October Travels

15 Oct

The last weekend in October we went to Puebla, Puebla which is southeast of Mexico City. My husband and I had been asked a year ago to be padrinos  – godparents or sponsors – for the quinceañera, fifteenth birthday of my niece. The traditional party for the fifteenth birthday is almost like a wedding, usually held in a hall, with food, drink and dancing.

 My mom said she wasn’t going to stay home with a babysitter, so she went too. My husband left two days earlier and then I traveled with my mom and daughter on Aeromexico to Mexico City.  We were lucky and for a minimal fee they upgraded us to first class. Even with the wheelchair boarding and deplaning with my mom, everything went very smoothly. My husband met us at the airport with a rental car for the two hour drive to Puebla. The drive passes the majestic snow-capped Popocatepetl volcano and winds through pine forests. We had been invited to stay with my in-laws, but Puebla is cold this time of year and usually there is no heating. People are accustomed to the cold and generally wear sweaters indoors or sometimes even jackets and use heavy blankets at night.

 As this wasn’t suitable for my mom, we booked at Marriott Real http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pbcmc-puebla-marriott-real/  and had a delightful stay. The room was attractive and comfortable, the service was excellent and we had a special rate for the executive rooms with breakfast included. It is an older hotel spread over seven acres of gardens and you don’t feel like you are in the city. The heat worked great, even too much so. My mom would have the heat on high and I would wake in the night and feel like I was in the desert, really hot and a parched throat! 

 On Friday my husband took me to Tecali, a small town 40 minutes from Puebla where life centers around marble and onyx.  The stone is from the area and artisans work it and stores sell it. There are just a few streets in the town and all are filled with stone shops featuring the most incredible creations. One of the most beautiful things they sell is a four foot high rectangular lamp made of thin slices of onyx. When lit, the lamp is warm and natural, with every lamp different due to the variations in the rock. I bought a tall, cylindrical lamp made of white onyx for a third of the price I would have paid here in Vallarta. They rapped it in bubble wrap and I checked it as a piece of luggage. I also bought smaller cylindrical lamps to use as Christmas presents. They had pyramid lamps and wall sconces. They had huge leaves carved from stone, candle holders, sinks, mirrors and just about anything you can think of.

 Saturday we did a bit of sightseeing in downtown Puebla, checking the colonial architecture, cathedrals and pulse of this busy city. Being the birthplace of mole, I just had to stop at the market to get some of the paste to take home. Later in the evening we attended my niece’s birthday mass in the St. Francis of Assisi church and then on to the hall for the party for 400 people. The food was great, the music was exceptional and my eighty-one year old mom had a great time.

 On Sunday morning we drove to Cholula, a tiny town where the dominant feature is a cathedral built atop a pyramid. When the Spaniards were conquering Mexico, it was their habit to raze the indigenous pyramids and build churches atop them to effectively wipe out indigenous religions. We visited an ethnobotanical garden where they grow the plants and make great natural products like teas, essential oils, herbal remedies and skincare products. I bought a divinely fragrant mosqueta jasmine plant that I hope to grow up my front entrance. I spied a restaurant decorated for Day of the Dead with life-sized skeletons sitting at one of the tables and so that’s where we ate lunch. We started with an order of mermelitas.  They are very simple, just a thin tortilla, spread with either red or green salsa and sprinkled with the crumbly Mexican cheese. Simple, but delicious. I had a chile en nogada that I was dying for, my mom had spaghetti and my husband had mole. You can’t get bad food in Puebla.

 The rest of the time was for family visits and the journey home. I was really amazed at how well my mom did on the whole weekend. The only niggle was the hyper security at the Mexico City airport. They deemed my small stone candleholders that I had in my carry-on as weapons and made me go back downstairs and check in the bag. I had already filled my luggage allowance, but the agent was kind enough to let me check the bag at no additional cost. You can just picture me with a crazed look in my eye and a candleholder in each hand trying to take over the flight. Oh well, we live in interesting times.




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