Wednesday, the 6th, we struck out for places unknown, where the locals speak little English. Are we ready for this? Why not! A driver took us to Tonala, outside of Guadalajara, to the bus station, where we waited for our executive bus to transport us to Guanajuato. It was a 4-hour bus trip in very comfortable surroundings – large reclining seats, movies, lunch, with bathrooms and hot drinks on board.
Once at the bus station in Guanajuato, we headed out to hail a taxi. Many were already waiting for this type of transport, with none in sight, so we opted for a bus as we knew where we were going, sort of. This was a much different bus from what we had spent the last several hours on, narrow seats not made for those towing luggage. I sat down with a laptop bag at my feet, my daypack (stuffed) on my lap, and a large duffel bag hanging off the seat next to me. Terry sat behind me and how he managed to not have any luggage with him I do not know! Before we left the station, a very rotund woman came up to me and insisted that she was going to sit in the seat next to me and she was not taking no for an answer. Thankfully I did not know the Spanish word for “seriously” or I would have been very tempted to use it. I attempted to place our oversized duffel in my lap as well, and she decided to take up the rest of my lap, what there was of it. Every time we veered to the left, my ability to breathe was compromised significantly.
At one stop, in one of the 16 tunnels that snake through the city, used by both vehicles and pedestrians, most everyone began to exit, except for four of us, two gringos (Terry and I) and two Asians. We all looked at one another, then quickly got up and hopped off the bus, as we assumed the locals knew something we did not. As we emerged into the sunlight from the depths of the earth, we felt as if we had stepped into a European village. The scene was one of colorful houses climbing up the hillsides, competing with the local vegetation, balconies with flowerpots hanging off them, narrow winding streets, and shops and people everywhere.
Given that the annual International Cervantino Festival (the cultural event of Latin America) was commencing the following week, we felt the first order of business was to secure a room for the night. After finding no availability in a couple of hotels, we found a room for one night only at a funky little B&B named Hospederia del Truco 7. Thankfully, one of the patrons there assisted with English/Spanish translation.
Once settled into our room, we set off to explore the city. The first church that we happened upon (and there are many in this city) was the Templo de la Compania, built between the years 1747 and 1765. It was designed in the Barroque style common to this area and depicted many Jesuit images in pink stone. It was in the process of being restored and there was a service taking place at the time, so no inside photos for us!
Our next stop was the Universidad de Guanajuato, where 20,000 – 25,000 students enter through these doors to expand their education. This building was erected in 1950 and has the longest staircase of any building in the city, 82 steps from top to bottom. We were told that there is some local controversy over this building as it has a more modern design that the remainder of the city buildings.
Once you ascend to the top of the staircase, a nice view of the city is evidenced, of particular note the Statue of El Pipila (more to follow on the history of this statue) and the Fundicular (incline tram leading to the statue).
We continued to wander the streets of this colorful city and happened upon a rather bawdy production in the Plaza del Musico. Although we did not understand most of what was being said, actions speak louder than words, and we got the gist of it!
We thought we would finish off our first evening with a stop at The Italian Coffee Company, for a nice cup of chamomile tea, which we did, but had no idea the surprise awaiting us on our walk back to the hotel.
Mexico does not often embrace their Spanish heritage but one of the rare exceptions is that of the callejoneada, or roaming street party, which is just what we encountered as we headed for the winding staircase leading to our hotel. At least three times per week, student and professional singers, musicians, and storytellers, dressed in 17th century costume, parade down Guanajuato’s colonial streets, gathering a crowd as they go, like pied pipers. The entire mob winds through streets and alleyways, sharing wine and juice with the crowd from parrones (ceramic flasks with long spouts). It is difficult not to get caught up in the excitement!
What a wonderful way to end Day 1 of our adventure!