Sunday, May 12, 2013

Peña de Bernal, cata de vinos, un festival de bailar, y un Domingo de relajación

Saturday was an incredibly busy day! We started off by meeting the group and Nanci at the university (UAQ) at 9am. We took a van to a town about an hour away from Querétaro called San Sebastián Bernal. There we set out to hike la Peña de Bernal, which is the tallest monolith ("a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock" - thank you, Wikipedia) in the world. Basically, it's a small mountain made completely out of rock that people can scale with proper equipment or hike up by foot by following makeshift manmade trails. We Americans donned our running shorts, t-shirts, socks and tennis shoes, sunglasses, and hats, slung our cameras and water bottles around our necks, and proceeded to hike up the rock. All around us there were people wearing jeans, sandals, skirts, button-up shirts, and pretty much everything we in the U.S. would consider unintended for hiking. Yet they were doing it right alongside us! Kids, older men and women, middle-aged parents...carrying potato chips and Coca Cola as their hiking snacks - very different compared to our idea of hiking gear and food. It was so interesting to see the difference in cultures. Nanci and our van driver, Mario, didn't bother to climb to any point since they had already done it before. Mary stopped quite early into the hike since she's done it in years past and didn't feel like going further and I stopped at a point just after a sign warning hikers to be careful and "valore su vida" (value your life). Uh, okay, I will, thanks. Another girl, Hannah, stopped at that point with me since her asthma was acting up, but the rest of the group proceeded to the topmost area where hikers without rock climbing equipment could venture. Despite stopping before the tallest point we could hike, the whole group took a ton of photos of the amazing view of the town. It was amazing to look out and see the countryside and other mountains in the distance along with the winding roads to get from point to point. 

We made our way back down the rock and headed into town for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant called Terraza Parador Bernal, where we feasted on green tortilla chips (made with cacti = nopales), quesadillas, sopa azteca (tortilla soup), and a variety of tacos. I learned from Mario all about sopes, the phrase "con guiso" with respect to food, and his family. He asked where I learned to speak Spanish, and when I said I studied it in college, he was very impressed. I took it as a huge compliment when he said my accent was so good. 

After we finished lunch, we had an hour to shop around the town. A few students bought some cute mugs to bring back home and I found a colorful decorative pot. It felt like we were in a Mexican version of our college town, which is a major tourist attraction during the warmer months. There were lots of little shops and restaurants open and set up and the whole place was bustling with people. It was a lot of fun to just walk around and take everything in. We could see the rock from where we were shopping and it was hard to believe we'd climbed all that way up. No wonder our legs were starting to feel like jello and we were so tired! 

Once we were done shopping, we headed to a winery called Freixenet about 20 minutes away from Bernal to do some wine tasting (cata de vinos). Some of the students' host siblings (Mini, Eduardo, and Alex) showed up in Bernal to accompany us to the winery. They would have gone to the rock with us except that they had to do a door-to-door vaccination clinic that morning. Apparently they go to the houses in Querétaro and administer polio vaccines for children. The families keep a card in their homes with required vaccinations that they should receive and get checked off when either they go to clinics to get them done or nurses come to their homes to administer them. It was interesting to hear about how these nursing students are allowed to perform these vaccinations and that their department of health, El Secretario de Salud, covers the cost.

Anyway, nobody in the group had ever actually been to the winery before. Ruth, one of the nursing professors at UAQ, had simply suggested it to Mary as a fun tour to take after spending time in Bernal. There must have been some sort of miscommunication because 1) we thought we were doing wine AND cheese tasting (it was just wine) 2) we didn't know we had to buy tickets for the tour 3) we didn't realize we had to take the tour in order to taste the wines and 4) we didn't know that there would only be ONE type of (pre-determined by the winery) wine to try. Despite these surprises, we bought our tickets for 60 pesos each (about $5-6 USD = cheap) and went on the tour, which ended up being very interesting. We headed down to the cellar (which was a refreshingly chilly 15 degree Celsius = 59 degrees Fahrenheit)  to learn about the process and storage. I think I need to catch up on my winery terms, because I had a difficult time following the tour guide's Spanish even though she was speaking very clearly! It doesn't help that I know next to nothing about wine and its production process to begin with...then put the description into another language and I struggle! At the end of the tour, we were able to try a semi-dry champagne that was pretty good. We even got to keep the champagne flute that it came in!

We were exhausted by the time we got back in the van and I fell asleep during the hour long ride back to Querétaro. However, we didn't have too much time to rest before we had to be ready to go to a dance festival later that night to which Nanci had invited us. This festival was hosted by UAQ's dance team (which we learned that Nanci had been a part of for 5 years) and would showcase dances from different countries. We were dropped off downtown, where some of the students' host families brought them back home and others who lived far away came to Mary's and my house to get ready. We only had an hour and a half before we had to meet at the theater where the show was being held. When we arrived, Nanci had reserved special seats for us in the middle of the theater - they were probably some of the best seats in the house! For almost two hours we were entertained by folk and traditional dances and music from Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela. The Venezuelan dancers were by far the most energetic and had the flashiest of costumes, but the Mexican dances that required balancing vases and glasses of water on the dancers' heads were definitely the most challenging. Some in our group were a little shocked at the very revealing costumes worn by the Argentinian dancers doing the tango, but really that's just the sensual nature of the dance :) All in all, despite nodding off a couple of times (not due to boredom but rather from just the lengthiness of the day), the event was beautifully captivating and entertaining. 

After the show, the group, along with some host siblings (Mini, Eduardo, Alex, and Cindi), Nanci, and Nanci's mother (Rosita) and sisters (Fernanda and Diana), went out to eat at a restaurant downtown called San Miguelito. We ordered some appetizers and drinks and had a good time winding down after the long day. Although Mini, Eduardo, Alex, and Cindi wanted to continue the fun and go out dancing, we all politely declined and headed home. I fell into bed after getting ready around midnight and slept until almost 10am today! I must have needed the sleep.


Today is a free day for students and without any planned activities, so Mary and I ventured out for breakfast at a restaurant downtown called Arcangel, where she's gone for breakfast before in years past. There I decided to go authentically Mexican and ordered scrambled eggs over a tortilla slathered in mole and accompanied by refried beans and cheese. It was a little spicy, but delicious and filling. After eating, Mary and I went to a restaurant where we will be having our final dinner with the students and their host families to get information on making reservations and choose the food to be prepared. We then bought some chocolate for later at a nearby supermarket (that reminded me very much of Walmart) and Mary headed back to our house, but I decided to stay downtown and browse the shops for a while. I bought myself some very fake but cheap Ray-Ban sunglasses, chatted with some students I ran into who were doing homework in a coffee shop, went in and out of shops, people-watched, and then went back to the house to catch up on blogging. I also called our landlady to ask some questions, called one of Mary's friends for her to set up a time for her to make an authentic Mexican meal for our group, worked on this post, and done some laundry - very productive! It also rained for a little while during this time, which has cooled down the outside temperature dramatically. 

All in all, a nice and relaxing Sunday. We need it since we start bright and early tomorrow and head to one of the hospitals! 

Hasta la próxima vez...

1 comment:

  1. What does "con guiso" mean? Very nice & detailed description of everything. Hope you have a good week!