28.03.2015 20 °C
After almost a month in the Yucatan's sweltering heat and humidity, we were both craving cooler temperatures and believe it or not...rain. We chose to stay in Xalapa (prounounced - ha-la-pa) to break the drive on our way to San Miguel de Allende, our last city in Mexico. Xalapa is the state capital of Veracruz , and is well-known for its vibrant university, its magnificent Museum of Anthropology and for the jalapeno peppers that are grown in the area. Also... for its misty, cool weather.
The drive from Tlacotalpan took about three hours, and it was fun to watch the car's temperature gauge drop from 36 to 32 to 29 to 27, as we climbed up into the mountains. We arrived in time to park our car and bring our bags in to the hotel, and then the skies opened - a thunderstorm of epic proportions. After about an hour, the rain stopped, and we hit the streets, (with jeans and sweaters on). This was the view from Parque Juarez - looking out over the city. There are volcanoes surrounding Xalapa, and the city itself is quite hilly.
Xalapa is not really on the tourist radar, but there are plenty of things to do and see here; the Museo de Antropologia being the premier attraction.
This beautiful building and its stunning gardens are a fitting setting for Mexico's second-largest collection of artifacts from three pre-Hispanic civilizations from the Veracruz area - the Olmecs, the Totonacs and the Huastecs. Set on a hill, the museum unfolds with each era; its broad steps lead into a succession of rooms and gardens. We had the place almost to ourselves, and we whiled away about three or four hours here very happily.
These big boys are the main attraction - there are seventeen colossal Olmecs heads; seven on display in this museum, and some of them weigh several tons. They all appear quite fierce - they definitely create an imposing presence.
Another big attraction here is the 3000-year-old greenstone sculpture, El Senor de las Limas - depicting a youth holding a were-jaguar infant. It is considered to be a "Rosetta stone" of Olmec religion, with supernatural incisions on the legs of the youth.
Ear stretching and piercings have been around forever - these are examples of indigenous facial adornments typical of this era.
These small sculptures are called, appropriately enough, "baby faces". They measure between two - six inches.
These "happy face" sculptures were meant to be tucked into coffins as an encouragement for a peaceful afterlife.
These sculptures all had their own appeal and meaning - just a small sampling of what was on display.
The Universidad de Veracruz brings a tremendous artistic and literary presence to the city. This statue marks one of the entrances to the university's campuses, set throughout the downtown. Students rule - skinny jeans, leather boots, black-rimmed glasses, and passionate café discussions look the same here as they do in Toronto or Barcelona.
Coffee rules, too. Xalapa is a major coffee-growing area, and this city is spoiled for choice when it comes to excellent cafés. I loved this Seuss-like graphic, celebrating one of the area's main exports.
Art, film and music fill the city. Xalapa has an excellent symphony, and posters all over the city announce art opening, concerts, readings, and theatre. We missed out on dance in the park, due to rainy weather, but we loved the fact that simply walking around the city brings is its own reward.
Los Lagos is a park in the centre of the city, with a treed walkway around three lakes. Kids, dogs, cyclists, runners, and young couples all find refuge there.
After our promenade, we came upon this group of high-school footballers from San Luis Potosi. They caught me taking a photo, and the next thing we knew, we were invited to be part of their group shot. We wished them' Buena Suerte" in their match against the Xalapa team.
The San Jose barrio, just up a hill from the downtown core, was a delightful discovery - art galleries, cafes, narrow streets and an old church.
Stephen outside our sweet hotel in Xalapa. A brief, and much-appreciated respite.
Now, we're ready for sun and warmth, Mexican colour and fiesta and over-the-top pageantry.
Talk to you soon again - from San Miguel de Allende.