19 March, 2006

OaxAaca, OaxAaca, OaxAaca...

Where is that old chanting fool anyway?

We forgot to mention in our last post that we´re staying in the wonderfully cheap and renovated Hostal Aldama. Rooms with King size bed, bathroom, tv, fan, etc. are $30 a night, though that price is only available if you book online.

So, Saturday was a bit of a slower day. We started early at the Mercado de Abastos, on the city's southern end, right off the Periferico. This market is at it´s best on Saturdays and spans three large, roofed areas (the whole thing is slightly larger than an American football field). You can find pretty much everything you would get at a supermarket, as well as live chickens and turkeys, footwear, hats, leather goods, pirated media, porn, pharmaceuticals, etc, etc, etc. A full-fledged market indeed! After that we got lunch at the "Rana Feliz," which is an inexpensive, passable restaurant just outside the Mercado Benito Juarez. Following lunch we ran a bunch of errands, picking up more things for our apartment and friends back home. The rest of the day we spent exploring the city, esp. around the quiet, beautiful neighborhoods of the NW side of Oaxaca´s centro. Noteworthy among these are the various dwellings tucked under the city´s age-old aquaducts. From here we probably returned to the Zocalo for the usual 5 o´clock beer and pursuant people-watching. In the evening we dressed up for a nice dinner just north of the Zocalo and we ended up calling it an early night, eager to wake up the following day and hit the Cerro de San Felipe.

Unfortunately, disappointment was in store for us as the Cerro had been closed to hikers since October of 2005. The friendly guard at the entrance informed us that the park had been closed due to human contamination of the city's water source, which originates here in San Felipe, as well as to the fact that there had been some fires recently due to the dry season. He emphasized that *maybe*, just maybe, the park would reopen during the wet season. He concluded warning us that agents were patrolling the park and that were we to be caught we'd be briskly escorted out of the park. So we decided to take the highway that winds around the Cerro and enjoyed some panoramic sights of the city below. On the way we ran into a couple of kids from the US who´d been living in the city since end of last summer. We asked them plenty of questions about life in Oaxaca and particularly the complicated moving process. They were very friendly and informative and we continued our journey back into the city, passing through beautiful San Felipe del Agua and chatting with a nice old man about retired life in Oaxaca. Apparently it´s not too expensive to move out here, as rent for a very nice two bedroom bungalow ran at $500 a month, which is encouraging enough given our dream to move down here sometime in the next couple of years.

The rest of the day we spent walking around the far NW end of the city, just north of the Centro. We lunched at Maria Bonita, which is the restaurant that is owned by Eve´s host parents back in '04. The food is amazing, simply some of the best cuisine in the city and we ordered Sopa Azteca, Sopa Xochitl, Mole Estofado con Pollo, Chille Relleno de Pollo and Michelada and Papaya Juice. After that we toured the neighborhoods of Xochimilco and Barrio Nuevo, two very nice hoods in the NW corridor of the city. Throughout our tour we were escorted closely by a timid black street dog who simply refused our offers of food and water. He stopped trailing us once we hopped on to the bus to return back to the city centro. After that, we returned to the hotel for a nice cold shower, which was followed by the most disappointing Margarita and Fries on the NE corner of the Zocalo. The name of the place begins with "Hostilleria..." and we recommend you avoid it at all costs. The margarita's were 85 percent ice, 10 percent lime juice, and the smallest hint of tequila. The $3 plate of fries included exactly 20 fries.

Anyway, that´s our vacation thus far. Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Pochutla where we plan to spend a couple of days lazying about at Mazunte beach. Check back in a couple of days for more on our experience in Oaxaca state!

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