According to the guide books, the UNESCO Heritage site city of Guanajuato (place of frogs) is "not intended for vehicles… attempting to negotiate Guanajuato’s narrow, congested and utterly illogical streets by car is a classic exercise in frustration." Because we were staying outside of the historic centre, and the hotel no longer offered a shuttle (but which it still lists on its website) Jeff asked for driving directions and was given a map that showed how ‘easy’ it was to get to the public parking in town
. Ha! Some years back they installed a series of tunnels to try to alleviate the congestion and it seems to me that getting into them is not dissimilar to getting flushed down the toilet. Not that it smells, just that they’re dark, one-way, and there’s no stopping once you’re down. Once you surrender to the tunnels, it’s just a matter of waiting until you surface again and desperately trying to figure out where you are. Something else that I haven’t included in my blog about Mexican driving is that city driving is very slow. Not because of congestion, it’s just thankfully slow making it manageable even for the most lost travelers. Knowing what’s ahead, the road into the Zona Centro is lined with helpful locals offering informacion touristica gratis and parking spaces. ‘Offering’ is not quite the right word for it. They stand in front of your moving vehicle and try to wave you in in a too-assertive manner, and I found it very disconcerting to say the least. After I made it past the first one, who continued to call out and whistle at me LONG after I had driven by, the next guy then suffered the wrath of my frustration as I screamed “No, no, NO!” at him.
The next day we changed hotels to one within walking distance of the Centro.
The short walk up into the town from our new hotel takes you past a park with several fun frog statues and a small local food market. The narrow, winding streets and pedestrian plazas offer a different smell almost with every step: fresh bread, rotting fruit, raw meat, flowers, sewage, disinfectant, the list goes on. Maps are useless as none seem to be to scale let alone accurate. We found our way around using visual cues and after three separate visits, felt pretty confident at getting around
. We visited the Diego Rivera Museum – the house where he was born. Many of his works are on display. I had never heard of him but in his 100 years, he was internationally renowned and controversial. What really struck me about his work was the range of styles… oil, pencil, watercolour, abstract, native, historical. Unlike many famous artists, you’d be hard pressed to ‘recognize’ his work.
We also visited the state museum which focuses on the era of the Revolution but also has galleries about their independence from Spain and the various ancient civilizations. And we did a bit of shopping – Jeff bought me fresh flowers which, at home, would have cost a fortune, and the kids each got a Mexican soccer jersey. My little soccer stars are so cute! (Despite Keara’s absence, her team is still undefeated.)
Aguas calientes is, by definition, hot springs. The small state of Aquascalientes is not quite a misnomer but is rather misleading. The capital city, Aguascalientes, is an industrial town that is very smoggy and really hasn't much for travelers… with one exception! There is a fantastic water park called Mundo A just south of the city. It’s a cross between Splashdown and Rainforest Café. There is ample parking and no lines, especially in January when it’s closed! We really started something with this 'parking lots tour.’ Fortunately it was not far to our next intended stop, Guanajuato.