Getting to Oaxaca is NOT easy! I had done all kinds of research, decided NOT to drive because I didn't want to make the wrong turn and end up in Mexico City (population 20 million) - have a nervous breakdown and never get there, ha! I wanted to fly but it was over $500 round trip - so I opted for the bus. Four hours to Mexico City on ETN (not bad) - then a death defying ride to the TAPO bus terminal on the south side of the city with the "AJFOYT" of taxi drivers - one hour from door to door with screeching, cursing and honking........ok, THAT was an adventure.! Aah, but a nice place to wait at the TAPO station for the bus to Oaxaca. I'm such a "people watcher" that that was fine. Then the 6.5 hour (supposedly) trip to Oaxaca......and it was! So, I left San Miguel at 7AM and arrived in Oaxaca at 11PM. Note to self, don't EVER do that again - go to Mexico City - spend the night - and catch the bus the next day. I admit it - 16 hours is TOO much for me. But the next day I woke and had breakfast with one of the guests at the hotel I was staying at and she had lived literally all over the world............and then I headed off on an exploration journey until my friends Tom and Moira arrived later that day. Aaah, smooth sidewalks - no cobblestones - aaah, no steep hills and most of all aaah, warm weather and 1500 ft altitude lower then San Miguel, so no breathlessness. Wow what a joy!
The zocalo with its huge trees and people enjoying it and sauntering around is a beautiful sight. I visited the cathedral and later that week went to Mass in that beautiful place.
All of the meals we had and restaurants we dined in were delicious. From the tiny French bistro that had great pate to the fabulous Chrismtas Eve dinner we had at the Camino Real, all were very enjoyable and even inexpensive. My favorite was Casa Oaxaca which I had heard about and where I had the most delicious corn and squash blossom soup I have ever eaten along with grouper prepared with clams and I know not what else.............I have to admit, I DID NOT eat the fried grasshoppers - I just couldn't...............killed too many on my bedroom floor to think about eating them.
We traipsed through art galleries (the best art I've seen in Mexico, bar none), museums - Tamayo's incredible collection of Pre-Columbian relics - equal to many large museums - msuems more then I can list - and of course, we made it to four of the five mercados - more then once! Oops and churches. We saw a quinceanaro one evening as we were walking to dinner - wow what an event and we saw lots of weddings!
I was enchanted with all of the indigenous women dressed in their native dress - the Yalags, Mixtecos, Tehuanas, just to name a few - I would just stop and watch them and marvel at the regalness or tinyness of these women. The Triques must be decendents of Mayans because they are of that stature - teeny, tiny people. I did notice that many of the people were taller then I am used to seeing in San Miguel. Beautiful faces.
From the terrace of my hotel while eating breakfast each morning, I was looking out on a view of a church that looked very austere. But the night we went there to see the Oaxaca Symphony playing, I couldn't believe my eyes when we walked in - the church built by the Dominicans - well actually built by the Indians - was COVERED with carved wood scenes with gold gilding and the altar was so ornate! When you look at Tom's photos and see the closeups of the ceilings, you'll see what I'm talking about. The only other church I've seen in Mexico detailed like that is in a village outside of Puebla - it equally "blew me away" with the incredible artistic ability of these natives of Mexico.
If I had to explain Oaxaca I would say - color, color, color and architecture and art equal to anyplace I've been in the world (including Paris) BUT the most memorable is the gentleness of the people and their welcoming smiles. GO, YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!