We can sum up our visit to San Cristobal de las Casa with a cafe. Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee Cafe reminded us of Kathmandu; the Kathmandu Guest House, to be exact.
It had that traveler vibe – this time complete with Macs and iPhones. Gone are the days of Post Restantes. Not so paperbacks and cocktails, which were richly scattered about. When people weren’t working on computers, they were TALKING between themselves, in groups, about politics and philosophy. Of music and artists and books and Mexico and beyond. Commonalities and differences. Opinions, stories, and jokes. You could, and we did, sit there all day.
It, the cafe, the town, is a hub, a gathering spot, a place an intrepid traveler would wander into, then wander out with a new friend.
We found out about the cafe from our guide Laura when we finished our Free Walking Tour here for tastes of Pox (pronounced Posh); the tasty alternative to tequila made only in Chiapas and presented for tasting at La Espirituosa – located inside the cafe.
The friendly attitude welcomed us with open arms. We comfortably sighed and made it our “office” several times during our San Cris stay. A Pink Pox Tonic, guacamole with fruit in it, and the best cheesy roasted potatoes with serrano ham we ever tasted kept bringing us back.
So, what about this cafe speaks of San Cristobal?
The vibe. The visitors. The arts. The food. The communal spirit. More.
San Cristobal was magical. It is designated as such. And coming from San Miguel de Allende, another Pueblo Magico, we don’t say that lightly.
First, don’t make the mistake we did and stay outside the main circle of town. Although our Airbnb was lovely, it was a good 30-minute hike down a street with not much to offer. A couple of tiendas selling junk food and sodas (San Cris has the highest rate of diabetes in Mexico) were all that is available for at least 15 minutes. Not conducive to just popping out for an evening drink and some music, it required commitment.
And Centro San Cristobal is a place you want to keep popping into. So next time, we will head to one of the lovely small hotels in that vicinity. San Cris doesn’t have highrises. Although it is rather big, the Centro remains intimate.
There are cobblestones and walking streets. Artists and musicians abound. Creative and wonderful food options and restaurants are present every step of the way.
This is the land of the Zapatistas, we have heard the stories, had the warnings, but we came anyway. And San Cristobal weaved into our hearts, there was no fear. There might be, there could be. Anywhere. But for us, we felt entirely safe. Safety is relative.
The Mercado is eye candy and the draw here and elsewhere in town is a quest for the perfect amber. Or if not the perfect one, at least something of amber. Glenn bought me a lovely pendant and earrings to remember the town by. Then he started decking himself out in a bit of BoHo bracelets, as a nod to his own, dropping down of shackles. Something we have done since we landed in Mexico four years ago. Now, he is always on the lookout, and a nod to his world-traveling past is making its way into our daily life.
Wander around San Cristobal and you will find hidden gems of shops, cafes, galleries, and cool bars offering music daily. The art scene is huge here!
A favorite artist for me was Kiki Mundo.
Nose rings, pot, bulletin boards, midriffs, incense. Yes, this is San Cris too.
There are traveler and ex-pat street vendors mixing in with the highly visible and lovely indigenous populations who both live in the city and who come in daily with their wares. It was wonderful to have that mix, the city is living, breathing Mexico. San Cristobal’s vendors do not tout. A simple “gracias, no” and a smile, if not inclined to buy, will have them move along. And if inclined, include a chat and find out some grand stories.
(Be careful taking photos of the indigenous people. Most do not like having their photos taken. Act accordingly.)
As if the streets are not interesting enough, and believe me they are, there are the murals! OMG! They are everywhere. Some cover an entire block. And their creators have made names for themselves. Take a few steps in any direction and another mural will greet you.
To find out more about the culture of San Cristobal, we met up with Tony of Cultura Distinta for his Culture and Graffiti Tour, and what an absolutely splendid time we had with this effervescent guide. He brought so much energy and joy to the tour that we hooked up with him a few more times for excursions outside of the city. (More on that in another post)
Our friends Catherine and Kevin joined us for the tail end of our trip and Catherine’s birthday, a milestone one. We celebrated with fondue, in the winner of the best “food court” we have ever been to. What fun it was to share this truly unique part of Mexico, a country that surprises us all the time.
We had seen YouTube videos and read blog posts, but none of them prepared us for how charmed we would be with the town. It just has a palpable feeling of awesomeness. We have plans to return. Next time with friends in tow. Maybe we should, but we really can’t, keep this to ourselves.
I found this post about the historic Kathmandu Guest House. It too sums up the feeling of the now grand and once but still traveler haunt. And I would say there is a bit of that in San Cristobal and the Frontera Cafe.