La Serenissima

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Taking it easy in Mexico

Mexico is a fascinating, welcoming country. It's indigenous cultures have woven a rich and diverse past that was then infused with Spanish culture and traditions. The result is a colourful mix that is reflected in its people, architecture and design.

I will talk more about this in the next posting. For now, I must tell you about two wonderful hotels that we stayed in:

Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca

Hotel Antiguo Vapor in Guanajuato

Oaxaca – Hotel Boutique Casa Oaxaca

I can’t speak highly enough of this hotel. After travelling by luxury bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca, then a bumpy, noisy taxi ride from the bus station to the  reasonably busy street of  Garcia Vigil, we  were greeted at the hotel Casa Oaxaca’s doors and were instantly bathed in tranquility and grace.

Casa Oaxaca has been operating as a boutique hotel for about 10 years – not that you’d know. Everything is kept up to a high standard, meticulously maintined and presented, it could have been opened a few months ago. Check in was efficient and welcoming, and we quickly found ourselves in a beautiful, spacious king room that opened directly onto the hotel’s internal courtyard. 

The room included a huge suede armchair, a desk with a thick timber slab top, a couple of chairs, a bookcase filled with useful reading material about Mexico, and an elegant, large green marble bathroom.

Formerly a Spanish colonial house, it retains the elegance and grace of its history but with all of the conveniences of modernity. Each of the seven rooms/suites have been thoughtfully decorated in a paired down Spanish colonial style so their appearance is at once stylish and restful.

Oaxaca itself is a rich treasury of indigenous Mexican history, overlayed with the Spanish colonial era. The hotel’s brochure, not exaggeratedly, states that “Casa Oaxaca reflects that culture. It is your haven during your stay. A meeting place between past and present.

Check out the hotel’s website for more information about it’s facilities at:
The address and phone details are:
García Vigil 407 C.P. 68000, Oaxaca, Oax.
Tels: (951) 51 44173, (951) 51 69923

We loved the amenity of the courtyard, where you could have breakfast, lunch and dinner at your own pace.  The restaurant , it’s menus and service are excellent. 

Then, from the front door, it is a block to the cultural centre of the beautiful church of Santo Domingo, which includes the Museum of Oaxaca’s cultural history, the library of Francisco de Burgoa and the famous Ethno-Botanical Gardens of Oaxaca. Definitely worth a visit – you’ll spend all day there easily. Santo Domingo faces onto Alcala, a pedestrianised street of some eight blocks in total, that takes you down to the Zocalo (city square).

There are many places of cultural interest, including Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, Museo Regional de Oaxaca, Museo Rufino Tamayo and Museo Casa de Juarez. The Catedral on the Zocalo is worth a visit. The Archaeological site of Monte Alban is a short bus ride away from Oaxaca. The City of Oaxaca and Monte Alban were named a World heritage Site in 1987. And walking through the city streets is a visual delight.

The view at night from Casa Oaxaca's roof terrace was a delight … who'd argue with that?

Guanajuato – Hotel Antiguo Vapour

This is a beautiful hotel, very well situated in the historical centre, easy walking distance to all of the main things of cultural interest, but just far enough away to enjoy peacefulness and tranquillity.

The hotel, formerly a nineteenth century a bakery, opened just a few years ago following extensive renovations. The building retains many of the original features, such as hand made brickwork and a fresh water well. The restaurant, Papalotl, is located within a major part of the old bakery.

It has 14 rooms, each uniquely named and decorated. Ours, Cordonices (Quails) had several lovely features – a balcony overlooking the internal paved and plant adorned courtyard, a glass table and two chairs, an entry lounge area with armchairs, a bathroom with twin hand basins made in a local pottery (talavera), a king bed and a working fireplace (which we used one evening).

At the street level entrance is a spacious terrace, where you can have a meal or coffee/drinks, and enjoy the views of the multi-coloured buildings stretching up the hill of the steep ravine in front of you. From here you can also see the dome of the market, Mercado Hidalgo (the design of which was originally intended to be a railway station in Europe!), the domes of nearby churches and the Pipila Monument.The service is warm and personal. The hostess and co-owner with her husband, Pilar, made us feel very welcome and invited us to join her and the staff for Rosca de Reyes, a special cake eaten in Mexico to celebrate El Dia de los Reyes – the Epiphany, on 6 January.

Check out the hotel’s website for more information about it’s facilities at:

The address and phone details are:
Galarza # 5.
Centro Histórico. Guanajuato, Gto.
Tel. +52 (473) 732 3211

Guanajuato was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Zone in 1988. But its claim to fame long preceded this. For at least 200 years, between the 16th and 18th centuries, Guanajuato produced around 40% of the world’s silver. Guanajuato State is also home to the Mexican Independence Movement, begun by a priest, Miguel Hidalgo, in 1810. The city of Guanajuato was the third to fall to the rebels, temporarily ousting their Spanish colonial masters. The benefit, today, of Spanish occupation and mineral wealth, is the many beautifully constructed colonial buildings that house museums, theatres and of course churches.
Guanajuato has an air of mystery too. The terrain is steep and there are many narrow, twisting alleys, including the Alley of the kiss – a legend of two young lovers not unlike Romeo and Juliet. The old centre is largely pedestrianised so the traffic, including buses, travel through a complex network of underground tunnels. The International Cervantes Festival was also established here.

Other attractions include a museum in the house where artist Diego Rivera was born, the beautiful Teatro Juarez, the Jardin Union (Union Garden – a leafy delightful meeting spot), Basilica de Neustra Senora de Guanajuato, built between 1671 and 1696, Mercado Hidalgo, Pipila Monument, which you can reach by the funicular, from behind Teatro Juarez , and the Alhondiga de Granaditas Museum.

Sunset from the Antiguo Vapor terrace was gorgeous … don't you think?


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