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Real de Catorce: We Came for the Pie, Not the Peyote

This weekend we drove to the town of Real de Catorce–elevation 9,000 ft, population 1,200. It’s a silver mining town-turned ghost town-turned movie set for Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in “The Mexican“-turned up and coming trendy spot for European expats in Mexico. To get there you drive very slowly along a 17-mile-long cobblestone road, then wait at the entrance of the one-way Ogarrio Tunnel, making sure the oncoming traffic of pick-up trucks, horses, mules, and pedestrians has cleared, then proceed 1.5 miles in damp darkness though the inside of a mountain until you reach the town on the other side.

We did plenty of siteseeing on foot, ankles wobbling precariously on hundred-year-old cobblestone paths. Here we are climbing up to The Cemetery where you walk on tombstones (there is no way around them!) to get inside the chapel.

This was followed by shopping. Handicraft booths line the streets selling Huichol (Indian tribe) artwork, like the small square picture sitting on the table, made with yarn and not paint. The Huichol are known as “The People of the Peyote,”eating the hallucinogenic cactus as a way to commune with their gods. Apparently many of the original expats here came to experience this high. As for us, the altitude was high enough. We could barely breathe climbing up the steep sidewalks.

After all that driving, walking, and shopping, finally, we were able to take a break. We found a hip cafe on the corner of Plaza Hidalgo, called La Esquina Chata, run by an Italian who makes a fine espresso. And what did we find on his menu? PIE!!!! (Or “pay” if you read it in Spanish.) We had a piece of the pear and chocolate pie with our cafe lattes. Dee-lis-ee-oh-so!

Refueled with pie and coffee, we climbed back into the car (but not on top of the car like many of the locals!) and headed back to Saltillo.

I’m already looking forward to our next outing–and to discovering where we might find pie next.