It's always San Miguel de Allende this and San Miguel de Allende that within the expat community, but why aren't more people talking about Guanajuato? I'm just back from a short trip out there, and I have been completely won over.
Guanajuato--the entire town--is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designated so in 1988, it means that the town is subject to strict building regulations--a plus if you're looking to find a piece of Old World Spain in the new world. There are very few streets where cars can even fit (and, trust me, they do try hard in impossibly narrow places), which leaves Guanajuato an enchanting maze of cobblestone alleys called callejones. The streets are so up and down that you are forced to be fit. And forced to be lost. In fact, from the moment I stepped out of the taxi in town, I was lost. But, later you realize that "lost" sightseeing is part of Guanajuato's charm. There are hidden alleys, plazas, theaters, and quaint homes, many of which are marked by their famous inhabitants:
"Here was born the famous composer Chucho Elizarraraz"
Pita, from Casa de Pita, welcomed me into her home on Callejón Cabecita, just steps from one of the main theaters. She partitioned the home of her childhood into five guestrooms and renovated each one with ceramic tiles from Santa Rosa and Dolores Hidalgo. If you're obsessed like me or even just appreciate traditional pottery, this place is lovely eye candy. And next to her "office" is an easel, where she's currently working on a Frida Kahlo piece. Ahhh... don't we all wish we could dabble in our hobbies at work?
Pita serves you a delicious breakfast right at her kitchen table (although, that's a picture of mine)
Here's what the view looks like from just about any hill you walk up. This was taken while walking up to the Pípila statue, a hero from the Mexican war of Independence.
Guanajuato is like a natural stairmaster machine--at no moment will you be walking on a flat surface. Can you imagine what it would take to move in to or out of a house in this town? I saw two guys each carrying three garrafones of water on their back without looking like they were going to pass out. I was having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other.
Guanajuato's most famous potter, Gorky Gonzalez, has a workshop in town, and if you want to see well-done examples of the traditional Mayólica style, you should go. I'm a little "heavier" now with some new pieces of pottery, and when I have more time, I'm trekking up to Santa Rosa and Dolores Hidalgo to visit the workshops and learn their techniques. There's also an English-language bookstore called "Donkey Jote" across from the Diego Rivera Museum (Pocitos #30), and Colleen from Wisconsin lovingly lugs each and every book down from the US. Again, I couldn't help myself and added just a smidge more to my collection of children's books.
And so, with my first solo journey within Mexico over, I am indebted to all the kind souls I met along the way. Thanks to Pita, her sister Pila, Kathleen from Chicago, and Oscar and his new bride, Guinevere, from Montreal; to shopkeeper Pancho (who I accidentally called 'Ancho') for keeping me hydrated with an assortment of sugary drinks; and, to Guanajuato...I'll be back.