Tag Archives: san miguel de allende

A Not So Fun Ending To A Fun Vacation.

9 Aug

“Hiking?!! Why would you do that?!” was my friend Bella’s response to my swollen purple knee. Ha, she doesn’t know me very well. But that was Tuesday, so let me back up….

My last Sunday in San Miguel de Allende presented a cool clear morning and I was eager to soak it up before returning to the humidity that is Bacalar. Retired expats plan lots of activities in San Miguel and my host Nancy invited me to join in the Sunday morning hiking group. I, unlike Bella am always up for a hike, so off we went.

Serious hikers.

Serious hikers gathered at the gas station.

I guessed from the hiking boots and walking sticks that the group meant business. Never one to backdown, I didn’t ask questions as to the level of difficulty, type of trail etc. I also didn’t take into consideration the amount of rain we’d been having or my inadequate footwear. Little did I know the price I would pay.

Heading west.

Heading west.

Everyone spread out as the leaders kept a brisk pace.

Gentle incline.

Gentle incline.

While this wasn’t a technical hike, San Miguel sits over 6,000 feet. Being a sea-level dweller, I found myself expending some effort to keep up.

Mountain mist and muddy terrain.

Mountain mist and muddy terrain.

Picking and choosing my steps through the runoff, I actually stepped out of my shoe at one point as the mud grabbed hold and refused to let me go. And then finally…the top and a lovely view of San Miguel and the scrubby terrain.
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Lunch break.

Lunch break.

The return trip was much quicker (downhill usually is). I listened in on the conversations. Some folks were full-timers and others like many retirees who love to travel, merely call San Miguel home-base. The main grumble was the traffic and parking. As attachment to individual transportation shows no sign of letting up, I am not surprised. However to their credit, the group encourages car-pooling and pays drivers for rides and gas.

And down we went.

And down we went.

A winding muddy trail.

A winding muddy trail.

We were ten minutes from the cars and I was ready to be done, perhaps too ready. The final obstacle was a swollen creek. All it took was one wobbly rock and down I went. I hit my knee hard, but saved the iPad, which of course is the most important thing!
imageBy Monday I was in considerable pain, bruised and swollen and wondering how I would travel back to Mexico City and catch the flight home to Bacalar. More information was needed so off we went to the emergency room. Less than an hour and a hundred dollars later I was X-rayed and learned that nothing was broken, thank God. For my ride to the airport on Wednesday, I took a shuttle from door to gate which was a big help. Two weeks later I am still healing and doing the dance, so to speak, between rest, pain meds, and walking. The house completion is moving at lightning speed. Let the packing begin! DOS TORTAS
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The Sistine Chapel of the Americas – Atotonilco

2 Aug

During my recent visit to San Miguel, I used my host’s weekly tennis match, to amble down the road to the chapel of Atontonilco, aka the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. The village’s annual celebration had taken place the weekend prior and the fragrance of fresh cut flowers still filled the air. The church dates back to the mid-1700’s and was built after Father Luis Felipe Alfaro stopped to rest under a mesquite tree and had a dream. Jesus wearing a crown of thorns instructed him to build the church, and the rest is history. Buses of penitents visit daily.

Main Alter

Main Alter

A side nave dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary was built in 1766.

Note the Gold Leaf

Note the Gold Leaf

We had previously visited this church in February 2014 when the Tortas passed through San Miguel. A side chapel (1759-1776) was closed for renovation at the time. This visit, I gladly paid my $15 pesos, about a dollar and passed through the gate to see the new area.

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The Crucifixion of Jesus

I didn’t know where to look first. Every inch of the hall was covered in colorful frescos and life-like statues. It took a few minutes to realize that I was seeing the Way Of The Cross, a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus. Having been raised Catholic, I knew by heart the images of Good Friday and could almost smell the incense and hear the prayers.

Jesus Dies On the Cross

Jesus Dies On the Cross

For non-Catholics, the imagery can be a bit creepy. People in Mexico who are deeply religious resonate with the suffering. Jesus died for their sins. It’s personal.

Jesus' Body Is Removed From The Cross

Jesus’ Body Is Removed From The Cross

I had the church to myself to wander and was in awe of its beauty and attention to detail. Centuries of faith and devotion were palpable. It is easy to understand how Father Miguel Hidalgo could visit the church on September 16, 1810, and be so inspired that he took the alter banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe and led Mexico’s fight for independence. While few gringos visit Atotonilco, it is well worth the taxi ride from San Miguel. DOS TORTAS image

A Vacation to San Miguel de Allende

26 Jul

After spending a wonderful week in Northern California visiting my daughter and her family, I returned to Mexico City to begin the next leg of my adventure. After a long day of traveling, I zipped through immigration at 10pm and was very glad to see my host Benito waiting for me with a smile and my name on a placard. God bless AirB&B.

The most luxurious bus I’ve ever ridden in Mexico, complete with leg rests, movie screens and wifi left from the airport the next morning for Queretaro with connections to San Miguel de Allende, my vacation destination.

Executive Class

Executive Class

Torta friend and long-time San Miguel resident, Nancy met me at the bus station and we haven’t slowed down since.

Picking up your mail in San Miguel.

Picking up your mail in San Miguel.

The following day, I explored downtown, while Nancy went to play tennis. Life offers many opportunities here that we do not have in Bacalar.

Absolutely love putzing in the shops around the Jardin (Center).

Absolutely love putzing in the shops around the Jardin (Center).

And then there are the second story gardens. The unusual amount of rain this year has everything green and lush.

Shops and houses are built around courtyards. Just look up!

Shops and houses are built around courtyards. Just look up!

The locals, expats, and tourists meet in the downtown park for a San Miguel favorite pastime, people-watching. You never know what you’ll see…

The majestic cathedral of Saint Michael is the heart of the city.

The majestic cathedral of Saint Michael is the heart of the city. A giant Freda Kalo provides a photo-op.

Nancy is an amazing ceramic artist. This is one of her pieces showing in a local gallery.

Galeria San Francisco.

Galeria San Francisco.

I have a feeling it will take several weeks to post all the wonderful photos from this amazing city. I leave Wednesday to see my wife and view the progress on our house. Today is also the first anniversary of our marriage ceremony last year in California. Happy Anniversary Darling.

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L’chaim To Life – To A Dear Friend Adiós

11 May

While laid up this week mending a broken leg, I have little of our usually active life in Bacalar to share. No photos, but lots of sadness. Life can be very, very unpredictable and I’m not talking about a broken leg.

Last December I posted Familia Nueva About two good old gals from Texas that Lisa and I met here in Bacalar. They were retired and living in San Miguel de Allende taking a six-week Yucatan holiday.

Who would have imagined that we would meet another couple with the same age spread (12 years) and history (20 years) together AND a blast to be with. Not only did we hang out and visit the sights and sounds of Bacalar, on our return trip from Texas in January, we visited them in San Miguel and got the royal treatment. We stayed in their newly remodeled home, saw the sights of SMA and made plans, over morning coffee, for future joint travels and visits to each other’s homes. Lisa and I returned to southern Yucatan looking forward to seeing them again.

Last Saturday, we received something we never ever expected, Judy’s Facebook obituary. She had died in her sleep Thursday night of a brain aneurism, as near as anyone can tell. She was 51 years old.

One thing we enjoyed while visiting SMA was Nancy and Judy’s wedding video. They had traveled to California last September to make their relationship legal. Lisa and I will be following their footsteps in July.

Life is precious and we only have today. Nancy and Judy lived life to the fullest. Nancy has wonderful memories to sustain her and good family and friends to remind her she is loved. All that other stuff of life suddenly seems not so important – Love each other and God bless.

By the lake in Bacalar.

By the lake in Bacalar.

Judy's beloved rooftop view.

Judy’s beloved rooftop view.

You will be so missed.

You will be so missed.

Road Trip Segundo – Continued

16 Feb

Our friends Nancy and Judy actually live outside of San Miguel in a tiny pueblito named Atotonilco. The church there is considered the “Sistine Chapel” of Mexico. We walked down the street from their house to an experience we could never have had on our own.

Judas' kiss with the devil on his shoulder.

Judas’ kiss with the devil on his shoulder.

Native American cousins to the north.

Native American cousins to the north.

The alters painted in gold leaf were spectacular.

The alters painted in gold leaf were spectacular.

Glittering in the light.

Glittering in the light.

Chapel Atontonilco4

This chapel is a jewel that I am so glad I got a chance to see. Outside of the ruins of Palenque we stumbled upon an equally spectacular (but in a different way) site. When I visited Palenque in 1974, I went to a waterfalls. Not knowing the name or location, we went off on a drive of a lifetime and instead found Aqua Azul.

The water color was unbelievable.

The water color was unbelievable.

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Mini-Niagra Falls

Mini-Niagra Falls

We climbed and climbed.

We climbed and climbed.

Water was chilly. Still wish I had time for a swim.

Water was chilly. Still wish I had time for a swim.

What a spectacular trip we had. Each adventure leads to another. This week the Tortas will be moving into our last stop before our new home. It will be good to be settled at least for awhile. Until next week….

Thought for the day.

Thought for the day.

Road Trip Segundo – The Tortas Arrive Home

9 Feb

We returned to Bacalar and the southern most tip of Mexico from our recent visit to Texas, 4500 miles round trip in a month. Everyone who lives in Mexico travels to the States now and then, some more frequently than others. The drive is an adventure every time. This trip we were not pulling a trailer filled with our worldly possessions. Without the heavy trailer we were more agile and able to make better time. We stopped in San Miguel de Allende to visit friends and came away with a new experience from the nightmare of getting lost there on our first trip. It’s a magical city surrounded by mountains, colonial buildings and art, everything that Bacalar is not. Knowing that we can always return made it easier to say our goodbyes.

Church of Saint Michael

Church of Saint Michael

Tile Floors

Tile Church Floor

Lots of Walking

Lots of Walking

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We also made a side trip to the pyramids of Palenque. People from the US are by far the minority of tourists to this site. Many believe the bad press and miss an opportunity to visit some of the most magical places on earth, almost in our back yard.

The Queen's Tomb

The Queen’s Tomb

Warriors With Chiseled Teeth

Warriors With Chiseled Teeth

Tomb Buried Deep

A Royal Tomb Buried Deep

The Queen's Bath

The Queen’s Bath

There will be a few more road trips in our future, but with the sophisticated bus system, visiting the sights of Mexico will be an easier, less tiring experience in the future. For now we are glad to be home and meeting with our builder on Monday. Soon I hope to have construction photos of our new house.

Holding on to Friendships that Span Time and Distance – The Tortas say Adios

2 Feb
Dear Austin Friends

Dear Austin Friends

Thursday we gathered with Austin friends to share hugs and stories of our new life in Mexico. I am always surprised by the sweet affection of women I have known and worked with for twenty years. There were many promises of visits from these avid blog followers.

Friday morning we squeezed in final moments with our grandchildren before getting on the road for south Texas. The plan was to sleep on this side and hit the border early.

Leaving  McQueeney, Texas

Leaving McQueeney, Texas

Lisa's mom and third Torta Alice with our grandson Hunter

Lisa’s mom and third Torta Alice with our grandson Hunter

We crossed easily at Los Indios, a small border crossing where we were waved through. An hour later we stopped at the aduana and received a minimal inspection. I took my first deep breath of the day as we sailed through immigration. Our theory is that showing our green cards looks very official and clearly states that we are Mexican residents. The fact that we are three older women probably supports that age-old myth that we could not be smugglers.

The drive to San Miguel was smooth, with only one back track. Traveling through the mountains made for a beautiful trip and we arrived on schedule at the home of our friends Judy and Nancy. We leave Tuesday for the pyramids of Palenque and on to Bacalar.

Next week we will report on our stay in San Miguel. Happy Superbowl Sunday all.

Mountains outside of San Luis Potosi

Mountains outside of San Luis Potosi

Over and through.
Over and through.

Our mascota el pato.
Our mascota La Tortita.

The Cobblestones of San Miguel de Allende
The Cobblestones Outside San Miguel de Allende

Fear And Loathing in San Miguel

1 Sep

San Miguel de Allende is a destination vacation for USers and Mexicans alike. It is near the top of the “Retire to Mexico” list for just about everyone, certainly for our hairdresser in Austin. SMdA is a quaint little colonial town, narrow cobblestone streets winding around beautiful churches, antique shops and artisan markets, nestled in the mountains north of Mexico City. Something that you don’t know until you’ve accidentally found yourself lost in SMdA is that the quaint narrow streets were built for donkey carts, NOT the traffic that clogs due to all those damn turistas and retirees. There are automobiles parked nose to tail along every high walled street with taxis and buses passing slow-moving, truck drawn remulques at unbelievable speeds. Lisa quit breathing when we pulled into town.

We learned so much from this trip of 1800 miles and endless speed bumps (topes). When Google told us that point A to point B would take us five hours, it took more like 8.5 which is quite descriptive of the entire moving to Mexico process. Lisa’s Spanish grew by learning road signs, “No tire la basura” (don’t throw trash). I learned that we should NOT drive for eight hours in Mexican traffic and then look for a hotel where we can park securely and not have to back up a trailer.

Most of all we learned that this has been TOTALLY worth it. We arrived in Bacalar on Friday and have been taking it easy ever since. It feels like we’re on vacation, which of course we are, a permanent vacation.

Snow topped volcano in the rearview mirror.

Snow topped volcano in the rearview mirror.


Thought for the Day

Thought for the Day

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