Sunday, April 29, 2007

The San Miguel Charities

While spending the last nine weeks in San Miguel de Allende, we have been introduced to several charities that are worthy of support. On occasion in the travel blog I have mentioned them, and have often given a website for access to more information. For anyone who might be coming to San Miguel and wants to volunteer, or who wants to contribute to a good cause I thought it might be helpful to put all of this information in one place. All of these organizations seem to have U.S. tax deduction clearance, at least according to their websites. Most seem to be prepared to give a 501(c)(3) receipt to anyone who contributes. There is so much help we can give to the poor of Mexico it is worth yours and our consideration. The list includes the following:

Feed the Hungry: It is my favorite as it seems to be touching so many children. The organization has build 27 kitchens at rural schools in the San Miguel area, trained and hired the cooks, and feeds over 3,000 school children every day. It is operated by over 60 volunteers. They are constantly expanding and it apparently costs $65 a year to feed one child. Website:

Sociedad Protectora de Animales (SPA): This is the humane society for San Miguel (not the dog catchers) where abandoned cats and dogs are temporarily housed until adoptions can be arranged. For all you animal lovers, this is where you can help financially, or help out at the shelter when in San Miguel. They provide veterinary assistance for abused and injured animals and have a weekly public adoption program on Thursdays in the Jardin. Several hundred cats and dogs are adopted by both Mexicans and Americans each year. Website:

San Miguel Lions Club: The Lions Club is an English language club which pursues the same national goals as Lions International. The major effort is eye sight screening and diabetes detection. The treatment site is on Correo, just around the corner from our casa, and is open for free diagnosis every Thursday, all operated by volunteers. Website:

Patronato Pro Niños: A wonderful organization which is very visible in the community as they raise much of their money by the volunteers conducting the historical walking tour of San Miguel every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In addition to the $10 for the tour, they raise much of their operating funds by donation and the acceptance of volunteer services. The organization provides approximately 2500 medical and 2000 dental visits and services to low income children in the municipality of San Miguel. They also appreciate Doctor and Dental volunteers. Website:

Midday Rotary Club of San Miguel: The English language Rotary Club, which is one of the very few in Mexico, is only a couple of years old, but is growing rapidly and has a very active list of service activities. They meet weekly and always have a very interesting and provocative speaker. They promote the club and their programs weekly in Atención. In the 2006-2007 year they have had over six major projects. If you are a Rotarian, I am sure they would appreciate help from your club. Website:

San Miguel Educational Foundation: A U.S. Tax Code 501(c)(3) tax exempt conduit foundation for contributions to worthy projects and programs in San Miguel. They support the other worthwhile organizations of the community, while providing sound investment of donations and oversight of worthwhile charitable activities for the benefit of the San Miguel community. It would appear to be similar to U.S. community foundations, like the North Central Washington Community Foundation in Wenatchee. In the 30 years of the foundation they have received $6,000,000 which has been donated and disbursed for the benefit of San Miguel. Website:

Save the Laja: For those of you who have ecological interests, this foundation is dedicated to preserving the watershed of the Laja River which flows, or does not flow, as is often the case. They are very active in watershed education, preservation, and restoring the aquifer which serves the valley. Website:

Saint Paul’s Anglican Church: The Episcopal Church in San Miguel, which we attended while in San Miguel, has an extensive human outreach program conducted by their volunteers and their church giving. They are a strong supporter of Feed the Hungry (see above) which they helped found. Another program they have established is Centro Infantil San Pablo, which is a pre-school program for a San Miguel neighborhood modeled on Head Start. Websites: &

Biblioteca Pública: Probably the most impressive volunteer organization in San Miguel is the Biblioteca – the English-Spanish library and much more. It is the center for most all expat activity in the community and reaches far beyond its library shelves, which are the most extensive in Central America. They provide children’s art classes, computer classes, language classes for Spanish speakers, drama classes, theater and movie presentations, and hold hundreds of community events at the library. One very visible fundraising event is the Sunday Home and Garden tours which raise thousands of dollars to provide scholarships for Mexicans to go to Mexican Universities. Website:

anYél, escuela de música: AnYél is a free nonprofit early childhood music program for the children of San Miguel. When we first arrived we enjoyed a concert in the Jardin of several grades of children. Into each child, anYél instills the belief that they are musical beings, and that music matters in every life. They have a wonderful website with lots of the kids enjoying music:

All of the above are worthy of your interest and support. It is not an exhaustive list as there are many other charities in San Miguel, they just have not yet reached me during our short ten week stay in this delightful and caring community.

Quirky Living Note: In addition to the exquisite antique doors of the casas in San Miguel, you soon notice the wonderful and unique door knockers on many of the classic wooden doors. I suspect this is due not only to the age of the doors, but practical need, as the living areas are often far from the front door because of the courtyards and living levels. We have a door knocker, and when someone is at the door they always bang it hard and loud so it can be heard throughout the casa.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A European City in Central Mexico?

Friday – Week 9: Guanajuato is clearly one of the most fascinating cities you could ever visit, and it is right here on our continent. Our kids were leaving early Saturday morning so they were staying at a hotel near the airport. It was a convenient day to visit Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato and then drop them off at the end of the day before our return to San Miguel.

Guanajuato is the state capital of the colonial area and dates from the 1500’s. It is built in a steep canyon and all the buildings go right up the sides of the canyon and are gaily painted in multiple bright colors similar to the Mediterranean. When the Spanish arrived it became one of the three greatest silver cities of the empire. The city of about 100,000 has a very European flavor. It includes the prestigious University of Guanajuato with 8,000 students founded by the Jesuits in the mid 1700’s and is famous for its music and theater.

A unique feature of Guanajuato is that they have converted a river bed and mine shafts under the city into automobile tunnels. They criss-cross all over and have made it so we have never parked in the same area twice (because we are usually lost). What this has accomplished is allowing most of the city to be pedestrian only on the surface. This provides for beautiful squares, parks, vistas and beautiful public buildings and theaters. There are many outside restaurants and it makes it feel very Parisian.

Above the city on one of the mountain sides there is a huge monument of El Papila, one of the hero’s of the battle of the granary in Guanajuato during the Revolution of Independence in 1810. It is accessible by a very steep funicular that starts behind the Teatro Juarez and Union Square. We all took the funicular (even Mary Ann, but I suspect with her eyes closed) and enjoyed the wonderful views of Guanajuato. It was all a very wonderful final day for the family. Geoff was advocating that we should buy a home in San Miguel. Oh sure! A website with several excellent photos is at:

Quirky (but Important) Living Note: Because of the involvement of a friend, we learned of the role of an organization called the 24 Hour Association. Because of the large population of Americans and Canadians in San Miguel, and as most are retired, there inevitably will be an occasional death. This can be a major problem when in a foreign country, because of the different laws, regulations and requirements. For instance, Mexico requires burial within 24 hours of death. Thus a wonderful association was formed to help the expats with such problems. For a modest joining fee, the association members and staff will immediately take over and handle all of the problems, arrangements, and details when a death occurs. An excellent article about the association was written by Natalie Hardy, who is the sister of Pat Malone in Wenatchee. You can read the article in a recent issue from the archives of Atención newspaper:

Friday, April 27, 2007

How about an award for helping the Mexican Economy?

Wednesday & Thursday – Week 8: And I thought Mary Ann could shop. Today I saw the four of them (Katy, Amanda, Geoff & Mary Ann) roar through San Miguel like there was no shopping days in the future. After a nice walk through the Chorro Casa Cultural, breakfast at Sierra Nevada en la Parque, a walk through Parque Juarez, the shopping frenzy began. Up San Antonio and Zacateros stopping in every shop (and buying in many) it was on to Loretto and into the Artesanias. What a list: bedspread, Mexican wrestling masks, tile and tin mirror, pewter platters, crosses, metal day of the dead statues, ceramic suns, children’s finger puppets, Mexican style bingo with photos, and it goes on and on.

This afternoon was haircut day. After lunch I received another of my 50 peso specials. I am afraid of what Mary Ann will say when she sees it. When my lady barber asked about short, I did not realize that meant sheared bald. Katy and Mary Ann were also getting their hair cut, but certainly not for $5. I have a barber, they were at a salon. Following my haircut, Amanda, Geoff and I brought all the packages back to the casa. They went on to more shopping or looking, and I stayed at the casa, hoping I would still be solvent when all returned.

Dinner out was to be at the funky little café, El Ten Ten Pie, but surprisingly it was being renovated. This time of year, after Holy Week, lots of stores and restaurants go on vacation, so things are a little problematical. We ended up at El Pegaso, which is always good and not too expensive. On Thursday, breakfast started at La Puertecita hotel up the mountain. It always is great and makes you feel like the rich and famous. As this was to be the kids last day in San Miguel, it was serious shopping, guided by the Worlds Greatest Shopper. We started at La Fabrica Aurora, and then walked downtown. Geoff and Amanda bought an excellent modern bull painting. While I was in wait and stand mode during all the shopping, I was caught in a photo (above) making friends on the street. Everyone stocked up on a lot of handicraft gifts.

In the late afternoon Katy and I took the local bus to Super Gigante to stock up on fresh orange juice and other necessities for breakfast. You sure wouldn’t want to starve around here. For the last dinner in San Miguel for the kids, we took them to our favorite restaurant, Bugambila so they could enjoy the shrimp stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and in a sauce to die for.

Quirky Living Note: On a couple of morning occasions, I have seen a service that I thought would have ended years ago. At the side of the street will be a pickup loaded with several of the large milk cans that they fill at the farm. People then came with their pails or containers and bought what is obviously un-pasteurized milk. Now you don’t see that in Wenatchee or Chelan these days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bicycle Fun!

Monday & Tuesday – Week 8: One thing you rediscover about having children is that when they are visiting you seemingly can be eaten out of house and home. The first event of Monday morning was that Katy, Amanda & Geoff were sent off on the historical walking tour, while Mary Ann and I spent our morning at the grocery stores and bakeries. After really loading up we took a cab back to the casa with all our bags. Now all stocked up we could face a few days as properly provisioned parents. We met the now fully informed historical buffs at the end of the tour and had them relax with noon refreshments at La Buena Vida. One of life’s little crises happened today, and that was our DSL line and TV failed to connect. My goodness, no internet, no publishing to the blog, and no American baseball with Spanish play by play. Curses!

Next we did some back street walking, heading for Bici-Burro bicycle shop. We had offered Geoff, for his birthday present, a bike tour while he was here. We had previously talked with the very nice young owner Alberto and he was trying to put together a tour of a few people while Geoff and Amanda were here. When we got to the shop, Alberto said he had called us and had another couple scheduled for Tuesday. We immediately signed Amanda and Geoff onto the tour. One of the family jokes is my wanting to bike the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, but I thought this might not be the best time to start my training regimen. Katy also begged off saying she did not want to slow them down! Bici-Burro has all sorts of tour options and Alberto is a delightful guy. If you are a biker and visit San Miguel take a look at

Tuesday, we sent Amanda and Geoff off on the bike tour, left Mary Ann (#1 crisis solver) to solve the internet and TV problem, while Katy and I headed to Juarez Park for her run and my sedentary relaxing with a cigar and book. We met Mary Ann later for coffee at Café Montenegro who reported no progress on the electronics. Katy and Mary Ann went off to shop at the Artesanias and I stayed at the casa, hopefully to let in any computer guru’s. Ah, what sacrifices we must make in life.

Amanda and Geoff had a wonderful bike trip and got on famously with Alberto and the other couple from Toronto. Katy and Mary Ann spent the afternoon shopping for gifts and yours truly awaited the computer guy. We were reconnected in late afternoon after everyone had returned. Mary Ann cooked burritos for dinner and then the young visitors went out for drinks with the Toronto couple. Now why did they not want us along? Mary Ann and I consoled ourselves by sitting in the Jardin and then having an ice cream cone.

Quirky Living Note: From the blog photos you may have noticed all of the roofs of San Miguel are flat. Many of them have elegant patios on the roofs, along with a lot of trees, flowers and vegetation. As a result all of the buildings have spouts that extend off the sides of the building, theoretically at a distance to put excess water onto the street. However, my experience has been that many just pour water onto the sidewalk, so even if it is not raining you can get showered from the patio being washed or the plants being watered.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Family Reunion!

Sunday, April 22 – Week 8: Bright and early, and on time Katy, Amanda, and Geoff arrived on Mexicana Airlines flying from Seattle through Los Angeles. They have voted LAX the worst airport in the world. Noisy, chaos, and it was a completely aggravating experience. Of course, it was all worthwhile so they could join their loving parents! Your humble tour guide paid no attention to jet lag, or such lame excuses. Upon arriving at the casa we had breakfast and then the kids had a short nap, shower, and then off to explore.

As this was the only Sunday they would be here, the mandatory event was taking the Biblioteca Home and Garden Tour. This week it was three homes in the Atascadero neighborhood atop the mountain behind Casa Tranquilidad. Mary Ann and I were delighted this was the selection as we had not had a chance to explore this neighborhood due to its being an intimidating climb for us, or anyone. The three homes were all different, and fun to visit. The problem, is although our casa is a delight, seeing these upper end homes makes our home look just a bit humble.

After the tour we hit the churros and bebidas at San Agustin. That got everyone revived for a walk abound the centro area. Amazingly enough, Katy was the first to buy shoes. She must have had a real need. Everyone crashed for a couple of hours siesta, before the required margarita hour. No rest for the wicked.

After evening refreshments and a lot of political talk we went to dinner at El Market Bistro. On the way back through the Jardin a theater with lots of seats had been set up and there were hundreds of people watching Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar winning documentary. It was in English with Spanish subtitles. I am always amazed as to what is happening around here.

Quirky Living Note: I hadn’t thought about it being strange, but it is a bit surprising to look out of your bedroom and see a hot air balloon nearly at eye level (photo above). There is a local gentleman who gives balloon rides in the early morning, usually on weekends, over the church spires and history of San Miguel. Most often he is quite a distance from us, but yesterday it looked like he was about to land on our patio. If you are so inclined a ride is $150 per person and they throw in breakfast if you survive.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day Trip to Leon

Saturday – Week 8: Last night we went to dinner at Casa Payo, an Argentine restaurant. Strangely, I think it is about the first time since coming to San Miguel that we have had steaks. They were delicious and the dinner was accompanied by an excellent guitar player who we talked with after dinner. At the conclusion of dinner we were given complimentary Bailey’s Irish Cream which topped off a fine evening. Friday night in the Jardin is definitely devoted to the teenager mating dance. It was packed with groups of young boys and girls walking the Jardin and giving the eye to each other.

Saturday was a trip to Leon and some investigating of the big city. Leon has over a million people in it, and it seemed that large. Although we had been to the Leon/Guanajuato airport several times, the airport is on the San Miguel side of town, so we had never been into the city. We found out that they claim to be the world’s largest shoe manufacturing center. I suspect they are not kidding, as all the billboards advertise shoes, and the downtown is loaded with shoe stores. I think it was just plain overwhelming for Mary Ann, too many to choose from. The downtown historic area is very nice, with a couple of huge squares and a very large pedestrian only area (photo above). Mary Ann says that all the people we saw were wearing very nice shoes. Go figure? We stayed at a hotel near the airport so we would not be driving in the dark to pick up the kids who were arriving from Los Angeles on Sunday morning. It was a nice relaxing day before the frantic business of entertaining our children.

Quirky Living Note: All over San Miguel you see internet cafes, and signs for selling internet service. I am convinced that everyone is selling access so they can pay for their high speed DSL line.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Finding a Parking Lot in San Miguel

Friday - Week 8: When I advised our rental agent that I would be driving a car to San Miguel de Allende, I thought she might have a heart attack. Most people are satisfied with just being in this wonderful city, and taking the transport to and from the Leon/Guanajuato Airport. For those of you who know me well, that is just not the style for Mary Ann and Tom. We have to explore and create adventures, and that means going far beyond the city limits of San Miguel. Thus we have a car in a walking city!

The rental agent, Jennifer Rockett, was however gracious and told me that although the casa did not have a garage (I secretly think our owner has a car in our inaccessible garage) there are public parking lots for long term parking. I have now become very knowledgeable about the lots in San Miguel and thought I could save you a lot of research (or grief) if you bring a car, or rent a car, while in San Miguel.

First, disabuse yourself, for the most part, of thinking of a car lot in the sense of a U.S. car lot. The majority of the lots here are an empty space behind a wall that is incredibly difficult to get in and out of. All but one (the lot we use) are not open and available 24 hours a day. As I have not actually used any of these lots, I don’t know what they cost on a weekly or monthly basis. Watching people try to get in and out of some of these lots, from some of the narrow streets of San Miguel would make a strong man cry!

Second, there really are not a lot of parking lots in San Miguel. To give you an idea of the lots I have seen are as follows:
Ø On Mesones between Reloj and Juarez, across the street from the Bonanza Grocery;
Ø The west side of Recreo, just south of Correo;
Ø The northeast corner of Hidalgo and Insurgentes, just west of the Biblioteca (this however seems to be closed as the owner is building a controversial 4 story parking garage on the site);
Ø The east side of Quebrada between Canal and Insurgentes;
Ø The east side of Calz. De La Aurora on the way to La Fabrica; and
Ø On Pila Seca just west of Zacateros.

But, there is hope beyond this list of antiquated choices of parking lots. With our usual dumb luck we found the brand new, state of the art, municipal parking lot that does not appear on any map currently printed in San Miguel. This lot is located on Cardo, just east of Ancha de San Antonio, just south of the Instituto Allende and nearly next door to St. Paul’s Anglican Church. This is a huge lot of very recent construction. It includes underground covered parking, gorgeous clean free public bathrooms, electronic in and out, and 24 hour access.

Although the lot is some distance from our casa (about a 25 minute walk) if you don’t want the exercise the $2 taxi ride will get you there in about 10 minutes. My suggestion is that at your first visit to the lot you arrange with the office (at the bottom of the ramp to the underground parking) for your weekly or monthly rate. They will give you a receipt for your payment, which will show the time period for your access. You just show the receipt along with the plastic parking card you received when you entered the lot, at the time of exiting the lot. The monthly rate is $45.

We do not use the car for getting around San Miguel. For that we walk, but we take the car out at least weekly for our day trips to nearby towns and cities, giving guided tours to our guests, picking guests up at the airport, and taking groceries to the casa after a visit to Super Gigante or Mega. And…we have the car for our return adventure to Chelan at the end of our stay.

Quirky Living Note: If you should park illegally in San Miguel, the police don't just issue you a ticket and put it on your window. Instead they guarantee you will pay it by removing the license plates from your car. A sure fire way to get you to stop into the traffic police office for a little chat! The photo above shows two policemen removing plates in front of the Instituto Allende.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It was inevitable!

Wednesday – Week 7: Now today was to be the day of collapse and rest. Life always has its interesting twists and turns. I took off for Parque Juarez to read a book and have a leisurely cigar. As I was walking one of the paths, to find a nice sitting spot, I ran into Dale and Gail Foreman from Wenatchee. I knew it was inevitable that I would sometime bump into someone from Wenatchee, it being such a small world. He is an attorney and orchardist who I have known for decades. It turns out they are conducting their own tour of the colonial area of Mexico, traveling by buses, no less. We chatted about their trip and our residency, and I went on to an hour of reading and cigaring (is that a verb?).

I planned to meet Mary Ann in the Jardin at noon to do a little grocery shopping (make that bakery shopping). When we met we walked to the corner of the Jardin, and there is Dale getting his shoes shined. Gail walks up from checking some shops and we offered to show them around some of the favorite sites of the World’s Greatest Shopper. Poor Dale, he never knew what hit him. Off to the Mercado and Artesanias we go, and the buying begins. In addition to the Foreman’s purchases, Mary Ann gets into the swing of it with; I’m sure, a one in a million unique handicraft object. It was all good fun and enjoyed by the Foreman’s. We then suffered with a lunch at Meson de San Jose. Uriel, the waiter there, now greets us like long lost relatives. Next time I am going to ask for a commission.

So that Dale and Gail could get a feel for what is behind the walls, we took them back to Casa Tranquilidad, so they could see how we have been suffering here in San Miguel these past seven weeks. The first entry into the Casa is usually a real gasp from our visitors, as you can only imagine what a beautiful home it is, especially when they find out our daily rate is less that their hotel room. They received the full tour and it was fun to just talk about their lives and our San Miguel experiences.

In the evening, Mary Ann and I went to a french/vietnamese restaurant named Chamonix. We do have to keep up the eating investigations.

Quirky Living Note: In what must now be hundreds of visits to the Jardin, I have never been there day or night, when there haven’t been the balloon sellers wandering the park, enticing the small children to get their parents to buy a balloon, or other small plastic colorful toy to play with as the family enjoys their time and stroll in the park. There must be a balloon sellers union as the number of vendors increases proportionately with how crowded the Jardin is. On weekends, Sunday evenings, and holidays the regular sales force is augmented by the opportunists.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Airport Commute

Tuesday – Week 7: Today we took the Cooper’s to the Leon/Guanajuato airport. That 65 mile trek is becoming a very familiar road for us. It is somewhat ironic that the restaurant in the airport has now been visited by us more than any other eating establishment in Mexico. Fortunately the airport is a very nice one, and the restaurant is the only place that non flying people can see the runways and airplanes. Having guests for a week is always fun, but also is hard work. We seem to sort of collapse after we have sent them back home.

The road between San Miguel de Allende and the airport is pretty interesting, because it is so typical Mexican. It is very narrow, up and down, and lots of curves. Now, if I only had a sports car it could really be fun. You have to keep your eyes and wits about you, as there are a lot of animals grazing on the shoulders with no one keeping track of them. Today we slowed for goats, steers, cows, horses and burros. Also there are a lot of people about, both walking and waiting for the local buses. Often you will see an honest to gosh cowboy on a very good looking horse. When you do get into a village you have to keep your eyes open for the topes, the speed bumps, or you will leave your muffler behind. There are a lot of mofles shops around.

I kind of suspect that the next four days will be serious relaxation days until our children arrive on Sunday. Then back into the tour guide mode!

Quirky Living Note: Previously, I have commented about how clean San Miguel is, and all the waste cans that the city government has put on most corners. Many citizens go one step further. Because of most home walls being flush with the sidewalks, there are also a lot of windows in those walls which are recessed about a foot into the very thick walls. Most often there will be steel bars over the window. However, many of the home owners will put a small waste basket on the ledge of the window. This then gives the passers-by the opportunity in mid-block to discard anything they might be carrying, rather than drop it on the sidewalk. It thus benefits the homeowner, the pedestrian, and the city.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Can the Tour Guide Always be Perfect?

The Cooper Week (Part III) – Week 7: In recollection you might think we are eating gourmet meals all the time. Au Contraire, we are doing that just most of the time. Actually, we try to limit ourselves to two meals a day, making the third meal just a snack or an ice cream cone in the afternoon. We are just trying to be culturally sensitive with the ice cream thing, as everyone else in town is also having ice cream. We are just blending in. Most mornings we do have a light breakfast at the casa rather than going out for breakfast. One breakfast essential is the fresh squeezed orange juice you can buy here. It was one of our first discoveries upon arrival in San Miguel and you can buy it in gallon jugs. This of course, is purely medicinal so we do not catch a cold in the 80 degree heat.

The big event for today was the Home and Garden Tour sponsored by the Biblioteca. This is an amazing effort which happens every Sunday afternoon. I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating, that this event, put on solely by volunteers, raises thousands each year for the charitable efforts of the Biblioteca. The tour probably requires 30 to 40 volunteers each week, working as ticket sellers, bus guides, and room guides in each home. There are two or three casas that are visited each week out of an inventory of some 250. The event costs $15 per person and when you multiply this by the thousands who attend (about 4,000 this year up through the second week of April) you are seeing a significant fund raiser. Besides, it is just a lot of fun, both the start with mariachis at the Biblioteca, the bus rides with the guides giving you insights into life in San Miguel (and their personal lives as expats), and then viewing the beautiful homes. Seeing these homes gives you quite a look at the architecture of this colonial city, and how the rich and famous live. For a virtual tour of the second home on the tour check out

Following the tour, we naturally had to have cappuccinos and lattes to satisfy Les Cooper’s need for caffeine. No Starbucks here, so we go to real cafés. After this pick us up, off to shopping as the shopping days for the Cooper’s were running out. How come then they only bought some children’s T-shirts, and Mary Ann ended up with candle sticks, table cloths, and other assorted stuff. This must be how she maintains her famous reputation as the “World’s Greatest Shopper.”

It is now somewhat of a tradition that on the last full day of a visit, our guests are encouraged to return to those parts of San Miguel where the may have seen something they wanted or thought they wanted to purchase. In the Cooper’s case it turned out to be a very nice Mexican tin and tile mirror that looks like about the length and width of our car! This required some negotiations about what they would take back of our stuff, while we would take the mirror. I was advocating the tire chains, but we ended up with their agreeing to take our winter coats and sweaters. For the remainder of the day we felt the Cooper’s were safe to be out on there own without chaperones or guide dogs, so we all went our separate way for the day. I explored a couple of different neighborhoods, Mary Ann went (of course) shoe shopping and the Cooper’s seemingly tried to emulate mountain goats.

For the final dinner we planned to go to Villa Santa Monica but they were closed on Monday night. The travel tour guide was a total failure. As a back up we went to Hecho en Mexico and saved a lot of money. We finished off with Santa Clara ice cream, a walk to the Jardin and then up the mountain.

Quirky Living Note: Who would ever figure that if you were a dedicated bridge player, San Miguel is the place to come? On the other hand, it might be expected when there are thousands of retired Americans, all of an age who grew up when bridge playing was a required social necessity. In the English language newspaper there are weekly notices for the organized duplicate bridge clubs, which are seemingly operating every day. There are two locations available, one in a bridge dedicated room in one of the large hotels, and the other in there own club house. I even found out that our next door neighbor, Fred, is a regular duplicate player. Need a partner? No problem, they will match you with someone.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Attacked by a Raging Bull!

The Cooper Week (Part II) – Week 7: Friday was designated as road trip day, and it actually happened that way. Because of the previously aborted visit to Guanajuato, we planned this trip for both Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato. We headed out for Dolores Hidalgo, all being brightly awake due to the exploding rockets and cherry bombs that started about 5:30 a.m. It seems that the natives celebrate with fireworks for just about anything, like a wedding, birth of a child, funeral, you name it. All day it sounded like the start of the Mexican revolution of 2007. We were not sure of the event, but suspect a wedding because of all the flowers at a church we visited in El Chorro last evening.

The stop in Dolores Hidalgo was a success as Les and Carol Cooper found some very nice wall tiles for accent in their new bathroom in their home at the Chelan golf course which they are remodeling. Our route from there was the direct (!) one over the twisty curvy road that comes into Guanajuato from the north. I loved it and it is very picturesque. It was a new road for Mary Ann and I so that was a travel plus. Guanajuato is built on hills and in a canyon so it is very hard to navigate. Underneath the city they have tunnels for streets. We tried to get into the same car-park we used last time but it was full. We continued to traverse the tunnels and actually came upon a parking place on the side of the tunnel. The stairs to the surface actually came out at one of the main plazas.

All of us enjoyed several hours of exploring this historic city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We relaxed by having lunch at an open air restaurant in the Jardin Union, the main green square in the city. We extricated ourselves from the tunnel with no problems and headed for San Miguel de Allende in the late afternoon. The trip became exciting when we came around a corner in a small village and were being confronted by a running steer coming head on. We stopped and the steer turned out to be the lead of what I would term a stampede of steers, goats, burros, horses, dogs and their handlers racing across the road. Mexico is a constant surprise!

I do not think you can come to San Miguel without having breakfast at La Puertecita, up the mountain from the casa. The best way to do this is by taking a cab up and then walking down, which we did Saturday morning. This hotel dining area is as classy and pleasant as it gets. For the rest of the day we made sure that we got our walking mileage in, doing a large circle of the city, doing a lot of looking in the shops. Not much buying yet, but the Cooper’s have their eyes on a very nice tile framed mirror. For dinner we went upscale with cena at Bugambila, Mary Ann’s favorite restaurant.

Quirky Living Note: Because all of the homes in San Miguel have nondescript fronts, the only way you can really tell what is an expensive restored casa is by looking up at the roofs. If you see trees and plants you know that there are roof top patios, with fantastic views of the city, and that this is not just a run of the mill hidden house. When walking you always want to look in every open door, as often you will see wonderful exotic courtyards.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Entertainment Mode

The Cooper Week (Part I) – Week 6: When you have criss-crossed and explored most of your vacation community, you then feel obligated to put together the best itinerary for your visiting guests, and try to make it interesting for yourself. Thus, for the Boyd week and now the week of Les and Carol Cooper’s visit (friends from Chelan) I set out a very detailed written schedule which usually gets blown apart right at the start. For instance, on Tuesday, we planned to take them to Guanajuato in the afternoon as their flight arrived at noon. I could thus avoid another driving trip to Guanajuato during the week (we never made it to Guanajuato with the Boyd’s!). I should have accounted for the airlines running on Mexican time, as the flight arrived 1 ½ hours late. We really did not have time to do Guanajuato justice, so the plan was aborted. We did make it downtown for a drink at the rooftop bar at Pueblo Viejo, then one of Mary Ann’s exquisite Mexican dinners at the casa. As the Cooper’s had flown on the red eye, they then crashed, having made it to 9 p.m.

The visitor plan always calls for taking the historical tour the first Monday, Wednesday, or Friday following arrival. Having left the cold Northwest, the Cooper’s were happy to do some walking in 65 degree weather increasing during the day to 85 degrees. The tour is a great orientation for the city and as the city has really quieted down there were only 10 people on the tour. As usual we met them at the end of the tour at the cookie convent. By that time Les required a coffee stop. Off to San Agustin (you remember the Margarita Gralia hot spot – still no Margarita on premises, but our waitress was very nice) for a plate of delicious churros and cappuccinos.

The forced march then requires a walk through the Mercado and Artesanias; just to see what the Cooper’s could dream up for packing into our car. I have been advocating with our guests that a quid pro quo will require them to haul our winter tire chains back home with them. As an alternative stop I have been hoping to have lunch at Ole-Ole, a restaurant near the Mercado and today its selection worked out perfect. We had an excellent leisurely lunch of fajitas of various types. We next shopped for fruit and other essentials and then hopped a $2 cab to the casa for siestas. Tonight we obviously will have a light dinner. The light dinner turned out to be tacos at El Ten Ten Pie which apparently means “a little something to keep you on your feet.”

Les and Carol Cooper are seemingly indefatigable and so we are nearly always on the go. Les cannot get enough of all the wonderful photo opportunities. We started the day with a walk to El Chorro and the Casa Cultural and a leisurely breakfast at the Sierra Nevada en la Parque. What a wonderful time and place to just enjoy being alive. The march then went through Parque Juarez and on to some of the south end streets as far as the Instituto Allende. Then a walk up Zacateros until we caught a cab to Fabrica La Aurora. While at the design center we of course had to be refreshed with a cappuccino, refresco, or liquados. We walked back to the casa on La Aurora and Reloj, in order to collapse during siesta time, and recharge for the evening walk and dinner.

To catch the evening sun angles we returned to the Chorro and Juarez Park areas. To recover we had a fine large dinner at Romano’s Italian restaurant. After dinner we enjoyed watching young people doing round dancing in front of the Parroquia.

Quirky Living Note: San Miguel is obviously the Mecca for retiree volunteers. Because of the large foreign retirement community, they have a real pool for charitable volunteers. There are lots of skills and lots of time for the local Anglo residents. Whether it is the historical walking tour, running the Biblioteca, the home and garden tour, the humane animal shelter, the Save the Laja River group, the Feed the Hungry program, and the list goes on and on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How to Find a Vacation Home in a Foreign Country

Now that you have read the Casa Tranquilidad home tour, you may wonder how we found this place. In fact, I am frequently asked this question. The trick is the wonder of the internet. You can go to Google and type in “vacation homes in…(name the country or city).” That will bring up all sorts of options which will get you started on your search.

One thing you need to keep in mind is lead time. I was surprised when I started searching in San Miguel in October for a March arrival. It seems that in locations where there is a heavy snow bird population, that many properties are just renewed year to year. Thus you have to reserve a year ahead. In various websites when I selected a home I found out there were not a lot of vacancies. Most websites of this type of subject will break down into location, price range, photos, and on the best sites there are calendars showing availability.

For a little tutorial let us go to the website where our casa is found:

This company has a very helpful agent by the name of Jennifer Rockett who lives in San Miguel de Allende. We have met her while we have been in San Miguel when she has brought by folks to look at the casa, I assume for next years or next falls rental. Next click on “search rentals” and then go to the section on monthly rentals of $2,000 to $3500 a month. Scroll down until you see Casa Tranquilidad and then click on the name. That will take you directly to the description and information about our casa. The full website for that view is:

Directions show you how you can work your way through the possibilities available for this company. Be sure and click on more information and photos at the bottom and you will see a complete description of the property. From my writings you know we usually are the happy recipients of dumb luck (except for certain exceptions like 4 days in Chihuahua and the robbery in Johannesburg) and that was the case with the rental of Casa Tranquilidad. After I enquired about of couple of properties Ms. Rockett quickly responded that the properties I requested were not available, but she had a new casa just coming available, that had never been rented before. She sent photos and the description and the rest is history. We have been the very first “guests” other than the owners and hope we have been good stewards of this magnificent home. In searching for a property we actually had very few requirements. We wanted a home with a washer and dryer (little did we know that the maid would do all the laundry), access to an internet DSL line, and a place to park the car. The only thing we missed on was the car garage, but you know our parking lot saga from the blog.

You might wonder (as a lawyer and a Judge I did) about the legal parts of the rental. We entered into a lease with the rental company and not with the actual owner. In fact I did not know who the owner was until a phone bill arrived at the casa. We paid half of the lease payment at the time of the acceptance of the rental and the other half fourty five days before our arrival. There is also a $500 damage deposit for such things as excess phone bills, DSL line, etc. The rental payment covers all the utilities and the payment of the maid, gardener, and ordinary repairs.

As for San Miguel de Allende, there are a lot of rental opportunities on the internet. Other companies that you might look at are:

There are, with a little searching around the internet, a lot of individual properties that seem to be rented by private owners without using a rental company. One site that fits this category is:

Quirky Living Note: As you wander around San Miguel natural curiosity draws your eyes to the property for sale flyers in the windows of the many realtors. When you read these flyers, or the real estate ads in Atención newspaper, your eyes become very large. The prices are extraordinarily high. When talking with some of the natives (meaning Gringo residents) they advise that this price inflation is solely due to the gringos with all their home sale proceeds from the United States. Over the last few years the prices have been driven up by sums paid by foreigners with just too much money in their pockets. Apparently, the market is a bit soft at the moment, following the slow down in U.S. real estate. If I was buying, I would be very reluctant to pay any listing price.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Easter Weedend Festivities

Easter Weekend – Week 6: Thursday evening we had a wonderful dinner in a restaurant named Romano’s located on Hernandez Macias on the far side of the Jardin. You might think we eat out a lot. We do, but I can assure you that it is scientific research to guarantee good eating locations for our guests. Romano’s is Italian and we had delicious entrees of manicotti and linguini with clams. The room was very colorful and we had a great view of a Jacaranda tree in bloom. Mary Ann is trying to figure out how to make a Jacaranda tree grow at Lake Chelan.

As you may have noticed, the Holy Week celebrations are building up, and the Good Friday procession was quite something else. It is a somber affair, with a lot of black worn by both men and women. The procession is called the Holy Burial and is the longest of Holy Week. The estimate is that there are 2,000 participants. The uniformed Roman soldiers, young girls dressed in white as angels, women with black lace mantillas, and black suited pall bearers accompany carved statues of archangels, a life size figure of the Virgin of Solitude and the figure of Jesus. The procession included priests saying blessings, an orchestra playing somber music, and a children’s and men’s choir. The procession moves very slowly with a lot of stops, so it took over an hour and a half to pass our viewing position. The centro and all the procession streets were jammed with spectators.

Saturday we climbed to the top of the mountain on a stairway up the street. Some very nice homes are there, but difficult to get to. The city is mobbed with visitors, with the locals complaining about all the Mexico City folks invading for the weekend. We attended St. Paul’s early service on Easter and then went to breakfast. We needed to be in Jardin at noon for the exploding of the Judas papier mache 6 foot figures strung between the park and the Municipal Building. This Easter tradition started in colonial times and has been kept alive by local craftsman. The effigies represent hated politicians or persons in authority and hang throughout the morning. At noon small rockets are lit and one by one, each figure twists and turns until a loud explosion shreds the figure into bits of paper and cane.

Quirky Living Note: Day and night in the centro area and the Jardin you see brigades of uniformed Limpia (cleaner) ladies sweeping the streets and park with their wonderful old style brooms. The LImpia name is on the backs of their blue and florescent contrasting uniforms. Like at the end of parades in the United States, the Limpia ladies bring up the rear, in the case of the processions, sweeping up all the flower petals that have been spread on the streets by the young angels.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Casa Tranquilidad Home Tour - Part 2

Moving from the kitchen, or the glass doors from the dining room entry, you start up outside stairs in a wonderfully sunlit area, full of plants and decorative architecture. The colors in this space are a soft green and bright yellow. In my opinion this may be the most satisfyingly designed space in the casa. The stairs have a left turn at a landing, and you then arrive at the main patio. This patio is surrounded by a wall keeping the noise of the city at bay, but seems to have sun all day. The space is filled with flowers, cacti, and a tiled table with umbrella. The patio is situated above the casa entry way, and contains glass bricks allowing sunshine into the entry. At the back of the patio, away from the street is the guest suite.

The guest suite is not quite as bright in color, but has a wonderful red bathroom with a floral tile motif. What is surprising in the bathrooms is a combination of colors divided about waist high. The guest suite has a walk-in shower. The bedroom has a wood beam ceiling, a fireplace, ceiling fan, double bed and a single bed, so it could handle a group of three. There is a nice big chair in the room so you could rest or read comfortably. It also contains a large walk in closet for the storage of both clothes and suitcases. Now up to the master suite.

You just can’t miss the steps to the top floor, bright yellow color with inlaid diamond red accent. Outside of the master suite there is a smaller patio that is enclosed with glass that can be opened light sliding glass windows on three sides. There is a two person patio table and chairs and the most gorgeous view of the city that you could imagine. The view is straight at the La Parroquia church and the centro historic district. The Casa faces west and the evening sunsets are often breathtaking. Our view, because of the location on the side of the hill, overlooks all of the adjacent buildings. The bedroom has glass double doors and floor to ceiling windows, permitting you, if you wish, to have a full view of the city while lying in the bed. The room has a king size bed, soft overstuffed chair, fireplace, desk, boveda ceiling with a skylight and ceiling fan. We have a lot of built-in storage and cupboards in the bathroom ante-room and a full size dresser. The bathroom is an orange/gold with bird design accent tiles throughout the room and shower/bath. In the bathroom there is a boveda ceiling and in the tub/shower there is a skylight.

My description of the casa has left out one very important factor. It is decorated with some very nice artwork and art objects. It is a visual surprise, as every day, in every room and space, you see something you had not noticed before. The owners have excellent taste in Mexican and colonial art objects. In addition Mary Ann has given them her ultimate complement, as it is all hung and placed at the proper height. There would have been serious trouble if the art work was all too high!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Casa Tranquilidad Home Tour - Part 1

As a break from my usual daily postings, I thought you might enjoy a description of our home here in San Miguel. It was a little unclear to me before our arrival as to whether we were in an apartment, condominium, or a house. It turns out to be a separate stand alone home, but in the sense that all restored houses are built flush next to each other, and they may be of different heights widths and design, even though attached to one another. I assume this is due to different builders and construction dates. Our casa has been recently remodeled. From the exterior photo previously published you can see it is flush with the cobblestone street with six outside steps on the down hill side and two steps on the up hill side. Clearly this will give you a clue we are on a pretty steep grade. The photo is a little deceptive as to its height. The guest suite level is what shows as the roof, and the master suite is up another level which cannot be seen as it is set back the distance of the guest patio.

In any description of this casa, and I suspect any casa in San Miguel, it is impossible to describe all the bright colors used in every room and space. No soft off-whites for the Mexican people. Even with my blue-green color blindness, I just love the vibrant colors. It somehow speaks to me. This tendency is confirmed when we are in the pottery stores and Mary Ann throws cold water on my bold selections, with the comment that it just won’t go with the colors of the Chelan condo.

As you enter the casa through the rough wooden door, you enter into a wide entry way, rich burgundy in color with steps up to the dining room, kitchen, and then left to the outside entry way with steps to the upper bedroom levels and patios. To the right as you exit the entry way there are steps up to the living room and a half bath. All the floors on the dining, kitchen and living rooms are flag stone. Each of the three bathrooms in the casa is done in Mexican tile. The main floor bathroom is designed with a butterfly pattern. The washing machine and dryer is hidden behind a door as you go to the outdoor stairs up to the bedroom levels. The ceilings in the entry, dining, and kitchen are rough cut timber. The ceiling in the living room is a brick boveda. A boveda is a rounded traditional Mexican ceiling made with bricks. There is a skylight, ceiling fan, and small chandelier in the living room boveda. The living room has a large gas fireplace, TV set, stereo and some very comfortable furniture. We spent a lot of time in this room, particularly in the evening. The room also has a desk and a high speed DSL connection for the laptop.

The kitchen counters and walls are all done in Mexican talavera tile. It is fully stocked with all the necessary large and small appliances to include a very new gas stove, refrigerator and essential things like a microwave, toaster oven, coffee pot, and blender (for the occasional frozen margarita). Dish washing is done by your humble writer, as the least he can do for the cooking and eating process. Mary Ann has advised that the pots and pans are of a better quality than we have at home. What an insult, considering I gave her new pots and pans for Christmas. Such an ingrate! Although the kitchen is not large by U.S. standards, it is large by Mexican standards. When on the home and garden tour, we have rarely seen any kitchen that was as roomy as ours. The rest of the casa will be described in my next article.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

And the Holy Week Parades Get Bigger & Bigger

Wednesday - Week 5: This Catholic Holy Week schedule was completely surprising to us. I was never aware of an event honoring the events of Christendom to be held on Wednesday of Holy Week. In San Miguel de Allende they seem to do their own thing. When walking in to the Centro this morning, the traffic police were moving all the cars off San Francisco Street, obviously for some big event. I asked a gentleman on the street and he advised there would be an evening procession.

The Atención newspaper told us that it was the Via Cruces procession. The procession would carry the Statue of Christ on the Cross on a platform going by 13 (not 14) stations at various churches and schools in the Centro, ending at the Calvario Chapel just below our casa. These are no little events. The procession included a band, other platforms with religious figures, and literally hundreds of walkers carrying various religious symbols, some of which completely escaped me. I really was puzzled by the pair of furry dice carried on a gold pillow. Maybe someone can enlighten me with a comment to this article. The platforms are not like our traditional floats on wheels. They are lifted on poles by marchers, similar to carrying the Egyptian Pharaohs. Looks like a lot of hard work, and most are carried by women.

After the procession we had dinner at a small restaurant called San Agustin Cafe. It is owned by a well known (except to me) film and TV star from Argentina. There were lots of photos all over the walls including one of her on the cover of Playboy magazine, Spanish edition. Because of my desire to be very observant and descriptive of my experiences in San Miguel I paid close attention to all the employees, but alas, I saw no one who remotely resembled Margarita Gralia.

Quirky Living Note: Little did we know when we scheduled our 10 weeks that we were going to be involved in so many holidays. This isn’t particularly relevant to our life style, except as to our having been very spoiled by having a maid three days a week. As the holiday approaches, our manager Pilar calls and asks if it is all right that Betti take the day off for the important event. This week it was Good Friday. With Mary Ann having worked for years for Catholic Family & Child Service, and always getting Good Friday as a holiday, it would certainly be sacrilegious to raise any objection.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Dr. Mora? Is that a real name of a town?

Monday & Tuesday – Week 5: Now that school is out for Holy Week, there are a lot of kids about, and not nearly so many adult events seem to be scheduled. A walk to Parque Juarez this morning revealed a basketball camp for several ages of both boys and girls. Who knows who is sponsoring Tigres 2007? Early this morning about 3 a.m. we were abruptly awakened by thunder and lightening which seemed to be right on top of us. There was a little rain, judging by the steps, but not much. Things being a bit quiet today, Mary Ann and I sat for a time in the park, and then moved on to the Jardin. The pantry seemed a bit empty last night, so we did some grocery shopping. Wow, what a task filled day.

We planned a road trip for Tuesday. Off to what is touted as a ghost town. The name of this place about an hour to the northeast is Mineral de Pozos. The route towards the main route to San Luis Potosi was a new one for us and is through some very nice farming areas. It looked very prosperous, with some large scale farmers. We had not been on that road yet, so we have only one road out of San Miguel to go, and we will have covered them all. What was really cool was that the signs on the road are to a town called Dr. Mora. Now what kind of town has a name like so goofy. We actually went into Dr. Mora, and it seemed to be a decent sized farming centered town. They had closed the main road into the downtown for their market day so we did not get to see in all.

So what about Pozos? The pavement ends and the whole town had streets of very rough cobble stones. Poor Katy’s car is having a rough time. There were a lot of ruined buildings and not very much of anything happening. It did not tempt us to even get out of the car. So much for Pozos.

Quirky Living Note: My reading of Atención newspaper has shown that there really is not much crime in San Miguel. They list the type of offenses for the past week and it is pretty paltry by U.S. standards. They do, however, omit the reasons for many arrests. Probably the city administration does not want to alarm the gringos, or affect the tourist trade. There is however quite a police presence. There is the tourist police, the traffic police, the state police, and the federal police. Lots of police cars and pickups out and about, and even bike police, and walking patrols, mostly for traffic in the downtown. The policemen I like most though, are the horse patrols, all dressed up in what look like Mexican colonial uniforms. Now that is definitely something the local tourist office probably asked for. Now that I think about it, the tourist office is right next to the police station on one side of the Jardin!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Palm Sunday Like Nowhere Else

Sunday – Week 5: A combination of Palm Sunday, April Fools Day, and switching to Daylight Savings got the exploding rockets and bell ringers out really early. Mary Ann couldn’t believe she was supposed to be awake in the semi-darkness.

San Miguel does Palm Sunday like nowhere I have ever been. I must have been repressed by all those Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal years. As a start, just down the street a block, at the Calvario Temple, the procession with Jesus riding the burro started down the hill followed by worshipers dressed as the disciples and everyone carrying palms. The procession ended at the San Francisco church. The poor burro, however, was left outside the church.

We then went on to the Jardin and around the Parroquia Church a processional parade was coming around the corner of the church. This was a big deal parade with hundreds of participants dressed for church. In the parade were dancers, drum and bugle bands, singers, clergy, and a float with a Jesus statue riding the donkey. The entire parade marched into the La Parroquia church. We were quite amazed that all the procession participants would fit, but the square footage of the churches with the cross aisles can be deceptive.

Outside of the church in the open area in front of the Jardin were vendors covering all the sides of the square selling elaborate woven palm crosses. Business was brisk as it seemed that everyone in the Jardin was carrying some sort of small palm decoration or palm cross. We are the proud owners of two of them. As you can imagine, all of this pageantry and religiosity was a major attraction for Mary Ann, the soon to be professional photographer! Thank goodness for digital cameras, or we would have to mortgage our future to Kodak.

Quirky Living Note: Generally, the water in San Miguel is pretty safe, when ordering in restaurants. At our casa we have one of the big five gallon dispensers of purified water, like those you see in office settings. We also have a water purifier on our kitchen sink spigot for when we wash the dishes or fill the coffee maker. The good news about purified water is that five gallon jug of Santorini water (supplied by Pepsi Cola) costs only 17 pesos, about $1.50 U.S. dollars.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Holy Week Starts Early

Friday & Saturday – Week 5: For a great start on a Friday, we flagged one of those $2 taxis and were taken up the mountain to the La Puertecita Hotel. We had a wonderful breakfast on their garden terrace. What a tough life we lead. Next we were off to the centro for Mall & Mary Ann to complete the shopping before the Boyd’s have to fly back to the Northwest tomorrow. Walking in the city today made us realize something was really happening. Holy Week (Semana Santa) is a real on going event, not confined to the historical week starting with Palm Sunday. There are a lot more people and cars on the streets, and the kids are being let out of school (sent off with popsicles) for the Semana Santa break.

When we reached the Mercado we found an entire street blocked off and the street was completely full of flower vendors. Taxis were being loaded with flowers and off they went to the homes with altars to celebrate Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Our Lady of Sorrows). Today, doors and windows of homes in the historic center of San Miguel are being decorated with purple, white and green colored altars strewn with fragrant herbs and flowers to recall the sorrow of the Virgin Mary for the death of her Son. I am told the evening is filled with generosity and hospitality as neighbors offer cool fruit drinks and ice cream to altar visitors.

On the shopping caravan Mall bought a pair of shoes known as the San Miguel sandal. I did not even know there was such a thing. I read the box and it had a description of the “combat sandal”. The sandal is very sturdy with rugged soles, so I can only surmise that it is good for walking on the cobble and paving stones of San Miguel or…for fighting wars.

Friday evening was more interesting than we could have expected. Starting with a home across the street from our casa, their altar decorations were just outstanding. The photo of the presentation is above. Then proceeding down Correo Street, we viewed and entered several more altar events. None however exceeded that which was across the street. To highlight the week for the Boyd’s, we had dinner at La Capilla, a roof top, open air restaurant on the back side of La Parroquia church. It is a fantastic site for a restaurant and wonderful cuisine. All the better, as Tom and Mall treated us to dinner. Returning home from dinner the Jardin was just packed with people and Correo was a pedestrian street because of everyone enjoying all of the altar presentations.

Saturday morning was dedicated to returning the Boyd’s to the airport. All went smoothly and after their check in we shared breakfast at the airport café. Upon our return to the Casa, we have collapsed and are recuperating from the week of activities and entertaining. It was a terrific visit and a week we will always fondly recall.

Quirky Living Note: On one of our first visits with our local friend Natalie Hardy, she told us that San Miguel is known as “The City of Fallen Women.” She then gave us the punch line that she hopes when she returns in her next life that she will be an orthopedic surgeon so she will be a very rich woman. The reference is, of course, to all the falls on the cobble stones and not to the morals of the local ladies. Maybe that explains the San Miguel sandal!