Thursday, June 13, 2024

Molino de los Reyes: A magical weekend in Tlaxcala

“I keep dreaming of Molino.”

That was the message I received from my good friend Melissa a day after we returned from our girls’ getaway. The heaviness of Zona Maco and its swarming crowds effectively drove us out of Mexico City and into the leafy, peaceful enclave of Tlaxcala in February.

It had been months since I first visited Molino de los Reyes and I’d been hankering to spend a full weekend there ever since. I’d booked us a room within minutes.

Tlaxcala or Tuscany? This magical mill-turned-hotel is straight out of a fairytale. (Molino de los Reyes/Facebook)

When we arrived at the hotel, the manager Juan and two of his staff met us at the entrance. I felt like total royalty and loved it. Juan led us to a couch to relax for a moment while he told us a brief but fascinating history about the creation of the establishment. 

The magical mill-turned-hotel’s unique origins were quite literally born out of a love story. If I’ve piqued your interest, you’ll have to head to the website and book a few nights, as the telling of its fairytale history is an indulgence reserved only for guests.

We were then treated to a relaxing 10-minute head and neck massage. When it was done, we floated back to the couch to test out a variety of unlabeled scents and to select a favorite for our rooms. The in-house spa’s menu has been specially curated for Molino de los Reyes and all its products are vegan and allergen-free.

We opted for a little tour of the property. Once a wheat mill, the gritty stone edifice is now flush with bright bougainvillea. If it weren’t for the cornfields surrounding the property, you’d think you were in the heart of Tuscany. 

The welcome massage and handpicked room scent will have you feeling like royalty at Molino de los Reyes. (Molino de Reyes/Facebook)

Molino’s award-winning restaurant is perched above a waterfall whose calming sound elevates your dining experience. The interior decor is quirky and vibrant, bursting with eclectic antique furniture. 

Loveliest of all was not the magenta accent wall or the custom-built indoor temazcal, though; these details come in a close second. It’s the staff.

By day two, my preference for lemon water had been noted, and it was waiting for me in the morning. The polite masseuse painstakingly removed cactus needles from my friend’s hand after a scrape with the pesky plant during a short hike. Management, including the owner and her family, took the time to speak with each and every guest during dining hours. It felt safe, comfortable and – dare I say it – full of love!

The family feel of Molino de los Reyes makes total sense: what started as the weekend home of owner Erika Cisneros’ grandparents eventually turned into a family business. 

On the menu at Molino de los Reyes, find a variety of flavors including Tlaxcala regional favorites and creative takes on Italian classics. (Molino de Reyes/Facebook)

Fragments of the clan’s history are sprinkled throughout the property: Erika’s father’s artwork hangs on the walls, furniture once belonging to her aunts and uncles fills the sitting areas and family recipes straight from the kitchens of her grandmother and great-grandmother are on the menu.

When I asked Erika her thoughts on taking over such a precious heirloom, her response was clear. 

“I’m happy, I’m thankful and I’m committed. When we decided to open this up to the public, our objective was to share what we had always enjoyed, to share the love story of my grandparents, and to share my family recipes. I want everything to be great: the hotel, the food, the staff; everything has to match the quality of the space.”

It’s a space you might not want to leave. 

But you should, since the hotel is just a 15-minute drive from the center of Tlaxcala, which is itself very charming. The biggest draw, I found, was the lack of foreign tourists. There were certainly visitors, but the visitors were Mexican, and we felt as if we had stumbled upon a hidden gem.

The historic center of Tlaxcala is located just 15 minutes from Molino de los Reyes. (Wikimedia Commons)

As a history nerd, the second biggest draw for me was being where the Indigenous Tlaxcaltecas forged the pivotal alliance with Hernán Cortés and Spain that would eventually lead to the defeat of the Mexica (also referred to as Aztecs) — a decision whose consequences last well into the present day.

The Tlaxcaltecas not only helped Spain defeat Tenochtitlán but would help them invade northern Mexico, Central America, and places as far away as the Philippines, earning privileges that they would keep throughout the colonial period.

The town square is tiny and, like one would expect from a quaint Mexican pueblo, brilliant and energetic. We perused an outdoor market, popped in to several lovely churches, stumbled upon a live saxophone concert and snuck pictures of our fair share of quinceañeras. (All my favorite things!)

There were plenty of restaurants where we could have dined and people-watched at our leisure, but the restaurant at Molino was so excellent it felt like sacrilege to skip a meal there.

Simple roasted shrimp at an upscale dining event at Tlaxcala’s Molino de los Reyes. (Molino de Reyes/Facebook)

Things to see in town:

The murals in the Government Palace: In the style of Diego Rivera but actually painted over 30 years by the equally-talented local artist Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin, another representative of Mexico’s muralist movement. 

Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlán: An important pilgrimage site in Mexico, this gold-laden cathedral seems to also attract 15 year-olds in a variety of glittering princess dresses.

The Zócalo: on a weekend, catch the local textile market in Tlaxcala city’s downtown plaza. Odds are high that you’ll run into a local musical performance too.

Plaza de Toros: I’m having a hard time determining the functionality of this 19th-century bullring. I also know it’s controversial. However, the ring itself is impressive and can be seen from an overlook above. It’s worth a picture, if only for its sheer size.

Paseo de Tranvía: If leisure is what you’re after, hop on the tiny tourist tram that bobbles around town for an hour. Never a bad idea.

Sawdust carpet in Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico
One of Huamantla, Tlaxcala’s famous sawdust carpets, created every August for its Noche Que Nadie Duerme (Night When No One Sleeps) festivities. Last year, the municipality attained a Guinness record for the longest sawdust carpet, at 3,939.53 meters long. (Photo: Webcams de México)

Things to see outside of town:

Cacaxtla Archeological Site: About 40 minutes from downtown Tlaxcala, history buffs will delight in one of Mesoamerica’s best preserved archaeological monuments and its still-intact and very colorful paintings.

Firefly Sanctuary: This is an all-around YES. Catch nature’s unforgettable light show between June and August at the sanctuary, one hour’s drive from the center of town.

Huamantla: Another reason to visit in August. This Pueblo Mágico, a mere 45 minutes away, celebrates Our Lady of Charity the Virgen de la Caridad with “The Night That No One Sleeps.” Streets are decorated with multicolored sawdust murals, and the Virgin Mary — adorned in tapestry and gold — is surrounded by a “carpet” of flowers, seeds, dried fruits and glass. Truly a sight to behold.

Bethany Platanella is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Mexico City. With her company, Active Escapes International, she plans and leads private and small-group active retreats. She loves Mexico’s local markets, Mexican slang, practicing yoga and fresh tortillas.  Sign up for her (almost) weekly love letters or follow her Instagram account, @a.e.i.wellness

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