Last Saturday, the 15th of Octuber 2016, we organized a fun day trip to village of Metepec (Pueblo Mágico) and the City of Toluca, visiting the traditional handicraft market in Metepec and the Festivals of Alfeñique (Sugar Art Festival, with many Day of the Dead products). In Toluca we also visit the Botanical Garden with stained glass windows (Cosmovitral). Starting the day in Metepec with some of the best barbacoa ever (tender sheep meat and soup). We had a very mixed group (11 people), with people from India, France, USA (3), Japan, México (4) and The Netherlands :-).
Starting at 7.30 in the morning, to escape the traffic in Mexico City, we arrived very early, around 9.00 in the town of Metepec. The name Metepec comes from Náhuatl meaning “hill of the maguey plants”. We parked our Toyota van at the handicraft market and from there we had a short walk to the Calvary Church on the northern slope of the hill of the maguey, a beautiful eighteenth century chapel, also known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was still cold, but we quickly warmed up, walking up the steep stairs. At the foot of the church we could admire the immense mural of 200 meters, where one of the symbols of Metepec is preserved: The Tree of Life.
After our warm-up exercise of the day, we walked to the nearby Ex Convent of San Juan Bautista. Founded in the XVI century, this convent, along with the Zincantepec and Calimaya, make up the trilogy of Franciscan monasteries that still exist in the valley of Toluca. After admiring it´s beautiful entrance, lush gardens and it´s well decorated church, we visited the monestry on the left side of the church, were we could admire the beautiful and recently restored murals on the second floor.
Afterwards we were quite hungry and we decided to try out the local barcacoa (tender sheep meat) in de center of the town. Luckely we were not disapointed at all, the barbacoa meat was amazing (ask for “maciza“ so it´s pure meat and less fat) and the barbacoa soup (consume) was without doubt one of the best I tried. The “tacos dorados“ or “flautas“ of chicken or barbacoa were another great option :-).
After this great meal we walked to nearby handicraft market, were the potters explained the traditional process of making the famous Trees of Life. A Tree of Life is a clay sculpture; the image depicted in these sculptures originally was for the teaching of the Biblical story of creation to natives in the early colonial period, such as Adam and Eve, but recently there have been trees created with themes less related to the Bible, for example the history of Mexico. Since the Day of the Dead dates are aproching (1st and 2nd of November), there were also beautiful Catrinas and other Day of the Dead products for sale at very afordable prices.
After visiting the handicraft market the town finally woke up and the stalls of the Feria de Alfeñique (sugar arts festival) were finally open for business. An alfeñique is a confection molded from sugar paste. The design and construction of these figures can vary from region to region. Today, alfeñique figures, especially calaveras (skulls), are widely created in Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations in November.
After exploring Metepec, it was time at 13.30 to go to our next destination: nearby Toluca Town. Toluca is the center of a rapidly growing urban area, now the fifth largest in Mexico, but it has a small and beautiful colonial center. Our first stop was the Cosmovitral, a stained glass mural and botanical garden.The building originally was constructed in 1910 as the 16 de Septiembre Market. It was not until 1975 when the first female Mayor of Toluca, Yolanda Sentíes, had the 16 de Septiembre Market reallocated and successfully gauged enough social and political support to transform the building into a space for art. El cosmovitral was designed by the notable local artisan Leopoldo Flores. It is truly an amazing and inspiring place, especially since the latest renovation early this year (2016).
After visiting the amazing Cosmovitral, we visited the colonial center. Around the square “Plaza Cívica“ are the government palace, the city hall and legislative headquarters. On the south side is the Assumption Cathedral, designed in 1870, impressive for its design, which resembles the old Roman basilicas with a cupola crowned by a statue of St. Joseph, patron of the city. In front of the cathedral is the temple of the Third Order with a baroque style that preserves important works of art. To improve the urban image of Toluca, the residents of the Traditional Barrios delegation painted more than 350 homes in different colors in March 2016, a great visual improvement!
And then we had free time to visit the second Feria de Alfeñique (sugar arts festival), this time in the city center of Tolula, around the “Portales“ / the Portals. With in between an optional bite at one of our favorite restaurants in Toluca called “Hosteria Las Ramblas“.
Metepec and Toluca are very worthwhile a visit all year round, even when there are no festivals like the Feria de Alfeñique. Both can be easily combined with a hike up to the crater lakes of the Sun and the Moon of the nearby Nevado de Toluca volcano.
All the pictures of this day trip can be found on Meetup:
All past and future trips with Aztec Explorers can be found on Meetup.
Let´s explore México together !!!
During this trip we explored the State of Mexico: