Chacala beach
It's a tough life!
The view
This wasn't one of the barking dogs.
Veggies
Gotta clean those veggies.
Children
Some of the competition for Spring Queen.
The view
The view from Nancy's room.
The Plaza
The Plaza Jardin Principal
The egg
The Quail egg

La Peñitas & San Miguel de Allende

Friday 12 March 2010

(Click on the thumbnails and links to view a large image.)

Hola amigos y amigas,

It is a cool sunny day here in San Miguel de Allende, central Mexico. Four of us are enjoying the weather immensely but one person is pouting because of missing the snow in Burnaby .... no names will be mentioned to protect the weird.

Our holiday has been pleasant and rather uneventful so far - Ted and I will rent a car on Tues. and plan to go off the beaten path for 7-9 days, heading southeast to visit two Monarch butterfly sanctuaries and then investigate the caves and geothermal springs in the area. We will spend our last 5 days in Guadalajara where we plan to visit and explore with Ryan and Sara.

Here is a summary of observations and experiences to date:

OUR FLIGHT FROM VANCOUVER TO PUERTO VALLARTA

  • we were impressed with WestJet's leg room and comfortable seats as well as the choice of TV channels to watch (including that day's edition of my soap opera) - but we didn't pay $6 to see a movie
  • there was a small barking dog right behind us in an under-the-seat carrier; we were very grateful for his presence as it helped us prepare for the numerous barking dogs we've experienced next to both our rental homes
  • there were several crying babies and children on the plane; we were very grateful for their presence as it helped prepare us for the constantly screaming child next door in our current villa
  • phrases we didn't want to hear:
    • how's your tummy now
    • is there a doctor or nurse on board
    • ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed we have turned around
  • we had a side trip to Las Vegas - the aforementioned request for a doctor or nurse was due to an old man having shortness of breath and chest pain practically from take-off; instead of landing in Tucson (which we were right above when they decided to emergency land for him), they turned around and went back to Las Vegas. The man was offloaded very quickly but, because they had been giving him oxygen for the entire flight, we had to wait an hour for the oxygen bottles to be replenished. As a result, we were 4 hours late joining up with Ken and Judy and Nancy so missed the fiesta for which we had already bought tickets. However, being kind, thoughtful friends they collected our food (seafood chilli rellanos and flat-iron steak) in take-out boxes .. AND had tequila and cervaza waiting for us

THE FIRST HOUSE at LA PEÑITA
(one hour north of Puerto Vallarta, $1134 CDN per week)

  • we had a 3 bedroom kitchenette unit in a small hotel with a small pool and pretty courtyard; we were on the upper level so had a patio from which to watch waves, sunsets and birds
  • it seems most places in Mexico have adopted Maggie's decorating advice: "Don't be afraid of color!" - our rooms were bright green, orange, pink, blue - very cheerful
  • the ultimate test of friendship - 5 people with regular bowel habits and one bathroom … we passed
  • we were given 2 small rolls of toilet paper for all 5 of us for an entire week
  • we had to pay for water
  • they did provide anti-bacterial drops for soaking fruit and vegetables but no pool towels (although the day we went on a day trip to a nearby beach, they grudgingly gave us beach towels that previous guests had left behind)
  • best culinary experience - cooking our own meals with more shrimp and jumbo prawns than you can imagine … and generally eating more of them than you can imagine with more garlic than you can imagine - bring on the vampires! Our second best experience was scrounging wood and having a beach wiener roast. FROM NANCY The wieners were not so good but the ambiance was perfect. Meanwhile, we also found the world's biggest marshmallows here that come in a bag with green, pink, white and yellow mixed together
  • best shopping experience - we were able to attend two of the best local markets I have ever seen - bought a stone mask, 4 silver bracelets including one with a mix of Australian and Mexican fire opals for $40, a couple of lounging around dresses … i.e. enough stuff to make me wish I'd brought a larger suitcase
  • most embarrasing experience - the person who is most fanatical about using sunscreen, preferably with SPF 60, got a sunburn on her back due to leaving the shade of the umbrella and playing an impromptu game of bocci at 1:30 in the afternoon in the blazing sun; to make matters worse, she lost the game
  • most amazing experience - Ted went swimming and got hit by an unplanned wave thus losing his favorite hat; an hour later, it washed up on the beach (no, I can't explain why someone goes swimming with his hat on)[it was because 'somebody' keeps telling him to wear a hat in the sun!]

THE SECOND HOUSE (at San Miguel de Allende in the central "mountains"
$400 US per week)

  • we canceled our rental car and all 5 of us came to this town via an 11 hour bus trip - luxurious seats, air conditioning, relatively clean bathrooms and lunch (a turkey/ham and cheese sandwich made with the squishiest whitest bread imaginable - shades of childhood Wonder-bread - and a choice of water or pop which is handed to you as you board the bus)
  • our new house is amazingly beautiful with 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths as well as a half bath on the main floor - how civilized
  • Nancy is in the rooftop studio with a comfy mattress on the floor and the best view of sunrises, sunsets, stars and city lights; she swears that she enjoys coming down two flights of stairs twice a night to pee
  • the amount of street noise is UFB - besides barking dogs and screaming kids, there are blasting radios, firecrackers, broadcasting gas trucks, roaring engines …. with the subtle contrast of two chirping crickets in our room
  • there is also a new dog phenomenon here - unfortunately, it is very depressing - because of the architectural structure, it is possible to leap/walk from roof to roof - hence the practice of having "roof dogs" whose entire life consists of barking in frustration from rooftops
  • there are two gas fireplaces, two fountains, and 3 tranquil areas to sit - one on each floor (tranquil, that is, if your are wearing the world's best ear plugs)
  • my favorite place in town is the Biblioteca (library) which is exactly how a library should be - lots of people sitting in an outdoor courtyard talking, reading, working on their computers or snacking in the cute cafe. They have 2-4 events daily - yesterday, we went to performance painting. The artist painted on a 3ft x 6ft fiberglass sheet along to a musician playing guitar and singing. It was so fascinating that Ted even stayed awake. Today, we are going to a presentation on the history of Mexico at 3 and a demonstration of flamenco dancing at 5. NOTE: We have returned - the history DVD was amazing - what an incredibly violent past Mexico has including assassination, revolutions, exploitation for natural resources (guess which country to the north did that), religious meddling (guess which … oh, never mind), etc. We decided not to attend the flamenco session (too expensive) and went to have margaritas and beer instead.
  • my second favorite place is the Plaza Jardin Principal - the main square - perfect for people watching. Unfortunately, people also watch us, namely the beggars ranging from mothers with babies and young children to our new friend, a 94 year old woman. The sales people also feel that we need hats, dolls, scarves, jewelery, purses, food (i.e. delicious banana bread) and, for some reason, "no gracias" seems to be the two words in spanish that the Mexicans don't understand. A passing Mexican matron paused in her walking to show me that the best response is to say nothing but, instead, to hold up your hand and waggle your index finger back and forth while projecting a stern look.
  • We had a delicious breakfast out yesterday in a nearby neighborhood restaurant. There were a couple of men at the outdoor counter who ordered a large glass of something reddish-brown and the server cracked 4 quail eggs into it. I asked what it was and why the eggs were in it … it was a cheap sweet wine (similar to a bad Port) and the purpose of the eggs was to give the person vigor - he said that mostly it's older people who drink it… and then offered me a taste. I tasted the alcohol and then he asked if I'd like an egg in it. Of course, I said "yes" and then, remembering my manners which taught me to share, gave it to my beloved Ted to drink. He was suitable appreciative as he gulped it down. (That's her story, I think she wanted to bestow the vigor on me) - do I need it, well we'll see …
  • Nancy saw neighbors taking their dogs and cat somewhere this morning. Later, she found it was a little streetside clinic offering rabies shots.
  • most annoying ripoff - the taxi driver who quoted us the price we expected for a short journey to the big supermarket and then said it was per person - not an approach encountered with any other drivers who have all been very helpful

SCIENCE WORLD

Let's face it - I love pelicans! They are fascinating birds - so ugly that they are beautiful. Here is some info everyone should know: (the species we've been watching is the brown pelican)

  • The pelican's beak can "really hold more than its belly can'. The pouch holds about three gallons, the stomach about one gallon
  • Eat almost entirely fish (smelt, anchovy, sardines and some crustacean); forages by diving from the air, from as high as 60 feet above water, plunging into water headfirst and coming to surface with fish in bill. (Flies upside down to drain out the water, oh, you mean they don't?) … tilts bill down to drain water out of pouch, then tosses head back to swallow. Sometimes scavenges and will become tame, approaching fishermen for handouts
  • the average lifespan is 15 years
  • Pelicans have an extremely light skeleton, weighing less than 10% of their total body weight
  • Height is 42 to 54 inches; wingspan is 6 to 7 feet; weight 8 to 10 pounds
  • Nesting is on islands, often in mangroves, where the birds build a rather flimsy nest of sticks, reeds, bones, and seaweed. On islands without predators, they often build on the ground and usually lay two or three eggs in March or April (first breed at age 3 older). Incubation lasts 28 to 30 days. Both parents care for the naked, helpless chicks. They feed their chicks by regurgitation

THE END (Yep, this is a link too.)

P.S. 15 March 2010 Beware the Ides of ….!

Didn't get the newsletter mailed due to walking, walking, walking around town and the addition of pictures by Ted which makes the newsletter much more interesting (right, Maggie?)

Have a few more observations to note for my records:

  • Noise - I think I forgot to mention the roosters, church bells, and the endlessly whining and whimpering new lonely puppy on the roof across the street … plus the Saturday night music which echoes throughout the entire town
  • dinner - we have a superb local restaurant two blocks from our house called Tacos Don Felix - so good that we went there for dinner two nights in a row. The first night, the bill for 5 of us with beer, margaritas, wine and huge entrees was 1095 pesos, about $110; the second night is was 900 pesos, about $90 … WOW …. and no PST, GST, or HST in sight
  • Pharmacy counter dog - in addition to street dogs and roof dogs, we encountered a pharmacy yesterday that has a medium-sized dog on its counter which must have been placed there deliberately as the counter was too high for it to jump up on its own. Why? - who knows
  • House tour - volunteers from the library offer tours of 2-3 interesting (= out of our price range) houses every Sunday. Yesterday, there were "only" 240 people on the tour; they have had as many as 600 in the past. The price is 200 pesos (˜$20) and the money is used for educating the local kids and offering them special programs
  • Garbage collection - have a new method here - a man goes along the street clanging what sounded like 2 metal pipes together. Everyone starts putting out their plastic bags and 10 minutes later the truck comes along. It stops in 2 places on the street (someone rings your door buzzer as they pass) and people have to carry their bags to truck. It seems to work really well since the streets are generally really clean

Don't have much else to report - we're doing lots of talking and laughing and lounging so time flies quickly and it's a challenge to figure out what day it is.

Bye for now - love E&T

Houses
Contrasting beach houses in La Peñitas
View from balcony
View from our balcony in La Peñitas
Children
They were asking for donations in their quest to become Spring Queen.
The view
The view from our house in San Miguel.
The library
The courtyard of the biblioteca.
Pet psychology
Title: Pet psicología
Pelicans
Potpourri of pelicans