Staired Out in Guanajuato

After living in Guanajuato for almost two months, my brother Don sends me an email asking, “Staired out yet?”   Having lived in Guanajuato himself off and on for the past couple of years, he knows what a mental and physical toll climbing 150 steps, about the equivalent of ten stories every day can take.   It’s not just the climb, but the carry.  Hauling my “mochilla,” (backpack) filled with books, laptop, and bags of groceries up the steep, uneven steps every day gets to be quite a tedious task.  I find myself approaching each outing as a day trip…what all will I possibly need while I am “downtown?”  And looking for excuses to prolong the inevitable as evening approaches.

So what does one do when they are “staired out?”  Why head to San Miguel de Allende, of course.  It’s only an hour ride away on the Primera Plus Luxury Bus.   For 280 pesos round trip ($14) the cost of a hotel room, one can have a weekend getaway in what Conde Nast anointed the “World’s Best City!”

Mexican buses just keep getting more and more sophisticated. This one has individual remote controls in each seat!

Mexican buses just keep getting more and more sophisticated. This one has individual remote controls in each seat!

San Miguel's wonderful Saturday Organic Market.

San Miguel’s wonderful Saturday Organic Market.

It's a great place to have lunch on Saturday mornings.

It’s a great place to have lunch on Saturday mornings.

Think about this next time the bag says "Triple Washed."

Think about this next time the bag says “Triple Washed.”

This guy is standing alone on the street corner, belting out a version of "Nessun Dorma" that would rival Pavarotti.

This guy is standing alone on the street corner, belting out a version of “Nessun Dorma” that would rival Pavarotti.

Garlic cloves...Vampires?

Garlic cloves…Vampires?

In this case, I don’t have to worry about a hotel room, as my dear friend Holly has graciously offered up her spare bedroom.  In exchange, I’ll be taking care of her adorable dogs, Lillybell and The Dude, and their dog cousin Maggie while she is away.

These are my charges for the weekend. Lillie Belle, who has the most expressive eyes, and her brother, Dude.

These are my roomies for the weekend. Lillybelle, who has the most expressive eyes, (“Why are you sitting in my mother’s chair?”) and her brother, Dude.

Lillybelle enjoys a good Facebook fix as do I.

Lillybelle enjoys a good Facebook fix as do I.

Facebook fix is quickly turning into a nap.

Facebook fix is quickly turning into a nap.

Soon, we are joined by the neighbor's chihuahua "Besos." It's getting crowded in this chair.

Soon, we are joined by the neighbor’s chihuahua “Besos.” It’s getting crowded in this chair.

Besides, Lila Downs is coming to town! That’s a big deal here in Mexico! Lila (pronounced “LEE-lah”) is one of Mexico’s most popular performing acts. Although she is little known in the US, (unless you happened to catch her performing opposite Selma Hayek in the movie “Frida”) she sells out night after night in Mexico, and even southern California.

But this is not just any concert; this is opening night at San Miguel’s new musical venue, Concha Acústica. The new “acoustic shell,” looking a little like an abstract peace dove spreading its wings, is a recent addition to San Miguel’s new Bicentennial park, a few miles outside of town. Having asked a few local taxi drivers, no one seems to even know where it is, so I beg a ride from my friend Michael, who also has plans to attend.

Many of San Miguel's cobblestone streets are too narrow for heavy equipment, so roads are "hecho a mano."

Many of San Miguel’s cobblestone streets are too narrow for heavy equipment, so roads are “hecho a mano,” hand made.

If you were ever curious what's beneath a Mexican manhole...

If you were ever curious what’s beneath a Mexican manhole…

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Note the "Dia de Muerte" (Day of the Dead) window weaving at my favorite restaurant, Don Taco Tequila.

Note the “Dia de Muerte” (Day of the Dead) window weaving at my favorite restaurant, Don Taco Tequila.

This taco is called "El Bigote" or The Mustache. Fillings are grilled inside a crispy cheese shell with tortilla on the outside. Note avocado "mustache."

This taco is called “El Bigote” or The Mustache. Fillings are grilled inside a crispy cheese shell with tortilla on the outside. Note avocado “mustache.”

Que lastima!  What a pity to arrive to find ominous skies threatening for this opening night.  We make a plan.  It it turns out to be sprinkles or light rain, we will stick it out.  But if the skies open up and it begins to flood, we will meet back at the car.

I’ve mentioned before the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mexican people, always offering what you need before you even realize you need it.   There is no better example than the Concha Acústica.   It’s opening night at a brand new venue, and already vendors are walking the aisles with stacks of perfectly-sized foam cushions for rent for 40 Pesos ($2 US.)   But as the stadium fills and skies darken, those vendors quickly switch from selling seat cushions to hawking plastic rain ponchos.  And the price goes up!   Fifty pesos!  I deem $2.50US too expensive to pay for a human baggie.  Besides, I can’t get past the years of plastic in the landfill, just to keep me dry for a couple of hours.  It’s a warm night and the raindrops feel good, so I’ll take my chances.  But it’s starting to look like an audience of Smurfs as all the concert-goers don the blue hooded ponchos.

Beautiful new Concha Acustica, or acoustic shell.

Beautiful new Concha Acustica, or acoustic shell.

Stacks of sear cushions for rent for 40 pesons, about $2, a worthy investment.

Stacks of sear cushions for rent for 40 pesos, about $2, a worthy investment.

Concert ramps up under darkening skies.

Concert ramps up under darkening skies.

Soon the money exchange is for rain ponchos instead of seat covers.

Soon the money exchange is for rain ponchos instead of seat covers.

The rains come, but not for long.  After the opening act, a breeze blows through and takes the rain clouds with it.   We are treated to almost two hours of beautiful bold ballads and cantina songs from one of Mexico’s favorites.  The audience loves Lila, and seems to know every word.

Lila Downs takes the stage and the crowd is louder than the thunder.

Lila Downs takes the stage and the crowd is louder than the thunder.

Born and raised in Oaxaca, she attended the University of Minnesota, so some songs are introduced in both languages.

Born and raised in Oaxaca, she attended the University of Minnesota, so some songs are introduced in both languages.

Just before the rain...

Just before the rain…

After the final encore, a fireworks show goes off beside the auditorium, perfectly coordinated with music over the intercom.    Then, as if on cue, at the end of the show, a clap of thunder splits the night sky, and the rain returns.    The audience scrambles, blue ponchos billowing in the breeze.  We make a mad dash back to the car, with a late night “drive by” stop at Andy’s Street Tacos on the way home.

What a wonderful weekend break from the mounting heat and monotony of stairs!

8 thoughts on “Staired Out in Guanajuato

  1. San Miguel is near the top of my list. I’m just looking for a travel buddy…or maybe some encouragement to go alone if I don’t want to wait! I’ve loved every word and photo of your Mexico travels, Suzanne. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there…most memorable being with a friend traveling the perimeter of the country in his old duct-taped-together travel trailer. The good ol’ days :)
    Kat

  2. Just curious as to how much tickets cost for the show, after looking at the high prices for concert tickets at Red Rocks in Denver.
    How fortunate that the rain let up. Looks like you had a great evening!

    • Hi, Gayle — Like so many things in Mexico, there was a pretty vast spread in pricing. The small theater itself that three tiers. I think it was around $60 (give or take peso conversion) for the front section. I sat in the middle section for around $30, and the back section was about $15. But the theater was surrounded by a nice sloping lawn, where you could BYO lawn chair and sit for free.

      Another really odd thing about this concert venue which I learned is typical in Mexico…they serve hard liquor cocktails. Big tall glasses of mixed drinks. Yet you rarely see a traffic accident here, so they must be skilled. haha!

  3. I am working on a possible 7 week house sit in San Miguel De Allende. I hope it come thru. Looks like such a lovely town in Mexico. Fun too !

    • Sue, that is GREAT news! I hope it works out for you. There is much to explore here, and a nice saturday morning hiking club, if you like that sort of thing. Let me know if it works out for you…

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