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Puebla is a Spanish Colonial treasure of a city some 50 miles southeast of Mexico City (about a two-hour drive). With approximately 2.6 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-largest city in Mexico. Puebla was the site of a famous Cinco de Mayo battle in 1852 and is the capital of the state of Puebla.
For visitors, Puebla offers a vibrant and beautiful location with a mild climate year-round, unique architecture replete with intricate tiling, cupolas, cobblestone streets, ornate churches and cathedrals and more. The city also has spectacular natural scenery, with four snow-capped volcanoes nearby.
The tree-lined zocalo (or main plaza), La Plaza de la Constitucion, is the place to begin a visit to Puebla. This is where locals meet, greet, live and love, and the ambience changes depending on the time of day. The historic town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site —Puebla has more than 2,600 buildings dating from the 16th to 19th centuries that are catalogued as having great architectural and cultural value. The tiled buildings are truly magnificent and in amazingly good condition. Visitors can see courtyards, balconies, stone carvings and many other touches reminiscent of Spain’s Andalucia or Toledo, where talavera tile originated. After walking around the city center, visitors should head back to the zocalo for a taco arabe (a popular snack similar to a gyro) or a menjul (a Mexican version of a mojito with rum, sugar and mint) at the Bar Los Portales at the Hotel Royalty.
With wrought-iron benches on all sides, fronting sidewalk cafes resembling those of a European city, the zocalo has at its center the enormous Catedral de Puebla, dating from 1575. The cathedral — a wildly ornate, carved masterpiece that shows off Puebla’s former status as a wealthy Spanish colonial city — is dominated by two towers that are more than 200 feet tall. Once inside, visitors should take in the tiled, domed ceiling, which was built to resemble St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Puebla’s highly coveted folk art and high-quality talavera tile — produced here since 1550 — adorns many city buildings. Advise clients to visit Talavera Armando, at 6 Norte 408, for a fascinating workshop tour as well as to buy its exquisite and certified talavera dishes, tiles and decorative items.
On Sundays, the Callejon de los Sapos (Alley of the Frogs) is the place to go. Here, visitors will find everything from fine talavera pottery to classic 1950’s Mexican movie posters, as well as paintings displayed on the cobblestone streets by various artists at the Barrio del Artista at the Plaza del Torno. Also worth visiting is the Mercado de Artesanias, an 18th-century market selling crafts from the state of Puebla, including locally made sweets called dulces de Santa Clara.
In fact, the gastronomy of Puebla is famed throughout Mexico and the world. Puebla’s chefs came up with some of the most beloved dishes, including mole poblano (the exotic dark sauce made with some 30 ingredients, including chilies, cinnamon and chocolate). Other typical local dishes include chiles en nogada (seasonally available in August and September only) and cemitas (a type of sandwich).
Charming CholulaClients should also be sure to visit Cholula, a small town just across the river from Puebla, which is home to the Great Pyramid of Cholula (also known as Tlachihualtepetl). Built in the second century B.C., the pyramid is located beneath a church that offers impressive views of the nearby volcanoes.
Cholula is a bit more placid than Puebla, with a lovely, town plaza surrounded by shops and bistros. It is also home to the internationally renowned University of the Americas, which is attended by many students from the U.S. and other countries.
The delightful La Quinta Luna — a member of the Mexico Boutique Hotels collection — is an intimate, luxurious and well-run hotel within walking distance of the pyramid, market and plaza. Tell clients to arrive in time for the hotel’s monthly classical recital in the courtyard. The plush presidential suite at the Quinta Luna is in high demand by honeymooners who are drawn to the romance of this charming Mexican town.
All About Pueblawww.puebla-mexico.com
Mexico Boutique Hotelswww.mexicoboutiquehotels.com
Getting There:You can fly to Puebla, via Continental Airlines or Aeromexico, or fly into Mexico City, where there is a bus terminal inside the airport. An Estrella de Oro luxury motorcoach goes directly to Puebla for about $15 each way, and includes assigned seats, a light lunch and an onboard movie with earphones. The trip takes approximately two hours.