Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a beautiful city, full of amazing restaurants and many beautiful buildings.  The zocalo always has something happening.  Whether it is families socializing or protests underway it is lively.  We’ve been a few times now, and will be a few more I’m sure.

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The zocalo is the heart of all Mexican communities, big or small.  Families gather, young people “court”, vendors sell necessities like balloons and ice cream, and music is everywhere.  At any time of day the zocalo is entertaining, but Sundays are particularly lively.

We had a great place to stay in Oaxaca this time, loving AIRBNB for granting us access to these places – so nice to have a place that feels like home to relax and enjoy while being able to explore whatever area we are in.

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We have explored the ruins of Monte Alban a few times, and are always amazed at the sheer size of it all.  Originally home of Zapotec people, these ruins are still being uncovered.  This visit we explored Atzompa, newly discovered!  Seriously, Mexican officials and archeologists must be suspiciously looking at every hillside and wondering what is underneath.

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We took a collectivo taxi up to this area, about 8 km from Oaxaca itself, and then continued uphill to explore the ruins.  It is crazy that every time you think you have reached the top you only uncover more terraces.

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From here you can look across at Monte Alban – they were all part of the same community, and the vantage point is incredible.dsc03249

dsc03241The ever present ball court …. maybe we find them so fascinating because of the soccer similarities … you can use any part of your body except your hands.  Authorities are divided on whether the loser or winner was sacrificed ….. it is a great honour to be sacrificed though so I guess it is all depends on your point of view.

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The flora …… Honestly I don’t often take so many photos of flowers in Mexico but the flowers alongside the ruins and the road leading up to it were just stunning, and I couldn’t help myself.

From the site, we walked down the road (2 km) to the nearest town in order to get a taxi back to Oaxaca.  You really don’t ever know what you are going to encounter along the roads in Mexico.

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From livestock to world renowned potter …. this roadside gallery was a real surprise.

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It was only 2 km from the archeological site to the town, but it was hot!

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Every year we try to bring back a couple of “Servin” mugs … the pottery is a marvel – wonderful to hold, perfect for coffee or tea and so beautiful.fullsizeoutput_4759

servin-pottery

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It seems like there is a cathedral on every corner in Mexico, and it is likely true.  They are absolutely beautiful, and regardless of your religion it is a wonderful spot to just sit and take a moment … maybe just to realize how lucky we are to travel.

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We toured the Cultural center and once again, we marvel at both the building and the art it houses.  dsc03213

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This is the ceiling …. seriously …. this much effort going into the ceiling.  dsc03221

dsc03212Yes, more ceilings …. how on earth did they do this?

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Every floor had an area where they had outside space – no doubt to reflect and appreciate your environment.  This one overlooked the ethnobotanical gardens below.

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As for the food ….. oh my goodness ….  eating in Oaxaca is a foodie dream.  We had outstanding food here.dsc03234

Origen Restaurant – the food here is without doubt picture perfect and the flavours live up to the image, I’d encourage anybody to eat here.

In fact, every meal we ate in Oaxaca was outstanding.  We kept saying “that was the best, I’d like to eat here again!”  We need more time in Oaxaca to do that.

However, it is time to move on ….. time for Mexico City!

 

Puebla

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One thing is constant in Mexico, and that is cathedrals – each area uses the stone from that region, so they all have a slightly different colour to the rock but in all cases, they are beautiful.

 

 

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We have just missed “Day of the Dead” celebrations, and everywhere is evidence of the festivities.  Really, it might sound morbid, but it is a lovely and fascinating way of celebrating all those that have passed before us.  Family and friends gather to discuss and remember the loved ones, their favourite foods are cooked and the parties are endless.

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Our 3rd time in Puebla, and I finally bought a small piece of the pottery Puebla is famous for, Talavera Pottery.  The clay is sourced locally and most colors are also found naturally in local areas.  Blue is the only colour they import, from Morocco.  All colours are made from natural and traditional dyes.  They have over 100 employees in this building – we did a tour and the place just went on forever. It takes about 8 weeks for each piece of clay to become a piece of pottery, get fired numerous times, painted, glazed, hand marked with the year and then prepared for sale.  I asked about seconds, because I didn’t see any in the shop, but they don’t sell any seconds – instead the pottery is broken up and sold by the kilo for work in art pieces.

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Inside the Uriarte Gallery – established in 1824, and specializing in certified Talavera Pottery.  Until very recently it was exclusively managed by the Uriarte family, however recently it has been bought out and is now owned by 3 Mexicans and 1 Canadian.dsc03179This large stone goes around the rocks to crush them (in this case the blue stones) and once it is a fine powder they add the water to get their colour.  This stone is now powered by electricity but for years it was by a donkey going in circles.  Poor guy.

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Clay work stations, small pieces are created by hand on the wheel, (anything that is in size from fingertips to elbows) and larger pieces are created with molds.

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Pieces air dry first, before being fired in the kiln – now heated with gas where it was previously wood or coal.

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After being fired the pieces air dry again.

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Once fired, there are a couple of guys that spend all day correcting minor imperfections by sanding.  Before glazing anything they test each piece to see if it has survived the firing without any damage to the piece – the sound is amazingly bell like on a good piece, and very dull on a piece with a hairline crack that the eye can barely see.

dsc03168This guy attentively dips every single piece into the glazing.  We couldn’t believe how quickly it dried onto the pottery.  After this it is ready for another firing.

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Talk about dedication – this sole employee is responsible for hand signing (with a donkey hair brush) each and every single one of the pieces produced.

dsc03175First painting – then more firing.  The firing changes the colour significantly – the light blue turns very strong, and the orange turns yellow.

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This definitely requires attention to detail.

We loved the tour and each came home with a small piece.  Difficult when travelling – it would have been nice to come home with more!

Puebla is known for food, and one of their specialties is the cemita.  A sandwich, to end all sandwich dreams.  dsc03137

Piled high with (traditionally) pork Milanesa style, avocado, cheese, lettuce, onions and served in a special bun, which is what makes it a cemita, other than a “torta” (sandwich).

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Fusion has hit Mexico and these are upscale cemita’s.  Served with some delicious dipping sauces that really hit the spot.

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Moles are another big thing here, and I don’t mean little critters.  Pronounced “molay”, it really just means sauce.

fullsizeoutput_46f9Enchiladas tres moles.  Means, enchiladas served with the 3 traditional Mole sauces – the red is Colaradito pepper sauce, the black is mole negro, made typically with leftover tortillas cooked until they are black and ash like and chocolate.  The green is a pipian mole, made with pumpkin seeds.  That sounds simplistic and it certainly is not a simple sauce.  Each one has many many ingredients, and every cook/chef is very protective of their recipe.

fullsizeoutput_46faMixiote (pronounced misheeote).  Really fabulous meat dish cooked low and slow in parchment paper, in this case lamb.  The flavour is out of this world.  In days gone by the parchment paper would have been ant larvae, but now they settle for parchment.

fullsizeoutput_46f8Tinga.  Sounds easy, and looks kind of boring, but one bite and you will wake up.  Honestly, so frickin delicious.

fitbitYes, that really does say we walked 15.89 km in one day.  At that rate we can eat and drink whatever we want!!

churro-lineupSo, needless to say in Mexico, that means Churros.  This place had a line up every night and it was easy to see why.  Delicious, no really really delicious.

got-the-churrosFinally made it to the front of the line.

churros-yumThe best …. sorry, photo is blurry.

dsc03159Taken through the window, this guy works incredibly hard hand stirring this massive pot of churro dough – SUPER impressive.

dsc03158If you haven’t done enough walking in a day, there are always other snacking options too ….. every street will have vendors selling fruit or vegetables.  Our favourite is jicama and cucumber,  sprinkled with salt,  lime squeezed over and lightly drizzled with hot sauce.

snacksPuebla is a beautiful city, in fact probably one of the cleanest and home of the most courteous drivers!  They stop for yellow lights and pedestrians…. amazing.

Petroglyphs and more

We decided that we really had to do a bit of exploring in this area, particularly knowing that a short distance away, and a very decent hike …. are petroglyphs over 2000 years old.

Heading towards Alta Vista we set off on a 3 km hike into the jungle.  This area is unbelievably lush, and once you get off the beach I think the vines would threaten to cover everything if left unattended.  I truly expected Mowgli to come along, swinging from the tree tops on those long vines.  Vivian was more than a little nervous …. a few squeaks out of her as she claimed that she was WAY out of her comfort zone.  I think she was afraid that it would be Ka she saw, not Mowgli.

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We were very happy that it was a bit overcast today, and we were  thankful to be in the jungle for enough of it that we weren’t collapsing with the heat.  (just the humidity)

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The trail led us through citrus groves and guava orchards – incredibly beautiful.

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The most colourful butterflies kept us company along the way.

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Love the way this little guy blends in with the flowers.

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Orange trees everywhere.

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We did try one that LOOKED ripe …. it most definitely was not.

More than a few cows wondered where we were going …

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It was 3 km in for this hike, and so lush in that jungle setting.

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These “strangler” trees wrap their way around other trees until they have virtually taken over!

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Some of the petroglyphs were moss covered, others very easy to visualize.

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So many spots in Mexico contain areas like this – something created by the human hand thousands of years ago – still here for us to view.

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Hot, tired and happy – perfect photo opportunity.

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It was quite a strange feeling in this area, where people lived and worked thousands of years ago, and it still contains a bit of that mystical feeling.  This is certainly one of those moments that stays in the memory bank.

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We really had to wonder if an earthquake sometime in the past scattered all these boulders.

This area is well known for pineapples, bananas, and salt production …. the sea salt definitely has the taste of the ocean, unlike sea salt we have purchased in the stores at home.

Just as critical as salt …. sweet!!  Mexicans love their sweet treats and they are in abundance everywhere.

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Sweets galore, mostly made of coconut or tamarind.

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Bags of sea salt for sale.

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I forgot … limes also!  They are growing everywhere.

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Far off in those hills they also have coffee plantations.  We bought some today that was roasted last night!

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Fresh pineapple here never seems as acidic as it is at home.

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If you haven’t had fresh ceviche at a beach, or beach town … what are you waiting for?

We’ve certainly had a few adventures trying to find beaches  ….. signs stating that a beach is ahead, however we come to a locked gate or such a big puddle we can’t progress any farther.

I think we we would all agree that Chacala is a wonderful destination for a relaxing beach holiday.  If you do happen to see a beach vendor, go ahead and buy those peanuts – they are amazing!

This is a very small village, our casa is right beside the kindergarten – naturally a family lives there also.

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These kids are probably 6 and 4 – they have been busy folding their own laundry off those clotheslines!

After tonight it is time for us once again to say:

Hasta la vista la playa (see ya later beach) and head back to a cold winter at home …. until January!

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

One thing I don’t think (no, I’m sure) I’ve ever had to prepare for in travel plans is for volcanic activity delays …. We started out our trip in Vernon at 8 ish on Wed morning – all flights looking like they are just fine and dandy ……. Flight to Calgary was smooth and simple – got there to find out we had a 2 hour delay before our next flight to Puerto Vallarta. Next thing we knew it was cancelled altogether due to the volcanic ash in the air from activity in Colima, Jalisco, Mexico. It was a definite no fly zone. I suppose we could look on the bright side and be grateful that we weren’t on the flight the day before – they flew all the way to 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta before being turned around, and came all the way back to Calgary. Now, that would have been frustrating.

In any case, we found ourselves spending the night at the Clarion Hotel in Calgary before again leaving for the airport at 5:30 a.m. This time it was clear and sunny in Puerta Vallarta, so the flight went off without any issues. Sadly for us, this meant we missed our flight to Leon in Guanajuato state.

Not to be deterred we got off the plane, walked across the street for a marvellous taco and hopped into a taxi to go check out the bus schedules. Two buses later and a night in Guadalajara we arrived in San Miguel de Allende. Simple, right? Maybe, but it took 52 hours of travel time!

Right across the street from the PV airport, these amazing fish tacos are huge and will immediately satisfy your craving for a taste of Mexico.

Right across the street from the PV airport, these amazing fish tacos are huge and will immediately satisfy your craving for a taste of Mexico.

This was my dainty little shrimp taco (camarones), and it was anything but dainty - however it was delicious!

This was my dainty little shrimp taco (camarones), and it was anything but dainty – however it was delicious!

Our Mexican dining room in San Miguel de Allende, we love it here!

Our Mexican dining room in San Miguel de Allende, we love it here!

As the sun starts to set over San Miguel de Allende you can see the pastel colours and the amazing view from our rooftop deck.

As the sun starts to set over San Miguel de Allende you can see the pastel colours and the amazing view from our rooftop deck.

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This is the most beautiful office I’ve ever  worked, and done my blog from, and it looks out over amazing flowers and garden area – the wall is all window.

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Our first day we walked about five hours, and no I’m not exaggerating ….. in these areas you are either walking up or down hill – no flat areas.

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Yes – we walked all the way up from San Miguel to El Charco – the botanical gardens.  About 1.5 km up and then it was about 3 km walk through the gardens before heading down.

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Amazing cactus throughout the botanical gardens.

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Having heard that these red fruits on the cactus plant are edible, Grant plucked one off … trying to avoid the spikes (not totally successful in that), broke it open and we all had a taste.  Not very flavourful, and what we didn’t notice was all the teensy tiny barbs on the fruit itself.  Everybody was having mini barbs stuck in their lips for quite a while …..

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Always a cathedral handy – every barrio (neighbourhood) has their own, and even in some small towns the church will be very elaborate.

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After all that walking we rewarded ourselves with dinner at “Aperi” … and thoroughly loved the 7 course tasting menu, accompanied with wine pairings …. no Grant did not do the wine pairings.  It really was a “foodie” dream come true.

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Sadly, this photo does not do the pork belly justice – arrived with the upended margarita glass leaking smoke, and the hickory scent wafted up as the glass was lifted away.  That pork belly was out of this world delicious.

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Just a few of the other courses – unbelievably beautiful and delicious, every plate was dreamy.

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Gorditas – slightly thicker tortillas, and then stuffed with your choice of many fillings – a great quick lunch.

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Just enjoying another church plaza, coffee break and munching churros.  Grant decided to prove to us that we don’t need that selfie stick we see everybody using.  Or is he disproving that theory??  For some reason everybody wants their photo taken with that small fountain …

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These ladies sit in the parks all day stitching up “Lupita” dolls.

The next day we played tourist and went on a couple of tours – Wilson went “birding” and Viv and I took in a house tour.  Grant …. had lime ice cream and walked around. During edit stage of this blog, Wilson wanted it mentioned that he saw some birds.

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One of the beautiful bedrooms on our house tour.

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Most Mexican style homes are centered around a courtyard – and this one was amazing – so lush. It is hard to believe what is behind that doorway right off the street.

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Morning mist over San Miguel de Allende – floating away to leave a beautiful day for us.

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Hotel Rosewood had a beautiful roof top bar to enjoy a sunset.  San Miguel de Allende is truly a gorgeous place, and it is easy to see why it becomes home to so many ex-pats.  Primarily US but a good showing of Canadians as well, along with a sprinkling of the rest of the world.  Actually …. a few years ago it was voted by Conde Naste as the Number 1 place to live, in the whole world.

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Vivian’s drink – gin/watermelon/basil/cucumber – delicious

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My drink – mescal, cucumber, lemongrass, and soda water.

I’d like to post Grant’s drink (beer) and Wilson’s (red wine) but they are boring.

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Main salon at our Casa, and home of the nightly crib match for Grant and Wilson.

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Whipping up a dinner of carnitas (slow roasted pork), potatoes and zucchini, green beans and salad.  The joys of having your own kitchen.

While we all thoroughly enjoyed San Miguel de Allende, it is time to move on ….. and we have to say that this whole Air BNB gig is the best.  We just love having a place to lounge in the morning, relax with your coffee and take your time getting going – eat in or out as your mood dictates.

Time to move on to Guanajuato – only 2 nights there to explore a beautiful silver city.  More on that to come …..

 

 

Patzcuaro, Michoacan Jan 2015

What a lovely little Colonial town, smack dab in the midst of Purepecha country. All the buildings around the centre of town are white and red, and so beautifully maintained. Naturally, churches and squares everywhere, and the markets are amazing.

You never know what is behind a doorway in Mexico.  In this instance, our welcoming and comfortable casa was perfect.

You never know what is behind a doorway in Mexico. In this instance, our welcoming and comfortable casa was perfect.

How could you not love stepping into a front entry like this?

How could you not love stepping into a front entry like this?

We were fortunate to find an AirBNB place to stay, Casa Nana de Ree – and it is a beautiful place. Shared kitchen and common rooms, but 3 separate bedrooms to stay in. We chose the blue room, with a private bath.

Our blue room at Casa de Nana Ree - king size bed and private bathroom.

Our blue room at Casa de Nana Ree – king size bed and private bathroom.

Kitchen area - way nicer than my home kitchen.

Kitchen area – way nicer than my home kitchen.

For the most part, we had the house to ourselves, for 2 nights another couple were here from San Miguel de Allende, but they were out a lot. So nice to have space, be able to make a cup of tea or even dinner a couple of nights. After spending less than 100 pesos in the market, and 80 pesos for a roasted chicken, we had enough for 2 dinners and 3 breakfasts.

It's pretty hard to only buy as much as you need at the mercado - all the produce is so fresh and inviting.  Love having a kitchen to use.

It’s pretty hard to only buy as much as you need at the mercado – all the produce is so fresh and inviting. Love having a kitchen to use.

These chickens can be found everywhere - large pit with a fire in the centre and chicken on a stick, or goat on a stick, or even chorizo.  Just delicious.  They chop it up, put it in a container, squeeze lime and orange juice over and for 80 pesos they also throw in some orange habanero salsa.  Fabulous!

These chickens can be found everywhere – large pit with a fire in the centre and chicken on a stick, or goat on a stick, or even chorizo. Just delicious. They chop it up, put it in a container, squeeze lime and orange juice over and for 80 pesos they also throw in some orange habanero salsa. Fabulous.

You never know what is behind a doorway in Mexico.  In this instance, our welcoming and comfortable casa was perfect!

You never know what is behind a doorway in Mexico. In this instance, our welcoming and comfortable casa was perfect!

After a day of hiking, sight seeing or just being a tourist, it is pretty nice to be able to relax on these couches.

After a day of hiking, sight seeing or just being a tourist, it is pretty nice to be able to relax on these couches.

I'm not sure why but Patzcuaro had more old men sitting chatting in the plaza than any other place we've been - they were everywhere.  Socializing and usually laughing.

I’m not sure why but Patzcuaro had more old men sitting chatting in the plaza than any other place we’ve been – they were everywhere. Socializing and usually laughing.

We enjoyed Lupitas a couple of times in Patzcuaro - either for a meal or just a drink in this cozy bar.

We enjoyed Lupitas a couple of times in Patzcuaro – either for a meal or just a drink in this cozy bar.

Outside most of the cathedrals you will find a stall like this one, selling homeopathic remedies.

Outside most of the cathedrals you will find a stall like this one, selling homeopathic remedies.

Patzcuaro is well known for their handicrafts -these beautiful lights are just one example of the amazing art to be found.

Patzcuaro is well known for their handicrafts -these beautiful lights are just one example of the amazing art to be found.

All around Uruapan, and the entire way on the highway from Uruapan to Patzcuaro are avocado trees, as far as you can see.  So interesting to them alongside pine trees.

All around Uruapan, and the entire way on the highway from Uruapan to Patzcuaro are avocado trees, as far as you can see. So interesting to them alongside pine trees.

These photos were taken from the bus window, and hardly do the avocado groves (orchards?) justice.

These photos were taken from the bus window, and hardly do the avocado groves (orchards?) justice.

Being able to make your own guacamole and salsa at the end of a day and just sit with your feet up is so relaxing.

Being able to make your own guacamole and salsa at the end of a day and just sit with your feet up is so relaxing.

Perfect breakfast, fresh mangoes and avocado on toast with coffee.   How's my hair?

Perfect breakfast, fresh mangoes and avocado on toast with coffee.
How’s my hair?

Patzcuaro has been a great place to use as a base for seeing so much in the area, Quiroga, Tzintzuntzan, Isla Janitzia, Morelia and more.

However, the beach is calling our (my?) names so we are off for a night in Uruapan again (mainly to check out a restaurant we have heard about in yet another small town with a big name). Then, it is back to the beach area …..somewhere.

Hasta la vista.

Uruapan 2015 Jan 25

Pronounced ….. “oo rah pan” …. We took a bus from Zihuatenajo here yesterday morning, and checked into Hotel Mi Solar, a beautiful old hotel built in the early 1940’s to accommodate all the tourists flooding into town to view the site of the newly erupted Volcan Paricutin.

Entry of Hotel Mi Solar

Entry of Hotel Mi Solar

Our beautiful carved headboard

Our beautiful carved headboard

Cozy seating area right outside our room

Cozy seating area right outside our room

Uruapan has a couple of other qualities that make it worth a visit – namely the location of the primary avocado growing! Lining the roads are avocado orchards (groves??) everywhere you look. Some of the trees are so massive I don’t understand how they harvest them.

The next big claim to fame here is Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatizio – an absolutely enormous natural park in the midst of the city. Waterfalls cascade over boulders and down hillsides in an amazing array of waterfalls. They have also constructed many areas for water falls to allow different paths and it is so beautiful. Very lush and jungle like in the park, many cobbled paths to walk along with a multitude of birds and butterflies. We spent about an hour wandering around and just loved it.

Beautiful water, cascading everywhere

Beautiful water, cascading everywhere

It felt like walking through a jungle along these wide cobbled pathways - so beautiful - very difficult to imagine a big city outside the walls of the park

It felt like walking through a jungle along these wide cobbled pathways – so beautiful – very difficult to imagine a big city outside the walls of the park

El Parque National Uruapan

Kathy @ el Parque National

This is definitely a poor area of Mexico – we have never seen such an amount of graffiti, and vacant buildings just waiting to crumble. Yesterday we did spot a couple of Gringos – but not today. I think few venture into this region.

Today we hopped onto a bus again, to go tour the area of the volcano. This is actually the only known volcano to have erupted while being witnessed. Some poor guy was going about his business in 1943 – just tilling his field (by hand of course) and a bit of his field started to quake, spit bits of fire and steam. He tried to put it out himself but soon realized the futility of it as it just kept growing. Thankfully he alerted the residents of the village and once they realized what was happening, and that they couldn’t control it – the village and the next village both evacuated with haste, taking all their belongings. The volcano erupted for 9 years, and within the first year grew to a height of 410 meters. During this time the lava flow completely obliterated both villages and left only the upper portion of a church uncovered.

After the bus trip, and the long walk to the base of the climb, I was pretty lucky to find some banos ….

After the bus trip, and the long walk to the base of the climb, I was pretty lucky to find some banos ….

Hmmmmm … was I lucky to have found banos …??

Hmmmmm … was I lucky to have found banos …??

Lava rock all around the church, the lower levels completely submerged but this upper portion remained - with the altar intact inside

Lava rock all around the church, the lower levels completely submerged but this upper portion remained – with the altar intact inside

Climbing up the lava rock …. up up up

Climbing up the lava rock …. up up up

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The town of Angahuan is the closest to the church and where we went to go tour the area. As soon as we got off the bus we were met by a couple of caballeros (cowboys) with horses trying to talk us into taking a tour. Somehow the idea of a minimum of 6 hours on horseback did not appeal to either of us. A person just needs to be conditioned for riding in order to do that – particularly given that those saddles may be polished enough to look like leather but they are in fact wood!

Horses all over town

Horses all over town

Eventually one guy talked us into letting him guide us for 150 pesos. I am not sure we really needed him, we could have found our way on our own, but he did speak some English and it is always interesting to learn about a village. This village of 12,000 still speaks their native indian language, along with spanish. We thought Uruapan was poor, but this is really a poor village. We weren’t sure if it was prosperous at one time because there seemed to be evidence of larger buildings. All dirt streets or cobblestone, most people get around by old trucks or horseback. Women and children walk everywhere, with all the women still dressed in the traditional fashion, which is very colourful and elaborate. Needless to say I did try to get some photos, but it just isn’t easy to do when in stealth mode.

typical street in Angahuan

typical street in Angahuan

Angahuan street

We went into one village home - hard to see across the room with wood used for heat as well as cooking and poor ventilation - blue corn hanging everywhere to dry.

We went into one village home – hard to see across the room with wood used for heat as well as cooking and poor ventilation – blue corn hanging everywhere to dry.

Jesus, our guide, took us on the 1 hour hike to the base of the lava, over a wide path that manages either trucks, horses or the odd walker (and believe me we were considered odd). The path may be wide but it sure wasn’t easy. I couldn’t decide if it was tougher trying to walk on the lava stone cobblestones which were very jagged and uneven or the lava sand that was literally like walking on a black sandy beach either up or down hill. We made our way through that to the area where you can see the church as it remains. Apparently the lava stopped right at the altar! It was quite amazing to see – and you can see the top of the volcanoes right behind the churches. Eventually there were 2 volcanoes erupting, one spewing lava and one spewing ash.

After making our way down to the base we had a blue corn gordita, which was delicious and then started our hike back to the village.

Maria, making us gorditas from blue corn flour - traditional methods and traditional clothing used in this village.

Maria, making us gorditas from blue corn flour – traditional methods and traditional clothing used in this village.

Quite the stove set up Maria has ….. and no cutting board, just cut everything right into her hand and then the pot.

Quite the stove set up Maria has ….. and no cutting board, just cut everything right into her hand and then the pot.

Blue corn gorditas stuffed with potato and chorizo

Blue corn gorditas stuffed with potato and chorizo

As we got through the village and close to the highway we saw the bus pull away ….. meaning just sitting there to wait for the next bus and that is always a questionable idea. Within minutes a collectivo came along – a van type bus that people just pile in and out of. We were able to fit in, and thus began our most harrowing drive of this trip ….. speed limits being mere suggestions and all of this over crazy winding roads. At one point he even moved over to the right (in a 40k zone) in order to go PAST 2 police trucks at 80 k!! Before we knew it, the little adorable snotty nosed sleeping 2 year old girl in the seat next to mine started doing a familiar sounding cough ….. obviously the next step was listening to her vomit. Grant convinced the guys up front to open the window and for the rest of the trip to town I practiced “mind over matter” in an effort to not do the same. I can handle all sorts of crap, but that is not one of them. I was afraid the guy behind the little girl might start next as he started to do that kind of cough thing but he held onto it.

Once we were out of the van I was so happy to be walking – stepped into the first bodega and bought a bag of lime chips and then we headed to a tea shop for a bracing cup of manzanillo tea. Whew.

Tomorrow we are headed for Patzcuaro, and staying at an AirBNB place where hopefully I can do a little cooking and we can get our clothes laundered as well.

Hasta la vista

Hasta la Vista Playa …. 26 Nov 2014

We fly back to Mexico City on Thursday morning, for the day, departing on Friday for Vancouver at the ungodly hour of 0600 …. really, what a crazy time to depart!! That destroys holiday mode right there!

It is time to be saying good bye to the beach. We have had such a lovely relaxing time in the warmth. Hammocks, sun, sand, and walking the beach.

Yes, the beach at San Augustinillo is often this busy, but we do our best to avoid the crowds.

Yes, the beach at San Augustinillo is often this busy, but we do our best to avoid the crowds.

Yesterday we went to La Ventanilla (means the window), which is evidenced by the large rock formation in the water – with literally a window at the top of it.

If you look at the middle rock formation you will see "la ventanilla" ….

If you look at the middle rock formation you will see “la ventanilla” ….

For about an hour and a half we took a tour through the mangrove lagoon, watching birds (a nod to Wilson).

So many birds ….

So many birds ….

I think this one is called a Royal Egret ...

I think this one is called a Royal Egret …

Iguanas are plentiful … (one lucky guy gets to mate with about 25-30 women in his harem) I am sure they have another word for it when relating to a pack or tribe or iguanas … and the ever present crocodiles.

Iguanas everywhere … we were actually way to close to them for my comfort.

Iguanas everywhere … we were actually way to close to them for my comfort.

We did think Wilson might sign up for another specific bird watching tour but he got his fill (might have had something to do with the bird watching tour being early in the morning…..) We chose to go on the tour after 4:00, as once the day gets cooler, the animals and birds are more active. As the sun set the lagoon literally came alive with birdsong ….it was incredible.

As we reached the main beach area again, they were about to release some turtles – we were each able to take one and release it – so so so cool. Those little fellows just get their little flappers going like mad the moment they sense the ocean near. Put them down, and off they go. Pretty amazing to watch them disappear into the ocean, then return on a wave, then go again.

Our last night we took a collectivo truck to Zipolite -walked the beach as the sun was setting (while trying to ignore the nude males), and had a farewell margarita…. okay the boys had a beer ….

A final meal at La Providencia – amazing place if you are ever in Zipolite, and we are now home to pack up whilst Wilson and Grant have a final crib battle. .. .. .. to be continued. (in Vernon?) What else do people do in the snow? It was in the 30’s today, and right now, 8:30 at night, it is 26 …. really, do we have to come home???

Oaxaca to San Augustinillo – 23 Nov 2014

We had our taxi arriving to Casa del Barrio at 5:30 (yes, a.m.) in order to fly to Puerto Escondido.

Vivi was already worried about flying on a 9 seater to Puerto Escondido, but when she saw the small aircraft, I heard her muttering “I wish I had a pill to swallow ….” It’s true!!!

Really Wilson, I have to get on this plane???? Yes, Vivi, you do - otherwise we are going to be left behind and you don't speak Spanish.

Really Wilson, I have to get on this plane???? Yes, Vivi, you do – otherwise we are going to be left behind and you don’t speak Spanish.

Honestly the flight was unbelievably smooth and quick – totally crazy for such a small plane. We were revving the engine, the Mexicans were crossing themselves, we were up, we flew across amazing mountain ranges, we were over the ocean, we were down.

View from the plane window - it would have taken us a minimum of 6 hours to make this drive …..up up up, curve curve curve …. urch … donkey in road …..the occasional village …..

View from the plane window – it would have taken us a minimum of 6 hours to make this drive …..up up up, curve curve curve …. urch … donkey in road …..the occasional village …..

DSC00789

So – we are in San Augustinillo, and you are not likely to hear much more ….

It is actually hard to get Vivian and Wilson out of their treehouse ….

It is actually hard to get Vivian and Wilson out of their treehouse ….

hammocks in front of our cabana, surf for boogie boarding right in front … (we watch - Grant boogie boards) life is pretty darn good

hammocks in front of our cabana, surf for boogie boarding right in front … (we watch – Grant boogie boards) life is pretty darn good

We wake up
We swim
We laze in hammocks
We read books
We walk to the next village for vegetables and fruit

repeat

repeat

repeat

Oh yeah, and we eat …. never as amazing as inland, but the food on the beach is never too bad.

Today we hopped on a form of collectivo – a truck that you hop in the back of to ride – I guess the driver thought we gringo’s were too slow trying to fit ourselves into the locals and as the last one to get on Wilson was kind of hopping along with one hand on the back of the truck and getting himself in as the truck started off …

The waiting lounge at La Providencia in Zipolite - comfy place to sit with your drink until dinner is ready.

The waiting lounge at La Providencia in Zipolite – comfy place to sit with your drink until dinner is ready.

The beach at Zipolite - just as the sun dropped over the horizon.

The beach at Zipolite – just as the sun dropped over the horizon.

En Via 21 Nov 2014

En Via is an organization developed for the assistance of women in the Oaxaca area. Most of them have the skills, the work ethic and the desire to assist their families, and in Mexico your community is part of that. What they lack is any financial assistance. Loans are available everywhere here, but at astronomical rates, and rarely available in small amounts to women. En Via has a simple philosophy of assisting these women in rural villages.

In order to receive their first loan of 1500 pesos they must form a group of 3. All 3 women would be eligible for the loan. The reason for this is that it provides a simple screening tool. The women in a village know each other, and who to trust. The first step is attending a business class – where they are taught simple business economics, like keeping business money separate from household money.

Filippa has lived with her husband's family ever since marrying 28 years ago - she has now started on a sewing business on a treadle sewing machine (with loans from En Via) to supplement the weaving income.  They might only sell 3 or 4 rugs per month.

Filippa has lived with her husband’s family ever since marrying 28 years ago – she has now started on a sewing business on a treadle sewing machine (with loans from En Via) to supplement the weaving income. They might only sell 3 or 4 rugs per month.

The entire time Filippa was giving us her demonstration her mother in law sat on the floor, shucking the driest looking corn you have ever seen - to be ground into maize for their tortillas (which they also sell as a business).  Chickens and turkeys were hopping around the yard, in the shade of a pomegranate tree.

The entire time Filippa was giving us her demonstration her mother in law sat on the floor, shucking the driest looking corn you have ever seen – to be ground into maize for their tortillas (which they also sell as a business). Chickens and turkeys were hopping around the yard, in the shade of a pomegranate tree.

Pomegranates - in season right now, and plentiful!

Pomegranates – in season right now, and plentiful!

Once they have received their money – an En Via rep comes to take a photo of them with the supplies they have purchased. Once a week they are required to come to a meeting to discuss their business and to make a payment. They can pay it back at either a rate of 10 weeks or 15 weeks, but they must make a small payment each week.

Vivian bought a purse from the second lady we visited.  all of their weaving was beautiful - so artistic.  Rarely it is on pattern - the designs just flow out of their head and into the yarn.

Vivian bought a purse from the second lady we visited. all of their weaving was beautiful – so artistic. Rarely it is on pattern – the designs just flow out of their head and into the yarn.

Once they have completed this initial lending process, and paid it all back, they are eligible to move on to other loans – always in groups of 3. Eventually they are able to make larger loans, and those have an interest rate associated.

We visited 6 women in their homes, to learn about their business, 1 restaurant, 3 weavers, 1 grocer and 1 sheep/goat raiser.

Learning just how challenging it is to card the wool - a real workout.

Learning just how challenging it is to card the wool – a real workout.

Most of them were on anywhere from their 3rd to 5th loan with En Via. They are such hard workers. The grocer, for example, works her grocery store from 9-5, then her family owns a billiard room – where she works from 6:00 – 2:00 in the morning, then gets up and does it all over again! No days off. It was interesting because her next goal is to buy another shelf for her grocery store, with her next loan. I asked about the possibility of donating the funds for that shelf, but they don’t encourage that. En Via is trying to make everything have a good balance, and the women responsible.

The weavers demonstrations were great, and honestly – again – such crazy hard work. It might take them anywhere from weeks to months to create a rug ….. but first they purchase the wool from sheep growers living higher in the mountains, then they pick out the burrs in the wool, wash the raw wool in large baskets at the river, with soap plants, beating and rubbing the wool against the side of the basket. Once it has been rinsed well in the river they spread the wool out on the rocks to dry. Then they card it – which really works up a sweat. All colours come from natural sources, either bugs or plants. After all that, they start the work on weaving.

Raising goats and sheep in a very small space.  Certainly they wouldn't be able to raise cattle ….

Raising goats and sheep in a very small space. Certainly they wouldn’t be able to raise cattle ….

En Via does not advertise, their only source of revenue is people who come on these tours – this is what provides the resources for the women – so if you know ANYBODY coming to Oaxaca, please spread the word!

On our way back we got out of the van and got caught in rainfall, so by the time we got to the restaurant we were once again those drowned rats eating at a beautiful restaurant …… Wilson thinks we might start a new fashion trend …..

Yes, drowned rats - they no sooner seated us than we had shots of mescal in front of us ….. I don't think we look THAT bad ….

Yes, drowned rats – they no sooner seated us than we had shots of mescal in front of us ….. I don’t think we look THAT bad ….

Time to pack up when we got home and head to the beach!

No Way Jose – 19 Nov 2014

That became our refrain today.

Grant and Wilson trying to take seriously whatever Jose/George/Jorge has to say!

Grant and Wilson trying to take seriously whatever Jose/George/Jorge has to say!

Yesterday – at the botanical gardens – we met a guy, who we thought was associated with the gardens – his name is Jose, or George, or (horhay) – who knows. Anyway, he presented like he was part of the garden group, and then offered a tour to Teotitlan del Valle (weaving village), El Tule (2000 year old tree), Mitla (archeological ruins), and Hierve el Agua (calcified waterfalls). All this for the princely sum of 100 pesos each. Too good to be true??? Not a doubt. We would never have undertaken such a tour if Grant wasn’t as experienced as he is at all these places.

Massive trunk of El Tule

Massive trunk of El Tule

In the morning, at the appointed time, there was Jose – not quite with the same vehicle he presented yesterday, but an adequate Ford escape. Some other guy was driving. We got in the car and wondered where on earth Jose was. Then we heard rustling. Jose was in the back cargo area, sitting on the straw. :o) Only in Mexico …..

Our first stop was at Arbol del Tule – this massive tree is more than 2000 years old and literally dwarfs the cathedral next to it. The town itself was so clean and quiet – quite beautiful.

Incredible the way this 2000 year old tree dwarfs what is a really large cathedral.

Incredible the way this 2000 year old tree dwarfs what is a really large cathedral.

Back into the car and off to Teotitlan del Valle. This town is well known for its weaving. The Zapotecs that live there work all the weaving in the age old traditional way. We learned about how they first card the wool before spinning it, then dye it with all the old fashioned methods, using bugs and plant materials for colour. Just a couple little cochineal bugs create a deep maroon colour – add a little lemon and it is orange in colour, add a little limestone and it is purple! Walnuts to deepen brown, other herbs and plants to create greens, and the indigo plant for blue. Wouldn’t you know it – our driver had taken us to HIS house. His wife did weaving demonstrations for us, and another guy was working on a much larger loom. The weavers family had 2 children – ages 4 & 1 – pretty cute playing there. The four year old has decided that he doesn’t want to go to school, he would rather just weave and has his own loom already.

A perfect red - the cochineal bug provides the perfect base to create so many shades in the red family.

A perfect red – the cochineal bug provides the perfect base to create so many shades in the red family.


You can really see the lack of tourism with fear of travel in Mexico. They explained how so many of the indigenous people are suffering, along with the larger tourism aspects. Needless to say, Vivian and I were sucked in and each bought a rug …. in spite of the fact that we will be back in this village on Friday.

Vivi and Wilson with their weaving purchase - joined by the matriarch and patriarch of the home - Raoul is the one who ended up driving us to Mitla and Hierve de Agua.

Vivi and Wilson with their weaving purchase – joined by the matriarch and patriarch of the home – Raoul is the one who ended up driving us to Mitla and Hierve de Agua.

Just a sample of a few of the colours used in the weaving - all made with natural elements of their life.

Just a sample of a few of the colours used in the weaving – all made with natural elements of their life.

Our next stop was Mitla, and our driver stayed with his family while his father (Raoul) drove us on to Mitla. This archeological site was occupied as recently as the 1500’s by the Zapotecs. Once the Spanish arrived that was over, and they proceeded to destroy the site in order to build another cathedral and attempt to convert the natives to Catholocism.

Mitla - it is amazing how vivid the red is, and so easy to imagine how impressive this whole place looked at it's prime.

Mitla – it is amazing how vivid the red is, and so easy to imagine how impressive this whole place looked at it’s prime.

We had intended to carry on to Hierve el Agua – a calcified waterfall just beyond Mitla. Jose pointed out road closure signs and said the whole road was closed. Grant didn’t quite believe this, so he checked at the archeological site with another guide who said that no, they couldn’t close off the road to the village …. it was just the new highway wasn’t open yet.

The roof of the cathedral behind the ruins.

The roof of the cathedral behind the ruins.

So when we got back to the car and Jose said that we were going back to Oaxaca because the waterfall was closed, Grant pointed out that no it wasn’t – we just had to take the other road. Poor Raoul (who kept calling Jose George) had apparently only been contracted to take us to Mitla and back to Oaxaca.

It was another couple of hours on the road before we got back to Oaxaca. And let me tell you – what a road. Up and down and up and up and up and around some more. Eventually we snaked our way through roads with Jose having to tell Raoul every turn to make as he hadn’t been there since he was a small child. Honestly it was well worth it – those calcified waterfalls were incredible – such an amazing sight. Hope my photos do it justice.

An ancient version of an infinity pool - although you sure would NOT want to go over the edge in this - not sure where you would end up.  The calcified water is so green, and a very rich site against all the mountains.

An ancient version of an infinity pool – although you sure would NOT want to go over the edge in this – not sure where you would end up. The calcified water is so green, and a very rich site against all the mountains.

I don't know how far down this goes, but if you slipped at the top, nothing would stop you …. and you know there is nothing to prevent you from slipping!

I don’t know how far down this goes, but if you slipped at the top, nothing would stop you …. and you know there is nothing to prevent you from slipping!

Standing on one of the calcified areas, with more of the falls in the background - can you tell how nervous I am to be standing there?

Standing on one of the calcified areas, with more of the falls in the background – can you tell how nervous I am to be standing there?


The entire mountain ranges behind the falls seem like they are the perfect frame.  Such a remote area, and there are little villages everywhere dotting those hillsides.

The entire mountain ranges behind the falls seem like they are the perfect frame. Such a remote area, and there are little villages everywhere dotting those hillsides.

Raoul literally coasted back into town on gas fumes as he had no idea he was heading out to the falls. We had many a laugh as Grant and Raoul joked about making Jose push. First gas station we saw, we treated Raoul to some gas – he certainly put in the effort for it. We all kept saying “No way Jose” when he would try to tell us something ….

In the end, the tour was more than worth the money we paid for it – so interesting and entertaining!

Tonight on our evening walk down to the zocalo we noticed that protestors had arrived by the busload, so so many – so we skirted those areas on our way back home. Safely tucked in to a very quiet neighbourhood.