Saturday, November 11, 2023

You Never Know Who You'll Run Into

Very few people out before 8 a.m.  Much different than in the north of Mexico.

We made a dinner date with Les and Mike and Terri.  I told Croft we would be having dinner and he said to say hell to everyone.  I also told him I would take a picture but we were being kicked out before we knew it as we had spent over two hours chatting.  They closed up and we all said our goodbyes until January and headed home.

The funny part of it all was that we had finished dinner when a woman walked up to the table and said, "You probably don't remember me but my name is Wanda and you helped me out when I was in trouble".  Well, I do remember Wanda very well.  Back in 2011, she sent me an email saying she was on her way to SMA and her Westfalia had broken down by the municipal airport in Monterrey.  She was safe, her VW towed and she was staying in a hotel.  She wanted to know what would be a good gift to show appreciation to the gentlemen who helped get her towed and repaired her van.  

Such a small way of helping and she still visits the blog occasionally.  It does your heart good to know you have helped someone.  We always wanted to make that our vision for rving in Mexico.  We have considered several times over the years to offer a service of helping newcomers to rving in Mexico processing papers at the border leading them down around Monterrey to our area and giving them an orientation to rving here.  I guess we did find it in some way by belonging to Boondockers Welcome/Harvest Host.  We get a couple of rvers every year and most are new to all of this.  In the end, we get a kick out of showing people around and that there is a lot to see in northern Mexico apart from beating feet across the border.  

Coming back from my walk I passed the church and this mama was basking in the early morning sun.

The rains have come this week which is nice.  We have spent the last three days with estimates for painting the front of the house.  After all this, you sit back and say, "does it really need painting?" or is it something that just makes it more your own and puts a mark on your territory?

Our friends Christine and Robert are in SMA now and are doing a great job of getting around and seeing the sights.  They are going all over the place.  Good for them!  Christine will be prepared for her solo and Robert has taught her some essential Spanish.

Bitcoin machines are now popping up around San Miguel and most of Mexico!

A daily occurrence, these riders pass by the house every afternoon around 6 p.m. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Day Of The Dead - San Miguel de Allende

Having just arrived the night before, we were a bit discombobulated and still trying to get our morning coffee.  We had errands to run and pay the phone bill.  It was a holiday, and most businesses were closed.  We were hoping Telmex was open.  Traffic on the Ancha de San Antonio was busy with pilgrims and family going to the cemetery across the street from the office.  We parked in the Telmex lot with the pretext that we were paying our bill.  We did a quick walk through the cemetery.  Lines were formed outside and everyone carried paint, brushes, and flowers, and some even brought a mariachi or a musician.

On the road outside the cemetery (it runs parallel to Ancha San Antonio) vendors set up their flower stands.  Always willing to negotiate their prices, people find it easier to buy from them when they arrive at the cemetery.
Artificial flowers have become very popular.  Among those are some made from tin and painted.  You could see people leaving the cemetery and taking some home for decoration.

What good would a visit to the cemetery be without something to snack on in addition to the offering you have brought.  Vendors were selling churros, chips with salsa, cream, and cheese.  I've never eaten that and I don't think it is very healthy but it has become a big seller.  Slice open the bag of Tostitos or chips and lather on the toppings.  You then eat it with a spoon.  Similar to when you buy a cup of corn on the street.

Relatives and tourists alike file into the cemetery.  Long lines and so many people carrying buckets for watering, food, folding chairs, and music.  One woman reportedly fell into a grave as the cement covering gave way.  It happens several times around the country during Dia de Los Muertos.

Video Of The Cemetery

A man painting a decorative tombstone over the grave of a family member.  The large tombstone to the left says, "Señor!  Don't let us lose our hope of life!"

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Rvers Are Traveling South To Mexico

We're back in San Miguel de Allende for the Dia de los Muertos festivities and do some minor additions to the house.  I purchased some aluminum miniblinds online and they were shipped to the mailbox in Monterrey.  We've had good luck ordering online from a company in Mexico City.  Free shipping and we save around 60%.  I bought two for the bathrooms in Monterrey as well.

The drive was a drag this time.  We were doing well until we got to Hwy 57 and then it was a lot of small stops for road construction.  People were driving crazy and I think I p.o.'ed a trucker.  He cut me off so when I did get around him I gave him one long honk.  After that, the word was out and it seemed for quite a stretch others were trying to irritate me.  Or at least that's what it appeared to us.

We made it though and all is safe and sound here at Aruanda II.  The new door we had installed with the dust sweep really did the trick.  With winds and rain, it does an excellent job of keeping the dust down.  Very little to do in terms of housekeeping.

I was reading the Mexico Rv Facebook page the other day and a woman posted that they were in a hotel in Monterrey while their fur kid was getting some dental work done.   I sent her a message and said we live in the Monterrey area and if they needed anything to drop a line.  They did!  We offered our 30 amp for a night as we were leaving for San Miguel the next day.  What nice people.  Aren't most rvers that way?  They have a 13ft Scamp and a Subaru.  A great setup for Mexico.  They have a dolly they can use to move the trailer around.  Full bath and is pretty roomy for its size.

So the usual, we went to Santiago for lunch and showed them around a bit.  We had a great happy hour and shared information about traveling in Mexico.  They are new to rving and new to driving in Mexico.  They made it through and are in Santiago and will be heading down south this week.  They have a cute dog, Toby!   I can't remember his breed but is a mix of three he is really handsome.  Such a good kid.

After we left for SMA, Christine and Robert went to the waterfalls and did their own touristing.  I recommended that they park in Los Cavazos next to the police tower.  Wouldn't you know, they asked if they could stay and a merchant with a stand said to park behind his little shop.  He ended up inviting them to dinner.  Only in Mexico!

They are from Minnesota and Christine is retired.  Robert will be with her for the first month before he returns.  She will be solo after that 21and we thought it would be a good idea for them to head to SMA stopping in Matehuala at the Oasis Hotel and the El Faro in San Luis Potosi.  They are good with boondocking as well so we gave them someplace should they decide to do that.  

Today, November 2nd, we will go to the cemetery, do some tourist watching, and lay low.  A good day for recovery after the drive.  Even though it was a bit tedious it was fun and the weather great.  

Now for a surprise ending.  Juan competed with his partner Cindy over the weekend at the Conarte Folkloric Dance Festival in the over 60 category.  And yes, we have a winner.  His second time.    His competition begins in the video below at 2:31:44 minutes.

He was very happy and now his knees will get a long rest as we look for a possible knee replacement Too much travel coming up and we need to be able to keep moving.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Getting Ready To Go

The reservoir near our house is now a desert.  Enlarging the picture you may see a spot of blue.  Presa de la Boca has supplied Monterrey with the majority of its water for over 65 years

It's time for a change of pace.  It's still very hot here.  This week it is hovering around 35C and the early mornings 25C.  We've had a shower or two in the last two weeks but it isn't helping the water situation in Monterrey.  Our lake is again dry as a bone and people are driving around where the water was once 10 meters deep.  The level is at 2.8%.   Our new aqueduct fell short of expectations simply because there is no water.  The city is back to rationing and some neighborhoods have been without water for weeks.  Heavy showers will come in the next two days and I hope it brings some relief.

I ordered a few things this week.  One is a new RV cover.  The cheap one I bought a couple of years ago is very thin on the roof and it is now ripping.  The repair kit is worthless but super glue seems to work quite well.  I ordered aluminum miniblinds for the bedrooms in San Miguel de Allende and also for the bathrooms here at home. We opted to order things on line versus going to McAllen.  We've had quite a bit of cartel trouble in the last couple of months and they are blocking highways and burning vehicles along with all the other things you hear about.  Such a shame we have a lousy government.  Socialist/Dictatorship isn't working.

Speaking of here at home, we signed a contract for the sell of the house and it is on the market.  If and when it sells we don't have a clue or where we will go.  

Quinta Aruanda is the link for the pictures and details.  We are in a housing boom so hopefully, it will sell within the contract time.  My brother who recently moved from Hawaii to Missouri after 20 some years, sold his condo today.  It was touch and go as it is located on Maui and very near where the fires were.  

Once the rains settle down next week I'll be getting the trailer ready for a trip in November.  Most likely we will head to the southwest U.S.  The state of Nuevo Leon is opening some new or extended routes via toll highways.  One is from Montemorelos just south of us.  It will take you all the way around the metropolitan area to Hwy 85 to Laredo, or Hwy 40 to Saltillo.  The highway we take from Linares to San Roberto will now have a shorter route that will take you around some of the curvy mountain roads.  

The blue line goes from Montemorelos to Galeana (El Pozo de Gavilan and the Laguna Labrador boondocking spots).  This is a direct route eliminating the curvy portion from Linares.  They are working pretty fast.

The northern line takes you from Montemorelos around the city of Monterrey.  Sure, they are toll roads but will eliminate a lot of problems for rvers who attempt to drive through the city.  There is really quit a bit to see in the southern part of Nuevo Leon and still plenty of boondocking.

On a very happy note, one of our nieces has suffered from severe curvature of the spine all of her young life.  Now at 16, we found a group of doctors willing to take on the task for free to relieve her of this malady.  She has suffered physically as well as psychologically for years and it has affected her self-esteem not to mention the numerous treatments as well as the braces she has had to wear and endure. 

The surgery lasted over 9 hours.  She is home now and a much taller young woman who has recovered 80% of her health.  She will lead a wonderful life.  She's a straight-A student and is also working hard to learn English.  We see a bright future for her.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Spain - Our Take

Happy faces as we wound up our last few days in Madrid!

Most of you know what it's like to travel to Mexico.  There always seems to be some type of delay, paperwork issue, permits,  and visas.  Traveling with an RV creates issues in obtaining border permits (be careful with your vehicle type, nomenclature on the registration, letters from the creditor, and more).   Once you're "in" you can travel with some limited freedom depending on where you take your RV.  Stay out of major cities, don't enter Mexico City, look out for transito who may hold you up for a bribe, and of course the more than ever infamous cartel activity and their abilities to really f--- things up.

Europe being new to me, I based my experiences on what I know from travel in the Americas.  The first hurdle is always immigration.  In Spain, there is no hurdle.  You show your passport, they run it through the database, look at you and your picture, stamp the key, and off you go.  It couldn't be easier.

Renting a car was even easier and very inexpensive.  I will post our expenses later this weekend.  I had made the reservation online months in advance.  We used Record Go as they had the best prices and insurance rates.  I had filled out the application online and when we arrived the agent had our reservation ready and waiting.  Efficient, no extras, easily explained and off we went to the car park area.  It did take an extra thirty minutes to get our car as we picked it up in terminal 4 instead of terminal 1.  They were driving it over when there was an accident on the street between terminals.  

After that, off we went.  Our GPS worked well and there were no issues.   On the return after our trip throughout the country, it was like any other rental car return at a U.S. airport.  The signage is great and I pulled right in following the arrows.  I dropped Juan off at the office module in the parking lot.  As I pulled into a spot, an agent came over with his handheld terminal and in less than 2 minutes we were done.  We took the train back to Madrid for our last few days in Spain.

This was our least comfortable stay which was in Burgos.  It was complete although a bit makeshift.  Well-located in the heart of the main square.  It lacked air conditioning.

We used Airbnbs except for one hotel in Vidiago along the northern coast near the Spanish Alps.  We used Airbnbs for many years in the U.S., Mexico, and occasionally for my work in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.  The system is very easy and we've never been overcharged.   I would say that in most cases the Airbnbs are up to 60% less than hotels.  It is a real savings and it takes a certain type of person to use them.  You're on your own and you leave the place the way you find it.  A truly bad experience we have never had.   You review the unit you rent and the owner reviews you so it's fairly easy to avoid issues.

This was by far our best, least expensive and most comfortable Airbnb stay.  It was located in Oviedo and cost 700 pesos or roughly $38 USD.  It was luxurious, a two-room efficiency in a high-rise tower with private access, parking, washer/dryer, smart TV, and the list goes on.  Walking distance to everything. 

Had it not been August, vacation month for Spaniards, and had we planned our stays (which for us would have taken the fun out of it), we could have found many more like this.

Grocery stores are everywhere.  They come in very small and very large sizes and are mostly chain stores.  Brand names are Corte Ingles, Dia, Mercadona, Chedarrui, Aldi, and Lidi, just to name a few.  They have large supermarkets and also small convenience store-size markets.  Convenience stores such as Circle K, 7Eleven, and OXXO, don't exist.  Mom and pop stores are called alimentacion, and are found pretty much everywhere.  One thing we liked about the downsized chain stores is they sell products in smaller packaging which were great for our travel chest and cooler.  

Trash collection is made easy, especially for rvrs and Airbnbs.  In each neighborhood, every couple of blocks, you find these large containers that are used for recycling.  Everyone, young, old, and in between takes their trash frequently down the street.  You see seniors with their little basket carts rolling down the road with their recyclables and garbage in these containers.  This is one of the reasons you won't see trash or litter in addition to smaller street-size trash deposits.  In Oviedo, a city of about 200,000, we stayed on a high-rise apartment building street.  Wednesday night, the building put out its small containers.  Thursday morning around 5 a.m. a truck passed by and emptied them out.  At 6 a.m., another truck, a delivery type, passed by and picked up the containers only to return them later in the afternoon clean and ready to use.  Another concept used by a city council.  

There are no potholes, or rough roads, on any of the highways we traveled or on city streets including dirt roads in rural areas.  I'd show a picture but there just weren't any 😎

On the downside, they really aren't into green leafy vegetables.  We saw very little produce or produce markets and restaurant menus for Spanish food just didn't have any vegetable side dishes.   In Madrid, there are a lot of ethnic restaurants which do offer vegetable dishes.  I'm glad we chose Airbnb and cooked most of our delicious meals.

Calimari is sold everywhere even in sandwiches (tortas de calamari)

This is a very common fair and is sold everywhere all the time.  When Spaniards stop for a beer, a coffee, lunch, or dinner, this is eaten regularly.  So it is a lot of preserved, salted, and dried meats.    In Spain, everyone smokes and like chimneys.  It's no wonder they have the highest rate of both lung and colon cancer in Europe.

We found that housing prices are very reasonable and much less than in Mexico.  Along the northern coast of the country next to France, the Asturias for example, we found many condos for less than $200,000 US.  We looked at a country house not far from the coast and we really liked it.  I could easily see us spending three to six months a year there but I'm sure that rving would be much more fun and a lot cheaper.  After all, rvs are very popular and we found them everywhere with many boondocking opportunities.

This was taken at a supermarket, one I forgot to mention, Eroski, which is like a Sam's Club.  This was just a few of maybe 50 that were in the parking lot not to mention the two rv parks on the beach which were packed. 

We're now planning our winter trip which will be in New Mexico and Arizona and then to France renting a motorhome or traveling to Patagonia.  My niece-in-law is from Argentina and we would like to meet her family.  

That's it for now, I could go no forever with pictures about our trip to Spain and I may post more later.  I have several videos I'd like to share.  They are all very short but interesting about life in Spain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Back In Madrid - El Prado Museum

As I said in the last post, we are in Madrid for the week.  It's come to a close and we will head home tomorrow.  Our flight leaves at 9:30 a.m. and we arrive in Mexico City at 1:15 p.m. (CST).  Our bus from the airport to SMA leaves terminal 1 at 5:15 p.m. and we should be at our house before 10:30 p.m. It's a long day but the direct flight really makes a difference.  We will get up at 4 a.m. so that's alright considering I'm up by 5 usually.  A quick cup of coffee while watching the news, shower, and head for the subway station which is only two blocks away.  The subway will get us there in an hour so we will still be quite early but we haven't booked seats yet.  Let's see if we get lucky again this time.  If we confirmed our flight on line we would have to purchase seats and that's just another money maker for the airlines.  

We decided after all that we wanted to visit the El Prado Museum.   It is one of the most famous art museums in the world.  It houses paintings by such great artists as Goya, Bosch, El Greco, Rubens, Titian, Velazquez, Picasso, and Rembrandt.  It's a lot to digest but we started early.  Tickets are 14 Euros and a 50% discount for seniors.  We were there for six hours.  That didn't include our walk from the apartment to the museum and back.  We also returned the next day for the free two hours to finish the top floor of the museum.
We ss

The lines to get in are long and you can always reserve a ticket online.  The lines move very quickly and we only waited about 10 minutes to get in.  The free hours have literally hundreds of people waiting to get in but they seem to have the system down quite well.  That line was about 30 minutes before opening the doors.  You're not allowed to take pictures so I am posting some shots from Google.  

The museum owns or houses over 8600 works.  We calculate that we saw roughly 2800 paintings and the Delfin Collection, created by the son of Luis XIV.  We saw that on day two in the after during the free entrance.  

The galleries go on forever.  I enjoy the works but more so the stories behind the painters and the paintings.  In many, they are a depiction of real-life scenes from over 500 years ago.  It's very hard to grasp, similar to those who have difficulty looking at colorized pictures and films from over 150 years ago.  

Some of the things that I find interesting is the symbolism in art:

Skulls appear in many paintings as a reminder that we are flesh and we all will reach an end.

Candles show that time is passing.

Mirrors and the reflections that appear in them are our or their souls.

Dogs!  I've seen them in many paintings but learned that they represent fidelity and faithfulness.

The majority of the art we experienced on this trip was medieval through the mid-19th century.  Most of the painters and their subjects didn't live past 45 to 65 years.  No wonder people married at 14 back then.

It is a lot to take in and digest and we are still talking about some of the paintings and the research that goes along with each painter, and royal subjects.  

We went to another city on Monday, Aranjuez.  It's a 45-minute train ride to the south.  The 16th-century palace of the royal family is located there.  Beautiful grounds and waterways that run through it.  We had originally set out for a stop in between to the town of Pinto which is in route to Aranjuez.  I had found the Tower of Éboli where Princess Ana de Mendoza de la Cerda y de Silva Cifuentes Duchess of Pastrana (that's a mouthful) was imprisoned by her father for murder.

Here are some street shots we took on our walk to the museum.  

And this is the last beer we shared today before going back to the apartment to pack.  I will continue in the next weeks to post all of the towns we visited and my impressions of what we have seen and experiened.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Leon, Spain Two-Day Stay - Saying Goodbye To A Good Friend In Avila

We made a stopover in the small town of Avila. An excellent place for a day and a night.  We actually stayed on the outskirts of the village of Vicolozano.  The total population is 27 inhabitants.  The big attraction is the restaurant La Venta.  The owner also has the Airbnb we stayed at.  

We made a stopover in the small town of Avila. An excellent place for a day and a night.  We actually stayed on the outskirts of the village of Vicolozano.  The total population is 27 inhabitants.  The big attraction is the restaurant La Venta.  The owner also has the Airbnb where we stayed.

The big attraction is this old school from the 1800s but nobody really knows much about it.  We arrived around 2 p.m. and the heatwave in Spain was slowly drawing to a close.  It was 39C when we arrived at and a chilly 16C in the morning before heading to the Madrid airport to turn in the car.

After relaxing for a while, we headed across the road to the restaurant.  We had purposely run out of food.  Once we were back in Madrid we would no longer need a cooler so we finished what we had for breakfast.  A wonderful egg and cheese omelet in a croissant.  Just as we arrived and ordered a glass of wine, we got a message from Kevin, Ruth and Cameron asking if we were up for a video chat.  We were, it's always good to be in touch with them.  They're having a blast with their grandson Cameron who is there for a short summer vacation visit.

With no more food in the cooler, we decided to say goodbye to our friend Neverita!  This is a picture of her as we left the apartment in Vicolozano.  She was good to us providing us with three weeks of storage and good eats in the car and most of our meals.   She'll be missed but I'm sure she will find her way into someone else's car!

Before heading to Vicolozano we had a two-night stay in Leon.  We did see some interesting things and Juan took me out for my birthday on the 22nd.  We had a great dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the city.  As we came into the restaurant a waiter said to take a seat wherever we wanted.  Then, Suzy sad pants came along and said if we had no reservation we couldn't have dinner.   We were allowed on the outside rooftop for drinks.  That waiter knows how to pour vodka.  In fact, I babied that glass for the two and a half hours we were there.  It was huge.  Juan snuck back inside to ask just in case there was a reservation and lo and behold we had a great table.  Service was very good and Suzy changed her attitude.

The next day we took a tour of the city.  Of course we had to visit the church and museum.  What a fantastic place.  We walked 15,543 steps that day, down along the river and to the center of town.  The Monastery San Marcos has a museum that contains stone sarcophagi and headstones from over 1000 years ago.  They have information on each one included in Latin, Spanish, and English.  

The monastery/convent was used as a weigh station and hospital for those walking on the Camino a Santiago.  The original structure was considered unsafe and was demolished and rebuilt in 1514 by King Ferdinand but the new construction took place under Charles I.  The walk began after the discovery of Apostle Santiago Mayor's tomb in 813.  A sad and disturbing part of the museum is that the monastery was used during the Spanish Civil War in 1939 to house political prisoners and pretty much was nothing more than a concentration camp.  The photos from that time are much like those we see from the Holocaust.   

I had a feeling he was pointing at me so I just kept walking.  I did look back on several occasions.

Grand staircase going up to the hospital and hostel rooms.  It's not available for viewing.

The main chapel with a statue of the bishop praying before the altar.

Leon Museum of Art.  I was pooped out on museums.   We did go to the main cathedral but they were charging 14 Euros for seniors.  Way too much and at this point pretty much finished with museums although I am sure in Madrid we will go to the El Prado.  That museum is worth the price.

This section of town is known as el Bario Humedo or the Wet Neighborhood because of all the taverns and outdoor cafes that line the streets.  As you can see, it was lunch hour so again, everything shuts down from 1 p.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. depending on the establishment.  Truly amazing that it is still a strong tradition.   In the two pictures below you can see the before lunch and during lunch.  Imagine at night what the place must be like!

The Casa Botines Gaudí Museum.  Built by and named after the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. 

We really enjoy being out during lunch hours.  No one on the streets and very little traffic.

Rotundas are very common in Spain and very few street lights.  It makes for easy driving.  I took this picture after our dinner out.  It was about 10:30 at night.  Spain is a very safe country.  I'm not sure that I stated it in the last post but the murder rate in Spain is .63 to 100,000 versus Mexico at 26.6 per 100,000.

There are so many differences between what we have seen in Spain versus my trips to Mexico, Central and South America.  I will be doing a short blog on those after we return home.