Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garden finds

The other day I received an email from a woman we met here last year.  This couple has been living in Mazatlan with their teenaged son for the past few years and had bought a piece of land with the idea of building a home.  She's a garden designer and made a living here designing and implementing courtyards for gringos.  Their piece of land had evolved into a demonstration courtyard for her work, complete with outdoor kitchen, covered patio and ornate tile work--and a lovely garden of tropical plants. 

The email advised that they'd sold their land and the new owners plan to build where the garden is--so they were having a big plant give-away.  This morning we headed over with our little shovel and our few remaining painted buckets to see what we could find.  Most of the plants were huge palms and canna lilies and banana and papaya trees--much too big for our purposes--but we did find these cute little border plants and filled the back of the van with them.  We stopped by a little nursery to pick up some soil...

and then came home to plant.  We put them in the front around the little ficus tree and filled all our pails with them.  Even with our concrete patio we're managing to do some gardening.  It's starting to look pretty nice.  Maybe we'll go back tomorrow for one more palmito.

Kathy and her husband are actually moving back to the USA because their son is graduating and wants to take post-secondary schooling there.  Plus they miss their two older daughters.  The plants were for the taking and they collected donations for the Red Cross for Haiti.  So everyone was a winner.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mazatlan sunset

For Skywatch Friday I submit this photo of the sunset taken from atop the Posada Freeman on the Malecon along Olas Altas in Mazatlan.  You can visit this site to see photos of skies all over the world.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life on Avenida Langosta

The sounds of life on Avenida de la Langosta (Lobster Avenue in English) give a pretty good idea of what goes on here in this Mexican neighbourhood.

Early in the morning we hear only the sound of the surf breaking at the beach about four blocks away and the occasional car along Sabalo, the main drag.  Perhaps there's the yowl of a cat but not much else until about 6:00.  Then the street comes to life, often first with some barking from the neighbourhood dogs who are tired of being fenced in the yard all night and then from the birds waking up.  These are different bird sounds than back in Canada; not just cheeping and chirping but trills and warbles and shrieks and cackles to bring on the day.

Soon we'll hear the sound of the motorized gate from next door as the fellow heads off to work around 6:20; then more dogs barking and people's voices.  Sound carries well here in the warmth with all the windows open and houses made of concrete.  We can hear many conversations, some melodious, some loud, and the sounds of children's voices.  Pretty soon the doors are opening and closing and cars crank up.  The school bus comes by around 7:30 and picks up some children, followed by the sound of the street work beginning.  There seems to be constant work going on here on Lobster Avenue.  The apartment behind us is being made into condominiums and there's the sound of hammering and drilling from there, as well as digging and clanging from houses along the street.

Then come the water trucks that deliver the big five gallon bottles of purified water.  There are three of them that cruise up and down the streets, each with a distinctive call.  One fellow honks his horn and calls out something that sounds like "a-waah" and another uses a loud speaker to chant something with four syllables.  We haven't figured out what "a-la-wear-ah" means but we've come to admire his ability to repeat it every 30 seconds throughout the day.   Water costs about $1.50 delivered right to the door.

As we head out with the dogs we pass the soft sound of women sweeping the sidewalks in front of their houses or splashing water around their courtyards.  There's often music wafting through the streets as well.  If we're lucky it's soft guitar music or even oom-pah-pah music but more often than not it's banda or just the stacatto sound of Spanish radio announcers.

Neighbours stop and chat, some in Spanish, some in English.  Cars crunch along the gravel and bang through the potholes in the road.  The huge garbage truck comes by three or four times a week and sounds like a tank going over the speed bumps.  In mid-afternoon things often quiet down for a while as siesta takes over, but soon enough things are bustling again over dinner hour and we hear children laughing and playing.

Then the evening begins, often with music from more than one house where people gather. Sometimes they sing together and that's a really lovely thing.  There are fights and calls and hoots from time to time as well. And occasionally a car will drive though announcing something through a loud speaker, but the sound is so muffled that we usually can't hear a word they say.  And some evenings there's the loud trilling whistle of the guy who comes by selling grilled food on his bicycle powered charcoal grill.

All in all it's a noisier and funkier street than the one we live on in Victoria.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From pinatas to pigs heads--the Pino Suarez Market

The other day we went to visit the Pino Suarez market in el centro and it's not for the faint of heart.  This is not a street market but a huge building that takes up an entire block.  It's been operating here  since 1899 and it is the place to go for a bargain. 

Inside the building are hundreds of stalls selling just about everything.

We were actually looking for a pinata and there were lots to choose from.   We weren't interested in the pigs heads, although they were rather eye catching.


So were the kids toys...
and the jugs of juice...

and of course the many stalls of fruits and vegetables.  We got some beautiful tomatoes for less than 19 cents a pound.  What a deal!


Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the joys of living here for me is the Hibiscus.  We bought a couple pots for our back patio and finally I've managed to get some closeups that show what I love most about it.

There's the colour of course,  sometimes several shades on one plant....

and then there's the delicate veining on the leaf-like petals, and to top it all off there are tiny details inside some of the flowers (like this one below and the one at the top).

They are so beautiful.

I'm linking this post to Lisa's Macro Monday meme, where you can see other close ups of this beautiful world.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blue agave

The liquor distilled from the agave plant has many names in Mexico.  Each state has its special name that cannot be used anywhere else.  Tequila comes only from Jalisco, Mescal comes from another state (which one I can't remember) and all the others have their own names for the drink.  In Sinaloa it's known as blue agave and we learned a lot about how it's made the other day when we visited the Osuna Ranch where they've been creating it since the 1850s.

These plants are quite beautiful with their striated greenish-blue leaves.  The core of the plant is what's used for the mash and they call them "pineapples" for obvious reasons. 

The pineapples are cut into fours and then crushed and cooked in ovens to extract the juice. These are the ovens that have been used from the very beginning.

Other aspects of the operation have been upgraded several times. From donkey power to electric crushing machine.

From wooden barrels and copper stills to  stainless steel tanks (although some is still aged in white oak).

It's quite a sophisticated production but it's set in a lovely area with tour guides to take you around and explain the process. 

The day we were there was busy as tour buses drove up from the cruise ship dock.  They offer free samples of the blue agave liquor and of course they sell their product, which has won gold medals in San Francisco.  My sister bought a bottle to take back to Victoria with her.  No doubt it will remind her of the blue agave.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hacienda shadows

These shadows were on the wall of one of the buildings at the Hacienda las Moras.  It's an old farm that made tequila up to about fifty years ago and then sank into ruin.  Recently it's been restored and is run as a hotel and restaurant.  Check out recent posts for more photos taken last week.  On Wednesday we went back as a going home treat for my sister and stayed until the sun was low in the sky.

And for more shadow shots, go to Hey Harriet's blog here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Hacienda views

One of the most beautiful things about Hacienda las Moras is the bouganvilla tumbling over the walls.



And what a stunning combination against the orange painted plaster.




We wandered into a little area where birds and farm animals lived. I particularly liked this goat...


 And of course the baby animals....



 This goose seemed to have it in for me!


One last look at the swimming pool before we said goodbye to this serene spot. 



Monday, January 18, 2010

Hacienda las Moras

We went back the other day to a special place we discovered by chance last year--it's the Hacienda las Moras (or the House of the Blackberries).  This place is perhaps the most serene location I've ever experienced.  It's about 45 minutes by car from Mazatlan but it feels as though you're in a different world. We came in on a dusty road, about three kilometers off the secondary road.  There's a sign that says hotel and restaurant but it feels like you're going to the end of nowhere.  Finally you come to a gatehouse and the gate is open, you drive along past herds of cattle and a chapel in the distance, to arrive at a gravel parking lot.  It was empty, but we got out and walked in to a place that felt suspended in time.

Across the grassy courtyard was a woman sweeping the walkway.

The veranda led past some colourful antiques and into a timeless Mexican sala

And then out to patio and a swimming pool.

A waiter greeted us and invited us into the restaurant for lunch.

Nobody else was there.  We sat down at a table and ordered a delicious lunch in the al fresco dining room.  Beyond the wall was a corral with horses

and high above some circling hawks. The air smelled so sweet.  The only sound we heard was the wind and the occasional rooster.  This is a place with the feeling of another time.  I'll show you more of this beautiful place tomorrow.