We just posted our latest hotel review and it’s all about a restored mansion in Mexico’s second largest city. Villa Ganz in Guadalajara is part of the Mexico Boutique Hotels group and it actually manages to get the bed and breakfast thing right: no doilies, just 10 of the most luxurious and charming rooms in town.
Busy, busy, busy! Following the publication of our road trip package in the current (August) issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine (see previous post) we’re excited to bring you our latest piece for Travel + Leisure magazine’s web site which commissioned us to write about the World’s Trendiest Airstream Hotels.
Read it here
As you know, Airstream travel trailers have been near and dear to our hearts ever since we got to know them inside and out while living in a Safari SE for six months at end of 2008 and producing a blog about our Airstream Adventures. Read our piece and go test one out for a night or two for yourself!
For a tiny town, Bernal–less than an hour from the city of Querétaro–has a lot going for it, including Peña de Bernal (Bernal’s Boulder or Bernal Peak) which is, according to some estimates, the second largest monolith in the world after Mt. Augustus in Western Australia. At 1,115 feet (350 meters) tall, the big rock in Bernal is also the fourth tallest (or third tallest, again, depending on who you ask) monolith in the world after Mt. Augustus, the Rock of Gibraltar and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio. As you can imagine, a pedigree like that means a lot of rock climbers travel here. The rest of the scant visitors to Bernal come to this Mexican town for its unique brand of peace and quiet.
Bernal, stuck in time
Bernal was designated a Pueblo Magico by the Mexican government in 2005 so it delivers a pleasantly stuck-in-time look and feel with simple buildings, festive colors and a central square dominated by a lively church. Old men sit around and do what old men do while younger men gallop down the cobbled streets on horses. Every once in a while a woman pokes her head out of the shop or restaurant she’s running. It is altogether nap inspiring.
Where to sleep in Bernal
While in Bernal we stayed at the Parador Vernal about a 10 minute walk above town itself. The hotel’s mediocre and poorly translated web site doesn’t do the hotel’s quirks and charms justice.
The lobby is largely populated by big colorful birds in even bigger ornate cages. Our room, #8, had one wall which was painted entirely electric green and featured a huge, loosely looped wool area rug that felt like walking on a sheep. The bed was comfortable and the view of Peña de Bernal couldn’t be beat.
Some of the hotel’s other rooms (there are 13 in total), however, seemed a bit small and dark so ask for room 7 or 8 if you plan to stay the night. Or just pop up for a bite or a drink in the dining room or outdoor bar with an unobstructed view of the monolith.
Where to drink in Bernal
Throughout Mexico we rarely saw beer on tap, so we were surprised and delighted when we walked past a pretty cafe in Bernal with outdoor seating and cerveza de baril (beer on tap) on the menu. And that’s not the only beverage surprise the area had in store for us…
Historic Mexican wine
About 30 minutes from Bernal, in the town of Ezequiel Montes, is the Cavas Freixenet winery complete with tours and wine sales and a kind of manic crowd on weekends that seems intent on downing as much of their newly purchased wine and sparkling wine right then and there at tables and chairs set up in an open-air courtyard.
We missed the last tour of the day so we just wandered around trying not to get between the Mexican couples and their wine. Weirdly, there wasn’t a single black bottle of the too-sweet Cordon Negro sparkling wine that we associate with the Freixenet brand in the U.S. In fact, none of the wine for sale even had Freixenet on the label–the sparkling wine was called Petillant and turned out to be just as sweet as Cordon Negro.
Read more about travel in Mexico
The cradle of Mexican Independence is now the country’s hottest place to live. Querétaro’s awesome standard of living (good wages, booming infrastructure, high degree of safety, high level of education, etc), hip shops, appealing boutique hotels (including the Dona Urraca and Casa del Atrio), bars, restaurants and proximity to major Mexican cities. (it’s just over two hours from Mexico City) have prompted many people to move here now. There are so many new residents that Querétaro (no one calls it by its full name of Santiago de Querétaro) is currently Mexico’s fastest growing city, filling up with hip urban refugees faster than you can pronounce the name of the damn place. At the very least, you should travel there and see what the fuss is all about.
Querétaro’s most famous influx of people didn’t come looking for a chic wine bar or a cool hotel. Nope. In 1810 Josepha Ortiz de Dominguez, also known as La Corregidora, and her compatriots came to Querétaro to plot a revolution. Though their plan was eventually discovered the Querétaro conspirators captured and their co-conspirators in neighboring areas narrowly warned, this is considered one of the earliest actions by the Mexican Independence movement.
Querétaro the capital
In 1847, Querétaro was made capital of the Republic when the U.S. invaded during the Mexican American War. On May 30 1848, the two countries ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in Querétaro, which called for Mexico to give half of its territory to the United States including vast areas encompassing what’s now California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, parts of Colorado and New Mexico.
Querétaro became the capital of the Republic again on February 5, 1917, when the Proclamation of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States was established by President Venustiano Carranza at the Constitutional Congress in the city’s Teatro de la República. The Constitution remains in force to this day.
More recently, UNESCO named the Historic Monuments Zone of Santiago de Querétaro a World Heritage Site, which has protected and preserved its colonial look and feel. Happily, Querétaro is also in the process of burying downtown power lines which will eliminate the ugly overhead tangle of wires.
Following the Spanish conquest the Querétaro area, strategically located on the route that connects the mining areas of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas with Mexico City, became a kind of base camp for Catholicism with many convents springing up to house and educate monks and, to a lesser degree, nuns who then fanned out from Querétaro to conquer the north of the country and convert local people to the Catholic faith.
One extreme example is Franciscan Junípero Serra who left Querétaro for Alta California ON FOOT and ultimately founded many of the major cities in what became California, including the city of San Francisco. This role in the northward spread of Catholicism explains why downtown Querétaro has so many religious sites.
Shades of Rome
During our time in Querétaro we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were in Rome. Okay, not literally, but Querétaro, like Rome, was built and populated thanks to an elaborate aqueduct system which, at one time, fed 60 public fountains and many private one. You can still see working fountains around town.
There are also statues all over the place and the people who live here have a real fondness for snacking in open air cafes–just replace the ubiquitous Italian panini with a gordita, a local specialty that’s essentially a fried corn batter pita pocket stuffed with whatever you like, and you’ve got it. In Querétaro the gorditas are even served with oregano.
There’s also an ice cream shop called Neveria Italy where you can get a delicious concoction called wine ice.
Read more about travel in Mexico
It’s a new June and we’ve got some new stuff we wanted everyone to know about.
We’ve just published a review of La Mansion de Los Suenos, a unique, historic and luxurious place to stay in a great Mexican Pueblo Magico (magic town) called Patzcuaro. There aren’t too many towns that meet the Mexican government’s criteria to be a Pueblo Magico and Patzcuaro is one of the most beautiful and varied. If you like ice cream, start planning a visit NOW.
And Jeff Blumenfeld, editor and creator of Expedition News, wrote a book called “You Want to Go Where? How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams” and it comes out today. Apart from the fact that Jeff is a good friend and we’re sure the book is a great read, he was kind enough to include our Trans-Americas Journey in his book, discussing how we’ve attracted such awesome product partners. We’re still in Mexico and it may be weeks before we get to eyeball our copy of the book, so do us a favor and go get it and tell us how it is.
Last but not least we’ve recently learned of a fun, random new game to play to mark the first day of every month. It’s called White Rabbits and it involves saying “white rabbit” to your friends and family before they have a chance to say it to you. Hey, we said it was random.
We’ve put a new story up on our site, originally published on itravelishop.com, about a very exciting and very major renovation that just started at Hotelito Desconocido–one of the most unique hotels on the Costalegre in Mexico.
You can also check out our previous post about the Hotelito Desconocido.
Visit the Published Work page of our website any time to see all of our freelance work in one place.