Going through photos and recalling our Mexico adventure via the rear view mirror helped me realize that I had a mixed assortment of images that never made it into a blog post but were still ones that I would like to share. First off, a curiosity of museums: (BTW – there is no collective noun for a group of museums, but I figured “curiosity” would work).
And while on the topic of museums, we did go Diego Rivera’s home. No photos allowed but that was okay as there were not many things that caught our attention. And why so little about Frieda? It was a good stop – but not great, frankly. On the other hand…
New topic. For those of you who remembered that I said I would post a few photos of our house and were wondering when I would get around to it…here goes:
Off on another road trip – this time to Querétaro, about a 2 hour drive from Guanajuato. (FYI: Querérato, like Guanajuato is both a state and a city within that state. This sometimes causes confusion as both the city and state are typically referred to by a single name. If you live here it doesn’t seem to be a problem; people pretty quickly figure which of the two you are talking about. It is the non-locals who have to scratch their heads a bit before getting the distinction.) Querétaro is pretty much the ying to Guanajuato’s yang as it’s modern feel and robust economy (largely based on IT/data centers and aerospace manufacturing and research) provides a young and progressive vibe. But that doesn’t mean it is without a wealth of historical, cultural and artistic opportunities to enjoy. In fact, we found so much to see and do that we extended our stay by one night and still feel like we have barely dipped our toes into the Querétaro waters.
We like to do our initial investigations on foot. Just blocks away from our hotel was Plaza de Armas with its wide variety of dining options. We decided to grab a quick lunch, staying with cuisine typico; Bob had chili relleno and I ordered enchiladas Querétaroan. Next we headed down the way to go to the artisan’s market/shop but found they were closed from 2-4p. Siesta time? So instead we strolled the Portal de Dolores, where we chanced upon Maria, the best known muñecas de trapo (rag doll) in Mexico. The story behind this doll is quite interesting and if you want more you can check out this link: Maria Doll.
But before we get to the pup, I guess it would be best to go back to the start of our great circle route: San Miguel de Allende to Dolores Hidalgo to Santa Rosa. This was going to be our first visit to San Miguel, though we know many folks who regularly visit here and rave about the town. It has quite a large expat population and there is deep history and gorgeous art. Bob and I were both wondering if we would be so taken with the town that we would feel differently about our beloved Guanajuato. We even had prepared a list of places to check out as potential winter lodgings in the coming year.
Back in the car: we drove about town to check out those VRBO sites we had identified. Lots of stone-paved roads, narrow streets, construction (both of homes and of infrastructure), and market areas. Overall, we found it interesting enough, but nothing seemed to draw us like Guanajuato does. I am sure there are things we may have missed or overlooked. I would love to hear from my friends who come to San Miguel and truly enjoy it. Our minds are still open on this…
Oh – the good news is we found information about the procession. We went to a happy hour (mojitos and margaritas down the street from our hotel) and asked our server what the occasion might have been. Between his understanding of my spoken Spanish and my interpretation of his spoken English we determined that we were seeing a sanctification of the saints by Saint Mary. Again – if someone else has anything to add to this – comment away, please.
Saturday in Guanajuato means tourists – lots of them; most from other parts of Mexico coming here to enjoy the historical and cultural offerings of this World Heritage site. And the number of visitors promises lots going on: more street performers, more music, more food stands, more sellers of souvenirs, more opportunities to people-watch. So a plan was hatched: I was off to city center to enjoy the activities and squeeze in a couple of errands. Bob would remain at the house to scout out a place for dinner. We arranged for a meet-up spot for when I was finished and we would try out the restaurant that sounded the most promising.
What follows is mostly pictures. If you are the type that cringes when someone suggests you come over to see their travel photos, you may want to exit now as the first part of this post is pretty much that. Or, if you are someone that rolls their eyes when you realize that you are going to be clicking through food photos, you may want to skip the end portion of this post. Consider yourselves warned…
Paracho: Guitar Capital of Mexico for over 100 hundred years. The home to most of the world’s guitar factories – though this is changing as mass manufacturing has moved to other countries where it can be done cheaper. (Have we heard this story before???) The city is now remaking itself and rather than being the maker of many guitars it is the home of some of the world’s best hand crafted guitars. And so we journey out to find a guitar for Bob. He had purchased a guitar in Paracho just over 30 years ago and loved it. Unfortunately, he loaned it to a friend and it was never seen again. Ever since then he has been hankering to get back and buy another.
Interesting backstory: David Caro is quite a famous and highly-regarded guitar maker. He is no longer making guitars but at one time he made 40 per year and they sold for $600 if purchased in Mexico and $900 if they were sent to the states. The guitar Bob purchased was made by his son, Salomón, who has assumed the family trade.
Other sites that caught our eye while we were in Paracho:
And we are finally on our way back to Guanajuato. It is about a 4 hour drive, and we took different routes down and back so we had lots of time to take in the various cities and expanses of countryside. We drove through Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, on the way down. Morelia is a large city and currently experiencing rapid growth which puts it at odds with its historical roots and there has been controversy about how native forests are being overtaken. We were especially interested in seeing the beautiful Spanish buildings, most made of pink granite, which the area is known for. I believe my favorite building was the Palace of Justice; isn’t that a nice name for courthouse?
León: the largest city in the state of Guanajuato with about 1.5 million people; very industrial; known for leather goods. Also the location of a very good Mac Store which helped me solve my USB port issue so I could use my photo card to get pictures uploaded for the blog – Whew!!!
There are no flat lands in Guanajuato and it has been interesting hiking up and down throughout the neighborhood. We try to get feet on the streets at least once a day and that has meant lots of stair climbing. The rental home’s owner claims we walk up five flights to our entry but it certainly felt like more, so we did a bit of math. The winding road up to the house is pretty much 50:50 steps and ramps. We counted 75 steps. At a rise of 8 inches each (on average) that comes to 600 inches in all, which equals 50 feet. Figuring 12 feet per story that means the steps alone make up 4 stories; add in the ramps and we are probably closer to 8 stories. No wonder we have been feeling exhausted when we get to the top!
And while we are on the subject of math, remember the adage, measure twice; cut once? Seems not to be a guideline for the person who was responsible for the preparing the footers on one of the houses across the way from us.
There is a lot of building going on in our neighborhood right now. We enjoy sitting on our deck watching the crews and marveling at how they get things done.
We imagine what it would have been like to build the home we are staying in. We have admired the construction and craftsmanship and can only wonder at the manpower involved. Interestingly, we have also noted that many of our outdoor walls are still being built as they were way back when Mayans contracted their buildings.
Warm greetings from central and mountainous Mexico. We have been here about 24 hours and are pretty settled into the rental property. It is an architectural delight; totally worth the 5 flights of outdoor stairs and walkways it takes just to get to the front door. Once inside there are three uniquely configured floors (bedrooms on first level, kitchen and living area on second level, outdoor patio/balcony on third level.) Needless to say, we have had to admit to our lack of cardio fitness and are hoping that daily trips into town will soon make it possible for us to go from the street to our kitchen without losing our breath. FYI: For you design types I will be posting some of the features of the house as the blog unfolds.
Today was about practical things: finding a grocery store so we could get staples and a trip to an ATM so we could finally operate using pesos. Our host took us on a car tour so we could get a feel for the layout of our area of the city. She is very familiar with the tunnel system (cars go under, not though the center of the city) so that was a great help, even though we will mostly travel on foot. She also pointed out some good restaurants, parks, and entertainments. Tomorrow we plan to go to Mercado Hidalgo for more local foods and flavors. After that… who knows!?!
We set out west this morning for some wine tastings and a happily anticipated family wedding celebration in Santa Barbara. Homer, our trusty motor home is our transport and lodging.
We do our time on I-80 and turn south on I-5 towards our initial stop in Paso Robles when one of our tires succumbs to the plethora of serious potholes on the road and we have… tread separation.
This equipment failure is not new to us, but here is how today was different: Bob knew we were in need of a tire change so we travelled slowly along until we could get to a gas station. Voila! Upon arrival at our first available service point we pull up to the pump and Bob spots a highway patrolman parked at the adjoining island. Bob approaches and says, “Just the man I have been looking for.” And the patrolman says, “What did I do wrong?” (Already, you have to love this guy for his humble wit. And his demeanor totally made it work.) Bob explained our plight and asked about a tire store. The patrolman got us information on the nearest place – Billingsly Automotive – complete with address and phone number.
We s-l-o-w-l-y head on down the road and shortly thereafter are aggressively flagged down by a cowboy-hat wearing gentleman (literally standing in the middle of a traffic lane) who is wanting to make us aware of our tire problem. And while this roadside exchange is going on another driver stops and asks if we know that one of our tires is failing.
And THIS IS THE MOMENT. We are in jeopardy and an array of totally unrelated souls reached out on our behalf. It was so personal: being the beneficiary of non-obligated kindness.
And yet – there is more. The head dude, Pat at the tire store we have been directed to, has tires to fit and arranges to do the replacement as soon as we arrive. He will also have a matching pair of tires ready for Homer’s other side before we make our way back up the coast and home to Reno. He has gone the extra mile to make things work for us. (And he is funny and has a sly drollness that sings of familiarity.)
How to explain this? I won’t try. I am caught up in the deliciousness of the goodness that surrounds us. Namaste.
Since we first came to Reno we had been hearing about this amazing opportunity – a culinary class taught by chefs flown over from Italy. But the catch – the venue only seats 40 people and attendance is determined by a random drawing. Well, you know the old saying, “You can’t win if you don’t try.” So try I did. And we were chosen!
Part of the fascination with the class is it’s location. The kitchen/dining facilities are in a historical mansion which was designed by Fredrick deLongchamps, Reno’s premier architect. It is currently home to Arte Italia, a foundation whose goal is to commemorate and perpetuate Italian culture through the exploration and conservation of culinary and visual arts.
Without knowing who would be teaching the class or what the menu would be we immediately sent in our reservation request. As we walked into the kitchen we saw that our teacher for the evening was already at work.
While waiting for the other participants to arrive we enjoyed small bites and wine. We also looked over the menu and the accompanying information pages that listed the various ingredients that would be used throughout the evening, many familiar but others not (eggplant powder?).
The appetizer, Eggplant Parmesan – Revisited, turned out to feature one of my favorite ways to serve dishes – deconstructed. Always a fan of eggplant, I was eager to see how this would play out. In Chef Spando’s restaurant this dish is served in a hand-blown sugar “bowl” that looks like a baby eggplant. When the ingredients are layered inside the “eggplant” falls open and reveals the luscious interior elements; grilled eggplant cubes, buratta cheese, Parmesan chips, oven dried tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano.
Because it would be impossible to make 40 candy shells and be able to serve in a timely manner, we got our eggplant parmesan in glass globes. We were able to admire the lovely layers and we also got the addition of a light foam on top. (Foam – a topic for a complete blog post! Don’t get me started…)
On to the first course: Duck a’la Orange Tortelli with BlackTruffle.
On to course number two: Chicken and his Grain. The chef created this dish as a whimsical tribute to chicken as a food source. The grains on the plate represent all of the things chickens would eat as they are raised. (Of course we are talking locally-raised chickens as used in Chef’s restaurant, not those from poultry facilities. If the latter we would have had some sort of manufactured kibble strewn about.)
And on to dessert: Ginsing Creme Brule with Almond Sorbet and Dill Broth.
So – what will I take away from this class? Appetizer round: I learned a new method for oven roasting eggplant and I am still not a fan of foam. First course: I will definitely make the simple pasta sauce but it will be quite a while before I make my own pasta. Second course: Our Thanksgiving plates may have a new look this year. Bring on the popcorn! Dessert course: Old bread, crumbled and combined with a bit of brown sugar and butter, makes a scrumptious topping using things I typically have on hand. I also want a browning torch.
So – with apologies to those who are tired of seeing food photos, this ends the tale our adventure. Except to say that, as a dietary correction, it’s green salad for dinner tonight!