Grateful in Guanajuato
Guest blog this week brought to you by: Ree J. She’s a fun-loving traveler, who is down for a trip, impromptu or planned. Her hobbies include star gazing, hip hop and classical dancing (not together, but maybe?) and food of all shapes and forms. On the weekends, she likes to hit the mountains for a hard-core hike or visit the beach to catch some rays and sea breeze. Ree J is based in Los Angeles.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving my friend called to see if I wanted to take an impromptu trip to Guanajuato, Mexico. Why? Because why not? Plus, she found a good deal. As someone who will find any excuse to travel, my response to visiting this city I had never heard of or could barely pronounce (thanks Wikipedia, for spelling it out for me) was, of course!
Once the flight and Airbnb were booked, I figured I should see what this city was about. To my surprise it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its mining history and bright buildings nested in the mountainside. I had no idea the experience I was about to encounter.
Given we spent Thanksgiving in Guanajuato I reflected on some things I was particularly thankful for during my short visit. Things to be Grateful for in Guanajuato:
Genuine people, authentic experiences
In a time of mass shootings and terrorist attacks around the world, it was energizing to be in a city with genuinely happy people. The locals were friendly, helpful, and excited to teach us about their hometown. My first morning there I had breakfast as I waited for my friend to arrive. The young waiter started speaking very fast Spanish asking what I would like to order. An elderly Mexican woman told him in Spanish to speak slower for me. Then she turned to me and introduced herself in English and welcomed me to town before heading on her way.
My favorite was our 65-year-old mountain biking guide. Retired from his mining job and now working for fun, he taught us so much about the city and helped us visualize what this once thriving, rich mining society, was like. We made a pit stop at his friend’s house, a local baker, and ate concha fresh out of the oven. (Side note: Concha is Mexican bread, shaped like a shell and topped with sugar.) A few miles down the trail we stopped to play with his homemade sling shot and see who could throw stones the farthest across the river.
Later we found out his son owns a mezcal bar in town and stopped in for a drink, which turned into hours of exchanging stories, laughs, and trying the local liquids. (Side note: Mezcal is a liquor made from agave plants. Tequila is one type of mezcal.)
Vibing with Nature
Guanajuato is built into the mountains and has the most gorgeous views. After a hike up La Bufa or steep climb to El Pilpila, you can look up or down at the hillsides full of colorful houses. The cobble stone streets are lined with vibrant flowers and the underground network of tunnels are an adventure to drive through. We walked around for hours and hours and each day stumbled upon a new alley or nook that we hadn’t explored yet.
I will always remember this city for my first mountain biking experience (including a few battle wounds that I brought back as souvenirs) and the relaxing feeling of taking in the fresh mountain air while soaking in the sights.
My love for food added to the experience. The city has everything from fancy restaurants to street food. It was an important question we asked every local we met, “What’s your favorite place to eat?”. My favorite day was when we ate only street food fresh fruit in the morning, carne tortas and sugary churros for lunch, and chicken skewers and ice cream for dinner. It will come as no surprise that while the fancy restaurants on Trip Advisor were good, they paled in comparison to the hidden taco joint with no door.
If you need a break from the Mexican cuisine, don’t worry, you can find a Dominos or Applebee’s around the corner. (That's a joke, it’s better to starve…. more room to eat flavorful local cuisine at the next meal!)
Tech to Connect
Let’s be honest, as much as I enjoyed being disconnected and taking in all that Guanajuato had to offer, I would not have had the same experience without wifi. How did we even survive back in the day without smartphones? Given this trip was impromptu, we didn’t do heavy research and made plans as we went along. My preferred way to travel and visit a new place. Each day we looked up maps and events to plan the day, checking restaurant reviews, sharing pictures and videos with our new friends, and most importantly, enabling us to keep in touch with our family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. Being connected ironically allowed me to enjoy being disconnected.
As someone who isn’t spontaneous enough, I am thankful for this last-minute adventure. In the midst of what seems like a chaotic world and having busy lives in which we try to do it all, don’t forget it is okay to put away the “to do” list and appreciate your surroundings. Guanajuato reminded me of that.
How did you spend your Thanksgiving and what did it make you grateful for? Have you ever had an impromptu travel experience that made you reflect in an unexpected way?