Well, I can’t say the city exactly welcomed us with open arms. After a rocky couple of nights, we wanted to give the city a chance. It was a little frustrating how many local businesses were closed because of Semana Santa, but there was nothing to be done about that. We spent some time relaxing on a shaded bench in the central square. George likes his coca cola, so he went to grab one from a local street vendor. What he came back with was a plastic bag filled with ice and cola, tied off with a straw jammed in. Not the cold refreshing glass bottle he was expecting. The city does have its charms though. A beautiful church in the central square (the largest in Central America) was the starting point for an Easter procession (minus the alfombras that Antigua laid out). G and I had a front row seat from a coffee shop. Another charm – delicious coffee. All-in-all, Leon was a nice town – I can’t see myself visiting again though. I don’t have the will do fend off the bed bugs.
This tradition appeals to me on so many levels. Entire communities come together to prepare intricate and colorful alfombras (sawdust carpets) in the streets for the Catholic Easter processions. Teams of friends and family work all day and night to complete the alfombra only to have them walked on soon after by the long processions and immediately shoveled up by the clean up crew. Each group seems to have their own method and design concept. They are primarily using coloured sawdust, wood shavings, pine needles, flowers and other random at hand things like vegetables and bottle caps. One alfombra even had a fountain with wine while another was a rendering of jesus entirely done out of different shades of sawdust. Because we were visiting Antigua in the weeks leading up to Semana Santa, there was a procession every weekend. I would compare the processions to a parade in North America. Needless to say, there was eye candy every weekend. The processions include hundreds of men (dressed in purple) and women (dressed in black and white) carrying religious icons. One of the platforms being carried was so large that it required 70 people on each side to carry it. Processions start in the morning and can go all night.
The last procession we saw included Roman soldiers. Now, the soldiers were not just there for decoration….they served a purpose, using their pitch forks to prop up the telephone and power lines. There was also a fleet of men with walkie talkies at vantage points throughout the procession organizing the mass of people.
Today makes two weeks since we arrived in Antigua. Both Teresa and I are totally loving our experience here. We are taking Spanish classes in the mornings and the afternoons are a mix of homework and activities around town. We rented a small flat at the end of town with a small kitchen and a kick ass rooftop deck with a view of all three volcanoes around. One of the volcanoes is active and regularly puts a show spewing lava and smoke high in the sky.
Here are a few pictures from Antigua for a taste of what are our days like. I will be adding more posts for Antigua since there is so much stuff around here. The town is absolutely beautiful.
Family and friends have been asking to put pictures on the site from our last month and a half of travel. We will be doing that in the next week or so. I will be adding posts with older dates to keep events in order so look for new posts prior to this one. We hit some really cool places to make it down to Antigua so stay tuned.
Several years ago, we were on the coast in Oaxaca state for Nat and August’s wedding. Amazing. So, in my mind, Oaxaca City was a must see as we drove through Mexico. Nat and August spent a bunch of time there, so we picked their brains while crashing at their pad in SF before xmas. From what August told us, I gathered that food in Oaxaca is should be the biggest tourist attraction. August also sent us a 3-step plan to epicurean delights in Oaxaca.
We had stayed at mostly some sketchy places on the way down to Oaxaca, so I wanted a place in the city with a few more comforts. We ended up getting a nice little hotel room. I was pacified. As a side note, with a piping hot high pressure shower, good bed, and blazing fast internet, I can live just about anywhere doing just about anything.
As mentioned, I was determined to stick to the plan. We were exhausted the first night in Oaxaca after days and days of driving, so we picked a full restaurant on the central park for dinner. In my mind, basically any food item + guacamole = bliss. I saw chapulines + guacamole on the menu. Awesome… = bliss. However, I hadn’t tried yet “chile relleno con queso”, so I opted for that. When we got home, I looked up chapulines. Apparently a delicacy in Oaxaca (cool), toasted grasshoppers (not cool). Disaster averted. The chile relleno was delicious by the way. The queso was flavored perfectly with fresh herbs and it was served in the rojo mole (one of 7 moles that Oaxaca is also known for). George did not have such luck. He got chicken in green mole (another of the 7 moles). The mole was sweet, and we believe in separation of church and state (sweet and savory).
The next morning, we headed for one of the places on August’s list. After hunting it down in the market, we found the mandated eating establishment. We ordered chilaquiles verdes con huevo. This time, the green mole was sour. I emailed August and Natalie and enquired what the heck green mole was supposed to taste like. Nat told me to stick to the plan – it was implied that we were eating less than awesome food because we had veered of course.
Needless to say, we did stick to the plan. The food was awesome, but with little Spanish, I was struggling to eat vegetarian while staying true to August. That evening, we took advantage to the thriving night life in Oaxaca. We tagged along with a parade around the city. A school had planned a concert that began with hundreds of students following a band around the streets of central Oaxaca. It was quite a fiesta when you added in some dancing, tequila, and two giant nurses. We classed it up with a bottle of rum and some coke. I thought that we had again lucked out with our timing. As it turns out, there were 3 more processions (2 weddings and one of just bicyclists).
The following day, we checked out Monte Alban before continuing the journey to the Yucatan and L. Batt + Bud.