Travel: Mexico City is the easiest and cheapest entry point for trips to Tlaxcala. Getting there from Minneapolis- St. Paul involves flying to Atlanta, Chicago, or Houston, plus a second flight to Mexico City (my airline travel time: 8 hours). Mexican Home Cooking School's fee includes round-trip airport transportation, which adds about another hour onto the trip, depending on traffic. Tlaxcala is in the same time zone as the Twin Cities.

Weather: Mexico's colonial heartland cities, especially in high elevation areas like Tlaxcala, aren't as warm as its beach resorts. Tlaxcala is at 7,000 feet, high enough so you'll feel the elevation at first. In mid-February we enjoyed comfortable daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees, and cool nights of 40 to 50 degrees, when those fireplaces got plenty of use. Bring sweaters for warmth and good walking shoes for the cobblestone streets.

Lodging: Casa Carmelita, which has views of three volcanoes and a small lake, is home base for the Mexican Home Cooking School. The full six-day program, including cooking classes and all meals, costs $1,800. Nonstudents who tag along to eat pay $750/week; depending on room availability, at times entire parties of non-students are welcome. (And be sure to check the website for periodic specials.) There are three spacious guest rooms and one casita, each with fireplace, skylights, tile floors and good-sized bath.

Classes: As with any tour, you sign up not knowing with whom you'll be spending your vacation. Jon, Estela and their kitchen helper Maria are lovely, warm people, and most of my fellow students were equally delightful. Your best bet? Sign up with a group of friends and have the place to yourself.

Contact info: http://mexicanhome or, a food and wine tour company that books culinary getaways in Mexico, the United States, Italy and many other countries.