Sometimes a city captures your heart in a way no other has. Sometimes you can’t describe the what or the why or the how because the feeling that overcomes you as soon as you arrive is so unlike anything else you’ve felt, in all of your travels. Sometimes, even when you think you’re not a city girl, you willingly succumb to its enchanting spell.
For me, that city is Guanajuato, Mexico.
Last summer, en route from Guadalajara to Cuba via Mexico City, I stopped in Guanajuato City at a colleagues suggestion. I had less than 24 hours to spend since my flight to Havana was imminent, and yet it was all I needed to know that love at first sight exists. I vowed to return. And less than a year later, here I am.
I told myself that maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I was wrapped up in the excitement of a new adventure, or the relief of having finished graduate school. Maybe I wouldn’t like Guanajuato City as much the second time around.
I’ve been here for three days (at the time of writing) and I already want to buy a house (if only that were plausible). I haven’t even done anything here except post up in my funky AirBnB with great views of the city, and wander through the maze of cobblestone streets that wind through the historic center with no other plausible destination than a plaza, or a church or a beautiful row of houses. To drive anywhere in the city, one must enter a tunnel or five, since these are how the roads connect and wind through the mountains. It’s organized chaos at it’s finest. Or maybe it’s not organized at all. And that’s one of the many things I love about it; the feeling that I’ll never quite understand it, that I’ll perhaps never know my way around without getting lost and then distracted by a cute boutique or an aromatic bakery or a quaint cafe.
I love that people say hello in the streets. I love how safe I feel here. I love the ease of the food, the variety, the flavors. I love that this city is so beautiful it’s been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s history of silver mining and some of “the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America.” And while it’s certainly a destination on many tourists’ lists, it doesn’t feel that way at all. There are no tour companies begging for money, no infrastructure designed specifically for visitors. It’s just here, in all its authenticity and charm.
I love the language (much slower and clearer than the Cubans or Nicaraguans!), and how willing people are to help me practice it. I love the scenery one can’t escape, since it’s designed in a valley surrounded by mountains. And I love, love, love Mexican culture, in a way that’s very different from the way I admire many Asian and European cultures. It’s something familiar, and yet not. Something just out of reach….yet not.
But the thing I love most is how much I feel at home here. I don’t feel the need to do anything touristy. I don’t care to explore beyond my walkable bounds. I’m quite content just being here.
No other city has ever captured me this way. (Except the one in which I currently live: Bend, Oregon.)
It’s not that this city has stolen my desire to explore. No, quite the opposite. It’s that I have a deeply entrenched feeling that I have all the time in the world to do so. Because I’ll be back. There’s no question about that.
If Los Cabos seems a little too touristy for you, and you don’t feel like partying your trip away in Cancun, there are many other places with a similar vibe to Guanajuato City. Many of these places to visit in Mexico are on my list for return trips as well, especially the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas!
Have you ever fell in love with a city/place like this? Have you been to Guanajuato and can relate? Let me know!