Clowns and Cloisters – San Luis Potosi, Mexico

The charms of San Luis Potosi are more subtle than those of many towns in Mexico, but there are charms nonetheless–not the least of which is the fact that much of the central downtown area is either a car-free pedestrian mall or a lovely leafy plaza anchored by a church. Every Mexican city has plazas and churches but SLP has more than its share and it gives the city a garden-town feel.

San Luis Potosi's baroque cathedral was built between 1660 and 1730.

San Luis Potosi has a lot of pedestrian-only streets. This one leads to the cathedral.

Plaza del Carmen.

With such lovely places to congregate, it’s not surprising that a good deal of life in SLP takes place on the streets and in the plazas, disturbed only by a preponderance of clowns which give Karen the heeby-jeebies. Always have. Maybe they can smell her fear because one persistent clown roped Karen into his schtick and wouldn’t set her free until he’d given her a balloon flower. Which would be sweet except for the creepy shoes and fake sad makeup.

Karen is force to face her fears after getting roped into a street performance by a CLOWN.

Museo Regional Potosino is housed in what was originally part of a Franciscan monastery which was founded in 1590.

San Luis Potosi also has more than its share of high-end restaurants too and the city lays claim to some every day edible attractions as well such as enchiladas posotinos and an extremely tasty take on traditional pozole which is pleasingly heavy on the cilantro (or so it seemed to us). We enjoyed both dishes at a comfortable and affordable restaurant called El Pozole which, we are happy to report, is now open until late at night not just until 3:00.

San Luis Potosi is filled with many lovely squares, including Jardin de San Francisco.

Another thing that SLP has that most Mexican cities don’t is a Parisian hotel. Okay, not really. But Palacio San Agustin Museo Hotel comes as close as you’re gonna get within the borders of Mexico.

The hotel, which claims to be the first “Museum Hotel” in Latin America, is housed in what was a mansion  before becoming a kind of guest house for monks and visiting dignitaries associated with SLP’s San Agustin monastery in the late 1600s. The hotel’s current owner, a regional big-shot who prefers to remain pretty-much anonymous, bought the property and spent five years (and at least that many millions) amassing a collection of more than 700 certified French antiques. Even the chef is from France, though he’s just of normal age.

Local artists were commissioned to copy historical European decorative styles on almost every paint-able surface. The owner even added a to-scale replica of the carved stone facade of the San Agustin Temple that’s just down the street and installed it at one end of the lobby floor. Subtle he is not.

The 20 room hotel opened in 2008 (be warned, a couple of the rooms are windowless closets) and, to be honest, the place can be a bit overwhelming, especially when they’re blasting “Flight of the Valkyries” over their excellent hotel-wide sound system. But even if you hate classical music and can’t stand tapestries, you have to be awed by the sheer feat of the place. It’s worth signing up for one of their guided tours (60 pesos or about $5)  during which a staff member (English is available) will walk and talk you through the hotel’s fascinating nooks and crannies. Then you get a cocktail.

The wonderful staircase in the Palacio San Agustin Museo Hotel.

Looking up into the spiral of the wonderful staircase in the Palacio San Agustin Museo Hotel.


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