Queretaro is a modern and growing city of around 1 million with a World Heritage historic district of about 50,000. Our house in the historic district is 100 to 150 years old and was completely remodeled in 2007, with all new electrical, water, gas and cable (TV and broadband), etc. It follows a traditional Mexican house plan with minor modifications including plenty of new windows for modern living, three full baths, and one half bath in the studio, all decorated with talavera tile. All floors are handmade floor tiles. All three bedrooms have their own bathrooms, and all rooms face one of two patios. These have lots of geraniums, jasmine (unscented), other plants, a pila (open water tank in the main patio) with gold fish, exterior stairs to the rooftop pergola and to the third bedroom. The large living room also has a dining area and a large glass door to the main patio. The dining room has built-in cabinets and views of both patios with an adjacent sitting area. The two downstairs bedrooms connect directly to the main patio, as well. The kitchen is not very large, but has been completely redone with new hand-made cabinets, talavera tile, with a washer and dishwasher. The kitchen, dining room and studio all provide access to the back patio.
For an explanation of the remodelling process and photos, please visit our blog at http://retiringtomexico.blogspot.com/ and check the house updates for 2007, and/or check some Before and After photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomwheaton/sets/72157600949668896/
Our neighborhood is called La Cruz, one of the original barrios of Querétaro established in the 1530s. As in all Mexican cities, neighborhoods are a mix of lower to upper income inhabitants, and La Cruz is no exception. There are families who have lived here for hundreds of years, new-comers from Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake, and a few foreigners. Traditions, especially at Christmas, Easter, Day of the Dead, and Independence Day in September are still deeply respected and uniquely celebrated in each barrio.
La Cruz saw the final battle of conquest in 1531 where a cross (hence La Cruz) and Santiago appeared in the sky during a solar eclipse, ending the battle. The streets are narrow and our street has virtually no parking, but that really does not matter since everything in the historic district is within easy walking distance.
Our house is located halfway between La Cruz market and La Cruz church/convent. It is also halfway between the last battle between Emperor Maximillian (who was at the La Cruz convent on the hill) and the Mexican Army which was located down the hill near the Queretaro river just on the other side of the La Cruz market. Our street, Damián Carmona is named after a hero of this battle fought in 1867.
Querétaro is known for its plazas and UNESCO recognized World Heritage historic district. Points of interest are the cafe-lined Plaza de Armas and Jardin Corregidora. At Christmas and other holidays, these and the other three main plazas are filled with musical groups and acting troupes, impromptu markets and art shows. The many churches of Querétaro range from very elaborate baroque (real baroque, not neo-baroque), to very simple indigenous churches. Many of these have been turned into art and historical museums. There are many points of interest outside town that can be reached by bus or car, including La Peña de Bernal, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and the nearly abandoned mining town of Pozos.
I am a retired archaeologist who received my MA from the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico, many, many, many years ago. I retired from my job as a co-owner of an archaeological-historical consulting firm in Stone Mountain, Georgia. My wife is French and taught elementary school in French at the Atlanta International School before we retired to Mexico in 2006. We have three grown daughters. One is married and living in Santa Cruz, California; another is married and living in Chicago; and the other is finishing her PhD at Emory University in Atlanta. We travel rather often to the US and to France to visit family.
My wife enjoys being with and talking to people, so Mexico is heaven for her. I enjoy Mexican archaeology and history and am starting to paint water colors again, so Mexico is also heaven for me. Speaking Spanish has helped us settle into life in Querétaro, and we have made many friends here, both ex-patriots and Mexicans.