|Beautiful Mexican woman holding a basket of VEGAN breads and pastries.|
I took a little road trip. Just one hour south of Mexico City to a small
village. I was yearning for a little adventure, just to keep myself adventuring. After much deliberation I picked Tepoztlan. It is well known for its New Age vibe. People say the energy there is healing and many hike up the mountain to reach the pyramid, perched on top. According to myth, Tepoztlan is the birthplace over 1200 years ago of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god widely-worshipped in ancient Mexico.
I was a bit nervous of bus connections but catching it was a simple affair. I checked Google for public transport to the village and took the metro to the south bus station and caught a bus to Tepoztlan. In all the public transport I have experienced in Mexico, it was comfortable and stress-free. The bus was showing a video about colourful insects and their habits. Between that and the passing villages, meadows and woodlands. I was well entertained. The bus drops passengers a (very pleasant) ten minute walk from the town centre. But a free service is available and a small white mini bus will drop you in if you wish.
I followed my nose around the cobbled streets. Mostly seeking shade! I walked into a few cafes in search of tea but the stench of moth balls (or something!) made lingering almost impossible. I decided they just weren’t right and walked on. Within minutes I’d happened across an organic store and entered up the stone steps. Whilst enquiring (in poor, but steadily improving, Spanish) about the menu written on their blackboard, a customer, an effervescent Latvian girl, took me into her care and told me all about the vegan/vegetarian restaurants and shops in the village. She then walked me down to La Tienda De La Grailsa to show me around, and then on to El Milenio, where I ate lunch. She even handed me a map! And then went on her way. I watched her calling and waving to people. She hugged nearly all the various store owners along the way.
The owner in El Milenio was sitting with needles and blue wool, knitting as I entered. Her smile was very welcoming. I decided it was a good place to eat.
The store/cantina only had a few small wooden tables. It was clean and bright.
The menu was vegan in the most part. I was torn with the decision of what to order so the cook brought me little sample cups of the soups to try. I opted for the ‘sopa de haba’ A bean soup with torn kale. And to accompany it, a banana leaf-wrapped tamale.
Whilst I waited, I poked around the shelves in the store. It was well stocked with Asian ingredients, amaranth, gluten free pastas, flours and dried goods. It would be easy for me to live here, I thought! I was so charmed by the place too, as whenever a customer came in through the door they would greet me with a friendly smile and a ‘buenos tardes’.
Tamale de frigol chino con chayote y salsa de pipian. Translated to adzuki bean and chayote (a type of Mexican squash) in a pumpkin seed sauce. I watched the cook steam the tamale in a large pan. The scent of masa flour, carried on clouds of steam drives me wild. Now that I’ve actually tasted it in Mexico, memories of places I’ve visited flood my senses as I inhale!
The soup was so tasty, plenty of beans, cooked to perfection and still with a little bite. The broth was thick and made from a whole host of pureed vegetables. I ate the soup first, scraping the bowl loudly with my spoon as it diminished, and then gently peeled open the banana leaf from the tamale. Puffs of steam rose and my mouth was salivating. For me, the perfect tamal has a balance of savoury and sweetness. Savoury from the filing, and sweet from the steamed masa. The light and airy masa was thin and delicate. The filling was full of flavour and the texture of the beans added an extra dimension. I was so grateful for to the Latvian girl for guiding me here.
The sun was strong and my strength still not up to par (following a bout of Monteczuma’s revenge), so I only walked a small way up the cobbled steps, through the huge trunk of a tree that was split at its centre and past all the blue tarpaulin covered food and souvenir stalls. I consoled myself at not reaching the pyramid with the promise to return. Instead, I entertained myself, walking up and down the streets, people watching and enjoying the covered market in el Centro. It was wonderfully cool in the shade. I practised my Spanish, asking the stall holders to tell me what things were as I pointed to strange fruits and vegetables and commented on the heat.
I even came across a bug with spectacular markings to rival any of the insects I’d seen on the video shown on the bus! I think Tepoztlan is a place of many treasures of which I only tasted and witnessed a few. I’d like to think I’ll will return one day.
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