What do you get when you combine thousands of years of interesting history, a diverse climate that allows you to swim in the ocean and hike in the mountains and a culinary center in the western hemisphere? You get the city of Oaxaca de Juarez, otherwise known as Oaxaca. I had been all over Mexico over the years, but never been to the capital city of the state of Oaxaca, as much as I had always wanted to go. Finally, I got together with a group of friends and we decided it was time to make it happen. Each of us was assigned a certain task, and with the division of labor set there wouldn’t be much individual planning necessary. Unfortunately, some signals got crossed and no one reserved any Oaxaca hotel rooms. We found this out the night before we were set to leave. The group was in a mild panic.
I took it upon myself to search for Oaxaca hotels on my phone, just to see what I could find. I found an app called HotelTonight and opened it. It provided me a whole list of possibilities for Oaxaca hotel rooms, and I excitedly clicked through on one that seemed to be the right fit for us. To my amazement, I had booked a room for us within a matter of a couple of minutes. There was no hassle, no stress and no confusion. I gleefully reported my progress to the group, and everyone started to realize that the next day we would be embarking on a great adventure. I couldn’t wait to see different parts of this amazing city.
We started where it seems to have all started for this city, in Oaxaca Centro Historico. This is a site unlike any I had ever seen, as Monte Alban’s excavation had revealed canals, terraces dykes and pyramids that were hundreds of years old if not older. This was a land occupied at certain points by the Olmecs, the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. What was even more interesting was that all of this history did not sit far from neighborhoods that live in its shadows peacefully and as though time had stopped in this region of town altogether.
We moved from the historic center to a neighborhood that was much more residential in nature. It’s almost like its own little town just north of Centro. It has a library that provides workshops, mostly for children and it’s an old artisan area. There are still places everywhere weaving textiles as though it was still 100 years ago. After seeing all of this history, we decided we needed a bit of a break and stopped at a café for some coffee. It was as though we were watching some sort of three-dimensional documentary on the past as we chatted about our day to that point.
We kept moving northward and stopped in a neighborhood known as Colonia Reforma. This truly was a neighborhood where tourism was not present, and it was extremely interesting to watch the locals go about their days. It was a relatively quiet area with different types of homes all around, and thankfully it also had a few restaurants. We were excited for our first lunch in Oaxaca, and it did not disappoint. Millions of people have had Mexican food in different parts of the world, but those who have had it in a place like Oaxaca understand that it’s just not the same. It was delicious. We were full and ready to embark on our afternoon of exploring.
We began our afternoon by looking for a neighborhood where we could shop for gifts for our family members and other people who could not join us. We were not interested in any of the tourist shops or cliched souvenirs, so we went into San Jose La Noria. This is another relatively quiet part of town in the northeastern section of the city, but it had exactly what we were looking for. We found some very nice and unique gifts and filled quite a few bags with goods. Satisfied, we walked around a bit more and worked up an appetite. It was time for our final stop of the day and dinner.
We stayed in a relatively central location for our final stop, but we did not want to deal with the crowds and bustle of the center of the city. This was an area that provided exactly what we were looking for, and we were told about a small local restaurant nearby that served some of the best food in town, or so they said. We really couldn’t say for sure, but we did know that this was some of the best food we had all experienced in quite some time. They weren’t kidding about Oaxaca being a center for food, as both of our meals that day had been something else.
As we headed back to our hotel, we were all exhausted but extremely happy with how our day had gone. It was hard to believe that 48 hours earlier, we did not even have an Oaxaca hotel reserved. Thanks to HotelTonight, we took care of that in a manner of minutes. Now all we had to do was get back to our room, enjoy a big night of sleep and then get up and start exploring this wonderful place all over again.