Subject: Mexico City, Querétaro, and San Miguel de Allende Travelogue Pt. 1
Hello Travelziners,

Last week my wife Sara and I made a quick jaunt down to Central Mexico. Over the past nine years I've been introducing Sara to the various regions of Mexico. Fortunately for me she has developed as strong a fondness for this country of stunning landscapes, warm people, and compelling history as has grown in me since the first visit I made there more than 35 years ago. During the previous five trips the historical element focused mostly on the pre-Columbian aspects of the various regions (although, in all cases, evidence of the Colonial era was present, unavoidable in this multilayered culture). On this trip, however, we would be visiting El Bajío the heartland of Colonial Mexico.

This trip was a quick six day journey to see two of the old Colonial cities; Querétaro and San Miguel de Allende. Our itinerary had us staying one night in Mexico City prior to making the journey north to our ultimate destinations. Travel from the west coast of the U.S. to Mexico City takes about three-and-a-half hours in the air on a direct flight. But when you factor in a connecting flight from San Diego to Los Angeles (there are direct flights from San Diego to Mexico City but we were using a free coupon which required the connection) and a two hour time change the travel takes most of the day. So, in order to make this trip as relaxing as possible we elected to spend the night in Mexico City.

Ahhh, Mexico City, reviled by many, cherished by others. It is one of those places you either hate or love. Myself, I love it. Sara.... well the jury's still out. On a previous five day trip there I showed her most of the sights (there are so many it really takes at least a week, probably more). Unfortunately, all of the magical history that makes up this area is encased in a mass of humanity (and all its detritus), 20 million souls when surrounding urban areas are included. Needless to say it can be very stifling. But this time we're here for a tasty meal (an easy accomplishment in this city of exquisite dining) and a good night's sleep.

We tried out a new hotel, the Casa González. Actually it was more like a pension offering meals as well as rooms. It is a wonderful location in the Colonia Cuauhtemoc two blocks north of the Zona Rosa. Family owned and operated, the property is a conglomeration of several homes which have all been linked. It's layout is typical for Latin American countries (as well as Spain) with the structures surrounding a central courtyard. Our small room with a queen bed and bathroom en suite came to $35. Breakfast the next morning was $6 each. The fresh squeezed orange juice and hot corn tortillas fresh off the griddle are always worth the price of a homecooked meal. Plus the convenience and lovely conversation we had with an American ex-patriate from Saudi Arabia en route to Huatulco, Oaxaca where she is building a retirement home also made dining in a wise choice. After breakfast the owner, Jorge Eduardo Ortiz Moore, gave us a tour of some of the other rooms. These different rooms could accommodate groups as large as nine people in adjoining suites with their own patios. The owner, as well as some of the staff are English-speaking. We'll definitely use this as our base in Mexico City for future trips.

Casa Gonzalez Rio Sena #69 Mexico D.F. 06500 Mexico tel(52 55)55 14 3302 fax(52 55)55 11 0702

The previous night we dined at Fonda del Refugio in the Zona Rosa. This venerable restaurant has been serving traditional Mexican cuisine in an 18th century colonial house for more than fifty years. Sadly, Sara had been sick before we departed San Diego and couldn't order freely. Instead, she had a Caldo Tlalpeno, a hearty chicken consommé with fresh vegetables. I ordered the dish she truly desired, Chiles en Nogada. This is a Mexican treat. Roasted chiles are stuffed with a filling of chopped meats, nuts, raisins, and spices. This is covered by a walnut cream sauce with pomegranate seeds sprinkled over the top. The dish represents the colors of the Mexican flag; the green of the chile, white of the cream sauce, and red of the pomegranate seeds. Sara had a few bites and slept that night with a smile on her face. After dinner we strolled through the Zona Rosa looking in shop windows and noting all the clubs gearing up for the revelry soon to follow. As we jaywalked across the Paseo de La Reforma (Mexico City's grand avenue modeled after the Champs d'Elysee) we were fortunate to have a stunning view of the gilded Monument to the Independence free of any traffic on all lanes of the street, a rarity to be sure.

Fonda del Refugio Liverpool #166 Colonia Juarez Mexico D.F. Tel. 5525-81-28 or 5207-27-32

My plan to re-introduce Sara to Mexico City a day at a time slowly ingratiating her to its charms seemed to be working.

Next part: North to Querétaro

John in San Diego