We spent Christmas sick as dogs in a magical town in the mountains – if you have to feel crappy, it’s not a bad way to pass the time.
Robbie’s boss invited us for lunch on Christmas Day at his weekend house in Tepotzlán, a “pueblo mágico” about an hour’s bus ride outside of the city. 480 pesos and halfway through a dubbed-over version of Divergent later, we found ourselves at a gasolinera in the middle of a range of flat-top mountains that looked just like Santa Fe’s Sandias. The air was fresh and clear; Mexico City’s pollution problems are on their way out but as a native New Yorker, I realize I never really take a full gulping breath until I’m in a place where the air is newborn. The roads are all cobblestone or dirt in Tepotzlán, and as our taxi jostled one way and the next, it felt a little like being transported to another world. Vendors selling huarache sandals and itacates (triangle-shaped masa cakes served plain or sliced like a sandwich and stuffed with meat or cheese) lined the streets. You could feel something in the mountains, where it’s said the Mayan feathered serpent god was born, and a small pyramid is temple to Aztec god Tepoztecatl.
I was feeling so rough we barely left the hotel, but what a place – Buena Vibra is the spa retreat I will think about whenever I’m sick again. Here’s Robbie, soaking it in:
On Christmas Eve, we asked for a restaurant recommendation. Because cabs were in short supply, we shared one with a couple – a psychologist from Arizona and his girlfriend (and former student!), an Argentine living in Mexico City. They were insistent that we change our dinner plans and join them at Casa Fernanda, a hotel restaurant serving “deconstructed Mexican food.” Put off by their insistence, we were determined to find some comida típica. We drove by the recommended restaurant – lights off, totally closed. We then asked our driver for a recommendation, and seeing that the lights were on, we thanked him and said goodbye. There were 10 or 12 empty tables, but when we asked to be seated, they informed us that because we didn’t have a reservation for the special “cena de Navidad,” there was nothing they could do. And so, we ended up at Casa Fernanda – which at first wouldn’t seat us either (same problem) until Robbie reminded them that this, after all, was the story of Christmas. I had enchiladas stuffed with zucchini blossom in a salsa verde, plus a fava bean soup that did me right; Robbie had shrimp tacos and a big plate of grilled steak). The meal was punctuated by the intermittent blast of homemade fireworks (so impressed at our waiter for holding it together), and we spent a lot of time trying not to make eye contact with the other couple, but I had the best hot toddy of my life, served in a ceramic cafe de olla mug. And my kind date (the same one who passed his cold on to me) agreed to skip out on the town midnight mass that we’d both wanted to see, and put me to bed early.
Christmas lunch the next day was a family affair, complete with a witty British father-in-law, a pack of dogs, and turkey served al fresco. We declined to spend the night despite how lovely the surroundings were, and instead took our hosts up on the offer to borrow their extra car and wobble our way back over cobblestone roads to our own bed.
We’ll be back in better health, Tepotzlán.