Wednesday, July 22, 2009

San Miguel de Allende 2009

Wow, what a day! We have been on the go touring the town and visiting all the hot spots. In addition, we have spent everyday looking at new houses for sale. Almost all are in gated-communities and are reasonably priced. Always looking for an investment. As you can guess, we like SMA and it looks like a great place to use as a summer base to escape the heat in Monterrey.

The cathedral in the main plaza, SMA.

The main plaza where a lot of people meet for lunch, coffee, or drinks in the evening.

I doubt we will ever be fulltimers although the idea still sits heavily in the back of my mind. Always looking for a new sunrise and spending the evenings viewing a new sunset and its surroundings.

We walked quite a bit around the downtown area. SMA is not quite as nice as Dolores Hidalgo but they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Dolores Hidalgo is a smaller town, has less tourists and is much quieter. SMA on the other hand has a large gringo community that is active in the city and in projects that are community based. SMA has a great night life, lots of cultural activities and events.

Incredible architecture.

With us, you can never tell what will happen but I am sure we will be back. I find it hard moving back to the states, much less for the summer months heading to the north states or Canada.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dolores Hidalgo
We slept really well at the university Sunday night. As Croft mentioned, too long of a drive for one day and I agree with that. Short vacation times still so on the way home we will leave on Thursday and make it a two day trip home.

We left the university around 9 a.m. and drove into town. We left the rig at the Soriana after doing some shopping. The security guard said he would keep an eye on it and store management said there would be no problem leaving it for a an hour or two.

Walking into town we found most of the streets under construction, it made it look like it was 100 years ago. The place was full of workers and people going about their everyday business. With the 200th anniversary coming next year the town is gearing up for the celebrations and hoping that this will give a big economic boost to the area.

Winter rvers beware, highways in and out of the area are also under construction. Hwy 110 between Dolores Hidalgo and SMA are under construction and it looks like they are just starting. No official word on how much or how long but I assume they will be working into the winter.

We had a nice breakfast at El Carruage del Caudillo across from the main square. I really recommend this place for breakfast. Their lunch and dinner menu doesn't look to hot but we had the specialty of the house for breakfast. Very good egg dish covered in beans, cream, cheese and ham served with hot bread, juice and pastry for 60 pesos, coffee included.

Most of the morning was spent in DH as we walked around stopped at the Independence museum (La Carcel), tourist office to complain about signage into town and rvers getting stuck on the small streets for lack of warning. They have lots of brochures and a wonderful webpage if you look under "Ruta 201o".

Later we headed back to the Soriana and took off for SMA. A short 30 minute drive we got lost in town looking for Weber's Tennis club. Weber's only has room for rigs under 26 feet. The German couple was there with their all-terrain rv. We didn't seem them but they have been all over the rv forums the last couple of months. The place is a dump, looks like somebody's backyard junkyard. 250 pesos a night with the only advantage being they wifi at the sites and here at La Siesta the signal is only good in the reception and pool area. Typical of Mexican business and yes this is a criticism. They have nice sites with good services but junk laying around, some small apartments they rent for 500 and 600 dollars a month. The place is a ghost town and yet they won't lower their rates. The business mentality is, "I have to make 300% profit and if I don't I'll die of starvation first before lowering my prices". Big mistake, the area has wonderful temperatures and they could rent he apartments in the summer for 350 and make some money to get rid of all the crap laying around and do some repairs.
Street reconstruction in Dolores Hidalgo preparing for 2010.

Cathedral in the main plaza in Dolores Hidalgo.

Anyway, as I said, we got lost and hired a taxi. He took us to the rv park and on the way we passed La Siesta. Good thing we had him stop and that is why we ended up here. Rvers, don't waste your time trying to find you way around, hire a taxi. It cost us 20 pesos. Safe, sound and no transito problems.

Enjoy the pics, we are off to find a gym and get our day started here in SMA.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dolores Hidalgo - San Miguel de Allende

We left yesterday, Sunday morning, from the house around 9:30. We're on vacation and I am attempting not to keep a schedule. The recommended route to San Miguel de Allende is via Saltillo but we always choose the route heading south on Hwy 85 from Monterrey to Linares where we turn right to Galeana up through the mountains and down to San Roberto and on to Mahtehuala.

We ran into a small glitch after passing Galeana. Although the drive is winding, mountainous and full of pines, we encounterd about 15 kms of road construction. In rural areas, for some unknown reason and I will ask someday, they take out the whole road instead of doing one side and then the other. Well, it was gravel, dirt and bit of washboard. No rig damage, we took it slow and made it just fine.

Coming down into the valley we caught Hwy 57 which runs from the northern border of Mexico all the way to Mexico City. Beautiful drive, excellent four lane highway with lots of new truck stops along the way. Restaurants including local Mexican fare as well as; Domino's Pizza, Subway, McDonalds, a couple of fried chicken houses and more. Large parking areas, well-lit and excellent for boondocking with pay showers and some with wifi.

It was a long day, we took turns driving but it was a lot of fun. Arriving to Dolores Hidalgo, home of Mexican Independence and also the Ruta 2010, we pulled into a gas station and as always we paid with a debit card. No problem there, but the gas jockey didn't know how to print out the ticket and worse I couldn't get my factura (invoice) that I need to deduct my expense from my taxes. It took about 20 minutes and my eyes were shutting on their own. That's when we decided to stop for the night here in Dolores Hidalgo versus going the extra 35 minutes to SMA and hunting down the rv park.

We drove around a couple of times looking for a policeman or transit but to no avail. We always like to get a thumbs up for staying somewhere when we boondock. We came across the university and asked the guards. They said there was no problem and they welcomed us with open arms. They even insisted we park right in front of the school doors so they could keep an eye on us.

It turned out to be a pleasant evening with happy hour, snacks and a small dinner of mac and tuna. We watched local tv and off to bed. Waking up this morning it is 11C, just what I wanted. If I weren't such a prude (yeah right) I would go outside and run around naked. I love this weather versus the 40C we are having at home.

Today we will go into "el centro" and look around Dolores Hidalgo and then head out for the rv park in SMA.
On a side note, coming through San Luis Potosi, we were pulled over by transito. They said it was illegal to use the overpasses with a trailer and we should be using the lateral. They wanted to take the license plate off the truck, issue a ticket and have us pay on Monday. Fine we said, just tell us where we can spend the night. That took care of that. They gave us a warning and then told us how to get to SMA, "go over the next four bridges and turn left". We smiled at each other, got in the truck and went on our way.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Who Was That Guy Anyway?

A short note and a sad story. After being on the road for the last three weeks I was desperately needing a haircut. I go to El Cercado, the small town near my house and if I'm lucky the line isn't too long waiting for Luis to cut your hair.
Luis and I usually chat about everything but yesterday he said he had bad news about Oscar. Oscar was a 60ish man who lived three doors down from Luis' barber shop. Oscar was retired from IMSS and spent most of his days walking around town, hanging out in the town square, having a smoke or an ice cream bar. He was a short guy, very anglo looking for this area and he was the friendliest guy you could ever meet. A bit odd, shy, and scared of just about everything; traveling, getting robbed, his stash of money and most of all death. He said hello to everyone and everyone knew Oscarín. A character of El Cercado.
Luis delivered the news that Oscar had been hit by a car and was killed. He had been to a local cantina and crossed in front of a car after what the driver thought was the okay to pass. The sad part is that no one went to Oscar's funeral. Turns out he had no family. What had happened to Oscar had also been the fate of his father and two brothers.
I was just surprised that a guy, that everyone knew could be discarded so easily. I found out where he is buried and I am going to visit him tomorrow. I just can't let his life go unnoticed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oaxaca - El Tule

I can't believe it has been a whole week since I last posted. I was sent to Oaxaca last week and hardly had time to come home last Saturday to wash clothes, pack, sleep a couple of hours and then back to the airport.

I flew on VivaAerobus last Sunday from Monterrey. A super discount airline that packs them in like sardines. I got to the airport 40 minutes before the flight and the jerk at the counter tried to tell me the flight was closed. I said, "I don't think so". I got on the flight and there are so many seats that none of them recline. Coffee? It will cost you. A bottle of water? Tambien. They have a menu that you can order off of.

The big issue was the checkin in Monterrey. They have six flights that leave at 6 a.m. for different cities. That means there are about 1000 people waiting to be checked in. They have the system down pat but you really need to get there early.

On I went to Oaxaca. I got a "so-so" picture of Monte Alban from the air upon arrival.

Got to my hotel and things seemed to settle down a bit. I stayed at the Fiesta Inn not far from the airport and downtown. The service was fantastic. They have a complete gym so I didn't have to look for one like usual. Most hotels advertise a gym but they only have a treadmill, which is good but not for weeks at a time. The hotel food was five star, my room very comfortable with a small living area, king-size bed, a desk with wi-fi, etc.

I was working on a program that is called Reforma Integral de la Educación Media Superior (RIEMS). This is a program based on competences and is intended to change the way we teach and learn in Mexico. It really is something and the government and the education department are working really hard on this project. I worked with English teachers in Oaxaca introducing the program and how it will work in English classes.

I didn't have a lot of opportunity to do much else. Although I was with two excellent co-workers from Oaxaca that took me out for dinner every night. My best recommendation in Oaxaca is Los Danzantes. Everyone knows where the place is. Upper class but prices are very accomodating.

We did have the chance to visit El Tule. I was there about 10 years ago and much of the town has changed for the better. Very well-kept parks and grounds, a nice morning or afternoon trip with lots of shopping with in one block of the tree.

The tree is one of the largest in the world and over 2000 years old.

The weather was great all week. Some showers but it was never hot. Another good spot to spend the summer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ensenada - Club Riviera

Today is Friday and I am heading for Tijuana in an hour or two by bus. I have a hotel reservation at the Palacio Azteca for tonight. Tomorrow morning I will get up early and do some exercise, maybe running on the streets of Tijuana (hmmm!). My flight for Monterrey leaves at 9:30 in the morning but because of the time change between here and there I won't arrive until 14:30.

I just received word that I will be going to Oaxaca on Sunday and working there for a week. That should be interesting considering elections are on Sunday and Oaxaca is known for conflict. Well, something exciting to look forward to. It may just turn out to be uneventful.

As I told you the other day, I have been to the Club Riviera that was built in 1930 for Americans to have a haven during the Prohibition period. It was really quite a place and below are some fantastic pictures.

The story goes that the "margarita" was invented in the Riviera in the 40s.

Here's the bar where the margs were made by David Negrete for the first time. I had a double vodka on the rocks here on Tuesday night.

A list of famous people who had been to the club including Desi and Lucy Arnez. Click on the photo to read the list.

A spooky hallway that once had personalities, the rich and beautiful women walking up and down them, gambling, drinking and having fun.

I waited in the dark to see if any ghosts would show up but I never saw any.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ensenada Tourist Zone - Malecon

Today is Thursday and I am running out of steam. I have been out everyday doing my exercise, being a good tourist and then working from 3 to 7 p.m. I usually come back to my room, have a drink and check my mail and then get a bite to eat.

Yesterday we took a drive out to San Miguel, a small gringo community that has mostly travel trailers with add on rooms. I checked a house there that was two small bedrooms and one bath for 70,000 dollars. The view if great and it is semi-private. They charge 5 dollars entrance and have quiet hours so it keeps the malvivientes out.

The hotel I'm staying at is one block from the beach and this is the big tourist zone. It is about 12 blocks long and covers two streets. Just about everything is expensive in terms of food, drink and souvenirs. You go two blocks over and you can get the locals prices. However, it is really nice here and still has that flavor of old Mexico. I have really enjoyed my stay here and I hope we come back to spend a whole summer. Today it is so cold that I need a jacket. Can you imagine, here it is 68 degrees and at home it is 102. Where would you rather be?

I haven't had time to check out this hotel in front of mine, Villa Fontana. It looks interesting, kind of like an old motor hotel. Everything in town is well-maintained, the streets are clean and people are very courteous drivers.

As I said the other day, there are no franchise or brand-name hotels here in Ensenada. Most are family owned. Most are older hotels but in very good condition.

I took a walk along the malecon which runs along the water where the cruise ships dock. I have yet to catch a picture of one. Everytime I go down here they have already left.

This picture was taken from "El Mirador" (lookout). This is the port terminal which receives containers and ships from all over the world.

A view of Ensenada from above. The city now boasts a population of over 500,000 people.

And of course there is the famous Hussong's. This is actually around the corner from the original watering hole and this is their clothes and souvenir store. Everything Hussong's. If my brother were to see this he would remember us drinking beer and eating tacos. Things have really changed in the last 33 years.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tijuana To Ensenada

I'm finally getting around to posting. I have free time in the mornings but by the time I exercise, get cleaned up and have breakfast it seems like the day is gone. Also, the director of the English program here in Ensenada likes to take me places. So yesterday I had to go to a school to see the last day of classes that included a spelling bee. Woweee!

When I arrived in Tijuana I caught a bus right there in the airport. It cost 220 pesos direct from the airport to Ensenada. It saved quite a bit of time and I arrived in Ensenada an hour and a half later.

Flying over the Sea of Cortez between the mainland and the peninsula.
I think this is the reservoir just East of Tijuana.
Industrial parks abound near the airport. The maquilladora is still big business.

The Tijuana International Airport.

The trip was quite surprising. As I said the other day it has been 33 years since I was in Ensenada or taken the coast highway. I have been to Tijuana many times for work and it continues to grow. It has become a nice place. Just like in Ensenada, and most other Mexican cities, people have obtained higher levels of education and in turn found much better paying jobs. You can see it in the new neighborhoods and the consumerism that is taking place. Chain stores abound here in Ensenada; CostCo, Walmart, Starbucks, Chili's, Sears the list goes on and on.

Ensenada has also become a bit more expensive too. Fish tacos are now 11 pesos, some places that aren't so nice are 3 for 20 pesos. To each his own. I still have lots of pictures to take like the Riviera Casino which was built during Prohibition and drew crowds from the U.S. including William Hearst, Al Capone, Myrna Loy, just to name a few. It is now an historic landmark and is used for special events. We went there last night for drinks. It has been restored after it had been left to elements and vandals for years. They were able to salvage the chandiliers and painted ceilings.

Cruise ships continue to pull in and out and Ensenada is back in business after the impact of the Swine flu. The streets fill up in the late morning and by 4 p.m. the crowds dwindle and the ship pulls out. Alls cruise ships stop in Ensenada as it is the first port out of the U.S. and into Mexico.

There are lots of campgrounds on the way down to Ensenada. Granted, these are not rv parks but primitive campgrounds along the oceanfront just perfect for the boondocker. I don't know what the cost is but one great location is Salsipuedes off of the toll road about 20 minutes north of Ensenada. Camping is $8 per night, or $5 to park and surf for the day.

Another before getting to Ensenada is Saldamando, dry camping with water. 17 dollars a night for motorhomes up to 32 ft. I don't know what the other rates are but they do have a webpage.

First signs as you are leaving Tijuana indicate the water is near.
All the rage, highrise condos going up all along the coast.

102 kms of oceans views between TJ and Ensenada.