Wednesday, 16 May 2012

People ask at times....

   Some frequent requests over the weeks and months are responded herewith.    A long tour or stay in Mexico, reasonably safe, without emphasis upon the banal, or the disco, or throngs of banal, disco go-ers.    That seems to be the common thread.
Hotel San Leonardo Puebla, Puebla,  Mexico
Lobby of the San Lorenze, Puebla
     Two or three weeks moving between, and including, Puebla and Oaxaca cities.   That is the recommendation of the Gringo Viejo.  Fly to Puebla, transfer to either the very downtown Hotel San Lorenzo, or stay on the edge of the urbanised part of the city at the poofy, ritzy Marriot, where the Volkswagen executives stay.
     We used both of those places many times over the years.   We think that for a couple or a trio of couples travelling together the San Lorenzo, warts (which are few) are tolerable, and the colonial and pre-revolutionary ambience is very enjoyable.   Plus (but wait there's more), it is in midst of that incredible, almost mystical ambience of DOWNTOWN.    Some say that Puebla reminds them of a fusion of Paris, London, and Madrid.    El Gringo Viejo's clients often said that without knowledge that others had said that before them.   It also has Mexico City Modern ancestry....very modern.   It is a really fine place.    Food!!   Food!!   Italian, Mexican, Indian, French, American Smoozy, Chinese, taco-stands on the street; FOOOOOODDDD!!!! 
     And then shopping....whether you buy anything or not....talavera pottery, common for daily use, elegant, or designer museum quality type stuff....woven things....general is a wonderland.   Sidewalk saloons and restaurants.   Museums, the Fortress of Loreto,  the Pyrmid of Cholula,  the Chapel of Cholula, the City of one chapel for every day of the year, the almost cold nights in the summer, and the warmth of the afternoons, the Cecil B. deMille Geographic backdrop cannot be duplicated.   It is like Mexico City with 1/10th the problems.   The population is mixed with full-blooded Indians (Otomi' and Tlacalan), in typical dress at times (especially women on weekends), people of mixed red and white ancestry, and people composed of totally or almost totally blood from the European Tribes....Spanish, German, Italian, French, English, Irish,  Scottish, is about the right order of blood lines of the white tribes.
      An investment of three or four nights would be correct.   A minimum of three nights, try to hit it mid-week for better rates.   If you have any Spanish at all, engage a carro de sitio for the afternoon of go to the Fortress of Loreto and whereever else the driver might Gilligan and the Captain....a three hour tour.
Other recommendations, for whomsoever requests such, will be made to the best of our ability..

     Then, on to the South, perhaps a direct ADO bus.    There are several million things that the OROG will miss by taking the direct bus, but you are going to the City of  Oaxaca where there are ten million things to distract the visitor.   It is a comfortable 4 hour run on a toll-road.  Very compelling geographical passage.    What you are missing are places where a curmudgeon might semi-retire and grump around, being grumpy.  Huehuapan de Leon is an example.

Monte Alban Archeological Site
      Once in Oaxaca City a person or small group has about a zillion and two/thirds bunch of choices about where to stay.   Spend a lot for a common, a little better than first class room, but enjoy an irrefutably perfect ambience and location.   The place is an old convent from the 16th Century.    It is rated ultradeluxe....and you pay for it....but once again, the rooms are what one would find in a three or four star hotel, and the ghosts of much of Mexico's past are pleasantly accompanying the visitor.   Such is the Dominican masterpiece, confiscated by the Constitution of 1917, left to rot for 65 years, and finally converted into the government owned Hotel Presidente, then the Hotel Ambassadeur, then the Camino Real Oaxaca.   It is a quirky place.   We had many groups there.  The staff never once said, "thanks, have a nice trip", or "come back soon"....Their initial flurry of welcome always changed to almost cigar-store Indian mode for the rest of the stay.    Our clients seemed to love the place, and the restaurant was excellent....although expensive to the extreme....the waiters were the only ones who did not work in the cigar store.

   But, where would you stay, Gringo Viejo?   The crowds clamours for a response.   Okay, my favourite of all is an un-presuposing place with the odd name of Hotel Gala.  It is in the very, very, very middle of town.   If it were any more in the middle, the guest would wake up in the centre of the Gazebo in the middle of the Zocalo (main plaza).    It is only first class, which in Mexico means...middling high.  It is two stories only, no elevator to fail during the earthquakes, and has only a little dinette that has a really great breakfast and "breakfast ambience".   The rooms are neat as a pin, small but very clean baths, completely uninspired decor, but nice.   One can beg for a "plaza view" room or cleave to the quiet of an interior room.   Right now, the walk-in rate is about 32 USD .   This link is a bit clunky but it is worth the effort to click through it.
     Within five blocks in any direction, everything can be found.   Watch repair for you grandfather's gold watch, nice stores with crystal, onyx, semi-precious stones, gold and silver jewelry brought in by Indian craftsmen from the mountains.   Every little family restaurant is a delight, sidewalk saloons and restaurants, nice mezzanine restaurants overlooking the pleasantly noisy and musical plaza, the central market is all but adjacent.  Two days can easily be spent walking the six blocks to and from the Church of Santo Domingo, for on that route are literally a thousand diversions.   In the depths of Summer, the temperature swings between 84 F in the afternoon down to 54 F in the earliest hours of the morning.  In the Winter, it's about the same.   It is heavily touristed, but it is also a State Capital, and educational centre with Pinko U right downtown, a dedicated to various processing operations for coffee and chocolate which is raised just a few miles to the east.  Therefore, it is a working town, very tolerant of tourists, but also very intent on accomplishing the mission for the day.
Mitla Archeological Zone
      Not far away, crossing over the plaza and more or less adjacent to the Cathedral, is another of those places where one might expect to find Sherlock and Dr. Watson, sharing a gin and tonic with Poirot and Capt. Hastings.   Miss Marple would be drinking hers from a tea cup, of course.  (She really prefers Coca Cola with the local mescal and half a lime on the side.).     This hotel has at least a billion dollars worth of the finest tile appointments.   Rooms are small and neat.   But once a person manages to check in, he realises that he has done himself a favour on many fronts.  It is about 1,000 pesos per night for the better rooms, 900 for the higher floor, lesser rooms that are wholly adequate.  Go through the clunky but fairly easy to navigate site to see a rare thing....a true picture of a place and its .
     There are many places to stay, even in the outback, like the Posada de Don Cenobio, down in Mitla, about 25 miles to the south.
It's a pleasant little place with a nice small swimming pool, and a restaurant of sorts....good food, in any regard.   One can take a taxi, negotiate closely, although El Gringo Viejo has always found the rates to be almost ridiculously low, if a person just grabs one of the common, circulating taxis.   It's about 25 miles to the south of the city of Oaxaca.  The driver can be easily coaxed into side trips and into revealing shopping and restaurants and bars....making a complete day trip of it.
     The OROG can stop and tell the driver to put 200 pesos of fuel into his tanque.  It will assure him that you approve of his driving and that you intend to use him to-day..and maybe more.   His tales, experiences, and studies will usually dovetail well into the OROG's studies of the area and places being visited.   If one wishes, we have heard good things about theis new little place out near the Mitla Archeological Zone...a strictly major league mesoamerican dig.   The Hotel Restaurant Don Cenobio is a good place to "cool it" and generally relax.   These are the really fun ways, in the Gringo Viejo's opinion to really have a good time and to get to know people and their conditions and their dreams and hopes and accomplishments. 

     Please understand that these are simply a few places in Oaxaca.   There really are hundreds, and any 50 of them this writer would consider a good place in which to die happy.
The only point about any of this is that there are hundreds of things to see and do in and around Oaxaca.   Visiting the surrounding towns could and has occupied visitors for days, weeks, months, and even years.   One can do the "pottery tour" or the "minerals tour" or the "archeological tour" or the ''culinary tour" or the "language tour'' or the "coffee and pineapple tour" or do these and many others or just sit on the main Zocalo and watch people and eat fine food and gossip.   It's a good place to live, or whatever.

     NOW, once done with these couple of weeks, a person can board a flight in Oaxaca, they have eight flights per day to Mexico City, via AeroMexico, make your connections in Mexico City to fly  to Gringolandia, and be home...."before you know it"....with no jet lag....because you will have been in the same time zone the whole time.   (!!)

Just some thoughts....tomorrow, or sometime soon, a couple of other easy trips.
El Gringo Viejo