Our flight left the Houston airport at 12:30 this afternoon, and we got in early at 2:15 to the Leon airport. I didn’t look outside at all until we were 20 minutes from landing, but when I finally did I was taken aback by how beautfiful the area was. There were small mountains to our left, and hilly city to our right, and both sides were incredibly green. My gf and I got the impression that Guanajuato was the right choice before we even hit the ground. Our other options for this Spanish-learning trip (through Enforex) were Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, and Oaxaca. The first two, being right on the coasts, were extremely tempting, but we ultimately decided on choosing the least touristy of the group.
We landed in one of the most well-kept airports that I have ever seen. Everything was immaculately clean, and the building as a whole was very quiet. People were slowly and calmly walking and standing around, greeting one another, and otherwise just appeared very relaxed.
Since our plane came in early, we didn’t expect our pickup to be there for another 15 minutes, so we found a tourism kiosk where we got a nice Guanajuato map (though it only shows major streets). We also looked for a place to change money, but since it was Sunday the place was closed. A little worried that we might have trouble paying for food and amenities when we got in, we just decided that we’d figure something out and stopped thinking about it.
Five minutes after our plane was scheduled to land, a nice young guy from the don Quitjote school (the partner school of Enforex that we will be studying at) arrived at the airport holding up a sign with our names on it. We hopped into his little car and took off to Guanajuato.
The driver explained that Leon is about ten times the size of Guanajuato (which has a population over 100,000), but this was impossible to tell from the drive. The cities are only twenty kilometers apart, and it didn’t seem like we were in a city at all until we got to Guanajuato.
Entering into Guanajuato was a bit surprising. Everything I had read about the city made a big deal about how ridiculous the streets are (built before cars existed, so nothing like a grid and with tiny lanes), but it surpassed my expectations. From driving in and wandering around all day, I can safely say that nearly every square foot of this city is either a brick/cobblestone road or sidewalk, or a building. There is no grass near the sidewalk like I am so used to, and the only plants are in the various parks and jardins (though those are nice plants).
The gf and I didn’t really know what to expect for our living arrangements. All we knew was that we had a room with two beds, and that we would have access to a bathroom and kitchen (no meals provided). Our driver parked us right by the school and then walked us to our residence so that we could find our way tomorrow morning. The two locations are quite close, being just a couple minute walk from one another. This was nice to find out!
The driver then let us into the flat where we were greated by Maria, the resident who (I think) owns the place. She is Argentinian, speaks great English, and is exceptionally nice. She gave us a tour of the place, and showed us our room on the top floor. To get to the room, we have to climb a narrow (roughly two feet) spiral staircase with the tightest spiral I have ever seen. It was tricky to do with luggage, and proved later on to be tricky even without it.
Our room is nice. It isn’t anything like the hotel rooms and resort locations that we are used to staying in, but it is clean and comfortable, and I think we can easily call this place home for the next month. There is no AC, but the weather is great (80s during the day, 60-70s at night) and so the room is only a little too warm. I think I can get used to it, no sweat (ha!).
After getting settled and shooting off an email to the Fam to let them know we arrived safely, we took off to find an ATM and amenities. Maria gave us good directions, but we were completely confused and so walked all over the place trying to find the bank. It was on the other side of the park, which is basically right outside our front door. There also happened to be a market in the park (I guess a once or twice a week thing), so there was a lot of activity around us. And delicious-looking fruit (we didn’t buy any yet).
After not finding the bank for a half hour or so, we decided it was time to try asking someone. I was too much of a pansy to randomly approach someone on the street, even though I have had some Spanish in the past (it wasn’t about the Spanish so much as the social interaction). The gf had no problem with it, though (even though she has had no Spanish at all), and used a little phrase book she picked up to ask a woman at a taco stand where it was. We only sort of understood her gesturing and spoken directions, but at least got ourselves in the general direction. Once we got closer we asked someone else, who pointed to the building right behind us. We felt a little dumb.
After pulling out some pesos, we hit the shops looking for soap, toilet paper, and, most importantly, bottled water. Maria confirmed quite strongly that all tap water is off limits if we want to maintain any sort of bowel/stomach control. And also if we want to not die. Fortunately, water is cheap here (as everything else so far appears to be).
I had managed to get my social courage by this point, and so finding things we needed became easier. We got a pretty good feel for the area immediately surrounding our place and where we could get just about anything we could need, and then came back to our flat to relax for a moment and call family. We played some Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country on my laptop, and then headed off to get dinner.
Maria recommended a place called Truca 7, which she said was very cheap and very delicious (exactly the two things we were hoping for!). She drew us a rough map, which worked well to get us to our destination. On the way, we walked through the central Jardin (I don’t recall the name at the moment), which was a beautiful area with hotels lining one side (and hotel restaurants spilling into the sidewalk). This was also near the theater (again, I don’t recall the name) which was, as expected by this point, a beautiful structure as well. I’ll take some pictures later on during this trip and post them.
So we found Truca 7, and it was indeed delicious and cheap! The most expensive item was 74 pesos ($7), and the ones the gf and I got were just over 30. With drinks and tip we spent $10 between the two of us for more food than we needed.
We got back home around 9:30, got ready for bed, and played a little more SNES (emulated). Our first class is tomorrow at 8:00am, so we’re going to bed early tonight. And that’s what I’m going to do right now.
I’ll post pictures soon.