Friday, June 28, 2013

San Miguel de Allende, MX - Week 4

Saturday, June 22, we waited until noon to venture out. We walked to the Tianguis Organico (organic market). We did not pause to look at any of the vendors; our mission was comida (lunch). The delicious quesadillas we shared were not made like in the US. The tortillas were hand made and flattened into oblong shapes and cooked on the grill; the queso (cheese) was sprinkled on and the tortilla was put back on the grill until the queso had melted. Then the  fillings were added. We chose to share a tinga de pollo (chicken in chipotle sauce) and molé rojo con pollo (chicken in a red molé sauce). This was more like eating a taco in a long soft shell instead of a quesadilla as were used to. They were scrumptious!

Tonight was the night of the "Supermoon". Since it's closer to us, the moon appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than usual. Ken arose early and, after climbing the stairs to the mirador, took this great photo.

'Supermoon' shines down on San Miguel

Sabado noche (Saturday night) we went to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. This was definitely a healthy dinner - tabbouleh, babaganoush, hummus, falafel, kibbe (cooked), and crispy pita chips. We had to have Lebanese coffee afterwards along with a slice of havalah - oh heaven! After dinner, we walked to the jardin (garden - the park in front of the main church in the center of the town) to listen to the battle of the mariachi bands and people watch.

Dusk in San Miguel

People congregate in and around the jardin on Sunday afternoons to listen to music and dance. Sundays are also days for bike racing and family gatherings. We walked to the park just to see and be a part of all the happiness exuded from the people. When Ken felt a few drops of wetness on his arm, we knew it was time to return home. Jamey got the laundry off the clothesline just before the clouds opened up.

Elote (roasted corn) vendor in El Jardin
Mojigangas stroll around El Jardin

Bike event in San Miguel

Finding someone in a strange place to cut our hair is nerve wracking. On Monday, both of us carried a photo to show Emily how we wanted our hair cut/styled. We had nothing to worry about. Emily was young, originally from MN, and well trained by Vidal Sassoon in NY. She was also very interesting to talk to. A good find! We were happy people as we walked away from the salon in her home.

Even though San Miguel is a colonial city of Mexico, it currently has been rejuvenated as influenced by the expats (internationals) and Nationals (those from other parts of MX) who have come here to live. Parks have been restored so that children have safe equipment to play on, public safety has been increased and better trained, and the economy has been revitalized with new business. One can see the older homes, behind the doors in the walls, are being structurally restored and people are turning them into architectural masterpieces. Making the old new again is wonderful to see rather than letting the old crumble to the earth or be knocked down.

Artist sketching dancers in El Jardin

Some say San Miguel is known as a woman's city (12:1 ratio). Whether or not this figure is accurate, we don't know. San Miguel is also known as a healing city. Nearby, there are natural hot springs, La Gruta, said to have healing powers. Many spiritual and healing workshops and conferences come here and attract large groups of people. One such conference was on 'breathing ovaries'. That does imply that there is a large group of women here. The population appears to have a very youthful appearance which is also good to see.

Iglesia de San Rafael and La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

It's so wonderful to know that the expats who come here give back to their new community of SMA (San Miguel de Allende). One charitable activity that a group of people do is make mattresses for children needing something to sleep on besides the bare floor (which usually means the bare earth). On Wednesday, June 26, Jamey went with a neighbor to a local church and helped do this. Volunteers sew and tuft the mattress sacks. The stuffing is plastic bags, like you get at the store which would, otherwise, become a litter problem. The mattresses are child size and have a pillow to match. The outer material is the same material used to make outdoor cushions so it is waterproof. A lady came in to see how the mattresses were made so she could send the information to a friend of hers living in India. This is a brilliant idea for any organization looking for a project. It would also be a great idea to do for the Humane Society to use for their dogs and cats. Even children could get involved in making these.

Stuffing mattresses for the needy

A friend we met earlier offered to be our guide through the Rosewood, a very swanky hotel. The hotels here let people wander through and will show them a suite, if requested. George had been a designer in San Francisco and had been through the Rosewood many times. The gardens were exquisite. The highlight was the rooftop bar with views all around the city. We sat and had a drink while enjoying the beauty stretched out beyond. Then we took a short walk to an Italian restaurant for a late dinner. It was a beautiful evening.

The grounds of the Rosewood San Miguel
Inside the Rosewood Hotel
Rooftop view from the Rosewood

Thursday, June 20, 2013

San Miguel de Allende, MX - Week 3

Walking through San Miguel with Ken is like having a GPS. He has a keen sense for direction. If Jamey were on her own, she would be lost forever. We went out Monday in search of Emily, a lady who was recommended for hair cuts. Ken took us through some beautiful neighborhoods, one of which was the original of San Miguel. It was called El Chorro. The road wound up through big homes and beautiful mature trees. We also discovered snowy egrets nesting in the trees so we couldn't linger in the shade.

Snowy egrets nesting in tree

Finally, we found the address we were looking for only to discover that Emily had moved to a new location. The Mexican guy who told us didn't know her new address but gave us approximations. Ken, with his keen senses tuned in, actually found the correct location. It was behind the black door.

Heading towards El Centro, we visited Plaza de Toros Oriente (East Bullring). Dating back over 300 years, one could sense the excitement that occurs when the stands are full of people and the Matador is in the ring.

Plaza de Toros Oriente

Tuesday was a gorgeous day and we headed out to catch a local bus to take us to the San Miguel Central de Autobuses (main bus terminal) to get a second bus to Dolores Hidalgo. Ken had checked the bus routes and knew exactly which bus we should get on. As luck would have it, the bus was pulling up to the stop as we walked out so we hopped on. Ken noticed the driver was not following the published route. He asked him if he was going to the terminal and the driver said "no". Uh oh! A very kind man sitting behind us told us we needed to be on a blue bus and we were on a yellow bus. When the bus we were on came to the end of its route where everybody gets off, this kind man showed us the correct bus to take. We made it to the terminal and bought our tickets for the second bus which was ready to leave.

Parque de Dolores Hidalgo
Statue of Father Hidalgo and his parish church

Dolores Hidalgo Cradle of National Independence is a small city but is known as the city where Father Miguel Hidalgo uttered his famous cry for Mexico's independence on the steps of his parish church in September 1810. Today Dolores Hidalgo is primarily known for its colorful Talavera ceramic industry which is sold all over Latin American countries.

Shopping for Talavera pottery

Dolores is also famous for its exotic ice cream flavors. Throughout the plaza are vendors offering cups and cones with flavors such as corn, tequila, beer, shrimp, and avacado. Not feeling adventurous, Jamey had coconut and Ken tried the strawberries and cream. Both were very good!

Enjoying handmade nieve (ice cream)

We enjoyed a lunch and then walked around looking in the shops at the ceramic items. With limited space in our suitcases, we couldn't make a decision about what to take back as a souvenir so, sadly, we left empty handed.

The bus got us back to San Miguel's bus terminal and Ken spoke to a local about which bus we should take back. But we didn't feel like taking a chance this time so we decided taking a taxi right to our door was much more desirable.

Thursday, June 20, started out very overcast. Weather predictions were that Tropical Storm Barry would push in rain and cooler temps through the weekend and possibly the early part of next week. We needed to be prepared so we grabbed the shopping list and bags and set out for a walk in the crisp morning air.

Scenic San Miguel de Allende

First, we needed nutritional fortification so Kuni Doni Cafe was our first stop. We sat outside under the shelter of beautiful bougainvillea and enjoyed steaming hot cups of coffee and a wonderful Mexican breakfast. Then off we went to Mega. The bags weren't too heavy so we decided to walk back instead of taking the bus or a taxi.

There had only been a few sprinkles during the afternoon so we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out that evening for some more interesting stops. Our first endeavor was to find La Ventana (The Window) coffee shop. We have not yet found a good coffee to make at home. We believe it's because we buy decaf. This time we mixed half regular and half decaf. It smelled so good - we can't wait to try it!

Next stop was La Cucaracha (The Cockroach - go ahead and cringe, I did), a famous bar, built in 1947. Back in its hey day, La Cucaracha was a place where writers, artists, actors, locals, expats, or anybody would go to for nightlife. Beat Generation authors, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, frequented La Cucaracha in the 1960′s. No one, rich or poor, was turned away and the owners, the Correa family, never refused anyone a drink - even if they couldn't pay for it. It was located in the center of town.

Inside La Cucaracha

We paid for our 'cuba libres', but ate some
free food at La Cucaracha

But in 1978, some town officials decided it no longer fit into the plan of what was appropriate in the central area around the church. So La Cucaracha relocated to Zacateros #22. The famous people found some other place to go and the bar no longer had the appeal it once did. However, the Correa family have still kept it open and kept to their business practice of turning no one away. At 6 p.m. on Thursdays, the family cooks a full Mexican meal and brings it in. Anybody can come in and serve themselves and it's free! We had to sample - rice, beans, some kind of beef, chicharrones in salsa (fried pork rinds in salsa), and tortillas. There were young and old, men and women. The food was good and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Thursday night free food at La Cucaracha

To read the very interesting history of this once very famous cantina, please click on the link: La Cucaracha

This was only an appetizer for us and we walked across the street to La Mesa Grande. They are considered a bakery and have a full assortment of pastries and breads and also serve Mexican crafted beers. Every day they serve breakfast (until 1 p.m.) and lunch (until 5 p.m.), but Thursday night is pizza night and they stay open until 10. We ordered a prosciutto, mushroom and fresh basil pizza. It was delicious and we managed to save a few slices to take home with us.

Wood-fired oven at La Mesa Grande

Our delicious pizza

The rain held off through the night but the clouds are heavy this morning (Friday). It's a stay-home day. Jamey will prepare stuffed poblano peppers for dinner.

Pathway to a hotel
Instituto Allende

Monday, June 17, 2013

Photos - June 17, 2013

Scenic home in Guadiana neighborhood of San Miguel

The oldest part of the town is the El Chorro neighborhood.
This is where the village of San Miguel was moved to in 1555

Casa de Cultura in El Chorro

Egret rookery, El Chorro

View from a hilltop street in San Miguel

Plaza de Toros, San Miguel de Allende

Plaza de Toros

El Centro street scene - San Miguel

Lunch at Cafe Contento

Cafe Contento

Cafe Contento mural

San Miguel de Allende, MX - Week 2 (cont.)

Sabado (Saturday), June 15 - The bells and firecrackers started about 6 a.m. and continued for more than an hour. Since she was awake, Jamey got up and washed a load of clothes and hung them on the clothesline.

After breakfast, we walked to the butcher to get some fresh ground beef and then to the produce stand to buy some potatoes. We were having the neighbors over Sunday night for a cookout.

One more load of wash in the afternoon and then we went out for dinner to Los Milagros (The Miracles). Two guys were singing beautiful songs in Spanish. Silhouettes sung in Spanish is so beautiful and romantic.

We had fabulous margaritas - very strong - and shared a molcajete de arrachera. This was sliced beef with grilled cactus, green onions, and cheese in a salsa verde (green salsa) served in a special bowl (molcajete). Wonderful! After dinner, we walked to the plaza to be a part of the Saturday night fun and festivities.

Once again the snap, crackle, and pop of firecrackers and church bells woke us at 6 a.m on Domingo (Sunday). This was a special day though and we had to get up and get ready - but not that early.

It was Father's Day and the day for the annual Locos Parade honoring two saints - San Pascual Bailon and San Antonio. This is where the crazies (los locos) come out. Groups of people in the parade dress as different characters - fairies, animals, cartoon characters, superheroes - and throw candies out into the crowd. People bring bags and umbrellas to the parade. The umbrellas are not to shelter them from rain or sun but to turn upside down to catch the candy. Smart thinking!

Dating back to the 19th century, orchards once surrounded in San Miguel. The Franciscan friars used to offer a mass for the orchard workers and ask San Pascual Bailon (patron saint of cooks) for a good harvest. The friars taught the orchard workers to dance in honor of the Saint. The workers would dress as scarecrows. The tradition has grown.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

San Miguel de Allende, MX - Week 2

Monday, June 10, was a cooler day after our Sunday storms and we opted to stay home.

However, Tuesday was a day for getting out and exploring new territory. We grabbed a shopping bag and headed out the door. The skies were somewhat overcast and the air was cool and dry. Jamey had her rain jacket, just in case. Heading toward El Centro and snapping photos along the way, the first stop was Carmela's Salon to make some manicure/pedicure and hair cut appointments for Jamey. Then we continued our trek to the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez. This was a small market and there were very few people. Usually, people are jostling each other to get up and down the isles. But since this was Tuesday and the big Tuesday tianguis was going on, fewer people were here. This just made it nicer to meander around. The only food vendor serving ceviche had no seats available so we left hoping to find ceviche somewhere else. Alas, we did not, but we did come home with fresh pastries, tomatoes, peppers, and a set of measuring spoons which we were lacking in the condo.

After returning home, Jamey unpacked the goodies from the morning shopping and Ken headed back out to buy some freshly squeezed orange juice and corn tortillas (we'll have some of these tonight for dinner).

Wednesday morning the maid, Lupe, came. It was so nice to have a clean condo again and fresh linens on the line. Today was much cooler and there was more rain predicted.

That afternoon, we heard the thunder so Jamey ran out and brought the laundry inside, draping sheets and towels over the staircase railing and backs of chairs to finish drying. The rain held off so we could go out for dinner. Ken had read about a good mariscos (seafood), family-owned restaurant. Many Mexican families have businesses on the street side and their homes in the back. This is what Mariscolandia was. The mother did the cooking and the daughter took the orders and served the food.

Restaurante Mariscolandia

Ceviche is one of our favorite seafood dishes but ceviche here is not all the same and quite different to what we're used to. Tonight's ceviche was in a tomato-based sauce. It was okay but not something we would order again if we return.

Walking back to the condo, we saw colorful flags strung across the road so we decided to walk up to the San Antonio church to see what was happening. Vendors had their carts and tables all set up around the park. The bells began to chime - that is all three bells began to chime with a single person ringing each bell in a different way. Ken made a video just as they ended.
Bell Ringers, San Antonio Church

Continuing on our way, we heard drums and saw dancers in costumes coming toward us. There were 2 different groups marching up the street toward the church. The first group was carrying a cross draped with a cloth. We weren't sure if this was a special day to commemorate a certain saint or if they were practicing for a big parade which is scheduled on Sunday for Father's Day. Ken took another video of this too.

Procession to San Antonio Church

Not long after we got home, the thunder started booming, lightning flashed and the rain came pouring down. It lasted several hours.

Thursday, June 13, was Jamey's manicure appointment. She had gotten a referral on a forum and took a chance since she has acrylic nails. Many things are done manually in Mexico compared to using tools in the USA. Her manicure was one of them. The small shop was in a hotel and became very crowded with clients and workers by the time she left.

Hair and Nail Salon is here!

As we left the shop we went exploring a little more and found another mariscos restaurant, Caribe, for lunch. Ken had the address; 85 Conde de La Canal. Watching the numbers, Ken noticed an 84 across the street, but we were standing in front of 55. Puzzled, he went in to a shop to ask where 85 would be. In the States, odd numbers are on one side and corresponding even numbers are on the opposite. But that's not necessarily how it's done in MX. Ken was told to keep going down the street and 85 would be on our side.

We found the restaurant and tried their ceviche; it was also different. It was good but not what we would order again either. Since San Miguel is not on the coast, we have almost concluded this is not the place to expect ceviche prepared to our preference. We do have a few more places to check though.

Tonight's dinner is another one of the tasty rotisserie chickens found all over MX. An easy dinner.

More photos:

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