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Zacatlán de las Manzanas, Puebla

A family outing

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to visit a new place in Mexico. Not a new museum or just driving through another state, but actually visiting a new place and getting out of the car and walking around. I had to specify, because with a one-year-old running around it is hard to even get out of the house and my husband might think that take-out from the new sushi place qualifies as "a new place."
So a few weeks ago we went to visit my in-laws and I gently but daily planted the seeds of the idea of going somewhere fun.
My sister-in-law picked Zacatlán de las Manzanas, a "pueblo mágico" or a "magic/al town," which is a designation given to many quaint places in Mexico based on certain characteristics, such as history, symbolic attributes, legends, or just a certain magic. (Read more here in Spanish: http://www.sectur.gob.mx/pueblos-magicos/)

Our first stop was the waterfalls, marked by a faded, rusty billboard depicting zip-liners flying through valleys. We went to the Tulimán waterfall off a gravel road that turns into a dirt road that turns into a freshly plowed series of switchbacks down into the heart of the ravine. The park costs 50 pesos per person and was much nicer in terms of facilities than anything I had ever seen at parks in Mexico. There are three levels, each one sporting clean, toilet-paper providing bathrooms, a snack hut and stand offering hot-off-the-comal quesadillas and other Mexican antojitos.

The first level takes you to two viewing platforms of the Tulimán waterfall. There is a short path heading down, and the place reminded me a lot of Monteverde, Costa Rica: high humidity, dense vegetation, the constant sound of water running somewhere. Bring your raincoat or a windbreaker because you're bound to get wet! The second, higher platform brings you right to the base of the waterfall where an abundance of waterfall spray soaks everyone trying to take their selfies. We were lucky enough to have "good" weather for Zacatlán- no fog and mild temps.

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The second level is even cooler: a much longer and steeper path down to a hanging bridge over the river and awesome rock formations. There is also a hollow tree, which I didn't venture to see, and some mineral water baths you have to pay extra for (which were a strange color and nobody got in). The rope bridge swings enough to scare you, and everyone enjoyed clambering over the rocks. Strong gusts of wind blew up and down the river, emphasizing the precariousness of our perch on the crumbling rock face (as I struggled to hold on to a toddler!)

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We didn't make it down to the third level, because by then everyone was hungry. So we all climbed back into the car and drove another 15-20 minutes into town. Zacatlán was nothing like I expected. The other pueblos mágicos I'd been to were tiny, quaint, cobblestone streets. The mists sliding inland from the mountains did give it an eerie, magical look to it, but the larger size of the town and the lack of hippies and street musicians gave it more of a big city feel. One thing everyone commented on was how clean everything was. No trash on the streets, no dog poop. At least not in the touristy downtown part. There were two prominent churches, one painted a yellow that reminded me of my favorite church in Lima, Peru, and plenty of pedestrian walkways.

Tourist guides from the information booth pointed us to La Parroquia, a restaurant not unlike La Maga in Cuernavaca. Just like my favorite restaurant, a narrow staircase leads up to a second floor crowded with wooden tables and smelling delicious. La Parroquia faces the side of the yellow church, and has tables out on balconies that overlook the busy street below. They have a buffet (like La Maga!) but for half the price (50 pesos). After running along rivers all day we had worked up quite an appetite. I'm sure the kitchen staff wasn't happy to see us go back for thirds (and in my husband and brother-in-law's case fifths and sixths). They had pancita, pasta, rice and veggies, hearty vegetable soup, salad, chicken in adobo sauce, etc., and for dessert, cookies, arroz con leche and applesauce. Buffets are perfect when traveling with a baby, because you never know what they might be in the mood to eat. Here I was able to pick and choose some healthy options that weren't full of spicy salsa, and the baby gulped down a full glass of agua de sabor.

After almost two hours of serious nomming, we rolled ourselves down the stairs to stroll around the town square a little more. There was a giant mosaic apple people were taking selfies by, a good-sized park for kids to play on, apple strudel-type pastries to munch, and oh- I forgot to mention- Zacatlán makes artisanal apple soda. We got a few bottles when we were at the waterfall. It's crisp and refreshing, kind of like my old Coca-cola favorite Manzana Lift. I wish I'd gotten some bottles to bring home, but the baby liked it too and even though it's "artisanal" I wasn't going to share it with her (or listen to her cry for it).

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Soon after we left the restaurant, however, a thick fog came rolling in. Like right out of Sleepy Hollow. I'd never seen fog come into a town like that, creep along the church stones and around vendors' wooden carts. It was time to go! A quick ride back in which everyone fell asleep but me and the driver, and I realized that we had gone to not one but TWO states! Puebla and Tlaxcala. I don't know about other expats living in Mexico, but I feel like I never get enough Mexican culture. Musings for another post. ¡Hasta pronto!

Posted by UnMejorHOY 13:09 Archived in Mexico Tagged family_travel alternative_travel travel_with_baby

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