Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guanajuato - Yes, there's more

After traveling to this must-see destination, here's what I suggest.

Enjoy the city. World Heritage Site designations are not given to just any place and you have to walk to truly get the feel of this one. You can taxi from one architecturally significant building to another but it's what's in between that gives Guanajuato its exuberance and character.

Where to stay. Can't recommend where my group stayed. Hotel Guanajuato Mision was too far from the center of town, had too many different levels with no elevator, housekeeping was desultory  and the food made several of us sick. A good place to begin researching all elements of this city is Guanajuatocapital.com.

Where to eat. One of the best meals I had in Mexico was at Las Mercedes. Luzma Gonzalez, proprietor and chef, and J. Jesus Cardenas Ramirez have opened their home and Luzma's amazing recipes to the public. My favorites: chicken with --mango mole and the dessert, a corn cake topped with a fruit drizzle and coconut ice cream.

Warning: There are stairs and it is in a hilly, residential neighborhood but a meal here will leave you with wonderful memories.

International Cervantes Festival.  Guanajuato is an arts center and this festival showcases the area's and the world's best artists and performers. In 2009 it ran from Oct. 14 to Nov. 2. I was there for the opening day and it's a kick to be eating dinner and see a costumed Don Quixote stroll by.

Tunnels. Much is made of the roadways tunneled under the river and many insisted we should go into them on foot. Don't bother. Too many cars and fumes for comfort.

What I'll do next time. 

Rest up one afternoon and at night go for a Callejoneada, a traditional parade through the city's alleyways led by musicians and accompanied by tequila to keep spirits high.

Eat more street food. It's good, no one got sick from it, it's cheap - four filled up for less than $10 - and fun.

Linger longer in the Union Garden. That triangular square canopied by Indian laurels is the center for people watching, cafe idling and concerts. Isn't that reason enough?

Attend a performance in Teatro Juarez. Considered one of the most beautiful theaters in Mexico, it was begun in 1872 and inaugurated in 1903. Lining its rooftop are statues of eight muses; no one seems to know what happened to the ninth.

Visit more museums. The Don Quixote Museum and the Museo Alhondigas de Granaditas, to name two.

Wander more. Visit the churches, poke around the university district, get to know the neighborhoods, the plazas and gardens.

 Given Guanajuato's streets this will take a few days but I'll try to stretch it as long as I can.

Tip: Best Leveler approach is to find a taxi driver who speaks and understands English and hire him for the day. Give him a list of what you want to see, where you want to go and what you want to find. Tell him you want to walk some but not up (or down if it bothers you) steep hills. Between sites when you see an area you'd like to explore, ask him what's there, decide how long you want to or can roam, pick a time and place and have him meet you for the next driving leg. With most taxi trips costing $2-$4, this isn't likely to break the bank. Ask the Department of Tourism for help. It's across from the Plaza de la Paz, 011-52 (4) 732-9492.


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