Monthly Archives: February 2014

Road Construction and Sewer Upgrading in San Miquel de Allende

I may have mentioned that I live up in the hills of San Miquel de Allende in a colonia/neighbourhood called Los Balcones. It’s a quiet area…usually…but not anymore. Each day after I leave my casita, walk down the long driveway, unlock the padlock and swing open the heavy black gates on Antigua Camino de Quereterro, a calle privada I just never know what I’m going to find as I make my way either down the hill to Centro or the other way to the Soriana’s/Liverpool/CineMex mall.

The last two weeks has been particularly challenging because the cobblestone street has been continually dug up, refilled and dug up again. I’ve seen everything from pack donkeys carrying bags of cement to all sorts of heavy digging and jack hammer machinery with the requisite large teams of workers.  Various  Detour signs have been stationed at key places which the locals just seem to ignore sometimes with distressing consequences! A day or so ago, I witnessed an SUV try to drive through a large patch of soft dirt only to get stuck right in the middle whereby the driver couldn’t move forwards or back!  It was early in the morning so the crews hadn’t arrived and I was enroute to my Spanish class at Warren Hardy so I couldn’t wait around to see what happened.

But the whole scenario reminded me of myself being stuck in the ice and snow in Northern Alberta constantly with whatever ‘beater’ I was currently driving and having to call the Alberta Motor Association to send a tow truck to rescue me from whatever snowbank or ditch I had gotten myself stuck in. The odd time a passing driver with a serious truck was able to help me before I had to summon a tow truck. And this was way before  people or I had a cel phone so it was a really big deal to call for help from a nearby resident or whoever. Definitely firmly ensnared in my PREVIOUS LIFE not to be revisited any time soon.

In fact, as many of my friends and readers already know I now own a Mustang convertible that I only insure for six months a year and this year is not going on the road until about mid May until mid October. It’s not a car that was meant for either heavy rain or snow and I don’t have the right tires anyway.  Just before I put the car in a garage for the winter I was driving a bit too fast on a curved road in South Nanaimo and I hydroplaned the vehicle and swerved around on fortunately a deserted road. This was a very scary occurance, once again reminescent of my driving days in Northern Alberta.

I’m here in San Miquel de Allende for another two glorious months so I can only hope and pray that my private and public road becomes a bit more passable. As of yesterday, the crews had dumped a load of soft dirt across the entrance to Antiqua de Camino de Queretero so now I have to tell the taxi driver to drop me off at the ‘equina/corner’ of my street because I don’t want him to get his car stuck in the soft dirt like I witnessed earlier this week!

A Week Later…

I´m sad to report that far from improving the walking and driving conditions on my street and the street leading up to my street had even gotten worse. I didn´t think this was possible but it is…sigh. Now, it´s a perilous endeavor to pick my way through the dug up cobble stones and rubble dodging the open sewer excavations to what might be considered a passable street where my blood pressure can once more go down. Apparently, this full blown road construction/sewer exploration happens about every two years which imho is just ‘beyond the beyond.’ I spoke with another snowbird on Friday night and she also lives in the Los Balcones colonia/neighbourhood but in the ‘good’ part near the Jardin Botanica. As you get closer to the top of Homobono the landscape looks worse and worse and yes, readers there IS no work done in this area on the weekends even if foul smelling water or ? is flowing down the street! Sometimes, heavy equipment is left as a barrier on the street to deter determined but foolhardy motorists from going through the CERRRADO CALLE barriers but not always. This morning, despite quite clear CERRADO CALLE signs, some of which are knocked down by drivers, I witnessed a number of vehicles some of which had low clearance to the road slowly manouvre themselves through the rubble…probably with a ´Hail Mary’ on their lips!

And yes, life does go on with detour signs that are ignored, blocked off driving and walking paths, large scary open sewer trenches and a wide variety of perils here in Los Balcones. Good thing I once again brought my Air Nike basketball shoes to safely navigate the cobblestone and dug up streets!  There are areas of the city that are paved like around the mall and central Centro has these lovely flattened flagstones instead of rough cobblestones but it does behoove me to stay alert and pay attention to road and sidewalk hazards. I always carry a flashlight at night because out of Centro the streetlights are few and far between.

25 Secrets From the World’s Most Frugal Frequent Travelers y One from Me!

http://www.wisebread.com/25-secrets-from-the-worlds-most-frugal-frequent-travelers

This covers a great many tips and tricks but one is missing!

When heading south of the border make sure yo unlock your cel phone our smartphone. Untethered from your carrier you are free to take your phone to TelCel or any carrier in any country and simply pop out your existing SIM card, buy a local SIM card which gives you a local number and away you go. Canada is notoriously expensive/muy caro when it comes to cel phone rates but Viva Mexico!

I bought a new SIM card/local number from TelCel and two months of cel service for 200 pesos en todo! At about twelve pesos to the Canadian dollar this is less than twenty dollars.

And with Koodo in Canada you can keep your number by switching to the lowest priced plan while you are gone but I’m not going to bother. I’ll just get a new number when I return, no hay problema!

I had an IPad last winter but thus winter I’m totally grooving on my Galaxy S11. While not the latest and greatest and yes I have Galaxy 5 phone list for sure I’m just loving the versatility and spontaneity of being able to take those on the spot pictures and videos!

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I brought my trusty Canon Sureshot but as of yet have not taken it on my daily walkabouts! Imho, taking pics with a phone and having the capability to upload then to Facebook, Twitter, my WordPress blog and emails is so convenient!

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Btw, speaking of walkabouts these pictures were taken at a Lookers I discovered one afternoon after my class at Warren Hardy in Centro. Pozole sopa is taken very seriously here and this little hole in the wall restaurante had the best I’ve ever had during my three winters here, hands down! Flavorful, chunky and served piping hot it truly was fantastico.

Now, my dilemma is to find it again so I can pass along the location that is just on the edge of what is considered Centro here in San Miquel de Allende. By the way, this generous meal in a bowl was considered chica/small!  They also sell Pozole by the litre for the carry out crowd!

Why I… or Anyone Travels

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This came across my Facebook feed this a.m. and I was compelled to post it in my blog. I’ve been wandering the world since I was 16 taking my first flight to Vancouver during the Easter holidays to escape Edmonton’s winter grip.

Oh, to see flowers blooming in March or April if Easter was late! And green grass and cedar and holly hedges! Those were the hippy dippy glory years of Gastown and a wondrous Mecca for this prairiegrrl.

I mostly had to work summers to pay for my university education; no student loans for me but when I started teaching well,  all bets of! When asked about any destination in the world my stock answer was ‘not yet.’ And I can proudly say that I only paid rent over the summer once when I was teaching. To maximize my ramblingrrl money I would put my things in storage and head to the airport on the day after the last day of school returning on Labour Day to scout for yet a new apartment.

And so it went until at 40 I heard the urgent voice of my deceased mother and perhaps my baba/grandmother, too imploring me to’settle down.’ So I bought an old Kitsilanoesque house in downtown Penticton on a double corner lot (maximum land, baba!) with nary a home inspection or any other research on what home ownership would actually entail besides making mortgage payments year round, a shocking new development for this ramblingrrl! To see my former house simply googlemap 401 Braid in Penticton, go to streetview and virtually’walk’ astound my old’hood.

Yes a house oh so easy to buy with the then 5 % down payment but 17 years later oh so problematic to sell I found out…but a deal was struck after twice being put in the market and the second time having 24, (a local real estate record for a the month listing!) showings with six offers the first five of which fell through. But that’s a whole different story best accompanied by beer to cry into…

But I digress…as I am wont to do.

TO be continued…Duty calls in the way of homework for this mornings Level 2 Warren Hardy Spanish class!

http://www.warrenhardy.com

The El Tianguis Tuesday Market In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico-What TripAdvisor Doesn’t Tell You » Eating The Globe

http://eatingtheglobe.com/el-tianguis-tuesday-market-san-miguel-de-allende-mexico/

This is really a fabuloso articles complete with tantalizing pictures of the Tuesday market here in SMA. It is really and truly a marvel and it emerges from a vacant empty lot at sunrise on martes and disappears with hardly a trace except some basura blowing around 12 hours later at sundown.

But what an amazing 12 hours it is! Just once before I head home I really must go there at dawn and watch them set up which I really must see to believe logistically with that many vendors in three different sections.

And we’re not talking a grid pattern with predictable aisles at right angles either. It is designed involuntarily or on purpose to lead the shopper here and there with sights, smells, taco stands and live music to keep you entertained AND parted with your peso. You absolutely never know what to expect as you head down yet another aisle that also has roving vendors.

Blender anyone?

As I mentioned, the pictures in this article are first rate and very evocative of the ambiance of the Tuesday market but don’t just take my word for out. Go and get one of those sturdy plastic woven bolsas you see sold everywhere and start making those deals!

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Los Milagros, San Miguel de Allende – Restaurant Reviews – TripAdvisor

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g151932-d2167367-Reviews-Los_Milagros-San_Miguel_de_Allende_Central_Mexico_and_Gulf_Coast.html

Thus is the location for the Volunteer Appreciation party for all the volunteers for the Literary Festival that closed last Monday after five spectacular days. I heard a lot of outstanding keynote speakers and met people from all over North America as well as members of the highly diverse and eclectic expat population here.

Should prove to be an excellente event!

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tiempre!  The picture below is Yann Martel, honest… The room was chockoblock packed and I was in the back in the peanut gallery seats!

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New Facebook Acquisition WhatsApp

http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/bits/2014/02/20/the-other-big-winner-in-the-whatsapp-deal-your-wallet/?smid=tw-nytimes&

Don’t want to pay for texts…like ever? Facebook has just acquired WhatsApp so free texting under the FB umbrella is the new frontier. The overpriced carriers are not happy because some of then charge as much as 20 cents a text.

Now that I’ve got an unlocked smartphone I am not tethered to my previous carrier, Koodo and I’m not going to be happy in May paying 50 dollars a month for the base plan with long distance and data extra.

Here in Mexico, in what is know as a developing country TelCel sold me a new SIM card with a San Miquel number for 100 pesos and I have two months worth of phone coverage for another 100 pesos, less that twenty dollars in all.

What’s wrong with this picture and who’s making all the money NOB?

Living the Dream for Less!

http://seniorcitizen.travel/favorite-travel-destinations/sunday-coffee-with-angela/

Anyone who’s know me for a long time know that I an rarely content with the status quo…for long. Probably responsible for my two dozen moves in three provinces and southern California. Seems like I’m either packing, unpacking or both!

Three years ago, I took the Freedom 55 off ramp to the big R knowing full well that I would not have a full pension, only a 20 year one cuz I put my Alberta’s teachers pension into what was my Kisilanoesque character dream house. I soon found out that even my maxed out salary was not enough, never enough.

But, I jumped off the deep end into RenoWorld which did hold my attention for about the first five years when it dawned on me that I was now part of house poor single women sisterhood everywhere. But, I soldiered on and renewed my mortgage three times using some equity for grad school at the University of Calgary, a summer in Cuba at Documentary Film school and right at the end of my stay a 2002 silver bullet Mustang convertible! The Honda dealer had Mavrik on the boulevard at the end of the driving season on October on a rainy, gloomy day. I spotted it enroute to Rona, ditching the painting project and went for a test drive!

To cut to the chase, now that I’ve embraced the snowbird lifestyle (different than when I went on vacation for one or two weeks) I have and am continuing to reconfigure my retirement life in a whole lot of different and evolving directions. And to think, three years ago, it wasn’t even my idea to come to Mexico for the winter! It was the exes idea and when we split up I still didn’t see the point of staying in Penticton in the winter. In the twenty years I lived there I had lots and lots of company but only once in the winter.

After my first four month stay in Ajijic at the wonderful Ajijic Suites on Calle Hidalgo I knew I was going to return only to sell my house at a price I could live with, take the money and run…to my newly adopted city of Nanaimo!

I arrived on a rainy night onCanada Day in 2012 regrettably to a subterranean suite with a view of the grass even though you walked in off the driveway. It basically served only as a 25 day garage storage place until my next place which was overpriced and in the southern suburbs. A place with no soul but double car garages galore stuffed to the rafters with stuff and whereby all the vehicles need to be parked either in the driveway our on the street.

Unfortunately thus was strike two in my quest to find a home,a real home that I would want to come home to.

I live in hope!

In Search of the Ultimate Tortilla Soup Recipe

http://food52.com/recipes/17263-rick-bayless-tortilla-soup-with-shredded-chard?from_related=1&related_src_type=recipe

There are so many wonderful and inexpensive restaurants in Mexico that out is difficult to resist going out for ant meal of the day a lot more often than you probably would at home. And the great thing is that the portions are actually people sized unlike North America where everything is supervised and there is a tremendous amount of waste in the average restaurant. Here, the ingredients are heroically fresh from the markets, locally made on site not sourced from Costco and served proudly by serving staff who look like they enjoy their jobs and are not just marking time until something better comes along.

For different kinds of restaurants I have a sort of’acid test’ for determining whether a place is worth a repeat visit. For Thai restaurants out is Pad Thai and for Mexican if el menu exists and has a selection of sopas exist it is tortilla soup!

Today before I dah of to the San Miquel Ninth Annual Literary conference I wanted to post a very interesting recipe for the ubiquitous tortilla soup that personally I prefer more chunky. As a traditional peasant soup I think it should have more substance and not be thin and more like consume with strips of tortillas floating around although I have been served this version much to my disappointment in a few fine dining establishments.

Like many things in life sometimes less is more. But for now, this very minute the trash/basura truck is coming some and I must shuttle my bags down a very long, long driveway to the very high iron gate and put it outside.

As you can see, even the basura bolsas/bags in Mexico are in colour!

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These 5 Countries Provide The Best Health Care In The World

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4773837

And yes, Mexico IS on the list and is ranked number five. I’m sure this is a factor in many people coming from other countries ranked lower moving here. I’ve only had one doctor’s visit in the three winters I’ve been here but it cost 200. pesos, I walked right into De.Rodriquez’s office in Ajijic without an appointment and was efficiently diagnosed.  A half hour later I left with a prescription for the same type of antibiotic I get in Canada for about half the price!

Other expat friends living in the Lakeside area who perhaps need to see specialists also find the full range just an hour away in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. It should be noted that many Mexican doctors are trained stateside.  The Mexican government takes health care seriously for both it’s citizens and expats who have a tremendous economic impact.

With the aging demographic of boomer expats, this may be one factor contributing to the changes of qualifying income for new jubiladas/jubilados. Last year, when the FM3 visas were discontinued there was a lot of anxiety within the existing expat community regarding the changes. This was lessened considerably when they found out that they would be ‘grandfathered’ in and would mot have to requalify.

What would effect them was that they could not keep foreign licence plates on their vehicles if they had one. If they wanted to keep them the vehicles would have to be nationalized and Mexican plated. For some this looms as a bureaucratic nightmare and they are prepared to transition into public transformation.

Fortunately in a place like Lakeside or even here in San Miquel de Allende this is quite feasible much to the amazement of Norte Americanos who consider their cars their legs. Here, public transport is cheap and frequent all over the city.  And between 35 and 60 pesos/five dollars taxi fare gets you absolutely everywhere you want to go around the clock!