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  • Day9

    Free and easy in San Cristóbal

    March 3, 2018 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Our free day started with a hearty breakfast Mexican-style for me - Chili Relleno (stuffed chilli), Frijoles y Salsicha (Black bean and sausage stew) and Tamales con Pollo en Mole (steamed corn meal parcels stuffed with Chicken in a Mole sauce). Filling and just what I needed for our day's exploring.

    With no set agenda, we walked through the town. We visited the Jade Museum, where the history of Jade use in Mexican culture and ceremony was explained. We were also told of how it is obtained, the different colours and how it is used in antiquity and in modern jewellery. Within were an impressive set of replicas of important artefacts, particularly the death mask of the Mayan ruler, Pakal II, lord of the large city state at Palenque, which we will be visiting in a couple of days. Purchasing opportunities were offered but politely declined.

    After a bit of souvenir/present shopping, we stopped off at a really lovely cafe where they blend and roast their own coffee. Such was its quality, we had to buy some from their shop to bring home.

    We then headed to the local craft market to have a gander. There was an array of native clothing, jewellery in amber and jade, wooden souvenirs and other tchotchkes to be purchased. We didn't, as I really couldn't find anything I really felt like bringing home.

    This brought on more thirst, both for drink and knowledge, so we headed to Kakaw, the Chocolate Museum. Once again, we learnt of the history of chocolate, its use throughout Mexican prehistory up to the current day, how it is grown, produced and made into the food we recognise. This time we did decide to sample the product and I had traditional Xocolatl - hot chocolate made with water, 70% cocoa chocolate and a touch of sugar. It took a while to get used to the thin consistency and lack of fat and binders that are usually in hot chocolate but it was a delicious, thirst quenching and deeply satisfying drink.

    After consulting our guidebook and with a nod given to our tour guide who suggested visiting the local food market used by the inhabitants of San Cristòbal, we traversed the town once again and found the Mercado Municupal. An Aladdin's cave of culinary treasures, homewares, clothes and bikes to name just a few, I managed to secure my 3rd purchase of dried chillies, Chile Ancho, to add to the Chipotles and Guajillos that I bought in Oaxaca Market. The array of fresh produce, both familiar and unfamiliar, was astounding and the pride in which they were displayed was almost humbling.

    During our explorations of this labyrinthine place, we stumbled across the covered part of the market where they sold the meat, poultry and fish. What was remarkable about the place was the lack of smell. Nothing was malodorous, rotten or putrid. Everything was spankingly fresh. The fish were still stiff, the meat & sausages were clean and appetizing, and the poultry, I suspect, was freshly prepared. I understand that this may be some people's idea of the 7th circle of hell but to a devout foodie like me, I couldn't help but be mightily impressed and wish that there were affordable, high quality markets with Class A produce like this in the UK. Maybe we'd understand more about food, its value and provenance if we had to shop like this.

    Weary and walked out, we headed back to the hotel. After a short rest, we met up with some of our group to go to a restaurant serving traditional Mexican cuisine called, La Lupe. It has been my aim during this holiday so far to try and eat only proper Mexican food and keep it as local and tradition as possible. This restaurant didn't disappoint with fresh flavours, classic dishes, properly spicy sauces and a fantastic Margherita cocktail.

    We had planned to go to the Revolution bar for a couple of drinks and to listen to some live Latin music but the food, alcohol, walking and travelling finally took their toll and we retired early, ready for another long drive to Palenque tomorrow.
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