TRAVEL | April 9


Oaxaca, Mexico Trip Report Part 1: Oaxaca City

Kaye Rottingham

Welcome to Oaxaca City- land of tacos, tlayudas, tamales and exactly where I want to be! Without even my first whiff of Mezcal, that was already my impression after spending only a few hours in the city.

The streets are remarkable! Colour, texture, depth and character adorns every wall, street, courtyard, nook, cranny and basically every turn I make. I don't think I have been this excited to wander around aimlessly looking at "nothing" since visiting Venice. (No need to stop and rank the two, they are both completely different and worthwhile visits. Besides, lists and rankings aren't really the point of travel, are they?)

I'm just going to say, Oaxaca is one heck of a magical place!

Such a magnificent, beautiful, historic, colonial city. I am glad we got a place with a view to take it all in. At night, while sitting on the rooftop, I got to business and opened up my all I can drink portable bar (aka my backpack.) With mixed drinks in hands, we sat back to enjoy the street noise, dancing in the parks and ghetto blasters playing traditional Mexican music as we watched the sun set over the hills of Mexico.

One of my favourite things about Oaxaca City is that most places I wandered, the scents of chocolate, flowers and tortillas filled the air. Seeing the long lineups of locals outside the tortillerias made me a bit jealous that I didn't have a kitchen of my own in the place that we were staying. Normally, I like to visit the markets and see what I can piece together with the ingredients at hand.

Don't get me wrong, I still got to enjoying the Oaxaca markets, particularly the tacos from Mercado 20 de Noviembre. I wasn't planning on missing them. I would say they were one of the things I was most excited for on the trip- because who needs the beach when you have the world's best tacos! (P.S. they were exactly that!)

Upon entry to the market we were handed a basket with onions and peppers. We then chose which vendor to get our meat from. They cooked it while we sat, then brought it to our table with fresh tortillas. Another vendor came around before we ate to sell us extra condiments, such as salsas and avocados. The market is a busy place, so we had to share a table. When the tacos arrived, we ate them in a flash and then got a bit sad they were all gone. There was no way we could possibly eat any more, but still, maybe just one more... We paid our separate vendor bills (tacos, condiments, drinks) and got up to leave, fully satisfied. It was all a little hectic and confusing compared to ordering food at home, but well worth learning the ropes for.

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to eat tacos all day, every day and at night too, we never managed to make it back again before the market closed  for the evening. I was OK with this, it just opened up an opportunity to consume a ridiculous amount of tlayuda from Libres Tlayudas every night instead.

Oaxaca is a food city, especially known for the street foods, and although normally when trying "world's best" anythings, the end results are normally a bit "meh" compared to the expectations,I feel the food here definitely lived up to the hype.

Funny thing is, when we met other travelers, it was hard to compare food notes. They all kept asking if we've been to this restaurant or that. We would keep saying no to all of it and they would then ask: "Well, what did you do?"

I can't say for sure what the actual restaurants are like since we stuck to the markets and street vendors. We came for authentic and figured that was the best way to do so. Besides, what's with so many recommended restaurants in Oaxaca being Italian pizza or pasta places?

In the morning we'd get coffee and sweet bread to eat. The first day we visited the Mercado de la Merced to get hot chocolate from Fonda Rosita, as is tradition.  Who am I to argue with chocolate for breakfast?

We discovered a man with a juice bicycle directly across from the Zocalo. He provided us with the nutrients of freshly squeezed orange juice every morning.

Around the corner, a man with a cart, kind of hiding behind a wall, sold us an assortment of tamales. He spoke no English, but did his best to explain each of them to us, with a smile. We still weren't 100% sure, so we played it safe and always got one of each.

To finish off the breakfast combo, we'd visit one of the local bakeries to grab a heaping pile of sweet things to balance off the meal. Breakfast of champions! We have figured out this place and we are doing it right! Bonus points for everything being about $5-15 pesos per item. Cheap eats to give us some day tripping energy!

And that's another great thing about Oaxaca, it's so close to so many other cool and great things to see and do. While staying there, before heading to the beach, we made sure to check out Monte Alban, Hierve el Agua, Mitla and took a mezcal tour.  More on those in the next posts...