It was our first anniversary on the 12th of May and Glenn’s birthday on the 16th so we decided to do a short trip up to Guanajuato to celebrate. We had to stay close to San Miguel as we had some appointments/classes coming up that we didn’t want to miss and we were also waiting to hear when we would need to go to Immigration to complete our next step, fingerprints. We didn’t want to go too far, and Guanajuato, being slightly over an hour and a half away by first class ETN bus was the perfect destination for us. We had visited in 2005 when Glenn had lived in San Miguel for a year and I had joined him numerous times. We were interested to see if Guanajuato had changed and came away with the feeling of not that much, at least in the historic center. It was still colorful, relaxed yet vibrant and full of steps and narrow streets.
We liked that on just about every street at some point there was a gathering place or plaza and there were balconies on just about every building. At night everyone came out to enjoy the evenings, eat at the many outdoor restaurants and street stalls and promenade the lovely thoroughfares. It is a university town with many events going on, but we missed most of what we were interested in by just a day or two. We hadn’t been able to go into the Teatro Juarez in the past so this time we were lucky it was open and we could take a peek in. It is a beautiful theater and we would love to see an event there eventually, which I am sure will be fabulous. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, which was a shame.
A funky part of Guanajuato are the rabbit warren tunnels. Both vehicular and pedestrian traffic use these and it is interesting to see how they manage the many intersections underground. Watch out for the pollution in them though!! It is stifling.
We were able to visit two of the museums and boy is there some unusual modern artists. We went to the Diego Rivera house and museum. The house, where he was born, is large and rambling and the ground floor has rooms that are decorated typical of the time. We were disappointed that there were not more works of his shown. Mainly there were drawings and sketches that were very faded. The focus seemed to be on a rotating modern artists, the one currently shown when we were there was fanciful and other-worldly. The other museum we went to was the Museo del Puebla de Guanajuato. Some religious, which we just kind of pass through and then several contemporary artists that were interesting. The entrance fees to both museums is small and neither takes a large amount of time.
We chose our hotel La Casona de Don Lucas (booked through Booking.com) which was in a perfect location on a main street leading to the Plaza de la Paz and then the Jardin de la Union. We had a suite, a huge room consisting of two floors with a king bed on the main floor and two doubles and a table and chairs in the loft. Our balcony gave us a lovely view in each direction. We of course didn’t need all this space, but the price was very reasonable and we did want the location. It was clean and relatively quiet considering it is on a main street. The biggest noise seemed to come from inside the hotel since there is an open “courtyard” area in the center that noise travels up but eventually it settled down at night. The king size bed was comfy and we slept well as there are thick wood shutters that close against the balcony window door and that kept the room dark and the noise from the streets from coming in. A simple buffet breakfast is included which was sufficient to start our day. We would definitely stay at the hotel again as it is really close to everything since the Centro area is not intimidatingly large.
We feel that since San Miguel de Allende is a foodie town that the selection and variety of good restaurants is much better there. But we did find some nice ones in Guanajuato and a great one called Mestizo that we went to for Glenn’s birthday dinner. It was lovely and close to us. Although nondescript when approaching you go up the stairs where it had 3 cozy rooms and reminded us a bit of a place in the French countryside. The food was excellent!! And the whole bill including tip for an nice sized appetizer (taquitos de carne de tuna) which was fabulous, two entrees (Glenn had the Salmon with citric salsa and a touch of ginger and I had the Pesto pasta with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes), 2 glasses of wine, two mineral waters, cappuccino, americano and dessert (amazing lemon mouse) was $46. We felt it was well worth it and compared with up in the Bay Area, it was a real steal.
We visited the cavernous Hidalgo Mercado, which was also not far from the Plaza del Paz. It was a great market to take pictures in and was full of colorful food stalls/shops on the main floor and on the second were clothes stalls and souvenirs which we did not make our way up to. We really weren’t too sure about eating there as there were the typical flies flitting around and food just lying about. Maybe next time we will be braver as there are many stalls to choose from. And we will have to tackle some of the hot sauces. There are also several little restaurants outside which were more appealing but we had just had lunch so we didn’t try them.
In San Miguel we were able to buy our ETN tickets at the OXXO store on the corner of Ancha San Antonio and Stirling Dickenson, not far from where we live. It was a very simple process and was much nicer than going all the way out to the bus station to accomplish. The tickets can only be paid for in cash. We weren’t entirely sure of what time we wanted to return so we waited till we got into Guanajuato bus station and made arrangements at the ETN counter there. Our tickets were only about $10 per person each way, and you chose your seats when booking. We like traveling on ETN buses since their seats are only 3 across as opposed to 4 with Primera Plus. We got the double decker on the way to Guanajuato which was very nice. Returning our bus was a single story and older than the bus from out of SMA. Still it was very comfortable and both buses had ample legroom and restrooms onboard. Both the San Miguel and Guanajuato bus stations are simple, working and clean. Boarding the buses is very simple. Just before it is about to leave they wheel out a cart with water, soft drinks and a snack. As you present your ticket you are given one of the bags and then you board and find your seat. Generally the buses leave close to when scheduled. We are going to travel for 2 months in the Yucatan next year. So we will let you know how those buses and stations compare. Greyhound in the USA can certainly learn something from other bus companies around the world, including Mexico’s. When I turn 60 in July I am going to be able to get an INAPAM card for senior discounts, including on flights and buses. Age is certainly seen differently here.
There are so many towns surrounding San Miguel or in close proximity that we are looking forward to visiting, which one will be next?