June 1, 2016: On Monday, May 16, we made our way from Cholula into the neighboring city of Puebla.
To get from Cholula to Puebla, we caught a colectivo for 5 pesos each. Colectivos (combis, 10-15 passenger vans) are the way to get around in most of Mexico. We stopped a lot, so it was a slow trip, but it’s cheap and a good cultural experience.
Puebla is home to about 1.5 million people, making it the 4th largest city in Mexico. In spite of this, its historic center is full of beautiful architecture and does not feel overly crowded. We spent the day aimlessly wandering and hitting some city highlights. [click photos to enlarge]
In our aimless wandering, we happened upon the Templo Santo Domingo: [click photos to enlarge]
It looked pretty nice on the outside, so we decided to go in. Good decision:
As we were looking around, a guide invited us into the Capilla del Rosario (Chapel of the Rosary), where he was about to give a short presentation:
We had thought the church was pretty ornate, until we walked into the chapel:
The chapel gets its name from a unique tile rosary running along the walls, composed of angelic faces which would be touched, one by one, as the faithful walked around the chapel. Today, to protect the tile, the rosary is no longer used:
The gold work on the walls and altar is either 21 or 23 karats. On the walls, it is laid over stucco that is now more than 300 years old. It is believed that the stucco has survived so well because chemical analysis reveals that it is sealed with animal (possibly bull’s) blood. Details: [click photos to enlarge]
After the chapel, we wondered into an old market now converted into a sort of shopping mall: [click photos to enlarge]
There, we stopped for lunch. Puebla is known for its gastronomy, but our sampling was quite limited. A rather famous item here is the cemita. It’s a sandwich with meat of choice with beans, cheese and avocado served on a rather dense bread shaped like a burger bun. It’s a lot like a torta, but to our tastes, not as good. The peppers that were served on the side were interesting, like a chipotle in adobo, but with some sweetness; hot but tasty: [click photos to enlarge]
Next we went to Puebla’s cathedral:
It was quite impressive, but most of it was roped off, and there were signs up prohibiting photos in the interior, so we’ve only got this shot from the doorway:
We also visited Puebla’s Museo Amparo (free on Mondays, woo hoo!) which houses, among many other things, a nice collection of pre-hispanic artifacts. Definitely on the list for a return visit, though.
After the museum, it was time for a rest. In further aimless wandering we stumbled upon Miel de Agave, which had opened just two weeks before. It’s a mezcalería (a mezcal bar) featuring over 30 mezcals to date and a very nice barman named Ricardo:
Ricardo compares mezcal to wine. Like wine and its varietals, mezcal is made from different varieties of agave, each with its own flavor characteristics (unlike tequila which is made solely from blue agave). We found this to be the best and truest explanation of mezcal that we’ve come across, particularly enhanced by sampling various mezcals. Next time you happen to find yourself in Puebla, you should stop in and say hello.
Like many places we’ve been in Mexico, it seems to be the young people who have the entrepreneurial spirit, developing new businesses and defining the next big thing. This makes sense in a country where the median age is 27.8. (In the U.S., the median age is 36.8).
So, having sampled some of the magic produced by Mexico’s various agave species, we summoned a car via Uber for a return to our house in Cholula. We spent just one day in Puebla. We will definitely be back!