I genuinely fear that Zacatecas may have ruined the rest of Mexico for me.
I've been here almost two weeks. Gavin arrived a day after I did and life has been a whirlwind of Spanish lessons, tourist antics, working out, and hard partying.
Cool Thing #1 about Zacatecas: This town is gorgeous
Really, unbelievably gorgeous. It's full of colonial buildings in great condition nestled into a small canyon. The streets jag left and right and most are cobblestoned. For the first time in Mexico, there are PUBLIC TRASH CANS on most street corners. Surprise surprise, this town is limpia
From the air:
Cool Thing #2 about Zacatecas: The Hostel Villa Colonial
This is my favorite lodging so far in Mexico. It's not because the rooms themselves are especially nice; they show the standard Mexican zeal for deferred maintenance. But the atmosphere is fantastic. The owners are super-cool and party with the guests. The guests come from all over the world, including Mexico (about 1/3 are in-country tourists) and most of them are around my age. Beer is cheap (9 pesos), the rooftop terrace has a great view of the cathedral two blocks away, and everyone is having a fabulous time. Gavin and I have a small two-bedroom apartment with kitchen for 250 pesos per night, total - about $23 USD. Best deal in Mexico.
The view from my balcony:
The view from the roof terrace at night:
Cool Thing #3 about Zacatecas: The Spanish school here rocks
Fenix Language Institute
is a five-minute walk away from the hostel and has been giving us each five hours per day of effectively private instruction for $110 USD per week. This is apparently the low season, so the school is mostly empty; I've only had another person in my class once. It's working wonders for my facility.
Cool Thing #4 about Zacatecas: The natives are friendly
I mean really
friendly. On at least four different occasions women have blown *wolf whistles* at Gavin and I walking down the street. Color me impressed! Most Mexicanas in the southern regions seem afraid to make eye contact.
Cool Thing #5 about Zacatecas: This is a good foodie town
It's not a huge city but there are plenty of restaurants and the food is excellent. You can get French and Italian fare in addition to the usual northern Mexican dishes. Wine is available, some of which is vinted locally - although Zacatecan wine ranges from "merely drinkable" to "mislabeled vinegar".
Cool Thing #6 about Zacatecas: They take art seriously
There is a big modern art movement here that extends beyond the museums and into the bars and restaurants. Zacatecanos are stylish.
Not-atypical interior of a bar (the pebble floor is an interesting touch):
Cool Thing #7 about Zacatecas: The teleférico
There is a Swiss-built cable car that runs from one mountainside to the top of another, with a little museum and (of course) a church on top. The mountain is (predictably) called "La Bufa".
The Only Uncool Thing about Zacatecas: Mornings
Around 7am trucks start driving around town with loudspeakers broadcasting what someone thought would be a catchy little jingle punctuated by a male voice proclaiming "GAS PLOOOS!" (Gas Plus). As if I got up early to stand near the door (or at that volume, anywhere on the city block) desperately waiting for someone - anyone - to bring me a tank of propane, and couldn't figure out how to use a phone to call the damn dispatcher. This phenomenon is a relic of a former time and should be banned by all civilized nations.