The Rest of Friday in Oaxaca

(Post 17 of 189. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

For lunch on Friday, I wanted either an upscale menú del día or sushi. I ended up at sushi and it was… meh. And very expensive. I don’t think anything resembling good sushi exists in Mexico, sadly. So I won’t bore you with a picture of my mediocre eel roll or my still frozen tuna nigiri. But I got another fortune cookie that really spoke to me!

I went next door to a shoe store and saw what I thought would be good walking sandals for my excursions and they were not expensive, so I decided not to waste any time on shoe shopping and bought them. I then headed up to do a bunch of blog posts to catch up on everything. The rest of the afternoon went by super fast and by 6:30, I was thinking about dinner.

I headed out, going further south than I’d been so far, looking at restaurants and carts and trying to decide what I wanted for dinner. I reached the conclusion that I wanted a family-style local food joint where I could get a horchata, something like my favourite taquería at home. My first night here, I’d passed a place by the zócalo that appeared to be that, so I set a course for the square. To my surprise, I was almost on top of it!

The restaurant was Chili Guajili (hee!) and despite being by the zócalo and having a tout at the door was not a tourist joint at all, with a Spanish-only menu and super reasonable prices for anywhere in the city and a deal for such a prime location.

I was seated promptly, then ignored. I was a bit confused because staff had been so friendly to that point. Just as I was going to flag someone down, a lady came and told me that I had to order at the till. Oh, this was just like Nando’s in the UK! You get seated and given a menu, but you have to order and pay at the register and then they bring you your meal.

I chose a tlayuda, the iconic food of Oaxaca, adding chorizo and guacamole. All the meals there come with either jamaica or horchata, so I got the horchata I was craving!

The typo on this sign made me realise that I really do have proofreader brain!

When I was brought a whole roll of paper towels in lieu of napkins, I had to wonder what I’d gotten myself into!

The tlayuda is Oaxaca’s answer to the pizza, a thin tortilla spread with lard, beans, and quesillo (Oaxaca cheese outside of the state), and then grilled until crispy. It’s sometimes folder over, as it was here. The tortilla rather reminded me of matzah.

This is as basic as it comes, cheap, filling eats. If I eat this again, I’m going to pull it apart while it’s still hot and add chorizo (or whatever meat I get) and salsas directly into it.

Because of my braces, I couldn’t eat it neatly, by biting into it, so I had to pull off bits that I’d dip into salsa. It got very messy very fast! So the paper towels were a good call! I went light on the super spicy salsas tonight as my lips are really sore, but I did try a creamy light yellow one that was very tasty. I wanted to ask what was in it and also whether I was supposed to eat the pod thing, but I never saw another server. I ended up clueing in that I probably had to eat the contents of the pod thing and found some tasty seeds!

I then went on a ramble to see what centro is like on a Friday night. The zócalo was surprisingly underwhelming — it was full of vendors selling things I see on sale at Plaza Grande when I go on Sunday nights, including marquesitas! Really, with the cathedral to my right, I could have been in Mérida.

So I headed up the Alcalá, which was very lively, with music and giant puppets. The street was lined with vendors all selling the exact same wares. I have a shopping list, but I’m going to wait until I go out to the villages to buy, with the hope of doing so directly from artisans.

I was wearing my new sandals and was disappointed that they weren’t as good as I’d hoped, but they weren’t terrible. I’m just really foot sore like I haven’t been since I was in London. I haven’t been walking as much as I sometimes do, even with the treadmill. Tomorrow and Monday being car days should help a bit.

The night finished with my walking around the block near the apartment so I could see what was open at that hour, as I’ll be getting in late tomorrow and will be happy to be able to go out not too far and get tacos. I found a taco stand… and a place to buy coffins!

I hope the maps I’m posting are useful. The core of centro is really small. I could say I’m at the eastern edge of it and the Boulenc bakery is at the western edge — it’s 950m away. I’m further than that from the market in Chuburná!

Friday Morning in Oaxaca

(Post 16 of 189. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I walked over 9KM on Thursday and was incredibly foot sore when I woke up this morning after yet another not great night. 🙁 I thought I’d brought good footwear, but it was failing me, so I decided to add shoe shopping to the list for today, something I had suspected might need to happen.

Thankfully, my morning’s work went super quickly since, while I had coffee, I had no breakfast (thank you, ants!). So I headed out around 9:30 to see if I could come close to matching my Wednesday breakfast. I love that many restaurants have their menus posted outside. The first place, right by the apartment, wasn’t appealing, the second was too touristy, and the third seemed just right. I got in at the right time, with the café being quiet enough that the server was able to explain to me what all the new-to-me items on the menu were before the place got packed.

I went for the 50-peso breakfast package. First, I had to choose a beverage. I was a bit parched (it’s so dry here compared to Mérida), so I went with fresh-squeeze orange juice. Second option was fruit or “gelatina,” which is a gelatine-based treat. I went with the fruit, which was papaya. Not my favourite, but this was a good one!

For my main, I picked enmoladas, lightly fried tortillas topped with mole sauce, cheese, cream, and onions. Oaxaca is known for its moles and a goal for this trip was to try them all! Well, there was one I didn’t know about… this one! This is mole coloradito.

Now, I still prefer mole negro, what I tend to get when I order mole in other parts of Mexico and which has a strong chocolate taste, but this was still amazing! The predominant flavour is tomato with a mix of spices, and it is quite spicy. The link above says that this sauce is usually made with guajillo and ancho chiles, green tomato, garlic, red tomato, onion, plantains (!), yolk bread (a Oaxacan bread), almonds, cloves, sesame, black pepper, and oregano. Add in that chewy cheese and I’m glad I had a spoon or else I might have been tempted to lick the plate! I added chicken to my meal, but my breakfast was still only 60 pesos!

Next stop was the tourist info centre at the Zócalo, where I got info on the two big city markets and where to get tours to go out of the city. There’s lots in the environs, so I thought that doing combination tours with a guide would let me see the most in my short time here, versus trying to get to sites on my own. I’ll give more details about that tomorrow, but will say that there are many tour operators offering basically the same thing and at a wide range of prices.

The first place I checked out had exactly what I wanted at such a reasonable price that I knew I couldn’t go wrong, so I didn’t shop around. And by reasonable, I mean my budget was about five times higher than what I paid! The catch is that I’m not guaranteed a guide who speaks good English, but I should be fine. Even way back in Durango, I was able to follow most of what tour guides were sharing. Like in Yucatán, the price of the tour is just for the guide and the gas. You pay extra for the guide tip, entry onto the sites, and for food (unless included).

I then went a few blocks south to the Benito Juárez market, which is the “shopping” market (the other, which I will get to!) is the “eating” market.

I was underwhelmed by this market. Except for the grocery-type items, I’d say everything sold there could be bought at any similar market in any other city in Mexico — I saw dresses like I bought in Maz and bags like I could buy in Mérida. I did buy something that was on my shopping list, a plastic woven tote. My friend minding B returned with one and I like how lightweight and sturdy they are.

I spotted this one because of the colour and appreciated the double handles and the clasps. The saleslady was not impressed by my eyeing a pink one when I was in a pink skirt with a pink purse, so she tried to talk me into another colour (LOL!). She spent so much time with me that I knew I was going to buy from her even if I wasn’t really ready to buy as I hadn’t yet priced these bags. She told me the price was 200 pesos, and that was her best price “for me.” That seemed a bit steep, but, again, I hadn’t priced these yet and this was a large one with the three clasps and double handles, so it seemed possibly reasonable. The fact that the price was firm said a lot as well. So off I went with my tote!

I put in my tote these wooden spoons I’d picked up on my way to the market. I have no illusion that they are handmade, but they are pretty and something I was looking for. They are made of guamúchil wood (yes, like the city in Sinaloa I’ve overnighted at twice).

Cutting back across the Zócalo, I spotted a hero rescue this pigeon from a fountain. He even checked its vital signs!

On my way home, I realised that my feet were feeling much better. I had switched last night to my Ipanema sandals and was wearing them this morning. They offered my heels more cushioning. So I was in the mood to detour to the Mercado de la Merced to pick up a grapefruit juice and some bananas for the morning. There, I saw a tote the same size as mine, with no clasps and single handles marked at 300 pesos… I’m telling you, there is nothing like realising that you got the kind of deal a local gets at a super touristy location just for being friendly and chatting in the vendor’s language!

Back at the apartment, I got some pictures and a video uploading (upload speeds here are dire), did a bit more work, and then it was time to head out for lunch.