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Finding Our Groove in the City of Oaxaca
Over the years, Ben and I had both heard that Oaxaca was a beautiful place, with lots of art and friendly people. We decided to spend six nights in the city so that we could have sufficient time to explore the area.
Our plane arrived after dark; we easily navigated the airport, found the taxi payment booth, and bought an inexpensive ticket into the city of Oaxaca. This taxi system eliminates the need to haggle over taxi prices after a long flight. After a short ride to the central historical district, we arrived at our bed and breakfast inn, Casa Ollin—it was clean, comfortable, and very affordable. We tipped both the taxi driver and the hotel assistant, but we hadn’t quite solidified the exchange rate in our heads (we had recently traveled to India, where there are many more rupees to the dollar than pesos to the dollar); let’s just say that both the driver and the hotel assistant received ten times more money than we had intended to give them, and both Ben and I received a good laugh (after the initial shock). (Ahhh, those hard lessons . . . .)
Here is the breakfast room at Casa Ollin; Sofia and Clara, in the background, provided us with a wonderful breakfast each morning.
The sitting area next to the breakfast room had a small library of books on the artwork, history and sights in Oaxaca. Sebastian and Genevieve liked to read the art books while Ben and I lingered over our coffee.
On our first morning, we headed out toward the center of the historic district. Our inn was in a quiet residential neighborhood, and we could walk to many places. Here are Ben and the kids at the front door.
Genevieve and Sebastian head down the street.
The city streets were very clean; however, Genevieve commented right away on the graffiti that seemed to be everywhere, much of it colorful.
Near our inn is a pedestrian street that runs all the way to the zócalo; the children had a nice safe area in which to run.
We visited the Santo Domingo de Gúzman church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the entire central historical district of Oaxaca, which has many colonial buildings).
The children enjoyed playing hide-and-seek in the plants outside of the church.
The artwork in the city was wonderful, and tucked away here and there to surprise us.
The colors of the buildings were beautiful.
We came across these two men working hard to remove posted billboards from this building (it looks like they have had a lot of experience).
Nearby was the recently restored Casa de la Ciudad, which had a huge aerial photograph of Oaxaca displayed so visitors could walk on it. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian in the Casa.
We had read about the aerial photograph in a guidebook; despite the Semana Santa crowds in Oaxaca, we were the only ones at the Casa, and we had to ask one of the guards to direct us to the photograph (it was upstairs). The photograph was huge, like a large map, and the children enjoyed finding our location on it.
We finally arrived at the main zócalo area.
The children did not find a playground, but Sebastian did a bit of climbing around the base of the General Antonio de Leon statue.
We then wandered over to the Museo del Palacio, which had an interesting exhibit on the history of slavery in Latin America. Here are Ben and the children in front of the museum.
The museum also had a pair of murals by Arturo Garcia Bustos, a disciple of Frida Kahlo, depicting the history of Oaxaca.
We had lunch at one of the many outdoor restaurants along the zócalo; the food was surprisingly delicious. We were approached by many vendors during our meal—selling wooden objects, food items, artwork, pottery, clothing, scarves, and more; we continually said "no thank you" until Fernando, the woven bracelet vendor, stopped by our table. He had created name bracelets, and we were surprised to find one with the name "Sebastian" on it (something that rarely happens in the United States)—apparently, the name Sebastian is fairly common in Mexico because there is a Saint Sebastian in the Catholic church.
Here is Sebastian with his new bracelet:
Fernando did not have a bracelet with Genevieve’s name; however, he quickly created one for her—we were amazed at the process, and we learned that Fernando has been doing this for 20 years (and that he lives outside of Oaxaca with his wife and 3 children, ages 4 years, 2 years and 4 months). (Ben and I speak enough Spanish to have basic conversations with people, and I am grateful for Fernando and the many people who spoke very slowly to me and had patience with my stumbling communications).
There were many balloon sellers at the zócalo.
After lunch, we walked over to the chocolate factories on Mina Street; we stopped by the Mayordomo shop, where we received a free spoonful of a thick fudge-like chocolate. We discovered that the chocolate in Mexico usually has a bit of cinnamon in it. We bought several small packages of chocolate candies and happily munched away while watching the workers grind chocolate with cinnamon and other things for candy and mole sauce.
On the long walk back to the hotel, we enjoyed looking at the colors and fabrication of the old buildings—just beautiful.
Back at the hotel, the children went for a swim in the pool—the water was a bit too cold for me, but the kids had a great time splashing around.
We had heard from other guests at the inn that the "tourist trolley" provided a nice 50-minute ride around Oaxaca, outside of the historic district, up into the hills to the old aqueduct and back. We were told that the trolley picks up at a certain corner, so off we went. We found the corner, but there were no signs. We asked a traffic officer, and he said we were in the right place, but he didn’t have any information about how often the trolley comes. Here we are at the beginning of our wait.
We people-watched; is there any better form of entertainment?
After half an hour, we asked the guys next to us if they were waiting for the trolley too. They said that they worked for the trolley, and it would be coming soon. So we waited some more.
It finally came, and we piled on.
The tour took us through the pretty streets around Oaxaca.
The spoken tour consisted of a recording that we could understand bits and pieces of every now and then. I wish that I could have understood more. We stopped briefly at this fountain; around the perimeter were statues of women from the different regions of Oaxaca.
We also stopped briefly to see the old aqueduct, which was built in the 17th century.
A view of the trolley:
We ate at a bustling Argentinean restaurant tonight. The kids are really great about trying new foods and experiencing different tastes. The food was quite good, although Genevieve still talks about the "many, many, many" bones that she and I picked out of our bowls of fish soup. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian toasting to our first day in Oaxaca:
Our walk back to the hotel passed by the Santo Domingo church, which turned out to be quite a lively hangout for people in the evenings.
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