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Full Circle

Day 224: Mexico City to Querétaro

Mexico City, Mexico 
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Casa de la Marquesa, Querétaro.
Michael Palin - Full CircleBuses del Norte is one of four massive coach stations set at the cardinal points of Mexico City. I'm told that express coaches are preferred by most Mexicans to the slower more expensive railway system. We take a comfortable, air-conditioned coach, curtained like a hearse, north on a modern well-kept toll road - Highway 57. The landscape is unexceptional. Grassland, studded with olive groves and spindly stands of eucalyptus and fields of cactus and maguey, interspersed quite arbitrarily with factories, assembly plants and power stations. Much of this recent industrial infrastructure dates from the investment boom in the mid 1970s when the US, terrified by the instability of the Middle East, sought to switch its oil custom to Mexico.

Two and a half hours north of Mexico City is the handsome city of Querétaro. With soft stone facades, neatly kept squares and splendidly decorated churches it appears to be the well-behaved personification of Spanish colonial stability. In fact throughout its history Querétaro has been a thorn in authority's flesh. In 1810 the wife of the administrator of the city passed on vital information which saved the fledgling conspiracy that led to independence from Spain. Nearly sixty years later the Hapsburg emperor Maximilian was executed here after trying to reassert his imperial authority and, in 1917, this is where revolutionaries drew up the country's present constitution.

Rich from silver and local agriculture, Querétaro wears its wealth comfortably, but beggars and street children with outstretched hands still attend the tables in the smart restaurants of the Plaza de la Independencia.

My room, in the richly-appointed town house, the Casa de la Marquesa, is one of the finest I've enjoyed on the journey. It's decorated in the style of the Alhambra in Granada, with rich mosaic tiling, stained glass and a domed roof. A terrific thunderstorm breaks as I get into bed.

I lie propped up against the pillows with rain streaming down the dome. Every now and then a brilliant flash of lightning sends shadows of the downpour swirling across the walls. I'm reading a history of Mexico. The first Mexicans, like the ancestors of the Incas of Peru, were nomads who crossed from Siberia into America on a land bridge which later became submerged beneath the waters of the Bering Strait. Pampered as I am tonight I cannot wait to see those waters again.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 224
  • Country/sea: Mexico
  • Place: Queretaro
  • Book page no: 289

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