A tale of two cities

The journey from San Luis Potosi to Queretaro was only 2 and a half hours (the slightly higher cost of the fare tempered by 2 free snacks and a beverage each), so it wasn’t long before we were at the bus terminal of yet another Mexican city.

After a small false start (initially we couldn’t find where the local buses stopped) and another uncomfortable ride on a city bus (it wasn’t the buses fault, but you try and get comfortable, or even seated, with a huge pack on your back and a small day pack to deal with), we were downtown beside one of the lush green parks.

A close encounter with the Scooby Doo gang was probably the most exciting part of our trek to the hostel, where we were met by staff with very good English and with them having actually received our booking (a good, but unusual start. Normally we have to resort to showing them our own booking confirmation).

Scooby Doo and their iconic van... (I mean beetle)

Scooby Doo and their iconic van… (I mean beetle?)

Our home for the night, the Blue Bicycle House

Our home for the night, the Blue Bicycle House

We found our dorm after sorting out our payment , then it was off to explore as we’d only banked on one day here in Queretaro.

Heading back into the historic centre, another UNESCO listed heritage site, the first thing we sighted was the arse end (backside) of the Convento de la Santa Cruz which we’d passed on the way to the hostel (not saying that its front facade was horrible, but we preferred it from the back).

Taking in the Convento de la Santa Cruz from a different aspect (complete with tourist in the frame)

Taking in the Convento de la Santa Cruz from a different aspect (complete with tourist in the frame)

This was a pretty easy city to stroll around, with some more lovely plazas, civic buildings and churches.

What it did appear to lack (like quite a few of these historical centres we’ve converged on), was street vendors selling their delicious food (the notable exceptions always being Helados (Icecream) and Papas (well Papas means potato, but in this context it’s bags of crisps with chilli sauce & a squeeze of lime added).

So after a mission to find somewhere for lunch, we eventually settled on a small eatery where we grabbed a few delicious chorizo tacos and stumbled on another new gem, Sope.

What this was, was a toasted tortilla covered in Frijoles (beans) and then sprinkled with Queso (cheese). It looked very similar to Hungarian Langos, wasn’t quite as delicious, but was probably better for the arteries!

As the afternoon heat increased, in fact it most likely happened whilst we were lunching, most of the churches and other sites closed for the afternoon siesta (how often anybody sleeps during this period is debatable), so we began wandering without many sights to actually visit.

Queue our efforts to cool down, but rather than opt for a beer (as many of you may have come to expect from us), we chose a different path.

I chose a chilled Horchata (a sweetened rice drink), whilst Sarah went for a Jamaica (a chilled, sweetened Hybiscus ‘tea’).

Horchata and Jamaica... both ridiculously sweet!

Horchata and Jamaica… both ridiculously sweet!

I neglected to tell you a little story earlier… about a supposed miracle that seems to linger about the Convento de la Santa Cruz.

You see, the story goes that a priest at some point planted a tree, a tree that naturally grows thorns.

Apparently, this was interpreted as a miracle, the perception being that this holy tree now grows limbs in the shape of crucifixes… Give me a thorny branch and some clippers, and I too could deliver a miracle!

The miracle of secateurs!

The miracle of secateurs!

During our earlier wanderings, we’d spied a place that looked a good thing for dinner, so it was there that we decided to head come evening.

We grabbed a table, perused the menu, and this is what we ended up with.

Chile Pasilla Oaxaqueno which was listed as ‘Flavourful mild chili, stuffed with Quesillo cheese, beans & rice, and an order of Entomatadas with Tasajo (Fried corn tortillas bathed in fresh tomto sauce with beef & topped with cream cheese).

Our delicious dinner, although mild was a touch misleading...

Our delicious dinner, although mild was a touch misleading…

The Entomatadas were delicious, however the term mild for the other dish was a complete misnomer… That food was bloody hot!!

After a filling feed and a couple of local Queretaro beers, it was time for an evening wander to try and work of some of that dinner.

In the course of these wanderings, we discovered another impressive church, proof that the Spaniards didn’t manage to leave Mexico with all of the gold or silver…

The Temple of Saint Rose of Viterbo

The Temple of Saint Rose of Viterbo

In case you needed proof of my claim, check out the interior of this fairly humble looking (at least from the outside) place.

All that glitters is not gold... oh wait, it is

All that glitters is not gold… oh wait, it is

Before we jump on a bus for the gorgeous colonial (and UNESCO listed) city, well at least that is what we’ve heard of San Miguel de Allende, there is a final tale to tell from Queretaro.

You see, we chose our hostel based on its price, but also because it listed a free breakfast as an inclusion (other prices had comparable rates, but no breakfast).

We’d have left the hostel with much better memories, if they’d promised nothing.

The breakfast didn’t sound exciting, listed as ‘Fruit & Bread’, but when they under delivered on even that, serving up a dry crumbly biscuit & a small piece of fruit to each of us (it may have been a quince), we left an otherwise pretty good hostel, with a pretty disappointing memory…

It would have been much better if they never even offered breakfast, then this would have been a pleasant surprise!

Still, a few hours later saw us pull in at the bus station in the very well regarded city of San Miguel de Allende.

This UNESCO listed city, has a reputation as a haven for expat Americans (known as  a Mexican Disneyland), but also for its charming colonial beauty, hence our trip here.

We did arrive with some level of expectation, as it is often mentioned as one of the more striking of Mexico’s many charming colonial towns.

After a fairly long hike from the Centrale de Autobus to our hostel, we discovered we were a couple of hours early for check-in. As we were able to leave our bags there, that was no problem, and we were off to get a feel for this town.

The stunning Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel lives up to its Disneyland tag

The stunning Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel lives up to its Disneyland tag

The interior is just as grand

The interior is just as grand

Wander we did, taking in as much of this beautiful city as we could.

But something just didn’t feel right. There were people everywhere which isn’t unusual, after all, Mexico is a very populous country.

Then it truly hit us! Almost half of this crowd was western, and there were American accents everywhere.

We’d been traveling through this country for over 3 weeks and had barely seen any fellow gringos, yet here, that was blown out of the water!

To avoid the crowds, we began to wander farther from the centre, which brought us some relief, as it was the area around the plaza which were easily the worst.

San Miguel de Allende's charming streets... away from the crowds

San Miguel de Allende’s charming streets… away from the crowds

I am sure there is an up side to this influx of foreign retirees and vacationers for the local population, however to put it into perspective for those who have followed our Mexican travels, let me illustrate what this meant for prices near the plaza.

For most of Mexico, we’ve enjoyed beers at restaurants and bars for between 25 and 35 pesos (35 being a bit of a stretch, but sometimes you just have to pay that).

With a plan to people watch in the plaza, we checked some of the prices at cafes around its fringe, only to walk away in disgust at prices of 70 pesos per beer!

If we could avoid the people, this city was not devoid of colour or charm

If we could avoid the people, this city was not devoid of colour or charm

After another quick visit to check our one of the churches and indulging in some tasty Lime and Orange gelato, we stumbled upon this rather cool building which appears as though it was some sort of artists retreat.

A peaceful interlude

A peaceful interlude

Removed from the crowds, it was a quiet enough spot that the courtyard seemed the ideal spot for young girl to indulge in a little reading by the fountain.

We had a stroll, although much of the complex was closed unfortunately…

Earlier in the day, we’d attempted the walk up to the mirador (lookout point), however as luck would have it, it too was a wasted, and also very tiring exercise.

Okay, so technically, it wasn’t closed, however there was enough work being done, that it was as good as, and the snippets of view we did get, weren’t really much to write home about.

Our final adventures in San Miguel were perhaps a little more what you may have come to expect from these Mexican adventures.

The main plaza was still abuzz come evening

The main plaza was still abuzz come evening

It was essentially a search for beers (as we certainly didn’t care to pay the plaza prices), but to our disappointment, the first OXXO (a chain of mini-marts) we tried, turned out to be the only one we’d thus far found in the country, that did not stock alcohol!

No joy at the next min-mart… nor the next… when it began to look like a fruitless task, we finally had success!

Then to our amusement, found a couple of other locations, much closer to our hostel, that was also stocking cold Cervezas, just what we needed after another long Mexican day…

A fairytale at night

A fairytale at night

Pemex may be the sole monopoly here in Mexico, but this old school pump does look pretty cool

Pemex may have a monopoly here in Mexico, but this old school pump does look pretty cool

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