Below is the final part in the Magical Mexico road trip series. There is nothing more satisfying than reliving your travel adventures over again, remembering small details that accumulate to make up your experience as a whole while on the road.
We departed from San Miguel de Allende early enough to make a few stops before arriving at our final destination of Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro, the third UNESCO World Heritage Site on our trip. We all agreed that checking out the archaeological site of Cañada de la Virgen was a must, a 40-acre natural reserve offering horseback riding, camping, and astrology tours. As well as guided tours through the seven Otomí and Toltec pyramid structures, built along the basin of the Laja River.
We ended up not having enough time to go on the 2.5 hour tour, but we took it upon ourselves to seek out a vista point where we could spy the pyramids from afar. The clouds were on display that day, and the surrounding hillsides crested and fell infinitely. A short stop to stretch our legs and find food, had us wandering around the small city of Celaya and its charming colonial city center. We found some amazing street empanadas and gorditas, almost got attacked by tiny dogs guarding a bathroom, and became local celebrities to two young convenient store workers who had never met Americans before.
As we approached Qerétero, we became silently terrified as we realized the monstrous size of the city. 10 lanes of traffic, sprawling urban areas, confusing signage. In a desperate attempt to orient ourselves, I pretended to stay calm behind the wheel, while the other two frantically swiped through screen shots of maps and directions. But before we realized, we had left the madness of the frantic commercial district, and were slowly making our way to the colonial center where our room at Meson ‘D Isabel was waiting for us. As we ventured out on foot, the vast enormity of the city center unfolded before us. Every 500 meters or so we would come to a new central garden with blooming flora, cobblestone streets and impressive colonial architecture. We knew that a guided tour would be the only way to truly appreciate the history.
We walked up to a help kiosk in one of the main gardens and asked about tour options. We agreed that a tour in English would be best so as not to miss out on any details… but alas, no English tours available! One of the girls working in the kiosk spoke up and said her boyfriend speaks English and is a tour guide, and she proceeded to give us his number to call. We called, and one hour later we were jumping into 20 year old Luis’ Mustang convertible for a two hour tour of the city. Needless to say, we covered a lot of ground and a lot of history on that stunningly sunny day. The city of Querétero is comparable to the U.S city of Philadelphia, in that many important people lived and died there, great documents determining the fate of the country were signed in its buildings, and revolutions began and ended in its streets.
Charles G.’s TripAdvisor review sums up The Hill of the Bells: “Known to local residents as “Cerro de las Campanas”, this is an urban park of historical interest and site of an interesting museum. In 1867, would-be Emperor of Mexico Maximilian and his two top generals were executed for treason on the Cerro by the restored republican government of Juarez. The chapel in the park commemorates their death, while the enormous statue of Juarez on the top of the hill is in tribute to the legitimate government of Mexico.”
The name of the park comes from the bell-like sound made from striking rocks, specific to the area, against one another. Also, FUN FACT: The creator of the huge Benito Juarez statue also build La Pipila statue we visited in Guanajuato!
The aqueducts are a living piece of history, built in the mid 1700s to bring water to the city from La Cañada de la Virgen region. The dozens if not hundreds of fountains located throughout the historic center and surrounding areas provided the pressure needed to move the water throughout the city.
The rest of our time in Querétero was spent walking around the endless plazas and gardens, admiring and occasionally buying small gifts from vendors. We drank at an Irish pub, and ate the most amazing green mole tacos known to mankind. We enjoyed the simple pleasure of drinking beer outside, listening to live music, and strong WiFi signals.
We parted ways in the morning, Angela catching a bus back to San Miguel, and we back to Guadalajara. The drive back took twice as long as anticipated, right around 6 hours. We missed exits, became lost on a small country road that ended abruptly into the side of a mountain, but we became pros at asking for directions.
My brilliant travel companion had the idea to return the car as soon as we got near the airport instead of waiting until the next morning when we would be leaving. It turns out that Guadalajara is huge. We laughed maniacally in the back of our taxi, thinking how impossible it would have been for us to navigate the freeway and maze of urban chaos at that point in the trip: dirty, exhausted, famished.
We checked in to Hostel International’s Hosped’arte and shuffled to our private room for the night. We had a small balcony overlooking the neighborhood, which proved the perfect spot to enjoy our Domino’s pizza and Tecate before our 2:30 am wake up call.
I am now obsessed with the prospect of future road trips, at home and abroad, with a few more up my sleeve for this summer. Do you have any plans for a road trip in the near future or even this summer? Leave a comment and let me know where you are going!