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My Faves

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My Faves

I’ve traveled a fair amount in my years in Mexico. The culture and food vary greatly from area to area, as does the geography and climate. People often ask me about my favorite places and foods, so I’ve decided to write a post about some of my favorites.

Tlaquepaque is still in the lead. It is a quaint typically Mexican area only 20 minutes away from central Guadalajara. The Jardin Hidalgo, Calle independencia and Calle Juarez were my favorite haunts. Dia De Los Muertos is amazing. The best churros, rotisserie chicken and pizza are found here. The shops are quaint and ATMs are plentiful. But best of all, the locals are all friendly and there is always music in the air night and day. Uber and public transit are accessible, making commutes to Parque Mirador, Tonala, Zapopan, museums, art galleries and parks easy. Lots of day trips to smaller pueblos in Jalisco are most enjoyable.

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I’m about to begin my third month here in Aguascalientes. I live in Las Flores, a neighborhood adjacent to the Centro Historico. People are friendly and I have found a wonderful church two blocks from where I’m staying. The best gorditas are two streets over. My favorite coffee shop, Buenos Aires Cafe, is close by. The woman who runs it is from Argentina and the food she prepares is outstanding. The best omelets are at Loncheria Fer, run by my friend Fernando. Day trips to Leon, Zacatecas and the three magic towns are great. There are museums, art galleries and churches to explore.

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I spent two months this winter in San Ciro de Acosta in San Luis Potosi. This small town didn’t even have a bank. People are friendly and collectivos are available to Rio Verde, a larger town that even has two museums. Christmas celebrations in the plaza were most enjoyable. Day trips to other areas in the state as well as in Queretaro are best done by car, as buses and collectivos don’t go to many of them. I found the food very greasy as everything is fried. Finding fresh vegetables was difficult as beans, rice and tortillas were the norm to accompany the main course. I did find one place that made Chinese food, but it too was quite greasy and used frozen vegetables in their dishes.

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Culiacan is probably the most dangerous city I’ve lived in here in Mexico. It’s also home to the best tamales and incredible bakeries. I go back there often as my Mexican family live there. The first school I taught at in Mexico is also here, and occasionally I go back to visit. Culiacan has some lovely parks and the main cathedral is beautiful. I also explored art galleries and museums when I lived there.

I first went to Mazatlan in 2010 and dreamed of retiring there at some point. I moved there in 2015 when I was still teaching. But after three years, it was time to move on. The quaintness is gone and the city has become far too touristy for me. But Mazatlan has the best beaches and the most beautiful sunsets, and I’ve been to quite a few beach towns along the west coast. When I lived in Guadalajara I even preferred Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. Carnaval  is the third largest in the world. Fabulous concerts are found at the Angela Peralta Theater. Motorcycle Week and Semana Santa I can easily do without.

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I think my favorite park is Chapultepec in Mexico City. It boasts a castle, a zoo, botanical gardens, boats and more. The city itself is much too large for my liking, but it does have so much to offer in terms of art galleries and museums. The pyramids in Teotihuacan are awesome and are a must for visitors. My least favorite place in this city is definitely the airport which desperately needs more than a face lift.

I was very disappointed in Rosarito in the Baja. A few years ago I had planned on spending the winter there. After one week of a very dirty beach and warnings of not to go out after dark because of the high crime rate, I headed back to Tijuana, another not so great place, and then found my way back to Guadalajara.

I also lived in Irapuato, Guanajuato for a few months. This is another area I wasn’t too fond of. Day trips to Leon and Guanajuato City were good escapes. There really wasn’t much to do in this town. Even the Centro are was disappointing.

Let’s end this post on a positive note. A ride on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon is the train ride of a lifetime. The spectacular views made this quite the experience. I opted for a five day tour with overnight stays in four towns along the way. I actually hope to do this again someday.

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Mexico is one huge country and there is so much more I want to explore. My plan is to explore the Yucantan next winter. I also still want to go to Oaxaca, Chiapas, Morelia………the list is endless!

Calvillo……Pueblo Magico

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Calvillo……Pueblo Magico

I have visited several magic towns in my travels in Mexico. On Wednesday I took a bus to Calvillo, about an hour away from the city of Aguascalientes. I discovered a colorful pueblo with friendly people. I spent hours strolling through the streets and shops, and visited two beautiful churches.

The Plaza Principale was only a ten minute walk from the bus station.

It was also adjacent to Parroquia del Senor del Salitre, a magnificent church.

I wandered into the mercado and was surprised to find an escalator in this building. All mercados I’d been to previously in Mexico had stairs and ramps.

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I took this pic in front of the Santuario de de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. It gives you an idea of the steepness of the street leading up to this church,

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On my walk to the museum I came across this colorful street as well as an amazing candy store. Unfortunately the museum was closed for renovations.

All too soon it was time to leave this magical town and board the bus back to Aguascalientes.

Dos Parques

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Dos Parques

I don’t spend all my time in museums and churches. I do spend a fair amount of time outdoors. There is a lovely park about a away from where I’m staying, and it’s my favorite place to go when I want to color. I pack up my gel pens and coloring pages and enjoy it far more than coloring indoors. People are curious and I get into some interesting conversations. Just the other day I taught a little girl how to count up to ten in English.

Parque Hidalgo is another park I visited a couple of weeks ago with my friend Iracema and her four-month-old son Ian. It goes without saying that there is an abundance of greenery due to the beautiful weather here in Aguascalientes.

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This park also has animals. Most are caged but some of the larger birds roam free.

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There is an amusement park area with rides for the children.

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My favorite part was the fountain area. I always find water calming. I was also delighted to see ducks swimming around in the pond. 

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Another park Iracema took me to was Rodolfo Landeros. This park was huge and I intend to go back there. This time I will rent a motorized golf cart as it was impossible to see everything in one day only walking. Bicycles are also popular rentals here. 

We came across a beautiful lake with an abundance of swans, geese and ducks. I even got a close up of one of these beautiful creatures.

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As much as I would have liked to sit there all day and meditate by the water, there were other places to see in the park.

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We climbed up a flight of stairs to the top of a hill where we had a magnificent view of the park and the lake below. We actually did stay there for a while admiring the view.

We continued our walk and came across some animals.

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Unfortunately the aviary was closed. Apparently one of the animals had gotten loose and had feasted on the birds that were non-flyers. Only a handful of birds perched up high were safe that day.

Our final stop was Cabana Juan Chavez, home of the Mexican equivalent of Robin Hood. This is not a place for anyone with vertigo. I have climbed pyramids, explored underground caves and mines. And I can now say I have experienced the Cabana. I am thankful for the guard rails but not so thankful for the slippery black stones.

 

 

On our way back to the car, we passed by an area with trains and other animals. There is also a miniature city here and paddleboats. But these areas will have to wait for my next visit.

I am definitely going back to this park! 

Dos Parques

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Dos Parques

I don’t spend all my time in museums and churches. I do spend a fair amount of time outdoors. There is a lovely park about a away from where I’m staying, and it’s my favorite place to go when I want to color. I pack up my gel pens and coloring pages and enjoy it far more than coloring indoors. People are curious and I get into some interesting conversations. Just the other day I taught a little girl how to count up to ten in English.

Parque Hidalgo is another park I visited a couple of weeks ago with my friend Iracema and her four-month-old son Ian. It goes without saying that there is an abundance of greenery due to the beautiful weather here in Aguascalientes.

003

This park also has animals. Most are caged but some of the larger birds roam free.

012

There is an amusement park area with rides for the children.

026

My favorite part was the fountain area. I always find water calming. I was also delighted to see ducks swimming around in the pond. 

031

Another park Iracema took me to was Rodolfo Landeros. This park was huge and I intend to go back there. This time I will rent a motorized golf cart as it was impossible to see everything in one day only walking. Bicycles are also popular rentals here. 

We came across a beautiful lake with an abundance of swans, geese and ducks. I even got a close up of one of these beautiful creatures.

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As much as I would have liked to sit there all day and meditate by the water, there were other places to see in the park.

IMG_20190216_125627

We climbed up a flight of stairs to the top of a hill where we had a magnificent view of the park and the lake below. We actually did stay there for a while admiring the view.

We continued our walk and came across some animals.

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Unfortunately the aviary was closed. Apparently one of the animals had gotten loose and had feasted on the birds that were non-flyers. Only a handful of birds perched up high were safe that day.

Our final stop was Cabana Juan Chavez, home of the Mexican equivalent of Robin Hood. This is not a place for anyone with vertigo. I have climbed pyramids, explored underground caves and mines. And I can now say I have experienced the Cabana. I am thankful for the guard rails but not so thankful for the slippery black stones.

 

 

On our way back to the car, we passed by an area with trains and other animals. There is also a miniature city here and paddleboats. But these areas will have to wait for my next visit.

I am definitely going back to this park! 

Museo Ferrocarrilero

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Museo Ferrocarrilero

It was a somewhat cool and cloudy day when I took an Uber out to Plaza de las Tres Centurias to explore a train museum. I’d never been to a train museum before that had focused on railroad travel and the history behind it in Mexico, and this museum did not disappoint. What surprises me is the number of locals I’ve talked to who have never come to this museum before. Then again many have not gone to some of the other museums in this city either.

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This is a train museum. However one of the highlights has absolutely nothing to do with trains. The fuentes danzarinas (dancing fountains) was a delightful display of water combined with music. It is presented hourly throughout the day and lasts about 15 minutes. I actually watched it twice!

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The museum itself features displays in separate buildings. Admission is a mere 5 pesos and is free to seniors with an Inapam card. Each building had interesting displays, vintage items and photographs.

Outside there are a number of brightly painted railway cars along the tracks. There is even a miniature train that features a ride around the park area.

There is also a garden area with a few statues of railroad pioneers.

There is also a small ice cream shop as well as a quaint cafe featuring a variety of coffees and snacks.

I highly recommend a visit to this unique museum in Aguascalientes.

Shopping??????

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Shopping??????

Aguascalientes is an exciting city with a treasure of museums, churches and parks to explore. I had originally intended to stay for one month. I am now into my second month and still have a list of places I want to go and things I want to do. Last Thursday I decided to check out the Altaria Mall instead of my usual exploring. A 20 minute Uber ride and I felt like I was in an entirely different world.

I’m staying in Las Flores which is a typical Mexican neighborhood. The Altaria Mall is like any American mall and has many of the chain stores such as Bershka, Pull and Bear, Radio Shack, Starbucks and more. One of the flagship stores is Sears, so I now feel like I am in Mexico as Sears has all but vanished in the USA and Canada. The other main department store is Liverpool.

As I strolled through the mall, I was amused to see that Liverpool was selling Krispy Kreme donuts. I selected a Boston Cream but was disappointed and realized how much I missed Tim Horton’s in Canada. 

I walked by ComicX and I recalled fond memories of the one in Mazatlan where I often went with friends. I couldn’t help but snap photos of these lovable characters.

Hours later I found myself back in an Uber headed for home. Along the way we passed a tienguis close to where I was staying. I traded my sandals for track shoes and headed back out.

This tienguis was primarily fruits and vegetables with only a smattering of other items. It was much smaller than the one I used to frequent in Tlaquepaque. I was enchanted by the birds in cages and of course enjoyed the people-watching.

That was my shopping day…….from one extreme to another.

Diana’s Story

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Diana’s Story

I first met Diana in Aquismon on Thanksgiving Day in November. Six years old with a bright smile, she charmed all of us. A few days later, she moved to San Ciro de Acosta and my friend Bonnie became her new mother. Diana’s mother had abandoned her shortly after she gave birth and Diana had been living with her grandmother.

I first met Bonnie in a Facebook group back in November. I was looking for a small non-expat town where I could focus both on my writing and on my Spanish. Bonnie is from Texas and had married a Mexican and moved to San Ciro. Her mother Connie had moved to San Ciro a couple of months before I arrived.

I was curious as to why Bonnie and Ricky were so eager to adopt a child. Both have children and grandchildren from previous marriages. While Ricky’s family are here in Mexico, Bonnie had left all of her family behind in Texas. In addition, Bonnie’s daughter had died at the young age of 28 only 3 years before. To quote Bonnie, “I was left with an empty feeling. I was very lonely and I’ve always loved kids. When I saw how many kids really needed homes, I really became interested in adopting.”

They spoke with staff at DIF and learned that adoption is a difficult and long process here in Mexico. Ricky thought that maybe someone might give them their baby if they could not afford to feed and clothe another child. Months went by and they had resigned themselves to the fact that if it was God’s will an opportunity might arise.

And an opportunity did arise unexpectedly when they hired a boat guide one day. They had taken one of the neighbor’s children on their excursion that day. Mr. Martinez saw how they interacted and asked if Luis was their only child, Bonnie jokingly told him that Luis wasn’t their child, but that they were looking to adopt. He told them that his sister was raising her granddaughter and was looking for a home for her. Phone numbers were exchanged. Mr. Martinez invited them over for dinner. A friendship developed and the families began to see each other regularly. However no word was ever spoken about the child.

We were eating dinner on Thanksgiving Day when Bonnie and Ricky were asked if they’d like to meet Diana. After dinner, Bonnie and Ricky went to Mr. Martinez’s sister’s home and a couple of hours later they returned with Diana and her grandmother. Apparently Diana had already told her teacher that she was moving far away.

Bonnie and Ricky wanted to make sure that everything was done legally. Four days later they returned to Aquismon to pick up Diana. They consulted with a lawyer in Aquismon who drew up documents granting them full custody and guardianship. These papers were signed by Bonnie, Ricky, the grandmother and Mr. Martinez.

Adoption is complicated here. Had they gone that route, the process would have taken two years or more and Diana would be placed in an orphanage for that time period. As it stands, they are not allowed to take Diana out of the country. They also opted not to change her name as that would have added an additional 50,000 pesos to the legal fees already incurred.

The next step was to enrol Diana in a public school. Registration was 480 pesos and fees for the uniforms were another 2000 pesos. They also had to pay 80 pesos for breakfast fees although the school has yet to provide any food in this program. Students are expected to be immaculately groomed and in full uniform. Points are deducted from their grades if they are not.

The school itself has no heat or air conditioning. Parents must purchase all supplies, including toilet paper. Parents take turns cleaning the classrooms. They are also responsible for setting out cones to control traffic before and after school.

Parents are also expected to bring lunch to the children each day. Bonnie hands Diana her lunch through the bars as parents are not allowed on the campus. There are no chairs or tables and the children eat their lunch standing up outside in the courtyard.

Diana is adjusting remarkably well to her new life. She is learning to play and be a child instead of working in the sugar cane fields after school. She has made friends and eagerly shares her new toys and dolls with them. She has been introduced to swimming and indoor plumbing. Her diet now includes a variety of healthy foods in addition to the rice and beans she was accustomed to.

Most importantly, Diana is basking in the glow of all the love that Bonnie and Ricky have to offer. And I feel blessed that I have been a part of their lives and have shared in this amazing experience.

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