Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Easter week in Mexico lasts two weeks and it is called Semana Santa. The coastal towns become very busy with city folk from the interior, so we coastal folk head to the interior. This year was our first of such trips and it will not be the last as we want to travel more around Mexico and Semana Santa is the perfect time to do it

Oaxaca City bound.  We travelled with friends John, Amy and Ava for 8 days. We drove two hours to Tepic, spent the night and caught an early flight out on Tar Airlines. Arrived early afternoon and got to our fantastic Airbnb rental, La Callera, an old Limestone factory. There were 7-8 rooms or apartments to rent. Amy and John had one, we had one and the three amigos had their own, which they thought was pretty awesome. They all had kitchens so we could eat a home a bit but not too much as Oaxaca has wonderful food and is known for its Mole sauces. John told the kids that for each new food they tried they would get a trinket. Trace was all in, he certainly does not have the taste buds of an eight year old.

Oaxaca has many excursions in and around the city, anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Many times we just hopped on the bus two blocks away and others we either took a cab or got a fantastic driver named Diego.

One of our many bus experiences

Day 1:
We visited a famous Oaxaca church called Santa Domingo de Guzmán which is near the Zócalo and ate a great lunch full of Oaxacan food along with the first taste test...chapulines!!! That would be crickets to us. These were cooked and kind of shredded so you weren't eating a whole cricket. And guess who loved them? The Trace man!!

Santa Domingo de Guzman

Alex looking out the window

Day 2: Big day!!
We had a lot we wanted to see so we started at the furthest point and worked our way back to the city. Diego drove us two hours away to Hierve el Agua,  beautiful,  natural and very cold springs in the mountains.

One of the pools

We then we went to John's (different John than the one we are traveling with) beautiful and state of the art  Mazcal factory that he is building.  John lives at La Callera and met Amy and some friends in Tequila a while back.  Awesome guy with a life full of travel and experiences and the stories to boot.   Beside John's new factory is a small factory, if you can call it that, that makes Mezcal the traditional way so we were able to see the process.

Cooking the Agave leaves in an open fire pit
Next the cooked leaves are smashed with this stone wheel pulled in circles by Mules
It is then placed in large barrels, etc
Trace eating one of the cooked agaves.
Los tres amigos

Next we went to a rug maker, Bulmaro Perez Mendozo, in the town of Teotitlañ. We learned how the colors are made using local fruit, limestone and limes, how the wool is dyed and even how they hand make the rugs, which can take months. Now I know why the quality rugs are so expensive!

Our final stop was Santa María del Tule, the thickest tree in the world, where an adorable local girl walked us around the tree with a green laser and pointed out characters in the tree such as an elephant, deer, an angry face, JLo's butt and something to do with Monica Lewenski.

Day 3:
We really wanted to see true, local markets. We found them, filled with lots and lots of local food, breads, meat, chocolate, vegetables and textiles. A great way to indulge your senses and test your patience. I love markets like that but for a short time and with only myself or just a few other people. We had 10. But I had a great meal of fried Chile Relleno smothered in mole sauce. So good that I got one more for myself and one for Trace. His plain quesadilla all of a sudden wasn't very good when he tried my food.
Trace digging into a delicious fried Chile Relleno covered in Mole
Can you pick out the gringos?  I felt like we were on display
Fresh Tortas 
Fresh bread everywhere
Freshly fondled meat
Beautiful fresh vegetables
Chapulines aka crickets
Alex is thinking HELL NO while Trace is thinking OH YEAH
Trace once again digging into the goods
Alex, Kaila and Ava waiting for lunch
Ozzy navigating the market? Or running for the exit?

Day 4:
Zona Arqueologica de Monte Alban, local ruins.  They are all over in Mexico.

La Familia

Had to get a selfie

Day 5:
Day to Chill

La Calera, our Airbnb complex also hosts events and while we were there they were hosting the Mexico National Rubix Cube contest for two days. Wow! These people were fast! We were able to hang out and watch. The kids were intrigued. John bought them each a Rubix Cube. Trace was really into it and is very proud of his timing getting one side done.

La Calera was such a cool place to stay, so many neat areas to hang out, and many great photo ops.  Each of the apartments and any other design on the property was recycled and built using only materials that were found on the property, so it was very industrial but in a modern, earthy way.

Alex and Trace at a sitting area
Three of the apartments
Inside the factory

The table in the background was our social area.  Drinking and many games of Catan were played here.  We also got shushed here during the Rubix Cube contest while they were competing blindfolded.
More apartments
A section of the kids apartment

Day 6:
On Easter, the kids along with friends that were also in town enjoyed searching for candy that the Easter Bunny brought for them. La Calera is a fantastic place for hiding candy.

In line ready to hunt

 Easter evening we went on a wild goose chase on local buses to a place far away to watch Licha Libre, i.e. Mexican Wrestling. Completely entertaining and a highlight of the trip. We were the only gringos there and definitely got many looks.

Day 7:
Last day, booo

We had Diego again for the day and hit the last two places on our list. We quickly stopped in to San Bartolo Coyotepec where the famous black pottery is made.

And finally we went to the place that the girls wanted to go all week. Nothing like making them wait huh?  San Martin Tilcajete!  aka the town where Alebrijes, aka wooden painted figures, are made.

This is an Alebrije

These are awesome!   I could not believe how much work and time went into making one.  Like the rugs!  They also make their own paint using vegetables, lime and limestone.  There are about five different processes and at least one or more years that go into making one Alebrije.  And the size can range anywhere from a finger to a life sized bull and costing anywhere to $10 USD to well over $20,000+USD.  Each group of people specialized in a particular part of the process.

The carvers:

Carving the Alebrije

The process begins carving your piece out of wood.  Then comes sanding, soaking in gasoline to prevent termite infestations, drying which could take a year, fixing cracks, sanding again, etc.

The fixers:

These guys were fixing the places where the wood cracked by wedging a piece of wood into the cracks, and more sanding.

And the painters:

The intricate details of the painting was amazing.  The painters start off as apprentices working on small Alebrijes and then they become Master Painters.

Master painters at work

A master painter finishing an Alebrije.

The grounds of this particular workshop were just beautiful!
There was even an area where you could buy Mescal and it just so happened to be Ozzy's birthday so shots were on the house.
Alex ran into Tanya, her art teacher from school 
The kids each were able to paint their own Alebrije which is why they wanted to go so badly.
And while they were painting we were able to relax in the beautiful gardens.
And shop.  I bought this guy.  I had to have him!
Trace being Trace!
The kids showing their personalized Alebrijes at lunch
Trace chowing down again

And then we came home.

This was such a sensually and emotionally filling trip.  The senses where so alive the entire time with beauty, vibrant colors, and the sights, the taste buds were exploding, as well as the nose with the aromas of the food everywhere.  And then there were the usual sounds of Mexico which I love but the best was the sounds of my children laughing, playing and being so happy.
The emotion came from watching the kids so comfortable in their surroundings, taking care of themselves and their own apartment, eager to see, do, try and learn, navigate, grow.  And of course just being with them and getting hugs and kisses whenever I wanted.  I love seeing the people they are becoming and it really shows when we are traveling.