Saturday, November 12, 2005

Looking Around and Going Away

HOW TO LOOK AROUND IN GUANAJUATO: Besides going on foot, in your own car, or in a bus or taxi, there are many other choices.

To get to the Pipila, you can go by funicular (cable car) from behind the San Diego Church near Bar Ocho, then come down either the same way or walk the same cobblestone lane the insurgents used on their way to storm the Alhondiga. Lower price for Guanajuatenses with proof of residence.

There's a new old-fashioned "trolley" with rubber tires obviously designed to lure sightseers but I don't know the details yet. Ask at their office below the Basilica.

For a rock bottom cheap way to see parts of the city you'd never see otherwise, ride a minibus (combi, pesero, pese) for 6 pesos that says EMBAJADORAS CENTRO PREPA CALZADA DISENO. It will loop twice through Plaza de la Paz. For the most thrills, you want it to be going to the PREPA (high school). Then you will see vistas, steep callejones, cantera, cactus, the modern School of Design campus, cobbled streets and more. Board it at any of the places listed above. 6 PESOS GOING OR COMING. Allow plenty of time. I got off at Diseno to walk around the campus. After walking down some steps, I came to a cafeteria that made a welcome stopover. Real food before about 3 at reasonable prices but I had to settle for a chocomilk after 4.

Away from the city: Valle de Santiago, in the center of the state of Guanajuato is two hours from the city of Guanajuato by bus. It is a bustling hub town for the agricultural area surrounding it, also has at least two foreign owned factories. The old center of town has a jardin (plaza) with meticulously trimmed shade trees surrounding a band kiosk. Many benches and several icecream stores alongside.

I especially liked going to the local museum, recommended to me by an ironworker I met. The museum is a half block from the Jardin on Carranza or just ask. You'll see a model of the volcanic area near the city, pottery from many periods in the past and a necklace made of beads from seashells, evidence of trade from the coast. Also a burial showing how the body was laid out and surrounding pots. I also looked at the temporary exhibit, this time featuring photographs from several states of Mexico taken in the mid 20th century by an anthropologist named Munoz.

The volcano I visited was Parangueo, a taxi ride from town although also accessible by hourly bus. The taxi driver accompanied me to the crater which is accessible by walking 5-10 minutes through a tunnel (take a flashlight). Although the crater no longer has the water that used to fill it, it is a peaceful place surrounded by trees on the slopes around it. Another and more accessible volcano is called The Alberca although it also lacks water these days.

The Sanlu Hotel where I stayed was built around a central patio, with my room very light, clean and modern. Maybe I didn't look hard enough but I didn't find a comfortable place to eat. The market was less satisfactory that way than most I have visited. I found the men who talked to me friendly and knowing a little English from their work in the United States. One in particular still kept in touch with an American friend by email.

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