Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Car Trip 27

Our next stop was the building known as la Alhondiga de Granaditas. This was originally a grain storage building but its’ importance to history is that it is where the first strike for Mexican independence occurred. The building was commandeered by the Spaniards as their headquarters. The building was attacked by 20,000 rebels, led by Miguel Hidalgo, on September 28, 1810. It looked like the Spaniards would hold out and win until Hidalgo came up with the clever idea of strapping a large stone on the back of one his men. (the aforementioned hero, El Pipila) Using the stone as a shield against the Spanish bullets, he was able to set the wooden gates ablaze, thus allowing entrance to the 20,000 rebels. The rebels were much later, and in a different battle, defeated. In a most interesting event, the heads of the four leaders of the revolt were displayed in large birdlike cages, one hanging from each of the four corners of the building. One can still see the hooks high up on the corners of the buildings where the heads hung. The actual cages, minus the heads of course, are on display inside. The building itself is riddled with bullet holes. It is not difficult at all to stand there and imagine what had happened. Not being Mexican, I really had never taken a great interest in Mexican history prior to this. I found the whole experience fascinating, educational and totally real.

Enough culture. We were thirsty and hungry. Back to our hotel to clean up for dinner and to verify that L had a clean place to lay his head that night. All spruced up in clean shirts and our best flip flops, L led us to a square popular with backpackers and students. We had a lovely time sitting at an outdoor cafe, watching people come and go, eating a small, leisurely dinner and drinking tons of dark draft beer. We finally stumbled our way back towards the hotel, but, it seemed like it had been such a long time since we had eaten, we were all hungry again. What should we spy but another OXXO and decided roller dogs were just what we needed. In we went and B and L both got one and piled on every fixing they offered! I decided that I needed something sweet and opted for three different candy bars instead! Nobody can say we don’t know how to live!
one of the many parks scattered around Guanajuato

Wednesday, April 27, and we woke up none the less for wear. I was dying to ask L if he had dreamt of nose picking all night, but I just didn’t dare! We were planning on only one more stop here before heading out again to our next destination. A quick breakfast and on to the Museo Iconografico del Quijote. This is the museum devoted to Don Quixote. I never did quite understand why he is such an important character to this city or why they even have a festival every year devoted to it.
I must admit that I thought it was going to be deadly dull, a whole museum devoted to one fictional character. I mean really, can you imagine a museum devoted to Donald Duck or Charlie Brown? I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting it turned out to be. There was nothing really about the story of Don Quixote, or Cervantes for that matter. It was nothing but various artists renditions of Don Quixote and Pancho. Everything from room size murals to the tiniest painting on an eggshell. We decided that since this really was one of the classics of literature, we should read it someday. (Note: L did order the book and we have all now made an attempt to drag ourselves through the pages of it. B has currently taken possession of it. He uses one chapter a night as a sleeping pill! I liked the museum better and will just settle for that!)
the famous "kissing alley"

We left Guanajuato and its’ muscle-wearying hills behind about mid-morning. It was a quick 3.5 hour drive at 80 mph to our next stop, Queretaro. This was not originally a scheduled stop but we decided to make it a one night layover because Puebla, or next big city, was just too far to reach in one day from Guanajuato.

Queretaro is a nice enough city. Another town in Mexico steeped in history, great architecture and fabulous restaurants. We really did not do much here but try to relax and get ready for the strenuous drive and day ahead of us tomorrow. The one thing that did impress me there was the number of fountains. They seemed to be in every plaza and green space we passed. It was really quite refreshing and the detail on some of them was incredible. Also, Queretaro has so many historically significant places, UNESCO has designated an official walking route within the city. They have actually put signs in the sidewalk directing you from one site to the next, each one numbered for easy reference on most city maps.

Back in the hotel that night we spread the maps and guidebooks out on the bed as usual. The night before leaving a city we would make sure that we all knew the route we would be taking to our next destination. We always tried to have the quickest, easiest, fastest route laid out before we actually put a foot to the pedal. Our route to Puebla was only to cover 207 miles and should have taken only one morning, since most of it was freeway.
We were a little worried about getting around Mexico City, but since we had no plans to go into the city itself, it was not a really big concern. The population of Mexico City is 23 million people, making it the largest city in the world. To put that in perspective, that means that 1 out of every 260 people in the world live in Mexico City! We thought we might encounter some traffic there, thus slowing us down, but nothing major. One little nagging question we had was about the driving ban there.

Mexico City proper has a driving ban, due to the heavy smog and pollution. One day a week, depending upon the last digit of your license plate, you are banned from driving your car in the City. Just to be safe, I ran down to look at my plate so we could look it up on the chart. Wouldn’t you know it. My plate ends in the number 1 and that is the number banned on Thursdays, the day we were going to go around Mexico City. We were really glad that we had no plans to go into or see the city itself. We would be touching on the rim of the State of Mexico but not the City. Our Lonely Planet assured us that the driving ban was enforced only in Mexico City itself. With that, off to bed we went.

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