We popped out of town for the weekend. Myriam was working on Saturday night in the next city over, and I tagged along for the ride, keeping out of the way, trying to look like I belonged, and accepting a free cocktail in return for a small acting role. There’s a chance I will now feature in the digital marketing campaign of an upmarket restaurant chain in Mexico…
Either side of the professional excuse for the trip, we strolled around the beautiful city of Puebla, and its lovely baby sister Cholula.
Puebla’s full name is Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, or Puebla de los Angeles, (the heroic people of Zaragoza or People of the Angels), so it is obviously referred to as Puebla. Go figure. It is, prosaic naming choices aside, a really lovely city.
Buzzing, beautiful and bursting with colour, I spent a delightful afternoon wandering around, camera in hand, trying desperately to walk off the cemita I had eaten at lunch, a poblano speciality which is essentially two breaded chicken breasts in an enormous roll, filled with an avocado, several chipotles, lettuce, and jalapenos. A torta on steroids, if you like.
What stood out for me were the gorgeous colours of the city. Wherever you looked the streets were bright, vibrant and exciting, whether it was the antique market of Callejon de los Sapos, or just a back street on the way back to the hotel. There’s plenty to occupy a tourist in Puebla of course – an amazing cathedral, wonderful food (the slightly peculiar chiles en nogada are a speciality here, and mole poblano has a fierce rivalry with its Oaxaqueno relative) and superb museums, but I could spend so much more time just wandering around and looking up, to see the excellent details above street level and to take in the pinks, yellows and blues of this rainbow metropolis.
Cholula is the smaller, slightly more touristy little sister of Puebla. It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas, and also boasts the largest surviving pyramid. This enormous structure looming over the town doubles as the oldest continually inhabited building in North or South America, due to the church which the invading Spanish under Hernan Cortes built on its summit.
There is apparently a church in Cholula for every day of the year. I’m not sure I found all 365 (and some brief research reveals this claim to be slightly hyperbolic), but I saw a few, all of which were spectacular. Lunch was again a cemita, this time quite literally bigger than Myriam’s head, in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, La Tradicional, which I heartily recommend if you ever find yourself in the area.
We spent more time here being touristy. We climbed up to the sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de los Remedios in the company of a large pilgrimage/tour group, who casually flaunted the ‘No Photography’ signs inside while simultaneously fervently crossing themselves and dropping donations into every possible collection box. We wandered through the close, low stone tunnels of the ancient pyramid, cutting through the hill below the sanctuary like some sort of spooky Gouda. Myriam gave me a full rundown of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe in front of the vivid paintings in the ex-Convento de San Gabriel, and we picked up a bag of chocolate skulls in preparation for Dia de los Muertos (I vetoed the sweet potato sweets as being too weird).