Tuesday, February 18, 2014

True North February 9 to February 17: Road Trip to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende

The trip back from Las Hadas to Barra de Navidad was truly delightful - sailing wing-on-wing for most of the way with a gentle 10-15 kt wind.  We did almost land a couple of fish, however they both got away.  We're just not expert at that fishing thing, yet!
Anne getting serious about fishing.
We found ourselves with an extra week to fill while in the Barra de Navidad area in early February. With almost unbearable humidity, a road trip inland and to a higher elevation had been speaking to us! And, to see something different from beach towns would be very appealing. Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are two world heritage sites and within an hour of each other that had been recommended by another boater so off we went. We liked both! They proved to be culturally and visually interesting and fun. Located in the cooler, dry hills and just a 10 hour bus ride from Barra, it was worth the effort.  Note: The buses are as comfortable as first class airline seats but with no boarding hassles. Show up 15 minutes before departure with your ticket and board. Free WiFi, a simple lunch, movies, and spacious seats.

Guanajuato is quite picturesque, with colorful houses draping the hillsides.  It has a long history of gold and silver mining, so many of the roads into, out of, and through the hillsides are tunneled through solid rock.
Guanajuato hillside  and tunnel from our hotel
There are nine magnificent centuries-old churches, 22 museums, and many statues of historical significance. After taking a walking tour, we chose three museums to visit: Museo Casa Diego Rivera, Alhondiga de Granaditas, the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810, and Ex Hacienda San Gabriel, a former hacienda with a spacious house full of traditional, beautifully carved furnishings from the 1700s surrounded by many kinds of gardens.
"Frida" and "Diego" at Diego Rivera museum
The Mirador offers a panoramic view of Guanajuato:

Guanajuato from El Mirador

The University of Guanajuato is located in the central district, adding to the vibrancy of the city, and the central district is completely walkable which gave us a chance to test our sea legs - we covered just about every street and hillside!

Street near our hotel
Our artsy little hotel, La Casa Azul, was quirky but pretty nice and only a 4-minute walk down a very narrow hill-street to the small Plaza La Paz, just opposite the magnificent Basilica from the 1700s, and another 2 minutes to the principal plaza, Jardin de la Union.
Jardin La Paz and the Basilica
Teatro Juarez sits at the head of the plaza. Student musicians and artists entertain along the streets. In the center of Jardin de la Union is a gazebo which frequently accommodates live orchestras or 20-piece bands for free concerts.
Brass band in Jardin Union
Mariachis stroll the square all day and evening, stopping at cafe tables to play. It's such a festive, artistic, authentic place! We happened to be there over Valentine's Day which dominated the day's activities. Students of all ages strolled the streets, flower vendors were on every corner, couples, friends and families were out for the evening along the square, listening to music. It was a hoppin' mix of local Mexico with turistas.

We took a bus for a day trip to San Miguel de Allende, an hour east of Guanajuato.  This attractive city has a very different, more upscale look and feel than Guanajuato. Where are all the rooftop wires and antennas?

Street scene, San Miguel
It is also picturesque and is Mexico's finest example of Spanish colonial architecture. There is a very ornate baroque-style church from the 1700s next to the main plaza,which is surrounded by narrow, hilly streets lined with colorful, neat, colonial houses and buildings.
Parroquia de San Miguel
A bull-ring (Plaza de Toro) is on the edge of the historic section, however it was not bull-fight season.
San Miguel from the Plaza de Toro
The main plaza was also filled with musicians like Guanajuato.
Mariachi band tuning up, San Miguel
Several thousand U.S. and Canadian expats live there, dominating the traditional local color. Traditions do exist, however. We saw two weddings celebrated with processions around the central plaza and got a taste of a festive local custom.
Wedding procession in San Miguel
It was a refreshing and welcome vacation from our vacation!

Street busker in Guanajuato

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