Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Time in the Highlands of Mexico - San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, & Leon

And so our adventure in the highlands of Mexico continued. Having said goodbye to our friends, Steve & Marti Owen the night before, Mike and I took an 8:30am bus from the Mexico City North station to San Miguel de Allende. A beautiful 4 hour ride on excellent roads. Our ETN bus was luxurious and comfortable. Highly recommend traveling this way to see the sights along the way. It also helps that we have our INAPAM (senior citizen discount card) so our tickets are half price.

Our Hotel Morada was located literally in the heart of Old Town and only a stones throw from the main city square. It's an older hotel built in the Colonial style, as is much of the town, and our room was awesome!! Plush but with old world style right off the courtyard. Could have stayed much longer than only the 2 nights we did. They even supplied ear plugs for those that needed to silence the ever present church bells from the cathedral.

Of course we were out and about as soon as we were able to drop our bags in the room, not wanting to waste a minute exploring this beautiful city. A world heritage town and the most visited place in the world, it has a population of about 130,000 people with approximately 20,000 expats living here (5,000 US; 5,000 Canadian; 10,000 the rest of the world). Around every corner is another jaw dropping scene. Our photos ops were everywhere we looked. And, I've learned that once I take the picture I want, I literally turn around and almost every time, there's another fantastic shot. So please bare with me again as I share a smidgeon of our photos.

Mike & I purchased this lovely mask within an hour of having arrived in town. A nice addition.

By the time we made it back to our room for a moments rest, we had walked a huge area and spotted where we wanted to head for drinks. Our first stop was a rooftop overlooking the west side of town. After one drink, we literally went next door to the rooftop (Mama Mia Terraza) and realized it was most certainly the "happening place".  Very chic and modern with dynamite views from every angle. As the wine and beer was delicious and the views fantabulous, we decided to give the yummy tapas a try for dinner rather than eat at the Italian restaurant downstairs. A wonderful decision!

After a blissful night's sleep, we made the decision to head straight to the Trolley Tour location and buy our tickets. With an hour to kill, we walked around the corner to another beautiful church and enjoyed the atmosphere in and around this square.

 The tour was over 4 hours long and took us into areas we would not have gotten to by foot. As there were only 4 of us (another Mexican couple on vacation), we got lots of attention from our guide. The tour was all in Spanish but my understanding has gotten quite good so I didn't need much translation from Mike.

Upon our return, we found our way to the Mercado where we did some shopping damage. It is a wonderful shopping experience! A bit of rain had started to fall so we ducted into the Library that happened to have a charming café in the courtyard. Since the seating area was covered with the roof overhang, we sat and enjoyed a nice lunch.

A platter for my daughter back in the states.

On our way back to our hotel, I stopped in at this shop I had seen first thing that morning and purchased a pair of the most wonderful casual shoes! My only regret is that I didn't buy every pair they had in different colors. I've looked everywhere since and can't find them. Even locals here want to know where I got them. They are made in Mexico and feel like air but I can't find them!!

After catching up with the rest of the world and a quick nap for Mike, we made our way back out hoping to borrow umbrellas from the front desk. Unfortunately, they were all lent out so we made a quick dash to the square and the sidewalk cafes under cover. It had definitely turned too cold to think about eating outside, so we bought a couple of good umbrellas, which we needed anyway, and made our way back to the same restaurant/terrace as the night before. Since it was too wet and cold for the rooftop, we ate in the main restaurant. Food was delicious!

The rain really put a damper (pun intended) on our evening so rather than try and find someplace else to go, we went back to our room and had a cozy evening in our beautiful room with wine and beers.

We were up early the next morning to get to our bus that would take us only an hour away but into a whole other world. Guanajuato is also a Colonial town but it grew out of the mining industry and has a charm that just kept growing on us!,_Guanajuato

The bus station is out in the new part of town, so until our taxi came around a bend and started going through one of the many underground tunnels, did we get a glimpse of this charming town. It has a labyrinth of underground road tunnels and stairway accesses where in some places people climb as many as 500 steps to get to their home. It is also an extremely hilly town, so walking outside the central town area is quite challenging.

Our hotel, the Camino Real, was located about 1.5 miles from the bustling town Centro. We quickly had arranged an afternoon tour to get the lay of the area. It truly puts things into perspective for us and makes the maps that we study come alive.

The tour picked us up right at our hotel and after seeing the sights for most of the afternoon, we asked that they drop us off in the center of town for some foot exploration. After a pretty quick visit to the Hildago Mercado in the center of town on the main street, we started meandering back up into the maze of streets and parks. It was Valentine's weekend and town was busy, busy and full of vendors with their wares. They take this holiday very seriously here in Mexico!

Everywhere we turned, there was beautiful old world streets and sidewalk cafes.  We took the opportunity of having a drink at one then

By then we were ready for a dinner experience. A young man ("hooker") approached us with a menu from a little place on the other end of the park and it looked good. Well, it turns out that it was a very good choice! A lovely little "old world" bistro complete with our "old world" King & Queen costumes! Fun to laugh at ourselves!

Unfortunately, the rains came and they had to cover up their charming umbrellas with tarps.

King & Queen for a night!

The next day, Valentine's Day, we headed back on and caught a bus that said Centro. Turns out it gave us quite the cheap man's tour! Loved it and wished we had more time to hop on another and see where that would take us. But after riding for almost an hour we decided to get off before the bus actually went into the center of town. Great move!

With our trusty map, we got our bearings and visited a few landmarks before spotting a café down a pedestrian street up on a bridge. Intrigued with the setting, we found our way to it. A sweet little place for coffee and lunch. Perfect!!

Again, we continued to explore and meander up and down streets, in and out of churches and shops. I purchased a necklace and earrings from a sidewalk vendor just as it was beginning to rain again. So afterwards we popped into an inviting place for an afternoon nip while we watched the rain fall. By the time we were ready to take the plunge back out, the rain came to a stop. I have to say as this is a university town, the vibe is upbeat and welcoming in so many ways. It truly feels European to us and we would highly recommend everyone to go for a visit.

We ended walking back through town and back into another square and eventually found our way back to the square where we had eaten the night before. So we went down a bit further to have another drink at Van Gogh's Nose. This was a must as Mike is a Van Gogh fan. As it looked like it was going to rain again and it had gotten quite chilly, we decided to sit inside by an open window to enjoy the view of the square. We were serenaded by a singer/guitarist who had the most incredible smooth voice. Yes, love was in the air!

We had decided to celebrate a bit more by going to the local brewery up on the Panoramic road for dinner. So after a bit of a rest back at our hotel, off we went by taxi. Unfortunately, upon getting there, we found them closed. With nothing else around, we had the cabby bring us back to our hotel where we ended up in the hotel bar.

This wasn't a bad thing at all just a waste of a $10US taxi fare. However, the hotel bar turned out to be quite a historical and charming place. It's separated from the hotel itself and houses one of the original springs and wells for the town. We felt like we were in a cave and had a wonderful time!

The next day back to catch the bus to Leon, the leather capital of Mexico, only another 1 hour bus ride. This town, however, is quite metropolitan and boasts to be the ecological city of Mexico. Our hotel, this time not so charming, was right around the corner from the leather central area.,_Guanajuato

So again, we dropped our bags and headed out. We only had the rest of this day before heading back home to PV. After walking through a very modern 2 story mall of almost all shoes, we made our way into the hub where there was shop after shop after shop after shop of leather. After a while, it all looked the same. Each one was crammed with their goods, which made it difficult for me to sort it all out in my mind. Since we don't wear leather in PV and leather molds easily in our humidity, we ended up buying only a wallet and belt for Mike and a wallet for me. But enjoy the photos and the bling!

 A stunning leather & sterling silver saddle!

Having had our fill of shopping, we hopped the bus and headed toward the city central. Again, beautiful cathedrals, churches, and old buildings line the city square where families on a Sunday afternoon enjoy being out and about.

After a bite to eat at a Cerveceria, we headed back to our hotel and a good nights sleep before catching the 6:20AM bus that would take us through beautiful countryside, the 2nd largest city of Mexico, Guadalajara, and then home to PV, a 7 hour ride. 

Although we had a magnificent time, after 12 days on the road, we were more than ready to be home and sleep in our own bed! We highly recommend everyone visiting all of the places we did and more. It was exciting to again discover and experience new places in this beautiful country of Mexico!!

Thanks, again, for coming along on the ride with us. Hope all is well with everyone until I touch base with you all again soon. And so the journey continues......

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