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Independence Trail

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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:51 am

I spent 10 days in Queretaro because I took a week long spanish immersion course. I hate studying spanish. I don't find it rico or fun. Just work and frustrating. But I need it. Queretaro is a very pleasant city to walk around. There are many Andadores (narrow pedestrian only walkways) with lots of shops, restaurants and entertainers. It is not really a "buenos dia" kind of place which is to be expected in a city with a large population. Still, it is friendly. There are many religious people in this artistic city with a sense of history. Many churches and all have something to distinguish themselves. But I will only mention 3. The Cathedral? is on The Jardin. It is big and beautiful and is lit up at night. I love the bells going off. Santa Clara church is amazing. The gold leaf retablos are increible. They are huge and line both walls of the church. Lots of artistic work went into them. And the church and ex-convento up the hill are sweet. I took a tour of the ex-convento and it is worth it. Another maze. And the church is actually two churches side by side. I remember the modern and beautiful stained glass windows. Such a great mix of colors with blue being the main theme. Red, black, yellow with the blue. There is a tree at the ex-convento that has these thorn like things growing on it that are in the shape of a cross. They say that is the only tree that is like that. The large plaza nearby has Otomi women selling hand made dresses and a coffee shop with an amazing trio playing some very original jazz.
A little walk from there is mausoleum with a yard full of statues. I think it is where Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez (La Corregidora) is buried. She got word to Miguel Hidalgo that the Spanish knew of his plans for the insurgency. So Hidalgo did not wait, he rang the bells and gave his "El Grito" speech on the steps of the church in Dolores Hidalgo a day or two before planned and the war began. Her house, now a museum is worth seeing.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:16 am

Around the corner from the ex-convento is Queretaro's aqueduct. It is still functioning and goes from this side just on the outskirts of El Centro across a valley and into a residential area. The water comes from a large and round structure that stands right in the middle of an intersection. I walked down that street and got to a large park. There is a big fountain in the middle where kids where swimming.
On the other side of town is a beautiful park on a hill. (Cerro de Campanas I believe) It is dedicated to the La Reforma period of history. It is where Maximillian (along with two others) was shot. And there is a huge statue of Benito Juarez who gave the order to kill Max. Also an interactive museum that has interesting exhibits.
A pretty famous restaurant was just a block from where I was staying. I have never liked mole but they had like 5 different types and gave me a taste of all of them. Very good. Not that sweet taste that I don't like. The food is very good, prices are good, music was excellent and service was superb. One reason they are well known is for the crickets? on the menu. I tried those too. Not that great and not bad either.
I found a great restaurant a little off the beaten path but you can walk there from the plaza. It is called La Duquesa and is on Ezequiel Montes No. 22 NTE. Just thought I would plug it. A beautiful little place that has a family atmosphere and they cook meat to perfection! Everything was good.
One night for an hour or two there was a tremendous mountain storm. I don't think it is really normal for May. There was some hail, lots of thunder and it rained so hard that anything that might leak...did.
Queretaro is a wonderful city to visit. Lots to see and do.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:18 pm

It took all of Inna Gadda a Vida to get out of Queretaro, which was not that bad. I wanted to spend a day and night going deeper into Estado Queretaro and decided on Tequisquipan. Pena de Bernal was kind of on the way and it looked like it was worth seeing. It is a monolith (a solid piece of rock) and the tallest in Mexico and one of the tallest in the world. I always thought of "Thus Spake Zarathrusta" when I thought of a monolith but this one really is cool. Just stands out all by itself and there is a pueblo not far away. There was a lot of construction going on in the pueblo so I did not stay. It was just worth seeing the monolith. btw On the hwy to Bernal there were a lot of street lights that were solar powered. Interesting.
I drove back roads on my way to Teq. Lots of cows and farming. Pretty ride actually. Managed to get lost and had to backtrack some but not too much. It was tough just finding Teq. for some reason...probably because the signs suck. Finally found around where I needed to be and looked around for the hotel. That pueblo is really hard to drive in. Finally followed a cab (they are all bright red) and he had a tough time also. Tequisquipan. is a really nice pueblo. A beautiful plaza with a big pink church. This is another "Pueblo Magico" and I am sure that a lot of Chilangos (Mexico City residents) go there on weekends. There are spacious hotels with beautiful grounds and very good restaurants. El Centro itself is not very big. It had a very laid back feel but of course this was in the middle of the week.
So I asked the guy at the desk if I had to worry about theives. Of course he said no. So a parked my car in the street and somebody smashed the passenger side window and stole some things. I changed my breakfast plans and drove straight to San Miguel de Allende. I had to drive back by Queretaro but I thought since (supposedly) so many Gringos live in San Miguel; maybe they would have good auto place. Turned out to be 6 of 1 and half dozen of the other. Nobody was very helpful in finding a window. I doubt you want to hear of the hoops I had to jump through. Let it suffice to say thank God for the yellow pages. The good part was I had to stay in San Miguel de Allende a few days longer than I was going to.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:38 pm

San Miguel de Allende is an awesome city! It sits in a valley and as you come in on the road from Queretaro, you can see it beneath you. Then you take one of the roads and head down into the city. It is named after Ignacio Allende who was a captain of the Spanish Army in Mexico and came to sympathize with the Mexican independence movement. He attended the secret meetings organized by Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. I always assumed it was named afte Miguel Hidalgo...but no. There are a lot of beautiful plazas mostly centered around the various churches. It's wealth came from supplying the big mining towns with food and supplies. And there were obviously some very wealthy people here.
note: I spent several days here so this is a synopsis more or less.
The first day I was there I walked up a cobblestone road up pretty high where I had a great view of the city. I came back down a much narrower road and came out at the highpoint of the local market. It is indoors and unless you go inside you don't realize how big it is. I walked down some steps and into on of the shops. When I got inside I found out it was huge. One room after another full of stuff. It is not too difficult to get to know the streets both in El Centro and outside but it is very easy to get way lost at first. Takes awhile to get your bearings.
The big church is amazing. It is pink and brown and looks like a version of Sleeping Beauty's castle. There are some great murals inside. Another church, San Felipe Neri, has an excellent reredos (a structure in back of the main altar). It is actually kind of simple but very large with beautiful white columns. There are some very old churches in SMdeA and it seemed that many of them were ringing their bells for mass every morning. A small price to pay. It also seemed to me that SMdeA is probably a good place to buy quality artesan things. Big and small.
There is an excellent mask museum which is in the owners beautiful casa that he has transformed into a B&B. He has quite a collection and has interesting right ups next to many of the exhibits. He used to travel all over southern Mexico (much in Guerrero) to watch the dances in the small pueblos and buy masks. He says it is not a mask if it hasn't been danced in. Anyway it is worth the small price of admission.
One weekend morning I woke at 4:15 and heard very loud music. So I got up to check it out. A half block down was a nightclub upstairs blasting banda?. Most people were awake and 2 couples started dancing. I left and once outside walked in a big square and ended up at the main plaza. There were quite a few people up and eating at a couple taco stands. It looked to me like some people drive into SMdeA to party and then sleep in their cars b4 going home. The music stopped about 5am and the the bells started ringing.
One of the parishes started lighting off some very large firecrackers. Someone told me it was the feast day of San Isidro. And on Sunday there was a big parade. People dressed in costumes and masks and paraded all up and down the streets for several hours. Later I saw that they were still dancing outside San Felipe de Neri church. Still all dressed up and the music (not live) was very loud instrumental banda (mostly horns) and a really great beat for dancing. Lots of people dancing and lots more watching. Nobody getting drunk that I could see...just having a good time. And there was a mass going on too. And it was full. The city evidently has lots of parades throughout the year. There are a lot of saint days.
I had read that SMdeA is a city full of Whites. I don't see it. There are definitely more tourist here and there are a lot of gringos living here but they did not stand out to me. It seems a very traditional town that understands tourism and art and putting on shows is good for the economy. From my point of view that does not detract from the wonders of the city or it's people.
I had noticed on a map that there was a bull ring close. So one morning I walked into a residential area to find it. And it was not really that easy to find. I needed some help. But the big doors were open and I went in. It is a really old ring by the looks of it and except for a caretaking family I was the only one there. There were seats con o sin sombra. Outside I walked a bit and went inside an old mansion now a B&B with beautful grounds. There was a brunch going on. And not far from there is a narrow park about 3 or 4 blocks long where there were a lot of students playing around.
One day I paid a guide to show me around El Centro and explain things for two hours. He showed me how you could tell the social status of people by the engravings in the mansions above the doors. I am sure many of those old casas are huge despite having their front doors right in the middle of the street.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:37 pm

Atotonilco is the pueblo where The Santuario, called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico is located. I walked to the outskirts of town and took a bus. It is about 20 or 30 minutes outside SMdeA. I believe it was built in the 1700's and Indian artists painted murals everywhere. Ceiling and walls are covered. Some of the persons depicted have demons on their backs and I am not quite sure why that was allowed but the whole thing is very interesting and beautifully done.
After my car window was repaired I headed for Dolores Hidalgo which is not far. It is an interesting city and well worth visiting. Of course the Parrochia (the church where Miguel Hidalgo gave his El Grito speech) is worth seeing alone. To the right and left of the main altar are two huge retablos, one of gold leaf and the other of a dark wood. I was totally surprised to see them and they are really beautiful and incredible. There were a number of schools that had come to visit. Just outside the church are the famous steps and across the street is a pretty plaza. There are several nice plazas and parks. A taxi driver told me the population was over 1 million and it is possible as there are a lot of people and I did not come close to seeing the large residential area. There were a couple of good museums and one of them was made in the house of a famous singer. Jiminez I think. One of his hits was "La Vida No Vale Nada." Life is not worth anything.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby rafter » Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:59 am

What a beautiful drive from Dolores Hidalgo to Guanajuato! When I got into town I asked a cabbie if I could follow him to my hotel and he said he could not right then but all I had to do was go to the tope and hang a left. Ja Ja...What a joke. My new theory is that Mexicans cannot stand to say "no" and they also do not like to say things are difficult (never mind impossible). There are many variations on this theory. The next taxisti I asked said 40 pesos and I said vamanos. He led me all over the place and in the underground roads that seem to be under the whole city. I gave him 100 pesos and thanked him.
The hotel (Antiguo Vapor) was mostly run by young women. It is a great old place and they showed me a room that was spacious and I could look out to the other side of a hill with houses all over it...a beautiful view (from the shower too). The price was really reasonable and they gave a discount for cash. Desayuno incluye.
I went to Diego Rivera's house which was pretty cool. And there was a big procession up the main road (not very wide) and to a chrurch. Dancing, dressing up, trumpets and church bells. The last group had a large Guadalupe statue. Like San Miguel de Allende; Guanajuato probably has a lot of parades. And like Queretaro and SMdeA; Guanajuato keeps their streets very clean. (Hint for PV...it is not that expensive to do. You pay women, get them orange outfits, a broom/dust pan and a trash can on wheels).
There is a large castle like enclosure called "Alhóndiga de Granaditas" where on the outside of the building the Spanish kept 4 heads (Hidalgo, Allende, Jimenez and Aldama) in cages at the corners for 10 years! After the defeat of the Independence movement.
There is a huge statue of "El Pipila" overlooking the city (which sits in a valley). You can drive to it or you can take the funicular like I did. It goes very steeply up. It is a small and short train on tracks. The view from there is excellent. btw Pipila was an Indian that during the fight for Guanajuato with Miguel Hidalgo as commander, put a large piece of stone slab on his back, walked to the gate of "Alhóndiga de Granaditas," sprinkled some oil on the door and set it on fire. This allowed the fortress like structure to be taken...and down went the city.
I visited one of the mines which was just a long and steep cave. At the bottom it widened out so they could do their work.
Also visited the mummy museum which was really hyped, was crowded and pretty much a total waste of time and money.
Guanajuato is a wonderful city to walk around. Lots of interesting things to see and lots of shops and activity.

What a long procession! Started just after dark (Sunday) and just kept going and going. I finally asked and was told it happened just one day per year for the miners. There were some 40 or so mines in Guanajuato. As I said, the city is in a valley and the structures are built down in it and along all the sides. The colors and housing from a distance reminds of pictures from an Italian Mediterranean city. And man were the streets (very narrow) crowded with people watching the procession.
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Re: Independence Trail

Postby Glasswiz » Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:02 pm

Guanajuato truly is a wonderful city ! Glad you enjoyed it.
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