Saturday, January 26, 2008

More Thoughts on San Miguel de Allende

This was a great & fun visit to San Miguel. Different from the first trip. This time was lacking the wonder of a totally new experience. Now, I arrived and sort of knew my way around. It didn't take long to re-familiarize myself with the town. I still had to use a map, especially when I was in an area I hadn't explored before. Many times I knew the correct route to take. On a couple occasions I even helped other people find their way. NOTE: I thought the best visitor map to use was the one available at the tourist office next to the old municipal building, across from the jardin.

I enjoyed staying at a B&B only four blocks (or so) from the jardin. Other than the climb up Canal to el centro, being close to the center of things was much easier than staying out on the edge of town. Quinta Graciosa, my friends Maggie & Charlie's casa, was a very enjoyable experience last year. However, almost always needing to take the bus or a taxi cut down on casual getting around town. Maggie was right that I would like being close to all that was happening in San Miguel.

Maggie was also right that I would really like stayng at Casa de la O. Lilia is a wonderful, friendly, and welcoming host. The rooms were nice and I felt right at home. Which is only right because it has been Lilia's home for 30-some years. The breakfasts cooked by her staff were delicious and varied. And the conversations around the breakfast table were fab. It seems like everyone became instant friends and all had a good time.

To say the least, the food I ate in San Miguel was terrific. Some meals were better than others, but none disappointed. I'd have to say my favorite restaurants were a tie between Bugamvilia and Pueblo Viejo. If I had stayed longer I don't know if I could have kept up going to great restaurants every night. Next visit I think I'd like to explore some of the more neighborhood-type places.

Both times I've been to San Miguel I have gone on field trips sponsored by Instituto Allende. Not only have they been fun and informative excursions (muchas gracias, Cesar!), but you meet other travelers who become friends during the rest of your stay in town. It's great being in a new place and seeing someone you know walking down the street. Next time, I'd like to go on the overnight trip to Mexico City.

Money exchange is an interesting issue in Mexico. It's pretty easy to keep in mind that it is roughly 10 pesos to the dollar. Actually, it was about 10.7 to 1, but 10 to 1 is easy to compute on the fly. So when you are thinking of buying a beautiful rug for 800 pesos, you think, "Gee, that's not bad for only 80 bucks." On the other hand, when contemplating tipping the band playing at a restaurant, you might think, "I'll give them a twenty." Then you have to remember that a "twenty" in pesos is not even two US dollars. Goes both ways, I guess.

I hope I can get back to San Miguel de Allende sometime soon. Now that I've been there twice in January I'd like to go at a different time of the year. January is rather dry (good for outdoor activities!) but perhaps in the fall after the rainy season would be nice. Maybe in the late spring, or maybe DURING the rainy season. I hear it rains a bit then the sun comes back out. That would be OK. Anyway, sometime soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back Home In Minnesota

I made it back to Minneapolis yesterday only a little late thanks again to bad weather in Houston. It was a long, lousy day of traveling due to the cold I had acquired. And, my left ear would not "pop" during either landing. No fun. I couldn't hear properly and I was a bit off. It got back to normal sometime during the night, but I can still feel some effect.

So the advice is, don't fly with a cold. Use this as an excuse to stay on vacation a few extra days.

UPDATE: The package I had sent from Mexico on Thursday morning showed up today with UPS. That's pretty fast from any location. It now seems that the reason for the high cost of shipping was I got a service somewhat faster than "ground". DUH! Next time maybe I should just ask about what speed they are quoting and request the slowest one. That's pretty basic, I should know that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Last Day in San Miguel (this time)

And so I hit the last full day in San Miguel de Allende for this trip. Wish I could stay. Wish I didn't have to go back to the frigid cold that Minnesota is experiencing now. But there will be more trips to take.

My cold, thanks for asking, was a little better this morning. The Mexican version of DayQuil seemed to be helping. Still, I didn't feel like being too active.

This morning was a bit cooler than usual here so I waited awhile before walking up to the jardin. I just wanted to read the paper and soak in the jardin vibes, preferably in the sun. I found Diane & Gayla there and we chatted a bit. They said they met a young woman who told them where the Americans will be gathering to watch the Packers game this evening. Oh well, they can't win them all.

I wandered down to Parque Benito Juarez again, and this time there were some people there unlike last Monday. Looks a lot better with people enjoying this beautiful park.

While walking to and from Parque Juarez I took more pictures of doors. I started to look more at some of the details in the doors. So I guess I'll call this section, The Knockers of San Miguel de Allende.

This isn't a knocker, just an interesting face on a door.

When I got back to the jardin, it was hopping. It's a great place to just hang out any time of the day. And you can get your shoes shined, too.

And there was even a "Mini" car show on the street. These are the original Mini Coopers from the early 60s, and maybe the 50s. Some were right-hand and others were left.

As I was leaving the jardin I was able to get a little going away music.

Back at Casa de la O, I started to get organized and pack for the trip home tomorrow morning. But there was one more fun thing to do. Rebecca & Steve, a couple we met on the Pozos bus tour, invited Maria Teresa and I to their house for dinner tonight. We had a delicious meal and great conversation with new friends. They live in San Miguel full time and it was interesting to hear what it's like to leave the states behind, at least for the duration of Steve's work assignment. They have a lovely home and it was very nice of them to have us over. I'm sure we'll stay in touch.

And so, that's it. I've got to get packed and ready to be picked up at 9am. It's been a great visit to San Miguel. I'll be back.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Colorful Day Despite the Overcast Sky

Well, I'm sick. No, not THAT kind of sick, fortunately. A thick head, tight chest kind of cold. Kinda takes the edge off the fun. It was still a good day. Chilly but nowhere near what is happening in Minnesota.

First, I'll get to yesterday's purchases. They are both flat enough to go in the suitcase. I'm sure of it. Monarch butterflies are important in Mexico. Their winter migration to the state of Michoacan to protected sanctuaries is a big deal. As far as Old 3-Eye, I'll have to make sure I can't see this at night.

The day began with sending the Oregonites on their way. Nice peeps. Sorry to see them go.

After a bit of reading and hanging out in the B&B courtyard, we went over to the Art Fair at Instituto Allende. They have several of these fairs every year in the Instituto's courtyard. The word is that it has become more commercial in recent years to meet the increased American dollars in San Miguel. I'd say it was a mix of commercial, true craftsmanship, and the same vendors at the Mercado Artesanías.

Commercial or craft, there was a LOT of color at the Instituto Art Fair.

Maria Teresa and I then went over to El Buen Café (recommended by the Kennedy's of Roseville) for lunch. I just had chicken and rice soup, not really photo worthy. The key to this kind of soup here is to squeeze in some lime juice. It really makes the soup. Same thing with some vegetable soup Lilia served at Casa de la O.

We wandered back toward the jardin and found the Casa de la Inquisidor. This is where the official in charge of local Spanish Inquisition matters had his office. Across the street is the building that held the Inquisition jail. It is now a center for handicapped children.

Many of the buildings in San Miguel have devotionals, or what ever is the correct word, on the corners. The different styles are quite interesting. They also sometimes serve as excellent pidgen roosts.

I headed back to the B&B for a little siesta. On the way I stopped in at a farmacia. The woman behind the counter knew what I meant by "DayQuil, non-drowsy". In Mexico, it's Tabcin Active, I hope.

A flower box along the way on Calle Canal.

Later it was time to head out for dinner. Maria Teresa, Diane, Gayla & I went to El Pegaso Café on Calle Corregidora, one block from the jardin. I had the Filet of Red Snapper with garlic butter sauce. Very good. This small café had been recommended on many websites. They were right.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is my last full day in San Miguel de Allende. For this trip, that is.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Friends in San Miguel

The day started with preparations for the departure Saturday of the new friends from Oregon. Pictures to be taken, contact info to be shared. This is what makes staying at a B&B so much fun. Sitting around the breakfast table in the morning, or hanging out in the courtyard later in the day. You get to know people.

The Ashland Oregon Quartet has been particularly fun to get to know. Lots of laughter, discussions about serious projects, somehow I don't think it will be just a vacation relationship. I want to be there for opening night when OtherRichard finally begins his stand-up career.

Richard, Joyce, Joanne, OtherRichard

The ORs also wanted a shot of the Minnesota/Canada contingent. We had three cameras pointed at us. Which one should I look at? Just like show biz.

Gayla, Diane, Maria Teresa, Petebar

After showing Diane & Gayla where the money exchange office is, I hung out in the jardin reading the papers. It was somewhat busy. Lots of people.

The jardin has four of these fountains that run even in winter. That couldn't be done in Minnesota right now.

And the balloon vendors were out in force.

At 1pm we met at Rincon de Don Tomas across from the jardine. I had the Mole Poblano. That's an excellent hunk of chicken breast under the tasty mole sauce. Quite good.

After lunch we headed over to the Mercado de Artesanias. I bought a couple of thing and I'll show them later.

D, G,& MT took a cab back to Casa de la O, but I did some more wandering on my way back to the jardin. I can't take enough shots of the doors in San Miguel. These three cover the range.

Of course, the afternoon sun looks good on la parroquia.

When I reached my bench-sitting limit, I went back to the B&B. Later, we took Diane & Gayla over to Bugambilia for dinner. It was a great meal last week, and tonight was no letdown. I had the Tinga con Chorizo, which is pork with Mexican sausage in tomato sauce and a bit of chipotle chile, and with saute potatoes. Lacking Negra Modelo, I had the Bohemia Obscura (dark) cerveza. All was um, um good.

After dinner we took a stroll over to the jardine where we listened to the mariachi band play for a bit. We also saw Steve and Rebecca whom we met on the bus tour. Everyone goes to the jardin on a pleasant evening.