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worm@work

Planning a trip to Mexico

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Hi All,

We are planning our very first vacation in 4 years (I've been in a PhD program and too broke and too busy to go anyplace) and we've decided we're visiting Mexico this December. This is our very first trip and we really don't know much about the region and would really appreciate any recommendations you can give us.

We are both pretty devoted to food although the husband is only interested in the consumption part of the experience. One of the things I'd really like to do is to attend a cooking class at Susana Trilling's cooking school in Oaxaca.

Apart from that, we'd like to visit some ruins and also shop for local arts and crafts if possible. We also want to spend at least a couple of days in a beach that's relatively unspoilt and not touristy.. the icing on the cake would it be if we could also find good seafood there :).

Right now, we don't even know which cities we want to go to.. all we know is that we need to go to Oaxaca for my dream class! Like I said before, I would really appreciate any advice on cities to visit and places to eat in those cities!

Thanks so much,

-w@w

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We are both pretty devoted to food although the husband is only interested in the consumption part of the experience. One of the things I'd really like to do is to attend a cooking class at Susana Trilling's cooking school in Oaxaca.

Apart from that, we'd like to visit some ruins and also shop for local arts and crafts if possible. We also want to spend at least a couple of days in a beach that's relatively unspoilt and not touristy.. the icing on the cake would it be if we could also find good seafood there :).

w@w

Here is the link for Susana Trilling's cooking school Season's of My Heart

Her schedule of classes is on the site and it does look like she's teaching in December.

I've taken a class with her and had a great time. She's a wonderful teacher and her facility excellent.

Both Monte Alban and Mitla are located in (or around) Oaxaca and are well worth a visit. Oaxaca is a destination for quality arts and crafts both in the city and the surrounding countryside. Guides can be hired at Monte Alban and Mitla to explain what everything is and I'd recommend hiring a guide to get the most out of a visit. Shopping for arts and crafts in town is pretty easy, but if you want to go directly to the source a guide is useful. Most hotels either have a guide or can arrange one to take you to local craftspeople. I've used Toni Sobel an American ex-pat married to a Mexican phyiscian and have been very happy with her services. You can find her contact information on theRick Bayless web site.

Both Puerto Escondido and Huatulco are located on the Pacific Ocean coast of the State of Oaxaca and neither is exceptionally touristy. They are accessible via bus from Oaxaca A couple days ago I read an account of someone (who lives in Oaxaca) who had just returned from Puerto Escondido and said it had been quite pleasant, very few tourists and remarkably inexpensive.

The one thing you do need to be aware of is that there is some political unrest going on in Oaxaca right now. The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings against travel to that area. You might want to read the thread entitled "Oaxaca" in this forum as well. Towards the end of the thread is a post containing a letter from a woman who actually lives in Oaxaca and talks about what daily life is like. Having previously traveled to Oaxaca and having a reasonable level of understanding about the Mexican political system, I, personally would not have a problem traveling to Oaxaca. I would exercise caution and common sense. However, since this is your first trip to Mexico you might want to factor the political situation into your final decision.

An alternative to Oaxaca is the Morelia/Patzcuaro area of Michoacan. Morelia is a UNESCO heritage site and there are a number of Purepecha ruins to explore. Patzcuaro is charming. It is also the only other part of Mexico able to rival (and in some cases exceed) Oaxaca with regard to the folk arts. The food is also pretty darn good in this region as well. And it's got a beach, Zihuatanejo.

Continental flies non-stop to both Oaxaca and Morelia via Houston which eliminates the plane change in Mexico City. And you could do an awful lot worse than to simply spend a week exploring Mexico City. Yeah, it's a big, very big city, but it's got great energy, but it doesnt' have a beach.

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We are both pretty devoted to food although the husband is only interested in the consumption part of the experience. One of the things I'd really like to do is to attend a cooking class at Susana Trilling's cooking school in Oaxaca.

Apart from that, we'd like to visit some ruins and also shop for local arts and crafts if possible. We also want to spend at least a couple of days in a beach that's relatively unspoilt and not touristy.. the icing on the cake would it be if we could also find good seafood there :).

Oaxaca update: from today's Reforma newspaper Mexico City -- the baby steps to resolution of the teachers strike in Oaxaca by the APPO (teachers association). They have announced that they will vacate/ stop the occupation of the Zocalo (main square of the city). This is to alleviate the economic stress that the strike has occasioned to the restaurants and hotels in the area. The federal police though are still near the city and only the President of Mexico can order them to intervene, which is doubtful. Pres. Fox leaves office on Dec.1 leaving this to Felipe Calderon who I suspect will tread VERY cautiously, no one wants any violence!

If the governor of Oaxaca were to resign the conflict I think would quickly resolve.

There are still tourists in the area but I would suggest that you monitor the situation on a day to day basis. Being a resident of Mexico City my heart grieves for the people of Oaxaca and would hope that the conflict would end quickly.

I agree that Morelia/Patcuaro area is wonderful and the food wonderful, as it is throughout Mexico. You might want to contact Cristina P., who does tours of the area (expat resident of Gudalajara with 25 years in this area) at patalarga@baddog.com.

For Mexico City, where there cooking classes on almost a daily basis on regional Mexican cuisine you might want to contact another expat at princetoncooking@aol.com

Good luck and enjoy Mexico.

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Oaxaca City has had an undercurrent of unrest for a number of years. Tourists are not targeted there by the current situation, don't go into the fray, keep your wits about you, and it should be fine.

take a small plane to Puerto Escondido -~30 minute flight, (about $100 US each way) or take a van, which is a six/seven hour ride on a narrow road that switches back and forth throughout the entire ride for ~$24.

Huatulco is almost as touristy as Cancun. It's a gringo resort town and not worth spending the money in. Puerto Escondido is much better, stay at the Sante Fe Hotel, at the end of the road, their restaurant is all fish and vegetarian and is probably the best in town, but the remainder of the restaurants along the beach are great as well, all specialize in freshly caught and grilled fish and dinner is ~$10 p/p.

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If you are on a budget, I can heartily recommend the bed and breakfast, Casa Lidia, which was running about $35 for a single and about $50 for a double when I was recently in Oaxaca. It is in a quiet little neighborhood that is not an inconvenient walk from the Santo Domingo church and the rest of the downtown area. Breakfasts are terrific and the people are really nice.

Casa Lidia does not have any markings on the outside and when you arrive, you just knock on the door and someone will open it for you. This unmarked aspect gives a wonderful privacy.

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We spent 3 weeks in Oaxaca last summer (05) and had a great time.

We stayed with a family associated with the Spanish language school we attended. They were wonderful. Just outstanding! It is not necessary to attend the school to stay with them. PM me if you want contact information. The down side of staying with Hector and Leo was that we were not in the center of town. However, we were near the bus system, and were able to get where we wanted to go without much trouble. (About $15/ppd, for a room with a private bath and a hearty breakfast)

Another place that I would strongly recommend is Mariposa. It is a nice place, and reasonable.

As for cooking schools, I attended several. One was S. Trilling. It was worth every penny, and a wonderous, charming time.

I also went to the school associated with El Naranja. I would not recommend it. It was fine. Just fine, but not recommended. The owner was "cold". She started the class with "I won't remember your names, so it isn't necessary to introduce yourselves". All the cooking we did was to take turns turning the blender on and off, pealing chiles, and roasting them. Our market tour was very perfunctory, not very personal, and unispired. When it came time to eat, she went to another table. We were dismissed.

It was quite a contrast from Susanna's warmth.

Also, there are many, many cooking classes that you can arrange once you get down there.

Enjoy, and don't worry about the Ph.d. Those (and the sometimes difficult year following) can be survived.

kcd

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