Friday, November 16, 2012


Our next stop, Zacatecas, another of the colonial/silver cities nestled in amongst the mountains. Never pre-determine what something is going to be. I was expecting another city like what we had experienced in Morelia and Guanajuato. It was and it wasn't. Here it was more architecturally invigorating and far less activities oriented. We saw very little in the way of free cultural events but then we were only there for 3 days.

We took a local bus in from the bus station rather than a taxi this time. Very easy, very cheap and an interesting ride through the new and the old. Our bus driver was obviously babysitting as his young daughter stood at the front of the bus, looking very bored. She was braiding and unbraiding a strand of her hair. 

Our hostal was located somewhere behind the cathedral. Where? We sure couldn't tell from the online directions. So we stopped the Tourist Police and the two women actually walked us to it. We would never have found it through the various twists and turns and yes, in behind the cathedral, through a connecting walkway.

 with a very unusual altar although the rest was typical
 and towers built many years apart

A day trip was in order here and we opted to go to Guadalupe, a suburb yet an independent city, on the outskirts of Zacatecas and on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Yes, the same road that went all the way to Santa Fe, NM, USA and which took somewhere around 1 1/2 years to travel it's length. Again the bus trip was easy, well easy after we finally found the bus stop. After many turns, many streets and multiple questions for directions, with a stop here and there, we finally found it.  Danny trying one of the local venders of honey mead along the route
Here we toured the one and only major tourist site - the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This is not only a cathedral but a museum. Unfortunately, after we had paid our entrance fee, we discovered that various parts of the multi-focal museum were closed. We did however, get to see the fabulous murals depicting St Francis of Assisi's life 
as well as the cathedral itself.
 is this not reminiscent of the various missions in the US?
 wouldn't this make a wonderful quilting motif?

Touring the city, we saw a multitude of different, yet similar architecture as well as statues:
 compare this theatre with the one in Guanajuato


 love the locally mined pink stone

 flying buttresses but with a twist - some of these have been filled in to make extra rooms in a now defunct church.

 this aqueduct had flying buttresses attached to it as well.
 the city water tap was actually at the base of this statue. Now, what did that guide say about the significance of the stance of the horse? I can't remember!

 many examples of what is called Mexican Baroque

 modern art in the park

 and what would a "Silver City" be without a silver mine? Zacatecas, like Guanajuato, has a mine right within the confines of the city and we thought that we could walk to it as the map indicated only a few streets away. Yes, well, that was true if only we had realized that only the major streets were on the map and that the area that we were going to was all uphill.  And when we found ourselves where we wanted to go, we had to turn around and go down many flights to get to the mine.
 a museum and a tour in a non-working mine

  tour transportation

 old miner greeting the visitors - rub his belly for good luck they say (sounds a lot like what you do with Buddha)

There were many dioramas telling the story 

 down in the mine

 and they weren't shy about displaying the bad along with the good.
But the most amazing thing was what else was there, down in the mine - a discotheque with a glass (?plexiglass) floor over an open mining shaft/pit and a "conjugal room" rented by the hour with a bed carved out of the rock.

Food - have I talked about food yet? Oh yes, I mentioned the walking tacos but ... here in Zacatecas we probably had the best gourmet meal that we have had since Europe. The restaurant was a small one, tucked away on a side street, with food to die for. Lucky Luciano's is a feast for the eyes as well as for the taste buds. Juan, the chef, was trained in Belgium and he brought that continental flair back with him. He originally worked out of the Cancun restaurant, going all over the world but has now come home to stay in Zacatecas. As for the eyes, there is more than the wonder of the food - Juan has been collecting art from around the world and has hung it all in his restaurant. Every conceivable inch is covered.

This was not one of my favorite cities but I can't tell you why. Will Querétaro (I am having a very hard time pronouncing this) be different? We shall see ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012


We move on …

Our next stop in our fast and furious tour of the Silver Cities/Colonial Cities is Guanajuato and we get there again by bus – our favourite mode of transportation - a 4hr ride. Once we arrived our taxi driver spoke excellent English and lived 8 years in Chicago. He returned to his home town because all he did in America was "go to work, go home, got work, etc and on Sunday washed clothes and shopped for groceries." Yup, he has it pegged right. The only difference is that some have to do it, others choose to do it.

Guanajuato, a colorful vibrant city set amongst the mountains,
 up and down the mountains


 every usable inch 

is a Historic/Colonial City (part of the Silver Cities designation) within a modern city with definite boundaries between the two. It is nestled in a river valley amongst the mountains with major silver mines being it's claim to fame. The most amazing thing to me is the history of the river. The river ran right through town in a tunnel and one year it flooded the tunnel and up into the town to the height of 8 feet. The residents of the city, being minors and innovative, decided to do something about it. They dug another tunnel below the first tunnel and rerouted the river, leaving the original tunnel dry. They now have a road tunnel system under the city with areas designated for parking. The river continues to run under the city in the 2nd, deeper tunnel with only minor flooding one time into the original tunnel to a depth of 3 feet that lasted only a few hours. 

As well as being the seat of the fight for independence in the early 1800s, it is also an university town. The town hosting 5 universities and close to 23000 students living here. They live, play and go to school within the historic part of town where our hotel/hostal is located. When we arrived at the hotel what a surprise we had waiting for us - not a room but an actual apartment/suite. Very bright and cosy and roomy.

 our bedroom

all for the price of a room with a bathroom!

But there is always a downside to everything -- and here was no different. Our bedroom wall was backing up to the backside of a bar/club that had live blasting music from 3pm to 3am at least. So we ended up moving to the honeymoon suite - all pink and fussy. 

Guanjuato is an university town and we were staying within the historical local which is also the university local. The liveliness and busy-ness of this environment was awesome. No matter where you would go there would be something happening. Free concerts in the plaza, 

free examples of the Tunas and their unique brand of dress and music, 
statues in every open space, 
cultural events,  Theater,
walkway and callejons,  and of course the churches on what seemed like every corner. 

This was also Don Quixote and Diego Rivera country.  
And then there was a tram to transport you up the mountainside to the statue of Father Miquel Hildago, the Father of Mexican Independence. (He torched the gates to allow entry)  
Imagine our surprise to find walking tacos: a little different than those we experienced on RAGBRAI. These ones had chips, large, local niblets of corn, a form of sour cream, white cheese, juice of one whole lime, nacho cheese, and chili pepper or any combinations of the a/m ingredients.  
And of course, the ever present Starbucks.

One evening we were walking through various small streets and came across a square that had dancing in it. The difference here is that they are all Tercera Edad (senior citizens) and boy could some of them move. Found out later that they actually had lessons every Friday night and that some were going to enter a dance competition in Mexico City in the new year. In the video, the couple on the right (black and white striped shirt): the woman has had a stroke and her partner had all the bouncy moves and no hesitation in dancing with her.