Greetings from Guanajuato
“You will love Guanajuato!”. “It’s the most beautiful city in Mexico”. “Guanajuato is my favorite!”. We packed our new friends superlatives along with our luggage as we prepared to leave our own favorite city of San Miguel de Allende to move an hour and a half _____ to a city twice its size and 100 feet higher in altitude.
We’ve just arrived in Lima, Peru after after two weeks in Guanajuato, so now, in hindsight we can determine if the city matched the hype. In some ways, yes. In others not so much. It was certainly more authentic in that there wasn’t a visible stream of silver haired expats from the US and Canada everywhere we went. They were there, but in a bigger city like Guanajuato we were more likely to find our compadres at a concert, not a coffee shop. Unless it was the shiny Starbucks just off the Jardin.
In fact, we met a garrulous gentleman from our own home town in line for a symphony tickets. We instantly found common ground with George (or Jorge) having both lived on the Issaquah Plateau (now Sammamish) about 20 miles east of Seattle. That encounter was the key to us being able to find our way in this city because he and his wife Susan moved here permanently over three years ago. Between Jorge’s suggestions and the many recommendations from our hosts, we began to feel comfortable that we would, indeed, enjoy this eclectic Mexican hill town.
Speaking of our hosts - you know from reading this blog that we enjoy meeting the owners of our Airbnb, and hope that we will form a memorable relationship with them. We value that right up there with a big table and strong WiFi, and that is saying a lot. We were not disappointed in our Guanajuato hosts, Susan and Endre Patky from Calgary, Canada.
They are the type of entrepreneurs that can look at a derelict building where others might scratch their heads, and see the potential. They have built two amazing Airbnb complexes in the city and are busily building a third. the while employing a local cadre of builders.
One is near the center of the city where we stayed, and the other sits high on the Panoramic over-looking the city and all of the colorful houses that tumble down the hillsides like spilled children’s blocks.
Our Airbnb was one of four large units squeezed into a building near the old train station - but if you need a landmark for a taxi driver just tell them Glorieta Tepetapa. A glorieta is a round-about and ours was at the end of the happy sounding Tepetapa (tepee-tapa) street. Each unit was named after a latin dance (ours was Samba) and the communal WiFi signal was chachacha. There was a very pleasant rooftop deck where you could retreat from the city, but not from the noise - even though our building was at the quiet end of town.
During the day the cacophony blended into the background, but at night we became more aware of street music, car horns, a constant chorus of barking dogs, and below our window an all-night taco stand where the proprietress’s chop, chop, chopping of pork meat with a large cleaver was an ongoing affair. Once we got used to the cadence, we slept okay, but Mexico cities are noisy, boisterous places, and that is part of the charm, so be forwarded if you decide to stay in the center of any town.
Over the two weeks we attended a concert together and Michael and Endre attended a Leon _______ football match. We also spend time with them at their home and at our Airbnb where we learned so much about their interpretation of Mexican culture and life here in the high desert.
Of course politics couldn’t help but interrupt more civilized conversation - and that was good because we are always seeking ____________. In this case we were able to hear a Canadian viewpoint on American politics with a Mexican twist. _____ more here.
Personally I spent a great deal of time with a delightful Mexican women named Paulina, who shared a great deal of local knowledge and personal insights on life. We met when I signed up for a Airbnb Experience that promised a day of urban sketching in the quaint back alleys of Guanajuato. Pau (pronounced Pow) was an excellent teacher and helped me dust off my latent drawing skills. In fact, she was so enjoyable to spend time with we met on two more occasions including a day at the beautifully restored Hacienda Sa Gabriel De Barrera and botanical gardens. I have some wonderful memories down on paper and just enough practice with perspective to begin to accurately sketch more of what I see as we travel.
Spending two weeks in city allows us to settle into a routine that includes stops at our favorite shops and lots of walking. We had heard that almost every destination in this town required walking uphill (there is even a fenicular to the highest point) and we could see that was true for the most part. But fortunately for us our Airbnb was a enjoyable, flat, 20 minute walk to the center of town.
Along the way we rarely missed a stop at a bakery that stacked enticing pastries, cakes and muffins at eye-level in the window. The best part was stepping inside and picking up a battered two-foot tin tray and a pair of long pinchers to snap up tasty treats. Once you had piled your tray with more bread and pastries than necessary you’d take them to the counter where the cashier deftly twisted them into individual sheets of waxed paper and into a bag before you had the chance to change your mind. And why would you? A bag full of whatever caught your eye cost about $3.00.
The supermarket was also close by so we would stop on the way home if we were still hungry after nibbling on street food during the day. My favorite was a hot, skewered corn cob doused with lime juice then slathered with mayo and crema, dusted with parmesan cheese and splattered with chili sauce! A messy mouthful of tangy-crunchy-salty-spicy goodness. Michael was a fan of Tacos Pastor from a stand near our house. We didn’t try the split open bags of Doritos slathered with all kinds of sauce and cheese topped with onions and cilantro. They looked good! But we’d already discovered enough new culinary vices.
While we didn’t find a resource for daily events like we did in San Miguel, there were ample opportunities to be busy every day in Guanajuato. I mentioned earlier that we bought tickets to a concert performed by the _____ Symphony Orchestra. It was festival seating, but at a ticket price of just $6. US dollars we didn’t mind arriving an hour early to get good seats.
There must have been 100 musicians on the stage of Teatro Juarez to play Ravel’s haunting Bolero.The music was fantastic and the theater, both inside and out was a architectural masterpiece.
Michael was able to attend his first Football Match since we left Seattle in January. He and our host Endre drove about an hour outside of town to Leon, the Detroit of Mexico where General Motors has their largest car assembly plant in the world. The match was between 1st Division Match in the MX Liga between Leon and Toluca. The home team won 3-0 in front of 25,000 pretty crazy fans. Once again, the tickets were affordable but the real deal was two frosty Coronas poured into a 36 oz paper cup for 4 bucks.
We took in several museums and spent a day at the ______ reservoir where we had lunch surrounded by Mariachi bands. And then there was one last concert at the Gene Byron museum with our hosts. I should have known when Michael told me we’d be hearing music written for a piano, a violin and a trumpet (is there such music?) that we were in for something different. It was a stretch to appreciate this modern trio but as quoted by The Guardian on the benefits of exposure to new works “This type of music opens up huge reservoirs of feeling and physicality. Listen to any, and have your squeaky gates of perception opened up.” There were plenty of squeaks all right, and bleating horns and pounding of the piano. Fortunately we were rewarded with wine and delicious Mexican tapas in the garden afterwards.
After six weeks in the high desert of Mexico it was time to move along to our sixth continent. South America. We caught at Uber at 5:45 am last Wednesday morning and flew to Mexico City. We had an entire day there before our 10:45 pm flight to Lima, Peru. That was enough time to store our bags at the airport and spend the day in the city visiting the Museo Jumex and the Museo Sayama. The first features revolving art installations and they were over our heads. The next was housed in an architectural marvel of a building and was full of old masters including a large collection of Rodin sculptures and colonial _______. And we revisited before revisiting the Archeology Museum. One of my favorites in all of our travels.
The highlight was lunch with our hosts from our stay in San Miguel three years ago. They own a delightful wine bar called in the _______ district of Mexico City and we joined them for a leisurely lunch. Marriana and Gustavo are the kind of people who, just like old friends, you can sit down with and pick up where you left off. We spoke of many things including our combined frustrations over current politics in both countries. We also covered the joys of parenting grown children and the many wonderful parts of Mexico we still haven’t seen. I know we will be back to this fascinating country where we have made good friends and found inspiration in how proud they are of their heritage and their gracious hospitality.
Afterwards, drowsy from good food and wine, we catnapped on a bench in the Botanical Gardens until it was time to head to the airport for an easy overnight flight to Lima, Peru - where our next Senior Nomad adventures begin.
Thanks for Following along,
Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads