Colonial cities, thermal baths and meat on a spit.

(Okay, so that song has nothing to do with our last week-plus except for the title, but let’s try a post with a soundtrack for once.)

Since leaving Monterrey, we have been to quite a number of places.  Firstly, San Luis Potosi.  Not really a city on the tourist radar, we nonetheless found it quite charming – and a good balance between city and small town.

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Besides walking around town, which was lovely, we visited a “ghost town” right outside the city proper.

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FullSizeRender 2In fairness, it is a ghost town with a huge parking lot, and surrounded by open pit mines.  So clearly they expect some visitors/traffic.  But when we were there it was pretty quiet!

The next day we visited San Miguel de Allende (thanks for the tip, Ian!).  With a completely different architectural feeling than San Luis Potosi (despite both city centers being UNESCO World Heritage sites), San Miguel has had quite a bit of gringo tourism and many  expatriate residents over the years.  When we were there, it was fairly heaving with locals, tourists and traffic, but we enjoyed wandering around and doing a tiny bit of souvenir shopping.

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We also stopped at a hot springs on the way home – this was fairly distinctive because of its inside-a-grotto water spout.  (No picture because I am not clever enough to keep a phone dry in a pool.)

Later, when we got back to San Luis Potosi, after an expensive false start at a sushi place (whatever that was, it wasn’t sushi), I made a stop at the local taco truck for some al pastor tacos.  Styled after the famous döner kebap/schwarma by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, Al Pastor (and Tacos Arabes – more on these later) distinguish themselves by consisting of marinated pork instead of the usual middle eastern favorites.  Delicious, and accompanied by a number of really nice salsas (including a pineapple-chili one that absolutely blew my head off).

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The next day it was off to Xilitla, at the furthest southeast reach of San Luis Potosi province.  To break up the longish drive to Xilitla, we stopped at a lake/thermal bath/campground outside Rio Verde – though it was windy and not necessarily that hot, it was still a nice day for a quick swim (sense the theme here?).

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In contrast to San Luis and San Miguel, Xilitla is on the east side of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, and considerably lower in elevation.  We went over several mountain passes on our way from San Luis, and after spending those few days at about 1800m, we bottomed out on the valley road to Xilitla at about 200m, then went back up to 600m or so in Xilitla town.  (Hard to keep the tires properly inflated!)

Xilitla, and the surrounding mountainous area known as “Huatesca Potosina,” were recommended to us by several different folks we encountered along the way prior – it had not been on our radar previously.  We are glad we went – in addition to the weirdness of driving over the mountains from high desert to jungle, we quite enjoyed the views from our airbnb there.  (Also, the night we got there was the night of the big newsmaking thunderstorm band that swept through Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico – that was pretty wild!)

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The main tourist attraction there besides the view is “Las Pozas” aka the Edward James Sculpture Garden and Pools.  Basically, some inheritance-laden British aristocrat nutter arrived there and decided to grow a giant orchid garden around some natural waterfall and stream pools.  When, after 10 years, frost killed his precious flowers, he went even more bananas and decided to start building some Dali-esque sculptures using the local builders – spending an estimated US$5m on the project before his death.  (Very clearly he had a Colonel Kurtz moment…)

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