The flavors of Mexico

This month we celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day on September 15th. The whole month you can see street vendors selling all kinds of goods with the red-white-green colors of the national flag. Mexicans are very proud of their country, culture and cuisine.

Even though I wasn’t born in Mexico, I feel like this wonderful country has adopted me. The past eight years that I have lived here, I have been lucky enough to visit many different regions. Most foreign visitors head towards one of the many beach destinations, but there’s much more to see, hear, smell and taste! Join me on my travel through Mexico.


Taxco, 160 km southwest of Mexico City, has ridden waves of boom and bust associated with the fantastically wealthy silver deposits discovered here in the 16th century and then repeatedly until the early 20th century. With its silver now almost gone, the town has fallen back on tourism to sustain it. The town is scattered down a precipitous hillside surrounded by dramatic mountains and cliffs, its perfectly preserved architecture and the twin belfries of its baroque masterpiece, Parroquia Santa Prisca, make for one of the most spectacular views anywhere in the central highlands.


Morelia is the coolest place you’ve ever been. The colonial heart of the city is so well preserved that it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. The cathedral is no just gorgeous. It’s inspirational, especially when the working organ with 4600 pipes is played. Sixteenth and 17th century stone buildings, baroque facades and archways line the narrow downtown streets, and are home to museums, hotels, restaurants, chocolaterias, sidewalk cafés, a popular university and cheap and tasty taquerias.


East of Mexico City lies the gorgeous colonial city of Puebla. Mexico’s fifth largest city, Puebla is the dominant regional centre and big tourist draw for its cathedral, culinary attractions and well-preserved history. The surroundings of Puebla are predominantly rural, with stunning views on the incredible Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes.

Puebla is rightly famous for its gastronomy  (and especially for moles poblanos, the classic spicy sauce containing chiles, chocolate, sesame seed and more). If you’re visiting Puebla you must try this, to have really experienced the city.


Oaxaca is the heart of a region whose highly creative populace produces the country’s finest range of crafts and some of its most exciting contemporary art. Artists and artisans alike are inspired by the state’s deep-rooted indigenous tradtions and by its bright southern light. The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites and by colourfully traditional villages and small towns.

Oaxaca has its own spicy take on Mexican cuisine, based on its famous seven moles (sauces usually served over chicken or pork). Other local specialties include tasajo (slices of pounded beef), tlayudas (big crisp tortillas with varied toppings, sometimes labeled ‘Oaxacan pizza’), quesillo (stringy cheese) and chapulines ( grasshoppers! – usually fried with chili powder, onion and garlic). When you are in Oaxaca, you have to try this unusual delicacy. Because any serious foodie should be brave and try whatever’s cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the history, food and culture of Mexico. This large country has both temperate and tropical zones, reaches 5km into the sky, stretches 100,000 km along its coasts. Mexico is what you make of it…. open your eyes the huge variety of options for human adventure that it has to offer.


Dancing Chef Maaike

Heaven in Mazatlan – 490 feet uphill

Where in Mazatlán do you have a 360º view and can you see 12 miles north and south? It’s not the newest apartment building in town, but a natural reserve that few tourists know about. The Lighthouse or ‘Faro’ is home to many animals and plant species and is located in the far south point of Mazatlan. Named the world’s 2nd highest natural lighthouse, its altitude is 154 meters or 490 feet.

The Mazatlan lighthouse is located on an impressive rock formation called the Creston Hill. From afar you can appreciate its steep cliffs and triangular shape. The Creston hill boasts several deep caves, which are nearly impossible to approach because of the treacherous currents.

Mazatlan has been a cargo port since 1821, but at that time it didn’t have a lighthouse. The most important freight was gold and silver from the rich mines of Copala and Cosalá. Many ships came in from Europe and Asia, but entering the port was a dangerous enterprise. The captains would have to approach the port based on their experience, which put at risk their ships and precious load. Therefore the Creston hill, which used to be an island, was equipped as a reference point using torches or wood fires. It wasn’t until the 1890 that the actual lighthouse was built. The maritime signals had been manufactured in Paris, France, and consisted of a large oil lamp with mirrors to reflect and enhance light. Because the light was static, in the distance the light was often mistaken for a star. It was not until 1905, when the lamp was replaced by a turntable.

There are several interesting legends about the lighthouse caves. Some stories lead to believe that inside invaluable treasures have been hidden by famous pirates like the English Thomas Cavendich or the blond Dutch Spilbergen. They roamed the seas to plunder the loaded ‘Naos’ from the Philippines.

Climbing or ‘conquering’ the Lighthouse is a great adventure for all ages. I always take my children (aged 5 and 8) for an early Sunday stroll. You will have an easy start with a slightly sloped sand path. You will meet both exercising Mazatlecans and tourists along the way. About halfway the sand path leads into stairs. You will see lizards, many birds, butterflies, as well as cactus and tropical trees. Even two stray cats roam the Lighthouse stairs, where they are fed daily by the passers-by. Once you’ve reached the top of the hill, you will be amazed by the view. It makes the effort worthwhile!

Are you excited and you can’t wait to visit the Lighthouse?!? Here’s how to get there. You can take the ‘Sabalo Centro’ air-conditioned bus that drives through the Golden Zone all the way to the foot of the Lighthouse. You can also take a taxi, asking the driver for ‘El Faro’. I would advise to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Make sure to bring a camera, closed shoes, a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. You will have the best family time and the most amazing photos!!!

Dancing Chef Maaike

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