Last year we spent five wonderful months in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco; so when we started planning how to spend our agreed upon six months travel this year, we decided on a Mexico hit and scheduled six weeks in areas we hadn’t yet explored.
A flight from Hermosillo, the nearest airport to our home in Bahía de Kino, Sonora, took us to Oaxaca, where we had rented a house for two weeks. I was excited to take cooking classes (and Perry thought eating the product would be a fine idea). We were also interested in learning about the rich indigenous culture and art of the region.
Our little house was twelve blocks uphill from the city center, and we made the trek round-trip at least once a day, to visit galleries, museums, historic buildings, outstanding restaurants…the food really is extraordinary, and I will always carry a powerful olfactory memory of Oaxaca!
We also took tours to Monte Albán and Mitla, combined with visits to weaving, pottery, and alebrije (whimsical carved and brightly painted figures) villages. Two weeks went flying by; and we may have left a few pounds heavier, in spite of all the walking!
Typical of our traveling style, the rental in Oaxaca was the only thing we had booked ahead, except our return flight from Guadalajara. We hoped to get to Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende; but in between, anything could happen!
Because the trip from Oaxaca to Queretaro by bus (we love trains and buses — and cruise ships aren’t bad, either, when large expanses of water are involved) looked a bit longer than we wanted to do in one stint, so we decided on a few days in what promised to be an interesting, if often overlooked, place: Tlaxcala. And it was. It also was wet and cold! For beach dwellers like us, it was a bit shocking to find ourselves above 7,000 feet during the rainy season! We bought a hoodie for me and a second umbrella, and slept under a pile of woolen blankets! We also tried pulque for the first time and learned a lot about the importance of Tlaxcala’s place in Mexican history.
Tlaxcala is just outside of Puebla, so we boarded a bus that took us there, where we bought tickets to Queretaro — another city we were anxious to see. We arrived in the afternoon and found a reasonable hotel (with the help of The Lonely Planet Guide that listed it as a hang-out for Peace Corps Volunteers), and set off to get ourselves oriented.
We were quickly enchanted. The place bustled; streets were lined with Colonial buildings and filled with people. Posters everywhere told of coming events — one being the International Queretaro/Montreal Jazz Festival! We’d stumbled into something great again!
Turns out that the visiting jazz musicians were staying at our hotel, and we met the bass player, Jeremiah ….. for the group YolanDa Brown from London. We had a great afternoon of conversation with him and enjoyed their over-the-top performance that evening. Did I mention that all the jazz events were free?!
Unlike in most places, in Queretaro we found ourselves never entering a museum; the city was a museum in itself, a gallery, a concert hall, and a sociopolitical conversation.
From Queretaro, we took another bus to San Miguel de Allende — with both trepidation and anticipation. We’d heard much about San Miguel’s many charms and it’s very large gringo population. It’s all true, though the influx of gringos has slowed significantly in the last few years. Now the place enjoys the benefits of increased Mexican tourism. Restaurants and plazas were filled with Mexican families.
We had planned to stay a week and ended up adding two days. Some highlights: hiking to the upper neighborhoods to see elegant homes, the botanical garden, and stunning vistas of the city below; the opening concert of the annual chamber music festival with the Pacifica String Quartet; dinner in the lovely dining room at the Instituto Allende. That only scratches the surface for this trip; and we definitely need to return.
The last stop on this trip is in Guadalajara — a big, bustling, cosmopolitan city. We’d been there before, focused outward to Tlaquepaque, Tonalá, and the Lake Chapala area; so we limited ourselves to five days in the historical center and the Zona Rosa area, where we spent five luscious nights in The Orchid House bed and breakfast. We walked everyplace, as usual, squeezing in a concert at the famous Teatro Degollado and a movie at the Ex Convento de Carmen, before packing and heading home to the beach. We’ll be there for a while. Come see us!
And in the meantime, visit our blog for additional travel stories…and more!