We've had the best day so far.
We went by bus to Dolores Hidalgo, a town about fifty kilometres from here. The bus was very comfortable, large seats that go back, air conditioned, showing a modern DVD and only cost £2 each way. Bit like being at the cinema. Mexican public transport is subsidised but it beats our system hands down. My father was a bus inspector. He'd have been impressed with the 'inspection' of tickets. Some might find it bureaucratic, but there's no getting away with a free ride here. However, each bus we've got on has had a different system. On the bus here from the airport, we bought our tickets from an office. We were given a little bag of goodies: a sandwich, biscuit and drink as we got on the vehicle. We refused it first of all because we thought we'd have to pay. Then saw every other traveller gobbling and supping away so went back and claimed our booty. OK, we were also frisked and videoed, but at least the police are serious about potential free riders. . . and other crime. ' Can't imagine First Great Western, where I worked for a while as a staff counsellor, offering freebies of any sort nowadays.On the local bus you buy your ticket from the bus driver. Today, it was from the driver and then we were checked out by the bus conductor and the inspector. On the bus we hopped on at Queretaro to San Miguel de Allende, the driver waved us in. We thought some drug addict was trying on a scam when a blood-shot eyed young man tried to get money out of us. Our Mexican neighbour kindly intervened and explained it was just the bus conductor trying to take our fare. No tickets issued on this one. Duh!
We passed through beautiful countryside,cactus plants and tamarisk trees lining the road, rolling hills in the distance, a few cows competing for the shade by the road, en route to this historic town, which is also famous for its ceramics. We saw shops full of froggie plant pots and other pottery knick-knacks celebrating the Bi-Centenary of Mexican Independence.
The town is especially famous because it is where a priest, Dolores Hidalgo, fought the Spanish with the help of Allende, Jimenez and other committed revolutionaries in the War of Independence in 1810. There is a great museum charting the road to national independence, walls painted with metaphoric murals showing the atrocities suffered by local people, particularly the Indians and the oppressive influence of the colonial powers. In one painting there is a wounded man lying in obvious pain and on top of him sit a number of eagles,wings spread wide. Our guide told us they represent Britain, France, Spain. The one sitting, watching closely and waiting is the USA. I guess as a socialist this Soviet- realist style, laden with metaphor, color and strength appeals to my romantic vision of revolutionary struggle. It's inspiring and captures the imagination, like stories of Che Guevara and Castro. Emotionally rewarding tourism but intellectually challenging. Our guide, green-eyed with good English, told us he couldn't stand the hypocracy of the Catholic Church and had lost his faith sometime ago.
'When do priests do what they tell us we should do?' he said.
I wonder if there are the same stories about child abuse by priests in Mexico like there are currently running at home, in Ireland and the USA?
After all that excitement we headed for the local ice cream stall on the main square opposite the Cathedral- another beautiful shady plaza, with magpies screching from the trees that we still fail to identify. You can have all the flavours Heston Blumenthal has been touting as original- avocado, beer, tequila and octopus- very salty and not to my taste. Rhys went for the beer-nothing surprising there. I stuck to the familiar- creamy vanilla with fruit and nuts. It still had a surprise factor-I found a prune at the bottom of my cup.
This evening we went into San Miguel and for the first time ventured into the main church-the Parroquia, pink stone like a fluted wedding cake. The overwhelming smell of lillies was breathtaking. Huge vases of post Easter flowers sit on the ornate altar. You could smell their perfume outside on the plaza- sweet and musky.
Finally, this evening at the Biblioteca Public, we attended a wonderful live concert, part of a guitar festival, of a two man group, Daniel Torres and Jonathan Molines, called 'Confluencia'. They had been studying guitar since they were less than 10 years old. They looked in their early twenties. Their classical jazz improvisations were technically amazing and I felt I'd been taken to heaven with their music. In my enthusiasm to communicate my enjoyment and find common ground with one of the artists afterwards, I tried to tell him how my husband had just started to learn the guitar, aged 67, but he didn't really understand. He just signed my programme,' Con mucho aprecio'.