Location: Zacatecas, Zacatecas, México
Date: December 2012
Length: 4 days, 5 nights
During my intensive training for a TEFL Certificate in December, I had a wonderful classmate, Alan, who, at my expression to see more of México, suggested I visit his town during Christmas break. The road to Zacatecas from Guadalajara is easy and picturesque on the ETN (free WIFI, air conditioning, comfortable seats, even a snack). As you arrive, the town appears over a small mountain range as a colorful, patchwork quilt, almost like a fairytale landscape; on this day the sky was full of billowy clouds, adding to the dreamy effect.
After a short taxi ride from the bus station to the charming and centrally-located Hotel Posada Tolosa, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore. My first stop was the cathedral, with its glittery stone edifice and gorgeous intricate carvings. Just as some tour books say, the cathedral glows around sunset, blending with the rose-colored sky. Since I was in town during Navidad, a beautiful nativity scene sat opposite the cathedral in the plaza, with an ice skating rink and traditional snacks (atole, hot chocolate, palamitas de maiz) to warm the crowds against the chilly night air.
Feeling hungry after a bit of exploring, the hotel recommended Gorditas Doña Julia, a few blocks away, and I am happy they did. These pocket tortillas, stuffed with meat, cheese or other fillings and flash-fried, arrive fragrant and piping hot: no wonder the restaurant had a wait for tables! After seating, I was served a chilled homemade tamarindo agua fresca and ordered the spicy napolitos and sautéed champiñones. Both were incredible: mouth-watering, flavorful and freshly made: what a wonderful traditional dish.
In the daytime, I explored Zacatecas’ many sights, including Museo Pedro Coronel, filled with impressive works from Miró, Picasso and Matta (among hundreds of other artists), and the swanky Hotel Quinta Real, built into the grandstand of the restored San Pedro bullfighting ring, next to the expansive aqueduct.
I met a new friend, Latin dance artist (vocalist) Rolando, whom I had chatted with the previous day. Impressed with his handsome demeanor and smooth voice, I purchased Rolando’s CD; later that afternoon we explored the Museo Rafael Coronel together. The museum, which features an enormous collection of traditional masks, is housed in a huge, former monastery. The vine-lined grounds, lush with greens emerging from stone crevices and archways, is a popular spot for wedding and quincenera photos — we witnessed several beautiful images being staged during the day.
At night, Zacatecas offers several options, from dining out to dancing to theater events. One fun option is La Mina Edén – a dance club inside an old mine shaft. As if the ride in the speedy, rickety little train weren’t enough, far down below the Earth’s surface is a cool, rock-lined club with DJ’s, a light and video show, cocktail service and corny mine-themed props: definitely fun to visit with friends.
No visit to Zacatecas would be complete without a ride on the Teleférico, a tiny car that glides above the city to the gigantic Cerro de la Bufa, with a museum, cathedral and craft vendors. La Bufa features a huge statue honoring Mexican Revolutionary general Pancho Villa, whose definitive battle against dictator Victoriano Huerta occurred on this rugged hill in June 1914. (Zip lining across a cavernous valley is also available for those who dare!) I was smitten with the cute Teleférico and its delightful conductor, who told bromas en español as we floated over the colorful neighborhoods.
My long weekend in Zacatecas wrapped up nicely: enjoying tortas with another new friend, Edson, and walking through the city on sidewalks as narrow as 12 inches in some places. With ice cream in their hands and babies in strollers, people pause to let others pass: Zacatecas is a friendly town. Settling for a while in Parque Sierra de Alica, with its huge, turquoise fountains, we watched the afternoon roll over this historic, lovely place and I was grateful for the suggestion of a visit here.