We woke to frightening cracks of thunder and heavy rain pouring down on our roof – I guess we won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, we thought. After the rain subsided we headed out to properly explore Pátzcuaro, a town founded in the 1320s in Michoacán state. We’re already falling in love with the beautiful cobblestone streets winding their way lazily down towards Lake Pátzcuaro; the eclectic mish-mash of new and old – cars, buildings, signs, graffiti; the cheerful local people going about their daily business, many with Dia de Meurtos face-paint adorning their smiling faces; and most of all, the unique culture and atmosphere of this historical town.
We found a delightful café with outdoor seating where we could watch the world pass us by, and tucked into some lunch. We were presented with bread, lime, margarine, and chili salsa, as we had been before our meals in Mexico City. The salsa here in Pátzcuaro was spicier than that in Mexico City, but still super tasty. I decided I couldn’t go past ordering “Sopa Tarasca” – a traditional tomato-based soup from Pátzcuaro with dried chili, cheese, and fried tortilla strips. I tentatively asked for my soup “sin chile” (without chili) – our waiter obligingly nodded and promptly brought my soup, with chili floating unobtrusively on top. It was time for what little chili training I’d done in Australia to show its worth. I took a small sip of my soup, and was pleasantly surprised – it was a little spicy, but nowhere near too much. Near the end of my soup, having left the chili pieces well alone, I decided it was now or never – I put one of the larger pieces on my spoon, and chewed on it… No trouble at all. I got lucky this time! The soup was amazing and the tortilla pieces throughout it were a revelation – I could easily develop an addiction to it. Alex and I ordered our first coffees of our trip – my long black was awfully bitter, and his cappuccino was watery and flavourless. Nonetheless, the caffeine kept us going through our long day exploring.
After our meal, we set off towards a church we had been admiring from our table at the café. It was beautiful, and also happened to be in front of a long string of market stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Never one to resist markets and the delightful colours and scents within, we eagerly wound our way through the stalls, pausing to admire the vibrant orange marigolds that are synonymous with Dia de Muertos celebrations, and ponder the fascinating vegetables and fruits we had never seen before. Continuing our walk in no particular direction, we soon realised that Pátzcuaro had a secret intrigue we hadn’t read about on any website – their complete patchwork of doors, no two alike. Every house, no matter how small, had an impressive entrance, with doors of all colours, sizes and styles. It would take a day at least to take photos of only the most beautiful doors in Pátzcuaro, and with any luck in future we will be back to take a journey through the doors of the world, and perhaps make a blog about that alone…
After becoming blissfully lost, taking an enormous amount of photos and exchanging greetings of “buenas tardes” (good afternoon) with many locals, we turned our attention to finding our way back to our hotel for a relaxing late afternoon cerveza. On our journey back we found ourselves in the middle of a group of thirty or more young children, dressed to the nines in their Dia de Meurtos costumes, complete with face-paint, suits, and beautiful dresses. It was amazing to see the effort they and their parents had gone to, and the result was nothing short of spectacular.
Finding ourselves back at the church we had started at, but not quite ready to head straight home yet, we followed our noses to a nearby bakery, full of freshly baked goods tantalising our tastebuds. We carefully chose two out of the many options – a chocolate loaf, and a sugar-coated fruity pastry. We could have stayed all day admiring (and slowly working our way through) the shelves full of doughnuts, traditional Pan de Muertos, croissants, and endless other baked goods, but we moved on to a bottle shop instead to choose our cervezas for the day. Having never had a Corona in Australia, Alex decided that it was only fair to give it a go in its home country of Mexico, so we picked two up. The salesman explained to me that if we didn’t bring in our empty bottles, we had to pay an extra 5 pesos to have the bottled beer as opposed to the cans. We’ll know for next time!
On our way home, we walked past new markets we hadn’t come across before, and discovered the sugar skulls that we had long anticipated. Stall after stall sold chocolate skeletons, sugar skulls, lollipops shaped like skulls or spiders, and many other kinds of festive confectionery.
After our afternoon beers in our hotel room, we realised it was already almost 9pm, and we’d better find some dinner before it was too late. Our stomachs led us towards the food stalls we’d been to the night before, but before we made it there, beautiful music reached our ears, and we diverted to listen to a five-piece band playing in the middle of one of Pátzcuaro’s most famous squares, Plaza Vasco de Quiroga. It was surreal, standing in the middle of a park in a small, ancient Mexican town, listening to excellent musicians play with extraordinary passion, and realising – we did it, we’re here, we’re living our dreams!
We found our way to the food vendors after the band had finished, and tucked into some amazing traditional Mexican enchiladas, which were packed full of flavour and super filling. Alex’s was served with chicken, while the woman cooking was kind enough to make me a vegetarian version with beautifully spiced carrots and potatoes alongside corn tortillas, topped with queso (cheese) and shredded cabbage – yum!
Hoping for some churros for dessert, we were disappointed to find the shop had closed for the night – there’s always tomorrow!