Our home for 3 weeks
After some much un-needed metro delays and assistance from a wonderful local to get a taxi to the bus station we caught a 6 hour bus ride through the mountains from Mexico City to Oaxaca (you say it Waa-ha-ca) where we decided to base ourselves for a couple of weeks to learn some Spanish. Since we decided that we would just wander after Cuba it makes sense to us to be able to speak a bit more spanish than just "Una cerveza por favor!". We picked Oaxaca after hearing lots of really good things about it from other travellers. It has an old school colonial feel about it, lots of language schools and its also supposed to be the food capital of Mexico - seeing as Ty and I love mexican food it sounded like the perfect place.

Looking out the window of the bus we passed a mountain with snow capped peaks (had to remind myself it is actually winter here!), a smoking volcanoe and cactus forests which stretched for miles. Many of the farmers seemed to be practising the slash and burn method of agriculture which made us both remember our university days. I was really suprised by the quality of the roads; they rival any we have travelled on in western countries and our 2nd class bus was as good as any I've travelled on in Europe. Arriving in Oaxaca we promptly managed to get ourselves lost. It turns out that google has things upside down in Oaxaca (apparently a much known fact by the locals!) and so we walked with packs on our back for 20 minutes in the 30 degree heat in the wrong direction! Fortunately we had arrived during the day as the part of town that the 2nd class bus station is in has a whole different feel to the 'centro' which is where our hostel was. We checked into our hostel before heading to the 'Zocalo' (main square) for dinner at the local market. The Zocalo had a festive atmosphere with hundreds of locals sitting around under the trees people watching and enjoying the local band that was playing. 

The hostel we booked into had a beautiful courtyard and was in a really good location but management had tiled the entire place which meant that while it looked great you could hear people roll over in the next room so we went looking for someone else to stay the next day. We found Cielo Azul hostel and decided to make it our home while we are here. It has a really nice grassed area and open plan living room/kitchen which opens out onto it and lucky for us it seems to be off season in Mexico so we usually only have to share the 8 bed dorm with 2 or 3 other people. 

Cactus forests between Mexico City & Oaxaca
Santa Domingo Church
The locals enjoying dancing to the Symphony Orchestra
After researching language schools on the internet we went on Monday morning to check out Oaxaca Spanish Magic. The school is located behind the beautiful Santa Domingo Church in the north part of the down-town so its about a 25 minute walk from the hostel. We ended getting signed up on the spot and starting our classes straight away which was a suprise but it was good to get going with things. We signed up for group classes but since we were the only beginners we got lucky and had private tuition with a lovely local lady called Carina. We committed ourselves to 20 hours the first week (4 hours of class a day plus homework) and found ourselves pretty mentally tired each night. Its been a long time since we have both worked our brains so hard! After class each day we gave ourselves a break and wandered around town soaking up the atmosphere and checking out the sites. Because we spent a bit more than we intended to in the States we took the opportunity in the first week to cut down on our spending so we cooked dinner at the hostel, or ate a big lunch with the locals at the market for 40 pesos each (£2!). 

We had intended to go exploring the local towns around Oaxaca the first weekend but I was struck down with a pretty bad case of Montezuma's Revenge so I didnt venture much outside our room and the couch for a few days. No idea what caused it as we both ate exactly the same things and Ty was fine. Tyro went exploring one of the other local markets with some others from the hostel but despite feeling pretty awful me being sick was kind of good in a way as it forced us to have some downtime for a few days. Much needed after 6 weeks on the road if we are honest!

Week two of our Spanish course we had another lady called Patty (from America) in our group and a different teacher, called Emanuel. Manuel's a pretty good teacher but in contrast to Carina he pretty much refuses to speak English which we found really tough for the first few days. Its good to be totally immersed in Spanish for 4 hours but because we were still getting our heads around sentence structure and beginning to understand vocabulary we found it hard to keep up with what he was saying which was really frustrating. 

By the middle of the week I was starting to feel better so we wandered down to the Zocalo one night to watch one of the many performances which take place on a regular basis. That night it was the local symphony orchestra performing and lots of locals, dressed in their finest, had come out to dance along to the music. Some of the older men were seriously smooth looking dudes with coordinated suits, suspenders and fedora hats. On the Thursday Ty and I celebrated our 11th anniversary with a seriously good dinner at Los Danzantes.

As it was Patty's last week at the school, Manuel offered to take us out to one of his favourite local restaurants on the Friday night and we had a really nice evening together. The place he took us to was up on one of the hills behind the town so we had an amazing view out over the city. Probably not somewhere we would have found by ourselves as Lonely Planet had scared me about wandering up there at night.

To be continued...
Celebrating 11 years together
Dinner with an amazing view