Saturday, September 27, 2008

16th of Sept. - Mexican Independence Day in San Miguel

We had heard the celebration of Mexican Independence Day - 16th of Sept. - was a 'big deal' in San Miguel. Truth be told, it wasn't. Quite dissappointed. We've seen more celebrating on 4th of July in USA. Though of course a national holiday, surprisingly many businesses were still open as usual; and, we just didn't see the kind of huge crowds we had expected. The only 'parade', was a score of marchers and and equal number of costumed horse riders, that kept riding around in a 4 or 5 block circle several times. And, then some late night fireworks that only lasted for 10 mins. or so. (Of course, the locals as usual constantly light off their own private skyrockets and aerial bombs, day and night during the week or so before and after). P.S. It's too bad that the San Miguel city council voted a few years ago to end another local tradition held on a different date -the local "Running of the Bulls". We heard had become a major blowout -- with something like 30-40,000 extra visitors flooding the town. Was obviously a great boon for the local businesses, but some of the people thought it had gotten too rowdy and out of control. Someday, we hope to make it to the 'true' Running of the Bulls in Pamplona Spain.

Day visit to neighboring Queretaro

A couple of weekends ago, we took a little drive (only 45 mins) to the neighboring City of Queretaro, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Definately a pretty town, but architecturally not quite as spectacular as Guanajuato or even San Miguel. Nevertheless, for a city with a population now around 750,000, it's very clean, quiet and pretty much crime-free. There are many parks and plazas that are a pleasure to stroll. It's also a fairly modern city, with a good industrial base, plentiful employment, and a new international airport. Notwithstanding the foregoing pleasantries, it most likely is not a place we would decide to settle in. Not much else to say about it - just the usual "it's a nice place to visit, just wouldn't live there". No compelling reason, other than we just were not 'wowed' by it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guanajuato – A weekend Visit

Located in the Mexican highlands about 1 1/2hr drive northeast of San Miguel and at a slightly higher elevation than SM, this town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. The town was built on the slopes of a steep gorge, so as you move away from the town center you must traverse narrow streets and pedestrian walkways that rise quickly. If you like walking and exercise you’ll like this town a lot. Seriously, it’s a really awesome place to visit; with striking architecture and unique tunnels that traverse the town, both for cars and pedestrians. It is easy to get lost among the twisting maze, but that’s really part of the adventure. If you arrive by car, as we did, best to simply try to park wherever you are lucky enough to find a legal space, and leave your car until you depart town. There is no way you are going to be able to find anything by car, let alone park anywhere near where you may want to go. In order to acclimate a little, it’s a great idea to take a ride on the Funicular located in the center of town, up the steep slopes to the El Pipila monument, where you will have superb views of the entire town.

Despite a slightly smaller population that SM, Guanajuato has a wide variety of dining and cultural offerings, home to three large Theatres, and scores of bars and eateries that host nightly live music in all genres. No doubt this is due in no small part to the fact that the town is home to some 20,000 students who attend the University of Guanajuato. One interesting and unique site to visit while in town, is the Museo De Las Momias (Museum of the Mummies). These human remains were first dug up from the local cemetery by local authorities in the late 19th Century when they needed to be relocated. They were surprised to find naturally well-preserved mummified remains, apparently due to the mineral content of the soil and dry atmosphere. In any event, the museum is both a wonder and spooky, at least to us Gringos. Mexicans have a different view of death, and celebrate rather than fear the spirits of the deceased. (i.e. The "Day of the Dead" is a huge national holiday every year the first week of November, where families everywhere picnic at the local cemetaries and pay joyous homage to their ancestors). All in all, enjoyed Guanajuato and would recommend it for a short visit.

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