Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Our next three destinations, Puebla, Veracruz, and Oaxaca are known as Mexico's gastronomic cities. Puebla for it's Chiles en Nogada (stuffed poblano chili peppers bathed in walnut sauce) and Mole Poblano (Chicken in Chocolate sauce), Veracruz for it's fish, and Oaxaca for it's 7 different types Mole, Tamales and Drinking Chocolate. mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm. Well, it's too bad that Marc has the runs, and will have to avoid Chiles, Chocolate, and dairy products for the time being.

There are dozens of colonial cities dotted throughout Mexico, but there's normally something which makes each one stand out. In Puebla it's the Zocalo, a large and beautiful square, surrounded by porticos, restaurants and bars, which makes for a great place to chill out and enjoy a beer in the evenings. Marc, having not cleaned his shoes for the past 11 months, was delighted to find people wandering the tables in the evening and offering a shoe polishing service.

It seems that when one orders food in Mexico, whether you like it or not, it gets served with Nachos, Chile Sauce, Lime or Stringy Cheese. We don't normally complain as it's either served separately, or you can easily take it out. However, at a market food stall, here in Puebla, we ordered a ham salad roll. When the waiter brought it to our table, we couldn't see the ham or salad because of the 10 centimetres of stringy cheese that was stuffed inside. We literally spent about 5 minutes taking the cheese out of the roll, and when it was pilled up on the plate, thought that it was so amusing, that we just had to take a photo (see photo album).

Veracruz, the place where modern Mexico began. The Spanish first landed in Mexico at the island of San Juan de Ulua, just off the coast from the city of Veracruz. To visit this island, was one of the main reasons we came here, with the other one being, our desire to try Pescado a la Veracruzana, a local fish dish with a tasty rich sauce made of tomato, onion, garlic, peppers and olives.

At Oaxaca, our last destination in Mexico apart from the border town of Tapachula, we walk straight into a teachers strike. It's a dispute that's been going on for a couple of months, and which has led to the teachers occupying most of the centre of Oaxaca. To be quite honest, they've made a bloody mess of it. There are smashed windows everywhere, political graffiti is also omnipresent, most of the streets are blocked to traffic(though not pedestrians) by tents, ropes and other barricades that the teachers have set up. They say that the strike is about pay, resources for schools, and a row with the police about heavy handed tactics. They may have a point, we don't know, but we think that smashing windows, and covering buildings with graffiti, is NOT the way to get public sympathy. In fact, public sympathy seemed to be waning when we were there, and groups of parents, annoyed that their children are missing school, and local business owners, who are also suffering, decided to organise their own march, called The March for Peace and Educacion.
The right of this other group to also demonstrate, wouldn't have been a problem back in Europe. However, here, the teachers wouldn't allow it, and blocked off access to the demonstration using buses, cars, and a line of teachers armed with baseball bats. We don't want to comment on the rights or wrongs of the teachers demonstration, but to us, it seemed to be a major case of double standards, that they thought it was Ok for them to demonstrate, but then prevented the parents and business owners from having the same right.

The trouble kind of put a dampener on our visit of Oaxaca, which we imagine would be a pleasant historical city otherwise.

On our last night in Oaxaca, we met up with a girl called Sacha, who we know from a tour in Australia. Sacha, is doing a trip through central America, with a backpacker tour company. When we arrived at the bar, we were amazed to find that her tour leader was a guy called Lee, who was also our tour leader on a trip we did around the Maya route some 3 years back. What a freaky coincidence. Lee seemed just as surprised as we did!

That's almost it for Mexico, except for an overnight stop in the border town of Tapachula, before we walk across the border and into Guatemala.

To sum up, we spent 6 weeks in Mexico, longer than we planned, but we were caught out not only by the vast distances between cities, but also by having to backtrack several times on our way down from the US border. The main places of interest in Mexico are quite spread out.

We've enjoyed the food, the many different kinds of refreshing beer and tequila based drinks, the colonial cities, the vast desert scenery in the north, and the buzz of the capital. The coaches are modern and comfortable and the roads are good. Mexico is also so big that it mostly feels untouristy, the exceptions being the cities of Puebla and Oaxaca.

Our favorite town is Real de Catorce, for it's unusual ghost town feel, and our favorite resort is Puerto Vallarta.

Things that we won't miss are Mexican Customer Service, the long bus journeys, and flour tortillas!

Adios Mexico y hasta la vista!
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