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Mother’s Day in Chapala

Mother’s Day here in Mexico is celebrated on May 10 regardless of on which day of the week it falls.

And it is HUGE.

Remember way back when when Easter was a really big deal in the U.S. (and presumably in Canada too)?

I do. The ladies would get all gussied up, put on not just their Sunday best, but clothes for those extra-special occasions. And, an Easter bonnet. I loved it. All those hats bobbing around. A Jackson Pollack painting of color.

Well, that close to what you find here in Chapala on Mother’s Day.

And flowers. Flowers everywhere.

And celebrations.

Once upon a time I worked for AT&T in Long Distance (back when long distance was a big deal). Mother’s Day was the heaviest calling day of the year.

Well, Mother’s Day here in Mexico brings the whole family together. Live and in-person.

It didn’t seem that the restaurants were overly crowded.

Maybe everybody went here. Happy Mother’s Day with fun and games for the entire family.

 

Feelin’ the Heat in Chapala

It’s the height of the warm season here. (Pretty lovely we think.) The temperature can venture up into the high 80s (F) in the afternoon before cooling back down into the low 70s at night.

We love this time of year. The snowbirds have flown back to their other nesting grounds, so travel in and around Ajijic is liveable. That said, we stay pretty close to home. We just love Chapala.

And we’ve waved goodbye to the other snowbirds, the pelicans. There’s a couple of them hanging in here still. We don’t know whether they didn’t get the memo or are simply like us, saying the weather is great here all year, why go anywhere else?

This year, we’re seeing quite a few forest fires both around the Lake and around Guadalajara.

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It’s dry, folks. No rain since we can’t remember when.

This year the rainy season will be quite welcome. And we’ll need quite a bit of it to snuff out all the little fires burning in the hills.

The fires are pretty much contained and are not threatening any communities, at least not yet. Helicopters have been hard at work dipping huge buckets into the lake and then dumping them on the burning forests.

We had quite an ordinary week this week.

We did venture up to Guadalajara for the final opera of the Met broadcast season last Saturday.

On the way home, we decided to stop at a restaurant we’d passed a number of time that always seems to be rockin’ and rollin’. We didn’t know anything about it. We had an inkling that it served goat, as the little signage there had a goat head and the word birriera, an establishment that services birria.

So here’s where we get to settle an friendly but seemingly long-standing argument among expats. Some insist that birria consists of goat meat; other insist it’s lamb.

What it is, in fact, either or both or even beef or chicken. birria is a stew.

And it’s GOOD!

Having parked, we were guided to a table under a massive tent. The “restaurant” consists of several buildings and several covered areas (tents). A huge number of people were here, dining and having a good time.

One very encouraging fact was that it took a little while for our server to find another server who spoke some English. Apparently gringos are not customary here. Translation: great local Mexican food ahead!

Still the communications were stilted. We asked for a menu. And one was produced. But it had very little on it (other than three pages of drink selections). The food here is basic. You could order different sized servings of grilled meat, bone-in or bone-out, frijoles (beans), again of different sizes and a couple of other items. That’s it.

I asked if they had any vegetales. No, senor, came the reply.

So we ordered and before too long out came a massive platter of “clean” meat (bone-out), another massive platter of frijoles, a huge mocajete, a dish of raw onions, a broth served in a soup bowl as well as crispy whole tortillas and well as soft tortillas.

It was a feast.

LOL! You can see from the photo that we were hungry. No beautiful spread of untouched cuisine. We ate, and share the leftovers with you! There were plenty.

We’ll be back here again for sure.

 

 

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

This was the week of Cinco de Mayo. In the U.S., it seems to be an excuse to go out for what passes as Mexican food and to drink cerveza and margaritas. For years we did this too. There was some vague sense that Cinco de Mayo was (and is) an important holiday of our southern neighbors. Never sure exactly what and after a few margaritas, who cares anyway???

So we expected a pretty big celebration here in Mexico.

Surprise, surprise. Nothing; nada. Oh, I’m sure there was somewhere. Cinco de Mayo was a battle fought here of some significance which you can check out here. 

But the celebration of Cinco de Mayo in most of Mexico seems to be that pretty much every Mexican town and city of any size has a Cinco de Mayo street.

So, what did we do here on Cinco de Mayo?

A neighbor and I went out to eat and visit a bi-annual arts show in Guadalajara. What else? [Bonnie is off in the States for medical treatment.]

The arts show was similar to the show we described here from last October. This was a pretty upscale show and was packed to the gills. Not with gringos, interestingly enough, but seemingly with the prosperous of Guadalajara.

The show was held at Expo Guadalajara, a beautiful conference center in the Zapapon area of Guadalajara. There’s a stunning two-story mural done in tile at one of the entrances. And, of course, Frida is there. (Frida is an iconic figure you will see all over Mexico.)

One interesting fact about this show that was not part of last year’s: the presence of a number of Cuban artisans. The world is opening up!

After the show we traveled down in Guadalajara centro to get some supplies at an Asian market. While there, we asked about nearly Asian restaurants. An employee directed us down the street a couple of blocks to a Korean restaurant.

We found this totally appropriate on Cinco de Mayo. We’d dine on Asian in Mexico while the U.S. was dining on Mexican back in the homeland.

Our meal was cooked right in front of us on a table constructed out of a barrel and a table top. The barrel held a charcoal grill which was filled and lit and our food grilled. Fresh and delightful!

So that was Cinco do Mayo here in Chapala.

A Trip to the U.S. and Reflections on Mexico

This past weekend I flew up to North Carolina for the wedding of one of my best friends. It was wonderful to see him and his bride and meet the families and catch up with old mutual friends.

What caught my eye that I just had to include here was a picture of the cake:

Hopefully you got a good chuckle from that. I sure did!

And that’s not what this post is about. But it’s our blog and we can do what we want, so there you have an odd start.

Having lived in Mexico now for well over a year, it’s become home. The scenes here in Chapala become commonplace. We love them. We enjoy them every day and we love noticing the small changes. But we no longer relate life here immediately to what was done or how it was done when we lived in the States.

So taking a trip to the U.S. brings back some of those differences. So, this week’s blog is about the differences. Not in any particular order. None more important than another. Just what we noticed.

Sparkling water: I LUV sparkling water (agua mineral here). Every restaurant serves it; every mini-mart sells it: it’s all over the place). Not so in the U.S. It’s a specialty item. Even Walmart only offers a small selection of sparkling water. I missed it.

Gas: Mexico is a fairly major producer of crude oil. Yet, the price of gas here is quite high relative to the price in the U.S. We’re paying about $4 a gallon here in Mexico. Current price in North Carolina seemed to be about $2.60 a gallon.

Car washes: Here in Mexico you see very few of the standard car washes that you see in the States. The drive-through(s) at gas stations, the standalones where you can have your car washed or you can easily wash your own. To be sure, there a few here in Mexico, but very few. What we have here are lots of eager men and women who literally work the streets in the commercial zones who will wash a car while you shop. And they will do a very nice job!

Mexican restaurants: Of course, this is a little disingenuous. Every restaurant here in Mexico is “Mexican.” What we refer to here are the vast majority of restaurants that service Mexican food. We eat out a lot here. It’s really inexpensive (if you want it to be). And usually very good.

The basic food is quite a bit like what’s served in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. (although usually much more fresh). Now every time we had gone to a Mexican restaurant in the U.S. the first thing on the table was a basket of chips and a bowl or two of salsa.

I think in the more than a year of eating out in Mexico we’ve only been served chips and salsa once. Often you can order them off the menu, yet usually with guacamole.

Last but not least, while we’re talking about restaurants I was reminded on this trip about the ubiquity of two restaurant chains that dominate the South: Cracker Barrel and the Waffle House. Gotta say, I do miss them. Here in Mexico, we haven’t found any chains that ring our bell like those. Still, we get to try lots of new places that we probably would never try otherwise.

So there you have it! Viva la difference!

 

A Guad Good Friday

Easter Week is a big deal in Mexico. Really big. For some, a national week off. And Good Friday and Easter Sunday are quite significant.

We had read about an artisan festival happening all week in the heart of Centro Historico in Guadalajara and we made plans to go up on Good Friday.

Guadalajara is a big city, the second largest in Mexico, with a population over 10,000,000. Like any big city, it can be challenging to navigate at times, confusing, and, well, different. With lots and lots of traffic.

However, driving in from Chapala, the roads were unusually light. Some cars, a few trucks, but nowhere near what we typically find making the trip into Guad. And this sparseness persisted all the way into the city.

Likewise, the city was somewhat deserted. Few shops were open; few restaurants. The usual hustle and bustle was simply absent.

We had no problem finding parking and enjoyed a pleasant walk down into the heart of Centro Historico.

As we approached, we did start to see more and more people gathered. And arriving down at Liberation Square, lots of folks had turned out for the beautiful day and for the art festival.

The festival was in two large tents and was absolutely swarming with people.

There were rows and rows of all types of artisan work, such as clothing, leather goods, beadwork, carvings, paintings, and all kinds of artisan foods: candies, beverages, mixers, coffee, and, thank goodness, salsa!!!

After a leisurely walk around the entirety of the festival, we made our way back toward the car and came across the lovely little public square. Little squares pop up all over Mexican cities.

A beautiful day and a happy day!

And a bonus: I remember trying to find shoe laces back in the U.S. and how hard it seemed to be to find any. Well, if you’re coming to Mexico, you can find stalls with lots and lots of shoe laces.

In Mexico, you never quite know what you’ll find.

 

 

Easter is Coming to Chapala

Chapala is busy prepping for the Easter season.

Starting this weekend, and for the next week, the holiday season is here in Mexico. And Chapala has spent the past week getting ready.

Sections of the malecon have been spruced up.

Rides are moving onto the malecon and being set up and ready for Easter week. Can you guess what ride this will be?

Yes indeed, a ferris wheel.

As we mentioned last week, the skate park was painted over in sparkling white and almost immediately a local artist popped up to add some color.

It’s the dry season here now. The water level in the lake is diminishing and while nature is taking its course, the malecon itself is being repaired.

The “big” news, however, is a change up with what we’ve called Cirque de Chapala.

There’s been a tall pole near the lake off the malecon where indigenous people perform a ritual called la danza de los voladores. Five men dressed in native clothing climb the pole. One sits on top, singing and drumming, while four fasten a rope line to an ankle and then all four push off and spin around and around the pole, lowering themselves to the ground.

Here’s a video of the ritual.

There are troupes like this all across Mexico. We saw one on our visit to Tequila last year.

This week while taking my daily walk on the malecon, I heard the roar of a chainsaw and found that the pole was being cut! Of course, a truck and crane were holding the pole firmly. Eventually, the pole severed. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was one of the icons of the malecon coming to an end?

Fortunately no. For close to the old pole, a cement footing with a metal hold was awaiting the erection of a new metal pole.

To me, it looks quite a bit taller than the wooden pole. But, I don’t know.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

It’s the Small Stuff in Chapala

As I sat down to write this post, a weekly event for me (usually), I sighed, not sure what to say this week.

It’s been a typical week here. Nothing earth-shattering. No big changes. Nothing really different.

But that’s ignoring the small stuff.

The small stuff is part of the true beauty of Chapala. What I mean are the little changes that can so easily slip by unnoticed.

Here’s one of them.

For those of you of a certain age, you may remember the days when there were “rides” outside grocery stores and the few big box stores in the 50s and 60s.

Over time, they disappeared. Big loss? No. Not really.

Just time marching on.

And now we come to Chapala.

There are many more dotted around el centro. How wonderful. And seeing local children enjoy them. Mostly I remember begging my mother for the nickel or dime required for a ride back when I was just a wee thing. I didn’t get it often. That was frivolous. But every once in a while, I did get that ride. And I get to see these throwbacks every time I walk downtown.

The malecon is under repair. The benches are being repaired, slates replaced, and being repainted. Fishermen maintain their boats. The skate park was recently repainted in bright white and this morning I saw that a local artist has used that canvas for his own contribution.

We’re deep in Spring here. The weather is getting increasingly warm during the day, up into the low 80s. Very enjoyable.

Yes, it’s small. Yet, it’s wonderful.

 

Music, music, music!

Seems like the music just keeps on coming here in Chapala and Guadalajara. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve enjoyed more concerts at the train station in Chapala, taken in the rock royalty of Santana at Telmex Auditorio in Guadalajara, more opera with Live from the Met at Teatro Diana in Guadalajara, been serenaded by an all female mariachi band in Tlaquepaque and witnessed a superb concert of solo electric guitar at the train station in Chapala only last night.

Let’s start there.

Neither of us are musicians, so describing what we heard and saw in technical musical terms is just not in the cards. Yet, we’ve seen lots and lots of concerts and extraordinary guitarists, Santana, of course, most recently. Joe Bonamassa several times over the past few years. Yet, the show we witnessed and so enjoyed was in a zone all its own. Check out this video (if you care to).

We’ve never seen or heard anything quite like this. The best way I can describe it is that Francisco plays classical guitar and adds a whole lotta touch of percussion instrumentation with the guitar. Notice his hand placement. Only a few times in the entire performance did he play the guitar in the “traditional” manner of one hand on the neck creating the notes and the other plucking or stroking the strings. It was fascinating to watch and a sheer delight to hear.

You can check him out more thoroughly on YouTube. If you like him, please spread the word. We just loved his music and would enjoy seeing him gain more recognition for his accomplished playing.

Our other great pleasure this week was listening to the all-female mariachi band at La Patio in Tlequepaque. Tlequepaque is an artsy neighborhood of Guadalajara. Definitely tourista. Yet, with a lovely charm.

La Patio is muy pricey. Yet, it’s worth paying to see and hear the mariachi band. The music is glorious. The look is excellent and, in addition to the band, dancers put even more flair into the show.

And when we attended Live at the Met yesterday, we learned that King Crimson is coming to Teatro Diana in August.

We’ll be there!

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road Again in Mexico

Hola!

We did the border run once again. Up to Nuevo Laredo and back to change some of the paperwork on the car.

There are two main routes from the Chapala area to Nuevo Laredo. One, the west route, goes up through Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Saltillo and Monterrey before ending up in Nuevo Laredo. The other, the east route, goes up through San Luis Potosi and Matehuala then onto Saltillo and Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo.

We’ve driven then both.

Google directed us via the east route this trip, as it had on the last. The only part of this route was a connector we had to take between the toll road and one of the regular main highways. Pothole city, for a long stretch too. But we stuck with the plan.

Luckily, Google got us there without having to use that connector. Oh joy!

It’s a pleasant route. Some of it toll; some of it free. Not particularly scenic but beautiful in its own high desert way.

Somewhere after Matehuala, we noticed a traffic stoppage on the southbound lanes of the divided four lane we where then on (not one of the toll roads). We simply breathed a sigh of relief that we were not caught in the stoppage and cruised on.

But the line up on the other side just went on and on. And on and on. We kept thinking it would clear up, but it didn’t. So I started measuring the back up some time after we’d passed the construction that appeared to precipitate it.

Fifteen miles later it came to an end.

And we’re talking out in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t see any services or gas stations at any point in that stretch.

We made a note to make sure Google routed up via the west route for our return.

Having concluded our business in Nuevo Laredo, we made our way back to Saltillo where we spent the night at a City Express hotel, a Mexican brand that we’ve come to rely on for decent clean rooms and good service. And, to boot, the free breakfast here included chorizo and eggs and refried beans and plenty of fruit as well as the usual suspects.

After breakfast, we rolled for Chapala via the west route to be sure.

Be warned though. On the west route there’s a twenty or so kilometer stretch that connects one toll road with another that is absolutely the worst road we’ve been on in Mexico. Super slow going. Dodging and swaying to avoid potholes that are axle busters for sure.

Just saying.

It’s kind of a grueling trip. But we needed to get it done, so we did. And despite this being our third trip to Nuevo Laredo, we still find that having a car here is worth the effort.