Thursday, July 30, 2009


Coahuila (read ko-wi-la), located in northern Mexico, is the third largest state, with Saltillo (read Saltiyo) as it's capital. It's located to the west of Nuevo Leon where I lived and to it's north is the Rio Grande and the US frontier. We had passed through this state ample times while driving down to Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Zaragoza and Michoacan but we had never explored the state itself (except for my all-time-favorite camping place Cuatro Cienegas). Uday Khamadkone, one of my photographer friends (a Canonian) had come down from Dallas and he loves shooting people. He was sick of seeing americanized chicanos and eating customized Mexcian food up there and wanted to see and eat something authentically Mexican. So I thought of showing him Mexican countryside and I decided to take him to Parras de la Fuente (Parras, is short) with a stop over at General Cepeda

Our journey from Monterrey started on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. The drive on Monterrey-Saltillo highway was snail paced due to wet curvy roads and almost zero visibility, but from Saltillo onwards the day turned sunny. We stopped at General Cepeda, a cute little town with a cute little castle, La Gloria. We were welcomed by the owner of the castle, she ushered us to terrace which had vistahermosa of the town. She also offered camping space in her farm, but we had other plans for the second half of the day. Uday and myself did some street photography in the town, after which it was lunch time and we had pollo asada (chicken barbecue) at one of the nameless corner food joints, very close to zocalo.

After lunch, we steered our car towards, Oasis de Coahuila, Parras (which translates to vines), the nomenclature of which is explained by vast vineyards in the outskirts. It's the birth place of Francisco Madero, who once served as a Mexican president. Parras is a laidback town with a colonial zocalo, hill top chapel, swimming pools spread by natural springs, golf resorts and a winery. We checked into one of the inexpensive hotels not so far away from zocalo and head out to the hill top chapel, Santo Madero. It's a small chapel on rocky mountain top which could be accessed by a winding pavement leading uphill. From the chapel the panoramic view of the town and the surrounding mountain range is awesome.

From the chapel we went to zocalo area and kept wandering around. The zocalo like zocalos of other Mexican cities, is of magnificent colonial architecture with the central cathedral - San Ignacio de Loyola. Parras is known for mezclilla or denim, jeans are available for dirt cheap prices. There are many shops that sell jeans in zocalo. Walking around narrow streets and alleyways of centro is a pleasure in itself. We tried some wines in few stores, but it tasted more like grape juice than wine. It was dark and we were tired of day long driving, we bought tequila, had burger at a local Mexican restaurant and came back to hostel. Rest of the night was spent over tequila and uno cards.

Next morning we had typical Mexican breakfast of huevos rancheros (sunny side up egg with salsa and tortilla), huevos a la mexicana (scrambled eggs) and coffee. On the road leading to Saltillo, we found the winery which we were looking for - Casa Madero. It's the first time that I ever saw a winery, the tour through the winery is free of cost, though it's a good idea to tip the guide by the end of tour. We were taken through the sections of winery where they crush the grapes, separate out the peel, collect the juice and ferment the same. There were dark, temperature regulated chambers full of fermenting wooden barrels of heights ranging from waist level to ceiling. The entire tour took about an hour or so, but it was one of it's kinds. The price paid for the expensive wine, you feel, is justified after taking such a tour. We tasted a couple of kinds of wine at the store, continued our journey to Saltillo.

Saltillo, as stated earlier is the biggest city of Coahuila and the capital. It's known for it's extreme weather, sweet bread and the restaurant Las Brazas. It was lunch time and we were all hungry like dogs, right in front of university we parked the car and entered Las Brazas and had lunch. Every damn thing in this restaurant is delicious, though I recommend Alambre de pollo. The punch line of the restaurant says, "If you don't know Las Brazas, you don't know Saltillo".

El Museo de desierto a.k.a Parque las Maravillas was our destination for the afternoon. The desert museum entry costs 120 pesos, the museum is worth every penny you pay. You get to see life-size dinosaur skeletons recovered at Rincon de Colorado in Coahuila, petroglyphs, fish fossils, rare flora and fauna found in Coahuila desert. There were also pre-historic exhibits like mammoth skeleton and gigantic tortoise shells. Also there is an artificial lake which forms an abode to numerous turtles and crocodiles, which live in perfect harmony. A nursery outside the museum sells cute cactus in tiny pots. It requires atleast 3-4 hours to cover the museum in detail, we did it in about 2 hours. The information inside the museum is all in Spanish, but you wont be disappointed if you don't read them, coz there are too many interesting things to see and enjoy than getting into the details. I highly recommend this museum to the visitors of Saltillo.

The sun was heading his home and so were we. We were 100km away from home and had a desi party in the night to attend. After having our dose of caffeine in 7/11, we hit the Saltillo-Monterrey highway...

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