tepotzotlán paradise

Tepotzotlán is listed as a ‘Magic Town’ in Mexico – a city prescribed as having ‘magical’ natural or historical qualities by the Mexican government. The title acts as a signifier of the town being a worthwhile visit to tourists. I didn’t have time to really see it – was too busy singing ‘9 to 5’ into a fake microphone – but the clifftop views were sublime and the cobbled, steep streets seemed a cosy spot to explore.  

It would be cocky of me to give advice about where to visit in Mexico City, as I didn’t do much there (jetlag and city fatigue meant that I was unadventurous). However, I stayed is Casa Pepe, which had a Happy Hour in which $50 MX (about £2) brought you unlimited beers or margaritas. I shifted hostels to one downtown for a night upon returning from Tepotzotlán; it was further away from all of the recommended districts, but I much preferred this area of the city. It felt less curated for tourism and made for a more invigorating evening gander.  

Unlimited beers!

Puebla and Cholula:  

My next stop was Puebla. I stayed in an empty dorm for a couple of nights, which worked out well because I was so tired that I spent my evenings watching ‘Arrested Development’ on my laptop (with Spanish subtitles to ensure my intellectual flair was untarnished).  

Puebla has gorgeous architecture. I visited the Baroque Museum: exhibited were ancient, authentic artworks detailing the folktales, battles and gruesome colonial invasions, as well as original maps showing the migration routes that ancient peoples were forced to take when they were violently displaced.  

The Baroque exhibition detailed the nationwide transformation induced by colonial forces: it explained how bold architecture and cultural and artistic practices were utilised to exert European power and embed new Western traditions.  

Baroque ceiling mirror

It was too cloudy to view Puebla’s trademark volcanoes, and a visit to nearby Cholula was pretty unsuccessful as lots of the ruins were closed due to Covid.

Food market in Cholula

However, the highlight of my Puebla visit was visiting a tiny vegan taco joint named ‘El Rincon de Tacotlan’. The owner produces all of the soy ‘meat’ himself in the mornings, and there are 6 utterly delicious varieties. To all of the veggies – Latin America can be a cruel mistress for those who relinquish carne, but the ‘Happy Cow’ app is great for finding veggie spots, even those that are out of the way and cater to more local palattes.

STUNNING
Sexy views on long bus journeys

Oaxaca:

Fuck yeah Oaxaca!!!!!

Food. Scenery. Markets. Nature. Views. Salsa (of the edible and dancing variety). Architecture. Fun friends. Food again.

Ceiling in the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman – if it looks like it’s made of gold, it is in fact made of gold.
View from the top of the nearby hill in Oaxaca – I so wish I had brought my proper camera for this because phone angle does not do it justice.

Oaxaca is SO GOOD. By a mile my favourite city to have visited so far. One night a group of lovely locals showed us to a bar with live music where myself and my friend Ella received some well-needed salsa lessons. There are plenty of sightseeing opps, and a couple of days is needed simply to wander the streets of the city centre. Oaxaca is famed for its markets: the (amazing) free walking tour showed us around a majority of them. However, the most impressive in terms of price/size/variety is Mercado de Abastos – it’s the biggest market in Oaxaca, but is a lot less touristy than the others.

Darling Ella and Adam who babysat me during my stay in Oaxaca (found the only two recent Manchester graduates in the vicinity, watch me not spread my wings).

The hostel that I stayed in was called ‘Casa Angel’, and was complete with dank breakfast and roof terrace. Drinks were cheap in the city (less than a pound for a beer) and not even torrential evening rains could dampen (slash drown) my spirits.

I sat on the terrace one morning with my book of Spanish lessons, when the hostel’s resident Tortured Artiste came to chat – alcoholic beverage in hand, all tattoos and tales of being a struggling musician on the road. He had with him a Spanish translation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

‘Fantastic book,’ I said. We agreed on Wilde’s satirical genius. Said Struggling Musician then slid beside me, flipped the book over, and snorted 3 lines off of it.

‘It is 10:40am,’ I said.

He didn’t care. To be fair, I don’t think Oscar Wilde would have either: a self-professed wildcard himself, after all.

Next on my route are San Cristabel, Palenque and Merida so send me recommendations if you have been!

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