Last Days

We leave San Miguel today for the last dash to the border. It was another great winter here.

News flash! —- We have adopted a little dog – I hope this is as wise as I want it to be. A mestizo, to be sure, and we have named her Frida. The only druthers I have is the ultimate introduction of her to Belle, our cat. But Dale feels this should be possible. She is one of a litter we met last year here in San Miguel who belongs to the family (actually Maria) who owns the RV park where we always stay. I can only say that we noticed “Barbie”, her former given name, (you can appreciate why we decided to christen her otherwise) and have yinned and yanged over the whole dog owning dilemma. Suffice it to say we have an appointment with the vet at 9:00 this morning to get the papers which allow us to cross the borders. She is cute, full grown, small and muy tranquila – as Maria says. They are very responsible dog owners and I only hope I can live up to their standards.

Back to the travelogue. We managed to make SMA in time for La Fiesta del Señor de la Conquista – as loud, colourful, and high energy as ever. It is a dancefest like no other. Celebrated on the first Friday of March, it is something to behold. Put it on your “to do” list if you are ever in the vicinity. Here is a blurb I copied from the internet.

The small town of San Miguel de Allende seems at the first glance not to have any Indian traditions left, it seems totally mixed and also strongly influenced by all the foreigners who live there.
But there are actually still many feasts and ceremonies with an Indian origin and character left in the calendar of festivities. There
are also several families and groups that carefully conserve them and who with pride claim an Indian extraction. It does also seem that many, under the strong pressure from foreign cultures, increasingly protect their own cultural heritage. Unfortunately, the Indian language that was earlier spoken in the area, otomi, was lost during the second half of the twentieth century.

One of these festivities is El Señor de la Conquista that is celebrated the first Friday in March. The feast has its origin in an event that took place in 1575. Two Spanish priests who were transporting a figure of Christ to San Miguel were attacked and killed by Chichimec Indians south of the village. The figure was later fetched by the villagers and has since been worshipped especially by the Indians in the area.
The feast is first observed, as is common in Indian societies, with a vigil on Thursday evening. This is carried out in the Indian homes where an offering is installed with images of Saints, crosses, flowers, incense and food. During the night ceremonies are
performed with incense and bell ringing. Almost all night an orchestra plays on conchas (an Indian string instrument inspired by the guitars of the Spaniards, made out of the shell of an armadillo) and religious hymns, that also refer to the Indian origin, are sung. At the same time other participants manufacture bastones de mando (out of a certain cactus, cucharilla) and decorations for crosses that are used during the Conchero-dances the following day.

During the Thursday also other groups in the town prepare large stretcher-like wooden structures,parandes, up to some 2 x 8 meters in size that are decorated with embroidered cloths and flowers. Later large breads are fixed on el parande.

On Friday morning Concheros (a deeply religious dance company that only dances in and outside of churches, to the music of conchas) dance at one of the smaller churches in town and thereafter a mass is held. At night there is a procession by other dance companies (often called Aztecas) and with parandes to the main square, where the parandes are put up against the walls in one corner of the square.

The dance companies continue to dance on the main square during the Saturday (except the Concheros, they only dance in direct relation to a mass and then just outside of, or if the priests so permit, inside the church). As a symbol that the Indians are christened, los bastones de mando are placed at a cross outside the church at the main square.

Soooooooooooo “Todas las cosas buenas deben llegar a su fin.” Sad but true. However, the fall will come soon enough and Frida will be able to visit her relatives too. 🙂

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Adios a todos.

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February 28

I need to say what a lovely day we had today. We met up with a friend from El Manglar, his wife, daughter and new baby son and went with him out to Playa Larga for lunch. Here is a picture of his lovely daughter Abby and Carlos, the baby. Beautiful children.

Abby and Carlos

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February 27 – Winding Down

I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE. Childish, for sure, but that’s just the way it is. It has been a wonderful trip – the best yet, what with the side trip to DF to see Robin and Christian and the visit from Bobby and Alfred, Jeff and Julie arrive on Saturday here in Z and are staying at the Intrawest – very posh. The GuitarFest starts on Sunday with Robin’s guitar teacher, Maneli Jamal, from Toronto in attendance. We finally procured tickets to the big opening concert featuring all the artists and the gala dinner with Maneli at Coconuts. J and J will be here for both. The champagne is chilling ………….. again for Mimosas made with fresh squeezed oranges – what else?

And then there was the Great Backyard Bird Count “sponsored” by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. The lagoon here qualified as my backyard, albeit temporary, and so I was able to participate. Sooooo scientific.  🙂 And best of all, I learned to fly a kite. Rick Massey from Kelowna, our resident kite maestro, was kind and patient enough to show me how and help me when I crashed. Now it’s just practice, practice, practice. Thanks again to Rick, Val and Dudley, the Chiweenie from Armstrong. I nearly forgot, I learned how to weave lovely “flying birds” from palm fronds – courtesy of Debbie Ulrey from northern Michigan.

I am terribly behind in processing and posting pics but the days fly and I am quite lazy these days. They will get done, they always do.

We happily have made arrangements to “swing by” Asheville to see Alex, Rachel and the boys and then, Lou and Carolyn at Hungry Mother SP in Virginia. So it will be a slow trip home but that’s the best kind. Maybe I will spend time on the photos ———– maybe. So it’s the great backtrack – Zihuatanejo – Patzcuaro – San Miguel – Matehuala – Monterey – Nuevo Laredo – Laredo – Austin – the Gulf Shore –  North Carolina – Virginia – Detroit – Windsor – Cambridge. The only regret, if there could be one, is missing the Natchez Trace and the Loveless Café near Nashville.

Pero, todas las cosas buenas deben llegar a su fin. Y verdad, Octubre viene rápidamente. Hasta el próximo año! Vive Zihuatanejo Lindo!

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February 14

Bobby and Alfred left today – it’s been very quiet without them here but we had a wonderful time – fun filled, busy, yet relaxing.

Having them here opened up a few places for us – places we had intended to visit but had never got around to: Isla Ixtapa and Playa Larga to name two. Both little gems to which we definitely will return.

They thoroughly enjoyed Noe’s Arc, El Manglar, Zihuat, and environs.

Our new neighbours here are selling a bunch of stuff because they are going back to Australia. Dale hummed and hahhhhhed over their nice inflatable kayak. So Belinda and he went out in it and still he couldn’t decide. So I said, “Mi Amor, Happy Valentines Day”. He now has a kayak. We have named it “The Minnow”. We will go on our maiden voyage tomorrow.

Rick, the kite maestro, here on Playa la Ropa, helped me find the Prism “entry level”  Snapshot 1.2. Bobby brought it from Austin and I had my first lesson from Rick today. It quickly ended in me crashing it a few times on the beach and then on a palapa. Many chiefs and one Indian emerged suggesting this and that in order to free the kite from the palapa. Dale arrived, ladder in hand. A woman offered her walking stick, Petra pulled out a beach pole and Dale looked like Edward Scissorhands up on the ladder picking away until the kite emerged unscathed. I tidied up and retired to watch Rick fly his kite in that effortless way all professionals behave. But I will perservere. We are going out to Playa Larga on Wednesday for another lesson – less obstacles, fewer people and apparently better wind. I will become a wind freak – maybe.

Full moon tonight – a beauty!

Hasta Luego, Barb

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February 9, 2014

It’s been a while, (Thanks Lou and Carolyn for the nudge.) but it’s like Groundhog Day here – from weather to routines, one really has to make anything happen. Let’s see, I’ll describe the RV park. Forgive me if you are thinking “Again?” It’s basically a parking lot behind a very nice beach restaurant, called El Manglar (The Mangrove) and is known for its great, reasonably priced, consistently delicious food, and impeccable service. The park is owned and run by the Argenta family. Memo is in charge of the restaurant and Mundi of the RV Park. There are two waiters: Martin, who has been here forever, and Gustav who has replaced Juan. Nino is the cook. It sits beside a small lagoon and is connected to the beach by a little walking bridge. The lagoon, lined by mangrove trees, is home to, at least 3 crocs, many birds and iguanas of various colours and sizes. It’s beautiful.

There are approximately 9 spaces. We are in #7 – close to the lagoon where we can hang a hammock between trees. From time to time, the sea breezes reach the park but for the most part, it’s quite hot. For me, AC is a must. The mornings, evenings, and nights are lovely cool but the heat of the day is, well, HOT and HUMID. There always seems to be a gorgeous breeze in the open air restaurant and we are welcome to sit there, with no pressure to eat/drink but … it’s nice to get out of the heat in your own RV for that afternoon siesta. Without AC, I find the heat impossibly brutal. We don’t use it at night and the AC is on and off during the day – really just to take the edge off things.

The people in the park are from hither and yon. At this time: Quebec, Ontario, BC and Michigan are represented. It’s a nice group. Most of us are seasonal visitors who come back every year. The park is quiet.

The beach is nice – the water is quite clean – at one time an emerald gem, but that’s history. There still are secluded beaches close by which harken to “the good old days” and are accessible only by boat. But that’s a fun thing to do too. Here at La Ropa, there are recreation offerings galore: parasailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, banana boating, water skiing, fly boarding, swimming, sunbathing, eating, and drinking.

Getting into, out of, or around Zihuatanejo is easy – with or without a personal vehicle. You can get anywhere – by combi (mini-bus), taxi, bus, collectivo, (pickup truck) – or a combination – as there is rarely a “direct flight”. Even a trip to the grocery store can be an adventure. The combi stop is very close to the park and the taxis hang out there too, so it’s just a short walk to grab the bus. Last night we popped into town for supper and took a taxi home because the Combis stop at 6:30.(I know that now) A person backed up from his parking spot and dinged the taxi driver. There was a lot of honking of horns and flailing of arms but within seconds, the traffic cop was on the scene and things were being sorted out in a very civilized way.  Another taxi was there asking us to come with him. Mexico is so NOT what the rumors tell us. Here’s another example – when you try to talk Spanish and, for me, undoubtedly bugger it up, your mistakes are pointed out, but in such a straight polite way that you never make the same mistake again. And I marvel at their patience. Example – when we got in the second taxi last night, I thought I had asked when the last combi went to Playa La Ropa from downtown. What I had said was cambio not combi. Cambio is change. When does the last change go to Playa La Ropa from downtown? WTF! He just nicely said – I think you mean Combi. It’s like this over and over and over. I have so many examples.

This year, we have three visitors: daughter Robin, brother Bobby and friend Alfred, brother Jeff and sister in law Julie. Robin came to Mexico City and we met up there.

Bobby actually arrives today in Z at 1:00ish. He’s staying at Noe’s, of Noe’s Arc, in “Robin’s room”. We’ll take the combi (not cambio) out to the airport to meet him. I have a rental car reserved but the price is WAY too good to be true, so, since the rental office is at the airport, I will wait and see what the $urpri$e$ are. My guess is that third party insurance is not accepted and that will be the killer. But – wait and see. I figured a car would add some flexibility. There are a couple of places I want to show him that are tricky to get to, impossible after 6:30, with public transit. I hope it works out.

Noe of the Arc is a very nice guy. He gave me a key for Bobby’s room yesterday and his gardener, Abdulio, helped me hang a hammock on the veranda. (It’s an efficiency room – bedroom, kitchenette, veranda/dining/sitting area) Then I noticed that the fridge was quite frosty. Linda, another staff, and I defrosted it. So, the hammock is hung, and the celebratory champagne is cooling. I’m looking forward. I love the veranda with the hammock and sea breeze, all with a view of the jungle. We’re planning dinner at El Manglar but we’ll leave the choice to them.

Jeff and Julie come in March, when we are wrapping up here. They stay at the gorgeous Intrawest. Fortunately there will be a couple of days overlap. Better than nothing.

It’s nice to go into town at night as that is when everybody is out and about and the downtown is hopping. Just walking around is fun, but finding good music in a good bar is really fun. The frozen margaritas are delicious and cheap BUT, as I found out the hard way, one has to pace oneself when drinking them. After all, they are tequila based and as always, with tequila, you are fine, fine, fine, and then you aren’t. I’m way too old for that nonsense.

So, I see the sun is up, I have to go and change the nectar in the hummingbird feeder, make coffee, check on Bobby’s fridge and get ready for another Groundhog Day. As we say in the park, “another day in Paradise”.

Hasta luego

Barb

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My thoughts on Diego and Frida

I am fully aware that Frida Kahlo, more so than Diego Rivera, as a Mexican icon is plastered on everything tourist from shopping bags to shot glasses to mouse pads. BUT after visiting the Casa Azul in Coyoacán and the Rivera murals at the Palacio Nacional, both heartbreakingly beautiful, I left with a sense of wonder.

Listening to the guides walk tourists through the Rivera murals depicting the history of Mexico, I decided that Diego’s gift was not only his artistic genius but also his political. Where, on so grand a scale, is the history of a country told from the indigenous, worker, peasant perspective? Because of his artistic genius, his paintings hold the legitimacy of Da Vinci or Michelangelo. And the history is told over and over and over again, every time a guide explains the frescoes.  Diego understood what Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky say about how history is told – that is – from the conqueror’s point of view with the usual racist underpinnings. But not so here. The story is about suffering, abuse, exploitation and, I guess, victory too, if you are a buccaneer. The difference is – in reading the murals, we are educated not numbed and dumbed by the same old. Rivera understood power and used his to represent his people – those who paid, not those who gained. You cannot come away unimpressed by the scale and the beauty, BUT, regardless of your politics, you leave having learned something. You might think a little differently. You have no choice. Thus was Diego Rivera a revolutionary. He changed the world in a most profound way.

“If we are not our colours, aromas, our people, what are we? Nothing.”  This is written on a wall  (I think the kitchen) in the Frida Kahlo museum (Casa Azul) in Coyoacán. Frida brings in the personal and the heart and the magic. Her love of and pride in everything Mexican, from décor to dress to cuisine, is expressed everywhere in the house. Considering the easel from Rockefeller and the earrings from Picasso, tourists are not the only people in awe. Frida brings attention to her politics through style.

This unusual, brilliant couple used their genius and power as artists to bring a fresh, long-lasting perspective to the political and cultural history of Mexico. Artists and teachers – a rare combination. They embody art and teaching as a subversive activity. And I read recently that they changed the way the world saw Mexico and the way the Mexicans saw themselves.

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A Dream Come True

We are back from DF and Expedia asked for a review of hotel/experience. I usually ignore these lengthy responses, but this time I felt compelled because the whole deal was so incredible. Since it took me significant time and attention to fulfill the requirements of the feedback, I have decided to use it as a blog entry. Forgive me. I’m lazy.

In short – we met Robin and her friend Christian in Mexico City and had a wonderful time. All I can say is WE WILL RETURN.

Here is more info via the review:

Write about your experience. (Optional)1500 characters 

We come to Mexico for the winter every year and this time we made the effort to take a side trip to DF from Zihuatanejo and meet our daughter there. It was everything I thought and more. A world class city – to be sure – with the history of civilizations to be explored and investigated. Even in a few days – you can fill a glass of experience to overflowing. DF is an historian’s, tourist’s, shopper’s, epicurean’s, photographer’s, art aficionado’s paradise. The friendly, helpful, gracious staff at the Gran – from the reception desk, to housekeeping and the terrace restaurant – made our stay easy and comfortable. We felt completely at ease to ask anything of anyone and if they could not help, they directed us to the person who could. Sorry to leave, but without a doubt, we will henceforth make the effort to return every year to continue the exploration. DF is a dream city and by staying at the Gran Hotel, our dream visit came true.

 

What did you like about this hotel?150 characters 

Superb foyer; easy registration, real concierge, welcome wine, antique elevator; gorgeous room and bath; Terrace Restaurant’s Zócalo view & Tequila shots; gracious staff.

 

What, if anything, could be improved?150 characters

I would only suggest that the Terrace restaurant/bar makes the sparkling wine available at times other than breakfast.

 

Tell us about the location and things to do near by 150 characters

Templo Mayor, Palacio Nacional, Rivera’s Murals, Cathedral, Turibus Tour, Frida’s and Trotsky’s House, Belles Artes, House of Tiles, Museums of Anth & Mod Art.

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