Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Car Trip 20

Xilitla is a very small mountain town with only 5300 inhabitants. And I assume that this counted people in the "suburbs" as well as those downtown since the town was very small. It’s only claim to fame was the section of mountain that had been owned by Sir Edward James and converted into the eclectic conglomeration called Las Pozas.

After a few false turns and winding around the very steep and narrow streets of Xilitla, we located our hotel, El Castillo. (www.junglegossip.com) There was no place really to park so we pulled off the road as best we could. We were at the base of a huge, wide staircase that ascended to the next street level above us. There was a double set of doors at street level, which we assumed was the tuck under parking garage for the hotel. The actual entrance to the hotel appeared to be about a quarter of the way up these stairs. L went on ahead to see if he could locate anybody to unlock the entrance gate and let us in. He finally reappeared and announced that we could now unload the car and carry everything up about 50 stairs to the entrance. However, there was no offstreet parking! We had no idea then where the double doors went to or why they were even there. We decided that we could just leave the car where it was and pedestrians going up or down the stairs would just have to walk around it. That settled, we made our way to the entrance.

To say it was weird is an understatement. We were greeted by a set of huge wrought iron gates. Unlocked, these opened onto a few steps up to the main courtyard entrance. The courtyard was canopied with huge, exotic philodendrons. Once the few steps were negotiated, one was greeted with huge concrete footprints. These were raised about six inches off the ground and to negotiate them safely, one had to place one’s feet upon them and follow them. I did not find this to be a fun way to enter a hotel, laden down with luggage, at all. But, hey, we knew this hotel was going to be something really different and we were getting just what we expected! Rooms here were quite expensive but this was going to be one of the few luxuries we allowed ourselves, given the strange and exotic locale and nature of this hotel. We eagerly checked in and followed the manageress to our room.

We were all taken aback when she opened a small door in the courtyard, next to the reception room door. This door opened onto a narrow stairway which went down, not up! She led us down this treacherous stairway to our room.....in the basement! Well, actually, since the hotel was built onto the side of a hill, this was really ground level. There was only one room down there and the door to it was off a large, unused gym/workout area. This area was what was behind the old garage doors. We walked into the room and just stood there, trying to comprehend where she had taken us. We were looking at a rather small room and quite narrow. There were two double beds, placed foot to foot with just enough room on the back side to get to the bathroom. The ceilings were quite high and the one and only window was placed so high up on the wall, it was impossible to see out of it. And it let in very little natural light. To say we were disappointed in this room is to put it mildly! To come all that way, to pay all that money and to anticipate this hotel for so long, the disgust was almost overwhelming. We were situated in a beautiful section of the mountain with vistas all around, and we could not see anything from our room! The praise heaped upon this hotel by the Lonely Planet guide had not prepared us for such an awful room! We decided that since we had already paid for this room, we would spend the night but look for other accommodations in the morning.

We freshened up from our long days’ journey and went "poolside" to enjoy a beverage and a smoke. We were all smoking at this point! After a few moments rest and relaxation, we set out to find the one good restaurant in town listed in the Lonely Planet guide.

Fortunately for us, the main plaza of town was located at the top of the stairs that were located right outside our hotel entrance. But remember, when I say stairs, I mean a long, wide set of uneven cement steps. Quite the chore to walk all the way up. The restaurant that was mentioned in our guidebook was just to the left of the top of the stairs. It was a large, dark almost cavern like building. It supposedly specialized in Italian food. If it did, we never found what we would call Italian food on the menu! We all found something to our liking and ordered up. There was no evidence of an adult anywhere on the staff. Our waiter appeared to be about 14 years old and very new at this job. He tried hard though. The food was just that....food. It was about as exciting as our expensive hotel room! I suppose with thoughts of the long, mountainous drive just completed, I mused while waiting for our meal about the people who lived in the town. I could not comprehend what people found so attractive or lucrative about living here. Miles from any big town and virtually suspended in the mountains. "I wonder what these people aspire to?" I asked, more rhetorically than anything else. Without a moment’s hestiation, B supplied the simple answer. "Flat land!" We all found this quite amusing but you have to remember how tired we were too! Our dining experience over, we decided to explore the tiny square and very large church located on it. The church was sixteenth century with a mission attached to it. Really quite impressive for such a desolate mountain village location. We also wanted to check around for other lodgings.

We ended up finding a rather new hotel on the other side of town, looking back out over the valley we had just wound our way around to get here. The view was spectacular. We looked at a room that had a great view and was much, much cheaper than where we were staying. Having had enough of overblown hype about the quality of the hotel we were in, we quickly reserved the room for the following day/night.

With that done. we located a little ice cream stand on the square, had ourselves some dessert and turned in for the night. Tomorrow was going to be an exciting but strenous day.

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