Friday, November 9, 2007

Car Trip 23

The first place we checked was the hotel I had parked in front of. A rather grand, pompous looking affair. The prices weren’t as bad as we expected but the rooms were definitely not as nice as the prices would have one believe! We decided to have a little look see and investigate some others as well. We especially wanted to check out the one directly across the street. This was listed in our Lonely Planet and sounded interesting. Unfortunately, the standards of the reviewer were just a bit lower than mine. After looking at a couple of well travel worn rooms, we decided to give it a pass. We looked at one more hotel and decided that for just one night, the first hotel would be fine. The most expensive one of course! We threw our stuff in the room and headed out to see what Zacatecas had to offer on a Saturday night.

We had agreed that finding a nice little place for a calm, relaxed drink would be our first order of business. Off the main street and up a side street, we saw umbrellas in front of a little Italian restaurant and decided it was just the place we needed. With L leading the way, since it was another uphill battle for B and I, we reached our goal and, with huge sighs of contentment, plopped ourselves down at one of the tables. Then we waited. And waited. And waited a little more. Just as we were deciding that maybe we needed to find a place that actually waited on its’ customers, out through the door came the waiter. The disappointment, or rather disgust, on his face was easy to read when he discovered that here were three rich gringos (read BIG TIP) sitting at his table and all we wanted was two beers and a Margarita on the Rocks. He sulkily took our order, snatched the menus back and disappeared. Needless to say, he was not to swift in returning with the drinks. Never mind though, he eventually did bring them and we had a very nice time. Just chilling from another long day’s drive and gathering our strength and making plans for the night and next few days.

Drinks done, we decided to walk up main street at least as far as the great cathedral and find a place for dinner. The cathedral here is something to behold. The guidebook describes it as the ultimate expression of Mexican Baroque and they are certainly correct! Keeping in mind that in its’ heyday Zacatecas was one of the richest cities in Mexico, due to the silver mines, the builders of this cathedral spared no expense in making it as grand and gaudy as possible. The entire main facade, which faces the main street, is an elaborate series of sculptures. It tells the story of the tabernacle, from top to bottom. It is three stories tall and there are a lot of statues clinging to its’ surface, including all 12 apostles. The whole thing is shrouded in a fine mesh, to protect it from tons of pigeon poop that would otherwise be deposited there. Without the guidebook telling me where to look for what, I would never have been able to decipher what was going on, it was just too full of figures, squiggles, curves and other adornments. Very interesting to look at though.

Since Zacatecas is built in the valley between two mountain ranges, it, too, is full of sloping streets. Not exactly hills, but long inclines from the start of town to where it ends at Cerro de la Bufa, the rock topped hill that dominates the landscape. Next to the Cathedral, a set of wide steps leads down to the next parallel street. The steps first deposit you onto a broad plaza. While we were there this plaza was the sight of concerts. People line the walkway on one side and look down and also use the steps themselves as makeshift bleachers. All in all, a wonderful place to absorb some culture! On this particular Saturday night, it was a very large orchestra performing. And they had an interesting choice of music, I thought. No Mozart, no Beethoven for them. Nope. It was Glenn Miller all the way! With the strains of 1940's big band music ringing in our ears, we left the plaza behind and headed back down the main street to a restaurant we had spied earlier.

The restaurant was off to the side and in back of a wonderful tiled courtyard inside one of the buildings whose doorways opened on to the main street. We discovered that the courtyard was used by a little coffee shop as their seating area. We would return here later in the trip for a much needed espresso! The restaurant itself was decorated a bit too much as a Mexican theme park for my taste. Lots of sombreros and paintings of "typical" Mexican scenes and themes. Lots of color but a little too dimly lit. But the food was excellent. I had recently discovered a soup like dish called Pozole and was ecstatic to discovered that they offered both the red and green varieties here. Decision made in an instant. Green Pozole (the hot one!) for me!
Dinner over, we headed out to find someplace to have a nightcap. This was not as easy as we had thought. I was again amazed to discover that once outside the tourist areas, there are really not that many bars or places to go to that serve alcohol. There are a few large, disco type bars around, but we are getting a bit long in the tooth to enjoy this kind of racket every night. What we wanted was just a small, maybe quaint, bar where we could have a quiet nightcap and head off to a much needed good nights’ sleep. We had almost given up when we stumbled upon exactly the kind of place we were looking for. We each had a drink and made our way back to our hotel and fell into bed. Exhausted but happy. We were sure we were going to have a good time exploring Zacatecas and partaking of its’ various sites and attraction. Sunday was going to be a busy beaver type day for us!


Andee said...

Hi, I haven't been to Zacateca's yet but people have told me it's their favorite town to visit. Someday. The cathredral looks kind of bizarre.

Anonymous said...

hi wayne,

having trouble sleeping so just spent an hour getting caught up on your trip. the pictures of las pozas are great-tell L. i said so. what a fascinating place! it truly would be a shame if the jungle took over and it was lost to future visitors. it's a place i must see someday.

reading about your trip is even better than reading a guidebook. as i said in my last comment on the trip, i am learning so much about different areas of mexico. i'm even taking notes and keeping a list of places i'd like to visit someday. makes me wish i could retire and spend several months just traveling through the country.

that checkpoint did sound scary. i can't wait to read about what happened in mexico city.

have a great weekend.


ps got a good chuckle out of your description of that terrible coffee. so it tasted like fuel had been sored in the pot huh! we had a similar experience drinking our landlord's homemade wine when we lived in sicily. it tasted like what we imagined kerosene would taste like ;-)

are any of my comments coming through twice? sometimes i don't get the notice that says it has been sent so i submit it again.

wayne said...

teresa: thanks for the compliments. It is always nice to hear that people enjoy what I write. That you find it educational is just a bonus! Yes, your comments do come in twice but don't worry about it. I get to enjoy them twice that way! And yes, L is a very good photographer. He has actually sold some of his photos and they are scattered around on the net. He also makes them into blank inside greeting cards. I'll show you if you ever come to visit.

Sandye in Kansas said...

Wayne, that last picture is just something else! I never cease to be amazed/appalled at the way they jam houses together in Mexico. Is the concept of a yard just completely foreign to the Mexican people???

P.S. The cathedral is beautiful, tho!