Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Day Trip - Comonfort


Sunday we got up bright and early and picked up my friend Darren who came to visit from D.F.  We headed up to the Sunday market for breakfast and a quick walk around buying some fruit and veggies.   Hopped in the car and drove off to Comonfort which is about a 20 minute drive from San Miguel de Allende.  There was a folkloric dance group from Chiapas performing in the main plaza and Juan was interested in seeing it.

Turned out to be a fun day.   The dance group started right on time and the chairs were arranged under the shade of the trees.   We were pretty much the first ones to to get there and I was concerned there wouldn't be a big crowd.  As the minutes passed people began showing up and soon all the seats were taken.  It was a great show.  Some of the dancers were between 7 and 10 years old.   Really cute kids and they were good dancers too.   They came on a tour bus and are touring the state of Guanajuato.   Usually these groups tour on a very limited budget and traveling conditions are not the best.  They have a beat up bus and stay with schools and families overnight.  This group however had a very nice tour bus just like the ones we travel in.   Good for them, they deserve it.

After the performance we strolled around the very crowded plaza and found some good pan dulce.   It was getting close to nap-thirty and I could feel it coming on.   My internal clock knows when it is 2:30.  I asked a passerby in the plaza if there was a cafe where we could sit and have coffee and she pointed us to the other side of the plaza.   We had three cafe americanos and it was 36 pesos, about $2.60 u.s.  We sat under an umbrella right on the sidewalk and enjoyed watching people.

Arrived back home for a short rest and off we went for the Sunday walk in the Jardin.  The place was packed and there was a clown doing a show (clowns scare me).   I didn't watch it but preferred to see the kids playing with balloons, eating ice cream, couples holding hands and stealing the occasional kiss.  

It made for a very nice day.   Being in the plaza with the crowds makes you wonder why people think Mexico is a dangerous place.  You would never know it.   We got some ice cream at a corner shop and there were three teenage gringas.   I asked them if they were taking Spanish classes.  They said no but they were in SMA visiting their grandparents who live full time here.  They come three times a year from Boston to visit.  They run around town by themselves, no fears, no worries and have a blast meeting boys and doing girly things.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fun-Filled Afternoon - Casa Magdelena


The view from our friend's house after the cocktail at Casa Magdalena.

The other day I was perusing a Yahoo group here in San Miguel de Allende and came across a cocktail party from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday (yesterday).   I called up some friends, one visiting for the weekend from D.F., and we all packed in the car and headed out to Casa Magdelena located a stones throw from SMA.  It is a vineyard with a couple of homes or should I say mansions.  

We enjoyed a wine tasting, a couple glasses of vino and some great hors d´oeuvres.  We mingled with many people both ex-pat and Mexicans and had a really good time.  The place is for sale at a steal, 1.5 million dollars.  It can also be rented by the week for 4,550 dollars.  Looks like a great place to have a family reunion and I am going to invite my siblings and see if they would be interested.

After, we headed over to our friends new house in SMA.  They live up on the hillside and have spectacular views of the city and the countryside.  We proceeded to drink more wine and ordered a pizza.  Politics, sex, and religion were on the table last night and we had a blast.


Kevin asked the other day why we might want to buy property here with so many ex-pats.  Well, you learn to live around them and some are really nice people just like us.   The most important aspect of living here is the climate and its proximity to southern regions where we feel we would like to rv.   We are tired of fighting the heat in the north even when we travel.   Time for a change.  Not to mention the fact that here, we can have a lot, put up a wall in front and nobody cares if we have an rv inside or not.  No Nosy O'Donnells here.  The big plus is that the places we have looked at are cheap and we could easily buy one now.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Another Great Day Trip


The other night when we went for our walk we passed a small shop that sells some antiques along with other artisan pieces.   Prices are very high considering the area but we like to look anyway.  I'm not a big consumer so I don't buy anything but necessities.  We had a nice chat with the shop owner.  She recently moved from Queretaro to San Miguel de Allende.  Sold everything and built a small house and opened her shop.   She lives in an area we have never explored, La Fabrica Aurora.   This was a textiles factory that was in operation from 1901 to 1991 and now houses what is called an art and design center.  Apart from all the shops, expensive furnishings and art that are available, is the wonderful history of the factory.  The equipment is still in place and the shops are installed around it.  There are a couple of small cafes and restaurants.   We had a short trip but I think we will return over the weekend.

Yesterday I had an embarrassing situation.   We are still on the look out for a place.   We stumbled across some lots that are available from the city for teachers.  Even though we are not local, we can apply because we are (or Juan is) a retired government teacher.   The lots are good sized, backup to two exclusive neighborhoods and are well-located.   

We were sent to the city offices by one of the architects we met at one of the construction sites.   We met with the person in charge.   Most of it was about where and how to apply.   I stepped out for awhile to go to the bathroom.   In the hall was a gringa who was looking for the city to put up a street sign that was missing on her block.  After finding out that she was at the wrong office she went ballistic (in English).   She accused them of not knowing their jobs, sending her all over Timbuktu, telling them she would be sent to another office and from there probably another.  The whole time she is shaking her head talking in a condescending fashion.  As it  turned out, she asked  a transito where to get the sign.  How would he know.  Second, because she lives in the centro historico, that area belongs to UNESCO and is managed as a separate entity and the office is in the main plaza. 

I stood there listening to her rant in disbelief.   After she walked away, the guy at the counter looked at me and laughed.  We engaged in an interesting conversation, one which I have had many times with the locals.  Here is an excerpt from a research paper being done by Canadian Jesse O'Brien from the University of Calgary:

The first, he says, is that the expat community is negatively affecting the local population "even though they don't notice it themselves." For example, he said the expats often make no attempt to learn Spanish, and expect to be dealt with in English. And their relationships with the locals are based on service, not friendship. As a result, says O'Brien, the expats' relationship to the locals is often condescending.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

May Have Found A Place


I want to believe we may have found a place.   It is in town, a new neighborhood that I said we had looked at two years ago.  Sometimes you miss out on opportunities by waiting to long but it hasn't hurt us yet as we always find what we want.  Patience is a good thing.   The lot is small, 8 x 16 meters but is well-located.  Ieyt is on a bus line (never know how long we'll stay or how old we'll get), has a Bodega Aurrora on the corner, is walkable to downtown and there are plenty of shops and stores in the area.   Mega is 2 minutes by car so that takes us to another popular part of town. 

The houses next door.

This is the lot we like.

We have eyed it now for a couple of weeks.  There is a woman who is selling two lots together in the same neighborhood at a reduced price but she isn't answering my emails.  Tomorrow we will go and ask the management company if they can put us in contact with her.

So we have done a lot of drive-bys, walked the lot, and figured out how we can accomodate a small palapa with laundry and bathroom or maybe a small coach house.   We will use it for the rv and when we sell the house in Monterrey we can move there and live in the rv coming and going and maybe even upgrade the rv if we decide.  Lots of ideas being tossed around and Juan has come up with a really good one which would be a covered area for the rv and we can build up above with just a roof terrace or a two bedroom casita.

Some people are asking why San Miguel de Allende?  It is never hot or cold here.  It is centrally located to the rest of the country.   All within two hours or less are Leon, Celeya, Guanajuato, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Morelia and the beach is a day's drive.  Beach areas are nice but only in the winter, summers are unbearable.   So for year round, central Mexico has our vote.    Future international trips are easy as D.F. is so close and flights less expensive for overseas travel.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another Walk Through The Mud


We continue to look for a place to buy and our minds change like the wind.   There is something to be said living in town or very very close.   On the other hand, there is much to be said about living out in the country.  Over the weekend we saw a sign in a shop window downtown.  We called several times, stopped by the shop but could never contact the owner.   Yesterday we did and we headed out to a country road that is in very good condition, cobblestone, a small town of 400 people.   When we got there the whole town was in the little plazita with flowers as someone had died in the town.    We waited for the owner and she showed up early.   

She had two pieces of land to show us.  We had driven the town and on both sides it comes to an abrupt end so it looked like they would be in the town.   Oh brother, we drove on muddy roads which she said they were going to repair "any day now" because her brother worked in the city government.   In the end, the were beautiful pieces of land but I'm getting to old to rough it anymore especially if I had to do it everyday or several times a week.    We thanked her and headed back to town.  In fact, we stopped at a housing project that we first visited over two years ago.   We wanted to see how it had progressed.   Very nice, very small lots and lots of very nice middle-class homes have been built both by the builder and individual lot owners.  

We found a nice lot for 236,000 pesos between two homes with high walls.  Perfect for a palapa with bathroom, sitting room and laundry, a place to park the rv on one side and ample parking for our vehicles.  It is on the libramiento and you could walk, a long walk for some, to the Mega.  Bus service is in front and it looks very Mexican.   Many of the homes are used on weekends by Mexicans and there are some rentals in there.  We like it because there are very few restrictions.  One would be the wall that you put up in the front of your lot.   Not an issue for us.  In the end, still undecided. 

So we ended the day with that.  Did some grocery shopping for dinner and made a very good gluten-free pasta dish with ground turkey.   Watched a couple of online videos and while we were doing that the cats were getting ready for a snack.  Can you tell?

This morning we are being lazy.  No gym.  Instead we are walking to the market and back, about a 5 mile walk so that should help the tacos digest.  I need to be a better blogger too, we have taken some great shots of San Miguel's architecture.  Maybe today.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Drive to Queretaro and Cañajo


Rooftop Rosewood Inn

We take a lot of vitamin C and it is very expensive here in San Miguel de Allende.  CostCo carries their brand but the store in Celaya didn't have any.   Today we decided to go to Queretaro.  It is a short 40 minute drive from here and on the way we drove through a small town off to the side called Cañajo  population 540.  Juan had seen an ad for two pieces of land there at very reasonable prices but before we were taken on an adventure by the owner we decided to check out the are a first.   We will be making an appointment tomorrow to see the specific pieces.   Good road, 1 km off the highway, empedrada (cobblestone) and very quiet.  Five minutes from the glorieta at Luciernaga (Soriana).

Got to Queretaro and the CostCo.  We know the major avenues and Queretaro is a city on the move.  It is expanding, seems to have a good city plan and layout, excellent highways and avenues, bringing the aviation and automotive industry to its city, but still conserving the centro historico.

No vitamin C at CostCo.   I know about regional marketing but why would people not take vitamin C in the central part of the country but in the north every store carries the stuff.   Oh well, we pigged out on demonstration food and looked at things we will never buy.   It was fun but we needed to finish our kitchen curtain project so we headed to Mundo de Wally (WallyWorld or Walmart) and bought an expandable curtain rod only to return it.  It was marked 79 pesos but rang up at 99.  It was in the wrong place and we didn't check the bar code.   Hopped over to the Home Depot and bought a thin wood dowel for 19 pesos which in the end did the trick.

 Trying out a scooter at CostCo

Came back to San Miguel and picked up our blankets that we had laundered and took a nap.   After, we headed to the Rosewood Inn for a very expensive glass of wine but really went there for the view.  Well  worth the price but we won't go there again until next year.  Met two really lovely couples there and we chatted up a storm.

Rosewood Inn Rooftop

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Great Hiking Day - El Charco Del Ingenio


Yesterday was another great day here in San Miguel de Allende.  We had gone to the gym in the morning but we got there a little late so the place was packed and I didn't get my cardio in.  So we packed a light breakfast of fruit and granola and headed off to the botanical gardens.   What a fantastic place right on the outskirts of San Miguel.   The weather is fantastic this time of year.  It rains a lot but usually in the afternoons making a good excuse to take a long nap.

Here I am sitting along the edge of the canyon which runs through the park.   It is so quiet and beautiful.  A small waterfall is running down below and you can here the water and a slight breeze is blowing.   There is a guy hidden up on top that is playing the flute, similar to southwestern native American music.  It was really a good moment and we stayed there for quite awhile mesmerized by the sounds.

The park is  filled with local cactus as well as varieties from all of the Republic.  With the rains, the flowers are in bloom and the colors are truly beautiful.

Even the wildflowers are having their moment.   Lots of color everywhere we walked.  We took a lot of pictures but here is a sampling.

 Here is a shot looking down the canyon.  We haven't walked down inside because of the rains and the water running through it.  It looked like more rain was coming so we decided to hold off again.   Les has been down in there and says the hike is worthwhile.

Found this guy inspecting cactus in the conservatory.   The water isn't running now through the stream that goes inside and I wanted to ask if there was a problem with the pump or what but no one was around to ask.   The botanical garden relies on memberships and donations and when we can find something we can afford to fix we always offer.   You need to visit next time you are in town.
Afterwards we went to the Parisina fabrics store.  We bought a piece to make a table cloth and kitchen curtains.   Total was less than seven dollars and the kitchen will look much better when we are done.   An observation and one that I already knew to be true, the mall at Luciernega on the salida to Queretaro was packed yesterday.   All Mexicans.  Why?  That's what locals are interested in just like Americans when they are at home.  People like to buy things, go to the movies, eat foreign food, etc.   They live here, they have colonial this and that, Mexican food and traditions everyday.   For foreigners it is something new and they want to preserve it.   It's a fight between old and new.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Life Goes On In SMA


We continue to beat the heat in Monterrey while exploring more of SMA.  Too many places to hike to and walking around SMA can work off some calories too.   We decided on market day we each choose one thing and then we split it.  Today we split a slice of pizza and an order of enchiladas.   No dinner tonight but maybe we'll split a piece of cake we bought at the market.   It is all so yummy but also not very good for your health.  Cheap oil is the culprit.   The salsas are always very fresh and we never have any digestion issues.   We drink a couple of Yakult everyday to keep our flora in constant upgrade.

 This kid was itching to have his picture taken, little does he know he is now memorialized on my blog!

We're not professional photographers, but there is plenty to keep you busy with a camera.   Juan takes quite a few shots, I wish I could post more.

Today I there were some posts on the On The Road In Facebook page.   I posted a couple of comments that I guess some people found offensive and the name calling started.   Basically, I have lived so long in Mexico that looking at things from a different angle have really made a change in me.  I can understand why other countries feel the way they do and how hatred can build up against some major controlling countries.  But that's life.   As my dad told me, "it's good to be a black sheep".   I'm not a feel good guy.   Truth can be painful sometimes but that's what helps us to see through the smoke screen.   As Rose Nylund said to her daughter, "can't we just wear matching dresses and pretend everything is okay?"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Folklore Fest in Dolores Hidalgo

Saturday started out as a lazy day.  I didn't feel to good in the morning.  I don't know if it was something I ate or what so I had been up since before dawn and decided to nap a bit in the late morning.   We watched a movie called "Identity Theft", piddled around on the internet and then decided to go to the opening of the folklore dance festival in Dolores Hidalgo.  Great highways here and we zipped out there in no time.   

First order of business was to find the local market and have lunch.  And we did!   I had enchiladas and man were they good.  Sorry, I got carried away and ate them before I could take a picture.   Trust me, they were good.   

After, they had the opening ceremony in the main plaza.   While that was happening I grabbed a rose petal ice cream on a cone and then grabbed a seat to watch the show.   The stage was set in front of the cathedral below.

Dancers representing my home state of Nuevo Leon

Dancers from the state of Coahuila.  Many people don't realize that borders don't separate tribes.  Many tribes share the border between the U.S. and Mexico and travel back and forth.

We stayed until 8:30 before heading home.   It was a wonderful day and I'm sure we will be heading back to Dolores Hidalgo soon.   We still haven't gotten together with Les or visited the hot springs at La Gruta.  Too much to do.  Tonight we are having dinner with Kay and Rosa at Pueblo Viejo. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Great Lunch At Nirvana


We have done quite a bit this week and my intentions have been good ones, to blog everyday but it hasn't been happening.  Too many walks, too many houses too see and people to meet.  Yesterday we met some new friends Kay and Rosa.   They are from Puerta Vallarta and have just moved to SMA.  We met them at breakfast yesterday morning.   Lots in common and we talked up a storm before heading out to look at more houses and land.  Last night we went to the Jardin to have a coffee and go for a walk.   I think I am losing a couple of pounds with all the extra walks.  This weekend, weather permitting, we want to hike the canyon and then on Sunday to walk up hill to the market.

Today, after a great workout and some errands, Dorothy invited us to lunch at Nirvana on the outskirts of Ototonilco.   What a cool place.   The service is excellent, the ambiance incredible and food the best.   We sat outdoors under an umbrella and some cold beers and really good food.  We started off with a salad and I had penne carbonera, Juan the veal shish kebabs, and Dorothy had tacos.  The service was above five stars and everyone very friendly.  If you haven't been there, you need to check it out.

Turns out Little Bit has a bacterial infection and has had two injections in the last two days.  He is doing much better and now we need one more shot and then work on getting his flora back in shape.  He's happy already and doing his duty much better, I am happy to report.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

House Shopping - These Crazy People

Yesterday was a busy one.  We started off as usual, gym, breakfast and then we hit the road.  First off was to see a property outside of San Miguel de Allende.  Heading toward Queretaro is a turn off only marked by a sign that says, "Jalpa 15kms".   We followed the owner of the property from the Mega store.   The place is awesome, probably the most beautiful location you could ever imagine.  3000 sq meters of land walled in by an artisan rock wall, with a well-constructed two bedroom home, truly a charmer.   I fell in love with the place.   The big turn off, after 15 kms of paved road, we hit 3 kms of very poor dirt road with several small river washes.   Not good for the vehicles, rv, or my patience.  Here is a picture:

Oh, the price, $62.000 U.S.  Truly paradise.  But we have experience with city governments and dirt roads so we won't go there again.

After, we headed out for Celaya to stop by CostCo to pick up vitamins.  CostCo has the best price and selection.   We took advantage of the store and enjoyed one of their factory production pizza slices and a salad that we shared.   Yummy.  That was lunch and dinner.

On the way back, Juan had seen a new neighborhood just up from the Mega.   We drove in and spent about an hour checking out the place.   Small lots, high prices.

Speaking of high prices, last night we went to a lecture called, Industria Sin Chimeneas (industry without chimneys).   A woman did research on SMA in terms of tourism without traditional industry.   She did what most speakers do that really turns me off.  She sat in front and read from her tablet.  Boring but interesting.  Most writers are that way.   She had a question and comment afterwards.  Boy, talk about selfish people.  There were about six business owners who were originally from SMA and the rest a bunch of old ex-pat farts.   You know where I'm going with this, right?  It was all about "me".  How to keep SMA the way it is right now.  Juan and I spoke up about the future generations.  I said the kids of SMA are going to school and then where are they going?  To be a waiter, a maid, a gardner, work at the Mega?  Then I said, "the city relies on pensions from old people, myself included".  Boy did I get some bad looks.   Too bad, change is coming to SMA.  So much so that I now feel compelled to do a survey of high school and college students while we are here to find out what future San Miguelenses want for their city.  Our comments fell on deaf ears.  Imagine making 800 pesos a week in tourism and trying to buy a house where the average price is $100,000 dollars.  Doesn't wash.  I have a feeling most people here work in Queretaro, Leon and D.F. and then come back home on weekends.  I need to check.

After, we walked through Jardin on our way home.  Here are some beautiful pics taken at dusk.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sunday Is Market Day Too!


Sunday is market day too!  Everyone keeps telling us it is Tuesday or that Tuesday's market is bigger and better.  Well, I'm here to tell you that Sunday is just as good as Tuesday.  The only difference, no gringos on Sunday.  We were there for over two hours, yes two hours, perusing the aisles including food stalls, clothes, shoes, tools, kitchen wares, and more.  We only counted two gringos.   Not that it matters but just an observation.

Speaking of shoes, I have been looking for a pair.  I'm limited in my ability to buy clothes.   The truth is, I hate buying clothes, trying them on and that includes shoes.  I have pair for the gym, a black pair I wear religiously, sandals and my rubber chanclas.   I found a very good pair of shoes for both the gym and day wear and they are in my favorite color!

Food at the market can't be beat.   We were going to pig out but a slice of pizza for 10 pesos when we got there and a small order of enchiladas for 15 pesos was enough for the afternoon but we finished the evening with a small bowl of pasta and chicken served with some fresh asparagus.   You know the immediate effect of asparagus, hehehe.  Remember Austin Powers at the water fountain!

We also bought a hammer.  This place has no tools although we brought a small set one thing we didn't bring was a hammer.  Why a hammer?  This is like rainy season here and mosquitoes can get on your nerves.  The casita doesn't have a screen door and we wanted the cats to go in and out at will.   We checked around and got estimates of around 1200 pesos for something basic.    We did it the Mexican way and I'll take a pic tomorrow and show you what we did.  Basic, but works extremely well at a cost of 132 pesos.  The owner can keep it or tear it down.  

Speaking of cats, two things.  Ours like to roam around outside wherever we go.  Good cats, they always stay close by and we have yet to have a problem.  Of course, they need time acclimate themselves to the area, noises, other animals, etc.   This last week they have been coming and going and they stick to our little yard which is fenced off but they could easily go further but our 99 year old neighbor has three small dogs and that keeps them close to the house.   At home the kids have a pet door.   They never use their litter box as the outdoors is their bathroom.  Now that they are more confined they use the box and we discovered that our 13 year old has a slight intestinal problem.   We took Little Bit to the vet today and they are going to run some tests tomorrow.  The vet says it's something minor as he says LB is in excellent health.

This casita is so basic we don't even have an electric porch light.  That's a candle!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I Walk Into A Reader


Yesterday was a full day.  Up early and started off with coffee and a look at live-streaming news from Monterrey.  That didn't take long, news is news and it is all about the same.  Car accidents, a drunk driver, division of state tax revenues between the municipalities, etc.

Saturday in SMA is market day or should I say organic market day next to the Instituto Allende on San Antonio.   First I dropped off the bed linens and towels and paid them 30 pesos to wash, dry and fold.  That is what I call doing laundry.  It has been raining a lot and it was cloudy.   We figured a little water wouldn't hurt us so off we went.

The place was packed and there were more gringos in one place than I have seen since last year in the Rio Grande Valley.   As we came down the street you could see people filing in and out.  As I started up the stairs, out comes a woman with hat and sunglasses and says, "Hi Chris, you don't know me".  I said maybe if she took off the glasses I might recognize her.   She said she was a reader of my blog and Les' too!  Sandra and her husband summer from Texas.  They are full-timers or were until they bought a home in Mission, Tx.  We chatted for awhile outside blocking the sidewalk.  Very nice people.  We exchanged info and I hope when Les gets back we can all get together for dinner one night.   We saw them again today when we stopped at Mega.

Toda Santa Olive Oil

La Luna Cheese

I have to say, apart from the gringo element at the market there really are some good things like extra virgin olive oil sold by a Belgian guy and his Mexican wife, local Mexican cheese makers who really make some good cheeses, bakers of all kinds displaying their breads and rolls.   We tooled around there for about an hour meeting vendors and then headed next door to the artisans fair that looked more like an Indian bazar.  Tables set up everywhere and tons of people buying things.   You name it you can find it including silk from India!   We had a cup of coffee and watched people walk around.   One guy asked me to take his order.  Happens a lot, usually in big box stores.  I guess I look like a clerk or maybe it's because I smile at people.

Haggling for carpets.

In the back of the Saturday market is a fantastic view of the Parroquia

Back home for a good nap before we spent the evening at the theater being entertained by a Flamenco group from Spain with Mexican dancers.   Very good show.   We got soaked on the way home even though we took a taxi.   It was really pouring down.  Finished up Saturday Night Live on the interet and then off to bed.

Waiting for the curtain to open at the SMA theater

The show ran for over two hours.   Very good dancers and truly entertaining.