Hola amigas and amigos. I’ve recently returned from one of my bucket list holiday destinations… Mexico! I’d been meaning to visit for a while for a number of reasons – artisan craft markets, flavourful food, ancient pyramids, beautiful beaches, Frida Kahlo… and so much more. Although this holiday was very much a “holiday holiday” to recover from the pre-Christmas chaos, I never miss the chance to snap some photos for design inspiration. I’m no travel blogger, but I hope the photos below give you a flavour of our colourful, vibrant trip. Keep your eyes peeled for my next Mexico-inspired rag rug piece.
p.s. my partner in crime for this trip was my travel agent and boyfriend, Christian, who pretty much organised every element of the whole trip (yes, aren’t I a lucky lass!) And, when I got tired writing this post last night, he took over, so a) any spelling mistakes are obviously his 🙂 b) I should really give him a co-author credit. So…
This blog post was co-written by Christian Rag Rug Cronauer. And onto the actual the content…
Our adventure began in Mexico City (or CDMX as the locals write it) and, I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t have high expectations. I was totally expecting Mexico City to be big, dirty and loud, but could not have been more pleasantly surprised. We were staying in the quiet and leafy “Roma” neighbourhood, which was an absolute dream to wander around.
Here’s what we got up to:
Our Mexico City Airbnb:
Every day, we made our way into our Airbnb through a cute, colonial courtyard. After that’s when things got a bit crazy. We then had to enter the actual flat itself by clambering up a rickety metal spiral staircase that led to an electronic glass trapdoor entrance – a bit like something out of a James Bond villain lair. Fortunately, I’m a sucker for novelty, so it only added to the charm of the place. Christian found it pretty vertigo-inducing though. Personally, I now think that every living room should have a hammock. I wonder what our Fagin-like London landlord would say if we installed one 🙂 Below are a few photos.
Staying in Roma left us with such a great impression of Mexico City. It honestly had me and Christian saying that we could live there! Particular highlights of the area were a cute little community garden near our flat, which happened to have a Mezcal tasting on while we were there, food at various street stalls with all kinds of weird and wonderful tacos and a particular favourite – Paramo: wonderfully decorated, great music and amazing modern Mexican tapas.
An ancient Mesoamerican city about an hour outside of Mexico City. We thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the indigenous cultures of Mexico, plus the walk around the huge complex and up the pyramids burnt off at least a couple of the many tacos we’d been stuffing our faces with.
The National Museum of Anthropology:
We were so pleased that we popped into the main museum for a bit of history background before heading off to the ancient sites. We still don’t really know our Zapotecos from our Mixtecos, but at least trying to understand counts for a lot. Plus, the water feature in the courtyard of the museum is stunning. I lounged in the courtyard like a sunbathing lizard for quite a while until Christian moved me on. Just don’t eat in the restaurants in Chapultepec Park. They had by far the worst food we had our whole time in Mexico! Although fortunately we didn’t get a visit from Mr. Montezuma!
Christian and I both absolutely adore our food. We live to eat, rather than eat to live. So, we jumped at the chance to visit one of the world’s top restaurants “Pujol” while we were on our trip to Mexico. Stand out dishes for us were the famous ‘Mother Mole’ sauce (which has been cooking continuously for over 4 years – though with occasional top ups, as I am not sure their pots are quite big enough) and a tostada with the most flavourful seafood imaginable.
We spent a few hours wandering around the colourful streets of Frida Kahlo’s creative and colourful neighbourhood, which was so pleasantly green and tranquil. Coyoacan is full of quaint colourful houses and cute little cafes. Going on a day when the Frida Kahlo house is actually closed meant we were pretty much the only tourists in the neighbourhood and we still have the claim to fame to have eaten in the same local market where Frida did her shopping (so they say).
A standout memory from the trip was trying a very “unique” drink called Pulque. A lightly alcoholic drink made of the fermented sap of the Agave plant, it is one of the most uniquely Mexican foodstuffs imaginable. While Christian was enthralled by how it was considered sacred by the Aztecs and is so fresh that you can’t even transport it beyond the Central Mexican highland, all I could think about it that it looked and tasted highly unpleasant – like snotty yoghurt. Modern bars mix it with fruit pulp and seasonings which makes it only moderately more palatable. And to add insult to injury – a normal serving is 1 litre, which I am not sure I could drink anything of.
After Mexico City, we moved onto Puebla. To be honest, I hadn’t really heard much about the town before our trip, but Christian had done his research and I trust him so, off to Puebla we went. It was only a couple of hours drive in a coach from Mexico City and boy was it worth the journey. Puebla is both grand and quaint in equal measure.
What we got up to:
I’m a firm believer that the best way to explore a city is generally to wander around on foot and see what you come across. Well, our wandering through Puebla took us to the tunnel network under the town, some forts on the hill and some seriously good views of the city and Popocatépetl – the rather ominous volcano that towers over Puebla. Along the way, we encountered colourful buildings, expressive street art and bubbles of tranquility.
Puebla is known throughout Mexico for its iconic Talavera Pottery. As a pottery addict, it’s unsurprising that Christian and I went to a few places to check it out. Our favourite was – perhaps unsurprisingly – the ‘Museo de la Talavera’. There, we had a tour of the family’s Talavera collection, as well as an explanation of how it was all made. The tour was entirely in Spanish (we were the only two on the tour), but we still had a great time seeing how things were made and communicating with sign language.
I realised pretty early on that Mexico has exceptionally good museums. All the ones we visited on our trip had beautifully designed buildings, well curated pieces and some interactivity to keep things fresh. The Amparo Museum in Puebla was well worth a visit, if only for the view from the rooftop alone. A real highlight was a timeline of the various pre-hispanic cultures and their primary locations and monuments compared to similar times across the world – this really helped put all the incredible art into historical perspective.
We decided to go on a day trip to Cholula to visit the largest pyramid in the world. The full pyramid hasn’t been excavated, so looks like a giant hill, but what’s perhaps more impressive is the stunning colonial church the Spanish built slap bang on the top of it. Tip: Don’t wear a floaty skirt up there like I did. It was pretty windy and I was constantly doing a Marilyn Monroe.
Another great museum we visited in Puebla was the brand new Baroque Museum. Whilst the outside is surprisingly modern, the museum does an incredible job explaining what made the Baroque period so important and influential. It also highlighted some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Puebla, so we could structure our wandering a bit better – certainly necessary in a town that supposedly has one church for every day of the year (and most of them very Baroque!)
While in Cholula with a few hours to kill, we very randomly came across a very cute and quiet community garden. Wandering around it provided an impromptu vocabulary lesson, as we tried to work out many of the plants by the look and Spanish name – not quite as difficult as expected, as they do tend to share roots (pun intended).
What we got up to:
Hotel Con Corazon:
As cliché as it may sound, we try to be mindful of our impact and footprint when we travel as possible – from carbon offsetting flights to carrying refillable water bottles and water purifiers to avoid plastic. When we came across a hotel that looked not only wonderfully designed and well located, but was also certified to donate 50% of all profits to a local educational NGO, we knew we had found our match for the trip. The amazing breakfast every morning was the (corn-centric) cherry on top.
Museo Textil de Oaxaca:
The state of Oaxaca is famous for its traditional textiles and weaving – what a coincidence! Naturally, the museum was our first point of call. It showcases and explains the diversity of it all. There are over 170 languages spoken in Oaxaca, so imagine how many different traditional weaves and patterns they have! Beyond the traditional, there was also an exhibition showcasing photographs recreated as woven art pieces with some truly awe-inspiring examples. Plus, there was an area to try very basic weaving. I love a good interactive part.
Artisan Markets: of Mexico
Like any Mexican city, Oaxaca is full of markets. Given the tradition of arts and crafts in the region, however, I managed to spend even more time in them than in Puebla and Mexico City (which I didn’t think possible at first). Deftly navigating using my expert (30 words of) Spanish, we found ourselves surrounded by a dizzying array of fabrics, pottery and foods. Truly, baggage allowance is a cruel mistress, limiting my purchases to only what was ‘absolutely necessary’.
We tried all kinds of weird and wonderful foods while we were out in Mexico – everything from grasshoppers and raw seafood to street-side offal tacos and fruit with spicy chilli sauce. However, one speciality of Oaxaca is Tlayudas, which we tried at the local food market. They’re a bit like thin, crispy corn pizzas, but are loaded with Oaxacan cheese and enough meat to make a vegan faint. Tasty though!
One of the most creatively inspiring parts of our trip to Mexico was simply walking around and immersing ourselves in the colours of Mexico. We came across so much beautiful street art, colourful buildings and crafts, particularly in Oaxaca.
I’m a sucker for a good ancient site, which is why we were never going to miss out Monte Alban. It’s a pre-Columbian archaeological site only a twenty minute drive from the centre of Oaxaca. Arriving earlier in the morning gave us the opportunity to climb the pyramids and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains without too many tour groups around us. Being up on a mountain, we could even watch majestic Falcons hunting in the forest below us.
When Christian very enthusiastically suggested we go to a Mexican wrestling match advertised on a questionably photoshopped flyer stuck on a wall, I was slightly unsure, but happy to give it a try. What a great idea that was! We cleverly sat a few rows back (by the end, the first three rows had all been wiped out by fights extending beyond the quadrant), dug into our selection of fried corn snacks and cold beer and joined in the raucousness that kicked off. All fights have heroes and villains with lots of audience involvement and while they are choreographed, there is certainly nothing fake about the acrobatics we saw and I will now forever be a lifelong fan of my new favourite wrestler: Big Mami.
Christian and I think we’ve honed our holiday formula to perfection. Start in a big place and work your way to the smallest at the end of the trip for a proper bit of R&R. In other words, we like to end our holiday with pure laziness. Well, San Agustinillo was that for us… pure beach relaxation. We spent most of the time chilling on the beach, but if anyone does find themselves in that tiny little village by the beach then this is what we’d recommend:
- Eat the Guajillo prawns at El Navegante – they’re to die for. I genuinely had dreams about those tasty prawns.
- Buy some food from the hawkers on the beach. We weren’t really sure what they were selling half the time (possibly for the best), but it was always tasty.
- Sink your feet into the sand whilst partaking in a late night Mezcalita at Rice Bowl.
Thanks for reading folks. Let me know below if you’ve been to Mexico and have some recommendations. I’m sure we’ll be back. Thanks also to guest author Christian. I wonder whether the Ragged Life readers can tell which bits he wrote?
Happy rag rugging as always,
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Was the ‘pre-Colombian’ bit his?? What’s the difference between a community gsrden and a normal park, one full of cacti looked quite manicured??
Yes, it was Christian who wrote “pre-Colombian” 🙂 A community garden is maintained by volunteers I think?