Sunday, June 26, 2016

Living in the Moment in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

It happened the first day I was back in the jardin after being away for three weeks.  I no sooner sat down on the bench and I began to hear that off tune horn blaring that I often hear in the distance up on the hill by my house.

Then I heard drums.  What the heck?  I wracked my brain for the date.  It was Friday June 18th.  No, I could not think of any special reason to have a marching band, but indeed, that is what it was - sort of.

 Of course, after coming to the conclusion that it was not a special day, I decided it was a band leader training his little group by having them play in the jardin in front of whoever happened to be around the area.
 One never knows what to expect.  The kid in the front with the horn never played, he just shook the horn around in his best imitation of Bruno Mars. 
 And, it appeared, that this little guy with his ice cream bar was looking longingly at the kids and hoping to be older then he is at present.  Someday............
The lead kid, with his trumpet in hand, was so darn serious, with his sunglasses on, that I was chuckling inside myself at his actions.

Why?  Where are they going?  What is the occasion? And, who are they often, comes to mind since there are so many experiences like this.  But, one quickly learns that there are no answers, so to sit back and just enjoy it all.

This thought again was brought to mind today as I headed up one of the main streets of San Miguel  after having brunch with a friend.  Luckily my camera was nearby even though I was driving.  The traffic was
at a standstill as a group of young women on beautiful horses came riding by in the lane going the opposite
direction.

It's always fascinating that it can be something like this, or a funeral procession walking down the street or revelers cavorting down the street sipping tequila with a group of mariachis.  Traffic stops.  No one gets mad
or honks.  Everyone just "lives in the moment".

Viva Mexico!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico - THE place to be in the summer

For all of those of you simmering in the Southwest or drowning in sweat in the South, pay attention to this message.  There IS a better way.

Come to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to escape the summer heat.  Located at 6400 ft. elevation (that's about 1000 ft. above Denver give or take a few), the humidity is low and the temps are moderate.  To be
more specific the humidity hovers in the twenty percentile, even though this is our rainy season.  The temperatures are in the low 80's during the day and mid 50's at night.  How long has it been since you've been able to sleep with windows and doors open at night to feel a cool breeze?  It is possible here.  I know because I do so every night.

How do you get here?  Most fly on the many airlines who fly into Leon (BJX) or Queretaro (QRO).  Those airports are about a 45 minute drive from San Miguel which does not have an airport.    There is a shuttle service that charges about $29USD to be picked up at the airport and delivered to your door in San Miguel.  Bajiogo Shuttle is the name.

Where to stay?  There are many hotels, b&bs, private homes to rent, both short term or long term and now AirBnB places.  A website to see all hotels is www.allmexicohotels.com.  Private homes would be www.vrbo.com.  And whatever Airbnb's site is.  Rentals can also be found on Craigslist under the state of Guanajuato.

What to do?  As much or as little as you want.  There are the pyramids outside of town,  thermal baths,
horseback riding, hiking, but more then any of that, San Miguel is about "being".  About slowing down and taking time to talk with people that you see in a cafe or on the bench in the jardin.  It's about walking the streets and popping in and out of the over three hundred restaurants in town or the many shops.  The mercado which hosts many artisans and is a few  blocks long is a delight to walk through as well.

There is always music, either in the restaurants, in the theaters, or in the jardin on the weekends.  It is easy to get swept up into the casual, relaxing and comfortable lifestyle.

In fact, and I'm not kidding, so many people end up buying a home here the first week they are in town that when we meet a newbie, we ask how long they've been in town and then we ask, "Have you bought a home yet?"  I'm always, always astonished at how many answer in the affirmative.

San Miguel was named the #1 Destination by Conde Nast a few years ago.  In addition, it received UN World Heritage site designation status in 2008.  The architecture both in San Miguel and in the nearby village of Atotonilco are from the 17th and 18th century!

Come on down.  We'd love to welcome you.  If anyone asks how you heard about it, say you read it on Babsblog.   Here are a few photos of this lovely walking village.





Hope to see you on the bench in the jardin or in a coffee shop or on the street.  If so, say hi or just wave.

Viva Mexico!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Some say it is talent.......I know better .......it is the camera.

In 2009 I bought a point and shoot or "handheld" Panasonic Lumix camera for around $250 USD.  Several friends had the same camera and all were happy with it.  I had always used an Olympus, but, since others that I knew had it, I thought that if I had problems there would be a source of assistance if necessary.

That never came to pass as I'm pretty much just a "point and shoot" person who modifies the photos by
cropping or enhancing on Picasa before posting here on the blog.

It is a great camera for a technologically challenged individual such as myself.  It modifies and adjusts the lighting, the distance and who knows what else before it allows me to take the photo.  IT hardly ever takes a bad photo unless I jiggle the camera as I take it or forget to change the setting at night for a night shot or something silly like that.

This was all brought home to me on Sunday when the grandkids, Matilda and Sebastian came over for a few hours.  I always have the camera in my pocket, just in case.  That is another thing I like about this camera.  It is small and fits in a pocket.

Sebastian, age 6,  was fascinated with the camera and I told him I would show him how to use it.  This consisted of showing him how to use the little lever to pull the image closer or farther away (zoom) The button to push down to take the photo. How to see the image after finished taking the photo.  Here is the result of the few minutes of instruction:




The photo above was two post-it  love notes from Matilda.  I did not even know he took a photo of these!





It was fun to see what he noticed and photographed.  All this was accomplished in less then fifteen minutes.

It appears that it is about time for me to get a new camera and pass this one on to Seb to enjoy photographing things he sees............it is easy to download them to the computer as well.  And, since I've used it all these years, even I can help him with that.

Any time I see someone with a Canon and lots of lens, I have camera envy.  Two of my grandchildren and my son have them and I would love to have one.  But, truly, would I carry that heavy thing around with me?  Would I take the time to learn all the things you have to learn to take the great photos that they take?  Doubtful on both counts.  Therefore it appears that I'll be getting another pocket size camera since it is not about talent, but about the quality of the camera, IMHO as I'm a documenter and not really a photographer.

It will be interesting to see how Sebastian develops with this.  I'll certainly enjoy having this to do with him as he grows older.


 
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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Traveling from Texas.............

 My intention had been to write a blog with photos of many friends and all the family that I saw while in the Houston area.  Windows 10, on the laptop, had other ideas. Oh, and how did I get Windows 10 - something I DID NOT want.  It downloaded itself while I was in Texas.  Nothing, I mean nothing I tried would stop it.

Yesterday, I wrote the blog talking about the glorious weekend with four of the five grandchildren I spent time with last weekend.  Nope, could not get the photos to post.  I worked for an hour trying all kinds of shenanigans to export the photos, to email the photos, to post the photos and finally in frustration, I deleted the post and turned off the laptop.  The laptop needs the capable and knowledgeable touch of the Computer Guru, Rodrigo to help me.  Some day you'll see all the photos. 
 Luckily, I took these shots out of the window of the plane flying from Houston to Leon, Mexico.

 Somehow I lucked out and had no companion next to me in the two seats!  So, I slid over and looked out the window just to see if I could see the mountains yet and saw these views over a period of about thirty minutes. Exquisitely beautiful.
 The intensity of the shades of color and the juxtaposition of the colors was breathtaking.  If only I could paint.  I would use these photos as a starting point.
 The views were perfect timing.  I had been in the midst of the third largest city in the USA, a bit noisy, crowded and hectic.  The cloud formations and the colors had such a calming effect on me that I instantly recognized how Mother Nature can take one from the stress of an airport to the serenity of the sky.  What a lovely gift!
We did, however, go through quite a lightning and thunder storm as we neared Leon.  I almost never get
nervous in a plane.  After all, back in the late 70's or early 80's, I crash landed in a gopher field near Rawlins, Wyoming in a plane owned by the company that I worked for at the time.  We went through a storm similar to what we experienced Tuesday night.  However, the plane that I crashed in was a Bonanza and this was a plane equal to an A320.  I knew we would be okay.

Lots of reflection in the past few days about all of the family and friend experiences that I had.  Also laughing, now about driving a teeny, tiny Ford Fiesta in Texas - the land of SUVs and Pickup Trucks.  It was very daunting.  About the need for a car and a need for a cell phone if you are in the USA!  It was all an epic episode.

Now that I have returned to the land of manana, where one can walk, not carry a cell phone and be a few minutes late if necessary to meet friends, my blood pressure has dropped.  Ha.

It definitely IS the rainy season.  The gardens are a veritable plethora of blooming flowers along with the continual chirping and singing of birds - day and night.  The hummingbirds are darting, as only they can dart.
Almost at the speed of light.

All in all, it IS good to be home.  But, with the caveat, that I'm so glad I had three weeks in Texas.  Viva Mexico!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Musings from the Second Floor .........

 It's wet, very wet.  It has rained off and on since the day after I arrived.  The 24th of May!  As of this past Wednesday it has rained and rained and rained.  I have no idea how many inches.......

This photo of the parking garage across the street in the Galleria area says it all. Sandbags, before the big rains began. There have been plenty of photos and stories on the news of cattle being led to higher ground, high water rescues, and homes inundated.  Luckily I'm on the second floor of a condo and hope this is high enough!

Now I lived in Houston for thirty-four years and I do remember the first year we moved here in 1968 that we had 27 days straight of rain.  Back then I had three children under 7 years old and it was an
"episode" to be house bound that long. Many similar events of rains and flooding to the point that I'm relieved to live in San Miguel where weather is much more predictable and not as nerve wracking.

Now, instead of getting upset over the rain,  I just read, visit with my friend,  watch TV and hope it stops soon so I can get out to shop for the things I need to purchase to take back to Mexico.  It's a long list!

I did try last week, when I first arrived, to get out and get some things, but when the sky would get dark and start to rain, I would scurry back to my brother and sister-in-law's house.  One knows in Houston not to get caught on the roads in a downpour, if at all possible.

Here are a few photos of the beautiful flowers that I got to enjoy daily while at their home.


My sister-in-law is an avid and talented gardener.  I always look forward to seeing what is blooming in her gardens!

So far, however., the best part of the whole trip has been being present at the graduation of my twin grandchildren and the family party afterwards. It was a wonderful day to say the least. 

Hannah and Andrew crossed the stage proudly and we were all there to witness this auspicious occasion.

                                    Then we partied, with food, laughter, swimming and lots of hugs.
                                       Here are the three granddaughters, my daughter and me.  Did you
                                   notice I'm the shortest of the bunch?  How the heck did that happen?

What wonderful memories to treasure with more to come in the next ten days!  Lots left to do...........




Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mexican Peso vs. US Dollar

In January 2016 someone told me that by the summer the peso would be in the 18 range.  I thought that was probably not possible, BUT, it is reality.  It has been for about ten days.

Today the peso is 18.35 to the dollar.  Now, if you go to an exchange house or bank that will not be what your exchange rate will be unless you're a prime customer.  The bank makes money off this situation.

But, for us "foreigners" as the Mexican government refers to us, it is a good day for us.  For our Mexican neighbors, not so much.  Obviously their pesos buys less.

When I moved here the peso hovered between and 8 and 9 pesos to the dollar.  In essence, it is as though somehow I've gotten a pay raise.

Except for the fact that when the peso declines, the prices go up to make up for the decline.  Still in all, it is
amazing how much 200 pesos (about $10USD) will buy in Mexico.

I know when I go to  Texas this coming week that I will suffer sticker shock the whole time I'm there.
Whether I"m dining out, shopping or whatever, I'll inwardly be cringing at the prices.  Hence I'll only
buy what I need to bring back.  Things such as food products that I use in cooking that I still cannot
get in Mexico along with some US fabric for sewing for a project that I want to make.  Those things
among a few others.

Possibly the low peso might have something to do with all the new manufacturing plants that are opening near San Miguel.  Although I doubt it because those projects are typically a 3-5 year project in the works before fruition.  Three new plants here are from Germany, all clean manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industries. 

I noticed the last time I was in Guadalajara that there were welcoming flags and billboards that welcomed Lufthansa to Guadalajara!  At that time there was talk of non-stop flights to Germany.  Now that makes sense as I've discovered that Germany is investing heavily in Mexico.

Add to that, Hyatt announced a flock of new projects in Mexico.  One, an "extended stay" hotel in Mexico City, will be located adjacent to the ABC Hospital facilities.  This hospital complex was just named one of the top ten in the world along with the Texas Medical Center which was named #1.  It's good to know that there is a medical facility of that stature in Mexico.

Mexico is changing daily.  Foreign investment has surged over the last fifteen years and I imagine a day when it will be hard to travel the back roads and find indigenous villages that have not been impacted by the outside world. Thankfully over forty years ago, I was able to visit many of those magnificent places.


No more need to buy gasoline when you see a "No fumar" sign.  Pemex is building at a rapid rate.  In fact, US gasoline companies are coming in to build stations!  Hard to imagine, truly.  Never thought I would hear or see that in my lifetime in Mexico.  The photo above was taken about 20 years ago while driving to Ixtapa and there were no gas stations for about four hours.  I was thrilled to be able to stop at this makeshift place for gas on the side of the road.  The sign "Peligrosa" and the plastic containers told me that it was gasoline!

It certainly, IMHO, is no longer a ""third world"  country!.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ted, Jennifer and Me

Today is always a difficult day.  It is the anniversary of my daughter's passing on May 18, 2004.  I dread its arrival and always question what I intend to do that day. There never seems to be a good answer.

Usually I'm in Texas.  Often I've been able to spend the day with my grandson, Christopher, who was Jennifer's son.  He will turn 18 in September.  Amazing. 

Today, however, I'm in San Miguel.  I had intended to be in Houston, but plans changed and it will be next week before I arrive there.

In the meantime, yesterday I went through the basket of Jennifer's mementos that I am saving for Christopher.  This photo was in the basket.  It's a photo of my husband, myself and Jennifer in Biloxi, Mississippi on the beach.  It was taken by my mother-in-law who was a dear soul.  It's a photo that I had never seen until shortly before Jennifer's passing.  Jen had a large size of it framed and hanging on her wall.  It is a treasure for me.  I have the larger photo that was Jennifer's where I can see it daily.


There are many color photos of us as a family with Jennifer, John and Julie, but there is something about this photo that is ethereal to me.  Other worldly.

Ted died in 1978 and Jennifer, as I said, in 2004.  Hopefully they are walking the beaches of another dimension together.  I like to think so.

Their spirits live on.  If I told you all the weird things that seem to happen from time to time, you would shake your head (if you don't believe in that sort of thing) and wonder if I was losing it.  But, I know in my heart of hearts, it is their spirits reminding me that they are not far away.  It is very comforting.

My son John has many of my husband's mannerisms.  And he looks like him.  From time to time, he'll say or do something that almost takes my breath away.  It is the personification of my husband, Ted.  What a gift!
No I don't mention it to John.  I don't want him to be self conscious of those times.

In addition, my oldest granddaughter Jessica has several mannerisms and looks of Jennifer's.  Life is ironic, isn't it?

And, so it goes.  Life continues..............