Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chapala Home

Thursday we saw our new home for the first time.  It is a small 2 bedroom, 2 bath House in Riberas del Pilar, a quiet neighborhood nestled between the towns of Chapala and Ajijic (N-S) and the Lago de Chapala and the mountains (E-W).  We weren’t to take possession of the house until April 1st (tomorrow), but after touring the place and signing the papers, we were told we could move in that day…so of course we did.  We loved the hotel in which we were staying (Nuevo Posada)

But it was time to unpack and stay for a while.  The neighborhood we live in does not have postal service.  We’re contemplating getting a P.O. box, but truly, who sends snail mail anymore?

We met our neighbors Luis and Ana Maria, who kindly offered to help us with whatever we needed.  Also there is Jim, the “one name only” expat…originally from somewhere in the states…that was 26 years ago.  Jim comes and goes, but always returns.  He gave us a run down on how water is delivered, how our water system works,…basically, he is the go to guy if anything in the house needs attention.  His two black dogs greeted Brad “nippingly” yesterday afternoon, after which they became respected friends.

Dogs are a different breed here.  My friend Anne says that all the dogs in Mexico always look as if they know just where they are going…walking with a purpose and destination in mind.  This is true.  From the street dog to the well groomed purebred…they all walk assuredly.

We also met Paco, the beautiful macaw, the last day we were at the Nuevo Posada.  Paco was a bit shy at first, but then became interactive when his caretaker brought his breakfast…speaking both in English and Spanish.

We have a dedicated bicycle-walkway, separated from the highway by a 3 foot concrete  median.  The bike-walkway runs around 1 entire side of the lake.  This is presently the biggest lake in latin America so that is a long trail.  I can’t wait to collect my mountain bike from the Guadalajara house and take my first ride along the lake this trip.

We attended our first yard sale today….Brad found a wonderful pair of green overalls for his landscaping work…we also scored some choice DVDs for a few pesos. 

Since we do not watch TV, DVD’s and Netflix will be very treasured here.

Tonight is Good Friday and around this area fireworks have been exploding all evening.

The people here honor the Lady of Sorrows and today is Good Friday.  In Chapala there are religious tributes to La Dolorosa—Our Lady of Sorrows—which will mark the start of traditional Easter season observances in the Lake Chapala area.

Traditional Easter season observances will commence Friday, April 3 when many faithful Roman Catholics set up shrines honoring Our Lady of Sorrows.
On the last Friday in Lent, this year on April 3, many local families display artistically-designed doorstep shrines centered on an image of the Virgin Mary dressed in mourning garb. It is a centuries-old national custom to represent the suffering of the mother of Jesus Christ and the hope for human redemption.
The pained countenance of La Dolorosa and the cross make up the focal points. Cloth drapes or strips of papel picado (tissue paper cutouts) are hung as a background for the display. The common color scheme is deep purple, the hue of mourning, and white, signifying purity.

Natural elements may include fresh flowers, especially red blossoms symbolizing the blood of Christ, and pine boughs or other types of greenery to represent the Mount of Olives.

Newly sprouted plants grown from corn, barley, wheat, alfalfa or chia seeds that were blessed and planted on Candlemas (February 2) are symbolic of rebirth. Bitter oranges or grapefruit stand for the bittersweet sacrifice of the Savior.

Copal incense and aromatic herbs such as chamomile and rosemary suggest the treatment of corpses in Biblical times. A cage containing a mourning dove or other songbird may be included as a source of soothing sounds to help heal a mother’s broken heart.

Sometime objects associated with the Passion of Christ are placed in the display – a crown of thorns, a lash, a ladder, a vinegar-soaked sponge and nails. A rooster represents the crowing that accompanied the denials of the Apostle Peter. A mirror may be added to reflect the human soul.

Some people refer to the altars as incendios, a term derived from the long-held practice of illuminating the shrines with many devotional candles.

Making the rounds to different households where the altars are displayed is another integral part of the Viernes de Dolores tradition. Visitors announce their arrival with a question to the host: “¿Ya lloro la Virgen?” (Has the Virgin cried yet?), they ask. This is the prompt for the host to ladle out a glass of agua fresca, a refreshing beverage served as a symbol of the Virgin’s spilled tears. Lime with chia seeds, jamaica flowers or tangy seasonal fruits are the most typical.

And so we’ll celebrate this year.  Easter week is a big deal here, with families and businesses taking time off to reflect and rest.  I hope you too find some time in your busy schedules to do the same.

Fco. y Brad

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guadalajara to Ajijic (Lake Chapala)


Guadalajara is all about going home.  I told Brad this as we were driving into the city yesterday.  And so we’ve spent the day trying to get our bearings, driving to Abuelitas for breakfast, which took far too long to find.  Going through streets whose names were familiar, but whose directions and destinations were nowhere to be found in my memory bank.

Perhaps Guadalajara is also about finally letting go….finally realizing that you’ve arrived and that you will need that nap today….that you should take that trip to the Parque Metropolitan in the afternoon for some open, fresh air space…some visiting with bird friends….going to see your beloved, dear friend who just happens to be a ficus.

As we entered the Parque Metropolitan (the park where I would ride daily, first thing in the morning and the park that Brad has also come to love) we happened upon a plaque that read  “In The Parque Metropolitan”.  It was a love poem written by a R.A.R., to a great Ficus that greets you as you first arrive.


With your roots in the air
And your trunk in the ground
And even thus, alone, majestic
You survive.
What happened to you?  What vandalism?
What storm?  How many others succumbed?
But you, you welded yourself to life
And refused to die.

Elevate your new branches to the sky,
That the sun kisses every morning,
You are full of nests
And birds that sing,
While you await the coming spring.

I always stop to marvel at you,
And I too have weathered storms,
And like you, I have survived
Which is the important thing.

And like you, I raise my arms to the sky.
And like you, I am full of nests.
I relish and delight in the birds songs.
I feel the sun and, like you, smile.

And like you, I await all the good
that will come,

With the next spring.

Mexican Honey Bee for Sergey

Jacaranda In Bloom for Ms. E.

CCC - This same night we returned to town, we chose Los Arcos, close to the house here, for dinner.  Another seafood restaurant....we are drawn to the sea in many ways.  We had fish tacos al pastor, a slowly spit-grilled, marinated delight.  The shrimp ceviche was wonderful, fresh.  Our fillete a la Mazatlan (white fish stuffed with shrimp, ocotpus, scallops in a bechamel sauce was delectable...but our desssrts (see below) were a work of art.  Brad's a yummy cheesecake and mine a complex chocolate conncoction of some sort....too rich for words.  Sated we headed for our beds.

Fco's Chocolate Heaven

Brad's Whimsical Cheesecake

And so we said Buenas Noches again in the City of Roses and Fountains which is Guadalajara.

Hasta pronto,

Fco. y Brad

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guadalajara To Chapala


After having a stop in Guadalajara for a couple of days to get some things in order with the house there, we started out this morning toward Chapala...our final destination.  Mixed emotions of leaving and arriving rushed over me simultaneously.

As we drove out of the metropolis which is Guadalajara on the carretera again, I was happy.  This was where all the effort, time and resources have get us to this place...right here...right now.

We drove through the city, out toward and into the country, past the airport and saw the volcanic mountains, in the distance, which surround Lake Chapala.  As we called out small towns that we knew or planned to visit we kept the mountains in sight throughout, because right over the pinnacle was the lake that we love so.


"I'm home." I told Brad, as we crested the mountain and the lake came into view.  Although it was a smokey mountain day, my heart skipped several beats at the vision.  I always wonder if this was what the indigenos saw when they first came to this spot...the spot where the water is born.

We arrived a bit early for our rental home, so we are staying at the Hotel Nuevo Posada, which is the only hotel lakeside in Ajijic.  The Nuevo Posada is a colonial gem of a place....lush gardens, antique wooden sculptures and a room with a view of the lake...can't get much better than this!



I highly recommend these..lime juice, salt, spice and cerveza...refreshing and delicious.
(another option is adding Clamato juice for a red version)




When I was here last, our friend Antonio Lopez Vega was just starting this mural of the resurrection of the lakeside civil battles against spanish oppression.  It was entered in a citywide mural competition and took a cash prize placing in the final top 3.

So now we rest, relax, decompress and become locals.

Tomorrow more visitng with friends, taking care of some business and getting down to the business of living.


Fco. y Brad

Mazatlan to Guadalajara Bound

Sleepy Sunday

We're in Mazatlan this morning...after having spent a lovely afternoon evening here last night...with a glorious meal, serenaded by a wonderful musician and couples dancing to his music.

I took a long walk along the beach this morning. Mazatlan is a place where the fish jump right out of the water...I guess there are so many of them there that it might get crowded ...or perhaps the fish are just jumping with joy....I would be too! It is lovely here....Brad is still sleeping and I think I discovered a hidden gem of a restaurant on the beach for our breakfast.

Our trip is progressing nicely....just a bit of heat....but Semana Santa starts right was we hit Ajijic and move into our rental home....the small town fiestas should be amazing to watch this year.
We ran into some animal friends along the way….a Great Blue Heron

And an iguana. A little boy sitting next to us mentioned that he saw a lizard, but I didn’t imagine it to be a 2 foot long iguana until we spotted one ourselves.

We spent most of the day walking and exploring the beach and environs, which were spectacular…taking naps and watching a beautiful sunset.

And found some jewels of wisdom along the way…

I can see why so many people from Guadalajara consider this a wonderful, short drive weekend stay. I know we will be back soon to discover more of Mazaltan.

CCC – Oh yes, the seafood here is outstanding…you can’t go wrong with anything you select…and the restaurants are too many to count.
The Malecon Area of Mazatlan is vibrantly lit with colorful folk, art and vendors.It reminded me of Rio de Janeiro and Copacabana Beach.
So we reluctantly said goodbye to Mazatlan and headed to Tepic.We were planning on spending the night in Tepic, but after driving through the town decided to just drive the last 2 hours to Guadalajara.
As we drove from Nayarit into Jalisco the landscape started to change…it became lush…filled by trees…even pines at the higher elevations…but always verdant with life.
We drove past volcanic mountains, ranchos, small towns whose names ended in “tlan” and started with “Ix…”
I told Brad of the wonderful cloud formations in this area, of how much I wished it would rain…and then it did start to rain….heavy drops like the kind I remembered from my youth….and to our surprise we spotted a rainbow right in front of us….ending where Guadalajara began….an omen….of good luck, Brad said.

And so we were properly greeted by Guadalajara….rain…..bows….and traffic that rivals
that of Los Angeles…and we remembered why we couldn’t live in Guadalajara and had opted for Chapala, lakeside instead.
For now we are happily waiting for our drive to lakeside tomorrow.
Wishing you all a Buenas Noches,
Fco. y Brad

Saturday, March 24, 2012

From Guaymas on the bay we make our way to Ciudad Obregon.  The dusty road seems to offer nothing but Sahuaros and sunshine so we settle into the hum of the highway, noting hawk sightings.  We are leaving the state of Sonora on our way to Sinaloa.

CIUDAD OBREGON seems a small city buzzing with service industries.  It has been named the capital of Sonora so we visit the catedral (see pic) which is a surprising modern marvel.  The state building and main library are here comprising what is the political park.  One uber-large Mexican flag seems to wave in slow motion over the entire area…it’s size dictating it’s undulations….trust me…it is huge!

Ciudad Obregon Catedral

Brad and I strolled the main plaza in the heat and spotted a La Michoacana, one of my childhood haunts where they serve a wide variety of paletas or popsicles…but these beauties are full of fresh fruit, wonderful nuts, amazing ingredients…and I’m told all natural.  So Brad opts for a paleta de nuez (mixed nuts pop) and I a mixed fruit.  Mine comes with mango, fig, kiwi, guava and strawberries.  They are totally appropriate for the heat and our appetites and I make a culinary note to have many more while here.

Speaking of the culinary, my friend Cassie asked about the food we are eating and if it would be hard to be a vegan in Mexico.  Most of the food stops along the carretera are of the fast food – western kind.  But if one were to shop at the local markets and cook at home a vegan diet would be easy to do.  And in a few towns there are vegan restaurants as well….so I’ve decided to start Cisco’s Culinary Corner (CCC) , to write about our food adventures when we hit something that zings our palettes. 

NOVAJOA was a blur of a town…we drove through and decided not to explore. 

LOS MOCHIS is where my friend Corina’s parent’s live and I was anxious to see the place.  I was told it was a land full of sugarcane fields.  We saw a few but the city is also totted as a modern wonder and modern is not why we are here.  Once again a city overrun with shops and small businesses, seemingly not developed in a conscious way…haphazard is more like it.  We did decide to stay the night in a hotel called the CityExpress….a hybrid hospice somewhere between a surreal Japanese hotel and Mexican modern….good for one night.

CCC – We did find a restaurant that served a delicious, outstanding Mexican breakfast spread…and on top of that a 2 x 1 deal.  It was called Liverpool and we feasted on fish empanadas, pescado marsalla, mixed vegetables, beautiful beet and green juices.  A note:  fresh, natural, made-to-order juices abound and are something of a favorite for us.  The green juice ingredients vary but mostly contain parsley, celery, apple, cactus, garlic and other green veggies available.

Liverpool Lover 1

Pescado Marsalla y vegetales

Liverpool Lover 2

CULIACAN – We drove into the state of Sinaloa around midday and were greeted by rolling planted, green fields.  I knew it was a good omen when a big juicy red tomato was the icon for the Sinaloa license plate.  And we saw plenty of ripe tomatoes on the vine, ready for harvesting and some in trucks on their way to market.

As we drove further south, we passed several federal agent vehicles and military personnel heading north.  It looked like a sizable force headed for a showdown of some sort.  I was happy we were headed in the opposite direction.

And so we rolled on through verdant views, sleepy small towns with goats, sheep, cattle and horses as our guideposts.  It seemed the further south we went, the greener the landscape became.

Brad had researched hotels in Culiacan and one caught his eye – The 3 Rios Hotel.
Thirsty and hot from our journey we decided to find the main plaza with the town’s catedral and happened upon a lovely place full of shade trees, vendors, city travelers.
So, being the opportunistic travelers that we are decide to take a respite and stop at the Portales de Culiacan, in front of the main square.

A few micheladas and mariscos later we were sitting in heaven watching the world go by.

CCC – Brad’s seafood tostada and my campechana were amazing!  They had just the right amount of onions, tomatos, cilantro, lime and chili for me.  We highly recommend the seafood here.

One thing that I love is to have my shoes shined in the main plaza.  It brings back memories of my grandfather in Guadalajara and traditional Mexican civility.  Brad mentioned that his brown shoes, hidden in the van, needed shining…so he retrieved them and off to the main plaza we went in search of shoe shine booths….and there were plenty…so we settled on the nicest looking man in the plaza and he made our shoes look like new.  He also mentioned that mine had not been shined in a while….probably since the last time I was in Mexico.

Apparently there is much water in Sinaloa…so much so that 3 main rivers converge in Culiacan and become one large river which runs along most of the city.  Our hotel search started here…but like most things in Mexico worth finding, it took a bit of effort (and frustration) to get to the 3 Rios Hotel.  After 3 different directions being given and Brad growing tired of the misinformation, we found our treasure…and the search was well worth the effort.

I had told Brad that I really didn’t have any memories of Culiacan as a town, only that the seafood here was superb.  As we drove into the main reception area I had a rush of memories of myself as a child, running through this property, diving into the endlessly blue pool, the shade trees and winds blowing…..I had stopped here at the Hotel 3 Rios many times when my family made the drive from L.A. to Guadalajara, and now I was revisiting the place after many years.  And the place really had not changed much…much to my happy grin.

The place was in preparation for a wedding reception to be held here last night…and a celebration it was.  A full band, dancing, dinner and drinks…and it went on until 3 a.m.!

CCC – We decided to go to an early dinner at The Camichin restaurant to beat the wedding crowd and feasted on pescado Veracruzano, seafood medley pasta, salad, guacamole, raja crepes and flan for dessert.  Well fed, we made our way back to our room and slumbered for the night.
So for Brad, myself, our new feathered friends we say adios for now.

Today we journey to Mazatlan, a city that holds many memories.  We’ll see how those hold up to the test of time....and my mind's eye.

Hasta pronto,

Fco. y Brad

Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Guaymas, Mexico


The day dawns differently in Mexico. The sun creeps over the jagged mountain tops, illuminating everything in a golden glow. The shore birds here in Guaymas call the day in and the morning breakfast feeding frenzy begins in the bay. We've seen brown pelicans, Caspian terns, cormorants, Great White egrets, plovers, willets, mourning doves, grackles, to name a few of the active birds.

Great Brown Pelican Flyby

Brad is snoozing comfortably in his bed overlooking the bay and I’ve made my way around the place, stopping to greet the day myself, in my own way….with a brisk walk, a cup of coffee in the great restaurant room and time to blog.

Brad in Guaymas Plaza

Brad wrote about the plaza in Guaymas, where we went exploring yesterday afternoon…and true to his word….he didn’t want to leave.  As soon as he saw the park full of old men hanging around, with children scurring about, he sat with a big smile on his face and took the world in. 

Life flows slower in Mexico…people seem to take time to build in purpose to their daily routine…and as a result you accomplish what you need to, with a cushion to greet friends on the street, to stop and help a lost tourist, etc.

Fisherman Statue – Malecon, Guaymas

And like most towns we found a beautiful primary statue to the industry that supports this lovely place…The Fisherman.

  A tale of lost love and yearning told via a fisherman’s boat and soul.

A view of our hotel…we’re in the farthest left room, 2nd floor.

And the view from the room out.

Hotel Playa de Cortes

Fisher Guys

So, rested and fulfilled, we continue our journey south.  Today thru Ciudad Obregon and onto Los Mochis, where Brad has found us a lovely seaport estuary town to dock for the night.

Fco. y Brad