March 28, 2004

Chilpanzigo and Return to Curnavaca

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of my last days in Mexico.

English Students with Raphael
Students with Bill
Raphael Selling his Art
Andy, Ari and Nacho
Nacho's Little Girl - Andy

Friday, March 26th:
There is not much to say about this day. As I drove down the road that fronted the beach in Puerto Escondido, I spied a traveling artist from Wisconsin that I had seen the last two nights at the Rockaway. I pull over and lowered the window, a jokingly suggested that he accompany me to Wisconsin. To my surprise he accepted, at least at the moment to ride to Guerrero. We picked up his scant belongings, and we headed down the coast road toward Acapulco. After an hour or so of driving my companion, Rafael Collazo, for Lacrosse, had said that he would be glad to go all the way back to the states with me. I explained that it would not be a straight line dash for the border. I have some things to do in Chilpanzingo and Cuernavaca. Still, he seemed committed to the journey. The road wound on for hours. We only stopped for gas and tacos. At Cruce Grande, we turned north. This led us through the mountain and within a couple of hours, we were in Chilpanzingo. It had been a very long hard day of driving. And for a change I had covered real ground, nearly 300 miles. I could not raise Lalo on the phone, but we drove to his house anyway. To my surprise I discovered that his parents were living at the big house now. They could not put us up for the night, because they were going to Acapulco in couple of hours. We enjoyed a bit of conversation, ate some fruit and drank a wonderful dark beer, called Noche Bueno. I wanted to spend the night, so that I could teach a class in English the next day. I had called Tomas, who had originally invited me to do the class a couple of earlier, to find out where to go on Saturday. I was disappointed to discover that the class did not start until 3 PM, but still I thought that I would try doing the class for at least an hour. Lalo's dad showed us where the school was and where the cheap hotel Tomas had recommended was. We check in and went out for sopes and then play a couple of games of pool. That pretty much ended our long day and the journey to Chilpanzingo.

Saturday, March 27, 2004:
We had almost nothing to do. I just took it easy and spent some time in the Zocalo. The class did not start until three in the afternoon. I arrived a few minutes early. Tomas showed up minutes later. We were only going to stay for an hour. We did introductions and then asked for questions. This took about 15 minutes. Then we broke up into two groups: Raphael in one and me in the other. We both enjoyed the teaching. But the one hour turned into two. Teaching is hard work. So it was a quarter to six before we were on the highway north. A little more than an hour later we were in Cuernavaca. It is amazing how fast and expensive the toll roads are. I could not locate anyone on the phone. So, we head down to the party plaza to drink beers and to see if Raphael could sell some of his art. An hour or so later, Nacho and I connected and we were drink beers in the Plaza. He had worked all day and was bushed. We soon headed to his place.

Sunday, March 28, 2004:
We drove up the mountain to eat at a wonderful little eatery. I started with a bowl of consume de barbacoa. I had quesadias of bull's brains and corn smut, then a green chorizo taco. I just wanted to hang with Nacho. We did some typical Sunday shopping. We got back to his place, Nacho, Andy and Raphael watched a Disney movie. And I slave away at this blog.

There may be one more entry of the travel journal, before I return to some more ordinary entries. I plan to leave for the states tomorrow or Tuesday. After two months away, I am looking forward to seeing the old homestead.

Posted by bill at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2004

Puerto Escondido: Falling Through the Looking Glass

The Puerto Escondido Beach by the Rockaway Hotel

Press HERE to see a slideshow from the Oaxacan State.

Wednesday, March 24th:
Once again I drove down a winding Oaxacan road, highway 175 to Puerto Angelo. It was not as winding nor did it reach the same heights as the highway that runs to the northeast. Still it was a chore. It took roughly five hours to traverse the 250 Kilometers. It started out with near perfect conditions in Oaxaca. At first the road fairly straight and has sections where I can let the Passat fly. But before long I am climbing. The temperature descends. Compared to the road north where I saw few settlements in the mountains, there appear to be many small villages in these mountains. For the first time since I came to Mexico, it is raining while I am driving. With the roads a bit slicker, I must take even greater care and the switchbacks take me down to the coastal plains. I drove into Puerto Angelo. Cute and small, I had already decided to go to Puerto Escondido, which was less than an hour away. The one hour drive led me by some beautiful coastal land, much of which was for sale. I drove around a bit in city. Once again due the cold I caught, I lost the hearing in my left ear. The pressure change seem to reek havoc on my hearing. Anyway, I eventually started looking for a hotel. I
I ended up at the Rockaway. The beach in front of it is good for surfing but much to dangerous to swim in. The undertow is severe, the wave break at more that 12 feet, and the pounding roar of the surf is ever prevalent. The Rockaway has a series of small grass cabañas with cement floors and most of the amenities one could desire at the beach - including a bar, a pool, food, and little grocery store.
It was happy hour now, and I felt the Mad Hatter enter the scene. Yes, I must have fallen through the looking glass. The crowd slowly grew, it was primarily Americans and Canadians over the age of fifty. One might describe them as aging hippies. The men most wore long hair and ponytails. One on the elder statesmen, a self-proclaimed retired medical marijuana grower had a beard that reminded me of a ZZ-Top bandsman. The women were only slightly more conventional. But still they had that look of aging hippies. Some said the night before that magic mushrooms had made their way to some of the group. I found my self chuckling and loving every minute of it. Jeez, am I an aging hippy. No, I was always to left for that - but still it was a pleasant, easy-going life style.
Before long, dinner was served. What a dinner it was too: fish and shrimp stuffed in two giant cannelloni. It had a delicious taste. I guess they serve only one dish each night at seven o'clock. It varies from night to night. Many of the people at the bar come from all about the town to eat and drink the ten-peso beers and the twenty-five peso two-for-one happy hour mixed drinks. After dinner, the live music by the Argentinean rock band cranked up. They played until ten. People danced, especially Peaches. She was really into it. The bar close when the band stopped. Many of the patrons head off home or to other bars. With a day of hard driving, a lot of good food in my stomach and a half-a-dozen beers in my gut, I called it a night.

The Rockaway Pool, Bar and Patio

Thursday, March 25, 2004:
My goal was to just take it easy. I really have not had a day of doing absolutely nothing since I left Minnesota. I walked down to the beach to watch the surfers, and eat breakfast. Even the roiling sea along this coast seemed to easy the beast in me. In the late morning I drove in to the center of the small town for more decongestants. And then I looked for a beach to swim at. I took the smaller and slight less beautiful beach called Puerto Angelito, because it was easier to get to. Unlike the other beaches, this one is filled with Mexicans. I swam and lay on the beach for an hour or so. Then I returned to my hotel to lay by the pool and listen to a book, drink beer and swim a bit. The same crowd from the night before came and went and the afternoon progressed.
The evening led most of the crowd from the night before and a few new faces to me. There was even a guy, Jerry, from Minnestrista. I did get many of their names and will remember them for years to come.

A Few Regulars at The Rockaway Hotel
rockawayBar.jpg digger-crow.jpg peter.jpg

Posted by bill at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

On to Oaxaca

Press HERE to see a slideshow from the Oaxacan State.

Oaxacan Park
IMG_2028: Park
Cathedral of Oaxaca
IMG_2027: Cathedral
Oaxacan Street View
IMG_2025: Street Scene
Paula and Martin
IMG_2052: Paula and Martin

Monday, March 22nd:
The day went pretty well, except I left my flash memory card in an internet shop; and I really cannot go back to get it. I checked in the cost of replacing it here. Like so much else of the electronic world, such devices cost three to four time more in Mexico than the USA, in other words, what cost less than $30 in the states cost more than $100 here.
After leaving Catemoc, I drove to east to Tuxtla then south to Isla and then east again to Tuxepec. Maybe because it was Sunday, I fond no troops at the state border to search my car. Now I was on highway 175 headed south to Valle Nacional. All day long the terrain was flat of rolling hills. I saw fields every where and all was green. In some places it was so verdant that it felt like a jungle - maybe it was. After Valle National there was much less traffic on the road. I began to climb and climb and climb - often on some incredibly winding switchbacks. Then I descended into a valley only to climb once again. Eventually I climbed into the clouds. The thick fog made for slow going always in first gear - steeper and high. Frighten that I might collide with an on coming vehicle - the flashers were engaged. Finally I began to descend again and leave the clouds behind. I also left the verdant hills behind as the landscape grew more arid. And down and down I drove. I have no idea how high the pass was, but Oaxaca is more than 5000 feet above sea level. It took all day to get to this city. I started looking for a hotel. I was surprised that most of those worth staying at were quite expensive, more than 300 pesos a night. I met a Chilean couple, Martin and Paula Perez, along the way, who were also searching. We ended up checking out several together. My now it was nearly 8 PM. I had lost my hearing in my left ear due to my cold and the trip over the mountains. So, tired and a bit dazed I settled on a hotel that was a bit expensive, but nice. The Chileans choose the same hotel, so we went out for supper and some beers. After diner we continued to talk, but I was soon exhausted I bade my leave. By morning I could once again hear out of my left ear.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004:
I wandered about in the morning on the city street. Oaxaca seems to be one of the least frenetic of the larger Mexican cities that I visited, or maybe it just isn't that big. It is laid out in a grid, and all the streets are one way with every street going the opposite of the previous. They also have traffic lights on most of the corners. All this makes it easy to get around. The buildings appear to be mostly about one hundred years old, some more, some less. They are mostly one or two stories high. The colonial look, which they give to the city, makes it a beautiful place. If you look beyond the city, it is surrounded by mountains. There appear to be a lot of tourist here, which surprised me. I thought it would be the most Mexican of all the cities that I had been to, but this is not the case.
I drove around the city a bit. The northern part of the city has some very pretty neighborhoods. On the southern part of the city is their big (?!) airport and two shopping malls. I found a great radio station here that plays a mix of blues, jazz, some folk and the occasional oldie; a real change to the all Latino and even worse all rock stations that are so common here. I have to admit that I am really starting to like this place!
Then I drove up to the mountain to the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Albán. This is one of the best archeological sites that I have visited in Mexico. It covered several acres. The ruins are large and beautiful. Or maybe it was just the day, because the views of the city were spectacular for up here too. I could see a jet taking off four miles away. The sky was full of beautiful clouds that gave Monte Albán near perfect lighting.

Oaxaca from Monte Albán
IMG_2051:Oaxaca from Monte Albán

Photographs of Monte Albán

Posted by bill at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2004

The State of Veracruz

Press HERE to see a slideshow of the State of Veracruz.

Boys from Mexico City at San Juan de Ulúa
Pastoral Coastal View

The last few days have not been all that great, because my cold has been slowly going through the stages: a very sore throat for a few days, then my nose starts running like crazy. My head feels like a stuffed melon. Of course, the cold is wearing on me, and it is probably going to last several more days. It has slowed me down a bit, but at least I am still going.

Saturday. March 20th:
I got a late start. It was noon before I dropped two audio books off Helene's home. She was not there as promised. It seems that some last minute travel plans had sent her to Mexico City at four in the morning. However, her parents were home and had been expecting me to come by and drop the books off. They are a lovely couple, friendly and kind. The home was beautiful and not too big. The walls were adorned with the beautiful paintings of Helena's grandfather, who painted in Paris during the 60's.
Veracruz is a nice city with many nice neighborhoods; my only complaint would have to be the humidity. I should have gotten out before sundown, but I didn't. I did drive to the Malecon to eat at Café del Parroquia. This area is hugely popular with the local. The large café was full of all kinds of people in family groups. I had wanted to see a bit of dancing and listen to some salsa music, so I dropped by Hotel Lois. I was too early, so instead of returning in an hour or two I called it a night. I just didn't have the energy to party.

Sunday, March 21, 2004:
In the morning I visited San Juan de Ulúa, an old Spanish fort and warehouse storage and customs area. Then I drove south along the coast to have lunch at Pardiño's in Boca del Rio. I was a lovely restaurant in a pretty little suburb along the coast where a major river flows into the sea. I was left about 12:30 headed for Catemaco. I had decided to not to take the normal road so that I would not do any back tracking. It was a beautiful ocean side drive, green fields, small village - the only one whose name I remember is Nueva Victoria. Then suddenly I was in a construction zone where a new road was being built. I was not the roughest going, because most of the new road was graded. But then I ended up on the worst road so far. It took two hours to cover the last 40 kilometers. It was more like a rock fill wash than a road and it was very stressful. But finally the dirt and rock trail finally ended and I was on pavement again. The last 10 kilometers to Catemoc were a breeze. This town is next to the beautiful La Laguna de Catemoc. It is a beautiful natural lake with fishing and swimming and lots of Mexican tourists. I tried to make the most out of the last hour of light. I walk around a bit. The town is very small and takes no time to look around. After a dinner of chicken soup, I finally watched a movie on my computer, the short and simple Disney's Sinbad. It was about all my cold addled mind could handle.

Posted by bill at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2004


Press HERE to see a slideshow
of the State of Veracruz.

Kindergarten Hitchhikers
Hélène and Me

Thursday, March 18th:
I woke up with a sore throat, and it stuck with me all day.
The drive to Jalapa (or Xalapa) at first looked much like the rest of Mexico, although there were more trees in this basically desert environ. The drive was going very well, until I got to the state border with Veracruz. Crossing into Veracruz, my car was once again searched by army personnel. God does this piss me off. It is such a waste. I will try to write more about the security problem at another time, but I will say now that Mexico is security crazy. Right after passing the border I found myself driving through wet lands, a weird swamp land that was baisically grass and sand with standing water here and there. Then the desert returned. In Perote, the last desert town I say three women hitchhiking. Since there were well dressed, I was intrigued. I stopped and picked them up. They were kindergarten teachers hitchhiking to their homes in Jalapa after working the morning in Perote. We talked some, but not much. About halfway to Jalapa the environment was completely transformed. Suddenly it is green pastures everywhere, just totally verdant. I was simply shocked, because since my trip began I had basically only seen the desert.

Cascada de Texolo

I went out to eat. I end up eating at the restaurant, La Sopes. I meet a young woman who is an apprentice jeweler and is studying 3 languages: English, French and Italian. Her name is Hélène Archer Peclers. If Jorge wasn't such a cad I would say this woman was perfect for him. We talked until 11 pm. She really enjoyed the chance to practice her English. We agree to meet the next night and have diner together.

I was much sicker in the morning; it was a cold. I thought I was going to loose my voice because I sounded like a frog. I dropped my laundry off, ate breakfast and headed out. I visited Cascada de Texolo in Xico. It is a popular tourist site in a pretty little town about 30 minutes from Jalapa. On the way back I stopped at Vinos Bautista, thinking I would sample some local wine. They don't really produce wines; they are more like liquors or aperitifs. I tried several, but they were not the kind of liquors that I like. I also tried to visit the park Cerro de Macultepetl. Because of the cold my strength was sapped and I could not climb and there was no road. After picking up laundry, I took some Tylenol and went to slept from 3 to 6 pm.
In the evening I met Hélène for diner. She got a chance for a couple of more hours of practice. After diner she was off to a party and I called it an early night, hoping all the sleep with help me get over the cold faster.

Posted by bill at 10:17 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2004


Betty suggested that I head some 40 miles north to Tlaxcala. I arrive in early afternoon. I found a wonderful little hotel with large rooms and a fantastic view. I paid 200 pesos and it was worth every centavo. I could not have been happier with finding it. This is a very charming little town. The buildings are well maintained. Some of them are 500 years old. I walked all over the town in about four hours, seeing the theater, a small chapel, the basilica, the main plaza, the town hall with its fantastic murals. In my wandering I met a letter carrier. They make about $500 a month. I saw his apartment. I could not like in such a place. It was an interesting encounter. I went to a museum of local handicrafts. One thing they produce here is pulque, liquor similar to tequila - but made from a relative of the agave.
In the evening I went I had an excellent dinner. I asked for a typical plate from Tlaxcala and received Pollo Tocatlan. After dinner, I stopped at a bar that had tap beer, an extreme rarity in Mexico. I spent an hour or two chewing the fat with the bartender, a waiter - Oskar, and the bar owner's son - Marko. There is little to do in these sleepy little towns in the evening. So, I quickly called a day.

Press HERE to see a slideshow of Puebla and Tlaxcala.

Bird's Eye View of Tlaxcala

Posted by bill at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

March 16, 2004


Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Puebla and Tlaxcala.

Ricardo, Bill and Pancho

In Puebla

Monday, March 15th:
I left for Puebla about noon. Jorge and I had to return the electronic map of Mexico that I had bought on Sunday night. I could not install it because in required a floppy disk drive; something my new laptop does not have. I dropped him in Coyoacan so that he could tutor a photographic student. Then I was off. I did not make even one wrong turn. The road was much slower than what I had thought it would be. It is only 80 miles to Puebla, but it was more that three hours to central Puebla. Such are the free roads. Often these ways are more interesting, but it was not so on this trip.
After settling in at a hotel that I had doubts about, I had some great mole enchiladas. I tried to get some more info from the tourist bureau, I check a couple of other hotels - based on their recommendations. But I did not find what I wanted. Then I went to music bar, where it was just too mellow. Based on what I saw, it was romantic stop for couple. The square where it was located was very pretty. Anyway, I left after one beer. I found another bar, where a couple of students Ricardo and Pancho struck-up a conversation with me. It was fun. Ricardo was studying to be a vet and Pancho to be a dentist. Pancho said that he would show me the down on Tuesday, which I thought would be great. It was about eleven, and despite the early hour, I decided to call it a night, because I was tired.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004:
I checked out one final hotel in the morning, one that Lalo had recommended, the Reforma 2000. It was real nice with parking, but the room was a bit small for the 200 pesos. Since I had not see a cockroach yet in the Virreyes, I decided to say one more day. After breakfast, I tried calling Pancho. I was not able to get a hold of him. I also called in the afternoon and talked to Ricardo and left my number - but he never called back. Anyway in the morning, I tried driving around the city. The map that I got at the information office was not very good. But I got to see the good and the bad of the city. Outside of the downtown it is very similar to Cuernavaca. The nicer neighborhoods are close to the universities. There are more than four universities here. There is a lot of new construction going on. But there was nothing appealing in these newer neighborhoods because of the dry, treeless landscape. The nicer areas are always hard to get a good sense of because the wall around the property is a requirement. I don't know why, but I laid down for a nap when I got back from my drive. I was gone for about two hours.
I had gotten a taste of el centro the night before. Now I was walking and taking photos. Puebla's center is incredibly beautiful the buildings are from the 1800's - most in a baroque - rococo style. Block after block of buildings in this style and for the most part they are in excellent condition. They are often adored with tiles that form beautiful designs. I walked for two or three hours, and because it was late afternoon and early evening, the streets were full of people shopping and enjoying the fading light of day. Without a doubt this center has just about as much charm as the smaller Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende.
In the evening I ate some great tacos at new taquerilla. Then I tried to find some night life. I did find a block similar to the party plaza of Cuernavaca, but I thought it all fairly tame. Mexicans really reserve Friday and Saturday nights for going out. After a couple of beers and no conversations, I hiked back to my hotel.

Puebla Photographs
puebla2.jpg puebla3.jpg puebla4.jpg

Posted by bill at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Mexico City

Press HERE to see a slideshow of Mexico City.

Part of Mexico City Cathedral
First Mexico City Cantina
Mexico City Post Office
First Sanborns
Sunday Street Theater

Friday, March 12th:
I had hoped to go to Mexico City before noon by following Jorge. I could not seem to locate him in the morning. I got his cell number and Mexico City number from Daniel. Only problem was that the cell number was old. I packed, loaded my gear into the car, and did some writing in the morning. I had said my good-byes to Josee and Maribel early in the morning. And as I left the Jimenez compound about noon, I bade Noé hasta luego. I went to Nacho's office, where I finally got a hold of Jorge. He said that I should come after 8:00 PM. I really wanted to leave for Mexico before dark, but as the afternoon progressed, Nacho discovered that there was a big demonstration in Mexico such that the traffic was blocked. That explained why Daniel had been stuck in traffic and hardly moved for more that one hour. He had been in Mexico to get visas for some of his karate students that will go to Dallas to compete in the Chuck Norris competition. So, I stay in Cuernavaca. About 8:30 I finally heard from Jorge that it was a good time to come. Right then Nacho and I were on our way to Arturo's to eat tacos and drink beer. I let Jorge know that it would be at least an hour before I could leave. An hour later I was on the toll road to Mexico. Jorge met me at a Burger King and I followed him to his house. We went out to check out a couple of bars in Coyoacan. They were pretty tame but still good meeting places.

Saturday, the 13th:
We were up and breakfasted before noon. We picked up Jorge's current girl friend, Ceci, before we drove to with in a block of so of a green-line metro station. We took the underground train to the Zocala. It is a magnificent plaza at the center of the city. We entered the cathedral. It was a magnificent structure that appeared to be two-hundred or more years old. The president's offices are also on this plaza. Hundreds of vendors filled the open spaces with their wares. We walked to the first cantina in Mexico City. It was just a simple old bar. We each had a shot of mescal that was way too expensive for Mexico. Back on the street we walked through the downtown walking by many beautiful old buildings. One could clearly see not only the Spanish influence on the structures, but also the French influence. One of the coolest buildings was the first big post office. I thought that it was like to have been built between 1870 and 1900. It used a tremendous amount of wrought iron in its construction. We got a chance to have coffee in the tile house, where the first Sanborns was established. Sanborns is the biggest department store chain in Mexico. We got only a brief look at the art museum. It was closing by the time we arrived. I would have like to seen the large Rivera mural that is displayed there. Soon we were back on the metro.
We were tired and just talked and hung out in the evening. Danielle came by and joined us for drinks and tacos. We had a good time. We should have gone out and by the time Jorge felt like going, midnight, I just wanted to crash.

Sunday, March 14, 2004:
To say we got out of the house late today would be an understatement. We went to a great area in Coyoacan where there was an abundance of small plazas and hundreds of street vendors, and dozens of street performers. We wandered around, had cappuccinos, talked the odd street vendor and watched the people having a good time.
My first impressions of this city are extremely positive. It is a beautiful city with wide boulevards, trees, and green-space. The downtown is vibrant and extremely beautiful. We drove through a few neighborhoods on the south side of the city. They were all nice, some richer than others but all with nice looking homes and clean streets.
Int the evening we looked for some fun bars. Sunday night is a very quite night in Mexico City. We went to many of the typical night light places only to find them empty. Eventually we found a fun bar and drank a pitcher. I am off to Puebla now.

Posted by bill at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2004

Cuernavaca, the Countryside

Press HERE to see a slideshow of going to Cuernavaca.

The Church in Atlatlahuacan

Wednesday, March 10th:
By midmorning I had arrived at Lalo’s office. I came to post my BLOG and to talk about places to visit. Because I could not use his connection wire, I took out my wallet and removed the flash memory stick that I carry. I also wanted some advice on a place to drive to in Morelos. While I drove off in the countryside, Lalo, Erik and Josephina went to a graduation ceremony in Mexico City. The first part of the drive to Cuautla was uneventful and I turned north toward Atlatlahuacan. Before long I was driving through a small village, looking for an old church. I found it but not the entrance. I asked a passing woman for directions, which she gladly provide. She asked me to by some of her fruit. I agreed and reached for my wallet. I was shaken to discover that it was neither in my pocket, nor in the car. I thought long and hard about where it might be. I was immediately worried that I had dropped it when I stopped to use the bathroom. Then I hit upon it; I left it and the flash memory in Lalo’s office. Now my only worry was confirming that and getting some one to let me into his locked office. Well, there was nothing that I could do about either right then, so I went to the entrance of what at first I had assumed to be a church in ruin. To my surprise it only looked a bit disheveled, because as I entered the church, I beheld a very pretty interior. The best part was the flowers; hundreds of bouquets adorned the church. Continuing my journey, still with a bit of angst about the wallet – I passed through Tlayacapan where I had intended to look around a bit. When I got close enough to Cuernavaca to get a cell signal, I called Louis. It was a good thing that I caught him, because he was just about to leave. He told me Patty could let me in to the office. A few minutes later he called back to say that he had found my wallet. I went over and hung out with Nacho for a while. Lalo called and asked me to meet him and go to a movie. Erik, Josephina, Nellie, Lalo and I all piled into my car and off we went. We saw Captain and Commander – the Far Side of the World. It was a good war movie, but still a war movie – no favorite of mine.

A View of Taxco

Thursday, March 11th:
I had decided to drive to Taxco. Taxco is an old silver mining center that today is a tourist destination for people looking for a quaint city to visit and buy some inexpensive and beautiful silver jewelry. Unlike so many towns, this one has no industries surrounding it. I suspect because the terrain is so rough. When I got there I quickly discovered that I had not brought much cash. Credit card use is only available at a few of the more expensive stores. Still it is a great place to visit, with its steep winding streets, colonial buildings, and fantastic views. I stopped to talk to a number of people and enjoyed learning what I could about the town. After a couple of hours I drove north thinking that I might visit a village along the way to Iguala. This drive is extremely beautiful as you descend from the heights of Taxco to the valley below. I stopped in Iguala for gas, and gave the common order fill-it-up. The problem was that I didn’t think about how much money that I had. The gas emptied my pockets; a problem as I had planned to take the toll road back. So I doubled back through Taxco and got to Cuernava a little after 7:30 PM. I went straight to Jorge’s where a little party had already started. Most of those who came to the party were students. I tried to get most of their names. There was Danielle, who had lived in Madison for a year and spoke near perfect Midwestern English. There was Oscar and his girl friend, Alma. There was Denise, an accounting student. Nachos and his friend, Arturo, came as did Daniel and Lety. There was Coral, a flight attendant for Mexicana Airlines, who was very well-travel and was athletic looking. There was Paco, the architect, and his wife. From him I learned that typical, but good, construction costs for new homes were 5000 pesos per square meter or about $45 per sq. ft. I had some great conversations. If things work out I will visit Jorge in Mexico City this weekend.

Fiesta de Jorge

Denise, Jorge, and Danielle
Alma and Oscar
Paco and his Wife
Daniel and Lety

Another twist in the plans came this morning when I learned that a nephew of the Jimenez’s and his family will come to visit them from France early next week. So, I may shift gears and go visit some other locals in Mexico – then return to Cuernavaca in a week or two.

Posted by bill at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Cuernavaca, Two Slow Days

Monday, 8th March:
I spent the entire day with Nacho. It was great to see him again. Like everyone here he and his life have changed a bit. What all my friend seem to have in common is the late twenties weight gain. Nacho certainly has not been left out. His sense of humor is still going strong. He is not only working at the university, he has aspirations to be a research professor. He and his wife are work on Master's degrees together. It sounds a bit like me and Betty. Neto is also still working on server maintenance for the university library. We talked for a long time about the change in our lives. He asked me to help with a new project, and if I find the time, I will help. We dropped his car for repairs on the way to a short lunch. And later in the afternoon Daniel Corona appeared in the office. Seeing them reminded me of when I first saw the two of them and Lenin together. It is clear that they are much like brothers. They asked about Lenin, and I filled them in as much as I could. It is a pity that they don't communicate much with Lenin these days. Before long, we drove to Cuautla, a town about 40 miles from Cuernavaca, where Daniel and Nacho hope to rent a storefront and open a new library. It seemed like a typical mid-sized Mexican town. The one big difference is that it is flat. We spent a couple of hours check out several stores that were for sale. We were too late coming back for Nacho to pickup his car, so we went to his office. We were waiting for Jorge to get home. Jorge is a young filmmaker who lives in Mexico City. His mother has a nice three bedroom apartment here in Cuernavaca. When he finally got to this apartment we headed over, expecting to drink beers. Unfortunately, we needed to go to the supermarket to get some. We also go some food for tacos. The beers and tacos were great. I really liked Jorge. He is an open, friendly, well-traveled guy. We swapped stories about places that we had been. He had some great stories about a job that he got in Spain. All his money had run out and a friend that worked for a travel agency asked him to be a translator for some Spaniards traveling to the southern parts of Africa. He came to Cuernava to make a film about a guy that makes rocket-fuel, some peroxide mix. The stuff sounded incredibly dangerous. They plan to use it power a motorcycle for a few seconds - and in the meantime speed it up to 250 kph. Sometime amid all the banter, Daniel had cooked up a pan full of delicious meat for the tacos. Again it was a very enjoyable day and evening. A little after 11:30, I drove up the mountain to the Jimenez casa. All did not turn out quite right. Noé and Josee must have been in a deep sleep, because the 20 minutes that I rang the bell brought no one to the gate. I called Nacho and headed for his house. A few minutes later he called to say that if it would be easier to find to go to Jorge's house. It was easier and I slept at Jorge's.

Tuesday, March 9th:
Noé told me that should that happen again, just to knock on the window of the rental house, so they could let me in. Josee was late getting to work. She made a nice breakfast of fresh orange juice and leftovers- tasty and filling. After she left for work I washed the dishes and got ready for the day. Noé gave me a key for the gate, so I figure I won't have to sleep at Jorge's again. I had planned to make my way into the countryside, but it was not to be. On my way down the hill I stopped at a cell phone shop that handles the MovieStar phones. I wanted to get a local number. He had no chips, but he said that I could find them on the far south of town. I dropped by Nacho's office. He needed a ride to get his car. I dropped him off and headed south. I found the store. The ole Mexican wait forever sign was blinking. So 40 minutes later, I discovered that this large office had no chips for sale. What the hell were they doing? Nada! They put me on to anther office in a mall, called Plaza Cuernava. Finally, I made it to the mall half-way back to the university. Here I was told, no - the new chip was not 50 pesos, it was 200 pesos. But I would get 300 pesos of air time. He explained again how the rate system worked. Seem that if you don't buy a lot of air time up front the cost of each call is very high. As far as I am concerned the low rates are high. I got the new chip and I bought some more minutes. Having spent all my money, except two pesos, I nearly had an altercation with the parking lot people. I love the pay lots here. They are everywhere. In the late afternoon, I got a chance to meet Nacho's wife again, and see his little girl - a bright little girl who is four now.
We were invited back to Jorge's for pizza and beer in the evening, but we never heard from him. I got back to the Jimenez house about 7:30 and was I hungry. When Maribel got home from school about, we went out to eat and talk. She appreciates the English practice. She has good schoolbook sense of English, but not a strong ear for it. When we got back I watched a bit of Mexican TV, and sacked out.

Posted by bill at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2004

Return to Curernavaca

Thursday, the 4th of March:
I decided to head toward Toluca, and if I did not find anything interesting along the way, I would continue on to Cuernavaca. There were to changes that I noted. First was the large number of cultivated fields. The area where I was coming from north of San Juan del Rio is desert. Here I saw fields prepared for planting and in on case the field had a dozen or more farm workers planting seeds or small plants. Toluca did not see to offer much so I pressed on. There was one town in along the mountain's edge that may have been great - but I was so close to Cuernavaca that I had to press on. The two-hundred mile journey took five or so hours. I even relented to use a bit of a toll road, because the speed bumps seemed to be getting bigger and the road windier without need. I really hate the use of speed bumps to control the traffic. It wreaks havoc on the cars, and they show a great distrust of the Mexican people to obey the law.
I arrived about four in the afternoon. The familia Jimenez was not at home. I decided to drive to the University and look for Josee. No luck there, because the Nursing School has moved to new digs way across town. Josee said that she was leaving shortly and I drove back to her house. I was only parked a few minutes when Noé drove up in his white pick-up truck. It was not too long before Arturo and Josee arrived. Arturo is Josee's nephew. He is working at the nursing school and working on an industrial engineering degree and the university. I called Lalo and he said he would be over about seven or eight. It turned out to be about 8:30 before he arrived with his girlfriend, Nellie. Meanwhile Arturo had left and then returned with his girlfriend, Talia. Sometime along the way Maribel showed up. She is Arturo's sister and lives with Noé and Josee while studying English at the university. By 10:30 everyone was either talked out or thinking about the next day at work and school, because I was the last one standing. I was supposed to have stayed at the casa on Monte Casino, but everyone was asleep and I had no idea how to get there. So, I slept on that wonderful sofa of theirs.

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of going to Cuernavaca.

At Las Fuentes
Lalo and Nellie
Louis and Juliet
Erik and Josephina

Friday, March 5th:
I woke about eight very refreshed. Noé and Josee were just coming back from an early morning walk. She asked me to make hotcakes, and I readily agreed. Despite working from scratch with no recipe, there turned out pretty good. I always love the breakfasts in the Jimenez home with lots of fresh fruit and excellent coffee and today hotcakes!
I gave Mari belle and Josee rides to the university and the new facilities for the school of nursing. She must be some kind of a miracle worker, because has built the school to a level where it merited new facilities and had acquired funds to build the most amazing miniature campus on the other side of Cuernavaca. The place has a design the pulls in all together with buildings shaped as soft semicircles and a small courtyard. The natural lighting and ventilation adds life to these beautiful new edifices. Josee gave me the tour. We saw several class rooms along with a substantial amount of new equipment. I was reintroduced to several people that I met two years ago and some new staff. I was extremely surprised to find Lalo's brother, Erik, working here. When he was studying medicine at the University of Puebla, he was at the top of his medical class five years in a row. Josee must also be a great recruiter. She is an amazing woman. I am sure that the University of Morales will miss her when she retires in June. They are planning a month-long European vacation in July. Since my friends Luis and Lalo work for the nursing school, I spent some time gabbing and showing them my web site. Then I was off again looking for the CD map program, which once again turned out to be a waste of time. After that I dropped by the main university looking for Nacho. I had no luck there either, as he was off to Mexico City for the day and maybe the weekend. I also stopped by the building where America works. She is the sister of Jessica, and Jessica is the daughter-in-law of Noé and Josee. Before mid-day I made my way back to Josee's house. I worked a bit on this entry and then Noé and I were off to Monte Casino. It was nearly a disaster, because the hills or so steep my car was having trouble negotiating them. The worst hill nearly burned my clutch out. The problem was a speed bump in middle of the hill. Now I slow to a near stop when they are as big as this one was. It this case it was a huge mistake. Without any initial momentum, I could only kill the engine or smoke the clutch. So I backed down the hill. And got a running head start and barely slowed down at all for the bump. I just cannot understand the logic of why this one was place there. I was pretty freaked out by the rough roads that seemed to climb at angles not suitable to the gearing and power distribution of my Passat. When we finally got to the house, we sat and drank a beer. Noé as I feared that I had damaged the clutch to the point of needing it replaced. He says that $500 will probably cover it here in Mexico - and that he says is a real bargain. It kind of hurt when he said that it was not just the clutch, but that I was a poor driver - and that I may be on mountain roads like these.
Before long we were headed back down the mountain. I called Lalo and he told me that he was as the restaurant, Las Fuentes. Arturo was kind enough to write down directions. That would not have been all that bad, if I had been a Mexican. So I was off down the hill and on to the freeway. Not without some difficulty, I finally found the restaurant. The restaurant had one building for its kitchen and another for its bathrooms. In the large expanse in between was a large patio that was covered with roof of canvass. On one side the patio opened onto some ponds. When I arrived, I was surprise to see that I new many of the people at the table. Of course Nellie was with Lalo. Louis was there along with his brother, Ricardo, and his girlfriend, Juliet. I have not met Juliet before. She is quite beautiful with an angular face and penetrating dark eyes; she is also well proportioned and I think tall for a Mexican woman. She is a lawyer who works for the bank that has the nursing school's accounts. Louis is the main bookkeeper or finance director for the nursing school. At the other end of the long table was another couple that I did not know. I know that she also is at the nursing school. A while after I arrived, Lalo's brother, Eric, and his fiancé, Josephina, joined us. The food was primarily of the sea and although not spectacular it was pretty good. I had ceviche, tuna, and fish empanadas. With this and some beers I really began to enjoy the setting. Besides the good company, the ambience was mustered by some excellent music. There was a sing dressed in a Mexican cowboy outfit that included a large sombrero, a play gun strapped to his belt, decorated and matching shirt and pants, and boots. He sang his heart out for the three or so hours I was there. He made the rounds at the table and tried to get the patrons to sing parts of the well-known songs that he entertained us with.
After we left Lalo, Nellie and I headed for the Plazuela del Zacate that is like one huge outdoor bar. It makes for good people watching. The beers are cheap - 2 for 25 pesos. The music varies a bit, depending on which bar is nearby. About one in the AM, we left for Lalo. I could not see how I could find my way back to Monte Casino. Eric let me have his bed. It was comfortable, and yet I could not sleep. When I have had too much to drink in the last few years, the result at times is this sleeplessness. So I just tried to rest, but without dreams there is no real recharging of the soul.

Saturday, March 06, 2004:
Lalo and I split up about midday. I would have liked to go with him. He was headed for this river that is well suited for swimming. I guess there are a number of natural pools that form along the river that are nice to use.
I headed up to Monte Casino where I expected to find Noé and Josephina. What I thought was amazing was that I only made one bad turn that I was quickly able to discover. Although I must say, I was never sure that really on the right track. I must have crossed path with Josee on the way up, because I had just missed her. I wrote a bit and then took a nap. Josee was to return about an hour after I fell asleep. When I got up, Maribel, Arturo and Josee were there. We had a bit to each - rabbit, rice and tortillas. I ended up talking quite a bit to Maribel and Josee napped and Arturo and Noé worked on building a second floor closet. A little after six, we went down the hose.
We got ready to go to a wedding. I was amazed by how quickly we got ourselves together and out the door. The wedding was lots of fun. The daughter of one of the nursing school instructors was getting married. The food was really good. I got a good chance to talk to a number of the schools teachers. The conversations were fun. I cannot remember the names of everyone at the table but I do remember have some excellent conversation with Edith and Mara. Later in the evening when everyone else was dancing, I got on the floor too. They say that I am a good dancer, but when I see the young ones at it I know that I am only a passable dancer. I thought that we stayed way too late. It was two before we got back to the house. But I did get a good night's sleep.

This has been a very relaxing day. We had a Mexican breakfast with lots of fruit, fresh orange juice, eggs, beans, tortillas, and some very good coffee. I washed my car after breakfast. Then I started writing and talking with Arturo. I showed him all the photos in my electronic photo album. He wanted to know about the Twin Cities, especially industry as he is studying industrial engineering at the university.
Lalo finally made his way to the house with Nellie. Maribel joined us to see a movie, Along Came Polly. Given the actors, I did not expect much, but it kept me laughing all the way through. As we headed for our car we ran into one of Lalo's cousins from Chilpanzingo and his wife. And that was my very quite Sunday.

Posted by bill at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

SM to Tequisquiapan

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of going to Cuernavaca.

Tortilleria in Tequisquiapan
The Lake Created by the Zimapan Dam
A Goat Herder and Her Herd

Monday Evening:
While eating diner I struck up a conversation with a woman who sat down at an adjoining table. She moved over to my table and we had a long conversation. Karla Tibbetts is a young, good-looking red-head from Oakland, CA. She seemed to be almost as well-traveled as me, despite her 24 years. She told me about her experiences in San Miguel. She came for a vacation to study art. The city has a long and well-earned reputation as an artist's community from people seeking a quite place with good light to work from around the world. She had been there nearly three weeks and was departing the next day for Guanajuato and the next day a flight home. Mainly, she came to study painting. She spent nearly every day on the roof-top garden with a fabulous view of the city and valley below. She seemed to purr with pleasure as she thought back about how relaxing the vacation had been, sleeping, eating and working when ever she wanted. She told me that about a week before, she had engaged a local sculptor to show her how to create castes of several types, and how to cast metal sculptures. We also got a chance to share the various places that we had visited. About eleven, a friend of hers wandered into the restaurant. We said our good-bye and they were off; she had much to do in the morning before her departure to Guanajuato. She mentioned that on Tuesday there was a huge market on plaza at the edge of the city.

Tuesday, the 2nd day of March, 2004:
After breakfast, I made my way up the hill on the east side of the city and eventually found my way to the market Karla spoke about. I thought it to be a very large market for such a small town. Having travel so much, it was not as great a surprise as the first time I saw a huge market. This one had a wonderful feeling of community, and a festival or a county fair. It had mostly new goods, but also had used - mostly tools. I love all the produce, the most beautiful being fresh and dried peppers. I thought about buying some fruit, after all a kilo of fresh strawberries only cost ten pesos, that is 40˘ American per pound. I did look for a couple of items that I needed, but I couldn't find what I wanted. What I did get a lot of was photos. I may post some at the end of this entry. I had planned to visit Querétaro. It is a fairly large city, more than a half-million. There is an old part of the city, but what dominates the city is agro-business industries. I drove through the center of the city and even started looking for a hotel, but I knew I did want to spend the night. So, I looked at the guide book. There is not much about this state in the Lonely Planet, but they mentioned a town that Mexicans escape to on the week-ends- Mexico City is only 120 miles away. So, I made my way down the eight-lane freeway to San Juan del Rio, a much uglier industrial city. Here I headed north about 30 miles to Tequesquiapan. I found this small town is the smallest and nicest place that I have been to yet. I guess it is very busy on the week-end, but it was extremely sleepy on this Tuesday. I walked about the center of the town in less than 30 minutes. I worked my way to the north edge of the town and crossed a river and walked a few blocks to an area on new homes. I looked them over. They are incredibly overpriced. I continue to be surprise by the cost of homes in these gated groups of homes. Some cost as much as $400,000 - less than some of the more expensive casas in San Miguel, yet this is such a small town. After re-crossing the river, I saw some more homes for sale. They were very nice ten-year old, three-bedroom homes; I even got a chance to walk through one. These were $130k. Before buying one, I would hope the buyer would check the quality of the footing - I had a sense that there was some uneven settling of the homes.
There was almost no restaurant open in the evening on the square. The one that I found ended up costing too much. I had to remind myself that this is an escape for rich Mexicans from the big city. With only one empty bar open, I decided to return to my hotel. They have pool tables, so I played for an hour. Speaking of my hotel, at this moment I am sitting in the hotel garden, typing away. The garden is very large, with plenty of interesting water pools and table and chairs to enjoy the great out-of-doors. When I think about how cheap it is - $18 per night, I feel truly amazed.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004:
With not much to do in this town, I decided to explore surrounding area. Between the guide book and some local tourist information I decided to first visit a huge damn. The lake that it produces is beautiful. It is located where the Tula and Moctezuma rivers flow together about 45 minutes east of Cadereyta. Then I headed back to Ezequiel Montes to visit the winery that produces some of the Freixenet wines in Mexico. I guess only the Freixenet Negro is produced in Spain. What I tasted was OK, but I am not really a great lover of champagne style wines. Their cabernet was only adequate. I did like the sauvignon blanc and bought two bottles. Then I drove for to Bernal. The road I took was all cobble stone. Bernal was very lovely; it is another week-end tourist stop. Along the roads I saw fantastic hills, lovely small towns, goats and their herders. It was late in the afternoon by the time I returned to Tequisquiapan.

I am still not sure where I am headed but in a few days look for a new posting.

Martes Mercado en San Miguel Allende

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Posted by bill at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

From Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Guanajuato and San Miguel.

San Miguel Church
San Miguel Street Scenes
Children Play in a Doorway

Saturday, 28 March:
I got a late start. I was out in the street and it was market day. There is always a wide variety of goods that come out on market day from a display of hundreds of beautiful peppers to black market CD'­s to toys for the kids and lots of foods ready to eat. After picking up the laundry, I returned to write a bit and pack. After checking out from the Las Embajadoras, I spent sometime in a nearby internet shop. One thing that has been good about most of the Mexican internet places is that they are mostly using XP, which makes using my flash memory card is a breeze. Ready to depart for my new hotel, I once again braved the tunnels beneath the city. I made my way across the city to Hotel Jardines de Cantador. It is a lovely place, built in to the rock face of the hill behind it. There are a few places in the hotel where the rock is exposed through the walls. The room is much large and cheaper. The owner had lived in California for many years, who had returned with his American born children. His teen-aged girl sounded like she was a native Californian. He claimed to cut me a very good deal, and it was still 130 peso a night less. The room has a balcony the overlooks the rather large park Contador. The have a nice town museum called Alhondiga de Granaditas. I wish the placards had been in English, because there was quite a bit of history for this area. I think that I would like to more about the history of Mexico. After the museum I stopped for a beer before returning to my rooms to rest and clean up for the evening.
The best part of the evening was returning to the strange little bar with the almost hippie or artistic vibes that I visited before. This night proved to be the nicest. I met several interesting people. Miriam is a young Mexican-American woman who can belt out a tune with incredible power. I met several of her friends, some Mexican, one Canadian - Cassandra, some Americans. I also met two very interesting Mexican artists. First, there was Loberto Popoca Martinez. He has seen much of the world in his forty years. He had some very keen observations of life - especially life in the state from his two year in the north. Then there was Lidio. She seemed also to be in her forties. She was selling her things and moving to Barcelona later this year. I gave them all my web site address and asked them to drop me a line. I hope to here from them. I headed back to my hotel, murmuring to myself how much I like Guanajuato.

Sunday, February 29, 2004:
I was on my way before noon. I stopped a little ways out of the city for lunch, great tacos of roast beef. The 50 mile drive was interesting. It is definitely the dry season here. Not only are the grasses bone dry but the leaves in the trees are brownish-green to brown. There were a lot of these trees as well as beautiful open range land, cacti, and sage brush. The vistas from the road were wonderful, unfortunately they don't know what a shoulder is Mexico - so there is rarely a place to pull over.
San Miguel is very picturesque. Its cathedral has the most beautiful exterior. There is a hill on the east side of the city, that as you ascend the homes get very big and beautiful very fast. Too many of the streets are hewen of rough cobblestone and I mean rough. The buildings are beautiful and old. One notices immediately the large number of older Americans living or visiting here. Because of that there are more upper end restaurants with more varied cuisines, for example, Cuban and a New Orleans Oyster Bar. But I did not go for the 150 peso diner. I usually eat at restaurants that cost between 40 and 60 pesos for the meal, beers run from 14 to 20 pesos. The exchange rate continues to be just a bit less eleven pesos to the dollar. After dinner I moved to one of the better bars in town, Mama Mias. I watched much of the Academy Awards in the bar. There weren't many great movies this year, it is no wonder that Lord of the Rings swept.
The hotel I am at is in the center of the city. It is very cheap and very nice. It even has a parking lot. The buildings that make up the hotel appear to be at least 100 years. The entry is a huge wooden door. There are orange trees the perfume the air with a deliciously sweet scent. My room is in a building with about six rooms made of thick adobe walls and ceilings made of brick; I believe they call it a baveda ceiling. The room is large and has a fireplace. The only drawback to the place is the parrots squawking fiercely in the late afternoon.

Monday, March 01, 2004: I walked about the city. It is smaller than Guanajuato, despite what Jerald told me. It is cleaner, the hills are manageable. The views from high above of the city and the lake created by the damn are spectacular. There is a wonderful commercial life in the city. Certainly the large number of Americans and other foreigners bring a lot of money to the city. This is both good and bad. Having more and better services makes this a gem of a place to live. The other great thing about this place is its long history with American Artists. This has led to many galleries and an art school. The bad thing is the cost of real estate. It is clear that many of the Americans living here must come from California, because the cost of real estate is high and given the baby-bombers soon to move here will put the cost of a casa out of sight. If it were not for that I would say that this a good place to live.
I spent a little more than one hour and one-half walking to the south edge of the town. This is not the wealthier area of half-million dollar houses to the east of the town center. I walked on old and new streets, busy and quite streets, on streets paved of macadam and cobblestones and gravel. This are is extremely dry. Everywhere there is a veneer of dust that is thicker on the quite back streets of the town. I stopped to talk to people; they are friendly and open. By the time I return to my room, I am exhausted, a good exhaustion. I hope I continue all this walking. It is good for me. All the men wear hats here. I like to wear mine, but with my head of hair it can get very hot. I guess it is time for a hair cut.

I like this town. I hope the invasion of North Americans slows. I am afraid we will spoil this beautiful little town. I will be moving on tomorrow. I am not sure where I will go to next, possibly Veracruz, but more likely is Puebla.

Lookout at San Miguel
IMG_1891: Lookout over San Miguel

Posted by bill at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)