Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Around the Barrio de la Presa

Above, La Bufa framed by bougainvillea blooming on the patio of our rental

The first week of our stay was right in the heart of the city with roving bands of costumed estudiantinas egging their audiences on to shout “Beso! Beso!” over and over again outside our windows. The second half of our trip was spent in a much more bucolic setting of a neighborhood near the dams, or presas, protecting the city. The split experience almost felt as though we visited two different cities. The second house we stayed in provided a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains, including La Bufa, and came with a backyard bonus of ripe limes, figs, blackberries and pomegranates.

Contrasting with the constricted streets downtown, a broad avenida built in the Presa neighborhood in the second half of the 19th-century appealed to aristocrats who benefited economically from the years General Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) was in power, most of the period from 1877 to 1911. A tree-shaded linear park leads to the dam and the resulting lake.

Fresh-roasted coffee can be found at Cafe Tal, and about the best artisan bread anywhere emerges from the ovens of Biga Pan, a downtown location of which should be opening soon. There are numerous restaurants in the neighborhood, but we tended to head into town, regarding the 40-minute walk each way our exercise program.

We did enjoy a pleasant lunch at La Victoriana on our moving day. The restaurant occupies the front portion of a 1909 mansion noted for its Porfiriato architectural flourishes designed by Luis de Silva.

Emma Restaurante was a bit tricky for us to find on its pereferico perch, but what a delightful perch it proved to be, with a mountain view and a neighboring garden with dozens of hummingbird feeders that had the colibri swarming. The presentation of melt-in-your-mouth tuna tiradito was beautiful; pork in green pipian sauce had a nice complexity; and the shrimp served over spicy fideo noodles were indeed ginormous.

A neighborhood landmark is the smokestack always churning away to roast whole chickens for the seemingly inappropriately named Pollo Feliz. Yes, the rooster spared from the spit to serve as the mascot appears happy, but the chicken on the right? Not so much.

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