OAXACA, MEXICO. OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

OR THE DRAMA AND LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE UNPRONOUNCEABLE.

Hotel National.

Waking the next day to bright sunshine and sheer happiness I hobbled out to the main top communal terrace. Seeing that it was going to be perfect for sunbathing and having some chilled beers later, I smirked contentedly, the nighttime demons had disappeared and all was well with the world. I shuffled back to my room on my by now hugely swollen foot and unpacked and showered. It was a beautiful bright clean, if a tad tiny, room and plenty of light flooded in through my windows. So no hanging around for this old bird just a quick check on my devices for maps and museums etc and I was off!!!

Very Mexican feel at this gem of a hotel

Top Tip: What had seemed scary and weird the previous night was a gem in the morning. Amazing what a decent kip and blue skies can do. If you’re arriving late and overtired you can feel very gloomy about your choice of hotel and the area it’s in. This is why I always say try to fly in the morning. If you’re arriving in the daylight it’s less daunting and depressing. My bad journey the previous day had left me depleted and although I got a lift with a fellow traveller, I still felt concerned about my choice when he and his family kept muttering that they didn’t know my neighbourhood in a disapproving way. I have learned since, there is quite a lot of snobbery in the up and coming areas. If you are unlucky enough to have had your hand forced to travel at night try not to fret, all will be well in the morning xxxx

The girl at the front desk always laughing at my rude jokes.

The lovely girl from the desk the night before fretting about my foot (I found out later she never stops working) Her and the maids were clucking and worrying about me, as I backed out the door defiant to the last.’ I’ll be fine’ I kept saying as they eyed me beadily armed with bags of ice and a cup of coffee. I slithered out after promising to get some breakfast in the market opposite. Outside it was bright, hot, so beautiful and well er, Mexican.

The Indoor Market.

Busy indoor market over the street from my hotel.

The great indoor market was directly opposite and I limped into the cool halls full of produce including mountains of avocados, as big as a navvies fists, salad veg all extra large and vibrant smelling fruity and wonderful. Cafes with breakfast tortillas and beans and all sorts of stuffing combos. Arrays of chickens arranged feet out as if dancing a macabre cancan. Fish on ice and fresh juice stalls that were serving pints of various fruit juices mixed up to your order. A large corner of the massive hall dedicated to any flowers you can imagine, smelling glorious and selections of every chili ever invented lay in baskets silently pulsating, their heat waiting to be released into an unsuspecting mouth. Maize cobs of all colours and sizes, breads and cakes. Toys for children and grown ups. Pottery, clothes and woven baskets. Jewellery and bright unidentifiable baubles. Carved yams, woven bags textiles of bright colours it went on and on, drowning you with its brightness and opulence.

As I left, a stallholder, a young cheeky chappie, tapped me on the shoulder holding the big ugly fish I had been gazing at earlier aloft. Now eye to eye with this ugly but magnificent fish, my street cred depended on my reaction. I swiftly leant forward and firmly kissed those fishy lips much to the hilarity of the other stallholders. Cheeky chappie was disappointed as he obviously expected me to scream. Ha ha ha, yes I haven’t got a handle on the Oaxacan humour yet but I think they sussed out mine that first day. Whenever I went back in I was treated with a lot of respect and back slapping. I loved these people but you have to be on your toes.

The Central Square and Cathedral.

Beautiful small houses brightly painted surround the large main square crammed full of restaurants. I hadn’t eaten in the market after fronting up to a dead fish so was very peckish but I wanted to stagger on a bit. The Central Square is a delight. So much action and restaurants and bars, too many to choose from but all selling basically the same menus and as I walked up to the cathedral

Oaxaca is a lovely place. The vibe is positive and as long as you stay in the centre which is heavily policed you’re fine. In the course of the next couple of days I occasionally had to go into streets that most definitely ain’t for a girl going it alone. It’s a fact in Mexico that it can dramatically deteriorate safety wise at the turn of a corner or on a new parallel road to one that was bright and breezy .you have to be on your guard nearer the periphery of the centre but even here pickpockets and con men thrive.

Shadowy walkways away from the burning sun and great restaurants

More planning and dangerous expeditions.

I was happy to see all the day of the decorations still up as I had travelled through most of the highlights the night before however much like at home when Halloween is over Xmas rears its ugly head. As in Merida Xmas decorations where starting to creep from their impatient hiding places and Santa was breathing down my neck. I just didn’t have time to dawdle foot or no foot I needed to plan this section of the trip.

So over lunch and into the night my scribbling into my notebook began. I realised that I needed to hit Hierve El Agua the following day early so I could squeeze in Mitla too. The next day I would go to museums and galleries then the day after to the beach at Puerto Escondido. So after lunch I should sweat it out and go check bus for following day AND for the onward journey in three days. This would give me some peace of mind as now I had THE FOOT I would have to get very tight on my travel plans as everything was taking that bit more time.

The walk back to my hotel after lunch was hot, sweaty, emotionally draining and frankly a bit too busy and pushy and shovey for my liking so back at the ranch, after a terribly misguided purchase of what looked like in retrospect a Mexican waiters shirt (never shop in pain and haste I didn’t even need a fucking shirt), I swooned a little and had a fake siesta before checking out the buses and where they went from. A small icy beer and my ice pack pleasantly melting on my foot numbing the pain meant I dallied on that very fine terrace perusing the next days plans for Mitla and Hierve El Agua. Then I went through the museums I would hit the day after. A quick cold shower for my now pink skin and a change of clothes to go search for a ticket office for the bus.

My daily recuperation with ice bottle on the foot happened here along with guzzling wine in the evenings

The ensuing hobble to not one but two very dangerous bus offices in the searing afternoon sun, was not my finest hour as a canny old travelling bird.What looked close on the map was actually a fair old limp. I had to go in the opposite direction of the pretty square and posh area into a seedy unpoliced area. Yoy always have to remember that bus stations and bus ticket offices are always in cheap rental areas away from the centre. With an injury you are a walking target, get used to it you are putting yourself out there. You are saying the below:

“Look at me? I am a bit on the wrong side of 40 (what?!), I don’t know your town and have strayed into a famous rape and murder zone unknowingly. I also am a woman alone and slightly lost but don’t dare to get out my phone to look on the map on it as I know you will steal it from me. I am blonde and wearing a flowery skirt and have pain and regret stamped on my face for this terrible folly of an outing. I am stupid and deserve whatever you deem necessary to show me the error of my ways. I am asking for it! This is the message you’re giving out. Don’t take any chances in strange places, you can very suddenly enter a no go area. I was told by a local “You see that street?” he indicated to his left, “That’s safe” then he turned to his right and said “Down there it’s too dangerous for you to go”.

Top tip: Now read all the above and imprint it on your brain as to what not to do. Realise that you must always suss out the joint first and not be a fool. I only did this I wasn’t thinking clearly as I was always in pain or out of it on painkillers! us Gringos are foolish. The next day coming back from the bus station I was with the German couple and we went straight through a really dangerous red light district with junkies, spivs, working girls and filth, we were all very very scared.

I made it home without tickets and a healthy amount of respect for my surroundings. I would go to the bus station in the morning with a couple of German tourists and do everything from there not be Mrs Fancypants and Duchess Know-it-all again in this lovely but deceptive town. I had had a steak at lunchtime and the sultry heat of the evening meant I had no appetite and was too scared to go out anyway!

Drama over I lolled on the terrace and drank wine while nursing the foot with my frozen water bottle. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

OVER AND OUT FROM A FOOLISH OLD BIRD.

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