‘Noble and Loyal’ Queretaro

Historic Santiago de Queretaro is a serene gem

By: Josef Kandoll W

It isn’t just that the beautiful colonial city of Santiago de Queretaro is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that makes it worth the trip. Clients have to come for the view particularly the night view of the longest series of arches in the country that seem to cross from one end of town to the other. During the day, the aqueduct, built in 1726, is no less impressive in its march from hilltop to hilltop. In use until 1970, the engineering marvel remains an architectural symbol of the city.

Founded as Queretaro in 1531, the city was renamed “The Noble and Loyal City of Santiago de Queretaro” in 1656 by the Duke of Albuquerque, and the long-winded title was officially accepted by King Philip V of Spain in 1712. Queretaro was home to Emperor Maximilian as well as the scene of his execution by firing squad after the defeat of the imperial forces.

Probably its greatest claim to fame, however, was during the independence movement in 1810. Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, wife of the mayor of the town, has a statue in her honor for her part in the revolution against the government which happened to be headed by her own husband. Barricaded in her bedroom, the story goes that she passed a note through the keyhole to a servant to warn the leaders that their plots had been discovered.

Today, the town is so peaceful it’s hard to imagine it as the center of a revolution. Queretaro’s Jardin Zenea is a favorite gathering place with the oblong manicured park surrounded by the cathedral, the regional museum and many cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Nearby is the equally impressive Plaza de Armas fronted by the baroque Casa de Ecala and the Casa de Corregidora. Visit notable buildings such as the baroque/neo-classical San Felipe Neri Cathedral, the colonial Casa de la Zacatecana or the historical Temple and Ex-Convent of Santa Cruz, all pointed out on the hourly tours that depart from downtown for about $2.50 per person.

This city is also home to university theater groups with numerous performances offering an insight into the vibrant life of the youth of the city. Cafes, restaurants and clubs with live music keep downtown hopping, especially on weekends. Check out Qiu Disco, El Telon or Zarabanda for dancing until dawn. Other local activities are bullfighting, with two rings the popular Juriquilla and the larger, more modern Santa Maria with seating for up to 13,000. Golf is growing in popularity as well, with six courses near Queretaro itself.

It might seem hard to fathom coming all this way for stone, but just outside of Queretaro is an area famous for carved stone and marble. Monuments, garden ornaments, balustrades and more can be found in nearby Escolastica where the streets are lined with stone. The area of San Juan del Rio and La Trinidad are known for natural opals of many colors, while throughout most of the state handiwork includes painted earthenware, woven baskets and mats.

While Queretaro’s anniversary is celebrated July 23-30, another holiday to watch for is the Wine and Cheese Festival, which takes place each year at the end of May in the area of Cadereyta where Freixenet maintains a local wine production. And clients visiting during the first two weeks of December (Dec. 1-14) can take in the International Fair, featuring cultural events, food and festivities.

Queretaro is a jumping-off point for numerous tours into the surrounding mountains and countryside. Popular tours include the previously mentioned San Juan del Rio, while the Tequisquiapan Hot Springs are visited by locals as well as visitors. Don’t miss the Botanic Gardens featuring varieties of cactus in Cadereyta, not far from the wineries of Freixenet. For more time, take the tour of the five missions of the Sierra Gorda for the impressive architecture found there.

Whatever visitors choose to do in Queretaro, this region is becoming one of Mexico’s most popular. Costs are reasonable and the culture is sophisticated, while remaining still relatively untouched by progress.

GETTING THERE

Air service to Queretaro is offered by Continental Airlines (daily to Houston), Alma Click Airways (three flights daily to Monterrey, two to Guadalajara) and Transportes Aeromar (three flights daily to Monterrey and three to Mexico City).

Car Rentals: Avis, Budget, National and Alamo all have offices here.

WHERE TO STAY
All hotels offer commission as well as special rates.

LUXURY
The 24-room Doña Urraca was converted from a private estate into a sumptuous boutique hotel with a central garden, pool, spa with Jacuzzi, gourmet restaurant and wine cellar and meeting space. Close to downtown. Rates from $190. 442-238-5400
www.donaurraca.com.mx

La Casa de la Marquesa was built in 1756 as a gift to a local Marquesa. Now 25 exceptional suites are available all with wooden floors, feather beds, air-conditioning and Internet service. Rates from $180. 442-212-0092
www.lacasadelamarquesa.com

MODERATE
The Gran Hotel de Queretaro is located next to the Jardin Zenea and the Plaza de la Constitucion, the hotel’s 50 rooms are comfortable and offer great views. Hotel amenities include a gym, valet parking and continental breakfast. Rates from $150. 442-251-8050
www.granhoteldequeretaro.com

The Hotel Quinta Santiago offers 30 tastefully decorated rooms with air-conditioning, Internet access and more. Rates from $119. 442-224-1985
www.hotelquintasantiago.com

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