The GTO

IMG_20140724_193654834We are now in the historic town of Guanajuato, known affectionately by locals as GTO. Picture a Spanish colonial town nestled in the far end of a small valley. There are IMG_20140722_164417628brightly colored buildings lining narrow winding streets. There are many quiet parks, plazas with fountains, and interesting churches. Colorful flowers spill over balconies. Now add street vendors and street performers. This gives you a tiny sample of this amazing city. One of our group says she feels like she is in a Disneyland version of an old Mexican town, in all the best ways. And I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful artisan shops and restaurants.

Given its layout, this is a walking town. The locals say that the fastest way to get around is just to walk but no one seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere. This may be due to the fact that there are also inviting benches in the plazas, pleasant outdoor cafes, and strolling musicians.

The downside is that the town center is in the bottom of the valley and the houses are built up the sides of the valley. The streets to the houses are very steep and not evenly paved. Twisting an ankle is an ever-present danger. Also you can’t get directly to anywhere. Jump in a taxi to go four blocks over and you may have to pass the other side of town, plus use a few tunnels, because most of the streets are also one way.

IMG_20140723_135708442Speaking of tunnels, I’ve never seen anything like it. First, this is a mining town, which equals tunnels. Second, back in the day there was a river that was diverted underground. That river was later dammed, which equals more unused tunnels. So the city took the tunnels and integrated them into the street system. It is a very interesting system, a taxi or bus ride might take you in and out of two or three tunnels in a ride across town.

Add to all of that an international festival of the arts (the Cervantino), an international film festival, one of the top Universities in the country and the historical significance of being the starting point of the Mexican War of Independence and you have a very fun town to visit.

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