Oaxaca and Mezcal

 

IMAG2351last March I went to Oaxaca City for a wedding, no big deal, it was my second time in that beautiful city, but this weekend I committed myself to get to know a little bit more of this amazing place in the southwest-centre-ish part of Mexico.

First things first, I took a bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca on a Friday. A bus trip surprisingly enjoyable, I must say.

I traveled with ADO as my bus carrier at the 23 hrs service to Oaxaca City, leaving from the Central del Norte (the Northern Bus Terminal in Mexico City), costing around USD25 to 45. The terminal was super crowded as it was prior a long weekend, but nothing to worry about.

We arrived to Oaxaca around 7 am, and from the bus terminal in Oaxaca it takes you no more than a 25 minute walk to get to pretty much anywhere in the city. And believe me, anywhere in the city, so if you are only carrying a backpack, well, before getting to your hotel  go and explore a little.

 

For instance, from the bus terminal to Oaxaca City’s main square (commonly known as Zocalo), it’s about a 20 minute walk, but a taxi could take you there in 5 minutes for USD$3.

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At the wedding there were plenty of friends from my hometown, Tampico, it was very interesting to see all these lads in this part of the country. The wedding’s reception was on that very day, at Tule, Oaxaca, a wee town located 9kms East of the city. Santa Maria del Tule is famous for a tree that lives there, according to a lot of studies, this tree could be up to 3,000 years old, 14 metres in diameter, and often referred to as the “Tree of Life”. IMAG2303Then, we finally got the Hacienda for the celebration, found my table and decided to enjoy a magnificent feast. As entré we had pork crackling, longaniza and Oaxaca cheese, while each table had at least two bottles of mezcal, which was “silky-smooth”, simply beautiful.

As a main we had mole negro (black mole), a typical local dish, which by the way, is the  Pièce de résistance in Mexican cuisine, and the most representative of Oaxaca’s gastronomy.

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On Sunday I woke up craving some market food after a wedding with plenty of mezcal, well, Oaxaca had just the right place for me: the Juarez and 20 de noviembre markets.

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There I had a quesadilla with pumpkin flower and a tlayuda with chorizo. Both markets were loud and alive, like any other market in Mexico, however, the ambiance was different as the aromas were unique and, regardless of the new look the food stands had,the cooking technique used there was refined as a result of years of experience.

Oaxaca City seems to be the right place where to go for a weekend off, a peaceful town where to forget, at least for a couple days, the loud and over polluted Mexico City. I highly recommend it, it has awesome food, great weather, but most of all, it gives the tourist a broader insight of Mexican identity and ethnicity.

Cheers…

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Up, Down, Centre and Mezcal!

Don’t panic and drink Mezcal. I recently read that in a friend’s facebook status. This brought me here, to write about Mezcal and what it means to me. We all know that tequila is Mexico’s national drink. We all love/hate tequila, but regardless how we feel towards it, we always end up drinking it somehow, somewhere during a night out. We shall not forget that Mezcal is all around, waiting for us to give it a try.

Photograph by Naren Young and Susanna Blavarg at La Casa del Mezcal

But Mezcal is something else, even though tequila is more popular (Tequila is a mezcal made specifically from the blue agave in a few regions of the country), Mezcal is increasing its demand among locals nowadays. Mezcal is a nahuatl world which means ‘oven cooked agave’, and its flavour depends on where the heart of the maguey is from (called piña or pineapple), the spices added, the aging process, etc. It turns out as a wonderful spirituous drink, but be careful, mezcal is stronger than tequila.

If you want to try great mezcal for the first time, combined with a wonderful place, visit Oaxaca City, located in the Soutwestern state of Oaxaca in Mexico. I drank it there for the first time during the Guelaguetza Festival in 2009, and I was delighted. Mezcal isn’t just a drink, it is an excuse to get together with friends, to abandon stress and celebrate life.

Ps. You can also find Mezcal at many supermarkets in Mexico and the US (mostly Walmart).

Ps2. Try it with wedges of a bitter variety of an orange (called “naranjita”).

Ps3. I know what you are thinking: What about the worm? The worm is optional, more like a decorative addition for tourists.