Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Colonial Town of Atlixco, in Puebla

Working our way back to Mexico City, we spent Wednesday night in Tepotzlan, a Pueblo Magico in the state of Morelos.  There we visited Eduardo's friend from Venice Beach, Alejandro, and then set out the next day for the state of Puebla. We spent our first night in Atlixco, a charming colonial town known for its temperate climate year round, which is working on becoming a Pueblo Magico. 
As we walked the streets, we saw workers everywhere sprucing up the town.
Atlixco was first settled in the 11th century,
and sits at the foot of Popocatepetl, which is an active volcano, and the second highest peak in Mexico, towering over 17,800 feet.
Puebla is know for its churches, and we visited several beautiful ones in Atlixco, the first being Capilla de la Tercera.  The facade was my favorite part of this church, built in the baroque style of the 1800's.
Next we visited Santa Maria de las Asuncion, a church,
 and former convent,
 filled with dramatic sculpture,
unique ceiling ornamentation,
and baroque style decoration on the altar.
Heading towards the town square, we saw attractive carved wooden doors featuring animals,
and angels.
The town square, or zocalo, has the Italian Coffee Company in the center, and is ringed by colorful tiled benches.  The zocalo was buzzing with activity.
Another beautiful antique church, The Church of Santa Maria de la Navidad sits at the edge of the zocalo.
Wandering a block past the square, we visited the municipal building.  The interior was decorated with painted tiles and brightly colored painted murals depicting the history of the town.
These brightly painted tiles can also be seen around the town, in many different styles, decorating the facades of buildings.
I liked this old rustic ceiling at the University.
As a side note, I learned a lesson about hotel hunting when we visited Atlixco.  At first glance, it seemed there were two choices.  There were the two boutique hotels facing the zocalo, each priced at around $1200 pesos a night (around $100), or several very unattractive hotels priced at about $300 pesos (about $25) or under.  We continued searching, and found a gem just a block off the square, called the Hotel Olinala.  I knew this would be good luck because we had visited Olinala and loved it there (I haven't written about this town yet because I have a lot to say!). 
The hotel was clean, beautifully decorated, with a super hot shower and internet in the room, for the same $300 pesos that the other hotels were asking!  Look at the decoration on the reception desk.
This taught me yet another lesson in Mexico about patience and perseverance.  Sometimes it seems like the older I get, the more I have to learn!

xo Linda

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Visiting the Grutas of Cacahualmilpa

Wednesday morning we finally left the magic city of Taxco, after spending six nights there.  Eduardo asked me if I would like to make one more stop in the state of Guerrero, to visit the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park, which is home to one of the largest cave systems in the world.  Although I may have visited small caves in Wisconsin as a child, I can't remember ever being in a large one, so I was excited. 
Outside, the weather was quite hot, but I was expecting it to be cool inside the cave, so I brought a long sleeved shirt along.  Once inside the cave, I was surprised to find it was quite warm and humid. 
We paid 70 pesos per person (less than $7.00 each), and had a tour guide who led us about one and half miles into the cave.  There were quite a few steps, uphill, and it was a work-out because our guide moved at quite a clip.  Luckily we just spent six days in Taxco walking up and down steps and hills, so we were ready!
The stalactite and stalagmite formations were towering and dramatic, and would light up as the guide talked about them.  Mostly he would just point out how certain formations resembled animals or people, and talked little of the history of the cave. 
I thought it was interesting that there was a small amphitheater inside the cave, where famous entertainers have performed such as Andrea Bocelli, Paul Mc Cartney, and Lady Gaga.  The acoustics must be just amazing. 

I also thought it was interesting that there was a bathroom inside the cave, manned by a person, as is often the case with public bathrooms here in Mexico.  Imagine having the job of sitting outside the bathroom, collecting pesos and handing out toilet paper, in a cave.

This one particular circle in the top of the cave seemed other-wordly to me. 
When we reached the one and half mile mark, the tour guide left us, and we were on our own to follow the path back to the entrance of the cave.  It was quiet and dark.  A very interesting experience that I found a little unnerving.  But soon enough, we once again saw the light of day.
We got back in the car and headed for the state of Morelos, where we would spend Wednesday night in yet another Pueblo Magico, namely Tepoztlan.

xo Linda

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mountain Climbing, Stone Carving and Eduardo Capetillo in Taxco

Yesterday morning (Tuesday), we had every intention of leaving Taxco, so we packed up our things and said good-bye to our room at the Hotel Loma Linda, where we spent the last five nights.
We took one last look at the beautiful view from our room,
put our things in the car, and took a walk into town to finish our business here.  Of course we did our usual routine of fresh orange juice, followed by pan and coffee.
Then our first stop was to talk business with a jewelry friend who works with custom designs in silver.  These are the steps I climbed to get up to his workshop.
Then we took a taxi up to the colony of Agua Blanca.  I forgot to mention that the VW taxis here in Taxco have all removed the front passenger seat.
In Agua Blanca, the roads are very narrow, and there are many areas with no guard rails.  Although some people own cars, the most common way to get around is by taxi.  Sometimes the roads are so narrow that the cars barely brush right past you while you are walking.  I decided that a VW is pretty small, but it would still hurt if it ran over my foot!
We went in search of Eduardo's friend of 20 years, a master carver named Felix.  Felix's family has no phone, so if you want him, you have to find him!  We first stopped at his house, and his mother-in-law, age 81, told us there were at a fiesta up the hill.  She announced that she would take us there, and said "vamanos"!
We found him at a picturesque antique style house at the top of the hill,
where were drank tequila while Felix and Eduardo talked stone carving,
and we ate delicious bean tamales in Mole sauce.
Then we took a walk back to Felix's house, to see his studio and his work.  Here's Felix at the top of the steps to his home.
And here's me.  I think Taxco was made for mountain goats!
Up in his studio, Felix gave us a demonstration of how he does his stone carving.
And here are some finished pieces, before polishing,
and after polishing.
He does hand carved figures of all types, as well as hand carved beads.
I am very excited that we are coming home with some great treasures for our business from Felix!  Here's the view from his rooftop studio.
Time was running, and it was now almost four o'clock.  We said our good-byes, and started walking back down the hill towards the town center.  At this point we realized that it was getting too late to leave, and decided to spend one more night here in the hotel.  So we decided to visit a new friend in town, named Alfredo.  I saw some beautiful stone work on the way to his shop.
Alfredo has won awards for his jewelry work, and has a shop called "Alfredo's Taller Workshop", which is quite close to the main square and the church, Santa Prisca.  When we got to Alfredo's shop, there was a lot of activity because they were filming a Novella almost right outside his door, featuring the Mexican actor Eduardo Capetillo.
Eduardo caught me taking his picture in true paparazzi style, and he gave me a big, beautiful smile.  Muchas gracias, Eduardo!
Meanwhile, in his shop, Alfredo was busy soldering.
Alfredo sells his custom jewelry, along with crafts that he gathers from the entire region of Guerrero.
Right across from his shop is a metal sculpture in honor to William Spratling, who is a famous silver designer who lived and worked in Taxco.  There is a Spratling Museum here that is open very limited hours, and if I am lucky enough to visit it before we leave town, I will talk more about Spratling tomorrow.
The moon was beginning to rise as we bid farewell to Alfredo and headed over to our favorite pizza place.
I noticed the beautiful iron work on the windows of Santa Prisca.
Tired and hungry from another busy day, we sat down to a delicious vegetarian pizza at our favorite spot,
then walked back to the hotel, for what will now be our sixth night in Taxco.  A most rewarding and fulfulling day in town that is hard to leave!

xo Linda