After breakfast we did a big loop around San Miguel de Allende to fill out the time before setting out for the bus station for the one-hour trip to the small town of Guanjuato. For this short journey the complimentary refreshments consisted of a drink and a Krispy Kreme doughnut! We'd chosen seats in the second row on this Primera Plus coach, a bad choice as it turned out because there was a bulkhead alongside instead of a window. However, once the bus was rolling, we were able to move to empty seats a bit further back.
The countryside was much as we'd seen on our earlier trip to Pozos: small brick dwellings, some abandoned and roofless; goatherds with their flocks along the roadsides; mesquite, prickly pear, agave and yuccas in the untamed parts; heroic vegetable crops in the cultivated ones.
Guanajuato's bus station is on the outskirts of town, so we hopped on a local bus going to the Centro.
We wound up hillsides, passing occasional dwellings and hotels before plunging into the tunnels over which the town is built. These were constructed originally to channel floodwater away from the town, but after a dam was built, they became an underground road network.
At one point in this dark labyrinth, the bus stopped and everyone got off. End of the line. A helpful passenger showed us the way to a stone stairway and we climbed into the light and the town.
As usual, not knowing our way, it took us a while to find our hotel through the maze of narrow streets. Part of the problem was that some streets changed their names partway along. With the help once again of kind strangers we finally arrived at a tall terracotta building with a narrow street frontage.
Inside was unexpectedly spacious with the rooms arranged around three sides of a vast atrium containing the restaurant. The fourth side was a huge stone buttress against the steep hill behind.
Wrought-iron staircases led from floor to floor.
We had splurged to have a room with a balcony right at the top (the door on the left.)
It was quite the climb every day, but well worth it for both the comfort and the view.
We had arrived in the late afternoon, so we spent the rest of the day wandering around getting our bearings and admiring the town. Every street had pretty houses with casement windows and pots of flowers on the balconies.
The cathedral with its contrasting towers was magnificent both outside...
... and in.
In the evening we found ourselves under the leafy fig trees of Jardin de la Union, where we drank margaritas and ate guacamole on a cafe patio while watching the Australian Open tennis on their TV.
Tuesday, January 27
Buffet breakfast in the atrium was a bit chilly because of its open roof, just a large yellow canvas sail spread across the gap. Good food, thin coffee.
Although the mornings are cool, they quickly become hot, so it was already bright sunshine when we set off to climb the opposite hillside to the statue of Pipila, a local hero. There is a funicular to this mountain height, but we preferred to walk. The route was through a warren of cobbled pathways and flights of steep steps; roughly-painted arrows on the walls of buildings on either side kept us on the right track.
The view from the top was stupendous, dominated by the yellow cathedral and white university behind it.
The walk down was much less arduous and we found ourselves emerging at the bottom close to a huge covered market.
Most of the stalls were selling cheap souvenirs, whereas outside there were more interesting ones selling a variety of produce.
Not far away we fell into conversation with a local expat who recommended a new French-run patisserie and restaurant as a place to go for good coffee and pastries. It was across town, but the town is compact, so we thought "Why not?" and set off on another walk.
We found La Vie en Rose in a suitably rose-coloured building to one side of the Teatro Principal. The coffee was indeed very good and the pastries delicious. There's counter service down below, and tables upstairs in a bright room with doors opening onto tiny balconies.
After so much exercise we were glad to retreat to our hotel for a siesta before going out again to visit the Museo del Pueblo which had some interesting murals and art. The next task was to find Truco 7, a restaurant that our friend David had recommended for good Mexican food. Like so many Mexican places, it had a narrow street frontage behind which were a series of rooms filled with animated people. We liked it enough to return the following night,
When we found it less crowded and even more pleasant.
Wednesday, January 28
Our hotel was quieter too at breakfast. Instead of a buffet, we were handed menus, but the huevos mexicana were if anything better for not being prepared in advance and kept heated.
Our plan for the morning was to visit the Teatro Juarez and see its much admired interior. The weather was lovely as usual and we enjoyed the walk. From the front steps flanked by bronze lions we could see the Jardin de la Union where we'd had dinner on our first night in Guanajuato.
The interior did not disappoint: five levels of seating, a beautiful proscenium arch and ceiling, much gilt and crystal.
The adjoining reception room not only had a glass ceiling but also a glass-tiled floor to allow light to filter down to the level below
From there we visited the Cervantes Museum, a gift to the city by one of its residents who had been interned in France during World War II and who attributed his sanity during that ordeal to a copy of Don Quixote that he had been allowed to keep. On his return to Mexico after the war he had begun to collect works of all kinds that had either Cervantes or his characters as their theme. The collection was of a high quality in general and we spent quite some time enjoying the various representations.
The rest of the afternoon we were happy just to stroll through the streets, with Michael finding an occasional patch of shade to sit and sketch in.
Thursday, January 29 - Friday, January 30
After breakfast, we checked out and embarked on the 5-hour bus ride back to Mexico City, arriving tired at our hotel of 8 days ago. A good night's sleep and then to the airport for the flight home.