Paul and I got back last night from a whirlwind trip to Morelia and Pátzcuaro. We drove over on Thursday, leaving about 6 am. We packed sandwiches and sodas, and drove straight through, only stopping for gas, and arriving in Morelia about 3:30 pm. (They are an hour later than Mazatlán)
I love getting out and seeing different terrain – very green and lush around Tepic, volcanic between Tepic and Tequila, lots of agave between Tequila and Guadalajara. Lots of mountainous driving, too. Beautiful valleys with mountains in the distance.
We lost the highway somehow in Guadalajara due to construction so that was an adventure in gridlock navigating.
The road between Guadalajara and Morelia reminded us of Northern California, with lots of pine and eucalyptus trees.
Our hotel in Morelia, Hotel de la Soledad, is a gorgous historic hotel. We loved our room and the central courtyard. It was a half block off the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, and we headed over there as soon as we arrived. A band was starting to set up for free music and dancing that evening. We strolled the plazas, stumbled over the Casa de las Artesenias by accident, and strolled all over just stretching our legs and trying to decide where to eat dinner. We eventually settled on a small homestyle restaurant on a small street that was closed to traffic. A stop at Sanborns for a couple of chocolates and we were done for the night!
Friday we touched base with Mexico Cooks! to firm up plans for comida the following day. The day was full of coffees and escamochas (cut up fruit, cereal, nuts, and juice) drunk in the sunshine here and there, a trolley tour of Centro and walking up to the Santuario de Guadalupe to see the festivities for the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe on Saturday. (If you don’t know the story or want more information, read Mexico Cook’s post about it, here.) We watched the faithful move towards the church for many blocks on their knees. Many people, young and old were dressed in peasant dress, and many of the men were barefoot, emulating Juan Diego. There were processions through downtown every time we turned around!
The Santuario is a beautiful church, very festive and happy. The interior is painted in vibrant colors, and almost looks like folk art painting but with gold leaf. There were no pews, and people streamed towards the altar, where a priest blessed candles and flowers, gifts to honor Guadalupe. There was a mariachi band playing inside the church, and everyone was happy and there was smiling and singing.
Outside the church, the Morelia aqueduct stretches for a long ways. It’s no longer in use, but is a beautiful reminder of the city’s past. At night it is lit from underneath, and the arches are quite striking.
Back towards the Cathedral we headed for a favorite Morelia dish, gaspacho. It is unusual, finely diced fruit (jicama, cucumber, mango, etc) in a cup with chile powder and a dusting of cheese. We had ours new-style, that included watermelon along with the rest. Delicious, but next time I will skip the cheese.
We walked our feet off, going hither and yon in Centro. Morelia is very high up – and our bodies were very aware of the elevation – more than 6,000 feet. Occasionally we needed to just sit and rest, especially on the uphill treks. I had difficulty sleeping at night until I realized that it had something to do with lying down. So I piled up the pillows and slept half sitting up with no problem.
Saturday we (of course) enjoyed coffee and breakfast in the sunshine and then made our way over to the mercado. We were there a little bit early we think, or possibly it was a bit less populated because it was the Dia de la Virgen. Although we were surprised that there was a Virgen of Guadalupe altar in the mercado and a group was singing and playing with heart!
We were so looking forward to meeting Mexico Cooks! and as has been the case with every blogger I have met in person, she is a delight. Her enthusiasm for Mexico and food and her critters, well, I just have to say it was wonderful. We ate at Lu, a fabulous restaurant I had read about and was thrilled to try. It was an absolutely amazing meal, and if you would like to read about it, click the link above.
I am so happy to have made new friends in Morelia, and I hope that one day we’ll see Mexico Cooks! here in Mazatlán. I could only dream about having such a fabulous restaurant in Mazatlán to show them. I am ever hopeful!
Mexico Cooks! gave me (see how nice she is?) a big jar of kalamata olives, so one of the things on my shopping list was taken care of just like that! Thank you! And Paul and I went to Sears for a memory foam topper for our bed. Then we did some shopping here and there and found a nice folk art Virgin of Guadalupe painting for him and a cucharadero (folk art spoon holder) for me.
Saturday night the city of Morelia lights up the Cathedral at 9 pm. It is spectacular, the Morelia song comes on, the crowd gathers, and slowly, in time with the music, lights and fireworks little by little light up the entire cathedral. The street in front is blocked off and cotton candy and balloon vendors ply the crowd. Afterwards, people stroll the plazas.
Sunday we drove to Pátzcuaro in the morning, and were surprised by the very very busy mercado at the small plaza. It was intensely busy, (probably because of the holiday weekend?) and people were walking very fast and being very assertive in their walking. (that is a nice way of putting it) We tried to stroll a bit but getting continually mowed over got a bit old so we settled in for a coffee. The sunshine was nice and the coffee was good. Thus fortified we headed out to see the town, but between our being out of breath in the even higher elevation and the kajillion combi vans and busy people, we decided that we will save really getting to know Pátzcuaro for another day. My last visit there was 15 years ago, and it was a sleepy village with donkeys and milk cans and fabulous vegetables. A lot can change in 15 years, though!
So back we went to Morelia, and we couldn’t help ourselves but we had comida again at Lu! And it was fabulous again! That evening we waited along with many thousands of people for some sort of parade or performance. The waiter at the bar where we were said we were waiting for the Coca Cola frogs (?) but I saw on a December schedule it was to have been the Grupo Bola Suriana. Here is a great link to a Morelia cultural calendar. We ended up heading back to our hotel to pack since we were leaving the next morning. I know I am forgetting to recount so many more things that we saw and did! Oh well, you just had to be there, I guess!
Our drive back was uneventful. It took about 10 hours. It was great to get home, get the dogs, and think about where we should head on our next excursion!