We love Parque Juarez el Llano.
Every evening it bustles with activity. But's it’s not loud or overwhelming; there's an almost relaxing buzz in the air.
As the heat of the day subsides, families come out for a walk and to let the kids tire themselves out on the playground, the bouncy castle or at one of the other activites that are set up each night. Around them, young people practice dancing, couples cuddle and kiss, little girls take rollerblading classes, a drumming group perfects their timing and vendors sell all kinds of tasty treats.
LJ often brings her soccer ball to practice juggling or start a scrimmage in the open spaces by the fountain. While she runs off in search of fun and friends, L and I usually share a coffee from a cute little truck and settle on a shady bench to play cribbage.
This beautiful little community hub has been like a second home for us this month. It’s often where we eat dinner and unwind at the end of the day.
We don’t have places like this back home in Ottawa and it really represents what we’ve come to love about Mexico.
The road to Oaxaca
We didn’t expect to come here. No particular reason; Mexico just wasn’t on our radar.
But LJ really wanted to come here. For a long time, even before we left Canada, she’s wanted to eat tacos, play soccer and learn Spanish.
She’s done amazingly well over the last ten months, probably better than we expected, but it hasn’t always been easy for her. A few months ago, we realized we needed to change course to keep her engaged and excited about travelling.
We decided to skip our intended adventures in Cambodia and China and do something completely different. We left Asia early to spend a month in Oaxaca City.
It ended up being one of the best decisions we made this year.
Most people on a first trip to Mexico head to the coasts, but we’ve spent a lot of time at the beach this year and were looking for a new landscape. Oaxaca is a small city in southern central Mexico that sits in the Valles Centrales foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur. It has desert cacti, dry air, colonial buildings and is considered by some to be the soul of Mexico. It sounded perfect. Plus, it was safe and cheaper and easier to get to than places on the Pacific coast or the Yucatán Peninsula.
Upon arrival, we also quickly and happily realized that it’s not overrun with tourism and there's very little English, so a great spot to really immerse in the Spanish language and Mexican life.
A real home away from home
We absolutely love Oaxaca and all agree that of the places we’ve been this year, it's one of our favourites and somewhere we could have stayed longer term.
The people are so friendly and welcoming, the city is filled with colour and culture and the food is beyond delicious. We love our apartment, our very walkable neighbourhood and especially el Llano.
LJ spent the first part of our stay taking morning Spanish classes and is now attending a regular nearby Mexican school…all in Spanish! She has friends and comes home chatty and smiling every afternoon.
We have a favourite taco stand and we say hello to the owner whenever we walk by. We have a regular fruit and veggie vendor who loves it when the kid translates for L. We even figured out how to take the bus across town – no easy feat I tell you!
We’ve explored beyond the city as well. We visited el Arbol del Tule (one of the oldest and largest trees in the world), learned about the beautiful Zapotec textiles, swam at the top of a Hierve el Agua, watched a baseball game and visited the ancient Zapotec ruins of Mitla and Monte Alban.
We also regularly indulged in tacos and in the region’s mole negro, heaping tlayudas, tejate, mezcal and even chapulines (grasshoppers).
We celebrated Easter here, once ended up in the midst of a wedding procession, and last week, LJ turned nine – complete with churros, a pinata and the Mexican birthday song.
It’s been amazing and honestly, for some reason, Oaxaca is probably where we’ve felt most at ease.
This week, we return to Canada and although we’re excited; it will be very hard to leave our little life here. LJ has already said that she wants to return when she's older and live in the mountains for year.
I don’t thing we could have asked for a better last home away from home. And luckily, it's not as far away as some of the others, so easier to come back to.
Yes, you read that right, we’re coming to Canada! In fact, as you're reading this we're probably already hanging out with with family in Vancouver.
But we’re not going back to our home in Ottawa quite yet.
Our 20th and final country will be our own because we’re taking the long way home and spending our last six weeks on an epic, all Canadian coast to coast road trip!!!
This new kind of adventure will surely bring new challenges. L will have to learn to relax while I drive, I'll likely battle indigestion from eating too much poutine and the colder weather (for us) may mean that LJ will actually have to wear pants!