The original plan was for the family to spend two days in Las Vegas and then Denise would go to help her parents house in Bakersfield to help them in their move and I would go with AJ to Oaxaca and discover another another Mexican capital.
Then it turned out that Denise’s parents were not going to be able to move their stuff because one of Denise’s siblings had a wedding to attend, so then she decided to come with us on our adventure. But then, Denise’s dad told us that he served his mission in Oaxaca and asked if he could come with us. No worries, I spoke to my dad and he said “the more the merrier.” So we had three incoming flights to coordinate
Then it turned out that Denise’s dad had dental surgery so he couldn’t travel and Denise’s siblings did go to help them move, but didn’t tell Denise, but then my dad had to work until Monday. And then we had two different flights on two different days, it was kind of a crazy way to start a trip but by Tuesday morning we were on a ADO first class bus heading south from Mexico City to Oaxaca.
Traveling to Oaxaca:
The bus ride from Mexico City to Oaxaca is 6-7 hrs. (depends on traffic). The cost of the bus ride was about $20 for First Class and $25 for Executive class (the way we came back). Kids and Seniors (over 60) are half off. The only difference I could tell between First Class and Executive class was that on Executive class (known as GL) they gave us a drink and earphones. Both classes are WAY ahead of Greyhound in quality. There are restrooms, the chairs recline far back, and have power outlets.
The trip takes you through what is known as the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (Eje Volcánico Transversal). A very high route at one point in the trip we passed in the middle of six volcanoes: Ixtaccíhuatl, Popocatépetl, Matlalcueitl (Malinche), Cofre de Perote, Pico de Orizaba, and Sierra Negra. Popocatépetl, the most iconic of all the volcanoes has recently woken up and smoke could be seen.
We had made reservations at the Hotel Nacional, but we soon found out that in the center area there are lots of hotels. Most run in the $30-40 per night range. Don’t expect elevators, usually tile floor, and the beds in Mexico are always a bit on the firm side. You can get better if you want, but to us a hotel room is just a sleeping place. As long as it has some kind of wifi and the bathroom is clean we are pretty much OK.
When we got into town my dad was hungry and so we went to the plaza. He was very disappointed to hear that a restaurant called “La Casa De La Abuela” was closed. We ended going to a place called “Los Tres Bistros.” We are kind of a market food group, but it was fun to splurge a little bit in a fancy restaurant. My dad went with the traditional Oaxacan Chocolate Mole and I got a Tlayuda. My best description of a Tlayuda would be a Mexican pizza made with skinny meat and the largest corn tortilla I have ever seen. AJ got sunny looking chicken strips and Denise got salmon with risotto. The most flamboyant part of the meal was our appetizer, which was a guacamole (avocado sauce) with chapulines (grasshoppers). United States citizens see this as exotic, but the truth is grasshoppers have been eaten in the Americas for 1000s of years, they don’t taste that strange, more like the inner soft shell of a peanut, more salty than anything else. Other food items Oaxaca is know for is cheese, chocolate, and cecina (really flat steak).
Walking through the plaza, the multi-lengual nature of Oaxaca is heard. Several natives groups including the zapotecos, mixtecos, mixes, triquis(most colorful), chinantecos, chantinos, huaves, mazatecos, nahuas, amuzgos, zoques, chontales, cuicatecos, chocholtecos (I want to be named after chocolate), ixcatecos, tacuates and the tzotziles reside in Oaxaca. The area has been populated for thousands of years and though Monte Alban is the biggest archaeological site in the area, many others dot the surrounding area.
Other things to note for Oaxaca is the Church of Santo Domingo (which is also a museum), Tule (the widest tree in the world), Mitla, and Hierva el Agua. I will try to talk about these in other posts.