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Just back from: A Mexico road trip

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • iReporter marked Mexico's bicentennial with a road trip
  • He visited Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo and Zacatecas
  • The ruins of La Quemada near Zacatecas are not to be missed, he said
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(CNN) -- With "Mexico only turns 200 once" as their motto, iReporter Michael Hilburn and his girlfriend took a five-day bicentennial road trip in September.

"Starting in Guadalajara, our 792 mile trek took us through some of Mexico's most beautiful and historic cities including Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo and Zacatecas," Hilburn, 28, wrote on iReport.com.

Hilburn, of Patterson, California, has been living in central Mexico, where he teaches at a small bilingual Christian school in Guadalajara.

The areas visited by Hilburn and his girlfriend, Jensine Pulford, were far removed from the violence making headlines along the U.S. border. "Even on the highways and among the large crowds of Independence Day celebrators we felt extremely safe," Hilburn said.

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CNN asked Hilburn to answer these questions about his experience:

First impression

Prior to our trip, my first impression of a "Mexican city" was one dense urban sprawl polluted with noise and smog. However, walking through the enchanting back alleys, or callejones, of Guanajuato and Zacatecas, I quickly remembered that the beauty of these romantic old colonial towns was one of the reasons why I moved to Mexico in the first place.

Don't-miss experience

If you are traveling from Zacatecas to Guadalajara like we did, the ruins of La Quemada are not to be missed! The impressive remains of this giant settlement stretch across the top of a mountain and overlook a breathtaking valley.

Adjectives that capture this place

Three adjectives that would describe our experience would be enchanting, intriguing and delicious.

Lasting memory

A lasting memory was participating in the "Grito" [a shout of independence] from the steps of the Alhondiga de Granaditas [an old grain storage building in Guanajuato City], the site of the first major [victory] for Mexican Independence.

Most delicious food or place to eat

I had one of the best meals of the trip our first night in Zacatecas at a small restaurant called Los Dorados de Villa. My order of enchiladas came drenched in a "Durango style" sauce that was sweet, spicy and chocolaty, all at the same time!

Biggest surprise

Our biggest surprise along the way was our "discovery" of an abandoned hacienda on the road to San Luis Potosi called Jaral de Berrio. We spent hours roaming through the passageways, courtyards and towers of this football field-sized mansion that was built around the turn of the 20th century.

All in all, this trip was one that will not quickly be forgotten.