Written by Fiorentina on 09 Sep, 2009
Following are a few recommendations from a recent trip I took to Puebla Mexico. Puebla is a lovely non-touristy colonial city full of friendly people, beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine. I recommend visiting in August when the weather is perfect during the day…Read More
Following are a few recommendations from a recent trip I took to Puebla Mexico. Puebla is a lovely non-touristy colonial city full of friendly people, beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine. I recommend visiting in August when the weather is perfect during the day with rain showers at night. August is also the season for the regional dish of Chiles en Nogada, a complex dish of chiles stuffed with a meat and fruit filling and topped with a vanilla nut sauce. Tastes much better than it sounds! I stayed at the lovely eight room Mesone Sacristia de la Compania boutique hotel. The location can't be beat and is within walking distance to the Zocalo and historic center of town. The rooms are filled with antiques. It's like staying at your great aunt's house and I felt cozy and safe. The staff were friendly and helpful and very attentive to a woman traveling alone. I took several cooking classes at Mesone Sacristias and it was the highlight of my trip. They also can arrange other classes such as; photography, Talavera pottery making and tours. Meals are served in their courtyard restaurant and they have a full bar with entertainment on the weekends. www.mesones-sacristias.com (address: 6 Sur 304, Centro Historico, Puebla, phone 52 (222)232-4513.) I had an in-room massage from Gaby Breton of Medical & Spa. Gaby and her staff provide massages to guests at many of the boutique hotels which do not have their own spa. She is professional, brings all her own equipment and speaks English, as she spent a year studying English in Cleveland, Ohio. It was quite convenient to have the massage in my room and her charges were very reasonable. She just opened her own spa and can be reached at: L.A.E. Gabriela Bretón S.Directora General Medical & SpaHOSPITAL PUEBLA - Consultorio 811Priv. de las Ramblas No. 4 Desarrollo Atlixcáyotl C.P. 72197Tel: (222) 4 30 24 36Cel: (222) 4 96 00 72Nextel. 72*688802*1 email@example.com A great tour guide in Puebla is Gerardo Vasquez. Gerardo has a masters degree in tourism and speaks English, French and Spanish fluently. He is knowledgeable and professional and I enjoyed his company and commentary. He also provides airport meet and greet service and tours to surrounding areas of Mexico. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (044)22 23 06 88 01. If you need a coffee fix head for Zaranda Cafe at Av. Juan de Palafox 412-A in Puebla (near El Parian craft market). They roast and grind their own coffee on site and the cafe has a modern upscale appearance. In addition to coffee drinks they have pastries and wi-fi. I purchased coffee beans to bring home as gifts. Prices are very reasonable, I paid $3.90usd for a 500 gram bag of coffee roasted and ground to my specifications. If coming from the USA, I suggest flying directly into Puebla. Continental Airlines provides direct flights from Houston. It's a small, clean airport and even with going through Customs and Immigration, I was in and out very quickly. On my way home I flew out of Mexico City which should be a two hour drive from Puebla. Unfortunately, my driver and I were stuck in a flood and the main highway had been washed out due to mudslides from the rains the previous night. What ensued was a nearly three hour adventure through flooded mud covered streets and bumper to bumper traffic. My driver was terrific! He did his best to try and get me to my flight on time. He is a professional driver in Mexico City and I highly recommend him. He has many corporate clients. His name is Domingo Patino, telephone 044 553 043 2764.I speak Spanish fluently and I didn't hear much English spoken in Puebla. The city is delightfully laid back and free of high pressure vendors and timeshare hawkers. The architecture and history are wonderful. Chapel of the Rosario is well worth a visit, it is stunning. The cuisine is the best i've tasted anywhere in Mexico and the prices were well below what one would find in a tourist destination. I felt safe during my entire week in Puebla and can't wait to return. Close
Written by Vicho on 21 Nov, 2004
In 1531 the Spanish came to this valley overlooked by majestic volcanoes Popocatepl and Iztaccihuatl and founded a city called Puebla de los Angeles (Village of Angels).
The Spanish introduced new materials and techniques to the production of pottery, for which the city is famous…Read More
In 1531 the Spanish came to this valley overlooked by majestic volcanoes Popocatepl and Iztaccihuatl and founded a city called Puebla de los Angeles (Village of Angels).
The Spanish introduced new materials and techniques to the production of pottery, for which the city is famous up to nowadays. The city grew very quickly into an important Catholic centre. In 1575 Francisco Beccara and Juan de Cigorongo designed the cathedral, whose image appears today on the 500-peso note. Its construction was very slow, and when in 1626, the king stopped the flow of money into this project, only the chapel and a few pillars were built. The funds were renewed again in 1634, and the Metropolitan Cathedral was finally consecrated on the April 18, 1649 in a ceremony so huge that none like it was ever seen in all New Spain again. The cathedral definitely deserves admiration. It is spectacular from the outside (the towers are 70m high, which makes them the highest in Latin America), and once inside, you can admire the creations of the finest artists of the age. The cathedral is open to public everyday from 10:00am to noon and from 4:15 to 6pm.
To continue the tour around the city’s most beautiful sites, follow street 5 de Mayo to where it intersects with 4th Poniente, where you will find the Temple of San Domingo. The Chapel of Rosario has been called the eigth wonder of the world and its golden polychromatic interior, dating back to 17th century, is still the best jewellery of the city. It is open from Monday to Sunday, 8:00am to noon and 4:30 to 6pm.
Don’t forget that the city is also famous for its tiles. One of the best examples of this still can be seen if you follow 4th Oriente until the Boulevard of Heroes del 5 de Mayo. Turn left and keep walking until you see on your right the Temple of San Francisco, with its tower and beautiful brick-and-tile facade. Even if the temple was damaged during the earthquake in 1999, it’s still a building deserving admiration. Apart from that it’s a place that attracts lots of worshippers, San Sebastian de Aparico (who planned the building of many Mexican roads before becoming a monk) is buried in here.
There is much more to visit in the city, but if you want a bit of nature instead, then hop on a bus to Cerro de Guadalupe that will leave you at the top of the hilly park, where a crumbling an old fortress can be visited as well as acres of lush parkland. The day passes quickly in Puebla while walking from one site to another as distances among them are not short. Every street has many colonial buildings and some little churches, so while exploring Puebla, make sure you have enough time to experience it calmly.
Written by gorboduc on 03 Dec, 2004
A walking tour of Puebla's historic district was included in our hotel package, so after our first cooking class, my friend Tammy, our classmates the Peels, and I met Carlos, our guide. A former engineer, Carlos is knowledgeable and personable. He took us on a…Read More
A walking tour of Puebla's historic district was included in our hotel package, so after our first cooking class, my friend Tammy, our classmates the Peels, and I met Carlos, our guide. A former engineer, Carlos is knowledgeable and personable. He took us on a two-hour walk that covered many of Puebla's main sights.
We started at the zocalo, Puebla's main square. It was full of people enjoying a warm Sunday afternoon. Merchants selling balloons and trinkets set up shop under the trees, carts sold lime ices in cups ringed with chile powder and big bags of chicharrones, ready to be slathered with hot sauce, and families strolled under the arcades which surround the Zocalo in three of its four sides.
After explaining a bit about the zocalo's function as a communal gathering spot, Carlos led us around the corner to see the famous Casa de Los Munecos, or House of the Puppets. It's a 17th-century mansion that's covered in Talavera tiles -- but these tiles aren't the typical flowers or delft-like patterns. They're murals of grotesque figures, all dancing strange little jigs. Apparently, the home's original owner was a wealthy general and he wished to add a third story to his house. City regulations didn't allow this, so the incensed general went over the heads of the town council by requesting permission to build from the King of Spain. The king allowed the general to build the third story, and as a way of thumbing his nose at the local government, the general covered the house's front facade with panels depicting the town councilmen dancing to his tune.
Not far from the Casa de Los Munecos is El Parian, the local craft market. Originally, it was where traders from the Phillipines and the far east set up to trade their wares. Today, El Parian consists of two long buildings that run parallel to one another, with a wide pedestrian avenue between them. Each building is divided into tiny stalls, each shaded by a curving tile overhang, where craftsmen sell pottery, clothing, metalwork, and (during the Day of the Dead), tiny clay skeletons dressed as working people who perform their daily activities, apparently unimpeded by the inconvenience of being dead.
At the far end of the market, across a broad avenue, lies the Teatro Municipal. Dating from the 18th century, it is supposed to be the oldest theater in the Western Hemisphere that's still in operation. Unlike European playhouses from the same period, the Teatro is very simple. This is due to the fact that it began life as a bull ring -- you enter the ground-level seats where the bulls entered the ring. The theater has a modern mural on its ceiling depicting the valley of Puebla and the three volcanos which surround the city.
Across the street from the theater is the church of San Francisco, notable for its stunning facade of Talavera tiles, this time in murals of vases stuffed with stylized flowers. In the church's forecourt, we saw a friar blessing people's cars (though judging by the number of breakdowns we saw on the way to Puebla, this isn't an effective form of maintenance). Nearby is a picturesque church that was the backdrop for a scene in the movie Frida (and a bakery which sent the delicious smell of hot bread into the afteroon air).
Heading back towards the zocalo, we walked down the Calle de los Dulces, or Candy Street. Here, confectioners turn out Puebla's famous sweets, including camotes (candies made of sweet potato) and rompope (Mexican eggnog). The street is also studded with convents. The nuns who lived in them were the inventors of most of the confections, the recipes for which slowly seeped out to the general populous and were the impetus for the candy-making district.
At the far end of the street is the Museum of the Mexican Revolution, located in the home of the brothers Serdan. The Serdans were reformers in the early part of the 20th century and were killed by government troops for plotting the downfall of the dictator Porfirio Diaz. Bullet holes from the firefight still scar the outside of the house.
Closer still to the zocalo, on the pedestrian Boulevard Cinco de Mayo, is the Church of Santo Domingo. From the outside, it looks like a typical colonial curch, and inside, the nave's decoration is positively restrained (especially comapred with some of the baroque decor of the other local churches). But to the left of the apse stands the stunning Capilla del Rosario, considered by many to be the most beautiful chapel in Mexico. It's certainly the most amazing, with talavera wainscotting, huge oils of the life of the Virgin (they must be at least 20 by 30 feet high) that decorate the chapel's nave, and a ceiling of carved and gilded plaster which must be seen to be believed. This link gives you a pale idea of what it's like, but nothing's like being there.
After seeing the Capilla del Rosario, visiting the cathedral (which forms the fourth side of the zocalo) seemed almost anti-climactic. But the cathedral has delights of its own -- stunning floors of local marble, glorious 17th- and 18th-century altarpieces, and an amazing classical high altar designed by Manuel Tolsa. You can see a scale model of this altar in the Museo Amparo, a few blocks away.
Written by gorboduc on 09 Nov, 2004
One bonus of my recent trip to Puebla, Mexico, is that it happened to coincide with the Festival del Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead Festival. A mixture of Catholic and native traditions, the Dia de los Muertos is a festive…Read More
One bonus of my recent trip to Puebla, Mexico, is that it happened to coincide with the Festival del Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead Festival. A mixture of Catholic and native traditions, the Dia de los Muertos is a festive occasion when the living welcome the souls of the dead back to Earth for a visit. It takes place over several days, from October 31 (when the souls of accident victims are supposed to return) to Nov 2 (when the souls of adults come to visit their old homes).
All over the city of Puebla, the shops displayed sweets made of white sugar or amaranth seed, molded into the shapes of skulls and decorated with shiny foil and brightly colored icing. Merchants in the Parian, the local craft market, sold whimsical clay and paper-mache dioramas of skeletons doing daily tasks -- walking skeledogs, typing at the computer, and teaching classes of child skeletons.
The graves in the graveyards were nearly hidden by banks of deep orange marigolds (the flower of the dead) and fuchsia coxcomb and were outlined with votive candles. Many shops, restaurants, and public areas had altars standing in them -- altars to the dead, festooned with lacy tissue paper cutouts of skulls and bones, decorated with more marigolds and candles, and piled high with pan de muerto (the bread of the dead, an egg-based sweet bread, like panettone without the fruit), sugar skulls, fruits, religious art, and the deceased person's favorite foods and beverages. Sometimes the altars commemorated a concept -- we found a political altar for the death of justice -- or a celebrity, as my friend found a touching altar dedicated to Christopher Reeve.
On November 2, our translators, Audrey and Mariana, and the other members of our cooking class, the Peels, set off with a local guide to the rural town of Huacachoula, famous throughout Puebla state for its elaborate altars. The tradition in Huacachoula is to display an altar to the public for the first year after a loved one has passed away, and subsequent commemorations are for family only.
The altars were stunning. Rising to the top of the 20-foot-high ceilings of local houses, they were swathed in white satin and decorated with statues and lithographs of angels and lacy white paper cuts. Though the altars could have as many as five levels (in ascending size, giving the overall impression of a wedding cake), each altar is really divided into three symbolic levels. The first level contains the departed person's favorite foods and drinks; the second an image of the departed person himself (often reflected by a mirror, as that helps the soul to return to earth); and the third is full of angels, crucifixes, and other religious art. Paths of marigold petals lead towards the altars, helping the souls of the dead to find their way home.
Though it may seem a bit strange to Americans and Europeans (it did to me, at any rate), the Day of the Dead is a happy occasion, when families go to the graves of their loved ones, decorate them with flowers and candles, and feast on the departed person's favorite dishes. The center of Huacachoula was turned into a carnival, with rides and vendors selling trinkets and sweets. The Day of the Dead is also a time for hospitality -- you are supposed to bring a small gift, like a candle or a few coins, to each altar that you visit. At the last altar that we saw, the family invited the whole group of us in for pork ribs cooked in mole sauce.
When I stumbled across the Mexican Culinary Magic package on luxurylink.com, I got excited. Six nights in a colonial city in Mexico's heartland? A hotel in a historic 18th-century building, decorated with antiques? Fifteen hours of cooking classes? All meals included? A city tour and…Read More
When I stumbled across the Mexican Culinary Magic package on luxurylink.com, I got excited. Six nights in a colonial city in Mexico's heartland? A hotel in a historic 18th-century building, decorated with antiques? Fifteen hours of cooking classes? All meals included? A city tour and museum entries? What wasn't to like, especially when the package was at auction for less than half its retail cost?
I enlisted an interested friend to come with me, and we placed our bid for the package and won it at the reserve price -- $1005 for both of us, land only. It wasn't much work to score cheap airfare to Mexico City, and within a week of placing our bid, we had made all of the initial arrangements for our trip to Puebla, at a cost of about $870 per person.
On arriving in Mexico City, we headed for the airport's bus station (follow the green bus signs upstairs to the bus depot), where we bought bus tickets to Puebla on the Estrella Roja line. The cost was 260 pesos per person, round-trip (about US$23) for a first-class bus.
The bus was REALLY nice, with movies, a radio, a bathroom, and a bus stewardess who passed out snacks and drinks. We arrived at Puebla's 4 Poniente bus station and took a taxi (about 20 min and 40 pesos) to the Mesones Sacristia de la Compania. The hotel was lovely -- situated on a quaint street in the historic district, it had lovely, airy rooms decorated with antiques and a great courtyard restaurant (more about that in other entries).
The highlight of the stay, however, were the cooking classes, held at the sister hotel, Mesones Sacristia de los Capuchinas. Each morning after breakfast in Sacristia's courtyard, we walked the few blocks to Capuchinas to begin our lessons. The cooking lessons were nearly private -- there is a maximum of six people in each class (our class had four people in it). They run each morning from 10am to 1pm, and you then have a full, sit-down lunch of the dishes you've prepared. Everybody gets an apron to wear during class (you can keep it when you're done), and each group gets a binder containing the recipes you'll make during the course of the week. For English speakers like myself, the classes are translated by one of the hotel's staff, usually Audrey or Mariana.
One of the best parts of the class is the trip to the local market. Here, you can pick up some of the things that you've been using in class--griddles called comals that are used for roasting vegetables, as well as dried chiles, spices, and chocolate.
The chef/instructor, Alonzo, is AMAZING. The food that he teaches you to cook is nothing like the Tex-Mex that you get here in the US. It is largely Pueblan cuisine, which is subtle and sophisticated in its use of herbs and spices and not unlike Indian food in its use of layers of flavors.
Most dishes are light –- roasted, rather than fried in lots of oil -- and full of the bright taste of fresh herbs and the smoky richness of grilled vegetables and chilis.
Among the dishes that we learned how to make were salsa rojo and verde (which are to Mexican cuisine what the mother sauces are to French cooking), Pipian, an amazing sauce of herbs and chicken broth, thickened with toasted pumpkin seeds, Coconut Flan, and the famous Mole Poblano. Each day, we made three courses -- appetizer, entree, and dessert, plus a beverage.
By the end of the week, we all had a grounding in some of the basic dishes of Pueblan cuisine -- and a burning desire to return to Puebla for Mesones Sacristia's proposed advanced cooking course.
Written by gorboduc on 11 Nov, 2004
My friend Tammy and I decided that we liked Carlos's walking tour of Puebla and his trip to the town of Huacachoula for the Dia de los Muertos so much that we would arrange to see the nearby town of Cholula, home of the largest…Read More
My friend Tammy and I decided that we liked Carlos's walking tour of Puebla and his trip to the town of Huacachoula for the Dia de los Muertos so much that we would arrange to see the nearby town of Cholula, home of the largest pyramid in the western hemisphere, with Carlos as our guide. It was a good decision.
Cholula is a small town that has become a suburb of Puebla. Its main claim to fame is the great pyramid -- a pyramid with a larger volume than the great pyramid at Giza. From the front, the pyramid looks like a regular old hill, albeit one with a very attractive lemon yellow church at the summit, Nuestros Senora de los Remedios. Driving up to the base of the "hill", however, you see the tunnels that archaeologists laboriously cut through the heart of the pyramid. For an entrance fee of 33 pesos (about $3), you can explore the tunnels and the excavated portions of the pyramid that lie on the back side of the hill.
Walking the cool, dim tunnels of the pyramid, we were very glad that Carlos was with us -- there are dioramas scattered throughout offshoots of the main tunnels that chart the pyramid's development over the centuries, but no explanation of what you see. Carlos explained to us that the pyramid we see today is not one pyramid, but a series of them, each built atop the previous culture's construction like Russian nesting dolls.
At the end of the tunnel, across a path leading to the church at the pyramid's summit, is the backside of the archaeological site where various layers of pyramid have been excavated. Here again, we were happy to have Carlos, since the placards that explain various areas of the site have about three times the information on them in Spanish than they do in English. He told us that the pyramid had been a temple to Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of pre-Columbian times. We went to the fascinating Plaza of the Altars, with acoustics that make clapping hands echo back like the cries of eagles.
When we had finished exploring the ruins, we walked up to the church at the top of the pyramid and had a beautiful view of Cholula and the surrounding area. In pre-Columbian times, the great pyramid was not the only one in Cholula -- the town was, in fact, a great religious center -- the Vatican of the native Mexicans. When Cortez came upon it as he explored Mexico, he pronounced Cholula the most beautiful city outside of Spain -- and then proceeded to massacre its inhabitants.
Why was this the loveliest city outside Spain? Because the pyramids at Cholula had an interesting feature -- towers, upon which the priests build bonfires so that the city gleamed in the darkness and was easily seen from far away. But the Spaniards wanted to subdue the populous and convert them to Christianity, so they pulled down most of the temples and used the stones to build the many churches that you see in Cholula today.
We climbed back down the hill and headed for two famous churches that are in small towns close to Cholula -- Tonantzintla and Acatapec. The church in Tonanzintla is justly famed for its carved stucco interior, a riot of fruits, flowers, vines, children, saints, and angels with wings of fire. The brightly colored carvings are gilded at the edges to stunning effect. Nearby in Acatapec, the church's facade is famous for being entirely covered with beautiful Talavera tiles. Inside, there is a more restrained version of the intricate stucco decoration at Tonanzintla, its restoration just completed following a devastating fire in the 1940s.
We also toured the Talavera de la Reina factory with Carlos. This beautiful factory is decorated from top to bottom with Talavera tiles and shards of broken dishes. Carlos explained the whole process of making Talavera (which is done wholly by hand). It takes six months to produce a single item, from digging the local clay to firing, glazing to finally selling. We got to watch the artists work at the potter’s wheel and see the men and women who paint on the lovely designs (many in freehand!).
At the end of the day, Carlos dropped us off at our restaurant, located in the charming La Quinta Luna hotel, and showed us some of the hotel's modern, luxurious suites and romantic candle-lit courtyard -- a wonderful ending to a lovely day.