There are 3 towns that are usually declared as “must see” in the area. San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is in the middle, Guanajuato to the west and Queretaro to the east. I am currently staying in San Miguel. Upon reading in my guide books that it is impossible to park anywhere in Guanajuato, I decided to make it a day trip by taking the bus. I was pleasantly surprised by the air conditioned, roomy and modern bus and by its punctuality
The 80 minutes’ drive was very pleasant with beautiful landscapes and sceneries. But as some of you may know I suffer from motion sickness – 20 minutes before arrival time I got very nauseous and barely managed to keep it all in! I am sure the other passengers were very grateful! However, the sickness to my stomach didn’t leave me all day and somewhat spoiled my experience of this beautiful town.
When you arrive you first notice the brightly colored homes clustered together and strung upon the surrounding hills. A very cheerful sight.
I was dropped off by my taxi (who charged me (M$100) right at the beginning of the touristic zone. I needed to eat something to calm my stomach and noticed right away a store selling candied fruit, with oranges in particular. I have a very fond memory of candied mandarins. My grandmother and I would go to Saint Raphael, a little town on the French Riviera and treat ourselves to a cup of tea and a candied mandarin. The memory of the taste of this treat has remained with me since then. They are hard to come by, and I have yet to find one that will even remotely come close to what I remembered – until that day in Guanajuato . This orange came pretty close with a tougher chewy candied rind and a soft and still juicy center. Too bad my nausea didn’t allow me to fully enjoy it! I had decided to buy more on my way home, but I was rushed to get a taxi and forgot:(
Right away you enter a large covered market center. I was told that I could find the same things in Guanajuato but cheaper than in SMA. I was misinformed. I searched for a genuine indian arts and crafts market place, but all they had were the cheap souvenirs for tourists. However, Guanajuato was full of wonderful candy and chocolate stores. The abundance of sweet treats was something new. In this one shop I was able to sample almost each one of them. Again, I was not in a condition to fully appreciate my treats. What a shame!
I followed the river flow of tourists to a beautiful plaza where the cathedral sits. The interior was gorgeous, in gold and with huge crystal chandeliers – the energy of the place was wonderful and I felt a cheerfulness that I haven’t felt in any of the other churches I’ve visited so far. It was as if this glorious environment inspired joy and gratitude from the congregation and these sentiments permeated through the walls.
There were lots of churches, some almost devoid of any attention from the tourists and locals alike, yet with an ultimate atmosphere of peace and serenity. Others were busy little chapels, but devoid of any interest. The styles ranging from byzantine to gothic.
I found a beautiful open and shaded plaza to have a very sedated lunch (by choice) of chicken cutlet and boiled vegetables.
The narrow roads meandered up the hills to a cliff face with a beautiful statue of Don Quixote at its base. Don Quixote is a theme here, every square has a statue with a rendition, sometimes abstract, of the Spaniard and his lance . This is because of the now famous Festival Internacional Cervantino (popularly known as El Cervantino) which takes place each fall.
The origins of the festival are from the mid 20th century, when short plays by Miguel de Cervantes called entremeses (singular entremés) were performed in the city’s plazas. In 1972, this was expanded with federal support to include more events to add a more international flavor. Since then, FIC has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America, and one of four major events of its type in the world. It is a member of the European Festivals Association and the Asian Association of Theater Festivals.
When it was time to go back to the bus station, I caught a cab, which only charged me M$50 for the same trip, but this time we drove inside the tunnels that run underneath the city. It was quite impressive.
Arrived at the bus station I could see a bus under the banner “San Miguel de Allende” and was told by the young ticket clerk that it will not be leaving for another 10 minutes. So I decided to sit in the waiting area and prepare myself for another bus ride – will I lose it this time? Then I noticed the bus pulling away! OMG they didn’t even call our departure time and there it was leaving! I started running after it and a family of 4 having the same realization as I, started running too. I was finally able to reach the side window and tap on it to get the driver’s attention who finally stopped the bus. However, he resolutely refused to open the doors! So there I was standing in front of this giant and I was not going to budge until I got on! “I have a ticket, I have a reserved seat on this bus” I would say. The daughter was shaking her phone at the driver saying that he left early! We were creating quite the commotion and finally a manager came to find out what was going on. He told us that the driver couldn’t open the doors, that we had to take the next bus! I simply refused, this would be in another 2 hours and poor Marley, who granted, has the bladder of an elephant, would have been alone for 12 hours by then. This was not an option. So there I was, as the daughter described it later, like the young student at Tiananmen square, making a stand in front of the bus. “I am getting on that bus”! Wwwell, we had to concede or they would have called the police. They took us to a young employee how spoke English. Another group of tourists was standing there asking if this was their bus to SMA that just took off? The officials finally got concerned because there were now a good 10 of us with the same complaint. Finally, one decided to take a look at my ticket and said: “Oh, that bus was not going to SMA, yours is late and hasn’t arrived yet!” You cannot imagine the mix of emotions this news brought! Overjoy and relief, a bit of shame I admit and we all burst out into laughter at our little scene… for nothing it appeared! And I thought they were so punctual!
When our bus finally arrived we all rushed in! We were not letting that one go without us!
Until next time my new road amigos!
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Au plaisir de la route!