Today was our free day. We shared a cab with Bruce and Karen and went to the Mercado Hidalgo about 10:30 this morning. The cab driver would return at 3:00 PM and pick us up where he dropped us off.
The Mercado is a large building that was originally built as a railroad station to celebrate the centennial of Mexico’s Independence. Construction of the huge building began in 1905. Alexander Gustave Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower guy) designed the clock tower portion of the wrought iron, domed ceiling complex. Unfortunately, things do not always work out as intended and by the time the building was completed in 1910 the plans for the railroad to Guanajuato were nixed. This left the people of Guanajuato with a very large train station but with no tracks or trains. A big PR program was undertaken by Porfirio Diaz (president of Mexico at the time) and the empty building was transformed into a market place for the local citizens.
Crammed inside the Mercado is a mish-mash of stalls and booths that are separated by narrow aisles crowded with people. The booths seem too small to hold the vast quantity of goods packed into each one. The ground level of the Mercado is comprised mostly of food items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, beverages, and many different kinds of cooked foods. The stalls on the upper level sell all kinds of souvenirs such as pottery, T-shirts, toys, leather goods, jewelry, and many other trinkets and touristy kinds of items. A lot of the stalls have some of the same stuff for sale and if you shop around you may find a better price. The only thing Carol Ann and I bought in the Mercado were four bananas for $5 pesos (about 35 cents US).
After looking around in the Mercado for a while we decided to walk the five or so blocks to the Plaza we had been in yesterday. The shops and restaurants in that area are a bit more upscale than those around the Mercado. We had a very nice lunch at a sidewalk café and then just ambled around, in and out of shops and trying not to get run over by autos or pedestrians. I took off on my own for a little while and explored some of the many narrow alleys and passageways in which I found a lot of photo ops. The city is very clean, has cobblestone streets, and the buildings are bright and colorful.
While the four of us were in town we ran into Bob and Billie, Michel and Ellen, and the same three rug sellers that we have seen for the previous two days. I bought a machete that is 3 feet long and sharpened on both sides. It is a wicked looking piece of steel. The lady in the hardware store wrapped it up in newspaper and tape; otherwise I might have been arrested for walking around with an "unconcealed" weapon.
The cab driver met us as arranged and we were back at the RV park before 3:30 PM. The briefing for tomorrow’s drive was at 5:00 PM and our “Goodbye Mexico” dinner at 6:00 PM in the RV park’s restaurant. We had margaritas and were entertained by a four-piece Mexican band. The dinner was one of the best we have had on the trip. There was some dancing, toasting, and a lot of laughing and fun. Tomorrow we leave at 8:00 AM for a drive of almost 300 miles to the Paradero San Pedro, which is a very large truck and tourist stop with a 24-hour restaurant, game room, shop, and an on-the-premises police station for security.
We will be dry camping (no hook-ups) in the back of the parking lot and back on the road early the next morning. Butch and Cathy are trying to arrange a police escort for the last day of our trip, as we will once again be driving through bandito territory. No tourist have been killed on this highway since last February so we should be OK. But, who knows, there is still time for more adventure before crossing the border! Keep your fingers crossed for us.
I got more news about the car today. The last I heard was that they had gotten the last part needed and the repairs would be completed by today. Today they said they were waiting on a “few” more parts so we have no idea when we will get our car back. We may end up staying in Harlingen, TX a little longer than we had originally thought.