Wednesday, September 30, 2009


You must go to Guanajuato! 
Guanajuato is an old mining town with a lot of character; it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988.  It was founded in 1559 due to all the silver and gold deposits and it became one of the world's richest silver mining towns.  The silver barons  of Guanajuato used that wealth to build many mansions, churches and theaters.

{la Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato}

{Templo de San Diego}

{Teatro Juarez , built between 1973 and 1903}

Walking around the city center you will see all the opulent colonial and baroque buildings, tree-filled plazas and the brightly colored houses are crammed onto the steep slope of a ravine.

{beautiful colonial building in el centro}

{University of Guanajuato}

{Jardin de la Union, surrounded by a "wall" of laurel trees}

{Plazuela San Fernando}

The "roads" to get to these houses are called cellejones, tiny streets, but really they are just alleys, not accessible to cars. 

The "main roads" (used by cars) twist around the hills and plunge into tunnels, which were once rivers.
It was too cool.   Again, I found myself saying, "I could live here."
We picked the Hotel Molina del Rey to sleep, which is a short stroll to the center.

It was quiet, yet convenient to the action, had a friendly staff, a lush courtyard, wireless internet access, and my favorite ceiling. It makes an ordinary room extraordinary. Not bad for $30.
There is a funicular, or incline railway right behind the Teatro Juarez that takes you up to El Pipila monument overlooking the whole city.
This view is what really made me fall in love.  Just look at it!  This picture doesn't do it justice.  It can't capture all the colors of the houses, the shadows of the sun on the mountains or all the little alleys meandering through the city, but let me tell you, it was spectacular.
Here is El Pipila statue high above the city. It honors the war hero who lit a Spanish fortress on fire enabling Mexico to win the first battle in the war for independence back in 1810. Below sits a tourist and his guide book.
When I read about the Museo de las Momias (mummy museum) I was interested. I know that Mexico has an obsession with death, and this is just one bizarre example. Although I thought it grotesque, I found myself laughing due to some of the facial expressions of the mummies.

The laughing ended when I saw a baby mummy. pobrecito!  That made me sad.  Do you want to see it? ok

Think of something positive.  That is a cute blue sweater, isn't it?  I wonder if her mom knit that.

One great place we ate, which was recommended in Lonely Planet, (I second the recommendation) is called Clave Azul, a very atmospheric cantina hidden on a callejon off the Plazuelo San Fernando.   We were there for a few hours.  They serve botanas (tapas-like) for FREE from 1-5pm when you are ordering drinks, and surprise, we were! Their micheladas were so good and cheap! 
There was also a band playing the whole time.  They were really good and said they were students at the university. Ernesto gave them 100 pesos ($8) in "the hat" and they were so grateful, and kept asking us for requests, like we were the only ones there. 
ps.  I love the accordion.  
**side note for my brother Tim and his son Tyler: there was a guy playing the flute in the band - you know what I'm talking about.

This band member was not from the university, but I love his classic outfit and the beautiful building.
We had heard about the Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss).  As the story goes, a young girl from a "good family" falls in love with a common miner.  They were forbidden to see each other, so the miner rented the room across the alley from the girl.  Since the balconies are so close they were able to see each other...and presumably kiss, hence the name.  Ay love!

{the alley}
{me on the balcony of "the kiss" blowing a kiss to Neto}
Well we were in a mining town, so we had to go to a mine, right?  We visited both Valenciana y Boca Mina.
At Valenciana we were able to climb down and see all of the big equiptment.   Even though it was old and not running, I could tell that the working conditions would be horrible down there.
Neto pretended he was running the show.
We were the only ones there that morning and the guy was really thorough in explaining what each of these machines did.  There was a lot of new Spanish vocabulary for me.

This drilling shaft at Valenciana went so deep that it took 20 seconds to hear a rock that was thrown in.
Over at Boca Mina San Ramon we were able to descend 60 meters (197feet)  into the mine shaft, this is not for the claustrophobic. 
What is cool about San Ramon, is that they kept the "museum" part, but restored the outside buildings and now hold parties and weddings here.  Its beautiful.  (I'm sure the mine workers didn't get to enjoy this)
Close to both mines, high above the city is the Templo La Valenciana.  A beautiful baroque style church made of pale pink stone and adorned with elaborate carvings.  (known as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Latin America)
The inside is just as lavish with  gold gold gold.
There are 2 stories of how it came to be built back in the mid 1700's.  Here quoted from the site WhatGuanajuato.  I like to include some meaningful history on VIVACINDY sometimes. 
"There are two theories as to the construction of the church so close to the mines. The first is that the Spaniard who founded the mine made a personal vow to San Cayetano that he was construct a church honoring the saint if the silver mine - perhaps with the Cayetano's helpful intervention - made him rich. It did, and so up went the church. The second story tells the tale of the mine's silver baron who had the lavish church built to in an attempt to make some moral ammends for having sat in the lap of luxury while exploiting the laborers who worked the mines."

Ever since seeing the movie Frida, starring Selma Hayek  [about Frida Kahlo, a famous mexican painter and her husband Diego Rivera, also a famous painter] I am loving both of there work.  Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato and his childhood home is now a museum. 
Maybe you recognize this painting of his called "nude with calla lilies"?  It's pretty famous.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, you must see this fabulous city.  It hard to pick favorites, but I would definitely call it a repeater! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Preparations for Zafiro Jewelry's Debut

I don't know how many times I can say this, but my mom is THE BEST!!  While in Mexico this past month,I learned  I had been accepted to the Candler Park Fall Fest art show in Atlanta October 10-11.  My parents helped me out by mailing the application  while I was traveling and low & behold, I was accepted!  My first jewelry show of 2009!!!  Actually, it will be my first show under my new name Zafiro Jewelry.  

While I was in Mexico, I met Gonzalo.  He has a printing business in Guadalajara and with my design that was partially done by a designer in San Diego/and then finished off by Ernesto's cousin Mario, I was able to get them printed for a great savings (compared to US prices)  He is also printing matching price tags for my pieces. 
(stay of cards, booth design and website coming soon)

So much preparation needs to happen before the show, and when I want to get things done, my mom is my perfect partner.  I can bounce my ideas off her, and she always, always comes up with great ways to make them happen.  Her energy never dies, I always get so much done with her.  We are great at brainstorming, and together we designed a new booth for Zafiro Jewelry.   I flew to Ohio last Wednesday, after returning from Mexico, and we worked for 2 days straight.  Here is my mom sewing a key piece for my booth.  (final pictures will be posted from the show) 
I bought several of these necklace displays from NILE.  They were inexpensive, so I was able to experiment.  My mom and I covered them with a linen material, and Im so happy with how they turned out.
While at Joanne Fabrics looking for curtains [for the tent] I saw these cardboard letters.  
I thought I was going to sew a sign on my tent, but then I started thinking...wouldn't these letters be cool if I painted them to look like a copper patina? I like the old world feel of aged copper and I love those colors too! 
Ernesto said he would help me, so we will see how they turn out.  If you have ANY tips for this faux painting, please leave in the comments.  Pictures and progress updates coming your way soon. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I had been wanting to visit San Miguel de Allende for years.  People had always told me what a picturesque city it is, and they were not exaggerating. Besides the gorgeous pink church in the centro historico (la Perroquia in pic above and below), there aren't many official "tourist sites" in San Miguel, in fact, the city IS the site.
During our 2 days there, we did what most people probably do there, shop [for great artesania], eat and take pictures. Everyone had said it is Gringolandia there (full of Americans) but we didn't find that. In fact San Miguel de Allende was oozing Mexican charm and we were smitten almost immediately. Around every corner was a great picture. For example:

{la Perroquia at night}

{the front door to some lucky person's house}

{a man selling roasted pumpkin seeds on the corner...yes we bought them}

{police on a horse? in this outfit? so classic. love it.}

{fuchsia bougainvillea, aged turquoise door, cobblestone street, yellow & orange wall, mexicana wanna-be}

{side entrance to the pink church, la Perroquia}

{woman selling handmade dolls...outside Starbucks}

{someones beautiful courtyard, pic taken though gate}

{crazy Mexican with mustache and sombrero}

We stayed at the Hotel Sautto, as recommended by Lonely Planet, and were quite happy with it. It was only 500 pesos (about $35 dollars) and had a great central location only a couple blocks from the zocolo.

The Sautto is an old hacienda that now needs some updating, but the Mexican charm still shines through.

The building was old stone and the walls that surround the lush courtyard were painted bright colors.

My favorite feature of our room, actually the only feature I really liked, was the domed brick ceiling that we saw so often throughout Mexico. (The pic below is that of our guest room at Aileen's house in Tepotzlan, but the ceilings at Hotel Sautto are just like this) So cool.

For our purposes (park bags and sleep) Hotel Sautto was perfect. If you want to spend more money, there are numerous haciendas in mint condition that offer luxury amenities in San Miguel, as it's main industry is tourism. For this reason you also find some of the nicest restaurants and shops around. We did experience some great restaurants, for example we had afternoon drinks, tacos and pulpo (octopus) at the rooftop restaurant La Azotea, a very chic spot, with an awesome view over the city.
One morning we enjoyed cafe, churros (Mexican donuts) and huevos rancheros at San Augustin, a very european-ish cafe, popular with foreigners.

Being the adventurous eaters that we are, the majority of the food we ate was on the street, in the markets and in little places we walked by randomly. Here is one of my favorite street treats: the corn lady (sometimes a man) shaves fresh corn off the cob into a cup, adds lime, spicy chili powder and salt. Many order it still on the cob with mayo and cheese but as often as I was eating it, I might have gained 20lbs.

One day we were craving pozole. Its a chile based stew that can be made with chicken pork or beef. Its one of my favorite Mexican dishes. We make it at home with pork, but we had to try in in Mexico right? We saw an ad for a restaurant that specializes in pozole, but when we got to the door it was closed on Wednesdays. Ernesto asked a man on the street if he knew of another place, and he pointed us to Al Borada. We ordered our drink of choice, micheladas (beer, hot sauce, lime, salt) and knew this was going to be good after our first sip. The freshly ground chile powder was already on the table, and Neto had picked some chiles off a tree earlier that day in case any of the food wasn't spicy enough! yeah right. We are in Mexico, hello?!

It was a small restaurant in a small courtyard with folding tables and red [coca cola] chairs and plastic tablecloths. We were seated in front of lush plants and a fountain.

The pozole came out and it was AMAZING!

Before leaving for Mexico, I knew I wanted to find a piece of Otomi Indian embroidery.  I was inspired by this headboard that I saw on one of my favorite blogs, Design Sponge.  Mexican artisans are known for their wood crafts, and so I asked around at a couple furniture stores and are you ready to hear the price quote I got for this monstrous headboard?  wait....wait for it.....$250usd!!  That's right folks, you can't by a plywood headboard for that much.  Did I mention that I love Mexico?

The material is pretty expensive, but worth the price due to the intricate work.  I bought a bright gold piece (as big as a bedspread for about $120) which I will use for my headboard.

I also bought this multi colored (a lot smaller, possibly to be framed.  Im in love with these.

 Over the last couple years, I have bought more art for my house when I travel.  I wish I had done this starting 10 years ago.  I might have made up for it in Mexico this trip. Ha!  I want a "well traveled" house.


Related Posts with Thumbnails