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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Au plaisir de la route!

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Kiki

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUANAJUATO CITY

There are 3 towns that are usually declared as “must see” in the area. San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is in the middle, Guanajuato to the west and Queretaro to the east. I am currently staying in San Miguel. Upon reading in my guide books that it is impossible to park anywhere in Guanajuato, I decided to make it a day trip by taking the bus. I was pleasantly surprised by the air conditioned, roomy and modern bus and by its punctuality

The 80 minutes’ drive was very pleasant with beautiful landscapes and sceneries. But as some of you may know I suffer from motion sickness – 20 minutes before arrival time I got very nauseous and barely managed to keep it all in! I am sure the other passengers were very grateful! However, the sickness to my stomach didn’t leave me all day and somewhat spoiled my experience of this beautiful town.

When you arrive you first notice the brightly colored homes clustered together and strung upon the surrounding hills. A very cheerful sight.20161227_114214

I was dropped off by my taxi (who charged me (M$100) right at the beginning of the touristic zone.  I needed to eat something to calm my stomach and noticed right away a store selling candied fruit, with oranges in particular. I have a very fond memory of candied mandarins. My grandmother and I would go to Saint Raphael, a little town on the French Riviera and treat ourselves to a cup of tea and a candied mandarin. The memory of the taste of this treat has remained with me since then. They are hard to come by, and I have yet to find one that will even remotely come close to what I remembered – until that day in Guanajuato . This orange came pretty close with a tougher chewy candied rind and a soft and still juicy center.  Too bad my nausea didn’t allow me to fully enjoy it! I had decided to buy more on my way home, but I was rushed to get a taxi and forgot:(

Right away you enter a large covered market center. I was told that I could find the same things in Guanajuato but cheaper than in SMA. I was misinformed. I searched for a genuine indian arts and crafts market place, but all they had were the cheap souvenirs for tourists. However, Guanajuato was full of wonderful candy and chocolate stores. The abundance of sweet treats was something new. In this one shop I was able to sample almost each one of them. Again, I was not in a condition to fully appreciate my treats. What a shame!

I followed the river flow of tourists to a beautiful plaza where the cathedral sits. The interior was gorgeous, in gold and with huge crystal chandeliers – the energy of the place was wonderful and I felt a cheerfulness that I haven’t felt in any of the other churches I’ve visited so far. It was as if this glorious environment inspired joy and gratitude from the congregation and these sentiments permeated through the walls.

There were lots of churches, some almost devoid of any attention from the tourists and locals alike, yet with an ultimate atmosphere of peace and serenity. Others were busy little chapels, but devoid of any interest. The styles ranging from byzantine to gothic.

I found a beautiful open and shaded plaza to have a very sedated lunch (by choice) of chicken cutlet and boiled vegetables.

The narrow roads meandered up the hills to a cliff face with a beautiful statue of Don Quixote at its base. Don Quixote is a theme here, every square has a statue with a  rendition, sometimes abstract, of the Spaniard and his lance . This is because of the now famous Festival Internacional Cervantino (popularly known as El Cervantino) which takes place each fall.

The origins of the festival are from the mid 20th century, when short plays by Miguel de Cervantes called  entremeses (singular entremés) were performed in the city’s plazas. In 1972, this was expanded with federal support to include more events to add a more international flavor. Since then, FIC has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America, and one of four major events of its type in the world. It is a member of the European Festivals Association and the Asian Association of Theater Festivals.

When it was time to go back to the bus station, I caught a cab, which only charged me M$50 for the same trip, but this time we drove inside the tunnels that run underneath the city. It was quite impressive.

Arrived at the bus station I could see a bus under the banner “San Miguel de Allende” and was told by the young ticket clerk that it will not be leaving for another 10 minutes. So I decided to sit in the waiting area and prepare myself for another bus ride – will I lose it this time? Then I noticed the bus pulling away! OMG they didn’t even call our departure time and there it was leaving! I started running after it and a family of 4 having the same realization as I, started running too. I was finally able to reach the side window and tap on it to get the driver’s attention who finally stopped the bus. However, he resolutely refused to open the doors! So there I was standing in front of this giant and I was not going to budge until I got on! “I have a ticket, I have a reserved seat on this bus” I would say. The daughter was shaking her phone at the driver saying that he left early! We were creating quite the commotion and finally a manager came to find out what was going on. He told us that the driver couldn’t open the doors,  that we had to take the next bus! I simply refused, this would be in another 2 hours and poor Marley, who granted, has the bladder of an elephant, would have been alone for 12 hours by then. This was not an option. So there I was, as the daughter described it later, like the young student at Tiananmen square, making a stand in front of the bus. “I am getting on that bus”! Wwwell, we had to concede or they would have called the police. They took us to a young employee how spoke English. Another group of tourists was standing there asking if this was their bus to SMA that just took off? The officials finally got concerned because there were now a good 10 of us with the same complaint. Finally, one decided to take a look at my ticket and said: “Oh, that bus was not going to SMA, yours  is late and hasn’t arrived yet!” You cannot imagine the mix of emotions this news brought! Overjoy and relief, a bit of shame I admit and we all burst out into laughter at our little scene… for nothing it appeared! And I thought they were so punctual!

When our bus finally arrived we all rushed in! We were not letting that one go without us!

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Until next time my new road amigos!

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Au plaisir de la route!

20161227_140554   Kiki

 

 

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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Kiki

 

 

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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Au plaisir de la route!20161220_173726

Kiki

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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Au plaisir de la route!20161223_115536

Kiki

 

 

MEET THE BOYS: MARLEY THE DOG AND PATOUFFI THE CAT.

I felt guilty at first for forcing this trip on my pets. With the heat and long driving days it is not fun for a furry animal. Since I am myself a free roaming spirit and understand the need for freedom I always make sure that I find spots where it is safe for the boys to roam and so far I have to say they have been spoiled. Over the last month we have fallen into a routine.

Patouffi at first would travel in his kennel  securely wedged between  storage bins above the driving cabin. He was next to a window for fresh air. But soon he decided that he would rather be under the couch which I realize now has better air circulation and is a much cooler spot for him. As soon as I start putting things away for a drive, Patouffi wiggles under the sofa.

They both seem to know when I am stopping along the way for pictures, gas or food – none of them stir, and when I am stopping for the night. Marley is whining to get out and Patouffi comes out from under the sofa. How do they know, I wonder?20161015_183828

Patouffi  goes out for his early morning stroll, when it is still dark and cool outside and at night after dark. Sometimes he stays close by, other times he is gone for 2 hours. In Cocorit for example, we were parked at the town square, a beautiful shaded park with pretty lanes, benches and flower bushes. I let him out for his morning exploration. In the meantime I shower, have breakfast and start packing the RV for our drive. Patouffi  is still not back. I would intermittently open my screen door and call out.20161213_080302

What is she doing? One woman sitting on a bench across from the RV would ask her friend. She is looking for a cat, the other would reply. She is from Canada, traveling all the way to South America. Ah, would acknowledge the first lady. They left before Patouffi decided to come home and would never know the end of the story of the Canadian traveler looking for her cat.20161016_080037

Marley is not much of a guard dog. Let me rephrase that, Marley doesn’t have an ounce of guarding instinct! The only times he would bark is if someone (ie: Patouffi) gets too close to his dinner (or mine- which he considers his as well), or if a dog comes near the RV. But if a total stranger comes near, Marley would lick his face if he had food! In Cocorit again, I awoke to the distinct sway of someone climbing on my RV! I panicked! What should I do? But upon opening my curtains a crack I noticed it was 2 older gentlemen pointing at my map and discussing about my voyage.  Marley didn’t even stir and was happily asleep the whole time. I wondered if I should be the one barking to show him how it’s done!20161015_144253

Marley has been spoiled with our locales. Most of them have been gated, safe, where he is free to roam and only in Islandia did I become concerned because he started to look like a Mexican dog, which is not a good thing. I would watch him like a hawk to see if he was scratching himself a little too much or getting mangy. One day I had enough and gave him a lavender shampoo to remind him that he was a well-bred pup and not some street hoodlum!20161016_092454

As a beagle, Marley will never pass up food, even if it has been rotting for 10 days, is full of worms or flies or lying in the sand as in San Carlos. I realized too late that he had done some beach combing of his own and all night he was vomiting gravely sand.

I am so grateful for my pets to be with me on this journey. They make the travel more interesting and definitively give me the companionship that I need to stay sane.

palm-tree

Until next time my new road amigos! Please subscribe, tell your friends and add your comments:)

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Au plaisir de la route!

november-2016

Kiki