Move over Guanajuato--this woman has a NEW favorite Mexican city!
We had a three day weekend this weekend, and we have also been wanting to spend a weekend in San Luis Potosi for quite some time. This weekend was a perfect one to finally give that wish a whirl.
When we drive through on our way to Mexico City, we often stop in San Luis Potosi (SLP) to buy candy (that deserves its own post). So we weren't completely unfamiliar with the city. We knew that we wanted to stay in the centro and not use the car for at least an entire day. And so we did.
The Hotel Napoles, where we stayed is just a block from the Plaza del Carmen, on which sits the Templo del Carmen, a beautiful baroque church; the Viceroyalty Museum, not as exciting as I had anticipated; and the Teatro La Paz, an impressive-looking theater--at least from what we could see peeking in through the glass doors.
That square itself was great for walking, sitting, watching, and, for Clara, stair-climbing. However, we noticed that whenever we walked two or three blocks in any direction, another fountain-filled or tree lined plaza was waiting to greet us. Over and over, Mario mentioned that he felt that he was more in Europe than in Mexico. We happily spent all of Sunday wandering through the streets, taking in SLP's seemingly limitless supply of colonial architecture. Starting at the Jardin Colon, on what I believe is the south side of downtown is the Calzada Guadalupe, . The Calzada Guadalupe is essentially a very long park with plenty of good pedestrian paths that stretches for blocks and blocks, finally ending at the Minor Basilica for Guadalupe. It passes an impressive military complex and and a center for the arts that looks like a medieval castle, but was built in 1884. Evening found us returning from our jaunt down the Calzada de Guadalupe, roaming an area that Mario likened to the Roma neighborhood in Mexico City. During this space of time we had been dreaming big and decided that Mario will be looking for a job in SLP sometime in the nearer future. San Luis Potosi had us wrapped around its little finger.
But then it pulled out all the stops! (Come on, SLP . . . you had us at "hello".)
Once we were clearly back downtown and near our hotel, we browsed windows, debating where to stop for dinner. Just pass the Palacio San Agustin (it's a hotel/museum . . . what a combination!) we peeked into the windows of a fancy-pants restaurant called 1913. No one was inside--it was Sunday evening, after all--but the decor caught my fancy with carved chairs, thick stone walls, an antique wooden bar painted bright blue with gold accents. Mario casually asked what they served and once they said traditional Mexican, he was sold. So we tried it, and were not at all disappointed. Except for the fact that I wasn't very hungry. I had been craving a Sopa Azteca all weekend and ordered a nopal salad to share with Clara. They offered Pipian (verde y rojo), which I would have ordered, had I been hungrier. Mario ordered pork with plum sauce. It smelled and tasted exactly like a Christmas dinner should taste. I was so disappointed that I wasn't hungrier.
Once we were finished and they brought us the bill, they apologized as they thought they were hurrying with the bill. After all, they explained, they close at 7 on Sundays. It was 8 o'clock as we were finishing and we walked in at 6:30. They had been so patiently hanging around for an hour after closing to serve us! Even before we heard that, we had been thinking that their service was impeccable, the atmosphere delightful, and the food . . . I can't wait to go back. Despite the fancy-pants look, their prices were fairly reasonable. 50-80 pesos for appetizers, soups, and salads, and the entrees seemed to generally run at about 130 pesos. Sure, we won't make a habit of going there, but when we feel like a splurge in San Luis Potosi, we'll be splurging at 1913.
Leaving the restaurant, we meandered some more, in part to walk off dinner, and partly just because we were having a wonderful evening. Finding ourselves in the Plaza de Armas, Mario was drawn to the cathedral. I suggested that he go in and check it out, which I strolled around the Plaza with Clara (taking her in with her stroller would have been more of an ordeal then it would have been worth, as mass had just started . . . if we are going to play that whole "tourists-come-to-gawk-at-the-church-during-mass" game, we prefer to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible). As I was taking in the cathedral and the government palaces, their faces lit up in the night, a band began to play in the bandstand at the center of the Plaza. Not just any band--a formal one, whose clarinets didn't squeak and trumpets knew how to play in tune.
My cup ran over.
We stayed for a few songs of the concert, sauntered over to Plaza Fundadores nearby, where a lightshow was playing out on the Central Building of the University and the Loreto Chapel. I had read about this in the tourist information at the hotel, and thought it sounded goofy and a lot of light pollution. However, witnessing the show live, with music in the background, was yet another highlight of our weekend.
Well done, San Luis Potosi! I look forward to getting to know you even better.