When Spanish school was over and done with, Jeff and I wasted no time moving on to our next destination, Puebla, Mexico. It was bittersweet saying adios to our friends, but we were brain-dead from six-weeks of nearly non-stop studying, and ready to explore more of this beautiful country that we now call home.
The drive between Taxco and Puebla was stunning, with mountainous, lush countryside giving way to more rugged, volcanic terrain. We were fairly close to Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, two volcanoes that tower above the city. My plan had been to hike there, but I later found out that 1) difficult to do during the rainy season, and 2) Popocatepetl had erupted the prior year, and was strictly off limits.
Driving through the city of nearly 4 million residents was culture shock. Tall, fairly modern buildings, wide, multi-lane and paved streets, and big-box stores like Walmart, Sears and Costco assaulted our senses, while at the same time evoking a tingly-like feeling in my brain. Ooooohhhhh…I’m gonna like it here. We could LIVE here. I don’t know about you, but every time we visit a new town, my instinct is to wonder if we could be happy actually living there.
We passed vendors cooking and selling their delicious looking street food right beside fancy-looking restaurants and bars. Newly constructed condos rose beside universities bustling with young, well-dressed students and professionals. I was ready to jump out of the car and walk to our apartment I had booked on airbnb! I needed to be in these surroundings for a change.
As we continued to drive, the streets turned grittier, the housing shabbier. Young professionals in suits were replaced by grizzled laborers and vagabonds. Open doors and inviting storefronts were now windows with burglar bars and locked gates. Siri on Jeff’s GPS announced “turn right, and your destination is on your left.” He turned right and pulled over.
Well, there was obviously a mistake. I got out of the car (sans purse) and walked to the end of the block. There, rising from the rubble (trumpet music plays) was a nicely manicured, security-gated, freshly painted apartment complex. I asked an older gentleman (in my newly-acquired espanol if this was the correct address, and he assured me it was, that he had been expecting us.
The apartment was a three-bedroom, 2-story unit that I had snagged for $24.00 per night. No, it wasn’t in the best section of town, but the neighbors were nice and there was a fantastic breakfast/juice bar just around the corner.
We took full-advantage of our three days in Puebla, walking to museums, restaurants and the zocalo.
Puebla’s zocalo was very different from the zocalo in Taxco. Taxco was a disorganized mish-mash of hilly, windy streets, with a tiny little zocalo stuck somewhere near the middle. Puebla’s zocalo, on the other hand, was surrounded by orderly, building-lined streets, tons of shops and restaurants, and even a “mall”. Personally, I think I like a little chaos.
Puebla is the birthplace of Chiles en Nogada, a rich dish that is tied to the independence of Mexico. It is the color of the Mexican flag, with white sauce poured over the stuffed green chili, sprinkled with red pomegranate seeds. It is a seasonal dish, typically only available in the month or so surrounding Mexican Independence Day on September 16th. I finally got to try it, and the verdict is… Me Likey!!!
We especially enjoyed walking around the Mural City, which is in one of Puebla’s oldest barrios, and the Fuertes de Loreto, which is a park built around the fort that was the location of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo, which Mexico fought against Napoleon III in 1862.
Like so many of the places we have visited in Mexico, there is the old and the new. We mainly hung in the old, never even venturing out to the big box stores. But for me, it was nice knowing they were there, just in case.
I think I could live in Puebla, if we ever decide to set some roots on land again. But now we are off to Oaxaca, and I’ll have to form a whole new opinion once we’ve settled in there for 3 weeks. Check back for that verdict, and in the meantime, !Viva Mexico!