We went to the Zacatecas bus station to book a bus to Leon (we would book a connection to San Miguel there) and found out that the information we got in town was incorrect. Instead of 4 buses running daily from this one company, there was only one, at 3:30 pm. Looking at our watches – 8:30 am – we went to every bus counter we could find. We found a departure at 11:20am, but the old guy behind the counter wouldn’t sell us a ticket. Finally with our weak Spanish, he wrote on a piece of paper, “buy 11:00 am”. We sat for 2.5 hours in a blustery cold station (Cynthia wore every shirt she had) and bought our tickets at 11am. The views from the bus were beautiful and the tollbooth topiary, amusing…
A 30 minute connection in Leon got us to San Miguel by 7pm… a short city bus ride and walk, we showed up at the Iron House Hostel, rang the bell to what looked like someone’s house under construction, and secured a room. It wasn’t long before we ventured out to the town center â€“ half the town gathers there in the cool evenings â€“ the fairy tale cathedral dominating the scenery. San Miguel de Allende is an old colonial town with beautiful old architecture, cobble stone streets, and small town feel – a favorite landing spot for retired Americans and other gringos.
Touring the old town was a tight squeeze: the sidewalks were about 18 inches wide interrupted every 20 feet by thick cement electrical poles. Stepping in and out of the street, we came upon the public laundry. This is a corner where old tubs were built next to a spring, and the old Mexican ladies used to come to wash their clothes and gossip. We were surprised to see two women still doing laundry in the green-fungus water. Walking San Miguel, be prepared for dogs barking at you from the short (10 ft tall) roof tops (scared the bejesus out of us the first time), dripping water from the too short, but still functional, decorative roof water spouts, and , probably b/c of the Americans, dogs as pets = street mines.
We saw a puppet show in the main square (we’ll forever remember the totally useless Spanish word for crocodile: “Koh-Koh-Dee-yah!”). Later that evening, Cynthia made the mistake of asking our host about the political structure of Mexico and it turns out he is a cyber-political activist, spending about 12 hours on political blogs and creating satirical photos digitally. Two hours of political discussion and we discovered a liberal side of Mexico â€“ gay and women’s rights â€“ something akin to our 60’s movement. Mexico has also declared their DF (like our Washington DC) a state so they no longer have “taxation without representation”. And we thought we were more advanced…
The next day we went to the orchid gardens – pretty but w/o flowers. Kind of like going to the zoo and all the animals are hiding in the back pens. On the way to the botanical gardens, we saw a couple folks with four donkeys selling stuff door-to-door. We thought the sacks might be grain of some sort, but found out later that they were selling compost. Imagine being a donkey and the sole purpose of your existence was to shit and then haul it on your back to peoples houses.
We then took the long trek through the upscale part of town to the Botanical Gardens. It was a huge area with native plants, mostly cacti, fortunately in bloom, a reservoir and a surprisingly deep canyon. Many people hike, run and bike the trails.
The last day, we went to “La Gruta” (The Grotto) where they have pools supplied by the natural hot springs. Catching the local bus to the Sanctuario and hiking 2 KM, we luxuriated in soaking ourselves. From one of the pools, there is a tunnel that leads into the hill – the source of the spring. There was a very large pool that was only lit by holes in the ceiling that let in sunlight. We didn’t stay there very long because it was really hot. After we left the springs, we waited along the dusty highway for the return bus. Imagine stepping up to the road waving as three buses go whooshing by – a sweeping cloud of dust engulfing you. Cynthia, akimbo, said “Screw this, we could be halfway to town by now”, so we started the 7 mile hike back into town). Two and a half hours later, we arrived back in town, bought some cold beers and at the hostel, put our feet up as we downed some of the best tasting cold beers ever.
The long dusty road back to town…
We are thoroughly enjoying our Mexican adventure, although our feet tell us otherwise.
Check out the San Miguel de Allende gallery for more neat pictures.
Next stop Mexico City, the 2nd most populated city in the world.