¡Mexico! Part 2: Paula Spugnardi
Hello, I am Paula Spugnardi, and this is my first time writing a blog entry. My fourteen year old son, Philip and I are here at Casa Hogar for the second time. My task today is to recap our “tourist day” yesterday.
We awoke to the crowing of roosters and prepared to leave by 7:00 a.m.. (The adult Americanos typically gather around the coffee pot each morning and have a leisurely morning of teasing and laughing and inquiring about each other’s sleep and overall health. Being a part of a community is one of my favorite aspects of this experience.) Back to yesterday, amazingly enough, all sixteen of us were ready at 7:00. We loaded up the 15 passenger van and John’s (our host’s) 1985 yellow Dodge Dart and began our three hour trip to Leon. We had a restroom break where we each paid three pesos to enter the restrooms. Upon Derek’s suggestion, we brought several rolls of toilet paper - sometimes they ration t.p. in public restrooms. Speaking of public restrooms, Christina said she never thought she would be so happy to use a public restroom. Toilets that flush, that have stall doors and bathroom floors without standing water are really appreciated.
At Leon we enjoyed shopping at the market. Leon is known for its leather goods. I bought a pair of cowboy boots without speaking any Spanish! Plastic currency really is universally understood.
At Leon, a 10 year old Mexican boy attached himself to our group at the money exchange place and followed us from store to store in helpful, “may I be of service” kind of way. As we prepared to go into lunch, he wanted to pray for us, so we gathered around and closed our eyes. It was in Spanish, but I think the Hail Mary was part of it. It was rather lengthy. The practical traveler in me opened my eyes every so often to make sure this wasn’t a scam in which is cohorts would slip in and steal our money, Fortunately, that was not the case. After Derek gave him a tip, we entered the restaurant, and he went on his way.
After lunch we headed to Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a beautiful, colonial town built on a hillside. We drove through a few tunnels to get the city center. We obviously needed to park our big 15 passenger van, and we followed John and his Dodge Dart into a parking garage that was built into a mountain. Let’s just say, the Dodge Dart had a lot easier time navigating the parking garage than our big old van did. There were many close calls and held breaths as we ascended the garage. We were often inches away from hitting another car of part of the structure, but Derek masterfully maneuvered the van through it all. Halfway through, Christina told Derek she wanted to sing him “You are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” We were all appreciative of Derek’s driving skills. As we reached the top I peeked into the Dart. Philip was grinning from ear to ear enjoying the adventure. Sam’s head was down reading The Shining. He missed his own father’s shining moment. As we parked, Bill rolled out of the Dart and in his humorous way said, “Well that was different.” On the way down, it was one more thrill after another. Once we were through, I asked my traveling companions to describe the experience. Here are there responses:
Gabe “trying to drive a Pac Man course”
Geoff: “taking a fifty foot beam in a tight hallway”
Guanajuato was truly spectacular. The streets are closed to traffic and are brick lined. The houses and businesses are painted in bright colors. We all enjoyed shopping in the market then heading through the downtown to one of its beautiful churches. One of our favorite places was a tree encircled plaza. We watched two street artists make bookmarks with spray paint. (It is a lot cooler than it sounds.) We purchased several, so you may get to see their work when we get back. Derek arranged for a Mariachi band to play for us.
We headed up the mountain and had supper at Real de la Esperanza - a restaurant that was built to look like an old church. We were the only patrons - which is a good thing because we were a merry party and laughed a lot. John parked the Dodge Dart on an incline behind the van and put two rocks under the wheels to make sure it didn’t roll down the hill.
It was dark when we started back up the mountain on our way home. It was a twisty, turning, road, and the fumes from the Dart got to me. Geoff changed seats with me, so I could sit a little closer to the front. Gary gave me a plastic bag just in case, and sure enough I had to use it! All were kind. I especially appreciated Ruth Ann’s gift of wet wipes. Fortunately, my vomiting lasted for just a moment, and there was not a chain reaction of car sick gringos. At our bathroom break fuel stop, Sam gave me his position in the Dart, and I road the rest of the way home in comparative comfort. It was a long drive home, but there was a bit of excitement because the police had a road block up. John explained to the officer, holding his M-16 rifle, who we were and where we were headed. We passed through and made it home just before 1:00 a.m.
It was a wonderful day - full of beautiful sights, excellent company and good cheer.