One of the things worth noting right off is the great exchange rate we got. Last year when we visited Mexico, the U.S. dollar was worth just over 14 pesos. This year, it was up to over 19 pesos to the dollar, so we got a lot more for our money. When we charged expenses on our travel card, we got the full 19+ pesos exchange rate. To save ATM fees (which are 3% of the amount withdrawn at Bank of America), we brought cash in USD and changed it for pesos at currency exchange booths at the airport and in the towns we visited. The exchange rates we got there ranged from 17.63 to 18.2 pesos to the dollar, still good, and a lot better than 14+ pesos to the dollar.
Entertainment and Tours – $437.85
Food and Culture in Mexico City
In Mexico City, we kicked off our five-day stay with a food tour. We looked at the options and, by far, the best value was the Sabores de Mexico food tour of the Historic Center. The cost was $60 per person but we were able to get a 10% discount with a flyer from our hostel; with tax and reservation fee, the total for both of us was $131.28. The five-hour tour included a total of nine tastings across the city. We met our tour guide for the walking tour, which started at the Oaxaca En Mexico restaurant for mole negro, followed by three tastings at the Mercado de San Juan which features gourmet and exotic foods.
We sampled tapas at the Delicatessen la Jersey Gourmet, various insects (yes, I said insects) and a wild boar stew at El Gran Cazador, and edible flowers and herbs at Rosse Gourmet.
Our next stop was street food at El Caguamo Marisqueria where we had a highly seasoned shrimp broth and shrimp tacos. As we walked through the streets of Mexico City with our guide, he talked not only about the food, but about the history and culture around us. Next, it was time for a traditional cantina, La Mascota, where the food is free with the purchase of drinks. We ate carnitas with all the toppings, drank mezcal, and listened to the mariachi band performing inside the cantina. For a more modern cantina experience, we stopped in Pasagüero to sample their tapas and array of salsas which you can see in the video below.
And we finished up the day at a typical Mexican sweet shop, Dulcería de Celaya. It was a totally delicious day! Oh, and we didn’t need dinner that night.
Visiting Indigenous Women in Oaxaca
The other especially notable tour we took was in Oaxaca with enVia. The enVia Foundation uses the profits from the tours to give interest-free loans to women to start or grow their businesses and provide free education programs in the communities that they visit. On the day of our tour, we visited two communities, San Miguel del Valle and Tlacochahuaya.
In San Miguel, we saw two weavers and a woman who makes chocolate and traditional cocoa drinks. You can see how Mexican chocolate is made as well as the traditional preparation of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) in the video below. Teresa is explaining in Spanish but everything she says is translated by the enVia guide.
In Tlacochuhuaya, we visited a woman who sells roast chicken and a woman who breeds rabbits and has a comedor where we had a delicious lunch.
The tour cost 750 MXN pesos/person (a total of $81 USD for both of us or $40.50 per person) and included the all day tour, lunch, and transportation. This was one of the high-points of our trip as we got to see how indigenous women live and earn an income.
Cemeteries, Mole, and Mezcal
Our third tour was also in Oaxaca, a cemetery tour to experience Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Day of the Dead isn’t actually just one day; it’s a celebration that lasts from October 31st through November 2nd (All Souls Day) and beyond in some communities. The people believe that their loved ones who have died return to be with them during this time. So, they go to the cemeteries to greet them with their favorite foods, drinks, and other things they loved.
The tour began with a presentation about the traditions and cultural significance of the holiday, and a meal of mole rojo enchiladas, mezcal or beer, and pan de muerto. They we were off to visit three cemeteries, each very different from the others. We talked to families who were celebrating at the graves of their family members, listened to music, and even drank with the families when offered. This video was taken about 1:30am at the third cemetery we visited. You have to see it to believe it:
The tour cost 450 pesos per person, about $51 USD for both of us, including transportation, a meal, and all the mezcal we could drink.
Celebrating the Past and Making New Friends
The last entertainment expense I will mention in more detail is the Gala event for his University of Americas reunion. Alumni who attended the University during the 70s and 80s came to this year’s reunion. When we arrived, Paul only knew a few people; when the four-day reunion was over, we both felt like we had made many new friends. The Gala was a semi-formal event on the last night of the reunion. For both of us, the cost was about $66 USD.
The other events took place on the University campus as well as at restaurants and bars nearby. Those expenses are reflected in our “Meals Out” category. But one thing you have to see is Paul and the rest of the group enjoying the music at one of the restaurants. We just can’t get that song out of our heads!
Other than these four bigger entertainment expenses, we also:
- Went to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City – $6.78 admission
- Paid Mariachis to sing us two songs at Salon Tenampa in Garibaldi Square, Mexico City – $5.59
- Visited the National Museum of Art, Mexico City – $5.59 admission
- Saw the Ballet Folklórico de México at the Bellas Artes – $31.28 for two tickets
- TuriBus tour of Puebla at night – $8.94
- Walking tour of the town of Atlixco – $5.49
- Trolly tour of Puebla (one of the events for Paul’s University reunion) – $16.48
- Two tickets for a musical entitled “Catrina” for Day of the Dead – $28.36