Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Best Vacation I Didn’t Take!

                 Estella and the cook wanna-be's!

A couple of years ago when in Thailand, Mary Ann thoroughly enjoyed a one day cooking school. This began my thinking about sending her to one of the week long cooking schools somewhere in the world. Even better, maybe I could win a lot of husband and father points by planning a mother-daughter package for all four of the ladies in my life, as a secret Christmas present. Although I love to travel, I like the planning of a trip nearly as much as going on it.

In September of last year I started looking for cooking schools, with my search mostly limited to France, Italy, and Mexico. I quickly discovered that if I was going to spring for the big bucks trip for four, I probably needed to control some of the expense by not sending them all to Europe. Thus I began looking in earnest at the possibilities in Mexico. I scoured the classifieds in all the glossy cooking magazines and surfed the internet for recommended schools.

This was becoming so much fun, that I had to share it with someone, so I enlisted a co-conspirator, one of my daughters. She then participated in evaluating the alternatives and suggesting times and dates. This was going to require some logistics as I would need to clear the dates of travel with everyone’s boss, as I would be booking the school and flight arrangements several months in advance. The final selection was a well regarded school in Tlaxcala, a small community about an hour from Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is southeast of Mexico City on the main road to Veracruz. Tlaxcala is on a high plain surrounded by volcanoes. The selection had everything I needed to keep all the ladies happy-for some the cooking school, for some the relaxation of living at a Mexican country home, for some the chance of shopping for native handicrafts and art, and for some opportunity to hike, explore the region and climb the pyramids.

I became a real email pal with Estela and Jon, the owners of the Mexican Home Cooking School. They thought my gift plan was a real delight. I booked a week in February, and when there are at least four people, they do not book anyone else with them. After I confirmed the school, I then arranged for all of the ladies to fly together from Seattle to Mexico City, and then travel to Puebla by the hourly luxury bus. To become acclimated the ladies started by staying two days at the Camino Real Puebla, a converted monastery in downtown Puebla and considered the top hotel property in town. Then they were on to the cooking school for a week. The plan was for cooking in the morning and playing in the afternoon. You eat what you cook for lunch, and are treated with margaritas and delicious gourmet dishes for dinner. The school and hacienda has an excellent website at

For me, the making of the gift was probably the most fun. I had all four open their respective packages together on Christmas morning. You could hear a pin drop. Then the astonishment was followed by the tears. A sure way to become a family hero! If you are interested in a day-to-day narrative of the adventure with a lot of wonderful photos, one of my daughters has written a travel blog about the experience. Katy's excellent and humorous blog can be found at My wife and daughters all had a fantastic time and consider it one of their great lifetime experiences. Now I have to figure out someplace I want to go, as if that has ever been a problem!

(Published in the Summer 2006 issue of the ABA JD Record)

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