(January 20 – written by Nancy)
We survived the highway hotel last night – I think the chair I pushed up against the door was probably not necessary after all… Actually, we both slept surprisingly well despite the traffic noise from the highway and the cold. Dave managed to get two additional blankets from the manager so we were pretty warm under the 4 blankets we had on the bed. Both the day manager and the night manager at the hotel were very friendly and accommodating – I expect because they don’t get too many guests who actually stay the whole night!
Today was a bit of a transit day, as we continued our way south toward Guanajuato. We spent most of the day on Hwy 45 again, though it was no longer a toll way but just a regular highway. It is the primary route between the big cities of Zacatecas and Aguascalientes so there was quite a bit of traffic but the shoulder was wide most of the way so we weren’t bothered by the traffic.
We didn’t have a lot of great scenery along the way today – the most exciting things were stopping at 3 different Pemex/Oxxo rest stops, so that should tell you something. The terrain was almost completely flat though, which was a nice change from the last couple of weeks.
Our stop today, Aguascalientes (hot waters in Spanish), is a large city of over 1.2 million people. The name apparently comes from the abundant hot springs that were in the area. The city is also the capital of the state of the same name – we entered our 6th Mexican state today. The city is fairly spread out and we rode by industrial parks and other developments for at least 15 kilometers before we got close to the hotel we were looking for. Lots of traffic coming in and out of side roads and parking lots alongside the highway so it was a bit stressful toward the end. We had booked a hotel using points from our credit card and it took us a bit of time to find it as it is kind of behind a mall/plaza area. We rode past it the first time and had to circle back around to try to find it. It’s a nice hotel – there is even a hair dryer! I forgot to mention in my Zacatecas post that there was a hair dryer in our hotel there, the first hair dryer I have seen since way back in California I think. Of course Dave doesn’t think much about hair dryers but it feels like real luxury for me now!
This hotel, the Hotel Aranzazu Aguascalientes, is a on the east side of the city so once we got cleaned up we took a taxi into the central area of the city to check out some of the sites and find some dinner. There are some very beautiful churches and museums but we had to limit our visit to just a couple given the time we had. We first saw the Templo de San Antonio, one of the well-known churches in the city. It is impressive from the outside – unfortunately it was closed when we first arrived but the inside is also supposed to be quite beautiful.
Across the street from the church is the Museo de Aguascalientes, which was housed in an old building and looked quite interesting. It was only 10 pesos each for the entry fee so we went in to check it out. Most of the featured artwork was by a Mexican artist Saturnino Herrán, who was born in this city in 1887. His drawings and paintings focused on Mexican indigenous people – he was obviously very talented and did both paintings and drawings, including large murals. There were also quite a few sculptures and bronze reliefs in the building by various artists. All in all, a good visit. When we came back out the church was open but it looked like there was some kind of big event going on, with everyone dressed to the nines. We couldn’t quite tell if it was a wedding or maybe some kind of ceremony for someone’s 15th birthday (which is usually cause for big celebration here). We tried to inconspicuously take some pictures – a bit hard as we stand out like a bit like aliens here!
Then, most importantly, we went to a restaurant called El Artesano that was just down the street. It was one of the top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor so I think Dave strategically planned the cultural sites we were going to see with the real aim of getting to this restaurant. Either way, it worked out well because the food was great. They served all day breakfast, so both of us had dishes with eggs – very tasty. The restaurant closed at 6 so we had an early dinner and then took a taxi back to the hotel.
We are aiming to get to Leon or close to it tomorrow so that we can get into Guanajuato at a decent time on Monday. Leon is about 120k from here, so it will be a longer day than we have had in a while. We think the terrain should be relatively flat and we plan to get an early start so it should be do-able. I don’t expect any trouble sleeping in this nice hotel – other than having the TV on to English language news too late!