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MARTES 18 JULIO
Today was “tour” day for us. We arranged with Uriel to provide an all day tour of interesting places away from Queretaro. As expected, he showed up right on time, early morning, for our adventure.
Our first stop was San Sebastian Bernal. A lovely village kept spic and span to accommodate the influx of tourists attracted to the main spectacle of the area, the 3rd largest monolith in the world “Pena de Bernal” (3rd largest according to Uriel, but my further research put its size a distant 10th in global pecking order).
Nevertheless the peak is impressive in its own right, and the accompanying village (lying literally at Bernal’s flanks) is a beautiful town, with streets and sidewalks literally WASHED by hand on a daily basis.
The village sits at an elevation of roughly 6,900 feet, an environment that provides the most refreshingly crisp and clean air one might imagine.
There is a trail that leads to a point about 2/3 of the distance up the rock’s summit, the remaining disttance accessible only with ropes and climbing gear.
Uriel tried to entice us to make the climb (as many of his younger clients have done) but Dorothee’s innate fear of heights, and my general aversion to unnecessary exertion nixed that idea. I played the old “altitude sickness” card to get us off the hook.. Uriel had to settle for pictures with the peak in the background!
As an alternative, Uriel herded us into the lovely village, where he seemed to know all the shop keepers (no doubt with some kickbacks involved).
Our first stop was a shop that produced and sold a huge variety of woven woolen goods, from blankets to full size floor rugs, to smaller wall hangings.
Uriel’s connection gained us access to the supposedly-otherwise-off-limits-to-tourists inner sanctum of the works, where the decidedly manual process of weaving takes place. The short video below is worthy of a quick watch.. we certainly found the process (as well as the working conditions) interesting:
Of course, it was impossible for us to take advantage of this unique glimpse into the craftsmen’s activities without purchasing something (aided by enthusiastic encouragement from Uriel).
Although every square foot of wall and floor space in our house is already spoken for, we spent quite some time going through the huge inventory of items, all produced right in that little back shed, and finally settled on this beautiful rug (the embarrasingly cheap price was the final deciding factor):
Next stop on our list was a lovely vinyard and winery, where we sampled some fine examples of regional wine (and, yes, left with a full bottle in the “purchases” bag).
Our final, and longest stop was in the beautiful and quite touristy village of Tequisquiapan (in spite of multiple attempts from Uriel, he couldn’t quite get an acceptable pronunciation from me!)
Our stop for lunch was at a traditional “Barbacoa de Hoyo” cafe, where they smoke pieces of sheep in a tandoori-style brick-lined open top oven. The bricks are heated via propane gas at a bottom opening until they are near red hot. Then a big pan of “soup” with spices is placed inside, followed by a grate, and then the meat, which is covered by huge Agave leaves to retain the moisture and heat for the 12+ hour cooking cycle. (my apology for the video’s reference to 24 hours.. the altitude makes the math a bit fuzzy)
Once the “goodies” are carefully packed inside, the oven is covered with a steel lid, followed by some 5-6 inches of wet sand on top to retain the heat.
We were fortunate to be finishing our comida just as they were preparing the oven, so I got to make a short video of the process:
It was a long day but an adventurous and exciting one. Uriel dropped us off at our house at early evening. Our plan had been to walk down to the plaza for dinner, but shortly after we entered the house, the heavens opened up with a serious downburst accompanied by a large measure of thunder and lightning. Not the kind of weather one wants to be out on foot in.
That gave us good excuse to just scratch together some snacks from our at-home provisions and snuggle in with a good book and video for the evening.
This is an appropriate time to mention the weather here in Qro. We learned after-the-fact that July is considered the rainiest month of the year. So far, after some 2 weeks in residence, there has only been one day where it rained most of the day, and that was mostly just light passing showers.
Our typical day is to wake up with near-cloudless skies, then to expect some clouds by mid-afternoon, frequently morphing into seriously threatening dark clouds by early evening, which then tend to dissipate by dark. Of course, the moderate temperature makes even a rainy day a non-event!
MIERCOLES 19 JULIO
Wednesday seemed to appropriately be another “light duty” day. Nevertheless, we were up and out of the house at a reasonably early hour. I should note that our “own” street is a strange mixed amalgam of residential and business structures.
The term “house” almost doesn’t fit the common layout in this historic district. Basically each long block consists of an almost continuous wall of conjoined strutures, both residence and business.
Our own iron fortress door is the only evidence there might be living quarters behind. We are flanked on one side by a small cafe, and on the other by some mysterious enterprise whose door during operating hours consists of a fluttering curtain. There is no sign or other indication of the nature of this “business” but it clearly isn’t a mere residence.
Attempts to get an unobstructed glimpse of the innards have thus far come up empty-handed.
On this particular day we decided to turn “al derecho” instead of our usual “al izquierda” departure. To our great surprise, we discovered, just 2 doors down, a small one-man tailor shop. The proprietor specializes in fabricating bespoke men’s wool suits and pants.
I was drawn inside, since I do need a replacement pair of pantalones for my 6 year old limo chauffeur gig. In spite of my near-non-existent spanish vocabulary, I managed to express my needs. All the 100% Lana (wool) fabric was right there in this tiny little shop. He kept pulling out bolts of cloth, then carrying them out into the street so I could appreciate the full color of the fabric.
Those of you who know me understand that I am by no means a clothes horse, but I want to tell you, this tailor finally brought out a bolt of subtly pin-striped cloth that I swear is the most beautiful I have ever seen.
Then we proceeded to discuss the construct of the pants.. pleats/no pleats, cuffs/no cuffs, number of pockets, angle of the pockets.. mind-boggling detail. We learned that he could have “my” pants completed in about 7 days.. ample time to secure before our departure. The best part? the price will be about what one would pay for a good pair of wool slacks at Ross!
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