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Guanajuato and Queretaro, Mexico

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

February 2013 – Guanajuato translates (from the indigenous Indian language in this area) as “hilly place of frogs”. It was the richest Mexican city in the 18th century because of the mining of silver in the hills surrounding the town. The approach to the historic center is really unique – cars have to go through the old, and quite long, mining tunnels to get into the old city.

It’s a very picturesque town to walk – it actually reminded me of Vernazza in Italy (minus the sea) because of the winding stairs, colorful houses, and wonderful views. I had to pinch myself a few times to remember that I was actually in Mexico. And for such a small town there is an abundance of very impressive churches and some very pretty plazas. Another thing that makes the town very attractive is that many of the streets are closed off to car traffic – it’s a great place to walk around (Mexican cities not great for that).

There is a funicular in the center of town that goes up one of the hills. Below are some photos looking down on Guanajuato. For someone who enjoys taking photos it is heaven.

Most of these photos were taken on the first of my three days in Guanajuato. I woke up in the middle of the first night there feeling like total shit. For the most part of two days I stayed in my room with a major case of the Crappuccinos*. Tip: don’t eat salad in Mexico – I never order salad, I have no idea why I would ever do anything that stupid.

* Crappuccino is a sophisticated way of telling someone that you have traveller’s diarrhea. Tell a fellow traveler that you “have to go for a crappuccino”, it will automatically discern you from the unknowledgeable, inexperienced traveler and you will no doubt be treated with equal doses of respect and sympathy.

A few more photos:

My mom and I stayed at Casa de la Luna (500 pesos/nt, about $41 inluding breakfast). The guesthouse has a few longterm guests studying Spanish at the university (we met a Korean student and a Canadian who were there for 3 months). Ana is like a mom and Lado loves to joke with the guests. A very nice place.


I told my mom that anyplace after Guanajuato would most likely be a disappointment in comparison. I was right.

Queretaro is a much bigger town and, like Guanajuato, has a Centro Historico that has been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It has lots of pretty churches and some wonderful plazas. The town isn’t inundated by tourists and there are some good and affordable restaurants. It’s a nice town and is very walkable (unlike Guanajuato, the terrain is flat in the Centro Historico and streets are laid out in a grid). I didn’t fall in love with Queretaro but it is nevertheless a very nice town.

One of the reasons for staying a night in Queretaro was that it is the closest big town to Mexico City and the airport. The next day I said goodbye to my mom and took a bus directly from Queretaro to the airport for the trip home.

My Mexico Summary

I became a fan of Mexico on this trip. If you look at the photos on this post and the previous ones on Mexico, you’d probably admit that it wasn’t what you would have expected of Mexico. I had misconceptions before coming here and the beauty of some of the towns in Central Mexico surprised me. I often felt I was somewhere in Europe.

The people were extremely nice, the Spanish easy to understand, the food good. You can travel cheaply and comfortably – transportation infrastructure is excellent and there are lots of affordable hotels and guesthouses. I was nervous about Mexico City but I never ever felt any threat to my safety. The only negative was that I got sick to my stomach (lost 5 lbs over 2 days). That seems to be pretty common though of travellers going to Mexico.

I’ll most likely be back. My mom retired in Thailand ten years ago but these days seems more keen on Mexico – I’ll probably be back here soon to see her again.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

February 2013 – San Miguel de Allende has a reputation as an American enclave in Mexico. Ex-pats living in other parts of Mexico (including other Americans) often malign the Americans who live here: “they have no interest in the culture, they don’t speak the language”, “they inflate prices because of the money they throw around”, “unlike ex-pats in other parts of the country, ex-pats in San Miguel don’t intergrate”. I heard ex-pats say that you can identify Americans living in San Miguel by their fake boobs and inflated lips.

There’s a lot of truth to the above. My mom showed me around town and there are indeed a lot of Americans. If you walk into a restaurant in the center of San Miguel it is filled exclusively with Americans being served by Mexicans – you’d think that you were somewhere in Southern California. I got the sense of two distinct societies not mixing but living very seperately (and at different economic levels) in the same space. There were also a lot of OLD people, Americans in their 80’s. It was strange to see. But I also tried to put myself in their shoes – at that age I think I would probably want to be with like-minded and similar aged people. The weather is perfect for an oldie; very dry, always sunny, never really hot. And the infrastructure is there – they have an incredible library in San Miguel where an ex-pat can find all the English literature he/she could ever want. Even German and French. So the infrastructure is there and I can see how that would make San Miguel very apealing to an elderly American. Its not the place I could see myself being, but I can understand why many would find it ideal.

I found San Miguel a bit boring though. It doesn’t have the life of other Mexican towns that I would see later. No locals hanging around in plazas, no kids running around. The bars seemed empty. It’s a very pretty town and has some nice churches – but it just didn’t feel Mexican.

Mexico City

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
February 2013 - Mexico City was not somewhere I had ever wanted to go. It was actually one of those places most likely to be on my ‘avoid’ list. I had ... [Continue reading this entry]