March 13 – 16, 2008
After driving many miles through very little development, we suddenly turned
& read this welcome sign: ***Bienvenidos a Guanajuato: Patrimonia de
Humanidad*** There are stories from the past about a “River of Frogs”. Frog
statues and logos are seen all over town. Fortunately we did not encounter a
large population of frogs.
We had been told by Bill & Mary Finkelstein that you drive through tunnels
when entering the town.
Much of the city is built into the curving hillside with downtown being in
the valley floor. In the late 1700s to the mid 20th Century, it was a
booming silver mining town. We could not verify from anyone if the tunnels
were built by the silver mining companies, but it seemed a logical
explanation to us since they would have had the heavy equipment needed for
Throughout Mexico, exterior home paints are a riot of colors, and Guanajuato
is a prime example of this. We were delighted as we weaved through curving
stone streets, tunnels with beautiful arches, winding up, up, up to the top
of the hillside. We somehow managed to find Casa Estrella de Valenciana, our
bed & breakfast. The friendly staff showed us around. We were instantly
enchanted by the place and immediately asked if we could stay an additional
2 nights. This is one of the true luxuries of retirement – being on a
flexible schedule, or no schedule! Lucky for us our room was available, so
we now had a greater sense of relaxation, having more time to enjoy the
house as well as take in all the sights of town.
The public areas included large and comfortable living & dining rooms and a
large patio where breakfast was served. The WiFi connection does not work
through the stone walls of the house, so we would bring our laptop out to
these areas to check email. They offered use of the Vonage internet phone
free to all guests. The owners Sharon & Jaye have assembled a wonderful
collection of books and DVDs. We were entertained & informed by these
“Juarez” starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis (1939)
“Old Gringo” starring Jane Fonda, Jimi Smits and Gregory Peck (1989)
“Vera Cruz” starring Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper (1954)
“The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” Edward James Olmos (1983)
Scott was intrigued with books about the Mexican Revolution, especially
biographies of Benito Juarez and Miguel Hidalgo. Cindy looked at art books
about Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, as well as local pottery and tile.
The ceiling of our bedroom was a design found in many buildings: pattern of
brick & mortar in a dome shape. If one does not think about the possibility
of a bunch of bricks landing on your head during an earthquake, it is quite
beautiful & amazing. The highlight for Cindy was the jacuzzi tub in our
bathroom. The shower and sink were decorated with blue & white tiles that
had a bird & leaf motif. Our windows looked over the town below. It was
perfect for us to retreat to this peaceful hilltop home after a long day of
The University of Guanajuato attracts students from all over Mexico and
other parts of the world. We enjoyed the energy and diversity of seeing
young people out and about. The town has many historic buildings including
the beautiful Teatro Juarez that is still used for performing arts. We
toured the childhood home of Diego Rivera that is now a museum. On display
are many of his pencil sketches. Alhondiga de Garanaditas (the granary) is
the birthplace of (the first) Mexican Revolution led by Hidalgo & Allende.
We appreciated the museum signs in English, which is not common. We carry
our Spanish dictionary everywhere. We are working to improve our
understanding and fluency of Spanish, but reading the English us gave us
immediate explanations. There are amazing murals that are not by Diego
Rivera. Sorry, we did not make a note of who the artist was.
Thursday March 13
Today would have been Scott’s father Arts’ 80th birthday (see post in
tribute to Art under “Ship’s Log” and the “Gallery” regarding Art &
Suzannes’ legacy to the University of Tennessee College of Law).
Friday March 14
We drove to the town of Dolores Hidalgo which is famous as the site where
Father Hidalgo rallied the people with his “cry of Dolores” which began the
Mexican Revolution on September 16, 1810. In the area outside the cathedral,
we happened upon a demonstration of native dancing with elaborate costumes.
We were not able to determine precisely what the occasion was. A funeral
procession entered the cathedral and the dancers parted to let them pass. We
were uncertain if there was a connection between the two events, but guessed
that perhaps it was a dual observation of Catholic and native customs. As
we’ve found in many Mexican Catholic churches, the Dolores Hidalgo Cathedral
has extensive gold leaf decor on the inside. We found the Miguel Hidalgo
home, now a museum somewhat less interesting, compared to the Alhondga
Granary in Guanajuato.
We drove another 20 minutes to the tiny village with a huge cathedral,
Atotonilco. We were by the owners of Quinta Don Jose not to miss it. The
cathedral is under restoration and a group of school children were getting a
lecture in Spanish so we could not explore too much.
We continued on to San Miguel de Allende. It also has a large & lovely
cathedral, but is most famous as an artist colony. We walked around, stopped
for lunch but did not have the energy to wander through the many artist
galleries and studios. Cindy voted for a tour of the Botanical Garden
instead. Scott was hot & tired by then but humored her anyway. There were
lots & lots of cactus, plus a wetlands area with a variety of birds. We
know that we missed a lot of sights in San Miguel. We would recommend other
visitors to stay there at least 1 or 2 nights.
After our long day of sightseeing we were happy to return to the lovely B &
B and collapse. We spent the next day just reading and relaxing on site. We
only wandered down the street for some lunch and enjoyed chatting with a
college student from Texas whose Grandmother was from Guanajuato.
Sunday March 16
We bid a fond farewell to wonderful Casa Estrella & staff and made the 4
hour drive back to our Tlaquepaque B & B. We enjoyed it just as much the
second time. After 2 more days of rest & relaxation we were ready to return
to *Beach House. *Scott fared better on the bus ride with car sick
medication and not opening the side curtains at all. Two movies helped pass
the long trip.
Scott & Cindy