I arrive, disembark and enter the massive hall the Mexicans call “TAPO,” the bus station serving the southern states of Veracruz, Tabasco, Campech, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. I find a taxi, negotiate a price to the north station and speed off.
“So, where are you going?” asks Sergio, the taxi driver. He’s a slight man, handsome in that Mexican way with little if any Indian blood, lightly mestizo, small nose, thin lips and greenish eyes behind round wire-rimmed glasses.
“I don’t know,” I reply, “probably Nuevo Laredo. I’ve been traveling for several weeks and it’s time to get home.”
“And where is that?”
“San Antonio, Texas.”
“If you like, stop in Queretaro on your way. It is my home town and I must tell you: it is old and beautiful,” he says, a smile beaming from the rear view mirror.
“Is there an Executive Class bus that goes there? And that goes from there to Laredo,” I ask.
“But of course, Queretaro is an important Mexican city. Many large corporations are there. Colgate, GE, Michelin, Samsung. It is very modern too.”
“I might do that,” I tell him.
He drops me at the north station and I wander inside. It is 3:30 PM. I have been traveling since 4:30 PM the previous day. A stop in Queretaro sounds great at this point.
Relaxing walks in the old colonial streets Sergio described?
The next bus north leaves at 4:00 and I can be in Queretaro by 6:30 this evening or in Nuevo Laredo by 11:30 AM the next day.
An easy choice.
On the bus I meet Rodrigo—his cousin owns a little hostel on the outer edge of the old town. It seemed foreordained. Rodrigo calls his cousin, whose name turns out to be Juan Pablo and makes a reservation for me.
Looking out the window the landscape has changed subtly. The road cuts are of deep, soft volcanic soil. This is the rich, fertile core of the great Meso-American plateau.
Maize predominates, of course, but there is wheat and other grains and vegetables everywhere: each field bordered by rock fences and all that they imply: permanence, peasants and tradition. It is a gently rolling landscaped sculpted by the eons of annual rain that threatens to begin at any moment.
There is also the small matter of the light: gentle, slanting, almost Tuscan. I can see why my great-great grandfather settled in the area, he must have felt at home. On days like this I understand why he picked Mexico to settle.
The highways are full of buses and trucks, just as the earlier drive. I pass a restaurant with a polar bear holding a clock on the roof. Is this irony, sarcasm, a warning or just the crazy sense of humor of some random Mexican?
The bus descends into a valley, an aqueduct to the north and in the south a pair of skyscrapers that would be more appropriate in China or Singapore greet my entrance to Queretaro.
The taxi to my hotel costs three dollars and the traffic in the old colonial streets is abysmal, but I arrive just in time: the sun is setting.
The Blue Bicycle House sits on a hill and the view is all old world: aqueducts, pastels, the steeples of a hundred churches and shimmering dusk lights running up hills draped in the hues of a perfectly pink sunset.
You know, the shower wasn’t half bad either.