Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A last look at Mexico

We're back home from our four-week trip to Mexico--and it is lovely to be back in our familiar space. Before I get buried in daily life I thought I'd post a few photos of our trip. These won't be beach or sunset photos because I posted a lot of those from Zihuatanejo. These ones are from our six-day excursion up into the mountains.  

A sweet historic cafe in Urapan, where we had cappuccino every morning.

Several images from Patzcuaro, where we were entranced by the buildings and decor, and even more by the Indigenous people who populate the town.

Above is a view down the cobbled street to one of Patzcuaro's iconic churches featuring an incredibly ancient wall and gate that reminds me of something you might find in Italy. I love this wall so much that I've started to do a watercolour painting of the scene.

And here's  wall another from the old city of Morelia, which features so many stone buildings.

We enjoyed our time in Mexico, including the beach life in Zihuatanejo but the temperatures on the coast were a bit too hot for my liking. The only time I was comfortable was when we were on the beach or in the ocean. We chose Zihua because I wanted to swim in really warm water--and that was lovely, but the trade off in the humidity and heat at that latitude didn't make it worthwhile for me.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Pozole day in Zihua

Thursdays are Pozole Day in Zihuatanejo and Sandy and Vidal took us out to their favourite place yesterday at lunchtime.  This restaurant specializes in the Mexican soup called pozole (po-zole-ee), made from hominy. I've heard of it for years but had never tasted it before.  I don't know why I waited so long. It's delicious.

Apparently it takes a long time to make because it's only served on special celebratory occasions, and in certain restaurants on Thursdays. In fact this particular restaurant only opens on Thursdays when they serve several kinds of this special dish to a crowd of Gringoes and Mexicans. We got there at 12:30 and took our table which Vidal had reserved for us. Here we are at the table. Vidal is on the right, behind him is Sandy, and behind her is Lou, Sandy's mom who is visiting from Chicago.

The place was already crowded even though the pozole wasn't quite ready. The waiter brought a big platter of avocado, radish, chicarone, tacitos, tortilla chips and other goodies which we nibbled on while we waited. There are three types of pozole: red, white, and green. And you can get it made with either pork or chicken. We chose the verde with chicken and this is what it looked like when it came to the table. It turns out that those condiments I had been nibbling on were to add to the soup. Good thing there were still some left.


This was the small bowl, plenty large enough to fill us up for the rest of the day.

Now that we're back at our little casita I've been doing a little bit of water colour painting. The first one I did was from a photo of the mercado. It's not a very good photo of it but it give you an idea.  And yesterday I finished one of our little courtyard with the morning sun on the table covered by a tablecloth we got at the old fabric mill in Uruapan.

Yesterday I thought I was getting used to the heat and but it turned out that it was just a somewhat cooler and less humid day. Today Harry and I are flattened again.

We have some plans for the next couple of days to get together with people and our plane leaves Monday for our return trip. We're almost looking forward to the cold!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The antigua factory of San Pedro

We're back in Zihuatanejo today, having taken a five hour ride on a first class bus from Morelia. I didn't get a chance to show you our discovery on the last morning we spent in Uruapan. We tracked down the antique factory of San Pedro on aa back street beside the river. That's the Rio Cupatitzio, the same one that tumbles down the gorge in the big public park I wrote about a few days ago.

Here's what the river looks like at the bottom of the canyon. You an see it's still got lots of power, plenty to run a fabric mill. This factory was built at the end of the 19th century and  has been closed for decades, but remarkably it is still open to the public.The last morning in Uruapan we set out to look for the old mill and after a few false starts we found it. This is the front of the building showing some of the details. It was built along the lines of an old hacienda and is still in excellent condition.

We walked in to find the entire top floor is an art gallery with an amazing installation of figurative work by Javier Marín, a Mexican artist of high international repute. His sculptures in various materials including metal and fibreglass and have been shown all over the world. This exhibit made good use of the tall space of the old mill with its beamed ceilings and lovely natural light. Here's a sampling.

Then we went down a long wooden staircase to the ground floor where the old machinery has been sitting gathering dust. It felt very ghostly, as if the workers had just left decades ago and never returned. 


In an outbuilding at the back there were a couple of hand looms where people were weaving blankets and table cloths, which they were selling in a corner on the upper floor. We bought a lovely woven linen table cloths and napkins. It turns out we the place isn't always open. Sandy, our AirBnB host tells us she went to see it six years ago and it was closed.  We lucked out.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A day in Morelia

We spent the day exploring this historic city, the capital of the province of Michoacan. It had its beginnings in 1541 so you can imagine there are a lot of really old colonial buildings. And most of them are within easy walking distance of each other. We only saw a small part of the centro but enough to know that this is a place where we could easily spend a week. The centre of the city is the Cathedral built of pink volcanic stone.  It's set between two plazas and surrounded by equally beautiful stone buildings and wide streets and sidewalks, in some cases with arched portales in front.

There are an unbelievable number of churches, convents, monasteries and chapels. As well as old casas that are now government buildings and museums.

This one is the Governer's Palace, where much of the administrative work of the city goes on. Like many Mexican buildings this one has wonderful murals on some of the walls.  These ones were painted by an artist I'd never heard of before by the name of Alfredo Zalce. He was born in Patzcuaro and was a contempory of Rivera and the other famous muralists.

Oddly enough we were introduced to his work when we checked into our hotel. The Galerias Hotel features different artists in every room and ours happened to the the Zalce room. You can see his larger-than-life murals going up the walls on this gorgeous staircase. I like his work a lot.

Another place we stopped by was the old church and convent of San Francisco, which is now a craft museum with shops of astounding quality of crafts from all around the area. I could have happily taken home some of the basketwork and the pottery but alas, we only brought carry-on luggage.

At one end of the city there is an aqueduct, built in 1785, and still in excellent condition, and still brings water in for the fountain in a nearby park. Along side the arches there is a lovely tree-shaded walkway, a lovely thing to do in the late afternoon before the sun sets.

We did a lot of walking today, almost 10 kilometers, which has taken a toll from my knees but was totally worth it.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to the highlands and take the bus back to Zihuatanejo and the muggy heat. I have to say that we're not really looking forward much to that, but there are only a few more days before we head back to Victoria and the cold and the rain. So I daresay we will find a way to enjoy some beach time before then.

But we really like Morelia and would consider a return visit at some point. The weather is so lovely at these altitudes and the people are unfailingly pleasant and welcoming.

I'll leave you with one last photo of a stunning bougainvillea growing up into a tree in a university area not far from the cathedral. It's a really beautiful city.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Candalarias and Patzcuaro

When we planned this escape to the mountains we had no idea that it coincided with a religious festival celebrated in some parts of Mexico, including the province of Michoacán. Our first clue was the sound of fireworks in the central plaza of Uruapan. We asked about them and were told it was for Candelaria. But we didn’t recognize the word. All day long we kept seeing girls and women cradling baby dolls dressed in white lace, some carried in wicker baskets. 

That evening the plaza was full of families and then the parade began at dusk with a brass band and candles and balloons. Behind the band came families carrying the baby dolls heading toward the church. Sorry for this blurry photo. It's the best I could do in dim light.

Apparently this fiesta takes place on February 2nd, forty days after Christmas. Parties are held, fireworks set off and the dolls, which are representations of the baby Jesus are taken to the church to be blessed. You can read about it here.

It turns out that this entire weekend is a Candelaria fiesta and it’s celebrated in a big way in the town of Patzcuaro, where we arrived yesterday afternoon. All the hotels are full and everyone was crowded into the main plaza. Kids were taking pony rides and running around with long candle-shaped balloons. And all the restaurants in the portales around the plaza were full of happy families. This explains the traffic jam coming in from where we got off the bus, and the difficulty I had in booking our hotel for a second night. Here's the main plaza last night before the sun set. 

Patzcuaro is a favourite spot for fiestas as it’s a lovely historic town, a Puebla Magica, where many traditional crafts can be seen. People come from Mexico City and other urban areas for the weekend. We visited this place ten years ago at Easter time when we drove down in our old motor home, and were entranced by it then. So we’re excited to have a chance to see it again. We arrived last night and have spent this morning walking around and many things are as beautiful as I remember. 

The buildings are all low adobe style with red tile roofs built right out to the street and the entire central area is painted in the same white and brick red colour giving it an integrated look. Even the signage is consistent.

But it's when you go inside the walls to the inner courtyards that the real beauty strikes you.  Here you can peek behind a few walls. Some are fancy, some less so but all are secret spots of coolness and beauty.

Oh, did I mention the weather? It's heavenly--cool at night and in the morning but once the sun comes up it starts out like a perfect fall day and then warms up throughout the afternoon, then cooling off in the evening. That's what an altitude of 7,020  feet will do at this latitude. I think we made a good decision to escape the humidity for a few days.