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City Guide: The best of Mexico City

May 23, 2016

I’ve written about my love for Mexico City here and here, but I wanted to write a more detailed guide about some of the best things the city has to offer so everyone can enjoy it. Whether you’ve got just a few days or a couple of weeks in Mexico City here’s my pick of the best things to see, do and, most importantly eat.

See

There are so many places to see in Mexico City! Apparently it has more museums than anywhere else in the world and I believe it! And that’s not to mention the parks and monuments – if there’s one thing Mexico does well apart from food its public spaces. I didn’t get around to all of them – although I gave it my best shot! Here are my favourite places to see when in the city.

Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art)

I’m not an art aficionado by any means – in fact to be honest I find a lot of art kinda boring, but this place captured me from the moment I walked through its giant doors and caught a sight of the winding wooden staircase. The architecture and detail in every corner took my breath away.  There’s everything here from ancient Greek sculptures to 18th century Mexican works to modern pieces from throughout Latin America.

museo nacional de arte mexico city

Plaza de las tres culturas (Square of the three cultures)

I didn’t go here until my last week in Mexico City but I’m so glad I did.  If you can, go on a weekday because the queue here on the weekends is crazy long. Here you can walk through the ruins of Aztec temples – some of which have an incredible amount of detail remaining! The pass includes entry to an excellent museum which you enter right after the ruins, and also a couple of other museums that are a bit confusing to find (especially when you’re hungry) but well worth the effort.

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Palacio Nacional (National Palace)

I’d heard so many good things about the National Palace that I didn’t really want to go (does anyone else do that?) but I’m really happy I did because it was awesome.  Diego Rivera’s gigantic murals were the highlight – you can seriously just stare at them for ages and keep finding new things that make you smile.  But I also loved the exhibition of masks from all around Mexico and the original courthouse was pretty cool too! To enter someone in your group needs to hand over their passport – it’s kept securely and you get it back upon exiting. The line is super long on weekends so go early in the morning or during the week if you can.

museo nacional de arte mexico city

Do

Visit Teotihuacan pyramids.  These are very cool and very accessible. You can take a tour there which also includes a trip to a village where you can see an ancient church and taste some mezcal – or you can pay a tenth of the price and catch a metro and then a bus there. However you do it, just get there because they’re fantastic.

Teotihuacan pyramids mexico city

Explore Chapultepec Park – and give yourself a whole day to do so! This place is huge, I mean really huge! There’s so much to see and do here – pick up some souvenirs at the markets, feed the squirrels, admire the architecture of the Chapultepec castle, visit the zoo, peruse the anthropology museum (see above), try your hand at paddle boating on the lake, ride the roller coasters at Feria de Chapultepec or just sit under the shade of a large tree and observe the native wildlife and people going about their daily business.

feedign squirells at coyoacan park mexico city

Go up the Torre Latinoamericana (Latin-American Tower) building. Catching the elevator to the top of this building will give you the best views in the city – that may not sound that exciting to you (it didn’t to me!) but trust me, you’ll be glad you did it. You’ll appreciate just how big the city is and how beautiful it is too.

Torre Latinoamericana

Walk or Run at Coyoacan Neighbourhood. Coyoacan is easily my favorite part of Mexico City. You actually forget you’re in the city because it’s so chilled out and peaceful here. Coyoacan Park is absolutely gorgeous. Not only is it a beautiful place to exercise – there is a 4 kilometre walking/jogging track, but there are extremely tame squirrels to feed. And there’s a pretty cool artisan market in the town centre too.

coyoacan park, mexico city

Eat

There are so many delicious things to eat in Mexico City – and there really is something for every budget.  I occasionally splashed out on a nice meal but tended to stick to the cheap street food options which honestly really were some of the best meals I ate.

Pozole The best way to describe this is a hearty soup. It’s a thick soup with a base of hominy – giant corn kernels – to which you can add basically whatever you like. Popular additions include shredded pork, tortilla chips, avocado, radish slices, sour cream and various salsas. It is DELICIOUS and very substantial. The best pozole we ate was at La Casa Toña. We actually caught three subways and walked for 20 minutes to get there (cause that’s the kind of thing I’ll do for good food) and we were not disappointed!

pozole at la tona pozole at la tona

Tacos.  There are a few different kinds of tacos you can get in the city – all of which are delicious. The two most common are pastor (pork) and súaderno (beef). You can also get chorizo, goat head, kidney & liver – but these are much less common. Look for a busy taco place as these are usually the best and safest. The best place we found was on the corner of Juarez and Indepencia outside a pizza shop. AMAZING. And I loved that the guy who served us each night was completely unfazed that we were there – other vendors seemed to get a little spooked at having ‘guapo’ customers.

mexico city tacos

Grilled chicken.  Admittedly grilled chicken doesn’t immediately sound exciting but trust me – crispy yet succulent chicken served alongside a crunchy coleslaw and pickled chilies on fresh tortillas – is amazing! Truly.

Quesadillas.  Quesadillas are the perfect snack. They’re tasty, cheesy, small and they cost less than a dollar. And they’re yum!! You can get lots of different kinds although the most common is just a plain cheese one (with the addition of salsa or pickled chillies).  Other variations include cheese with zucchini flower, chorizo and shredded chicken.

quesadilla in mexico city

Tortas.  Mexico’s version of a sandwich, and as delicious as that likely sounds.  You can get pretty much any flavour combination you want – ham & cheese, chicken, chorizo & cheese, beef, tomato & cheese. They’re endlessly customisable, they come toasted and they cost about a dollar.

Pastries and sweets. I’m not entirely sure why Mexico City has such amazing bakeries – because other places we visited (Oaxaca, San Cristobal del las Casas, Tulum, Puebla…) didn’t have anything like what’s on offer in the city. First off the bakeries are huge! You grab a tray and walk around trying not to salivate over all the different options while you load yourself up with whatever you want, take it to the counter where it’s bagged and you’re given a receipt and then you go and pay at the cashier. It’s a slightly complicated process but that’s just Mexico. What’s important is that everything you buy will be DELICIOUS.

mexico city bakerys

patisserie in mexico city

Drink

Calle Regina is the best place to go in the city if you’re looking for some bars. It’s where all the cool kids hang out sipping cocktails, glasses of wine or shots of mezcal.  There are interesting murals and some cool art installations to look at too.

calle regina mexico city

If you’re prepared to go a little out of the city then the Condesa neighbourhood is great; it’s a street lined with craft beer bars and American style restaurants. You can do tastings here too.

craft beer condesa mexico city

If you’re just looking for some beers to take back to your hostel then the Oxxo have good prices. They have a deal for 4 regular beers (Tecate, Dos Equis, Indio…) for 55 pesos.

Shop

There are too many markets in Mexico City to count. Some of them are specialized like the one in Plaza San Jacinto which sells only artwork.  There are two big ones La Lagunilla Market & Mercado de la Merced Nave Mayor, where you can buy pretty much anything (literally – I saw a guy walking around selling rolls of sellotape – all kinds of sellotape) but they’re very easy to get lost in, and a little on the shady side. In other words don’t go alone, take someone with you preferably someone who has a good sense of direction and a big beard to scare off any would be pickpockets.

For anything you can’t find in a market you’ll find it down the main tourist street Avenue Francisco I Madero.

shopping in mexico city

Stay

Massiosare El Hostel

We stayed in only one hostel for the six weeks we were in the city but we loved it – and we talked to numerous people who had stayed elsewhere but told us that for the price it was the best accommodation option in Mexico City.  There’s a rooftop terrace where you can read, sunbathe, practice yoga or drink at the pop up bar on Saturday nights.  There’s free breakfast every morning; fruit, pastries, coffee and juice. There are two adorable cats Luke and Leia who will alternate between attacking you as you and snuggling into you – they’ll also try to sneak into your dorm and sleep in your bed. There’s a tiny but well stocked kitchen to use, clean bathrooms and showers in each of the dorms, comfortable beds and extra blankets if you need them.  There are two common areas – one with beanbags, a table, a large bookshelf, a TV and DVD Player and Nintendo to use. It’s in the middle of an industrial area so it’s quiet at night – two blocks from a busy street food area and two blocks from Juarez metro station. The staff here are lovely – really lovely, don’t hesitate to ask them for anything. Having said that – they’re hardly ever actually at the desk. If you arrive and there’s no one around trudge down the four flights of steps and turn right into the vegan cafe next door – there you’ll find the lovely Gus who is the owner of the hostel. He’ll come right up and show you around.

 Massiosare El Hostal  Massiosare El Hostal

They like to play and fight – and also sleep on you.

Massiosare El hostal Massiosare El hostal

So there you have it – my take on the best things to see, do, eat and where to stay in Mexico City. I love that city so much, it has a vibrancy that I haven’t found elsewhere yet. If you have the chance to go I’m positive you’ll fall in love with it as much as I did!

If you like this post save it to Pinterest to refer to later 🙂

city guide mexico city

Blog Mexico

A trip to the chocolate shop

April 14, 2016

This afternoon we both had a craving for chocolate, Guy because he was hungover from last night and me because, well I constantly crave chocolate. We went into a tiny little tienda just around the corner from where we’re staying where we were warmly greeted by the shop owner.  We exchanged pleasantries and comments about the weather until our Spanish ran out.  After looking around for a few minutes I selected two different blocks of dark chocolate. One was small and commercial looking and was $5, and one was large and homemade looking and cost $3. I held them up to the store owner and asked him which was better (half expecting him to recommend the more expensive one). He told me the larger (and cheaper) one was very delicious, and proceeded to break a piece off for me to try. It was delicious and I told him I’d buy one. He took another unopened bar from the shelf which he sold to us. Then he spent a minute wishing us a good afternoon and thanking us for stopping by – while three other customers just stood patiently waiting.

This simple act of kindness is so common here, we honestly experience something similar everyday.  Sometimes it will be a free lime at the markets because the stall owner likes my dimples, or someone will help us order food when we’re lost for what to do, or when I apologise for my poor Spanish at the hairdressers they laugh and tell me not to worry and then tell me I’m beautiful.  Just little moments that are so genuine and sweet they literally warm our hearts. Thank you Mexico.

Blog Mexico

Mexico City I love you! [part two]

March 23, 2016

If you haven’t read it you can part one of this post here

We’ve been in Mexico City for a little over three weeks now and we’re still loving it. We’ve been spending our days slowly and sweetly, visiting the local market every couple of days to pick up fresh produce, walking around exploring new suburbs, eating all the tacos we could possibly find (including goat head) and returned to Coyoacan to feed the squirrels a couple more times.

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We’ve only got a couple more weeks left here, and I’m going to be so sad to leave. I’m a teeny bit excited about going home – I’ve been making lists of places to explore and visit – but I’m also sad. This wonderful adventure is coming to an end.

Here are some of the special moments we’ve had here (and way too many photos)

mexico city travel blog

 

calle donocles mexico city

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We celebrated Guy’s birthday by exploring Calle Donocles – a street full of second hand books stores, and not just any bookstores but gigantic stores with precarious floor to ceiling stacks of books in every language imaginable.  We picked up some more treats from a bakery and had a picnic in one of the many gorgeous parks, and then headed to what we thought was a bar for a drink – but what turned out to be a brothel…then we came home and spent the afternoon reading our books in the sunshine and finished the night off with a delicious meal of tacos.

chapultepec park mexico city

chapultepec park mexico city

We re-explored Chapultepec Park on a Sunday when it was seriously busy! It’s amazing just how many people are in this city, I never cease to be astounded by it.  I bought a giant stick of candyfloss which made me so excited but about halfway in I got so sick of it and it started melting all over my fingers and sticking on my face ha.

mexico city travel blog mexico city travel blog mexico city travel blog

Guy really wanted to explore the big university here (for reasons unknown to me) so one day I agreed to go along with him. I cannot describe how big this place is. It’s big enough to have an entire section dedicated to sculptures (below). We must have spent three hours walking around the buildings and looking at the artwork and we still missed sections of it out.  It was actually pretty cool, there was so much artwork around depicting the struggle for Independence and I just love being back on campus –  I miss being a student!

mexico city travel blog mexico city travel blog

The Zocalo is so different to how we remember it.  The last time we were here there was a giant ice skating rink taking up most of the space and there were market stalls and performers in every free corner. Now it feels so empty – although the Cathedral is as gorgeous as ever. One morning we were walking through it and stumbled across a free Opera concert on one of the road leading off the Zocalo. People were sitting under umbrellas and standing in the shade just taking it in.

 

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mexico city

One day Guy dragged me up the top of the highest building in the city. I wasn’t that keen because I mean how good can a view really be? It turns out really good. Really really good.

mexico city travel blog mexico city travel blog

We visited the National Palace one day which was wonderful except we went hungry and after an hour of walking around we got hangry and left before seeing everything there.  The Diego Riviera murals were wonderful though – so detailed. This one apparently took six years to paint.

mexico city mexico city

mexico city travel blog mexico city travel blog

One of the things I love about Mexico City is the diversity in the neighborhoods here.  Within 5 minutes of walking you can go from a very local feeling area where the streets are lined with food stalls and men standing around gossiping, to a very cosmopolitan street where each cafe is more expensive than the previous one and where armed police stand on every corner. They also do parks and monuments really well.

While it wasn’t high on my list of places to visit I’m so glad we got the chance to return to it because this time round I fell head over heels in love with it.  From the tacos prepared right in front of us while we chatted to the cook to the beautiful parks with squirrels running around in them and the stunning architecture everywhere downtown! This is such a vibrant, fascinating city I can’t wait until we return again!

Mexico City I love you!

Blog Mexico

A day with the squirrels [Coyoacan Park, Mexico City]

March 7, 2016

One day last week we went out to Coyoacan park so that Guy could go for a run (he’s training for a long distance event and hates running on the streets here).  I walked around taking photos of the squirrels, and eating most of the bag of peanuts I had bought for them ha. I love this park so much, it feels like you’re in a forest, where there just happens to be a Mexican marathon being run (the amount of people I saw jogging in jeans!).  But despite all the people it feels so peaceful and tranquil.  I also love how each part of the park looks so different. I ended up walking around the track twice (4km!!) just because I was enjoying it so much.

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico

Apparently squirrels are considered pests in Mexico by many people which I just can’t believe because they’re so cute!!!!

feeding squirrels at coyoacan park feeding squirrels at coyoacan park

I love how they take the nuts so gently from your hands.  Sometimes they rested one little paw on my hand as they picked one out. So cute!

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico city

feeding squirrels in coyoacan park, mexico

After Guy had finished running (and I’d eaten all the peanuts) we walked into the town of Coyoacan where we ate tacos for lunch and picked up some treats at the bakery for the walk back to the metro. We love this city!

Mexico Travel

Mexico City I love you! [part one]

February 27, 2016

I distinctly remember being terrified of Mexico City the first time I visited. It was so big, and noisy and busy and the streets were an utterly confusing jumble that I didn’t dare venture out into without Guy by my side.  When I returned a couple of months later after backpacking through Southern Mexico, Guatemala & Belize I was surprised by how much I liked it.  I learned to appreciate the energy and vibrancy of the city, the hundreds of street food options, the markets that had products you didn’t even know you needed and the ease of getting around on the Metro.

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

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Returning this time wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but when we decided to return to Oaxaca we had to come through Mexico City and I’m so glad we did! We’ve had so much fun and we’re more than a little sad to be leaving!

The first couple of days we walked all around the central city admiring the various parks and monuments (there are a lot). Our favorite place was Coyoacán – a sweet little neighborhood just out of downtown.  We walked through a big park to get to the town and it seemed like half of Mexico City were jogging through there – seriously so many people were working out as we were discussing what to eat for breakfast ha. We had tacos of course and then we picked up some treats at a bakery (they even had gluten free options!) and sat in a park watching squirrels scamper around about us and debating the difference between instinct and consciousness.

 

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

mexico city travel blog

coyoacan mexico

coyoacan mexico

The first few days were a blur of activity.  We walked so much I’ve actually got some muscle going on in my legs ha! I have so many photos (and videos) of everything we saw and did so I’ve split this into two posts to keep you from getting too bored :).  Part two coming soon.

P.S DON”T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY WITH GPSMYCITY – IT CLOSES SOON!

Mexico

The Best of Oaxaca

December 11, 2015

I love Mexico. I am absolutely head over heels, out of my mind, deeply in love with this country. Especially Oaxaca. I can not say enough good things about this fabulous region, and I strongly believe everyone should come and visit! 🙂

We’ve spent two wonderful months in Oaxaca exploring, eating, drinking and talking (or should I say trying to talk) to the locals.  We’re pretty sad to be leaving – so sad that we seriously discussed staying for the foreseeable future but eventually we decided to keep on traveling.  We know that we will return one day – hopefully to stay for a while.

If you’re heading to Mexico anytime soon, or trying to convince a friend of your significant other to visit Mexico with you here’s my take on the best of what Oaxaca has to offer to help you plan your trip.

The best place to stay

We stayed in an Airbnb for five weeks and we couldn’t have been happier with our experience.  Our hosts Ezequiel and Gabriela were faultlessly kind and helpful. The apartment was larger than we expected and very comfortable. There was always someone around if we needed help with anything, and their puppy Dino makes you feel special every single time he sees you. The apartment is about 20 minutes from the Zocalo, in a local area – but everything you need is within walking distance.  There’s a laundromat two blocks away, a large store three blocks away, a handful of restaurants scattered around and a huge supermarket six blocks away.

best airbnb in oaxaca

The listing for this apartment can be found here

The best tacos

Tacos are hands down our favourite Mexican food.  We love all Mexican food, but tacos do it for us like nothing else does. We’ve eaten all sorts of tacos in Oaxaca; tacos al pastor, tacos dorado, tacos de cazuela, tacos carnitas, tacos sincronizada…you get the point.   We’ve eaten tacos in high end restaurants, mid range restaurants, hole in the wall restaurants and from street food vendors.  Our all time favourites are at La Parilla Azteca on Hidalgo (3 blocks down from the city centre).  The service is consistently outstanding, they bring you complimentary salsa verde, salsa rojo, pico de gallo, guacamole and grilled baby onions.  To drink we recommend the Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus flower juice), its a little sweet, a little tart and absolutely refreshing.

the best tacos in oaxaca

The best beer

There’s only one place that deserves a mention and that is Santisima Flor de Lupo.  We went there twice when it was closed (check the opening hours and days before you go!) but on our third attempt we were successful, and it was so worth the effort.  We had a couple of North American IPAS, then after recommendations from the very friendly staff we tried two Oaxacan beers, and then finally two Mexican wheat beers.  All were delicious, and we felt reasonably priced at 50 pesos each.  We also took two home with us to enjoy at a later stage.  We went back a couple of weeks later and were greeted like long lost friends – the staff really know how to make you feel special!

best beer in oaxaca

The best street food

This is a hard one because we’ve had some great street food here! But, the one item that is consistently delicious and available everywhere is elote.  It was the very first thing we ate in Mexico four years ago, and the very first thing we ate after arriving here this time. Elote is sweetcorn covered in mayonnaise, rolled in cheese, sprinkled with chilli and drizzled in lime juice – and yes it tastes just as amazing as it sounds.  You can also get it cut up in a cup if you don’t want to get your face messy by eating it off the cob.  The price varies depending on who you go to, what night it is, and seemingly what mood the vendor is in – but it won’t cost you more than 15 pesos.

elote - street food in oaxaca

The best chocolate

Casa Mayodormo serves the best hot chocolate. But be warned, it’s very sweet! If like me you don’t like consuming an entire bag of sugar in your hot chocolate make sure you ask for it to be agridulce (bittersweet) – don’t worry its not anything like bittersweet, it’s just not as sweet as the regular concoction.

the best of oaxaca

The best coffee

Cafe Jaguar Yuu on Calle Murguia.  This place is awesome! They have probably the friendliest staff in all of Oaxaca too. But more importantly they serve delicious coffee, nice sandwiches and the biggest banana split I’ve ever seen.  It has a lovely relaxed, comfortable vibe and free wifi too. We spent several afternoons completing our Spanish homework here – and the staff were always happy to help if we got stuck.

best cafe in oaxaca

The best date night restaurant

Admittedly we didn’t go on many date nights – and when we did they were pretty low key (we’re on a tight budget!) but for our anniversary we splashed out on a lovely restaurant – La Pitiona – that had been recommended to us by some friends and it was delightful.  We ordered a bottle of red wine – that wonderously arrived at room temperature and not chilled!!  Guy had a steak, and I had salmon and both were outstanding and generously portioned.  All up including the tip we paid around 500 pesos (less than $50).

The best spot to people watch

The Zocalo is easily the best place to watch both locals and tourists.  I love watching the shoe shiners do their thing – they are seriously thorough! There always seems to be something in the Zocalo – whether it’s an orchestral performance, a protest, a book fair or a traditional pineapple dance – there’s always something to watch.  Sit in one of the restaurants, or just buy a couple of drinks from a nearby store (I don’t think your technically allowed to but we never had any trouble and we did it quite often – plus we saw lots of other locals doing it too) and sit in the shade.

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Other interesting places are outside Santo Domingo church (we saw a few weddings there), and the Parque Juarez El Llano (delicious empanadas too!).

The best place to learn Spanish

Admittedly this isn’t fair – or especcially accurate for that matter as we only went to one school – The Oaxaca International School – but we cannot recommend it highly enough. The teachers there are warm, friendly, funny and most importantly – excellent teachers.  The excursions were different every week, we had biscuits with our coffee each morning – and if it’s your birthday they’ll bring you in a cake.  It isn’t the cheapest school in Oaxaca, but we really do believe that it offers the best quality.

learning spanish in oaxaca

The best market

Tlacolula has the best market we saw in Oaxaca. It runs every Sunday for essentially the whole day.  You really can get everything here and its cheap even by Mexican standards.  For example we picked up a bucket of chillis, and a kilo of tomatoes for less than US$1 each.  There are also clothes, jewellery, household items, animals and much more.  When you get hungry stop at one of the many rotisserie chicken restaurants for a delicious meal of rice, coleslaw, grilled chicken and tortillas.

tlacolula market in oaxaca

tlacolula market in oaxaca

The town is cute too – and you can buy pineapples from a truck!

tlacolula market in oaxaca mexico

You can get to Tlacolula in a collectivo from anywhere in Oaxaca City.  Depending on the mood of the taxi driver it will cost you anywhere from 10 to 20 pesos.  To get back to Oaxaca walk out to the main road and hail one down.

The best place to exercise

The Escaleras del Fortin (stairs to the small fort).

escalera fortin steps oaxaca

Full disclosure: I never ran up these, but Guy took the Oaxacan rugby team up here a few times for training’s. I did walk them one day which was lovely (and more than enough of a workout for me!).  When you get to the top go through the tunnel and you’ll come out at the auditorium where you have panoramic views over Oaxaca City.  It’s also quite fascinating passing by all the little houses located to either side of the steps.

the traveling anthropologist

The best place for a daytrip

There are so many places you can see in a day trip from Oaxaca, it’s awfully hard to just choose one! If I had to pick the most beautiful place I would say San Agustin Etla, but it’s relatively expensive to get to, and admittedly there isn’t much to do when you’re there. If I chose the most interesting place it would be Monte Alban – but I have an archaeologist residing deep within me. Guy would choose Hierve el Agua

In no particular order here’s what I would recommend are worthwhile day trips (some of these you will likely visit with your Spanish school if you enrol in one).

Monte Alban

monte alban oaxaca

Teotitlan del Valle

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Hierve el  Agua

the traveling anthropologist

Unless you speak good Spanish I’d recommend taking a tour.  It is possible to visit these places yourself, but in our experience it didn’t work out to be too much cheaper and it was a lot more difficult when our limited Spanish didn’t get us too far.  You can also often cram a few attractions into the one day on a tour which is good if your time is limited.  There are tours being sold all around the Zocalo and you can also find them online, or in any hostel. If you do choose to do it yourself try to get some information from a local rather than a website or guidebook as this information is often outdated.

The best place for a week away

To me a holiday needs a few things; sand, sun & ocean. Luckily less than a days drive away from Oaxaca city you can find some of the most beautiful beaches in this part of the world.  There are four main ones Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, San Agustinillo and Zipolite.

zipolite

zipolite sunset

Zipolite is my favourite, in fact it’s one of my favourite places in the world.  It’s so laid back that clothes are optional, the beers are cheap, the people are always smiling, you sometimes see whales jumping in the waves in front of you, you might get to release baby turtles and it has the best tacos in Mexico!

where to eat in zipolite, mexico

You can catch a bus to Zipolite for a few dollars, but a faster and more comfortable way of getting there is by van. They only cost a couple of dollars extra but you’ll arrive in around 7 hours instead 9 (trust me on these windy roads two hours makes a big difference!).

So, there you have it! The best of Oaxaca. I feel like I could have written this post forever – there really is so much to see and do and eat! I can’t recommend visitly it enough – I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about it, and there truly is something for everyone there.

Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything from this list!

Blogs Mexico

Learning Spanish – [Part Two] – Learning how to learn

December 6, 2015

A few days after we arrived in Oaxaca we started our language course.  We were so nervous on that first day, and we diligently went home and carefully did our homework.  But we quickly realised that we didn’t know what to do next. We were confronted with the question ‘how do we learn?’.  It’s been such a long time since we were in school, and neither of us have ever properly learnt a language before so were left floundering about the best way to learn grammar and vocab.  We found that different things worked for each of us, and a few things worked for both of us.  So, for anyone else feeling lost or confused these are some of the things we’ve found worked for us and have helped us achieve a basic conversational fluency (in addition to our structured lessons). I hope you find them useful!!

YouTube Videos

Guy spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos to understand grammar rules and to pick up tips on pronunciation.  I found some of them good but some of them annoying although it is good to hear how some of the words are pronounced by native speakers. I think if you’re a visual person (like Guy) YouTube is definitely an asset to your learning.

Some of his favourite channels are:

WebSpanish

learning spanish with youtube

Learn Spanish Like Crazy

the best spanish you tube videos

Gringo Espanol

learning spanish for the first time

Duolingo

Personally I like Duolingo – it’s a nice respite and a bit of fun.  Guy doesn’t like it because he gets frustrated with some of the errors (e.g. limon translates to lemon but not lime).  I do find it a bit annoying, but when I know I am right I just ignore it and keep going.  It’s definitely necessary to go back and review some of the previous levels you’ve passed – don’t let your supposed fluency percentage get to your head! 🙂

Pinterest

Gosh I love Pinterest – is there anything you can’t find on this site? We found it really useful for vocab lists and graphics showing things like expressions of time, questions and the alphabet. You can find my Spanish board on Pinterest here.

Follow The Traveling Anthropologist’s board Espanol on Pinterest.

Flashcards

Guy made flashcards the first week we started learning – and diligently reviews them every few days.  He has much better vocab recall than me and I think it’s down to the flashcards. Here’s an interesting article about how to effectively utilize flashcards to learn.

FluentU

This site has so many great articles offering advice and recommendations for different ways to enhance your language learning experience.  They cover topics like how you can use music to enhance your listening skills, tips for how to improve your Spanish accent, and the grammatical structure of a simple sentence.

learning spanish resources

spanish learning resources

These are a couple of my favourite posts (click on the image to be taken to the page)

StudySpanish

I’m positive that in New Zealand you don’t get taught grammatical rules in school (I’ve checked with my friends and no one remembers doing this) – so we don’t really have an understanding of grammar separate to how we use it.  I learned a little bit when I was teaching English in Laos but my understanding is pretty limited.  So we’ve had to learn English grammar rules in order to understand Spanish grammar rules (for example the difference between present simple and present progressive, and what a reflexive verb is).

Studyspanish is an absolute gold mine of information.  They have really simple grammar lessons that you can understand even when your brain is exhausted and your onto your fourth cup of coffee. And they also have a whole bunch of other useful articles on pronunciation, vocab lists, idioms and podcasts.

learning spanish

A couple of my favourites are the Spanish Grammar and the Spanish Culture Section.

Watching TV Shows in Spanish

learning spanish by watching narcos

We’ve been watching Narcos on Netflix for a few weeks – the show is amazing, we are seriously addicted – but it’s also been really good listening practice for us.  We don’t catch a lot of the words because their spoken so fast, and some of them are slang – but we do manage to understand maybe a third of what’s being said.  We’ve also watched a few cartoons like Family Guy in Spanish with English subtitles which has been really fun.

We’ve still got a long way to go but these have helped us get our heads around some of the grammatical rules and pronunciation differences.  Now we’ve finished our language course we have to figure out how to keep learning – and not forget what we have learnt. But that’s a post for another day. 🙂

If you have any tips that have worked for you while learning Spanish or any other language please share them below!

P.S you can read the first post in this series ‘Learning a new language sucks’ here

 

tips for learning spanish

Mexico

Our first thanksgiving

November 29, 2015

We don’t celebrate thanksgiving in New Zealand, and in all honesty I didn’t know much about it until a few years ago. I’m not sure how I feel about the historical significance of the day – but I do appreciate that it’s a chance to get together with friends and family and be grateful for what we have in our lives.  This year we feel especially grateful, so we were delighted to be invited to a thanksgiving lunch at our friends house.

It came at a great time too because I’d had a horrible morning in Spanish school that morning.  I just could not get my brain to engage, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I was a bit reluctant to go to the lunch because I was not in a happy mood. But I’m so glad we did. There was SO much food. I don’t know if this is a normal thanksgiving practice or if it was the Mexican side of the family coming out – but it was crazy! Not that I’m complaining, I ate second helpings of everything there and enjoyed each and every mouthful.

When I couldn’t fit anymore food in, I went outside and played with five gorgeous kittens, and got to cuddle the sweetest little puppy called Zoe.

Later we were all given ponche – a Mexican fruit punch with a generous shot of rum added to it. It was the perfect way to finish off such a great day.

the traveling anthropologist the traveling anthropologist the traveling anthropologist thanksgiving in oaxaca, mexico

We’ve decided that we’re going to make Thanksgiving a regular occurrence in our lives – if only to have an excuse to make and eat pie!

Blogs Mexico

Learning Spanish – [Part One] – Language learning sucks!

November 27, 2015

My head is throbbing, my eyes are tired and my tongue feels heavy in my mouth. I hear my name called in the lilting accent I’ve come to love – “peepa”.  I glance up at my teacher who’s looking at me patiently, and kindly as always. She repeats the question. Subconsciously I squeeze my hand into a fist as if this is going to enhance my listening abilities. Expectant silence fills my ears as I sluggishly try to process what she said , first in Spanish and then in English. A trickle of relief runs down my spine – I know this! I start to reply, my voice soft and tentative as if I’m asking a question rather than giving an answer. I try to say a word but realise it’s in the wrong tense, so try again – but this time I’ve conjugated it to the wrong pronoun. Finally I get it right. One word down! Now just the rest of the sentence to go. 

learning spanish in oaxaca

Enrolling in a language course in Mexico was one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made.  During the few days we spent in Oaxaca prior to our course starting we felt reasonably confident about our language abilities.  We could ask for directions, order food and tell people where we were from. We knew we had a long way to go before we achieved our goal of conversational fluency but we were happy that we could get by.

By the end of our first class we had been well and truly bought back to the land of reality.  By the end of our first week we were feeling thoroughly discouraged and thoughts of giving up had definitely flitted through our minds in the early hours of the morning as we lay awake going over the verb conjugations we’d learnt that day.  During the second week I cried twice, and by the third week our brains felt so full we were sure that we couldn’t possibly fit anything else in.  The fourth week passed in a blur, interspersed with occasional outbursts of frustration and a lot of coffee consumption. Now we’ve just finished our fifth and final week (we survived!!).

We’re pretty exhausted, and definitely ready to have a break from structured learning for a while.  We’re going to head down to the coast and spend some time reading something other than vocabulary lists, and listening to music rather than Spanish podcasts.

We’ve both been surprised by how hard language learning is! I realise that sounds stupid when you look at it like that – but it really is so hard! Just when you think you’re getting it, you learn that there’s a different tense you should be using, or another grammatical rule that you previously didn’t know, and then of course there are the irregular verbs…don’t even get me started on verb conjugations.

We actually struggle through daily interactions more than we did when we first arrive because now we know when we’re saying something incorrectly – and we have more vocabulary to get mixed up.  Then there are the times when we occasionally burst into Spanglish without even realising it.

So, yeah language learning sucks.

We did have a pretty language school though – and being in an outdoor classroom was the best!

learning spanish in oaxaca

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We also had fantastic teachers!

 

Mexico

El Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day in Mexico)

November 20, 2015

This morning as we were walking to school practicing our Spanish verbs we turned a corner and found ourselves in the middle of a street parade, surrounded by children in brightly coloured costumes and proud parents snapping photos on their phones. We figured out that it must be Revolution Day or El dia de la Revolucion since it was the 20th of November.

DSC02592 DSC02594 DSC02598 DSC02607DSC02610 DSC02614 DSC02616 DSC02621After arriving at school half an hour late we asked our teachers about the significance of the day and found out that it’s really a day for the children of Mexico – to learn about their countries history by dressing up in traditional costumes; the revolutionary militia, the state militia and the traditional clothing of some of Mexico’s villages.  It’s a day to remember and represent this important part of Mexico’s history.

Don’t quote me – we were told all of this in Spanish and while I think I understood it I can’t be certain! 🙂

DSC02648 DSC02668It was SO much fun to watch all of the children doing their dances (they got more awkward the older they got), and to see the parents proudly cheering them on.  It was also the first time I’ve felt completely comfortable snapping photos in public – a few parents even got their children’s attention and told them to pose for me haha.

I loved how utterly ‘Mexican’ it was. The speakers duct taped to the boot of the cars, a couple of men standing on the corner diverting the traffic, the moustaches drawn on the little boys faces, and the seemingly random cheerleading group stopping every few metres to perform a routine.

No one celebrates like Mexico celebrates!