Monday, March 12, 2007

Enjoying the Jardin, the Civic Square & a Road Trip

Thursday: Yesterday, a lot of the day was spent in setting up the travel blog. Hopefully it is now fully operable and all my travel friends can access it on the internet. The Jardin seems to have something different happening everyday. Today secondary school kids were participating in various events, including running races around the square. As near as I could tell from the signs, March 8 is an international woman’s day. There were also booths with educational materials concerning domestic violence prevention. To keep the small children busy they had puppet shows being put on from the band stand. I am continually amazed at how active the downtown is, as compared to the average American town.

Today we were on a mission to find cotton cosmetic facial cleaning pads for Mary Ann. We had struck out in the pharmacies and grocery stores. Personally, I think Mary Ann is totally beautiful without makeup, but this usually gets me hit when I say things like that. In our wanderings we finally hit pay dirt (again no pun intended), at what seemed to be a cosmetic store. Boy, what a relief! Now a more perfect Mary Ann.

Next we entered the civic square, just past the Loretto Church, and found that a Thursday street fair was going on. When out on these walks you just never know what important things you need to buy. Today it was a native shoulder purse, a smaller hand sewn change purse, and a ceramic napkin holder. Are we ever getting decked out or what? On the way back to the casa we were finding all the bus stops near our casa. The buses cost 4 pesos (40 cents) and will obviously be a future adventure. They apparently go everywhere and always come back to the centro, so it would be a fun way to explore.

This night we went out to dinner for the first time. We enjoyed an excellent courtyard dinner at Bugambilia on Hidalgo Street. Mary Ann enjoyed her favorite meal which is shrimp wrapped in bacon in a delightful creamy chili cheese sauce. I started with a creamy corn poblano soup. My entrĂ©e was steak fajitas. I had the chance to use my favorite Mexican phrase, “mas cerveza porfavor”! For entertainment they had an excellent flamenco guitarist. We bought his CD. It was a pleasant night and we walked back through the Jardin (no one was paying for the mariachi’s) enjoying the very picturesque lighting of the Parroquia Church.

Quirky Living Note: In the good old USA we just take garbage collection for granted. They come and pick it up for goodness sake! Here in San Miguel (I think to avoid litter) you don’t put out your garbage. The truck comes three times a week and you know it is coming by hearing a distinctive bell. You (or in our case our maid) then takes the garbage to the front door. I am told that in some cases a small boy rings the door bell or knocker, and comes in for the garbage, and is paid a few pesos for the service.

Friday, Week 2: We had a very busy day as we took our first road trip out of San Miguel. We picked up our car at the spiffy new car park and were very surprised to be charged $140. We had a lot of language problems. When we brought the car back, the price problem was apparently straightened out. They had our license plate number and indicated we had now paid for two months with in and out privileges. Hopefully, this works out. We will see when we take the car out next week. Just a small problema!

We decided to visit Dolores Hidalgo which is a town (about 40,000) about 30 miles northwest of San Miguel and is very famous for its ceramic pottery. We picked up the car and headed out. Dolores Hidalgo is considered the heart of colonial Mexico. Father Miguel Hidalgo made the cry for independence (Grito de Dolores) from the city’s Parroquia in 1810. Father Hidalgo is now is one of the most admired heroes of Mexico, second only to Benito Juarez. The four heroes of the 1810 revolution were Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Morales. We visited the Jardin, which is very light, large and obviously a centerpiece of the community. Next on to the Parroquia, and we stood where Hidalgo made his cry. Then on to the City Hall to view the beautiful murals and ceiling. The major ceramic pottery dealers and manufactures are a few block from the Jardin, which was our next stop. The work was beautiful, but we escaped without a single purchase.

In our casa is a beautiful set of pottery dining dishes from Dolores Hidalgo. Sub-consciously, I believe Mary Ann and I were looking for that pottery maker. On the way out of town we hunted down the last pottery factory on our list. and he was the one! After spending some time with the owner/designer and his wife, we made a selection and a beautiful set of ceramic pottery dishes will be shipped to Chelan in the not too distant future. I admit that often I give Mary Ann a bad time about being the world’s greatest shopper, but I was as much a culprit in this purchase decision as she was. So blame me for this love of very bright pottery. The more color the better, even if Mary Ann has to reign me in because of a slight color blindness problem.

On the way back to San Miguel we stopped at the small village of Atotonilco to view the unusual Church frescoes painted on the walls and ceilings of the shrine and chapels. In 1810 Father Hidalgo stopped during his march to San Miguel to pick up the standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The church is a United Nations World Heritage site and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. Upon our arrival there was a group of Indians doing native dances at the entryway to the shrine.

Upon our return to San Miguel, after parking the car, we wandered to the Jardin when as usual we found new events taking place. This time a group of musicians and dancers from Cuba were performing. Their performance of Latin music attracted many dancers from the crowd, and it was a pleasant conclusion to a very nice day.

A San Miguel Note: The centro district of San Miguel is very clean and without litter. I have been told that this happened because the previous young and dynamic mayor, Luis Alberto Villarreal put through many reforms to include litter cans on most corners, and the requirement that everyone sweep and wash their sidewalk each day. Generally throughout Mexico there seems to be an effort to pickup litter and encourage the use of litter cans (basura). When driving from Chihuahua to San Miguel we often saw litter pickup crews on the sides of the highways.

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