By March, I was coming to the end of my construction commitment on the Oaxacan Coast and I realized I still had three months remaining on my Mexican tourist visa with no other jobs lined up in my future. What should a girl do? Travel of course!

First stop, Oaxaca City! Known to some as the heartbeat of Mexico, I headed north to this renowned city in the mountains to cool off and experience an entirely different culture than what I had seen at the coast. It was also a big bonus that my friend Scott from Portland happened to be visiting Oaxaca, so I could pal around and stay with him, too.
In my first days here, we walked around this tidy colonial city, and started sampling the unique flavors known to this region. But Oaxaca was slow to reveal itself to me and for the first few days, I admit, I was too tired to really look more deeply into all it had to offer. Luckily, I planned to stay for two weeks, and slowly,  after walking the same street the second and third time, I started to notice the nooks and crannies of this city: the hidden courtyards, the flowering gardens, the out-of-the-way chapels and the vibrant colors in the paint, the cars, and the clothing. I began to absorb the music wafting from street-side windows, the gas truck “moos”, and the shouts from the bicycle vendors selling their wares. And the flavors! I’ve traveled a lot in my life, and not many places can compare to the layer upon layer of flavors with the infinite variety of ingredients collaborating together to bring generations of hard work and love to each bite. To take the time to appreciate the melding of all the cuisine and the culture revealed through the architecture, the parks, the churches, the food and the people is to truly appreciate this beautiful heart of Mexico. Today’s blog post is simply my attempt to share in pictures my appreciation of Oaxaca with you. Over the past two weeks we took some tours, visited archeological ruins and villages of artists making beautiful creations in wood, pottery and textiles. But really, walking and savoring it all has been my favorite part of Oaxaca. 

Each night, Parque Llano was filled with dance troops, in-line skaters, and BMX trixters 
all enjoying the easy life of a warm evening in Oaxaca.
Trees all over Oaxaca have won their battle with the sidewalk.

Roof-top terraces were great for sipping cocktails and watching the clouds brew, 
while Mariachi bands played in the streets below. 
One of the greatest pleasures in walking a city is to stumble upon a gem of a neighborhood 
that you didn’t know existed.  The murals, cobblestone streets and cafes of Jalatlaco 
“Ha-lat-la-co”, enraptured us immediately! 
One evening, after walking past this mural on two previous days, we learned that a family sets up their taco and tlayuda restaurant in the street each night.  This was the best tlayuda – a giant meat filled quesadilla and Oaxacan specialty- we found in the city! 

Looking familiar? Yes! El Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a famous tradition here in Oaxaca City and these murals represent this important part of their culture.

And the Bugs! Mexico is famous for keeping their old cars running, and they have a love affair with Volkswagon Beetles or “Vochos” as they call them. Oaxaca is a super-fun city to play “Slug-bug” because you can spot them on almost every block. 

But truth be told, what Oaxaca does best is the food. It’s so good. Their first secret, is all the fresh ingredients from the mercados. I love the cultural lessons I get from walking a jam-packed mercado!

The meats…

The crunchy tostadas, the soft, fresh tortillas, corn (of course!), and the pan de yema or egg breads.

And the chiles! Too many varieties to count!  
A variety of chiles and about thirty other various ingredients blend together to make Mexico’s famous moles… negro, rojo, amarillo, verde… pure culinary genius!
Chapulínes, or locusts, add a deep, earthy flavor to everything too! 
The many little eateries at the markets are happy to share their specialties of the day!

Memelas, Garnaches, Tacos, Tostadas, Gringas, Tlayudas… it’s all basically a deliciously soft, hard, grilled or fried corn tortilla wrapping a concoction of flavors you won’t soon forget. Add to that a plate of mole over any number of yummy meats, tamales wrapped in banana leaves and a rich pazole, or hominy soup, of verde or rojo sauce, and I will be happy for life! 
Ice Cream or Nieves (think fruit-ice) are also Oaxacan staples consumed 
throughout the day. In fact, Oaxaca has an entire “nieves park” with multitudes of 
restaurants and so many wonderful new flavors. 
Scott and I took a field trip to this park more than once!

Of course, chocolate is a frothy and creamy favorite, served hot or 

chilled on ice throughout the day. 

And in Oaxaca, a “kiss” of Mezcal is a necessary way to start, continue or wrap up any day. This alcoholic drink is made from the agave plant and there’s so many varieties to choose from! Stay tuned for my next blog post to learn more about this historic drink of Oaxaca! 
A final culinary story. One night Scott and I headed out into the streets looking for a little tasty hole-in-the-wall. We found Teocintle. There was a table available in its quaint little courtyard so we sat down. The waiter greeted us with fruit and herb infused water and asked us if we had any allergies to worry about. That’s odd. No menu. A first course came out. The waiter explained each ingredient carefully, but since I didn’t know the Spanish words for all of the different foods, I was at a loss to translate any of it. All I know is that it tasted amazing. A second course arrived, better than the first. Realizing we had just walked into a chef-inspired set-course meal, we sat back to enjoy and hoped we had enough money in our pockets to cover what was going to be a delightful culinary experience. We learned later that this restaurant is owned by brothers who came down from the mountains to share their mother’s recipes. Five courses of the most amazing flavors, with pallete-cleansing herbal waters in between each course, plus two desserts and a shot of mezcal. I have no idea what I ate that night, I’m sure a lot of it included things I would never knowingly order, but it was truly memorable. And in the end, Scott had to run back to our Airbnb for more money. 
I’ve never before allowed myself the luxury of staying in one place for so long 
during my travels. I’m so glad I was able to truly immerse myself here 
and discover all Oaxaca has to offer. 
My stay was delicious!