Silver towns and ancient ruins

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North America » Mexico
January 18th 2015
Published: June 21st 2017
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Geo: 21.02, -101.28

Our view of Mexico changed as we hired a car from the airport to travel north on a 3 week tour of small towns and ancient ruins. We began by taking motorways, which have lots of tolls, but the petrol is very cheap. In most cases they were direct and certainly better surfaced than minor roads. They are frequented with lots of lorries and buses, but fewer cars than Europe. The countryside north of Mexico City is mainly flat and dusty, with strange shaped mountains in the distance. Where the grass is greener there are cattle and some sheep, sometimes herded by groucho cowboys on horseback - typical Mexicans, just like the films!
Our first stop was Teotahuacan, where a guide took us round the ruins of Quezachotal's Palace and climbed the many steps of the Moon and Sun temples. This was a vast site where we drove from one temple to another. Tourists spread out over the ruins and the vendours accosted us at intervals, usually with a good sense of humour 'very cheap, almost free!'.
We then drove on to Tula and a hotel in the middle of a golf course so we could be up early next day to visit the Tula archaeological site which we had almost to ourselves - huge standing figures that once held up a roof on top of the pyramid, a ball park - they were big into ball games but a wrong move could cost you your head.
We got to Queretaro shortly before sunset, able to enjoy our first view of a busy colonial town with flat roofed houses clinging to the hillside, painted in the most wonderful lurid colours - orange, pink, bright green, yellow. Just like the vivd colours of their embroidery and traditional clothes, as worn by Frieda Khalo. It was choked with trffic, often at a standstill, but some of it was pedestrianised, with attractive colonial squares and lots of churches and ex-convents. Church property at the beginning of the 20th century was appropriated by the State and converted to Museums, or sold for resturants or Hotels - all very attractive for the tourist.
This is a Unversity town with lots of life. As in other colonial towns cafes in the squares are busy and attract musicians, so there is lots of street life to enjoy.
One night we discovered a Pastorella performance, all in Spanish. This was a comic version of the nativity, a bit like our traditional York Mystery Plays. We were helped to understand it a bit from an English speaking couple siting in front, and it was good to see how locals were entertained, very cvilised with a bottle of wine and platas of ham and cheese on tables in front of us all. The performers were good too. Very professional.
We're getting used to the climate - a little cool at night and slow to warm up in the mornings but then wonderfully fresh and sunny, with fantastic clear bue skies that in the UK we dream of.
Early morning sounds are evocative of the culture, usually beginning with clanging bells and what I first took to be a gunshot and jumped out of my skin, but later realised it was fireworks, at 7.00am!
The second city of San Miguel where the 1810 Revolution began with Ignacio Allende, is now a very handsome town center, inhabited apparently by many retired Americans. There were some huge female puppets walking around in the central square, vendors with huge bndles of balloons and more harmonium players begging for tips. All very colourful. Peter asked a question of a pasing musician if his band was a proper Mariachi all ended up with the whole band, violins, guitars, trumpets etc surrounding us at our table playing and singing La Bamba - wich cost us the princely sum of 200 pesos (we leave you to work out if that was good value or not)
At the next Colonial town of Guanajuato we passed the day in much the same way, visiting Churches and Museums, this time Diego Rivera's birthplace, and sitting about in squares eating and drinking. We're beginning to find some items on menus that are chilli free, but often prefer a hamburger or Italian dish that we recognise. Breakfasts in the hotels always have lots of tropical fruit - papaya, pineapple, water melon, melon and eggs to set us up for more walking round town. Still challenging for my twisted ankle. Let's hope it improves soon.
We were disappointed by the hotel at Guanajuato because it was an inside room with no windows and a tiny bathroom, nt surprising since the whole town was built into cliffs, with a warren of underground tunnels and carparks below. We managed to cancel the third night and found a perfect alternative nearby, with a free afernoon to sit in the sun, wallow in a jacusi and catch up on the blog. Good to have some down time.

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