viernes, 12 de junio de 2009

Destination: Parras, Coahuila

Last Friday, Mario came home from work and suggested that we pack up, so we could spend all weekend in Parras. As I was ready to go anywhere, all three of us were packed up and in the car in about an hour.

Parras is about 2 hours west of Saltillo. Saltillo and Parras are both oasises in the desert, as the drive between the two towns is dominated by the Chihuahuan desert. Ugh. Now, when I lived in New Mexico, I remember thinking that the Chihuahuan desert was beautiful. But, New Mexico has plenty of mountains. While Coahuila also has plenty of mountains, the stretch of desert between Parras and Saltillo is flatter than Kansas. Sorry, Chihuahuan Desert--not pretty.

Therefore, it came as a huge relief to finally turn off the highway and head towards the mountains upon nearing Parras. Trees started to appear, then pecan groves, then vineyards, and my eyes were refreshed after more than an hour of staring at ocotillo and scrub.

Parras is famous for producing three products: jeans, candy, and wine. We haven't explored the jeans stores yet, so I can't really comment on those (there is a huge Dickies factory just off the highway, though). Their candy stores are dominated by pecan candy, fig candy, and dulce de leche. While not providing as many options as the candy stores in Puebla (also famous for candy) and quite a bit more expensive (it is a different type of candy, after all), the candy they sell is altogether delightful--nutty, yet creamy. I'm looking forward to knowing those candy stores better in August, when my mother-in-law comes to visit, as she has a sweet tooth to rival mine, and always seems to find her way into candy stores, wherever she may be.

However, this weekend, Mario and I were on a mission: to go swimming and to try some wine. While Parras boasts about 4 lakes, most of which are open to the public for swimming, we decided that it would be easiest, while traveling with a 4-month-old, to stay at a hotel with a pool. Therefore, while she napped, we soaked up some pool time. Little Girl even tolerated the pool for awhile herself after waking up.

Sunday was Wine Day. After checking out of the hotel, we headed to Casa Madero, founded in 1597 and the oldest vineyard in North America. They give tours, so our guide, Victor Hugo, told us all about how Casa Madero makes their wine and brandy, as he walked us over their grounds, open production areas, and bodegas. Of course, we wound up our tour in their tasting room. Casa Madero is best known for their Shiraz and Chardonnay, but we had to take their word on that, as those aren't among the wines they provide for tasting. The house exports about 85% of their production, mainly to Europe. As they're not hurting for clients, and it came so well recommended, we took them at their word and bought the Shiraz and Chardonnay. Victor Hugo also described the wine festival that both the town and Casa Madero host in the early part of August. The streets will be full with vendors, a hill near the vineyard will have a late-night processional complete with dancing, and they'll elect a new Wine Queen. What a job that must be!

As the day was winding to a close, we climbed back into the car, loaded down with our candy and wine purchases. We'll return to Parras in a few weeks. Next time we'll visit the lakes. Little Girl will like that better than the pool, as the water should be warmer--or so we can hope!

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