Thursday, 30 March 2017


We’ve spent the last week in Oaxaca City, set amongst the mountains in south-west Mexico at an altitude of 1600m. It’s a colourful place, literally and metaphorically, proud of its music, culture and food.

Oaxaca's main pedestrian street
As in other parts of the country the buildings are brightly painted and the region is famous for its colourful handicrafts, as touted on stalls and by every street corner by enterprising locals.
Plaza Santa Domingo
One of Oaxaca's many churches
In the Zocalo, Oaxaca’s central square, there is live music every night – from traditional ‘banda’ (Mexican brass band), to mariachi bands, marimba players and buskers singing and playing guitar or cello.  At any one time in the square, you’re likely to hear at least two performances going on – I’m not sure how it’s possible for the musicians to concentrate and tune out the other music – but they are all keen to earn their evening’s tips!

I don’t think I realized how much of the music I like it influenced by the warm Mexican big-band brass sound. Of course, now it’s obvious, many of the bands I like are from the southern states in the USA, not too far from Mexico, so it’s obvious that the influence might creep across the border.

Here’s a track for you to listen to – and for those of you who know the bands Beirut, or Neutral Milk Hotel – see if you can hear the similarities (though less so in the vocals!)

The Zocalo is also home to many shoe-shiners and balloon sellers – there are surely too many of them to all compete with each other, but it all adds to the colour of the square.
Shoe-shiners in the Zocalo

One day we did a trip to nearby mountain village, Cuajimoloyas for some hiking and zip-lining. At an altitude of 3200m it was much cooler and a welcome relief from the scorching temperatures in the city. A three-hour hike, however, was exhausting at that altitude, where the air was so much thinner!

View from Cuijimoloyes
Looking down on to Oaxaca City
We ended the day zip-lining from one mountain village to another – a one kilometre zip line, eighty-metres high and travelling at 60kmph! Well done to Kev for facing his fear of heights to do this!

Zipline from Cuajjimoloyes to Benito Juarez
The foodie scene in Oaxaca is also something they are very proud of and it’s possible to eat very well and very cheaply, with lots of family-run traditional restaurants, food markets and local specialties, including Oaxaca’s own ‘string’ cheese (a bit like mozzarella), locally brewed craft beer, stout and mezcal.

Breakfast of champions!
We enjoyed a meal in the local market – a passageway full of barbecues serving grilled meat, chorizo, chilies and onions. We got rather more than we could eat – our limited Spanish meaning we were unsure quite how much we were getting and the locals taking the opportunity to sell us things by blinding us with science! The meal was cheap and delicious, however!

This led us to signing up for a crash course in Spanish – sixteen hours over four mornings – so whilst we’re still very much beginners, we can at least say a few sentences now and conjugate a few verbs! We’ll practice what we’ve learnt during the rest of our trip – all of which is in Spanish-speaking countries.

Next, we'll head down to Zipolite on the Pacific Coast next for a spot of beach time. I'll blog again from there.


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