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A Day Trip to Another Pueblo Magico: Mazamitla

We’re slowly making our way to the Pueblos Magicos of Mexico, at least some of the more local ones. Even so, the attractions of the selected towns seem so attractive, we’re looking ahead to visiting some that are further and further afield.

Yet, for now, we’re exploring those in our home state of Jalisco.

This weekend we visited Mazamitla. It’s been labeled as replicating a Swiss village.

We kinda missed that resemblance. It’s pretty, to be more, but in a traditional Mexican way.

Mazamitla is a drive around to the south shore of Lake Chapala. The road snakes along, sometimes seemingly right on the lake and at others, the lake is nowhere to be seen.

There are three striking qualities of the south shore.

The first is the close-up view of what at a distance appear to be greenhouses. They’re all over the slopes of the mountains that ring the lake. And, to be sure, they’re not really greenhouses. They’re not enclosed. They are heavy plastic on metal frames under which are grown a myriad of crops. What we saw appeared to be mostly tomatoes.

The second quality was the heights of the mountains on the south side. One of the tallest was shrouded with clouds on the sunny Saturday of our trip.

And third, the south side seems to be dominated by agriculture and by country living in Mexico. No lines of stores and restaurants. No big box stores, no, not even a Walmart. Instead, quaint villages and not gringos in sight.

To get to Mazamitla, we drove west to the end of the lake and then circled around to the east until we seemed to be directly across from Chapala. Then we turned south and make our way through a rolling mountain pass and finally into the pueblo.

Like every village centro we’ve visited on a Saturday, it was rockin’ and rollin’. We keep our eyes on the cathedral spires, knowing that the centro historico would be right there. Parking was at a premium; not by price, but by availability. We finally found our way into a private lot and set off to explore.

One item of particular note: there were Voladores, the flying natives that are prominent in many Mexican towns and cities. The costuming has been identical each time we’re encountered them. It was here too. However, we saw no pole for them to fly on.

Instead, there was an odd contraption the use of which was not immediately apparent. So we settled in to await the dance and the show and sure enough, the show in Mazamitla is different from any other we have seen.

(Sorry about the video quality! I’ll try to do better, I promise.)

We walked around a little, soaking in the sights and finally landed in a restaurant on the square for lunch. We shared a paradilla which pairs grilled sausage, beef and chicken, with cheese, onions, nopales and yummy little egg rolls.

All though the meal, a caged parrot kept its back turned to us.

And the dragons on the lamp kept watch as well.

A thoroughly enjoyable day here with the magic of Mexico!

Comida Chronicles of Chapala

Netflix recently unveiled a short series called The Taco Chronicles. Yep. All about tacos in Mexico.  We’ve been devouring it (pun intended!).

Mexico City is prominent in the series as are several states to our west. The state in which Chapala resides, Jalisco, is not featured in the series.

Still, Jalisco has its very own tradition of comida (Spanish for food and in Mexico, my Spanish teacher informs me, also refers specifically to lunch). The local specialty is goat, marinated and slow cooked til it is literally melt in your mouth. It’s served with a rich broth, beans, cheese, onions, and tortillas. Truly wonderful.

In several of our discussions of food, my Spanish teacher strongly suggested that I visit a Guadalajara establishment called Karne Garibaldi.  I checked it out on the web and made the trip. As Bonnie was in the States at the time, my intrepid neighbor made the trek with me.

We arrived around 2PM on a Saturday. The place was rocking and rolling. We got seated immediately but the place was pretty densely packed and full. (By the time we left there was a line out the front door.)

We managed to order with our limited Spanish and the wait staff limited English. And immediately we had food. Up first, a plate of tortilla chips and one of Karne Garibaldi’s signature dishes, frijoles con elote (beans with corn) and guacamole.

Yes, we do know that we’re supposed to present the pictures of the food in their splendid glory before they are tainted by munching and crunching. But we couldn’t resist. It looked so good, and, well, you’ll have to take our word for it, it was that good.

What we didn’t know was that the frijoles with corn and chips was the house staple. When we’d finish a plate, a wait staff member would pop by, take the empty and leave us a replacement. Don’t we just love restaurants???

Our order can very quickly as well. And I mean very quickly. Turns out that Karne Garibaldi holds a Guinness Book of World Records record for fastest service.

And all without sacrificing any quality for a sit-down restaurant.

We had karne in its own juices. Literally melt in your mouth.

One of the treasures of Jalisco. Hopefully The Taco Chronicles will spawn more programs about Mexican specialties. The food is indeed wonderful here.

 

 

New Housing in Chapala

We often get asked about housing in Chapala.

We rent; we do not own (yet).

Why, you ask? We want to get a great feel for the area before we make a long-term commitment. Some people, though, feel quite differently. There are a lot of stories of expats coming to visit lakeside, falling in love with it and buying a house immediately. Sometimes this works out; sometimes it doesn’t.

Our purpose here is not to wade into the middle of this (or any) controversy. We’re simply sharing our everyday experiences with you here in Chapala.

As long-time readers are aware, we frequent the train station for concerts and cultural events. Across the street from this beautiful building runs a high brick wall, squaring off what appears to be a big piece of property, although who really knew, given that the wall was quite high.

Then we started to hear rumors that a housing development would be built inside the walls. And sure enough, over time, a modern Mexican house rose up. Just one.

And then, the open house signage.

So my neighbor and I ventured to have a look.

Turns out that an entry with what appears will be a guard station has appeared on the side street off Gonzalez Gallo. We walked in to see an open piece of property with the one house constructed and a team of construction workers building a second right next door.

The salesman was with a couple, so we poked around exploring both the first and second floors. The first floor consists of a decent sized kitchen and breakfast nook, a living room and a bedroom with bath, although no shower.

Upstairs, there are two more bedrooms, one a master and the other a guest, each with their own full baths. Also upstairs, a nice patio overlooking what will be the development.

As you can see from the photos, this property is not traditional Mexican. I guess you might call it Mexican modern.

Talking with the salesman, we learned that the development will contain some 28 houses, with a clubhouse and pool. Monthly maintenance fees are set at $800 pesos or about $40 U.S. at current exchange rates.

The property are in the general range of $170,000 to $200,000 U.S.

Our speculation is that the target market for these houses are weekending Guadalajarans. Most expats seem to prefer bungalows rather than multiple stories.

If you desire, you can learn more here.

Still, these appear to be the wave of the future here at lakeside.

Weed Invades Chapala!!!

No, not the wacky weed or Reefer Madness.

But it is an invasion!

Yes, it’s summer here and the weeds are blooming.

This has been an ongoing problem on Lake Chapala for quite a few years. Apparently at the end of the 19th century, this non-native water hyacinth was introduced to the lake as decoration.

Alas, residents around the lake have been battling them ever since.

It’s a summer phenomenon, part of the rainy season. The dams along the rivers that feed the lake are often opened to prevent flooding and this onslaught, along with the warm weather, the hyacinths (and several accompanying weeds) flourish.

Towns around the lake have tried raking the weeds out as they blow in to the lakeshore in a seemingly Sisyphean  effort to rid the lake of them.

This time of year, I never quite know what to expect on my daily walk on the malecon.

The lakeshore might be clear, with large “islands” of weed visible far out on the lake.

Or, it might seem like the lake disappeared overnight, replaced by a blanket of green.

Or, some days, there might be bright patches of green floating just off the lakeshore.

Ya just never know!

Something to look forward to.

Last, here’s a video of the boat operators who work despite the weed invasion. Enjoy.

Geezers Learning Spanish

One of the reasons I hear to move to the Chapala/lakeside area of Mexico is that you don’t have to learn the language to get by here.

This is true. You don’t have to.

However, doing so limits you to mainly interaction with other gringos and constantly feeling like a stranger in a strange land (how about that for a book title???).

Spanish really is not all that hard to learn. It’s quite rule-based and there are not all that many exceptions to the rules. And, I’ve found as I’ve studied more and more, that many English words were derived from Spanish, so there’s really lots of crossover. And yes, I do know that Spanish evolved out of Latin. Somehow, though, it seems a lot easier to learn than Latin and sounds a lot more pleasant, at least to these ears.

Before making the move to Mexico, I started trying to learn Spanish. There were and are lots of choices out there and I started with a classic: Pimsleur.

Pimsleur’s been around for a long time. You can subscribe to their service for about $15 US a month. You get 20 minute lessons, a nice length. And, they’re focused on practical learning. Mostly, however, for tourists. Which is not a bad thing. It’s always good to know how to say, where’s the bathroom? (donde esta el bano?).

However, when I got to Mexico I discovered that the natives here don’t follow the scripts. And even though I’d learned some phrases (a good thing!) and a number of Spanish words, I needed more.

Enter Duolingo. Duo’s an app for both iPhone and Android. It’s free. There’s a paid version which strips out the ads and fluff. I love it. The lessons are short, between 5 and 10 minutes each. And you can repeat them as often as you like. They’re subject focused. And they’re designed to teach Spanish as used in Latin America.

Somehow too I got introduced to Babbel, another phone app. I tried it for free and then ended up buying a subscription (there is no free version). Frankly, Babbel is disappointing. You’ll be learning Iberian Spanish, which is similar to, but different from Latin American Spanish in both conjugations and in pronunciation and in word usage.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the length of the lessons in Babbel. When the app speaks Spanish to you, it’s done at the same high speed you encounter on the street (a good thing?) but there’s no way to slow it down to really hear what’s being said. Duo has both street speed and a gringo speed.

I will not be renewing my subscription when it expires.

Some expats here have taken the Warren Hardy lessons that are promoted by International Living magazine. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy from their reactions.  It seems to work well for some; not for others.

So I’ve been bouncing along with Duo, making progress yet very slowly and hesitantly.

Then I found Manu.

Manu offered his services teaching Spanish on the Facebook group for expats here. Now I’d considered taking private lessons before but had not found the motivation to get off my butt and find a teacher. For some reason, I wrote him, he responded, and we ended up as teacher and student.

And I am so glad I did. There’s nothing like one-on-one learning. I can dig deep with questions. I learn nuances. I am learning Spanish as it’s spoken here in Mexico.

So, our experience is: study on your own AND find a local teacher. I think you’ll be quite pleased. And if you want to contact Manu, you can reach him at manudiza at gmail.com. Tell him Roberto sent you!

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer in Chapala

As if there was ever any doubt, summer is here in Chapala.

The first giveaway is that the weeds are back populating the lake. They come and go from the shoreline along the malecon, so on any given day when I walk there, I may see blue water or a sea of green. Don’t like the weeds? Well, they’ll be gone when the wind shifts.

Too, in the summer, the lake can give us all kinds of looks. Partly, of course, because it’s the rainy season as well and “weather” forms around the lake. Yet, can be breathtaking.

And I’ve noticed too an abundance of horses. Now, to be sure, this is not just a summer occurrence. Horses are here all year round. Still, it seems that there are just more of them in the summer.

As usual, there’s Wilbur (Palomino) and Carole (the Chestnut Mare). I call’em Wilbur and Carole in homage to the two humans we were closed to Mr. Ed on my favorite 60s Sunday night television.

Too, you’ll see horses and riders plodding up and down the cobblestone streets here at almost any time of day. Where they come from I’ve not yet been able to discern. I haven’t seen a stable or a riding business, so I assume for the present that their owners/caregivers are simply taking them out for a ride.

You’ll see horses too on the lakeshore. Check out this young man riding with an infant. Hey, where’s the safety seat for the young’un? And the helmet? Oops, of yeah, this is Mexico, where personal responsibility is still adhered to and the nanny state hasn’t taken over everything.

Note too the couple in the background, making out on the beach. This is very common. Lots of couples hang out on the malecon, watching the submarine races.

Out in front of city hall, a different set of horses recently appeared. They seem to come out in the morning and by evening are gone. Then, boom, they pop up again on a random day in the future. Walking in el centro one Monday evening, there they were.

Finally, sometimes, you’ll just see horses wandering around town, as if they’re looking for a hotel or something. More likely scrounging some chow.

Late in the Spring, the skateboard park by the malecon was given a fresh paint of white paint. Local artists often take this as a fresh canvas and overnight up pops some fresh street art.

Over near fisherman’s pier, the old wood pole that was used by the flying natives (see this link for an explanation) and has subsequently been replaced by a metal pole, is now a direction pointer.

As always, the malecon is jammed on a Sunday. Everyone seems to be out enjoying the vibes. Come join us!

 

A Day Trip to Tapalpa Part 2

Hola!

We only spent the day in Tapalpa, yet knew almost instantly that we wanted to come back for a longer visit.

Our final stop for this trip was at what I just had to call the Stonehenge of Mexico. Of course, it’s not. Yet, it does have a supernatural element to it. Large rocks, boulders, seemingly plopped down in the middle of a field, albeit a somewhat hilly one.

And it’s a very popular place to visit for the locals. We didn’t see any other gringos here either.

While it appears that most people walk amongst the rocks, exploring and enjoying, some ride horses through the property.

And, if you’re feeling really brave, you can opt to ride the lone donkey.

There’s a zipline set-up here too. Joyously, very simple. You sign a simple form (in Spanish–presumably you are signing your life away just as you would with the reams of paper you would have for ziplining in the U.S. or Canada). You climb up to the starting point, don your harnesses, climb stairs to the starting point, get hooked on and away you go!

The most fun part of this visit for me was taking pictures of all the people taking pictures. There’s something in the air at this place that just makes people want to go vogue and strike a pose!

And finally, as we were headed back to the car, we saw this little Mexican fellow.

Yes indeed, Mexico’s contribution to the world of dogs.

We hope you’ve gotten a little taste of the delights of Tapalpa here. Come on down and check it out for yourselves. And be sure to stop by Chapala when you do!

A Day Trip to a Pueblo Magico: Tapalpa

Mexico has an internal tourist program called Pueblos Magicos: Magical Towns. These are towns that have a special appeal, with tourist attractions (usually historical and cultural attractions). (You’ll need a translator  from Spanish to English with your browser for the website if you are not fluent in written Spanish.)

The magical towns all get a plaque commemorating their achievement!

Tapalpa, according to Google Maps, is some two hours drive from Chapala both south and west of the lake. The drive was a beauty. After a drive west toward Tequila (yes, land of Jose Cuervo), another toll road routed us south in a deep valley, with mountains rising cliff-like on both sides and some serious mud flats, at least during rainy season, in the valley. Finally, we turned west again headed straight toward one of the mountains. Winding our way, switchbacks and all, we went up and over the mountain and finally descended into a valley to Tapalpa.

The Pueblo Magico site had suggested that a somewhat ruined structure of a church from the 1600s and the cisterns that are part of the local water supply were the must-see first items on the agenda.

Only one problem: Google Maps couldn’t find either and we didn’t really know the right way to ask.

But the street headed into town took us right past the town center, so we finally parked and hiked our way back to the square.

You can see from the photos here that the town is somewhat architecturally themed. Some might even say it’s magical.

 

Here we encountered not one, not two, but three churches, all clustered together and two of which seemed to be connected.

One of the fascinating aspects of Mexican towns is the preservation and mixture of the old and the new. Rather than tearing down the old, it’s often preserved and repaired and then added to with more modern structures. Such is the case with the cathedrals in Tapalpa.

Here’s what I believe is the oldest church, the one from the 1600s. Although I can’t say for sure.

And the town was hopping, with an art festival and food and other vendors out on the street along with the obligatory dogs which roam freely in Mexican towns.

We did notice, finally, a motorized trolley that does tours of the town and a tourist office on the square.

Next week I’ll share the rest of the story of our time in Tapalpa.

Hint: we’re planning to go back to spend an entire weekend soon!

La Virgen de Zapopan Visits Chapala

Let’s have a parade!

Yesterday, Sunday, the Iconic Virgin of Zapopan came to Chapala on her now annual visit to us at lakeside.

In the 1950s, the lake had shrunk to the point where it seemed endangered by a long and devastating drought. Local Catholics prayed to the Holy Virgin Mary for relief from the severe conditions, with the local bishop promising that La Zapopana, as the Virgin of Zapopan is known here, would visit Chapala when the prayers were answered.

And they seemed to be.

The lake shrank again under similar conditions in the late 1990s and again La Zapopana was credited with a miracle recovery.

La Zapopana is the Virgin of Expectation whose intercession has been sought by Catholics in the Guadalajara area of over four centuries.

That’s a lot of prayer and a lot of faith.

The Virgin was welcomed to Chapala with a big parade, right down the main road of the city to the Cathedral.

The road was marked with a bed of wood chips of differing colors and grass laid to lead the way to the Cathedral.

Folks started gathering around 11AM and the parade started shortly thereafter.

 

And what a parade was. All sorts of groups in a plethora of dress, some native, some seeming Day of the Dead, some even seeming science fiction, and some, of course, marching band.

Lots of drumming and lots of music.

No floats. Very few vehicles. Mostly thousands and thousands of people celebrating the visit of the Virgin.

How wonderful and delightful.

I had an excellent spot to see the parade. And next to me were a couple, Millenials, who spoke no English. But we communicated perfectly, laughing and pointing and just having fun together. The young man told me by pointing that he was going to get some drinks and did I want any.

This is a usual experience in Mexico. People communing and breaking bread together.

It’s wonderful!

Below are a some short videos of various sections of the parade, culminating with the Virgin arriving (next to the last video). Hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

To Everything, There Is a Season in Chapala

Rumor has it that Chapala was recognized long ago for the second best weather in the world by National Geographic. No one I know has been able to find the actual reference, yet some will inform you that the best weather in the world is to be found somewhere in central Africa. Not a likely expat location.

So I’ll stick with the banner that drivers encounter as they get to the top of the pass that leads steeply down to Chapala. It says “the best weather” (in Spanish).

Before we moved here, we did our homework. We checked out weather sites to try to figure out just how livable lakeside would be for us. We determined that it would be. But statistics on a page, average temperature, average rainfall, high and low temperatures and the like tell only a part of the story.

It’s the experience that counts.

For us, there are either two seasons here or three, depending on how you count.

The first, two seasons, is easy.

Season One:

Season Two:

Season One: Pelicans!!!

Seasons Two: No pelicans!

The pelicans arrive in late October and depart around Easter.

We love pelican season.

Yet, if weather is the determining factor in determining a season, we count three.

From late September into February, is the cool season. During the holidays, the temperature will drop down into the 60s and sometimes the 50s at night and warm up into the high 60s during the day.

Just wonderful.

From February on, the weather becomes progressively more hot and more dry. By the time May rolls around, the usual daytime temps will be in the mid to upper 80s. Nights will drop down into the low 70s. The hills surrounding the lake turn brown and it seems typical that forest fires will break out in this season. Very little rain.

Then from mid to late June, the rains will start coming from the West. Almost always at night. We’ll wake up to wet streets which will dry off by relatively early morning. The lake will rise. The temperatures will cool off at little to the high 70s to low 80s during the days and high 60s at night.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

Is it the best weather in the world?

Truthfully we don’t know. We haven’t explored the world (maybe in the next life–for now, we’re stayin’ right here!). But to us, the weather here is just perfect.