Guanajuato: The Land of Cervantino for All & My Land of Pan Dulce, Zumba Classes, and Pick-Pocketing

pa094917

pa104945

Oh, Guanajuato! How we had grand plans for you! Unfortunately, Aaron and I came in with different ideas about what we would actually do to experience Cervantino, an annual international, performing arts festival, hosted by the city of Guanajuato (also in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico). While it sounded so interesting, unique, and cool, and we had planned to travel north of Mexico City for several hours (out of the way of our gradual travel path, meaning we later had to back-track to get down to Oaxaca) before the onset of our travels to make this seemingly not-to-miss experience happen, I quickly came to realize that I’m too old for this type of thing (okay, I’m not old, but I have an old soul and would much rather spend my evenings hanging out at home and then going to bed at a reasonable hour so I can fully embrace and enjoy the next day as opposed to staying out and about, in the elements, drinking and listening to loud, live music until the wee hours of the morning). Aaron was more open to embracing the Cervantino lifestyle and just going for it, lack of sleep and all! We ended up going out one night for dinner at Bossanova upon the recommendation of a local for healthier food options and live music; we stayed out on their patio watching and listening to live performances for awhile in Plaza de San Fernando, which was Aaron’s favorite part of our stay in Guanajuato. We also heard bands play all night long many nights from our bed in our loft apartment, so really, I don’t feel like I missed a thing! 🙂

pa094922

pa094921
Spain and Jalisco (a state in Mexico) were guests of honor at this year’s Cervantino

Our arrival to Guanajuato is at the top of our list of check-in mishaps we’ve experienced in our travels thus far. Not only did we miss our stop on the bus (the bus station is actually south of the city and thus, we weren’t sure it was it), making a short, 1 1/2-hour ride a long day of many hours spent on the bus, but we arrived in the early evening and our host left us waiting on a balcony (at least she had someone in the complex let us in to wait in that private area and not on the street with all of our stuff!) for about an hour, as it got darker and colder, and we grew hungrier, even more exhausted, grumpy, and in need of a bathroom. I have become much more patient throughout our travels, as waiting is a normal fact of life in Mexico, and I had remained calm, going with the flow throughout the whole bus debacle. But as I stood outside, my unhappiness grew and my relaxed attitude faded. I wasn’t exactly polite when she finally arrived, which if you know me, I am always polite (Aaron thought this is the most kurt he had seen me behave towards someone, probably ever). She explained that with Cervantino going on and the traffic coming back from work, it delayed her more. However, she said she could meet us at the time we said we’d be there, and so we expected it and were waiting to drop off our stuff and quickly find dinner nearby. Aside from this initial encounter, she was really nice and available to us throughout our stay. Our loft was just on the outskirts of one of the main streets that goes through town, Av. Benito Juarez, and the entrance to the building was right at a bus stop, so there were often people standing and sitting around waiting, as such.

pa144999
I thought the tiling, especially in the sink bowl, was beautiful!
pa145000
We were happy for the kitchen to be able to prepare some meals and store perishable food and drinks.
pa145001
Upstairs in the loft
pa145002
Our accommodation was fairly small, but it met our needs and we were happy with it!

Aaron found us a solid, nicer restaurant choice, Mestizo. As we walked through town for the first time, we passed a stage where a band was playing for a larger audience. This was one of two occasions where I experienced some type of night life during our week-long stay (and that was good for me, LOL). I enjoyed the energy as we walked by. We truly enjoyed our dinner dining experience! We didn’t let our daytime experiences ruin our evening together. This meal was a definite food highlight for us both!

img_20161007_205325
The corn-tomato-zucchini dip may look plain, but it was a favorite of ours during this meal!
img_20161007_205540
Huge portion of ceviche – Thank you, Mestizo!
img_20161007_205526
Carpaccio
img_20161007_211539
Corn soup
img_20161007_211530
We don’t remember what this was 🙂
img_20161007_213022
Steak, which was delicious, but we didn’t know how to say, “medium-rare”, in Spanish at the time, so we asked for it, “red”, or rojo, instead!
img_20161007_205319
Sangria, which was too sweet for my taste, but we were celebrating our arrival and start of our time in Guanajuato!

What I enjoyed most about Cervantino were the outdoor performances during the day, which we often stumbled upon as we were exploring the streets of the city. Although upon enjoying street performances during the first couple of days we were there over the weekend, I was pick-pocketed (read #2 of this blog post for details), this really could have happened in any city anywhere in the world where there are large throngs of people gathered, distracted by street performers and walking through crowds. Also in retrospect, I see how I had let my guard down a bit and became a target in this situation.

pa084891

pa084900
Street performers from Argentina
pa084896
Cotton candy vendors with large, bright-colored inventory displays are often walking around the major squares in town throughout Mexico, almost always in the Zocalo, or main square. In this case, this guy was selling to the gathered crowd at the street performances pictured above.
pa094941
This is a street performance we were watching soon before the pick-pocketing incident. Once it ended and we had taken photos from up above, we walked with a crowd into that general direction.
pa094940
Up there is where we were standing watching the street performance above and taking photos of the throngs of people on the streets. Ironically to me, this area is called, Plaza de la Paz, or Peace Square, which is not exactly the vibe I was getting when my phone was stolen from me! LOL
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is what I was taking a picture of right before the pick-pocketing happened. I wanted to capture how many people there were on the streets.
pa084886
Another busy street somewhere else in town as we walked around and took in our surroundings
pa094911
Aaron was curious enough to get out of bed and step outside of our apartment building one early morning when we heard loud music. He stumbled upon a parade!

What helped me recover from feeling violated and kept me looking forward to something was, of course, Zumba® classes! Luckily, I had a couple of options within walking distance (less than 10 minutes) from our loft; Borregos Gym and a random, upstairs space in an unmarked building on Av. Benito Juarez (further down than the gym) where a local instructor, Danny, teaches his Zumba® classes on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:00 a.m. for only $25 MX! My most memorable and rewarding experiences were being asked to teach some songs in one of Sandra’s Zumba® classes at Borregos Gym, and meeting Maria Elena, a very sweet, friendly local, in class at the gym, who chatted with and walked around town with me after classes, telling and showing me where to go and what to do in the area! Read more about this here in #7.

pa114983
Borregos Gym is in the red building on the 2nd floor. This photo was taken across the street from Jardín Reforma. By the way, it’s notable that most parks in Mexico are not like in the U.S.; rather than being mostly green space, they are mostly cemented areas with benches and are more like a central area for people to gather and hang out.
img_0392
The rules of the gym
img_0387
Group fitness room
img_0422
Maria Elena and me after our last class together!
img_0407
Sandra and her students (she’s the 2nd person from the right)! The week I was there, she taught at Borregos Gym on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8:30 a.m. A drop-in class or day use of the gym was only $20 MX (which is about $1 USD)!
img_0397
If you walk through this storefront on Av. Benito Juarez, past Borregos Gym and the park, Jardín Reforma, across the street from it, and go up the stairs, you’ll find an awesome, packed Zumba class!
img_0395
Danny leading his Zumba peeps!

More food and drink experiences (of course)!

img_0424
I admittedly stopped by this panadería, La Purísima, on my way back to our loft after my morning fitness classes to pick out some pan dulce, or sweet bread. I was mindful to choose less sugary options. 🙂
img_0391
This one was okay. Too dry and flaky for my liking (I like my pan dulce moist). But you gotta try a variety while you’re here to embrace the experience!
img_0401
I tried a bag of horchata for the first time! Sugary, but milky and tasty!
img_0418
A scoop of mint chocolate chip gelato and an iced latte to-go from Estacion Gelato
img_0420
Delicious, fresh spring roll with awesome sauce on the side from Delica Mitsu, a mostly vegetarian restaurant recommended to me by my new, local friend’s daughter.
pa114993
Delica Mitsu has sushi, too (not exactly like in the U.S., but the closest and best type I’ve had since traveling in Mexico)!
img_20161008_111648
Chilaquiles verdes at Tulúm – One of our cheapest, tastiest, and most authentic meals in Mexico! Juice, coffee, fruit, and the main dish for only about $6 USD total (for both of us)!
pa104946
Because who wouldn’t want to try sipping chocolate (so decadent!) AND a mocha at a recommended cafe in town!? Thanks, Cafe Tal, and Maria Elena for recommending it as a local hotspot!
img_0390
Caldo de camarones, or shrimp soup – Maria Elena’s recipe (although we blended the limes whole based on something Aaron had read about the type of lime we used, and it came out way too bitter… we’ll try again in the future)!
img_0403
We made some tasty tacos on a couple of occasions while staying at our loft apartment!

Random:

img_0394
I got my color on! I was so excited to find a children’s coloring book in Spanish and colored pencils in a random store we passed while walking around that caught my eye. Coloring + learning new words in Spanish is a great combination!

Sights to see

pa084889
Climb up a hill to get a closer look at Monumento al Pípila…
pa104963
…and get this awesome view of the city of Guanajuato below!

pa104958

pa094925
I’m not always pleased when I’m not in the mood to get sweaty and out of breath in higher altitudes and Aaron takes me on an exploration adventure for who knows for how long…
pa094926
…but then because of it, I might get to see a donkey hanging out on the street!
pa084884
…and I am likely to be rewarded with this amazing view! Thanks, Aaron, for helping me get more steps into my day, and for leading us to see this!
pa114995
We visited the Diego Rivera Museum, and it was okay (there was much more to see in La Casa Azul, where he and his wife, Frida Kahlo, lived — you can read about our visit there here).
pa104944
Teatro Juarez, where you could only enter if you paid to see a performance there (which we didn’t).
pa084887
There were several of these statues sprinkled throughout Guanajuato. Maria Elena shared with me that the city changes them out every so often.
pa084877
Mercado Hidalgo
img_0398
I bought a tie-dyed headband at the Hippie Market (Los Hippies)

In other news, Aaron experienced a bout of intestinal issues for a couple of days (we think it was because of Tacos Al Pastor he ate from a vendor we weren’t sure was a street vendor or had his own shop; he was in what appeared to be a storefront, but it seemed more like an empty building space than an actual restaurant). He spent this time resting in bed while I ventured out for our food, items for Aaron, and my fitness classes. We are lucky to have one another when one of us is ill and unable to move around much, which is more often one of us rather than both of us at the same time (thankfully). I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on my own and not have help when something has me down (trust me, I have more stories to tell as our travel blogs progress to future places and experiences).

Since getting our phone stolen, we had no choice but to adapt to not having it. Aaron is a great navigator, and I have developed my skill set with this a bit more since being forced to without a phone to rely on for step-by-step guidance. Mostly when we arrive in a place, we get a map of the area and mark it up with places we’d like to go to, writing down their names and addresses as well and/or looking up directions in advance. This works out well most of the time, but in one of my first encounters with trying to find a new place in an area I wasn’t already familiar with, I looked up directions in advance to the FedEx store, and of course, I missed my turn and got myself lost. What was supposed to be a 15-minute walk turned into about an hour of me walking around on the outskirts of town (there was still daylight). I eventually followed the signs I saw for Museo de las Momias, which was a landmark I knew had a path back to the Centro area, and stopped a few people along the way to ask the way towards it (although I didn’t know much Spanish when it came to directional verbiage at the time). Eventually, I got it and was relieved, but also sweaty, exhausted, didn’t want to go back out again but had to swing by the grocery store, and was annoyed that after all of that, I still had my items I had been carrying around with me since San Miguel de Allende and needed to ship home! I vowed to not do that to myself again, as I sort of had a mini freak-out internally, going through all the “what-ifs” of not finding my way home, getting picked up by someone, not being able to communicate to Aaron or anyone else because I don’t have a phone, etc. I decided in the future, if I didn’t make each of the directional steps I had written down, I would back-track to where I knew was right, or go back home and look it up again, or wait until I had Aaron with me.

I was pleased to learn that the lavandaria, or laundry shop, was just a few doors down from where we were staying. This was my second time getting my clothing washed during our abroad travels. These aren’t laundromats like in the U.S. where you pay to do your own laundry and wait for it onsite, but rather laundry services where they wash, dry, and (usually) fold your clothes for you, and you return later to pick them up. These services are not expensive, typically equivalent to a few USD. They can be ready the same day (I’ve experienced as quick as a couple of hours after dropping them off), or the following day before the close of business (which was the case for me in Guanajuato). I’ve come to appreciate this service, especially when I have let most of my dirty clothing pile up and haven’t been sink-washing (which at this point in our travels, I hadn’t embraced that practice just yet)!

Overall, I would return to Guanajuato, but not during Cervantino. It just wasn’t for me. But, if the idea of constant artistic performances for a few weeks on end, during the day and at all hours of the night, with performers from all of the world, sounds like the best thing on Earth to you, you may want to check this spectacle out for yourself!

After Guanajuato, we traveled south for a pit-stop in Puebla to break up our overland travel time before reaching Oaxaca City in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico!

Until next time,
Elena 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *