Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Day in Guanajuato

     If someone said to me even a year ago that I would be traipsing through Guanajuato, Mexico following my son Austen, in search of the Museo de Momias (yes, mummy museum) I would have, of course, said they were crazy. But that is exactly what I was doing last Sunday.

     Our adventure to Guanajuato was a day for the memory books. Andy was feeling poorly and decided to stay put in San Miguel, so Austen and I set out on our own, with our limited (me) to non-existent (him) Spanish. Its about an hours bus ride from San Miguel to Guanajuato, but even on Mexico's luxury buses the twisting mountain roads left us a bit woozy. After a bit of a re-coop in the bus station, we were off in a cab to see what Guanajuato was like. We had heard the first thing one should do when they get into the city is take the Funicular to the top of one of the mountains and behold the view from the look-out. It was, in fact, amazing. The city almost looked like a model to us with all its colorful buildings all nestled down in the valley.

     By now it was lunch time, and even though we know better than to eat in the restaurants right on any plaza, since they are rarely good, we couldn't resist just choosing one in the main Jardin de la Union. This plaza is simply gorgeous under a canopy of trees. Unfortunately, due to my aforementioned limited Spanish, we ended up with a bowl of cheese for lunch.

     No worries, however, I was anxious to be off in search of the Diego Rivera Museum. I had been remotely aware of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera before this trip to Mexico, but nowhere here  can you get away from images of her....they are everywhere: t-shirts, statues, paintings, street fact, there is a popular t-shirt with Frida in a Daft Punk t-shirt, which is just awesome in my humble opinion, because she totally would have been into them.

     So, I was severely disappointed to find that said museum was closed. On Sundays at a teeming city on a holiday weekend. Oh, Mexico. Hmmm. Now what, we asked? Lets see....theres a Mummy Museum? "Cool!" says Austen, "Lets go!" Now, I'm not so sure about this whole endeavor, but we do see a sign that says its this way down the street, so off we go....and we walk, and we walk, and we see another sign, and we walk...we note that the signs do not indicate how far it is. Soon we are doubting the existence of this museum at all. However, we notice two girls that seem to be on the same path as us. We are both moving with some speed, and both with backpacks...Austen and I joke about how we feel like we are in the Amazing Race and on our way to the pit stop...."teams must climb up a mountain of 25 flights of stairs to the Museo de la Momias for the next clue! The last team to arrive will be eliminated!" Because there were about 25 flights of stairs...and yet no museum to be seen. Finally, after realizing we just walked up the same mountain we took the Funicular up earlier, we see it. The Museo de la Momias in all its glory...and a line longer than any I have ever seen. Seriously? Apparently this is a popular outing for families from far and wide on a Sunday during Christmas week.

     A word about this museum, that we never got to go into. The story goes that since Guanajuato is a mining town, and the soil is so high in minerals, these dead people were naturally preserved. And what you see in this museum is not wrapped up mummies, but flesh and bone, and hair and facial expressions. After reading this, I was somewhat relieved that the line was too long. There is something totally bizarre about this..especially after I read these dead were exhumed after the taxes were raised on their graves, so the relatives of the dead either had to pay, or apparently their beloveds were dug up and now propped up in this museum for everyone to gawk at.

     We gave up. There was no way we were going to stand for hours to get into this place. Instead, we chose the bathroom line, which was not quite as long. Again, we missed an important detail. We forgot to get our toilet paper. Yes, in many places in Mexico, you pay to get into a bathroom, but you must remember to get your square of toilet paper from the lady standing outside with a roll of toilet paper. Oh, well, foiled again. We imagine she was thinking..."Stupid gringos, they probably think the toilet paper is in the actual bathroom!"

    We made our way back down the mountain, and rewarded ourselves with a dessert and a drink. Much deserved we thought. And so concluded our day in Guanajuato.

And days like this are why I am traveling the world.  -LuAnn

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us here in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico to all of you, wherever you are!

Monday, December 22, 2014

San Miguel De Allende

Until LuAnn finishes her post, here's what wikipedia has to say about about San Miguel De Allende "San Miguel de Allende is a city and municipality located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico."

At 6200 feet above sea level the air is kind of thin and it can take a while to get used to, especially for beach people like us (meaning me). I run out of breath easily and it makes me a bit grumpy. We have however been having a good deal of fun nonetheless. Some highlights so far:

El Charco del Ingenio  A huge desert park full of endangered cacti with a river running through it.
We climbed down this little ladder to the canyon river:
This is where the spooky spirit El Chan is supposed to dwell. Legend has it that a divine being who lives in underground rivers, watching the behavior of man to make good use of the water that flows.

Next up: Sunset at Bar Luna hotel Rosewood 
Amazing views, great tapas & margaritas. Pricey but worth it.
Staying at the hotel is $600 US a night. Yow! We won't be doing THAT!
Here's a one of many nice pics from that night:
Next morning we went to CaƱada De Virgin, Pyramid and took the amazing tour there by Albert Coffee :

The next day, after all that hiking, our legs were tired so we went to La Gruta hot springs and after a few minutes I figured out the translation is "The Grotto". Met some interesting folks there. A Harley riding lawyer, a bilingual psychologist who just moved back from NYC and four girls from Oregon that were staying in Austen's hostel. We haven't seen him much since LOL. Here's his pic from inside the hot springs grotto:

As always, many more pics on Andy & LuAnn's Instagrams (you don't need instagram to see them) Just click here: Andy and here: LuAnn

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dancing horses, beach bands, leaving Sayulita & reaching San Miguel De Allende.

     Sitting on a giant Vallarta luxury bus & riding through the twisting mountain roads of estado Jalisco is quite a thing, The mountains and greenery are amazing and the driving terrifying. A yellow sign shows a black bull as a warning to drivers.  The country side is predictably like my memory of Costa Rica, lush green Pacific jungle. There’s a remarkable amount of half assed construction, half finished construction, abandoned construction, lots of cinder blocks & tin roofs, then huge rocky mountains and giant flat plains. It's an amazing place

     Our last couple of days in Sayulita were, like the rest of our two week stay, fantastic. Thursday we went to the beach all day and I finally got some sun. LuAnn has been chasing me around with 300 proof sunblock but she finally ran out LOL Another great beach day even though it rained a bit the night before. 
      Once again I was struck by the touts. When you have to say “No, gracias” 5000 times a day it kinda takes some of the fun out of it, plus you feel bad for the little kids pressed into selling this crap. A few of them were nice and funny but mostly that part was a drag. The best was the blonde hippie girl walking down the beach singing, ostensibly to her  self, “Wow, have I got some really great weed in this bag for sale. I sure have some great weed for sale.” Hilarious. I wish I had recorded her or caught the tune anyway. Lots of weed smokers around but all very low key. The bands playing in the bars were pretty reliably great on any given night, singing original music in spanish, lots of reggae and latin beats. 

       The beach musicians (myself and my friends excluded of course, people bought us drinks without being asked) were reliably awful. How many choruses of La Bamaba you gonna sing guys? And can you tune your guitars and get some rhythm please? Jesus. The guy playing trumpet while his kid oompahed a bass drum and snare howling like a monkey was LuAnn’s special favorite hate. Bonus points for the dreadlocked white guy playing his djembe like he was soloing for the grateful dead for hours. Oy. 

     One exception was this jolly toothless fellow with his pals on violin and guitar. They sang traditional Mexican music and were thoroughly bitchin. I would have kept giving them money but economy forbid.
     After the beach we went with some trepidation to the Italian restaurant Mamma Mia, and despite my reservations (ha!) it was great. We both had Seafood stuffed ravioli and a nice montalpucciano and it was delightful. Dinner was capped by an enormous fireworks show and a slow stroll home.

Friday night I had a street burger and LuAnn got a fish burrito at Taco Revolucion (the only place we went to twice) and walking back to the square we saw several large black horses with long manes all done up with their sombrero wearing caballeros getting quite drunk on Corona light cans (which they poured on the horses, evidently to cool them off?). Here is a video from a different daytime session:

     At the appointed time a large band of young men played mariachi music and the cowboys got the horses to dance. LuAnn had apparently heard of this but it was new to me. Crazy! There was a female caballera (?) is a white dress and Frieda Kahlo makeup and she was best of all. We watched for about an hour and then walked back up the hill to finish packing, 

     Saturday morning we rose at 6AM, showered, finished the last packing, rolled down the hill and got a taxi to Bucerias, where Maria at the Vallarta plus terminal complimented my Spanish. That's been happening a lot and I wonder if most Americans they meet are so bad that I seem good or if they are just being nice. Federico at the Guadalajara station said the same thing after a long chat in Spanish about American and Mexican politics. Maybe I'm actually getting it?  

     Speaking of getting it, I haven't blogged much because from the second we reached San Miguel De Allende I have had the worst stomach flu ever (let's call it Las Turistas) with fever and many trips to the bathroom. 5 straight days. That combined with the mile-high thin air here has made me less than enthusiastic about the place. Therefor the next post concerning San Miguel De Allende will be by LuAnn. Take it away LuAnn.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tales From a Typical Tuesday

     Many dreams caught this week in Sayulita. We seem to have settled into the "Sayulita Life" quite easily. Lazy days that go something like this: awake to roosters at 5:00 AM, along with the morning firecrackers for the Festival de la Virgen de Guadaloupe, but hopefully snooze a bit more until a walk down the hill into town for cafe con leche. The mornings are spent on the balcony, reading, crosswording, and generally listening to and watching the village awaken. We see the man with the basket on his head carrying rolls, calling "Bonillos!" or the car playing mariachi horns declaring "Hay gaz!" selling propane.

      It took us a few days until we figured out what who was carrying and selling what. Then, of course, a lazy afternoon on the beach. What else do you do when it 80 degrees and sunny? The water is super warm and this is just perfect for me. I can go years at the Jersey shore and never even venture into the water.

My favorite street- love the colors!

     Andy is proud of his new jams and is convinced he has lost some weight. I am insanely mad about this because, really? How do you lose weight eating fish tacos and drinking Pacificos and Margaritas?  Maybe it's the longish walk down and back up the hill every day?

     So, this is quite the surfing town, and the waves are perfect for learning. The surf schools are plentiful on the beach, and you just walk up for a lesson. Andy worked up the nerve today, and ventured out with Eric (who showed us a picture of him surfing doing a headstand), and I have pictures to prove that yes, he did stand up! More than once!

     Oh, yes, more on the firecrackers at dawn. During the festival of the virgin of Guadaloupe the town elders, by all accounts well intoxicated, set off large explosives as Andy mentioned in our last post. The first morning, we could not imagine what the explosions were about in the dark right before dawn- but there were at least 10 earsplitting explosions- followed each time by complete silence.

     We learned the next day that this will happen every morning before dawn until the 12th...part of the festivities, don'tcha know? Try getting a permit for that in Bergen County, NJ! And the festivities dont stop there. Every evening there is a procession from a different part of town, a float, followed by candle carrying townspeople of all ages, singing as they walk, that ends in the modest church on the town plaza. Its really quite beautiful to behold. We think there may be some sort of competition for best float, but this is just a gringo's speculation on our part.

     So, as I write this another day is ending in Sayulita. The kids are out on the dirt street kicking around a soccer ball, the dogs are barking, I hear meals being readied in the open air kitchens, and I hear music playing from somewhere. Life. We love it! -LuAnn

Friday, December 5, 2014

The time has come to tell of many things

     Well, it's Friday and though I have posted a bunch on Facebook and Instagram, it's high time for a proper blog post. This I will now try to provide. The pelicans pictured above are endlessly amusing, diving in formation for their suppers. I can and do watch them for hours.

     A week in Sayulita, Mexico has been a dream. The weather has been fantastic; the food and drink divine. LuAnn has managed to avoid
Montezuma and though I have been somewhat ill twice now, the less said about him the better. We trot about indeed!

     I continue to be relieved to be in a place where everything fun isn't forbidden and enforced by a SWAT team. I've seen about four cops and they were bothering no one. The US police state endangers every American and if it isn't dismantled soon God only knows where it will lead.

    Meanwhile, there's this Festival de la Virgen de Guadaloupe here where they set off firecrackers twice a day, and by firecrackers I mean 15 quarter sticks of dynamite in rapid succession. I thought Spain had come to reclaim Mexico and was shelling us at 5 AM. That line has been getting a good laugh here. So yeah, twice a day, everyday for a week, people are setting off professional grade fireworks without permission, or a fire marshall or anything else. Try THAT in NYC. Don't tell them I sent you.
     Later they have a beautiful parade ending at the church, a lovely catholic ceremony, then music, dancing and such until the wee hours, and then they do it all over again. I recall this from Spain and can only assume people are having a good siesta every day because otherwise, no way!

    We continue to meet amazing and friendly people from all over and I am reminded how well and how awfully I speak Spanish. I can get it done every time but it ain't pretty, for sure. Soon I'm going to know 500 words in each of 15 languages, including English, but nothing else. Already I'm saying stupid sentences like "Hand me that thing I can't think of the name of right now...spatula!" Next up: "Thing! Give!"

     We gave up our American phone numbers for good, and screw AT&T for real. I would have paid $10 a month to keep my number alive but they were such a pain about it I gave up. Many big companies (PSEG, ATT, TWC) have said "OK your account is cancelled we'll mail you a bill." Good luck with that. There's this internet thing you should look into. See you the 11th of never.

     We are working on booking the bus to San Miguel De Allende which is kind of a pain BUT the $500 Expedia gift card I won on Twitter got us 3 nights In Auckland NZ next month at Skycity Grand Hotel for...$29. WOOHOO!

     So, three weeks on the road so far and, in conclusion: AWESOME! I regret NOTHING! So far.
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