Friday, November 29, 2013

Guanajuato, Mexico

Nestled high in a valley between the Sierra Mountain Mountains rests the lovely colonial city of Guanajuato, Mexico.  Allan and I visited for a few days after it had been recommended to us by friends, some of whom claimed it was better than San Miguel de Allende.  I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

Approaching Guanajuato for the first time is quite impressive especially if you drive through one of the many tunnels below the city.  The tunnels are a maze work of manmade wonder, and it's almost like driving through an aqueduct.  Guanajuato used to have a large river that ran through it, which flooded a great deal and consequently caused a lot of problems.  So the locals took the river and rerouted it underneath the city and the tunnels, making Guanajuato a city of several layers with the street traffic on one level, underground tunnels on another and the river below it all.  It's quite a site to see.

Street level the city if a wash of pastel colored colonial buildings, beautiful parks with palm trees and lots or ornate stonework.  It's a very young city with the University of Guanajuato bringing in a lot of young life to the otherwise quiet city. Ironically with such a young population, it's very quiet at night.  There are not many bars and at 11pm at night the streets seem almost like a ghost town.  To its benefit Guanajuato has almost no vice like you might find in other spots.

Unlike Playa Guanajuato is mostly filled with Mexicans (this is Mexico, after all!!).  It was strange having street vendors solicit the local crowd but avoid our table.  We think because they are not used to seeing gringos and are probably intimidated by the fact we speak English and they most likely do not.  We certainly enjoyed being in the real Mexico and appreciated getting away from vacation land for a few days.

One of the highlights of Guanajuato, at least for me, was the mummy exhibit.  About 150 years ago the local government started exhuming bodies of those who could not pay to keep their relatives interred. The remains appear to be from a Cholera outbreak in 1833 and only about 2% of the bodies exhumed were mummified.  The quality and variety of the mummies is so great they opened a museum which has gained worldwide fanfare.  There is everything from a mummified fetus, to a French doctor, to someone who was buried alive.  Many mummies still have hair on their heads and bodies!

Besides the museum we visited the Pípila, a monument on a hill over looking the whole city. To get to the museum you take the funicular up to the top for a breathtaking view of the gorgeous city.  You really get a nice overview of Guanajuato.  We grouped the museum together with a visit to the central market with its many booths and crowded isles.  You can buy anything from local produce and meats to corny souvenirs and some local handicrafts.  It's certainly worth a visit.

Other than the museum and monument we really didn't do much besides walk around and take in the beauty of the city.  We tried to visit the home of Diego Rivera, which has now been made into a museum but it's closed on Mondays.  For meals, we had a hard time finding good restaurants and found if we strayed from the Trip Advisor top 20 the food tended to be less than wonderful.

Overall we loved Guanajuato: there is a lot to do and the locals were very nice. It's a picturesque city with lovely architecture.  On the downside there is not a lot of night life and my allergies really acted up.  We enjoyed visiting but are looking forward to returning home to Playa del Carmen.

The balcony of our hotel room

Allan gets into the act with a local street entertainer

Me atop the Pípila

View from the Pípila

Allan at the Central Market

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