Oaxaca Inspired Pursuits

New Year, Need New Skills? Creativity and Cooking in Oaxaca. After enjoying a few fun filled days in Mexico City, challenge yourself with pottery making and traditional Oaxacan cooking classes. Oaxaca, barely an hour flight from Mexico City, has become a foodie magnet and for hundreds of years, famed potters have been designing pottery here. In Oaxaca, as in other cities and towns in Mexico, pottery is familiar as decoration and is widely used for practical purposes. The pottery best known in Oaxaca, a colonial-style city about 325 miles south of Mexico City, is unusual in that it is black.

The black pottery of Oaxaca has a satiny sheen, sometimes with a silvery luster. It was developed by accident in 1953 from the traditional drab gray ware of the area. That was when the late Rosa Real de Nieto, a potter from a family of potters of Zapotec Indian ancestry, tried burnishing a simple clay pot with a piece of quartz before firing it. The pot that emerged from her kiln in San Bartolo Coyotepec, an adobe village about nine miles south of Oaxaca, had an attractive patina.

Image result for oaxaca black pottery

A Foodie Paradise, gourmands are flocking to Oaxaca to appreciate the diverse regional cuisine. The cooking varies by region and is one of Mexico’s foremost food destinations. Cultural diversity translates to a broad range of ingredients and preparation styles, many methods date back to pre-Hispanic eras. Corn is a dietary staple and is served in an infinite variety of dishes. Fresh herbs, dried and fresh chilies, sweet moles and handmade tortillas are just a few of the staples that make Oaxacan meals distinctive. Do cooked grasshoppers sound appealing, practice the word: chapulines !

Chapulines. in the market. Often seasoned with chile and lime, these crunchy bugs add a yeasty, salty tang that one reviewer compares to “salt and vinegar potato chips, but a bit wetter.”

Oaxaca has several grand markets and is home to many excellent restaurants. There are several noted cooking schools, we prefer classes that offer market to table preparation. Join in with Chef, wander the markets selecting fresh ingredients and return to the professional kitchen to prepare a traditional re-creatable dish!  The school we prefer also sells prepared ingredients that you can tote home as well. Your next Cinco de Mayo dinner will be a coveted invitation!

The Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca is a botanical garden in Oaxaca City, Mexico. It occupies 2.32 acres of land besides the Church of Santo Domingo

A sample offering itinerary, each Journey is of course bespoke, based on your wishes, but this is a Creativity focus escape:pottery and gastronomy!

Arrive Oaxaca and settle in at the Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca.

Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca

Set in the grounds of the 16th Century Santa Catalina nunnery, with inner courtyards and thick stone brickwork, the hotel has a tranquil, otherworldly feel. The staff, dressed as monks, who wander the halls at night lighting a candle outside each room and the constant scent of fresh flowers, only add to that feeling. The walls are dotted with original frescos and many of the early features such as the nuns’ washing fountains remain. Under the hotel are tunnels leading to the two of the main churches of Oaxaca. The hotel’s location in the heart of central Oaxaca means that many of the important tourist spots, restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance. 

The rooms are grand, with slated wooden ceilings, dark-wooden furniture and tiled floors. Each room has distinctly Oaxaca touches with locally made lamps, throws and cushion covers. The external-facing rooms are double-glazed helping to reduce street noise. There are two gardens as well as a large, heated swimming pool surrounded by grass; a great place for peaceful rest after sightseeing. Las Novicias bar is nestled in the corner by the pool, in case margaritas by the pool are in order, but be warned the piano at the bar has been known to play by itself…

Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca

Day One Private Cooking Class with Market Tour. Start at 9 a.m. in the City Centre. You will then be taken on a tasting tour by one of our guides, where you taste exotic food and meet the charming people who work in the market.

Depending on your cooking enthusiasm and stamina, you will visit a large or small market, like La Merced and continue with the cooking class.  After you head out to Rancho Aurora for an introduction to Oaxacan cuisine and a presentation and explanation of that day’s dishes and their ingredients. Oaxaca is noted for their seven types of mole sauces. Grab an apron and create a delectable five-course meal, guests will enjoy the meal after the shopping and preparation!

Oaxaca, Mexico

Day Two Oaxaca City Tour Private Half Day a walking tour designed to work off some of the scrumptious dining! Meet your bilingual guide at hotel to lead you through the colonial city of Oaxaca. Walking its cobbled streets and observing its vibrant squares, colonial structures, and numerous churches, you will learn about Oaxaca’s historical and cultural importance.

You will be guided through the central plaza (Zócalo) to the largest central market of Oaxaca, where you will learn about the different handicrafts of Oaxaca.  Visit a museum of Oaxacan painters to experience local contemporary and traditional art. You will also visit a photography museum, which is set around a quiet patio, before heading to the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures with its views over the botanic gardens.

After exploring the museum, continue to the botanic gardens before being driven back to your hotel. Walk to dinner from your hotel.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Day Three Private tour to San Bartolo de Coyotepec, Ocotlan & San Antonio. Today you will be picked up from your hotel and head to the nearby community of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its black pottery where you will meet one of the best crafts worker of black pottery and learn how the black pottery crafts are made. 

Next you will drive to Ocotlan, the home of well-known Oaxaca artist, Rodolfo Morales (1925-2001).  Visit the mural painted by Morales that adorns the walls of the Government headquarters, before exploring more of his work in the museum housed in the former convent. Also visit the Aguilar sisters in Ocotlan, famous for its ceramics.

Rodolfo Morales Mural, Oaxaca, Mexico

Depending on your interests and if time permits you will also visit the community of Atzompa to visit the great ceramic artist and visit a blind ceramic sculptor. https://www.mexicoartshow.com/angelicavasquez.html

Lunch at Mi Tierra Linda – Known for their irresistible hand-crafted mole dishes.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Day Four Private tour to Mixteca Alta with Pottery Workshop. An art class designed to nudge your creativity spirit! Meet your guide and drive to Mixteca Alta to meet a great potter master and enjoy a workshop where you learn how they make their crafts. Kids will love squishing the wet clay between their fingers in attempting to create their masterpieces. Instructors will be chosen to suit every level of talent!

Day Five Gather your gourmet goodies, pottery and head to the airport for your trip home.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca Restaurants of Note: Criollo, Itanoni, La Teca. Lobster tacos at Casa Oaxaca. Casually elegant Casa Oaxaca Café & Restaurante for drinking chocolate de agua. Breakfast at Boulenc. Origen Oaxaca. Pitiona and El Destilado  

Shopping Suggestions: for a range of quality Oaxacan souvenirs: Andares del Arte Popular . For traditional huipil blouses, Arte Amuzgos Near the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Amate Books. La Mano Magica Amazing crafts including papier mache, alebrijes, black pottery and textiles

Adios Mexico!