Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Gravity of San Miguel

I am sitting in a hotel room high above Mexico City, looking at the smoggy clouds and feeling a bit of post-vacation blues. Technically, I am still on vacation, but I feel like I'm somewhere flat and drabby, where before, everything around me was a feast for my senses. Bright colors, laughing families, the aroma of tacos and gorditas. The entire city of San Miguel felt so alive, like it was pulling every ounce of my being into a soft embrace. We spent our last night roaming around taking pictures and videos, trying burn every ounce into our retinas.There haven't been very many places I've felt this type of connection, and same with David. There are artists, writers, musicians, just creative minds everywhere. We found ourselves having random conversations with Americans and Canadians in coffee shops, in bars, in taxis. Everyone is so friendly and open. It's like we all have this connection that says, "yeah, I get it. This place is magical. We are so lucky to get to share this moment here."We recorded a "what we'll miss" segment about San Miguel, which I will post with my favorite pictures on Monday. I think if I did it now, I'd get depressed. I already miss it so much, and I've only been away for 8 hours.

David and I spent our last evening at a romantic restaurant called, The Restaurant, and yes it was deserving of that name. We ordered a delicious bottle of Mexican Shiraz, and I had salmon and he had meatloaf. I had to see how tasty the Pacific Salmon was as far away as San Miguel, and it was delicious, just like Seattle. The restaurant is in a courtyard, with white Spanish architecture. The fountain behind us is filled with floating pink rose petas.
When the restaurant closes, it once again becomes just a door. No fancy signage, just a simple, wooden door. Everything here is about simplicity.

Goodbye, San Miguel, we will miss you so.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Botanical Gardens

We went to El Charco de el Ingenio today, which is a beautiful botanical garden located on a hilltop above San Miguel de Allende.

I love looking at all the native flora and fauna. It's so different than the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. I haven't seen desert like this since Arizona, or maybe parts of Texas.

I had to twist David's arm a little to come here, when I first recommended going he said, "I've been to a botanical garden before." Little did he know that EVERY botanical garden is different, and he's so glad he went.

Of course, today is the only day I really forgot to coat myself with sunscreen. And guess what? We randomly decided to go to the botanical garden after breakfast. IN THE BURNING HOT SUN. Luckily, I had suncreen on my face, but not my neck or arms. Now I have on a natural red necklace. Who needs diamonds and pearls?

We then walked to a canyon in the rocks, which didn't have much water, but was just beautiful.
Can you see those two tiny people standing on the edge of the cliff? Just watching them gave me vertigo, even though I was safely on a very wide trail on the other side of the canyon. I kept thinking they would slip, and it would be the worst thing in the world. Maybe they also thought that looking at us, although there was a good 15 feet between us and the edge.

And then our reward! A "mirador", or viewpoint to the city far, far, far, far below. Ok, I'm getting queasy just looking at these pictures.

And then, and even BETTER viewpoint, if you can imagine. This place was just stunning. I knew the sun was burning holes in my skin, but I just had to see the views. My poor skin was sacrificed for my memories.

Then, on our way back to our apartment, we had the cab driver drop us off at another "Mirador", only a couple streets from ours. The sun decided to bathe downtown in light, you can see the Parroquia and a couple other churches glowing in the distance.

Our apartment in San Miguel de Allende

I just wanted to show you all what one could get for $350 for 6 nights in San Miguel de Allende. We rented this beautiful apartment from a Vancouver, BC couple who spend 6 months of the year here. We are lucky they were in Puerto Vallarta for a week when we wanted to come to town. Below is our living room.

Now another view.

The kitchen.

The little dining room table where I sit and write my blogs.

The cozy bedroom. Too bad the beds in Mexico are harder than I'm used to. Oh well!

It's a well-decorated apartment with lots of art.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ahhhhh Mexico!!!

Today has been one of the best of our trip. We took a taxi out to Rancho Del Sol Dorado at 930 this morning, so I could go horseback riding. It was about 10 minutes of out town, and down a long, bumpy dirt road. The ranch is large, with dusty trails and cactus, and horses everywhere. Pure heaven for me. While there, I learned that Doc Severenson, a famous US trumpeter, is renting a house on the ranch.

They put a Western-style saddle on my horse Zapata, which is a Criollo horse. They explained to me that this means part Mexican mustang called an Azteca, and part Andalusian or Arabian. They are short and sturdy. I fell in love with this horse, who had spunk and curiosity.

I started off in the arena, just getting used to his feel, doing walks trots, canters and circles. He responded well to gentle touch, and peered cautiously of reflections in standing water.

It's so exhilarating riding fast through the dirt, with my hair flying behind me. We even got to gallop on the trail. There's something so powerful about feeling this horse thundering down the dusty road, and being a part of him for an instant. I had to hold him back with all my might, he would have run with the wind if I let him.

My guide, Roberto, was really good with horses, and I got to practice a lot of Spanish with him. His mare, the dappled gray, never walked, she pranced, the prissy little thing. I rode her later on and had a hard time getting her to slow down. I swear I got a bicep, stomach and leg workout today! I'm going to be SO SORE tomorrow.

While I was out riding, David relaxed in the backyard of one of the huge, stone guesthouses. I didn't even want to ask how much it cost to rent the place for a week. It was absolutely beautiful.

We took some time after my ride to lie in the sun and relax, this may be the first day I got a little sunburnt on my nose! Can you see us in the distance on our chaises? This was such a lovely experience, with the warmth on our face, and a slight breeze rustling the plants. The housekeeper brought out two fresh glasses of lemonade on ice, without even asking. The only sound was a rooster crowing, and dogs barking.

Ahhhhh, this is the life. But I wish I had an umbrella or hat. David just wants to get tan.

The owners were also very nice, a couple from San Francisco. The man was born in Mexico, but spent most of his life in San Fran until now. He and his wife moved here 5 and a half years ago, and built up the entire property. It seems like they have a thriving business here, renting out houses and giving horseback riding lessons and trail rides. I recommend it, and would definately come back!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I can't believe I ate the WHOLE thing!

Vacation has it's perks. Like eating. And drinking beer. And doing nothing. And eating....and eating more. And getting bloated....hmm that doesn't count. I've been eating so much that I feel like one gigantic avocado. I bet I ate 5 avocadoes today in all my Mexican meals. It's all been so delicious, though, that I'm counting on Tums to relieve my pain. And I only ate TWO meals today.We started the day in this beautiful resturant within a courtyard, a short distance from our apartment. David had eggs benedict, and I had an omelet with ham, cheese and mushrooms. We also had toast with jelly. And coffee with CREAM, instead of milk. Yes, it sounds very American, but my stomach needed a little break from the chili peppers. The atmosphere was incredible, and so was the service. The garden was just gorgeous, like an oasis in the desert.

After brunch, we walked, and walked, and walked, which is necessary if we don't want to gain 20 pounds while in Mexico, eating all that guacamole. The cobblestones and hills prove to be a pretty darn good workout. In the photo below you can see the Parroquia in the background.

I strolled the stores today, while David sat at a cafe and took photos of the locals, and foreigners. There's quite the eclectic mix of people here.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the sun? Sometimes I don't know how I survive Seattle winters. This is just heaven to me, standing with the sun on my face, without a care in the world.
One thing I've noticed in Mexico is that I feel really bad not giving to the beggers. In the United States, we're taught not to give anything to panhandlers, that they have other options, that they need to forge a way forward. But in Mexico, there aren't programs, and people are really living in abject poverty. There are women selling dolls, who's faces drop when I say no. And this old man with the two cans, said "no?" when I told him "no," like he was surprised. I felt SO guilty. I might have to start giving to these people.

We spent a lot of time today just "being", which means no real activities. The morning was spent doing laundry, then letting the close dry in the sun. I love having nothing I really HAVE to do. We took a lot of pictures though, which is one of our main hobbies on vacation. The Parroquia is brilliant as usual during the setting sun, also known as "magic hour."

The colors suddenly become more vibrant, as the sun displays her yellow rays on the brightly colored buildings.

Who's that handsome man standing against that brilliant building.

David Louis Castillo! That's who!

You see the umbrella behind him, because we are EATING AGAIN. I had a chicken taco, a chile relleno and cheese taco, and a gigantic salad. David had a chimichanga. Can you see my face getting fat yet? That's not another margarita, that's salt water! I swear!
"What are you talking about Kristin, you crazy girl! Of course its a margarita!" (never mind that I'm now talking to the blogosphere in David's voice)
Anyway, after that delicious, and extremely filling and avocado-drenched meal, we walked home. What!! I'm raising my good cholesterol by eating so much avocado! Then, David stepped in a bunch of burro crap.
Sorry, TMI. After the dung was successfully wiped from his shoe on cobblestones, we walked back to the apartment.
And the sunset! and view! from the balcony. Oh my, am I in heaven!
It's so beautiful. Tomorrow, we are taking the bus to Guanajuato, which is about an hour away. I here its the most "European" city in mexico, so we'll see what that's like and I'll be sure to post tons more pictures.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's a small world after all

David and I were sitting on our rooftop terrace this afternoon, taking pictures like this,

And this,When a woman living on the 3rd floor walked out and struck up a conversation with us. Turns out she's from Olympia, Washington, and decided to move out here with her husband and son to live for a year. Her other two kids flew down to spend Christmas in San Miguel, and she still owns a house back in the states. She looks tan, happy, and vibrant. What a dream to pack up and live in a foreign country for a year, especially a gem like this place.
It's been in the 70's and low 80's this entire trip, which to me is perfection, and to David too. It's so nice to not have to worry about chores, work, bills, and just bask in the warm, fresh mountain air. There isn't a trace of fog in San Miguel de Allende, which is a mile high, like Denver.

Today we woke up and had coffee on the rooftop terrace, then took a walk into downtown. You never know what you'll see each morning. I think the owner of these burros was trying to get us to give him money for this picture. We pretended not to understand.
The colors here are so vibrant, that I even find beauty in the dilapidated walls.
We found a little Mercado today, and walked through the lines of stalls. Some Mexican woman sat at low tables selling cactus and cilantro. Others display beautiful art - dishes, paintings, lamps. The Mercado was like a maze, every which way we looked we found another path to go down.

We spent a lot of the day shopping, browsing in stores, and eating and drinking beer. It's been all so relaxing, and have I mentioned how much I love the sun?