Parque Del Ajedrez

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This is Ajedrez

Entrance to the Park

El Parque del Ajedrez is a park funded by BUAP, the largest public university in Puebla. It is named the ‘Chess Park’ as it is one of the facilities offered (free of charge). There is even a chess teacher who gives classes.  The park is a large modern space which also includes a children’s playground (the best I have ever seen), and a large number of exercising equipment pieces. There are two big outdoor chess boards (pieces can be borrowed from the office) and there are also numerous chess tables (in the shade)  for which you can also borrow boards and the pieces. The park also contains numerous outdoor art pieces and a café. The park is right next to the ‘Complejo Cultural Universitario‘ (also BUAP funded) which is a cultural center.  Both are well worth a visit, and offer a very modern mexican feel – a nice change of pace to el centro histórico de Puebla.

Outdoor Art

A Game of Chess

 

 

Vamos a Cholula

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This is Cholula

Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

Cholula is a hop, skip and a jump away from Puebla. By car it only takes about 20 minutes, by bus you should expect a journey of about 40 minutes which costs 8 pesos, or if you are going by Taxi you should expect to pay about 80 pesos. It is divided into two parts, San Pedro Cholula and San Andres Cholula. This post is about San Pedro where the Great Pyramid is located. San Andres is the location of many bars and clubs so is a very popular destination for many poblanos in the evenings at the weekend (but that’s for another post). Cholula is an exceptional place. Unbelievably for such a small city (population of 100,000) it is said to have 365 churches. This might be a slight exaggeration but it gives you an idea of what the city looks like – practically a church on every corner. Cholula is home to the Great Pyramid which is said to be the biggest pyramid in the world in terms of its base size. Now this isn’t your typical egyptian pyramid, but a pyramid that looks like a very big hill with a church at the top of it (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios). The pyramid has been excavated in certain parts so you can see original sections. These are impressive and very much in the style of Teotihuacan (Mexico City).

Climb up to Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

One of the best things about going to Cholula is the walk up to church at the top of the pyramid. A recent trip (made by my friends and myself) showed an in shape person can get up to the top within five to ten minutes, but be warned it is a little steep and I would suggest to take water with you. On the way up to the top, there is a woman who sells edible insects. You HAVE to try them. Surprisingly they are quite delicious (salty and lemony) , and it’s a good story to take home with you. Once you reach the top, not only do you have the beautiful site of the church but also amazing views of Puebla. On a clear day you will also have the bonus of the most stunning view of the beloved Popo (Popocatépetl) which is the Poblano Volcano.

Mmm delicious crickets

On your way down from the church, or before you go up, I suggest going into the tunnels of the pyramid. These were created by archaeologists in the 1930’s but feature real parts of the pyramid that can be seen from the passage ways. The tunnels lead you conveniently out right next to the excavated archaeological sites which show different parts of the pyramid. There is also a small museum which gives a lot of interesting information about the pyramid, and has a really great model of the entire site.

Inside the Labyrinth of Tunnels of the Great Pyramid

A part of the Great Pyramid

If you are able to come in to Cholula by car there are other beautiful places to see as well as the pyramid and its surroundings. One of these places is San Francisco Acatepec which has a beautiful facade and has been called the ‘porcelain temple’. Another beautiful church is Santa Maria Tonantzintla also on the outskirts of Cholula.

Finally, if you can make your trip to Cholula during a weekday the better, as at the weekend it can get very busy.

San Francisco Acatepec

Yo Amo a Los Vochos

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This is Vocho

Hola Vocho

When I think of Puebla, I think of Vochos. They are a part of Mexican culture but they have an even great significance in Puebla. This is because Puebla is home to mexico’s biggest Volskwagen plant which has been open since 1964 and employs nearly 15,000 staff. Volkswagen is every where you go in Puebla. Its logo is posted on every mechanic’s door, it’s on the streets (not only Vochos but also moden models too)and most importantly it is the sponsor for the local football team ‘la franja’ (Puebla F.C). Yo amo a los vochos, because they come from another time, and whenever I see them I feel like I am transported back to the 30’s.  Plus they are seriously cool.

Oye, los vochos son chidos.

Un Vocho al Centro

Vocho Street Art

 

Catedral de Puebla / El Zócalo

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This is El Centro

View of the Cathedral from El Zocalo

Puebla Cathedral is located in the Centro Histórico de Puebla which is basically downtown Puebla, where you will find most of the old colonial buildings, museums and many other places of cultural interest. At the heart of every mexican city is ‘el zócalo’ which means the main plaza or square of the city/town. The Cathedral is right next to the Zocalo where there are a number of restaurants and cafés. There are always a lot of big balloons for sale (‘globos’), young couples (PDA is very much the norm in Mexico) and kids playing in the fountains. If you sit down for a drink you will be welcomed by shoe shiners , caricature artists and many other people trying to sell you stuff. This isn’t just because you are a tourist, this is how things are done in Mexico. Wherever you go in Mexico there are always little tiendas (stores) , people on bikes or just people walking around selling stuff. And I mean anything from food to pencils to jewellery. If you are not interested just say ‘no gracias’ and they will leave you alone. Don’t forget el zócalo is one of the more touristy areas in Puebla so you will most likely be paying more than the usual price for your average chela (beer) or meal.

Inside the Cathedral

Cathedral Blue Skies

La Poblanita

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This is Street Food

La Poblanita , located right near the Catedral de Puebla (in the historical center), is a street food vendor which sells antojitos. If you were to ask me what I think of when I think of Mexico, one of the first things I would say is ‘antojitos’. Antojitos means ‘little cravings’ and are the street foods of Mexico. Street foods in Mexico mostly include corn as their main ingredient. Here are just to name a few: tacos, tamales, memelas, gorditas, quesadillas, tortas, cemitas, chalupas, elotes, taquitos dorados, tostadas and molotes! Antojitos are sold EVERYWHERE, and I mean everywhere. You can always find something to eat in Mexico, day or night. You can’t go a block without antojitos being sold. And just because they are off the street doesn’t mean they are not safe to eat. I have never gotten food poisoning from street food, so don’t be scared to be adventurous. Try something new and be a real Mexican. Because real mexicans love their antojitos. Antojitos are sold by a lot of places during the day and generally close up shop by early evening, but at night a whole new set of vendors appear whether its in an actual building or being sold on the side of a street. I plan to make a lot of posts about different antojitos, so do not fret if you are puzzled as to what many of them are.

This post is about Molotes. Molotes are deep fried corn tortillas which have an oval shape. They are filled with the filling of your choice such as quesillo (my favourite) , mushrooms or many meat options. Aside: quesillo is a cheese from Oaxaca generally used in quesadillas and lots of antojitos. For vegetarians its a very tasty option. Anyway back to Molotes, once they are filled, they are deep fried, and served with salsa (rojo or verde) and sour cream. They are really really delicious- crunchy on the outside and the salsa and cream take it to the next level.

La Poblanita which is very well known in Puebla has been around for about 30 years. The weird thing is that they sell molotes throughout the day whereas usually molotes are mostly sold as a night street food. It’s cheating a bit eating them during the day, but they taste so good I don’t really care if it’s not the proper way! I guess eating a molote during the day is a bit like having a cappuccino after 11am in Italy.

Señoritas de la Poblanita

Here are some tips for ordering antojitos in Mexico:

  • Its not really in the mexican culture for them to ask you what you want to eat. To get the vendors attention you need to say either ‘señorita/señora’ for women and for men you say ‘joven’ which means young man (usually you will only find men selling tacos).
  • You should then ask for what you want and ask how much it costs (‘cuanto cuesta?’). A molote at La Poblanita costs about 16 pesos. If you want a soda with it I recommend Mexican Coca Cola (in the glass bottle). Mexican Coca-Cola is the best coke in the world so don’t pass up on the opportunity to try it. Often the soda will cost more than the antojito (usually 10-12 pesos). Its also absolutely fine to ask for whatever you want even if its not necessarily on the menu. For example if you want mushrooms and quesillo, then go for it. Mexicans are very accommodating. Same goes with if you don’t want the salsa (though I think that would be a fatal mistake).
  • At La Poblanita they will give you your antojito on a plate and along with everyone else you should stand and eat your food. This is very normal in Mexico. Even if there are no chairs, people will stand by the vendor and eat their food. There is often a little sideboard to place your dish on as you can see in the picture below. At night if you are driving around you will see people standing outside vendors eating, just like I have described.

Mexico is probably the best place in the world to eat after a night out or if you are craving a midnight snack.

  • Now if you want to be really Mexican here’s the way to do it: when you get your food or if there are people around you eating, you always say ” ¡Provecho! (short for buen provecho), and when you leave , if people are still eating then you also say ¡Provecho!

I have met a lot of foreigners in Puebla who are a bit wary of eating street food. Don’t be. It’s one of the things that makes Mexico so great.

¡Provecho!

Un Molote de Quesillo con Salsa Verde y Crema

Memela Compro, Memela Como

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This is Memela

A memela is an antojito (street food) from Oaxaca (pronounced Wahaca, which also happens to be the name of an excellent mexican restaurant chain in London). It is made, like many antojitos, from masa. Frijoles (refried beans) are added to the masa before it is flattened with a tortilla press and then cooked on a hot grill. Once the base, which is touching the grill, is cooked and charred, salsa (red or green is your choice) is smothered across it, to which usually crumbly cheese (I recommend to ask for quesillo which is oaxacan stringy cheese similar to mozzarella) is added. Additional toppings can also include avocado, papas fritas (fries), nopales (cactus) and/or chicharron. You can always order a dish however you want in Mexico, so if you want everything on your memela, or a different topping, don’t hesitate to ask for it (as long as they have the ingredients). The easiest way to eat it is by folding it in half and using your hands. As usual, it is best served with an ice cold glass bottled coca-cola. Like picaditas (see post here) they can also be bought ‘raw’ as discussed.

Cost: between 9-15 pesos.

¡Provecho!

Una memela roja por favor con puro quesillo, aguacate y papas fritas

 

Vamos a AFRICAM

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This is Africam Safari

Africam Safari is a drive-thru zoological park about 30 minutes outside of the city of Puebla in the municipality of Tecali de Herrera. Africam is a fantastic zoo, and in fact the first to be accredited in Latin America by theAssociation of Zoos and Aquariums. It has very high standards of animal care, and protects numerous endangered species. Recently the park has welcomed 9 new elephants, which were rescued from Africa. Thousands of animals are able to roam freely without being confined to cages. The drive-thru enables you to get really close to the animals (with windows down depending on the area). If you don’t have a car, the park offers a guided bus tour around the park which leaves every 15 minutes or so. The bus company Estrella Roja, offers an all inclusive deal which includes bus tickets there and back and the entrance fee to the park (this only costs about 30 pesos more than the entrance ticket so is a very good deal). Check out costs at the bottom of the post!

Mr Camel

As you drive through the park, you enter different sections according to the animals and the danger they pose. There is only one section where you have to wait to be let in, which is for the white tigers that are absolutely stunning, if you are lucky you will get to see them moving around, but often they are snoozing (though still incredible to look at!).

About half way through, there is a rest area, where there is a souvenir store, and also places to buy refreshments (including beer) and snacks/fast food. This area also offers restrooms/toilets. In addition there are also boat tours available on the nearby lake. Once you continue on the safari, there are two subsequent walking areas, where you can park your car and walk around. The first is where the lions, monkeys, hyenas, turtles and hippos live, and the second is the ‘adventure zone’, which is more like a traditional zoo where you can get close to animals in more confined areas, these include reptiles like crocodiles and snakes, kangaroos and many more. This zone is also where you can pay for additional activities such as a zip-line, and also where they offer an animal show. The shows are free and start at 2.00pm and 4.00pm. This is the last stop before you leave the park, so if you want to buy any gifts or souvenirs this is the place to do it.

baby elephant

I suggest getting to the park nice and early when the park opens at 10 am, which gives you loads of time to really enjoy the whole place. The park stops entrances at 5pm, and closes completely at 6pm, so don’t leave it too late in the day to get there.

The list of animals in Africam Safari is very long, so don’t worry, all the ones you will be hoping to see will be there. Personally, this is the best safari/zoo I have ever been to, and exceeded my expectations completely (and they were pretty high given all the great stuff I had heard about it). Even if you aren’t a huge animal lover, you will still have a really fantastic day out, and its a great one for families and children.

Don’t miss out on visiting this fantastic place, and if you needed another reason to go to Puebla, this is most definitely it!

Hey Zebra!

Cost (all prices are in Mexican Pesos):

Entrance to the Park : Adults- $232 ; Children $225

Estrella Roja Bus Deal [to and from the park from CAPU (11.00am) or el Zocalo (11.30am)] with entrance included:

Adults- $290 ; Children-$260

Giraffes

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Mercado 5 de Mayo / Mercado de la 18

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This is El Mercado

Welcome to one of Puebla’s markets, officially known as Mercado 5 de Mayo but most commonly known as el mercado de la 18. Both names are due, I presume, to 5 de Mayo being historically important to Puebla and its location on Avenida 18 Poniente.

The market, which is located near el centro historico is vast inside, and also has numerous stores, fishmongers and butchers surrounding its perimeter. You know you are nearly there as you begin to smell fish as you approach the area.

Outside the market

On the outside wall of the market, it is written ‘Mercados Poblanos – Lo Mero Nuestro‘ which translated means ‘our very own’. Really the expressions means that it is a place of pride, and its what they excel at (in this case being the markets of Puebla). And from what I saw the statement can not be argued with. Inside the market, and outside it too, is filled with hundreds of stalls divided up into sections of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, fruit, flowers and that’s not all…

It’s not completely in the mexican culture to go to a supermarket though it is more and more part of daily life because of its convenience (a bit like supermarkets in France and Belgium where people like to buy their groceries from individual shops). It’s not easy to go to a market like this one which is in the historical centre. Saying that, if a mexican is making an important meal, or has the time and the means to go to a market then they will. The produce you find in markets, like this one, is impeccable. And its not only of high quality but cheaper too. Inside you will also find a lot of puestos (stands) selling prepared food , using produce from the market. Theres a few quirky things in the market as well like alive chickens for sale and one place selling stuff which I can only describe as witchcraft products…but I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions when you visit the place…

Pollos Hermanos

This is a mexican market, a poblano market. Don’t be fooled, if you expect to find a farmer’s market like the ones back home, that’s not what you’ll get. But what you get is something so much better; a place rich in character and personality which captivates the hustle and bustle of Mexico.

Be sure, you’ll be very hungry by the end of your visit.

¡Provecho!

frutas y frutas

Crabs and Crabs

El Mural de los Poblanos

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This is Chiles en Nogada

El Mural de los Poblanos is a high end restaurant located in the historical centre of Puebla. It serves traditional poblano dishes and prides itself on locally sourcing all ingredients. El Mural considers itself to serve the most authentic and best tasting food of Puebla. It is part of the Tesoros de Mexico, ‘a group of hotels and restaurants that have gone through a careful selection process and meet the highest quality standards’ . The restaurant is named after a mural which covers one of the walls inside, which depicts many famous poblanos (I have to admit I didn’t recognise a single one) . There is much that can be discussed regarding this restaurant, as the menu is vast and covers a huge number of dishes important to the city such as Mole and street foods such as Chalupas and Cemitas. However I prefer to look at one dish in particular, and save other dishes (at different restaurants) for other posts. For a more in depth review of the restaurant and all its dishes check out this great post by blogger Docsconz.

Inside the Restaurant

The dish is called Chiles en Nogada. If you have ever been to Puebla in the summer, you will know that around July something in the air changes. Suddenly from nowhere, posters and banners appear everywhereadvertising the dish. This is a poblano dish; authentic only to Puebla and only in season for the months of July, August and September.

So what are Chiles en Nogada? And why are they seasonal?

Chiles en Nogada are:

  • poblano chiles filled with picadillo (which are then dunked in egg batter and fried)
  • topped with a walnut based cream sauce (nogada)
  • and pomegranate seeds

Many of the ingredients of the picadillo are seasonal and unique to Puebla such as special fruits like manzana panochera and pera de leche, but in particular the nogada is seasonal and only available for these brief months. El Mural prides itself on using the correct ingredients bought only from the state of Puebla, for example they do not use regular apples which are more easily sourced and cheaper. They make sure that the Chile en Nogada is made as it should be, to the very last detail.

The three elements give the three colours of the Mexican flag: green (chile), white (nogado salsa) and red (pomegranates). This is no coincidence, as the dish is tied historically to the independence of Mexico. As it is said it was famously served to Agustín de Iturbide (a general during the mexican war of independence).

The dish is served at room temperature (usually a little bit warm on the inside) , and is very sweet due to the sauce. The centre, which is filled with picadillo, is a fruit, spice and meat mixture which contributes to the sweet taste. The inside can often be a bit spicy due to the pepper, a taste which really compliments the sweetness of the creamy sauce.

The three parts of Chiles en Nogada

he Nogada salsa being poured onto the Chile

Chile en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada are best served with a white wine or a sparkling white wine. Accompanied with the dish is always bread, which is very important because you use it to mop up the delicious sauce. The bread can be a bit of a deal breaker, if the bread is not up to scratch, then it can really let the dish down. You want to have a nice crispy bread like photographed below.

the ever important pan

So what makes El Mural de los Poblanos’ Chiles en Nogado so worth the visit? Well you can’t go wrong with any dish here – as a foreigner visiting Puebla, if you have a decent amount of money to spare, then this is the place to go because you know you are getting high quality cuisine which is truly poblano. And if you happen to be in season try the chiles! This is the real thing with every ingredient being directly sourced from local farmers.

If you want to make them at home here is a recipe though they say there are as many recipes for Chiles en Nogada as there are families in Mexico. An even better option is the cookery classes offered by the restaurant; if you are a keen chef or foodie check out more information on classes here.

Wherever you go in Puebla, don’t pass up on this very tasty poblano dish.

I will leave you with wise words, ‘Puebla is Mexico’s best kept secret’. No doubt about it; don’t pass up on visiting this magnificent city and all its delicious food.

¡Provecho!

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Vamos a Huatulco

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This is Huatulco, Oaxaca

Soy Poblana loves Puebla, BUT Mexico is a big place full of other great places to visit too. Recently I visited Huatulco which is in the state of Oaxaca. Huatulco is a beach town consisting of nine beautiful bays, located on the pacific coast. It is also home to a vibrant town centre that has many bars, restaurants and shops. Huatulco is a welcome change to the obvious choice of Cancún, and a much cheaper one too. Though Cancún has much to offer and is worth the visit, Huatulco is far moremexican, more authentic and offers a beach resort which has not been americanised. And of course it is in the great state of Oaxaca, which has so much character and charm. Huatulco remains a well kept secretly internationally with only 20% of its tourism coming from oversees. Its high seasons are in the months of June/ July and over the Christmas/ New Year period.

All roads leading to Huatulco

There is lots to do in Huatulco, the most popular being visiting the bays.  There are daily boat trips offered my numerous companies that take you around all the bays leaving from Bahía de Santa Cruz. One of these bays is Bahía Cacaluta (protected by the national park in which it is located) which is only accessible by boat and was the filming location of the beach in ‘Y tu mamá también‘. The bay is about 1 km long and has been untouched by tourism.  These boat trips allow you to get off and swim in a couple of the bays, and also grab lunch.  Alternatively (or additionally) you can access the bays by foot or taxi if you want to spend longer at individual ones. Bahía Chahué is the most easily accessible beach and in walking distance from many of the hotels. It is home to a couple of beach clubs, and a bar/restaurant which has two swimming pools available to the public.

Playa Entrega

Bahía Chahué

Aside from the magnificent bays, which offer great snorkelling opportunities (I recommend La playa Entrega which is accesible by Taxi), boat trips, speed boats and banana boats, there are also other activities available such as white water rafting, horseback riding, or relaxing at a local spa. This is a lively town by night, with the town centre (La Crucecita) located away from the beaches, offering its own unique atmosphere and a great night out. There are also night clubs and bars by the beaches such as La Papaya.

White Water Rafting at a nearby river in Huatulco

The prices in Huatulco are very reasonable for a beach resort, you should except to be paying around 20/25 pesos for a beer (the cost of a beer is always my measure of whether I am getting ripped off or not). However if you want to drink/eat right on the beach, the prices increase dramatically. For this reason I recommend eating out in La Crucecita, and if you want to drink on the beach (who doesn’t?) then bring a cooler full to the brim with ice cold cervezas.  One beach-side restaurant which offers good prices is ‘Ve el Mar‘ located in the bay of Santa Cruz. Like many restaurants in Huatulco they offer excellent fish and seafood dishes.  Within La Crucecita, along with restaurants and bars, there is also a market called ‘El Mercado 3 Mayo’ which is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch for great prices.

Sunshine is expected for about 330 days of the year in Huatulco with an average temperature of  28°C.

Temazcal Spa

Where to stay in Huatulco? It really depends on your budget, keeping in mind that you can get a lot more from your money if you are coming from abroad, you can get high standard hotels for cheaper than you would expect.  Also there are cheaper options too. I recommend usinghotel/travel websites using the budget you have, keeping in mind whether a swimming pool is important to your trip as not all hotels offer them. Many hotels also offer beach clubs (if they are not located on a beach) which often also have a swimming pool.

How to get to Huatulco?  Huatulco has an international airport which receives flights from the USA and also Mexico City (2 hour flight) and Oaxaca (the state capital).  You can get there by car which takes about 8.5 hours (from Puebla) or by bus which takes about 12 hours (from Puebla). The bus is a very good option if you don’t have a car, with the cheapest return fair costing only 1000 pesos. The bus leaves (from CAPU) in the evening so you arrive in the morning in Huatulco. Mexico offers different levels of buses, with added things included for the more you pay (for example movies / larger seats / wifi). Though the basic buses are very comfortable and an inexpensive way to get around Mexico.  ADO is the bus line which goes to Oaxaca and Huatulco.

Anything else?  Puerto Escondido, only an hour or two away from Huatulco, is a bohemian beach town which is also worth the visit and worth tagging on to your trip if you can.

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