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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.

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 a banker friend (with Scotiabank – they are all over Mexico) who had told me that car jackings were a regular occurrence in the downtown core. Mexico City was a dangerous place. That was about 10 years ago. But my mom is now spending part of the year in Mexico and she invited me to visit her. Which meant flying in through Mexico City.

We spent a day and a half in Mexico City. Although that’s not enough to really know a city, I was incredibly impressed by what I saw.

We stayed right next to the Zocalo in the Centro Historico, 2 blocks from the Metropolitan Cathedral (the largest cathedral in the Americas). The area is filled with historical buildings, restaurants and cafes, and some large boulevards. It actually kind reminded me of Paris.

Above: Doesn’t that look like Paris?

We took the double decker Turibus (there’s a stop next to the cathedral) which took us a from the historic center, down the Paseo de la Reforma ( MC’s largest boulevard). The boulevard is lined with palm trees, monuments, and skyscrapers. It then entered Chapultepec Park which is home to the zoo as well as some museums (including the Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo Nacional de Antropoligea). We got out here and had lunch at a small taco place before visiting the Museo de Arte Moderno (very nice building – but I found the art boring). We then hopped back on the next turibus and saw a few more of the city’s better neighborhoods: Condesa (leafy streets full of trendy restaurants and cafes) and Polanco (very upscale and exclusive, home of MC’s very rich).

I know these neighborhoods don’t represent the majority of Mexico City’s districts and I’m sure there are many poor and dangerous areas (I saw some iffy-looking neighborhoods on my return trip to the airport, places where I wouldn’t have wanted to be walking around). I’m still impressed though by much of what I saw in Mexico City – on top of some very unique modern architecture, the downtown core was very clean and organized. There was a bicycle path down Paseo de la Reforma and the city has a bicycle rental program similar to Montreal’s Bixi program. They had green bicycle-taxis covering the Zocalo. I guess I had somehow pictured Mexico City to be like some of the decrepit Latin American cities I had seen, places like Havana, Santo Domingo, or even San Jose in Costa Rica. It wasn’t – you can see money in Mexico City and according to many people we spoke to the city has changed dramatically in the last few years. Anyway, I was impressed by what I saw.

Close to the Centro Historico, and across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is the Latinoamericano tower which has some of the best views across the city from the 42nd floor. A few photos I took from there.

Above: Me and my mom

Another thing that impressed me; transportation is modern in Mexico and is very well organized. Bus stations are structured like airport terminals. You buy your bus ticket using your name, you get a seat number and they tell you the gate where you’ll board. Your bags go through x-rays (just like at the airport) and are checked in (they give you a ticket for your baggage). An attendant checks your ticket and gives you a free lunch (I got a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple juice) and you get in your seat on the bus. Just prior to the bus leaving the station a guard comes on the bus and does a video tape of everyone in their seats for security purposes. Also, taxis were plentiful and cheap.


We stayed at the Hotel Rioja in the Centro Historico. Great value for the money; 250 to 300 pesos for a room (that’s $21 – $25). Fantastic location. Not the Ritz but if all you need is a clean room with private bathroom then it is perfect.

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