JR's mini mart!!!!
IF you do check out the Institute Falcon, don't forget to go next door to JR's mini-mart! The guy who owns it is seen in this pic, and is name is JR (say it in Spanish, though)...he's always cheerful, remembers your face (or at least pretends he does!!!), and will teach you spanish whenever you want!!! Now thats a deal!!
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check out Academia Falcon!
This is the school that my girlfriend and I spent 5 weeks at studying Spanish. At first I was a little nervous because mySpanish was so bad I couldn't understand my host family (best host family ever!!!), and the other students had been there longer and were interacting in Spanish alot better...however, within a week, I was morphing into someone who could understand the conversations, and after 5 weeks, I could carry one on myself! It was an amazing school, and was worth it just to see the architecture (renovated), and the cooking classes, conversation evening classes and salsa lessons were a favorite among tourists from all over the world...
- Study Abroad
Nice-to-do: Visit a Silver Mine
Ever since the early years of the Spanish colonization, Guanajuato has been an area of silver mines. A valuable choice for a couple of hours getaway from the city is visiting one of the few mines, some dismissed other still in operation (though largely worked out), opened to tourists.
Of the four or five mines in the area, the top two worth mentioning are the Valenciana Mine (Mina de Valenciana) and the Rayas Mine (Mina Rayas), either one still in operation. The former has been for centuries the most profitable mine in the New World, providing at a certain time up to two third of all silver mined in Guanajuato, the latter is the oldest mine in the area, dating operation back to XVI century. I visited instead the dismissed El Nopal Mine (Mina El Nopal), a kind of "educational mine" which also provides guided tours. The visit takes no longer than half an hour, is limited to the first tranche of the mine, but I assure you that that is enough to realize how harsh working conditions for mine workers must have been in the centuries and likely still are.
All mines are out of town and you will need transportation to get there. You may hire a taxi and ask the driver to wait for your visit.
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A few km out of the city...
A few km out of the city center, you find the Ex-Hacienda of San Gabriel de Barrera. It is a former place for refining silver ores. Now it is a museum with an outstanding XVII Century art and furniture collection. Although famous for the wonderful gardens, the museum's jewel is the gilded open chapel. More info comes later.
Visit for more info and pictures my Hacienda travelogue please…
Guanajuato used to have some rivers that now have dissapeared. The reason they were dried. Years later the city faced the challenge of preserving the historical heritage and also provide the citizens with mobility. the solution was to use the old river to build a subterranean street that avoided the cars to drive trough the downtown.
The street can be walked by and there are several points of acces in the city, I read that you can see some remains of old buildings that were buried by the river, I didn't saw any so I don't know if I walked the wrong area or if you need an archeologist eye to notice them.
Anyway remains or not is fun to walk a small area of this street.
Guanajuato is still a mining town and still produces a lot of minerals and metals, around the town you will find many mines wich is possible to visit, the most popular is undoubtedly La Valenciana, wich beside the trip around the mine offers the possibility to see the beautiful baroque temples that unfortunately I missed but that you should definitively consider visiting.
We weren't planing on visiting any mines on our trip, but by luck we ended knowing the Mina Rayas, wich owns it's name to the discoverer of the place Juan Rayas, a muleteer that found the metals in this zone around 1550, this is considered to be the oldest mine in all the city, and it is still producing metals today.
The mine reached it's peak production in the XVII Century and it is located on the panoramic highway that surrounds the city, that is the way in wich we discovered the place, we took this highway to see all the city from the hills that surround it and then, by pure chance we stopped in it.
It is not possible to visit the interior of the mine, but in 1970 a gardened square was built to beautify the place and it is still around, from up there you get a nice view, the city is better seen from the Pipila statue, but from up here you'll get a view of the hills surrounding the city wich, specially if you like geography, will give you a good idea of the physical enviroment of the zone; you can also see the remains of the church that was once used by the miners.
I don't know any way of getting there beside a car, so you'll probably need a taxi to reach the place.
Florencio Antillón Park and Presa de la Olla
Another not very well known attraction outside the historical downtown, I think most of the people that reach this place come here as it is a stop in some city bus tours, that way they only take a quick look and they leave for their next stop. I first arrived here on one of those tours that my family was eager to take, since I almost always dislike this fast trips I talk them into visiting the place again next day, this time at our own pace.
The name of the park was given to honor Florencio Antillón, a militar and governor of the city of Guanajuato, when we were there the park had no people on it, so we had a very calmed and relaxing walk around it, it has several gardens and it finishes on a small dam called San Renovato.
There are a couple of gardens on the park, the one that is nearest to the dam has a statue of Miguel Hidalgo, there is also a typical mexican kiosc. After that there is another dam called Presa de la Olla with a lighthouse on the shore wich, when I was there, was open making it possible to walk to the top of it, I have no idea what is the use of the lighthouse in that place were there has never been ships, but it is still a nice view.
Finally there is another garden in wich I found out a tomb that no tourist guide or web page told me about, the famous and great mexican writer Jorge Ibargüengoitia is buried there, probably Ibargüengoitia is unkown for many foreigners but he is a very respected writer and it was a nice surprise to find his tomb; it also gave me a chance to rant about tours: "see, if we had not come on our own to this place we would have nerver found out about this" finding this unexpected things make traveling more rewarding for me.
On a bad note the small ammount of visitors might be the cause for this place not to be as good taken care off as others, I say this because regretfully when we entered the lighthouse there was a terrible urine odor, my guess is that at night some drunk people decided it was a good place to attend their needs, and since the place is open and empty there was nobody to stopped them, also there was nobody to clean next morning and the smell stays there, for us it was nothing but an incentive to reach the top quickier so we could breath fresh air and it was nothing that would ruin our visit, but it is not nice to find that when you enter a place and it could easily be avoided, that was some years ago so maybe it is better taken care off now.
Around the park
Just for completing my previous tip I am going to add some more images, in particular those near the Presa de San Renovato where some statues of a cocodrile and a serpent had been added inside the gardens, I remember somebody told me a story about why did they choose those animals but I don't really remember it, if I find out about it someday I'll update my tip.
Near the park there are some other off the beaten path attractions, but I think the best way to go is simply walk the zone wich has an architecture a little bit different from the one at downtown, during the XIX century the rich families of the city lived on this area so you can see some houses that date back to that century. The most noted is the house of Juventino Rosas, a famous mexican composer from that time wich is noted enough to have a city with his name in other zone of the state.
Further down you can find the legislative palace were if you ask for permission you may walk in to see the architecture and paintings that adorn it and further down (probably not on a walking distance) the church of San Sebastian, a colonial church famous due to the fact that it was the resting place of the heads of the independence rebels when they were finally removed from the corners of the alhondiga after years of exhibition, it was being restored when I was there so we couldn't really see it.
Since the park and the dams are outside the downtown the best choice to get there is by taxi, if you have enough budget ask him to take you there through the panoramic highway.
The Town of Mellado
the unplanned visit to Mina Rayas led to another discovery, when we were about to return to the car and drive back to the city I saw a sign that said Mellado and it had an arrow pointing to some stairs going way up. Being as curious as I am I promptly decided to walk that way and to find out what was Mellado. The answer is that Mellador refered to a small town whose complete name is Mineral de Mellado and wich, as in all the world, has been swallowed by the growth of the big city that once was it's neighbor.
But despite the fact that today it is no longer considered a town but a part of the city of Guanajuato, the geography of the zone results in Mellado being isolated from the rest of Guanajuato, after I finished walking up the stairs and I entered the town I felt as if I was walking into a complete different place, Mellado has the quiet and peace impossible to find in big cities, and as I walked it's streets I could hear roosters crowing and absolutely no cars, in fact on my short visit I only crossed another person in the town, a nice man who with the friendliness you only find on this small places welcomed me with a smile.
The town is actually very nice, it is a place founded in colonial times and at least on the zone I was in it remains mostly unchanged so I felt it as a trip back in time, it is a great chance to now a typical mexican town without it being invaded by tourists.
The main building I saw is the old convent that also dates back to colonial times ad it has a nice facade, unfortunately I couldn't see it inside since it was closed when I was there and since my family was waiting for me I didn't had time to wait for it to be opened or ask someone for the key, I'll do it next time I visit Guanajuato.
Also and this on the legends department there was a plaque saying that this is the place were el Pípila, the miner who opened the doors of the alhondiga for the rebel army that sought the independence of Mexico, was born here.
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Just a Walk
Just a walk is what will provide you with a greatest satisfaction and personal retreat. This is how you will truly meet the city, all of its secrets.
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