We just spent 6 days in Puebla and we loved it. The weather is mild and beautiful, the people are friendly and the town is lively and active. But we were busy. So busy! We have done more walking in 6 days than I have done in a long time. And the beds in our first hotel were harder than a door so that is not so good for rest and recovery. But we are having a great time! It’s so hard to pull all the experiences together into the level of detail I want to share with you lovely followers so this blog post will be taking the easy way out: bullet points. If you’re lucky I will group like-topics together but there are no guarantees. Mommy’s tired, kids.
Impressions of Puebla:
- Puebla is a really interesting city. It was founded 485 years ago. Here in Puebla it’s one of the only places in Mexico where they really celebrate Cinco de Mayo, since the battle that is commemorated with Cinco de Mayo was fought in and around Puebla. But lest you think it’s a lot of old buildings, it is not. It’s a fascinating mix of old buildings and historic sites, but modern attractions too.
- Puebla city planners have done a wonderful job of balancing a lot of people but making it feel very small town. There are a lot of things for people to do outside, where people can simply mill about, walk, or play. Every time we went out exploring we would run into another plaza or park or outdoor area for bikes or skateboards or nice, clean play structures. And they have logical things nearby like little coffee shops and plenty of trash cans, bathrooms, parking lots, vendors selling chips and popcorn, etc. It all seems so… logical! We have not found logic on display in all of the places we’ve visit. There are many families and everyone seems so happy. There is a wonderful central park near our hotel and the girls love feeding the birds there. And we found a lake where we rented a paddle boat and fed even more birds! The guy selling bird food at the park is putting his kid through college thanks to Zoe. And you don’t have too walk far to find churros. There are no less than four places to buy them within a 2 minute walk from our hotel. The price? About US$1.15 for an entire bag of them!! That’s just crazy.
- The weather is really perfect for all the outdoor activities. It’s cool in the morning, sunny during the day, usually an afternoon thunderstorm and then evenings are a little wet and cool but lovely with the churches and buildings all lit up. We have needed a light sweater once or twice but that is all. Dan hasn’t worn anything but shorts and flip flops the entire time and he hasn’t been cold once. It’s funny but we seem to be the only people wearing flip flops and shorts, but we are quite comfortable. There has been no sweating. NONE!
- The people in Puebla speak so fast. Their Spanish is much harder to understand. They mumble a lot more too. There is a lot less English spoken here. The girls are working hard on their Spanish and getting a lot of nice compliments for it. Zoe is the official “call down to the front desk and ask a question” person.
- We (read: I) had chalupas at our first meal. Prior to this point we wondered if chalupas were merely a Taco Bell creation since we had never seen them on any menu in the Yucatan Peninsula. But alas we found them and they are tasty! (For you foodies out there, you’ll be happy to know Haley is working on a blog post dedicated to food.)
- We (read: Haley and I) are trying all kinds of new foods, many of which seem to come from this area. So far we like most of them, but we all agree that Mexican candy is not so tasty. I think the USA wins the gold medal in deserts. Churros are the exception.
- We stick out like sore thumbs. There are very few gringo tourists here. I guess they come earlier in the summer. Most of the tourists are Mexicans but we hear there are usually a lot of Germans due to the Audi and VW plants that are here, and therefore a lot of work exchanges and visitors from Germany. But we see very few foreigners.
- Poblanos (people from Puebla) seem to take their cues from the Spanish in terms of time. At noon we were looking for lunch but were being offered breakfast. And despite me being awake and in the lobby at 7:30am (where there is a comfortable seating area and wifi), there is no coffee, NONE, until 8:15am. I think prisoners get coffee earlier than that!!! No es bueno. I am used to having coffee when I first roll out of bed. So, Poblanos, we need to talk!!
- This is more of a Europe thing, but we think it’s funny how they cluster their stores. One street had store after store of eye glasses. Another street near our hotel was for the papalerias – the stores with paper and supplies. Another street we saw was nothing but shoes. So many shoes! I guess it saves time if you know what you are looking for but we find it amusing. Of course, there’s a street dedicated to candy, too. But see above for our opinion on Mexican candy. #nogracias
- More about the weather…It’s NOT humid. My hair looks great! The altitude of 7000 feet can make you tired and headache-y at first but we got through it. But when we climb the flight of stairs to our hotel room we feel like we’ve just done an Olympic sprint.
- We have determined that Mexico has so many different parts to it. One could spend months in this country and still discover new things. It’s really neat. And we haven’t even arrived in Mexico City yet! It’s a wonderful place to visit, really. We keep hearing about other states to visit but alas we won’t have time this time around in Mexico.
But there’s more than just our impressions…here is some stuff we did:
Activities in Puebla:
- We went to see some ruins in the nearby area of Cholula, but unlike Chichen Itza, the story was a little more complicated. It went something like this: X culture came before Christ and built some stuff. Then Y culture came a few hundred of years after Christ and built some stuff on top of it . Then we think Z came along, and they built some more stuff. Then the Spaniards came and they knocked down some stuff, kept some stuff, didn’t know they were standing on different stuff and built some stuff on top of other stuff. Oh and here’s another church! The cultural layering is just amazing. We saw the pyramid that, at it’s base, is the largest in the world. Excavating was too hard so they dug tunnels through it in order to understand it. We went through the tunnels. Very scary (for me) but very cool. The girls made a lot of connections between these ruins and Chichen Itza and Coba in the Yucatan. Synapses are firing, people! Worldschooling is working!
- Churches! So. Many. Churches. We just bump into them as we are walking around town and pop in and take a look. You’d think one or two huge churches would do the trick, right? Um, no. Huge church… then 2 blocks away, another HUGE church. There’s more blocks, another HUGE church. Its truly shocking how many churches there are per square mile in this city. The kind you can fit a blimp in. HUGE!!! And they are all so different and every single one of them are simply beautiful. So much gold, too! We’ve all been blown away by that aspect of Puebla.
- We went to the oldest public library in the Americas, Biblioteca Palafoxiana, established in 1646. It is still housed in the same location it was established in, using the same shelves. It looks like a Hogwarts library, straight from the pages of Harry Potter. The floor and walls are made from a stone that maintains the room temperature so that the books do not deteriorate. Indeed, they all look like they are in original condition. You can use the books but only if you are a researcher. The girls were trying to quickly enroll themselves in college and create a need for some type of research so they could touch the books! #slightexaggeration
- We went to the Calle de Dulces, mentioned above, which is a street that has store after store of typical Mexican candies. We tried a few types but frankly… they were nasty. Sorry, Mexico. We love a lot of things here but your candy just isn’t one of them. I did buy a rare chocolate item but when I got back to the hotel I discovered it was a chocolate covered fig. A fig! People, how dare you ruin chocolate like that! Figs and chocolate shouldn’t even be in the same room with each other. Their creativity with sugar is really interesting, however.
- The talavera pottery is made around here so we see it everywhere. Outside of Spain, this is the place where it is most commonly made. The artisans from Spain came here and settled so I guess that’s how it played out. I think exploring this part of Mexico and then going to Spain in October was a great plan and will really make for some interesting connections.
- We did a hop-on-hop-off tour bus for the day, which was a really nice way to explore but not have to worry about where you are going. We ended up going to the planetarium, taking a gondola type ride above the city, having some semi-tasty popcorn from the street vendor who will now send HER child to college, thanks to Zoe. Another interesting thing about the bus ride… since we were on the top of an open air double-decker bus, you had to physically duck to not hit some of the overhead wires that we encountered. Safety first, anyone? Nah.
- We spent our last day at a really neat museum and very high ferris wheel that deserves it’s very own blog post. Stay tuned on that one.
- From the gondola ride we saw this neighborhood of houses that all had white and blue tops. We tried hard to understand it all but so far all we’ve discovered is that it’s connected to the talavera ceramics, which are traditionally blue and white. But it was so pretty from high up.
But alas you think that travelling is good only for learning about other stuff, don’t forget that travelling is so good for learning about your own self. So here are some personal learnings from the last few days.
Personal Discoveries in Puebla:
- Zoe should not have milk or ice cream. Just, no. No no no. She took us offline for about 6 hours on Day 2 while we dealt with her dairy problem. No es bueno. No helado. No gracias.
- Our suitcases are still too big and too heavy. We have only 1 per person (down from the 13 we took to Panama!) but the very first cab ride was still problematic. So were the stairs to our hotel room. We are thinking we will downsize to smaller bags when we are in Mexico City. Dan suggests we share suitcases but so far no one is going for it. We have no home base so at the very least we all want our own “home” in our suitcases.
- We are not fond of hotels, especially small ones with hard beds. There is no room to move around the room, no comfortable place to watch TV together, no easy place to be separate. We moved to a new hotel for the last 3 days which had more room but it was directly on the central park so it was a little more noisy. Our stays in Mexico City and Guatemala will be in AirBnbs. Much better.
- Haley is really stepping into the role of traveler. When I was offline with Zoe’s stomach issues, she played translator while she and Dan went out and found a taxi to a laundromat, arranged for our laundry to be done and delivered the next day to the hotel and found lunch. She also researched a restaurant for dinner and navigated the ordering of a pizza for delivery. This girl is really growing up and becoming an adult. I love it. And of course it’s a big help to me, who is normally the official tour guide and translator for the entire family.
- Uber is awesome! It’s so easy, we have been getting very nice cars and friendly drivers and it’s cheap cheap cheap! We had a 23 minute ride for $6, which includes a very hefty tip for the nice driver who spoke Spanish, English, Russian and German. Compared to the rickety taxi that took us 4 minutes down the road and charged us $3, we are Uber fans all the way. I am really loving not having a car, not worrying about parking, navigating, crazy drivers and spontaneous speed bumps. And with such nice weather it’s no problem to sit on a bench and wait 5 minutes for an Uber to show up. The fact that we get to chat with someone new is a bonus for me. [insert eye roll from Dan]
- The girls have not spent a lot of time in a city, which we realized when we had to remind them to look for traffic before crossing streets, and to look at which light is red for which direction of cars. I feel like I have toddlers again.
Alas, the blog post would be nothing without pictures so here are some visuals of our time here. Enjoy!