Aguascalientes (Hot Waters in English) was to be purely a transit stop on the way to the south, however having been on the go for a good four days pulling some long hours in the van, it was nice to chill out and take in a place that is otherwise off the radar. Matt had found some interesting things to see in town so we took to the streets early the next morning.
An attractive little colonial town, Aguascalientes is named after the numerous surrounding hot springs, but is also called ‘the land of the good people’ due to it’s friendly inhabitants. The town is reputed to have some of the countries bravest bullfighters, and fights still take place every Sunday at the Plaza de Toros San Marcos. Having sat through a tortuous bullfighting session at Spain’s San Fermin festival back in 2006, we can’t condone this unless you’re a total sadist, though the bullring itself, built in 1896 and one of the oldest in the country, is pretty cool to see.
Walking around town taking in the Catedral Basilica, the nearby plaza, and a large colourful Dia de los Muertes sculpture, we noted the beauty of the girls in this town. Everywhere you looked there were young couples enjoying a blossoming romance, whilst others already had little ones in tow. Strolling through the temporarily relocated Neito Calle, with it’s individual and unique artisans in both contemporary and traditional styles, we soon arrived to the City Hall and it’s not to be missed murals, located on the internal courtyard walls. Painted by Chilean artist Osvaldo Barra, the numerious huge murals cover every wall, portraying the life and history of Aguascalientes.
Proving that the rumours were true a really friendly local lady approached us as she left the building, encouraging us to go inside and ensure we saw all of the paintings upstairs also. The arched interior is worth a visit alone, especially when you realise it was built in 1665, one year before London’s mostly timber buildings burnt to the ground in the Great Fire of London.
Not far from here is a museum we couldn’t pass up, especially with the really reasonable entrance fee of a couple of dollars. Mexico is a country which seems obsessed with death so it makes sense that they have the Museo Nacional de la Muerte – The National Museum of Death. There some really interesting artwork here and it’s worth a browse if you’re into that kind of thing.
For you shakers and groovers Calle Viejero has an abundance of trendy bars set in a pedestrianised street. Moving down Viejero you arrive at the quaint, peaceful oasis of Jardin San Marcos. Strolling through and exchanging Buenos Dias’s with the friendly locals, the tranquility of the space was sharply broken by the gas man.
is rudely blasted from the speakers atop the utility truck, soon bringing the tranquility to an immediate halt. Strolling back to the main plaza, we were able to take a seat on a small patch of rolling green grass which had been setup by Coca Cola to promote their new more naturally sweetened Coke Life. Sweetened with stevia and sugar instead of just sugar, we were encouraged to relax and give it a go. Taking a liking to us they even offered us seconds.
Leaving Aguascalientes we followed the Ruta 2010, towards Tequila, where we’d decided it was only fitting to spend Sarah’s birthday. In 2010 Mexico celebrated it’s bicentenary of their National Independence and the centenary of the Mexican Revolution, so to celebrate there are six historical routes across the country which have been signposted, along with many other cultural, historical and architectural improvements. Most of the routes were chosen as they either traced or ran close to to routes that retrace the steps of those who fought the battles of Mexico’s War for Independence and Revolution. You can check out the website here for more info- www.bicentenario.gob.mx.
This route made for slow driving, yet it’s worth the drive if you’re headed that way as the vistas are pretty special. Just bear in mind that it’s an extra two hours than if you took the toll road. From Jalapa the road gets fairly windy as you start to climb, and as we approached Ix Del Rio we started to spot agave plants in the fields. Pulling into Ix Del Rio as the light faded, we contemplated parking up at the Pemex before heading to a hotel on the main drag. We were told it was a weekend and therefore they’d all be drinking and making noise all night (they were infact already half drunk), so they pointed us down a side road a little way out of town where we found the basic, yet cheap Tucan Hotel. For MXP200 we got a king bed, TV, cold showers and safe parking with no WiFi. Nothing special but we still weren’t comfortable free camping on the streets of Mexico.