Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:48 PM
Kinnon Family Trip Report 2014 - Touring the Hills Around Guanajuato
Today, we hired a driver to take us around to some of the outlying areas surrounding Guanajuato City so that we could see some of the important sites that are inaccessible by foot. On a regional message board, I found a recommendation for a driver/tour guide named Israel Torres who was available to take us out and around for a few hours in the afternoon. Our first stop was the Santa Rosa majolica ceramics factory high in the mountains. The factory itself was closed for the holiday but the showroom was open for business and Rob and I picked out two lovely pieces to ship back to Playa. They had a dizzying array of styles and patterns and if you are in the market for such decorative items, I would say this is the place to go. Photography is not allowed inside the showroom but we are going to assume I didn't see the clearly posted signs.
From there we went to see some of the mines that made Guanajuato famous and the spectacular Templo de Valenciana. This spectacular church has a rose colored facade and is a one of Mexico's best examples of Churrigueresque (Spanish Barouque) architecture. Inside there are three ornate gold altars and many fine paintings from the 19th century, all in pristine condition.
Valenciana Mine, Guanajuato
Mine of Guadalupe, Guanajuato
After a quick pit stop at the Castillo Santa Cecilia, a former 17th
century mining hacienda re-purposed as a hotel, we decided to visit the
gardens of Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera, another fantastic mining hacienda notable for its
elegant and exquisite themed gardens. I had done a search online before we
arrived in hopes of finding another great spot like the Ethno-botanical
Garden in Oaxaca but all I could find were pages and reviews for El
Charco in San Miguel de Allende. You can imagine my surprise when Israel
brought us to this beautiful property now owned and maintained by the
government of Guanajuato as a state treasure. Constructed at the end of the 17th century, this was the home of
Captain Gabriel de Barrera, whose family was descended from the first
Conde de Rul of Guanajuato's famous Valenciana mine. The grounds are fairly well maintained and is now open to the public and used for weddings, conferences and governmental meetings. If you have visited the vast haciendas in the Yucatan, this might be a bit disappointing. When we were there there were no tours offered in Spanish or English but we enjoyed wandering through the grounds and stopping for a cold beer in the cafe onsite.
With some time to spare before our dinner reservation at Las Mercedes, Israel drove us through some more of Guanajuato's influential neighborhoods and to see some of its most important monuments, historic buildings and places of interest like the Presa de la Olla built in 1749 to hold the city's water supply. Today it is a beautiful park-like setting where people picnic in the nearby gardens or take paddle boats out onto the reservoir. There is a restaurant on the shore which looked like a popular place to meet for lunch. It was a hot day and we saw a few people swimming to cool off.
After our tour, Israel dropped us off at Las Mercedes, a highly renowned, reservations-only restaurant high in the hills over the city. Located in the home of the owner, Las Mercedes offers delicious alta Mexicanana cuisine in an elegant setting. The wine list is fantastic and we had no trouble finding one of our favorites, Gabriel from Adobe Guadalupe. There are only a handful of tables and plenty of staff bustling around giving fantastic service to all. At the end of our meal we met the owner, Sr. Jesús Cárdenas, who was so gracious and obviously very proud of his home, his business and the food they create. If you find yourself in Guanajuato and want to splurge on a fine dining experience, this is the place. Highly recommended.
This was a fantastic day and I really can't recommend Israel and his services highly enough. I think what impressed me the most was how proud he is of his state and of the state government. In Qroo we don't often here too many people complimenting, much less "showing off" the work that has been done by the government for the state and its people. Yet, that's exactly what we heard and saw all day with Israel. At every turn we saw examples of the government stepping in to preserve and maintain buildings and properties important and meaningful to the history of the region. This was such a nice change and made us even more glad we had decided to visit Guanajuato.
If you are in the area and would like to see Guanajuato with Israel Torres, he can be contacted by phone at 473-597-3953 or email IsraelT2007[at]hotmail.com. He also does tours to San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo and other destinations in this fascinating state. Let him know I sent you!