A DAY IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

If you have never been to San Miguel de Allende, you are missing out! This colonial-era city is dazzling with it’s cobblestones streets, colorful houses, beautiful principal plaza (called El Jardin), a stunning neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel (church)  and stores filled with unique Mexican handicrafts.

I visited this wonderful city with my father and sister on a week long trip around central Mexico. When we first arrived to San Miguel Allende we stopped at the mirador. From there you are able to admire this splendid city. This is the perfect place to take a panoramic picture of the whole city and it’s landscape.

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After we finished taking pictures of the city we headed to Fabrica La Aurora. This was an old textile factory and has now been re-purposed with different art galleries. A beautiful place to visit, with many different artists’ work. We had a great time wandering from gallery to gallery. There is a cafe where you can grab a quick bite and a delicious cafe.

Once we finished walking around  Fabrica La Aurora we headed to the principal plaza of San Miguel de Allende (called El Jardin). All round the plaza you will see restaurants, bars and stores. Right in front of El Jardin you will see the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. The Parroquia has stunning architecture and beautiful altars.  It is a Gothic church made of rose canter. The construction is breathtaking and at night it also looks very impressive. Inside the Parroquia you will find a small chapel called Capilla del Santisimo.

Right next to the Parroquia there is a church called Iglesia San Rafael or Santa Esquela.

There are also other churches near the plaza and we visited two of them. The first church that we visited was Templo de Inmaculada Concepcion de las Monjas. Right outside this church you will see an ice cream stand.  The stand sells many different types of delicious ice cream. My favorite flavor is cajeta, made of sweetened caramelized goat’s milk. (As I type this I am craving and missing the cajeta ice cream.)

The other church that we also visited was the Templo de San Francisco. The facade is pure Churrigueresque with stone figures and fine columns. There is a beautiful plaza in front of the church bustling with activity people also sit on the benches to relax enjoy the day.

We had dinner at La Terraza, it is a restaurant located next to La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. I think that this place is good if you want to have a drink while relaxing watching the people walk around El Jardin. However,  the service was very slow and the food was poor.

We spend the rest of the day walking around the cobblestones streets of the city while visiting different stores. We also took lots of pictures of indigenous ladies making beautiful flower headbands.

I highly recommend that you visit this wonderful colonial city. There are a lot of things to do and you can also just choose to relax all day sitting on the benches of El Jardin while admiring the different activities going on.

Have you ever been to San Miguel de Allende? If yes, what other places do you recommend?

 

EXPLORE AN ANCIENT MONASTERY IN IRELAND

As we left Northern Ireland and traveled back to the Republic of Ireland we stopped at the monastery of Clonmacnoise. The monastery is very pretty and the landscape is spectacular since its right next to the Shannon river. I found a little pathway that takes you to the river while I was taking pictures of the monastery. It was very peaceful to walk along the riverbank because the view was breathtaking. Everything around me was very green and lush.

The monastery has a center where you can see different exhibits describing the history of Clonmacnoise and the area. I learned that the strategic location of the monastery helped it become a major center of religion, learning, and craftsmanship. Moreover, many of the high kings of Tara were buried here. There is also an original stone cross inside the center. We watched a documentary in the theater that talked about the history of the monastery and how people used to live there before.

High Cross

High Cross

After leaving the monastery, we headed to the town of Cashel, where we stayed for two days. There will be more information about the town of Cashel on my upcoming post.

EXPLORE TWO SMALL TOWNS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Downpatrick

Close to Belfast are two different towns, Downpatrick and Newcastle. In Downpatrick, we visited the Down Cathedral and the St. Patrick Centre. The centre has an interactive exhibition where I learned that St. Patrick was a slave. After visiting the centre we went to the Down Cathedral, which stands on Cathedral Hill overlooking the town. It is believed that St. Patrick was buried near the cathedral.

Newcastle

After exploring Downpatrick, we headed out to Newcastle. The town is gorgeous because it is located right next to the sea and at the foot of Slieve Donard. When we first got into town my friends and I bought ice cream! Every ice cream that we tried in every little town in Northern Ireland was always delicious! After buying our ice cream we headed out to the beach. The tide was very low so the sea was pretty far away. We made our way closer to the sea. The sky looked clear and blue when we started to walk. Suddenly, when we were halfway down the beach the sky started to turn gray and it began to pour down. We all ran to get away from the rain but the more we ran the more we got wet. Finally, after a few minutes the sky cleared up again and the sun came up. It was pretty weird to see how fast the weather could change. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I still had an amazing time in Newcastle, it was a very pretty town to explore.

Belfast – A City Divided by Peace Walls

The city of Belfast is a beautiful city with many great things to see and explore. The Titanic was built in this amazing city. However, if you ever visit the interface areas of Belfast, you will see that they are divided by peace walls.  Interface areas are areas where segregated Catholics (Nationalist) and Protestants (Unionist) residential areas meet. Peace walls were built to prevent violence between these two communities. We took two different tours that showed us the reality of the conflict that is still going in Northern Ireland. One of the tours was from the perspective of the Nationalist and the other one was of the Unionist.

Graffiti on the peace wall

Graffiti on the peace wall

Houses next to the peace wall

The houses next to the peace walls have metal fencing and barricades to protect them against pipe bombs, bricks or fireworks.

Peace Wall

This picture shows how more high walls and fences have been erected to keep Protestant and Catholic communities apart due to ongoing sectarian tension.

Nationalist Tour

The first tour that we took was on the Nationalist side of the interface area. The tour guide took us to a school where he showed us a wall with different bullet holes that the Unionist had fired. Since there was a church behind the school the Unionist would target the people coming out of church service. It was haunting to see the bullet holes in a school, were young children go to learn. Our tour guide also showed us different murals on the peace walls. On the murals people drew different things like civil rights movements and important leaders that have changed the world. I was surprised to see a mural of Hugo Chavez. I asked the tour guide why there was a mural of Cesar Chavez and he told me that it was because he fought for the civil rights of the native people of Venezuela. Since the Nationalist identify themselves as the native people of Ireland, they can relate to his causes. It was very intriguing to observe the different murals because they are a piece of art.

Unionist Tour

Our second tour started on the Shankill Road, which is a main road that runs through the predominantly Unionist area known as the Shankill. At the beginning of the tour we had to pass through a gate to go to the Unionist side. The guide explained to us that the gate is locked everyday at 7pm and they do not open until 7am in an attempt to avoid trouble between the two communities.

Gate to enter the Unionist interface area

Gates to enter the Unionist interface area

On our tour, the guide stopped by a plate and he explained to us why the plate had been put there. He told us the story of the Shankill Road Bombing, which occurred on October 23, 1993. It is one of the most notorious incidents that happened during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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All down the Shankill Road there were also murals that express different causes and memorials of incidents that happened during the Troubles.

Corrymeela Community and Ballycastle

Corrymeela Community

After we visited Giant’s Causeway we headed to Corrymeela Community, which is a Christian community whose objective is to advocate harmony and peace-building through the healing of religious, social, and political divisions in Northern Ireland.   When we arrived we were greeted by the volunteers of the Corrymeela Community, and all of them were very nice and warming.The site was stunning and what I love most about it was the view. Since Corrymeela is on the top of a hill, it has a magnificent view of the coast. I was able too see Scotland, since it is only 13 miles away! The rooms where we stayed at were pretty neat and modern. After, we had dinner and learned about the rules of the Corrymeela Community. We had a tour of the whole place and right after the tour we had a small talk with Reverend Harold Good, who is known as an internationally renowned peacemaker. He told us a little of his background story and how he was involved in the Peace Process of Northern Ireland. The following morning I went to explore the grounds of Corrymeela on my own. It was wonderful because I had time to reflect and admire the view. I went to sit on the bench by the cross and just savored the view in complete silence. I realized how wonderful this experience was and how lucky I was to be in Northern Ireland at the Corrymeela Community.

Ballycastle

Later on in the day, we walked to Ballycastle, which is a very small town in Northern Ireland. As we walked there we admired the view of the northern coast and the countryside.

Newgrange, Hill of Tara, and High Crosses of Monasterboice

As we left Dublin and on our way to Belfast we visited Newgrange, Hill of Tara, High Crosses of Monasterboice.

Newgrange

Newgrange was an delightful site. There is a museum that explains how Newgrange was built and why. I imagined the site a little different from what I saw in real life. We went inside the little cave and I was a bit disappointed to see that the sunlight did not illuminate the whole cave, just part of it. However, it was fascinating to see how the ancient people built it, because it was constructed in a very brilliant way. The view of the country is breathtaking since you can see the richness of the green landscape.

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara was a impressive site to visit since it contains a number of ancient monuments where the High Kings were crowned. It was very interesting to see the Stone of Destiny in the middle of Tara.  I really thought we were going to see more ancient monuments at the Hill of Tara, but it was mostly just hills and caves.

High Crosses of Monasterboice

These crosses were really big and have stories of the bible in them. The monks used these crosses to educate people a long time ago about the gospel of God. There is also a tower and it is believed that it was constructed to protect the monks against attacks.