SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

San Miguel de Allende took my breath away!

Here I am, 10 days later, still at the quiet Hotel San Ramon, but a 5 minute bus ride into town, unable to decide to hit the road again.

When I first got into town, I was lucky to be dropped off just around the corner from the artisanal market. I met a family that left town and totally missed it! What a shame because this market is a treasure trove of handcrafted, genuine Indian arts and crafts of this region and the adjacent ones. Intricate embroideries, naturally died carpets and rugs, silverware, carvings, beautiful hand painted tin crafts, knits and loom works, weaving, jewelry, pottery… it had it all.

I decided to take a picture of the items that I really liked and write down the prices along the way. This was an excellent technique that allowed me later to narrow down what I really wanted to buy and where I had found it the cheapest. I also allowed me time to ponder: “do I really want to buy this? Can I afford that?” So when I was ready to buy I actually saved M$700 from my original wish list. Only one article got sold, and I do hope to find it somewhere else along the way. It was so much fun to wander about the long narrow street that stretches several blocks.

I love Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter – but how many Frida themed articles does one need really? I’ve already bought 2 and think that you can’t get enough Frida around the house LOL

When you get to the end of the market, you turn left into the road that leads to the main square in front of the cathedral. The narrow, lazily winding streets were so beautiful with the facades painted in many bright colours and with cobbled  stones that I took hundreds of pictures. I was not the only one! I saw many a tourist in a state of awe taking pictures of every corner, just like me.

And then you turn a corner and you are welcomed with this incredible sight: a pink cathedral! Yes ladies: PINK! This is the cathedral to Archangel Michael. Unfortunately its doors were closed and I was unable to see inside.20161224_162515

This being Christmas eve, I thought that I would stick around for the evening mass maybe, or at least to see the evening lights come on.

I walked around the main plaza, lined with expensive boutiques. I found the same articles than at the market for double the price. I also found exquisite, high quality artwork that was definitively a notch above. The atmosphere was festive and lively and grew more crowded as evening approached.

It is a SMA tradition for women to wear beautiful dried flower wreaths. They were sold on the plaza and many ladies of all ages wore them around town.

A group of westerners started singing Christmas Carols. But at 7pm a procession arrived on the square, with children playing the nativity scene and musicians. Locals were following, singing Christmas songs in Spanish. They entered the square and settled in front of the beautiful nativity scene displayed at the center, complete with real sheep and a donkey.

The gringos kept singing their carols, which I thought was becoming very disrespectful. The young priest made a beautiful speech about love, living life from the heart and the spirit of Christmas. I loved it! Mass in the streets, among the people! What simplicity, what communion. The musicians started playing and people sang a lullaby while “Joseph and Mary” rocked baby Jesus to sleep.

The whole square had turned magical with the Christmas lights on. It was an enchanting night.

I decided to catch the last bus as this had been a long day of walking about.

The next day, I took the bus again and wandered the streets, this time around the main square where I discovered more beautiful churches. At the Templo del Oratorio, mass was in progress with a full congregation. The priest started to sing. He had a truly beautiful singing voice. With the congregation singing back to him and the way the sound echoed in the church it was absolutely mesmerizing. I taped it on my phone. I am certain that the popularity of this particular church was due to the singing prowess of the priest.

As for the food, SMA is where I sampled my first Michelada, a beer with clamato juice and spices. I am hooked! I’ve had a few delicious meals and also tried various buffets. These are great to sample local foods. But I am at the point where I am missing more bland, natural, healthy and GREEN food.

So with New Year’s Eve being tomorrow, I decided to start my list of resolutions. The first item on the list is to purchase a large canister of powdered greens and have a glass every day. I also want to meditate and study Spanish for ½ hour daily.

I have decided to stay at the Hotel San Ramon for 2 more nights. I need to rest, get off the internet, and go to the organic farmers’ market tomorrow.

I have noticed that I get dizzy around 3pm every day and I don’t know what that’s about but it is sending me on a quest to eat healthier, to take my anti-parasites herbs and to resume my spiritual practice.

I know this trip has a purpose for me that I have yet to discover. I consider it a pilgrimage of sorts. It is definitively changing me and I know that I will be a different person at the end of it. I welcome every experience as purposeful and consider myself very blessed indeed to be on this journey.

And so, with these words, I wish you all to start the New Year with this question: What makes my heart sing? And if you are not already doing it, ask yourself what you can do to start. Sometimes things may appear absolutely impossible and out of reach, but I assure you, when you take the first step, the leap of faith in the direction of your heart’s desire, everything will align itself to make it possible.

MAY 2017 BRING YOU JOY, PEACE AND HAPPINESS:)

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Until next year my new road amigos!

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ON THE ROAD TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Okay, so you know by now how much I love driving and how taking the free road usually leads to discovering little towns and villages, roadside markets and other wonderful unexpected sights.

Here is a collection of pictures taken on the road from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Other than the fact that I got lost along the way, it was a wonderful drive.

I have to say though that signage in Mexico is not the best. In Guadalajara for example the vegetation was so overgrown on the boulevard that you couldn’t read the signs until you were right on top of them, and usually too late to change lane. I really should make a folder of pictures. Half torn signs – you have to guess what they say. Directions given at a major and complicated intersection but then nothing for miles to confirm that you are on the right road, or then you come to a fork in the road and nothing – you have to guess which way is the one you need. This is how I lost my way.

But I have to say that since my post where I complained about having to tip everyone for their help, I’ve had so many locals come to my rescue from their heart – my angels were listening:)

In Guadalajara for example, I was looking for my bus connection to Tonalá when a young woman offered to take me there. A good thing too because it had been diverted due to constructions. It was a bit of a walk and I needed to pee real bad. She took me into a store and waited for me to use to washrooms before resuming our search for the elusive bus stop! As soon as we found it, I could tell she was eager to get going and was not asking for a tip. I gave her a big hug which she clumsily received.

When it became obvious that I had somehow missed my turn to the free road to San Miguel de Allende, I was parked on the side of the road with my map on the steering wheel, when a gentleman stopped and asked me to follow him. He took me back to the Celaya’s major roundabout, down this way, down that way and voila. I was paying extra attention to the signs: did I miss one? Nope! There were none to be seen that could have led me in the right direction. I guess they assume you know where you are going.

So back to my drive to SMA. Across a lake, through beautiful quaint villages with narrow cobbled streets, cities with large boulevards lined with stalls, beautiful curving roads revealing rolling hills, ancient monasteries, it had it all.

And then you arrive in San Miguel de Allende (there are many San Miguels, which could be confusing) you are taken aback by the vivid terracotta colours and the hillside views. Oh boy, I’m in for a treat!

 

Until next time my new road amigos!

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MORELIA – SO MANY CHURCHES!

I don’t know why I thought Morelia was going to be a cute little town like Tequila. May be it is the name itself or that it is the migration point of thousands of monarch butterflies, but really the fact that it is the capital city of the  State of Michoacan should have clued me in!

As an exception, I decided to take the shorter route by going on the toll highway. It ended lightening my wallet by M$ 1,000 which to me is a lot of money. I do not convert into US or Canadian dollars, but compare it to my budget. M$ 1000 is one full tank of gas or about 1 and sometimes another  ½  day of driving; it could also be 4 to 5 days in a campground.  However, the free road usually runs parallel to the toll highway, and in my opinion is more picturesque, but in this case, it was weaving in and out, up and down and I thought it would add too much time to my driving day. Oh well.

Getting into the city centre was a breeze: straight through! I arrived late afternoon with a soft sun bathing the beautiful Cathedral and its plaza in a gentle glow.

I had decided to “pull a Tequila”, ie. spend the night parked in a little side road. Once again I was lucky to find the perfect spot, but a few blocks away from the Cathedral.

I tucked in the pets and went for a stroll. My first mission: find a post office and a bank. I was sent left, right and centre by conflicting directions but finally found the post office inside of the museum. The only reason I went in was to ask for directions and there it was! I sent my package registered and was told it will take about 20 days to reach Calgary. As long as it arrives, I thought!

After my stop at the bank I was ready to unwind. I picked up a few goodies off the street on my way home: Gazpacho is a town’s specialty. Finely chopped fruit mixed in with salt, chile and lots of juice. It was delicious. Then I had Churros, noodle-like donuts and finally I decided to try funny looking beans in their pods that you eat like you would edamame (they are called garbanzo beans if you are interested). They too were dowsed in spicy chile sauce. I got into the van and was not feeling too good. It must be all that chile I thought. I was positively dizzy and my body was quivering. When traffic eased up, I opened my bedroom window for fresh air and finally fell asleep.

The next morning, Marley and I went for a walk. I love our morning walks in cities. The sun is gentle, the streets are quiet but for the merchants opening their stalls. We came across a huge covered market in the process of setting up.

When we got back to the RV I was on a mission to find an internet café and post all my backed up articles. I knew that I would be traveling next to beautiful colonial towns and could not afford more delays in my posts. I googled and selected the closest opened cyber café and found it closed! On the way there, I noticed an Acupuncture business and went to inquire. It was set up in typical Mexican fashion, with a front like a garage space turned into a reception area. There was a wall and glass partitions separating the office to the public. The fees were M$ 250 for a consultation. Ok, cheap for a Canadian, but I wondered how expensive it would be to a local. I noticed many medical consultation rooms set up this way. I even saw a beautiful couch sitting in a narrow corridor and discovered that it was facing the door to an ophthalmologist’s office.20161221_111708

In many ways Mexico reminds me of France when I grew up, before the big mega superstores of every kind.  When you needed something you went to a small, specialized, family owned business. Papelerías are “papeteries”, where one buys anything to do with school and office supplies, paper supplies of any sort. The French “quincaillerie, crèmerie, fromagerie, ferrailleur, cordonnier…” all have their Mexican equivalents.

I even saw a Mexican “pet store” with fluffy bunnies and cute puppies alongside chickens and full sized turkeys!

I found a beautiful café with internet and sat down for a coffee, but we were unable to sign in, and the young waiter tried his hardest to help me connect. Disappointed I went on my way again. It was lunch time and I was close to a restaurant highly recommended by my guide book. At the very least I would have lunch I thought, but with luck I was able to connect to their Wi-Fi and spent a good 3 hours finally updating my website.

I decided to sample Michoacan’s specialty, the Aporreadillo:   a stew like dish, in which machaca — dried, shredded beef — is mixed up with scrambled eggs and served under a warm blanket of spicy tomato-chile sauce. It was delicious and with a bit of a kick, but just right! I decided to eat it French style, with a side order of rice (as opposed to rolled up in a tortilla). I love the way they cook their rice in Mexico, this one was pink and fragrant. I also treated myself to a nice glass of red wine. It turned out to be a very pleasant and relaxing afternoon. After I finished my meal, I wandered about the restaurant to discover that it had many rooms and hidden terraces. I was set up in the front room for the internet, but the rest of the place was much more inviting.20161221_170050

Commonly in restaurants, musicians would come in to serenade the patrons for a tip. It is actually quite pleasant.

It was late-afternoon when I got home and decided to take Marley for an evening walk and enjoy the town all lite up for Christmas. I got dizzy again and noticed that it was at about the same time as the night before. Curious, I thought, what can it be? Pollution I thought. And then it dawned on me! The RV is filled from exhaust and I had carbon monoxide poisoning! Oh my God, and the poor pets had been in this polluted environment all day! As soon as I turned the fan on to suck the air out, we felt better! So, note to self: when parked on the street, make sure I have my ventilation system on!

Off we went, in the setting sun, to the main plaza. We were greeted with live music, light displays, tourists happily meandering about and street vendors of every kind. It was wonderful.

I have never seen so many churches in one place than in Morelia. This is the Cathedral. After Guadalajara’s it was ok, and the old priest who looked bored out of his mind didn’t help.

Every street corner has a beautiful church. They are everywhere.  So on our evening walk, we followed beautiful archways to a courtyard facing yet another beautiful stone church. This square was lined with native arts and crafts and completely strung with traditional Mexican Christmas piñatas. It was beautiful.

We continued our jaunt unto the main plaza which was filled with nativity scenes, Christmas trees and light displays. I had brought my Go Pro camera which allowed me to take some beautiful wide angle shots of the Cathedral.DCIM100GOPROGOPR6176.

How lucky am I to not only visit beautiful towns, but during the holiday season to boot where everything becomes magical under the twinkling lights, street concerts, amped up street food selection and festive ambiance ?

We meandered about for a while and when I got hungry and tired I knew it was time to go home. I had noticed street kitchens under the arcades earlier and felt like having a large bowl of – non spicy – soup. Stove after stove had big pots of boiling broth. Some were white, others were in a tomato sauce, but upon investigation, they were all serving the same thing: Pozole! I had sampled some at the food fair with Nadine in Kino and we had not been impressed. It is made from what looks like large white corn kernels, but are very floury and bland in taste. Fine then, I will have the Pozole for dinner, “para yabar, por favor” (to go). I selected one whose broth looked rich and inviting. Once home, I poured it into a beautiful bowl and discovered that it was delicious, not spicy to boot – a winner!DCIM100GOPROGOPR6200.

Christmas was fast approaching and I was eager to get to my next destination, the one I would spend Christmas at: San Miguel de Allende. We woke up early to the sound of a hand bell. Someone was pacing the streets up and down ringing a bell, how curious. I was just about to take off when this man came about with his bell. I had to ask: what is it for? It’s for the garbage truck he responded. Oh I get it, they notify people to move their cars out of the way to allow the garbage truck down the narrow streets. I love it! Mexico is full of ancient traditions adapted to modern living!20161222_082937

Until next time my new road amigos!

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CHRISTMAS, MEXICAN STYLE

I wish you all a merry Christmas in pictures:)

Feliz Navidad muchachos y muchachas!

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Until next time my new road amigos!

Please subscribe, tell your friends and add your comments:)

And don’t forget to follow me on YouTube! Kiki’sRvAdventures

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