Remembering Christmas in Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca! (Things I’m Thinking About)
I work hard to keep this blog focused on recipes, but once in a while I have something fun I just have to share! Hope you enjoy seeing a few photos from my recent trip where I celebrated Christmas in Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca! Use Things I’m Thinking About to see more random posts like this.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that through the years I’ve had blog features that I got infatuated with and then didn’t keep up on. For a long time I shared Things I’m Thinking About every week or so, but the last few years I’ve been pretty strictly focused on the food. But sometimes I do like to talk about what I’ve been doing just so the blog has a record of important events in my life, which is why I wanted to share a few photos from my recent Christmas in Mexico trip last December! Don’t worry, it’s a safe bet I’ll never turn into one of those bloggers who write lots of personal posts, but I hope you don’t mind a peek into my life once in a while.
These are photos taken with the iPhone 8+ and then uploaded to and copied from Facebook, so the photo quality could have been better! But hopefully they’re good enough to see some of the reasons I ended up loving the city in Southern Mexico called Oaxaca, and definitely I’d love to go there again some time!
I went to Mexico with my friend Robin, and she loves the beach. So we started our trip with four nights at the Grand Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta, a beautiful resort where I did lots of relaxing and reading a book and Robin did lots of swimming and sunbathing! We only ventured into Puerto Vallarta once, but loved the festive holiday flags.
Then on December 27 we flew from Puerto Vallarta to Oaxaca City, where we stayed at Ztilu Hotel, a charming spot right in the center of town. (Resorts, hotels, and attractions mentioned in this post didn’t subsidize my visit in any way, and they have no idea I’m mentioning them on my blog!)
We arrived in Oaxaca City mid-afternoon and got to wander around the Zocalo Square where they were having a holiday festival. Here I had Grilled Oaxacan String Cheese with Guacamole, which was one of the most memorable things I ate on the trip!
The next day we went to Monte Alban, one of the Zapotec historical sites near Oaxaca. The Oaxaca City part of our trip was a tour through the University of Utah Go Learn program, so we had a guide who was an archaeology professor who shared interesting details about the area we otherwise would have never known! Later that day we went to San Bartolo Coyotepec and San Martin Tilcajete, where we saw amazing Barro Negro Pottery and charming wooden animals called Alebrijes made in those areas.
The next day we visited the El Sabor Zapoteco cooking school where we spent a memorable day learning to make dishes like Mole Negro, Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Rice with Chipil, Chile de Agua Salsa, and Nicuatole from famous cooking instructor Reyna Mendoza. Famous Mexican chefs like Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless have visited here, and it was so fun to see the traditional methods used to make the foods from this area. We started with a trip to the market where we bought fresh herbs, chiles, onions, tomatillos, and other ingredients. I couldn’t resist buying a brightly-colored apron!
More than 20 ingredients went into the Mole Negro we made, and most of them were toasted over the fire and then ground by hand by kneeling in front of a low stone platform and rolling over and over the toasted ingredients with a stone implement that looked like a rolling pin. It was fun, but labor intensive. (Fellow Utah residents who are Red Iguana fans might recognize Lucy – in the blue bandana – who was also on this trip.)
Of course the pros were much better than we were about turning all those toasted ingredients into mole paste. I’ve never been a huge fan of Mole Negro before now, but I have to say that the Mole Negro with Chicken that we made that day was amazing. And the final shot in this group is fried grasshoppers called Chapulines that are a favorite snack in that area. I found them surprisingly delicious! We also tried fried ants and worms, which I didn’t like nearly so well.
The next day we learned all about the Mexican drink made from the Agave Cactus called Mezcal. We visited lots of different family-owned businesses where each one had a slightly different method of making this trendy Mexican drink. Our guide was an American ex-pat living in Oaxaca who’s now a Mezcal expert. How’s that for a retirement job!
The following day we started with a visit to the village of Teotitlan Del Valle, famous for weaving amazing rugs, bags, and other textile arts. From there we went to Tlacolula Market, a huge outdoor market that’s the most famous on in this area with every imaginable kind of food and product! Yes, I did eat some of the meat grilled over the open fire!
That same day we visited Mitla, a small Zapotec archaeological site that I found charming and interesting.
From there we went to see Arbol de Tule, which Mexican call The World’s Largest Tree! It’s really a clump of trees growing together but the size and height is pretty spectacular. After that we had a quick stop at Hierve el Agua where we saw effervescent pools and a “frozen waterfall.”
The last day we spent in Oaxaca was New Year’s Day, and apparently I was tired of taking photos by then. But we did have a fascinating glimpse into how the New Year is celebrated in Teotitlan Del Valle on New Year’s Day when we went out into the hills at dusk to see bonfires, fireworks, food stalls of every kind, and hundreds of people from the village assembled to greet the new year. We ended the evening with a very memorable and incredible meal at Restaurante Casa Oaxaca, which I highly recommend if you make it to Oaxaca and aren’t on too tight of a budget!
I loved everything about Oaxaca City and would love to go there again some time. If you’re been to Oaxaca, please let me know in the comments about other attractions I need to see next time!