Monthly Archives: December 2013

Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe

 Definitely a highlight of my stay in Mexico was a lengthy visit to the North part of Mexico City to the most visited Basilica in the whole country!  A dream come true, really as I’ve had a fascination with Our Lady of Guadalupe since spending my first winter in Ajijic, Jalisco. As the patroness of Mexico her image is absolutely everywhere, on walls, shrines, clothing, paintings, prayer candles, nichos etc. Much beloved by the Mexican people, her feast day is December 6th and December 12th is celebrated through the country as this was the day when the apparition of Our Lady was proven by her image on Juan Diego’s tilma. She had instructed this simple peasant to go to the bishop to ask that a church be built in her honor. Juan Diego returned with a request for her. The bishop needed some kind of sign and Guadalupe told him to go up into the hills and collect some Castille roses, a type of flower not usually grown in the area and especially not in a winter month! He did as he was told and lo and behold he found some red roses which he gathered into his cape or tilma. He returned to the bishop to show him this miraculous sign and when the tilma was unrolled the roses tumbled out and an image of Guadalupe was mysteriously imprinted on the cloth.

This tilma has now assumed mythical properties as it has survived a bombing, the ravages of being exposed to air and has been examined numerous times by scientists who to this day cannot explain how the image has survived all these years. Right now, the tilma is behind bullet proof glass high in one part of the basilica and a moving sidewalk carries the hordes of people who want to see the magical tilma for themselves. As I walked into the space where the moving sidewalk was I walked under a collection of flags including our Maple Leaf and I became very moved by the sight AND the actual tilma that I had previously only seen in pictures on Wikipedia. 

More text and pictures to come!


Pyramid Power

A must see naturally is a visit to the ruins of the pyramids and temples. Our group had a bit more insight of the culture as the tour followed our day trip to the Anthropology Museum. The first location was right beside the Universidad in the middle of the city!  It was quite a contrast to look at the ruins with the skyscrapers of Mexico City in the background!

More text and pictures to follow!

Category: Travel Writing

Having just arrived in San Miquel de Allende this afternoon, I am just now taking stock of the fabuloso week I had in Mexico City at Christmas time with Charter Club Tours. I was so very busy living IN the moment and trying to experience as much as I could of my time in District Federales that yes, I got a bit behind in my postings, pictures and reflections on this blog. But honestly, how can this be a bad thing?

However, as I’m here before the dawn of a New Year I’m going to spend the next two days fleshing out this blog with pictures, videos, links and my own idiosyncratic musings and reflections of this third time snowbird south of the border in Mexico, this time in the picturesque Colonial Highlands of San Miquel de Allende!

My departure earlier today had a bit of drama at the Central Norte bus station attached to it and I will write about the nail biting scenario manana.  A for now my trusty unlocked Samsung Galaxy smartphone is still oh so smart but alas running out of battery power.

Hasta luego, readers, y Buenas noches from San Miquel de Allende!

Okay back to my sort of high drama departure. My Charter Club tour participants left well before me early, early in the morning and I had the luxury of having a full breakfast in the Manhattan Deli Restaurante in the hotel before leaving. My amiga returned to Ajijic and had a full seat to stretch out on on the way back and I headed to the bus station via a taxi called by the concierge. I thought I had all the bases covered and asked the concierge if I needed to break my 500 peso bill and was assured that the taxi driver would have cambio. I was a bit dubious but took his word for it.

Well, to cut to the proverbial chase, I arrived at the bus depot, the driver did not indeed have any cambio. He actually showed me his billfold with a 20 peso note inside! So I had to go into the station, buy my boleto then pay the driver who was waiting outside with ALL my luggage. OMG, if there was a time for Our Lady of Guadalupe to look after me this was the time! I returned to the driver, paid my fare and I thought I had collected all my bags y maletas.

I was wrong! The driver had inadvertently NOT seen my brown Chromebook case containing my new Chromebook! OMG! Luckily, out of nowhere this lovely couple from Monterey volunteered to call the hotel who tracked down the driver who returned to the station in the NICK of time before the Primavera Plus bus departed for San Miquel at 11:15 a.m.

Saved once again by the kindness of strangers. Mil gracias Ana y Gabriel por ayudarme! Honestly, I was so stunned by not having all my bags I was momentarily immobilized and these two fine young people stepped up to the plate to help out a befuddled and slightly panicing gringa. Fortunately, I had my unlocked phone with me charged and WITH a new SIM card and Mexican phone number. They were able to act as my interpreter to expedite the retorno of my new Chromebook, the very same one I’m pecking right now on.

More later on finding a ‘penny from heaven’ on a random street not far from where I’m staying this year…

Floating Gardens y la Comida y La Casa Azul

Enroute to lunch on a long lake boat/restaurante our skillful coach driver, Raul navigated through the heavier post Christmas traffic to a Modern Art Gallery, The Olympic Grounds and then to a lake that was chock o block packed with these long lake barges propeled down the water by strong men with poles. Honestly my pictures do not do justice to seeing over 1000 boats in such a narrow space travelling down and back this lake with just a few bumper boat collisions! 

This was our lunch stop for the day and la comida featured tacos and tostadas with the usual acroutrements and bbq chicken, refried beans and rice. After three on/off bus stops we were all quite hungry and were appreciative of a hot and promptly served lunch. Afterwards we relaxed and floated down the lake listening to the mariachi bands and fending off the ubiquitous venders selling ponchos, flowers, corn on the cob and dolls and toys possibly made in Guatemala. Certainly, one has to hand it to all these industrious locals providing a crowd pleasing experience that was geared very much to local families not just out of city gringos. 

There WAS an opportunity to drive by the famous Blue Frida Kahlo House because it was in more or less the same neighbourhood but alas the line up snaked down the sidewalk so a vote was taken aboard the coach and we elected to just drive past not even park and take a photo. Some people in the group plan to revisit this historic locale on our upcoming free Saturday, our last in Mexico City! How the time has simply flown by! 

I received confirmation from my Mexican landlady in San Miquel de Allende vis a vis my rental and pick up in SMA so all is well on this Boxing Day-that-is nt here in Day Effay/ District Federales! I felt like shopping so I did do some shopping earlier in the day at the Dolores Impressionistic Art Gallery where once again the lines were very long and we only were able to view a few of Diego Rivera s oil paintings in one small gallery. Apparently, most of his paintings are in Paris presumably at the Louvre or at some other well known gallery. Apparently, both governments agreed to trade some well known painter s work and the painting were exchanged across the Atlantic!

More text and pictures to follow…Stay tuned!

Update on 1/4/14
Apparently there is a museum featuring Diego Rivera’s work in his home city of Guanajato which is not that far from me at all. It is only a very short and inexpensive bus ride from San Miquel de Allende.

Navidad at the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe!

This day was truly a dream come true and one definitely ON my bucket list for sure. Ever since I ve been a snowbird in Mexico I ve been aware of how important this patroness of Mexico is to all the Mexicans. I ve seen her image on clothing, in official and unofficial shrines, nichos, tile work, murals. I personally own a baseball cap, a rebozo with the full scene, a large clay tile detail of her face and a box with a photo of a wall mural in Ajijic on it. I have read the oft told story of Juan Diego and how the apparation of Our Lady appeared to him asking him to go to the bishop to ask that a church be built on the spot she appeared. The collection of the Castille red roses previously unknown to the area is also well known and depicted in innumerable renderings.

I also knew that this Basilica was THE most visited church in all of Mexico. The guides told us that it is expected that everyone who possibly can make a trip at least once a year to this shrine. So to actually join the hordes and hordes of locals ON Christmas Day was an experience beyond compare! I even took a couple of Hi Mom shots, something that I rarely do to record the occasion for posterifty. Being there on December 25th will surely go down in my memory banks as a highlight of my travelling life.

And did I make a prayer request to Our Lady? Most certainly. I arrived at the basilica with my sincere prayer request on a paper with a small safety pin attached ready to pin it to a prayer request velvet somewhere on the site. I also had a small votive candle and made a donation of 200 pesos to the woman taking donations and giving out various badges with spiritual personas on them. Two years ago, on my last day in Ajijic, I went to the mural wall that featured Guadalupe with my tall votive candle. I lit it and placed it with the others in the shrine and prayed that I would be able to sell my house and return to Ajijic the following winter. Well, to make a long story short, with the additional intervention of St. Joseph, patron saint of real estate I was able to sell 401 Braid in three months less a day to pave my way for a move to the West Coast to Nanaimo…at last! Mil Gracias, St. Joseph y Nuestra Senor de Guadalupe!

This time I have another prayer request, equally as sincere and for now a personal heartfelt request that is between Guadalupe and myself. 

More text and pictures including some selfies to follow…Stay tuned!

Chapaultepec Castle

This wonderful locale is truly a castle and it houses a fantastico collection of large scale art work, murals and artifacts from the last several hundreds of years of Mexican history. Set in beautifully landscaped and maintained grounds our group spent the better part of a day here. Once again the tour guides were knowledgeable and patient in leading a group of largely seniors but who walked around like a group of wide eyed kindergarteners. They were able to field almost any question asked of them and then some!

More text and pictures to follow…Stay tuned!

Pyramid Power!

The following day featured and showcased the pyramids of T………….. We took the bus to the site, well sites because they were so spaced out that we shuttled from one large area to the other by our charter bus. In contrast to Tikal in Guatemala where I also did a day trip these pyramids can be walked into and around to get a glimpse into what life might have been like for presumably the higher class people in separate homes.

The guides were very knowledgeable and the tour was well paced. We got a chance to peer into what might have been the w.c. area and the bathing area, always a source of speculation for ancient civilizations!  We saw common areas, marketplace areas and of course the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. 

Still very much under excavation some parts are left virtually untouched, some restored and some areas supported by concrete to prevent further deterioration.  On some walls we could still see the original colours of the painted decorations. And in this preliterate pictograph world, believer me EVERY picture tells a legend, an epic, a myth, a homily or teaches a lesson!

These pyramids could be climbed as in Tikal but the sun was warm and the steps were uneven so I took a pass. I know from experience that it s not the going up that is scary, it s the coming down without any kind of hand rails. I have taken to wearing Air Nike basketball shoes for stability but still chose to walk around and take some great pictures. I m just totally grooving on my Galaxy Smartphone 11S with it s 8.0 camera and apparently the new Galaxy 4 it s been upgraded to 13.0! I did take my trusty Cannon sureshot but have yet to take a tradition digital photo with a camera. The Smartphone is just so handy, portable and it takes superb pictures. I even know now how to zoom into shots. Honestly, I m still not interested in all that photo shopping. I think a good eye with good composition using zoom to fill the screen works just as good as all the digital cropping and messing around with pictures. And if I want special effects like sepia or black and white or other tricks of the trade the Android program called PicsArt does all the tricks I m interested in.

AND, to book it works just great for selfies, no less. I ve never been one for a whole lot of what I call, Hi Mom shots at the various locales I ve visited around the world and now I don t have to ask anyone to take these rather cheesy, touristy shots. I merely flip the screen around. pick a background, don my 50 peso Ray Ban sunnies and snap away! I started using this feature on a warm, sunny November day in the Haqmmond Bay neighbourhood where I was staying with the Mulligans and their LBD/Little Black Dog, Suki. We were out and about for a walk in the hood and since it was sunny AND I had just read that SELFIE was the word of the year, I thought…why not? I picked up Suki, flipped the screen around and voila, my first Smartphone selfie! I m typing this on a desktop computer at the Mexico City Sheraton Hotel but I ll post some pictures later on this week and next.

More text and pictures to follow… Stay tuned!

Murales y Museums

After a fantastastico desayuno/breakfast at the Manhattan Deli Restaurante at the Sheraton Hotel in Zona Rosa we boarded the bus bound for the truly unique Water Garden Museum featuring the incomparable murales of Diego Rivera in a spectacular water and greenery setting in the morning and the Anthrology Museum in the afternoon.

The actual mural area is a walk around installation featuring the Rivera murals and during the rainy season the water rushes through the floor area causing an updraft that makes a sound when going through the graduated pipes mounted on the wall! Now, if that doesn t take vision and imagination I don t know what does!

The second stop was the Anthropology Museum where we all got a crash course in Aztec and Mayan ancient history in preparation for the tour of the pyramids the following day. This collection of predominantly original antiquities is most impressive especially the large wheel widely attributed to be a Mayan calendar (but isn t!). Last year on 12/12/12 where there was a bit of apocalyptic hysteria it was widely and falsely reported that the world would end on this day as this was the END of the Mayan calendar. Well, since it didn t, at the Wednesday tinguis I bought a small replica of the original I saw in the museum. The layout is comprehensive and outstanding in it{s scope and sequence. My only suggestion is the addition of more benches in the wings of hard marble floors to take a rest once and a while while trying to absorb the magnitude and magnificance of these two ancient cultures!

More text and pictures to come!

Cuidad de Mexico…Here I come!

For the last two snowbird winters, I was fortunate enough to take a couple of superbly organized and planned Charter Club Tours, one to Puerta Vallarta and one exceptional one ALL around Lake Chapala which took 12 hours, btw. For both winters a very special Christmas trip to Mexico City for Christmas Week was advertised in the local English weekly newspaper, The Guadalajara Reporter. However, the first winter I spent a month in Guadalajara earning a TESL certificate and last winter I wanted to go but didn’t want to pay the dreaded single supplement.

Well, fast forward to this fall when I asked an amiga in Ajijic IF perchance she would be interested in going on the Charter Club tour to District Federales or Day Effay as the locals call Mexico City and lo and behold she said yes and I immediately contacted Charter Club tours to secure my seat on the bus. We were even able to qualify for last year’s price so it was simply meant to be!

On the early, early morning of December 21rst, the winter solstice in the we hours of the morning, once again our trusty driver, Anthony came to pick us up and this time I had ALL my suitcases, two of which were going to stay ON the bus as on the last day I was going to take the bus to San Miquel de Allende where I planned to spend four months in the new year.

More text and pictures to come!

Part Six: The People of Lakeside/ Mexican Locals, Expats and Seasonal Snowbirds

While I may not miss the perils of navigating the seriously authentic cobblestone streets between visits I certainly do miss and think fondly of all the wonderful locals and expats (all with a fascinating backstory!) that I have got to know during my first winter of four months at Ajijic Suites and my five months at the upstairs apartment on the corner of Donator Guerra and Constituccion Calle next to Number Four Restaurante. This month, I was fortunate enough to stay for about three weeks in West Ajijic where I got to experience yet a different perspective of village life in a new neighbourhood.

More text and pictures to come!