Travel with Kids – Mexico (Part 2) Oaxaca
One of the main reasons for our trip to Mexico was for the wedding of my cousin Alberto to his beautiful bride Clarisa. In traditional Mexican style it was a huge occasion, with family coming from all over Mexico and further afield to join in the celebrations.
Our arrival in Oaxaca (pronounced wahaca) was an early one, after a sleepless night flight from Tijuana. The children were well rested but I on the other hand was exhausted! We got a taxi from the airport to our residence for the week, a stunning B&B called El Diablo y La Sandia (The Devil and the Watermelon)
It was just perfect as it hosted most of the family who came for the wedding in rooms surrounding a beautifully decorated central courtyard. Apart from the first couple of days, we had the place to ourselves giving us the chance to make it our home. Breakfast time was a treat, we were served delicious traditional Oaxacan cuisine and they always catered specially for the children if it wasn’t something they fancied. It was also a chance to chat to some of the other guests in the first few days, a lovely gay couple from Hawaii and a young student from the US offered great conversations and insights into other ways of life.
The rooms were more than comfortable and the staff were exceptionally friendly and accommodating. There was one lady (whose name I can’t remember unfortunately) who was especially brilliant with the children. She often played or sat watching TV with them to give us a break now and then.
Oaxaca is a beautifully vibrant artisan city, full of life and colour. I always felt safe walking the streets, even alone at night. We were a short walk from the city centre where there was always something going on, from markets to live music. We ate at delicious restaurants and cafes around the main square and I loved browsing the colourful markets for local handicrafts. It was a shame we didn’t have more space in our luggage or I would have bought a lot more! Oaxaca is also famous for its amazing art galleries and shops. There is a distinct passion for art, oozing from the colourful building fronts and doorways. The streets are awash with vibrant colours making you feel happy and alive!
We were the first of the family to arrive, and one night we found a lovely restaurant for dinner called Los Danzantes. We entered through a single door on the street which opened up into a large courtyard, with palm trees, water features and delicate lighting. The restaurant had been recommended and was certainly atmospheric. I ordered what I believed to be pasta with a herb sauce. No one attempted to mention to me what I had in fact ordered! Our food arrived and we all began to eat. Very tasty I thought as I tucked in. Now, remember the delicate lighting; I was almost at the end of my meal and I guess my eyes had adjusted to the light. As I looked down at my fork I saw something I really didn’t want to see! I showed it to Elena who looked pretty shocked and told me I was in fact eating plateful of Chapaulines. (Cooked grasshoppers to you and me!!) A Oaxacan delicacy it seems, shame I didn’t know that when I ordered! They actually did taste pretty good, but once I knew what they were, I couldn’t bring myself to finish the rest! The Cascade de Chocolate for pudding more than made up for it though! Worth a visit, just watch out for those chapaulines!!
The next day the rest of the family arrived, from other parts of Mexico and the US. The atmosphere was wonderful, everyone was happy and excited for the wedding in the next few days. Biz went to collect his suit from the hire shop and managed the whole adventure, from giving the taxi driver directions, to collecting and paying for his suit and finding his way back again, in Spanish! He has far more confidence with languages than I do. I’m very proud of him!
We wanted to explore the area, so one day, Dad and Elena joined us in hiring a car and driver to take us to Monte Alban, an archaeological site not far from the city. Our driver was also our tour guide and gave us a brilliant insight into how things would have been when the site was inhabited in the period 500BC to 850AD. It was a very hot day with nowhere to hide from the sun, so the kids did find it hard going and didn’t really want to wander around listening to the guide talk in detail about the history! Osito, Pebble and I went for a wander on our own to explore, while Dad, Elena and Biz made the most of the guide’s knowledge.
Before we did our own thing though, we did learn about the ball courts that are typical of settlements of this kind. It is believed that one of the games they played, called Juego de pelota (the ball game), was played using a rubber ball of varying sizes and weights, sometimes up to 3.5kg! The aim of the game was to score by getting the ball through a stone hoop suspended vertically, high above the arena. The arena walls were sloped away from the court so this was no easy task. The other problem was that no hands were allowed to touch the ball or the ball touch the floor. It had to be passed by knees, elbows, thighs or hips! It was so hard to score a point that the first team to do so were usually the winners. These games were filled with ritual importance, and the losing team were often sacrificed in order to appease the gods.
As we were reaching the end of our tour, Biz and Osito took a run up to the top of one of the monuments to take some photos whilst the rest of us waited at the bottom. Pebble picked up a rock and instantly started to pretend it was her camera. She took lots of pictures of the surroundings, and then turned the rock around and swiped back through the pictures, talking me through each one of them. She has such a beautiful imagination, wanting to be just like her brother and Daddy, taking photos all the time. From that moment on, and until months after our return, that rock (camera) came everywhere with her and she took many many photos. What was so beautiful about it is that everyone she photographed played along with her imagination.
The wedding day arrived and there was a wonderful feeling of excitement in the air! Osito and Pebble were both asked to be part of the ceremony and were feeling a little nervous, as they didn’t really know what they were in for! The wedding was in the Santo Domingo Cathedral in Oaxaca, stunning throughout and dripping in gold! We met the beautiful bride Clarisa for the first time outside the cathedral. She introduced the children to the other bridesmaids and page boy Diego, who later at the reception, became great friends. I felt so proud watching them walk down the aisle holding hands in front of a huge congregation! After they had done their bit, they joined us in our seats and managed to sit for about half the service before the boredom set in! Biz took them outside until the end. As the whole service was in Spanish, it was pretty hard to understand what was being said most of the time. It was amazing to see so many tourists wandering in and coming right up to the front taking photos, but the wedding had taken over the heart of Oaxaca for that special moment.
After the ceremony, the fiesta began, spilling out from the Cathedral! Complete with colourful Oaxacan dancers and huge papier mache Bride and Groom on poles, the music played and the whole area came alive! There was free flowing Mezcal for the adults and ice lollies for children as we danced our way to the reception venue a mile away!
Due to the fact that we had travelled from overseas to attend the wedding, the Oaxacan tourist office had offered this spectacular for free, as their way of advertising their City and culture to other visiting tourists. What an amazing experience to be part of it!
The reception was fantastic, delicious food, drinks on tap all night, and the perfect playlist from start to finish! Our beautiful little angels dressed in white, soon ended up climbing trees and playing in the earth, and ending up looking more like dusty street urchins than wedding guests! They were having a wonderful time showing off their moves on the dancefloor and had so much attention from the adoring guests, we were worried they were stealing the limelight! We had a brilliant day, such a gorgeous couple, fantastic family around us and an awesome party! Best wedding yet!
The day after the wedding we wandered around the markets gathering supplies for our own private party that evening. The happy couple joined us for a short time before they headed off on their honeymoon and the rest of us shared fine food and wine and laughed the night away. Times like these become truly special memories.
Our time in Oaxaca was coming to an end, I’d definitely recommend anyone to spend some time there and I look forward to going back one day.
Next stop – Cancun and the Yucatan!