Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A side trip to Guanajuato and Guadalajara

On my last journey back to Mazatlan from Alberta and Houston in September, I took an opportunity to take a side-trip on the way and check out Guanajuato.  Since I was taking a direct flight from San Antonio, Texas to Mexico City on the Mexican airline, Interjet, that arrived at noon, I decided to take a luxury bus that afternoon all the way to Guanajuato, which was about six hours away.  

For those who don't know this already, the luxury bus system in Mexico is excellent.  There are several competing companies such as ETN and Primera Plus with a wide-ranging choice of routes and frequency.  Their websites are fairly easy to navigate even though they are in Spanish - Google translates them anyway.  One can purchase a ticket online and just show up at the counter at the bus station, or just go to the station and purchase on the spot.  There are discounts for booking and paying online.

There were buses leaving Mexico City every half hour to Guanajuato so I decided to fly in and get a taxi to the station before purchasing in case there were delays.  I landed at noon and was on the bus at one.  The ticket price equaled about $35.  

There is a protocol at the bus station one must follow and it's a good idea to know this ahead of time if your Spanish is limited.  At the ticket counter, the clerk will show you on their computer screen the choices for departure times, then your choice for seat location.  Once the ticket is purchased, they will circle the post number where the bus will pull into.  Generally, you are allowed through a security checkpoint about 30 minutes before departure time.  Before that you will wait inside the terminal area.  When the bus pulls in and about 5 minutes before departure, one lines up in front of a cart by the bus where you will be given a bag with a sandwich and asked what you want to drink.  They do have water in bottles as well as soda.  This is included in the ticket price.  Then you can get on the bus and find your seat. 

At your seat there will be a head-set for watching a variety of movies on the TV screen on the back of the seat in front of you, if you wish.  I found they had some fairly good movies with good choices.  The seat reclines almost flat and there is a pull-down foot-rest.

I have been on several bus trips in Mexico now and have found the buses to be clean and very comfortable, and the drivers are extremely good.  The ride is smooth - no speeding or reckless driving.  I arrived in Guanajuato around 6 pm and took a taxi to my hotel right in the center of the city, Hotel San Diego.  In the picture above, I am looking down on the roof of the hotel next to the dome of the Church of San Diego and adjacent to the main public square, Jardin de la Union.

It was a fantastic location for just stepping out the door and going for a stroll around the historic area.  I won't be going into any touristy descriptions of Guanajuato and what to see - there are plenty of websites for that.  I found it just delightful, colorful, and architecturally a lot like the centuries-old towns of Italy or France. I stayed 3 nights.  The Hotel San Diego is comfortable but basic accommodations in an old restored building keeping in character with the surroundings.  There was an elevator, but it was old and manually-run so after getting myself stuck in there once and not knowing how to open the doors, I used the stairs.

I took a guided tour one of the days in a van with two women from Monterrey, Mexico who didn't speak English, but the tour guide spoke both languages.  I think I saw many of the tourist highlights, including the gruesome but interesting Mummy Museum.  The earth in the area has a unique set of properties that preserve bodies of the dead in a mummy-like fashion.  The mummies there are sent out to various scientific facilities all over the world to be studied since they are so unique.

On the 4th day, I took a bus to Guadalajara, which took about 6 hours, and stayed the night - only exploring the immediate area of the hotel since it was evening, but it there was a beautiful public square and cathedral nearby and I was able to get these beautiful photos.

In the morning, I took another bus through the Sierra Madres mountains to Mazatlan.  That was the most beautiful and scenic ride of the three, and also took about 6 hours.

It is sometimes more enjoyable to take trips like this with another person or persons, but I get something out of doing it by myself too.  I guess I feel more adventurous!

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