More Changes in Chapala

There are several indicators that Fall has arrived in Chapala. One is that the rainy season ends. Another, that the pelicans return to the lake. Yet another is that repair and construction projects go into high gear.

This Fall there are a number of projects.

First, the main drag, the carretera, is under repair. Admittedly, it’s a bumpy ride. Over the years, the heavy traffic through the town has left the carratera a wavy undulating surface rather than a smooth flat surface.

It’s not paved; it’s not being paved. Instead, the carretera is bricked.

It’s being repaired block by block, involving an army of workers, moving earth and smoothing, bulldozing and flattening. And then, the bricks are being laid by hand. It’s quite a process.

Along with the carretera being repaired, there are a number of building projects along the carretera. Excavating into the hill and taking out old decaying buildings and rebuilding. One project will be a number of apartments. The others? I’m not sure. We will see.

Not only is repair work happening, street artists are out decorating stairs and walls.

And the main carretera that runs along the lake is being repaved. At least we think it’s going to be. Right now the only work we see is the installation of a bike path. We’ll see.

Finally, the pelicans are returning! How glorious!

On the Trail of the Taco Chronicles, Part 2

Prior to our visit to our stay in Morelia on our first Taco Chronicles run (which you can read about here), we went to find La Casa de Blanca, the owner of which appeared prominently in the series.

Turns out the restaurant is in one of Mexico’s fabled Pueblos Magicos, so we thought we’d get a twofer–seeing the pueblo and having a wonderful meal. It was not to be.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Tzintzuntzan, nestled on the shore of a grand lake, Lago do Patzcuaro.

And true to its title, Tzintzuntzan lived up to its appellation. Driving in, it just felt magical.

First, we stopped at the malecon which could pass as a big rest area in the U.S. A few boats dotted the lakefront which was covered with shrubs. No beach here. Notice below the proverbial dog, lazing by the lake. So far, every town and city we’ve visited in Mexico sports lots and lots of dogs, just hanging out.

Every angel must get its wings and here at last, Bonita got hers!

We drove through the town, letting Google Maps guide us to the restaurant. At last we parked in front of the town’s mercado and went across the street to our destination.

But alas, the restaurant wasn’t serving, so we went away disappointed.

Despite that, the mercado and our exploration of the town proved most delightful.

The mercado, it turns out, features brightly and brilliantly colored Christmas decorations as well as many other local works of arts and crafts.

The main attraction however is the Monastery of San Francisco, founded in the sixteenth century. 

Typically, both towns and cities in Mexico have a square, an el centro, which is anchored by a cathedral. Here in Tzintzuntzan however, not so. We were wondering where to local cathedral was and, as we had read about the monastery, where it was as well.

One of the merchants pointed us toward a wall at the back of the mercado. We headed that way and walking past dozens and dozens of vendors hawking all kinds of merchandise and art, we passed through a gate in a wall into a garden of tranquility that is the monastery.

A truly lovely and almost otherworldly place, it features three cathedrals. I could go on and on here, yet, I’ll go by the old adage of a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll leave you with a montage of the stately place.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. (And come visit!)



On the Trail of The Taco Chronicles Part 1

I hope you’re been introduced to the wonderful Netflix series, The Taco Chronicles.  If you haven’t and you at all like food (and Mexico), you’re in for a treat.

The Taco Chronicles are six half-hour explorations of the various types of tacos found in Mexico. Yes, it’s food porn. I salivated watching it. At the same time, I learned a lot about Mexico, its history, its tradition, its food, and its people.

We watched it and our neighbors watched it and immediately we began looking at the map to see whether it was feasible to visit some or all of the places chronicled in the series.

Turned out that several of the locations were definitely drivable. The State of Michoacan, the State of Hildago, and Mexico City.

We planned out a trip to Michoacan, where there are several Chronicles locations.

It’s a beautiful four-hour drive to the city of Morelia. All the entire drive is on toll road, very well maintained and relatively uncrowded.

Michoacan is a beautiful topography, quite different from Jalisco where we live. Mountain after mountain with lush valleys filled with crops.

We totally loved the scenery. (That’s broccoli growing in the picture just above, for as far as the eye can see…………….)

Yet, we were on a mission: to check out and experience the Taco Chronicle locations.

First up, was Carnitas Don Raul.

Now, without spoiling The Taco Chronicles, the main ingredient of carnitas from Michoacan is pork long simmered in its own fat, often cooked in large copper vats. (An amazing process–watch the show)

Carnitas Don Raul is a restaurant with sit-down service. Sparkling clean. We knew we were in the right place when we walked through the front door to see an employee artfully carving meat.

The food was absolutely mouth-watering, everything we expected and even more. The food is the star here. Mounds of moist melt-in-your-mouth, bursting with flavor pork.

Yes there are accompaniments, mostly veggies with vinegar to cut some of the “sweetness” of the meat.

Our server, Angel (pronounced with a hard “A” and more of a hard “K” than a “g”), watched over us and kept us supplied with whatever we needed.

Totally wonderful.

And the trip had just started!

Welcome to Mexico, or in the Land of Random Acts of Kindness

Lots going on here “down under” (at least “under” Texas and that now infamous border). Got some good posts lined up.

Yet today I want to relate a couple of experiences from this past weekend.

A friend of mine from Phoenix flew down to hang out here in Chapala for the early part of last week and then the two of us flew down to Mexico City. Mainly for some music–we went to see Muse (us and about 80,000 of our closest Mexican friends.) Wonderful show, I might add–the best I’ve seen in my life, and I don’t think that’s recency bias speaking.

That was Thursday night. On the rest of the weekend, we explored Mexico City.  On Thursday and Friday we used Uber to get us around town.

Then on Saturday we decided to try the Metro system, which features buses with specified traffic lanes and a modern subway.

We walked down to the nearest station and of course we needed tickets. No human interface though, just several machines that looked easy enough to negotiate. However, we just couldn’t do it. Our credit cards didn’t work; feeding in pesos didn’t work; and watching the locals use the machine didn’t seem to explain it either.

So we slunk down out of the way to decide what to do.

And began asking what we considered to be likely suspects if they spoke English.

Sure enough, one man offered to help. And did he ever. Up to the machine we went. He tried to get us tickets too, and couldn’t. But then out of his wallet he pulled a specialized transit card and asked how many trips we needed (at 5 pesos a trip). We gave him a 20 peso bill and he loaded the transit card with the money and gave us the card.

We were bowled over. Such a kind act.

Then, once we were downtown, we needed to switch from the bus to the subway.

And once again, a lovely young lady stepped in to help two, ummmm, mature gentlemen (???) negotiate buy a ticket and then actually using it. To boot, she guided us right to the correct platform and showed us exactly where to stand to get the train.

Another kind act by a seemingly random stranger.

When I asked my friend what were the highlights of the trip to Mexico City for him, he replied with those two acts of kindness without a moment’s hesitation.

We had seen Muse; we had seen one of Rodin’s sculptures of both the Thinker and the Four Gates of Hell. We had eaten some amazing food. We had taken in vibrant lively art and music. Yet, it was those two moments of human interaction that was the highlight for us both.