The three months in Aguascalientes flew by. The Feria had just begun when I found myself on an overnight bus bound for Puerto Vallarta, home of my favorite airport in Mexico. Interesting how I now consider this city to be a commute to an airport rather than a beach destination.
My direct flight to Seattle was uneventful other than we arrived an hour early, I breezed through Immigration and my bag was the first off the carousel. The drive through the pass to Leavenworth was snow-free with minimal fog.
Wednesday was my first day back. My friend Ann and I ventured into Wenatchee to do some shopping. We stopped back at her home on the river where I snagged this photo of the view from her deck.
After a fitness class and lunch at the senior center on Thursday, my friend Karen and I spent the afternoon together. First stop was the Sure To Rise Bakery in Cashmere for an apple fritter. J C Penney in Wenatchee was next where I found a new pair of New Balance track shoes. Then off to AT&T to get a phone chip.
On Friday Jessie picked me up and we drove out to Ingalls Creek Enrichment Centre for Camp Heartbeat. 31 4th-6th graders attended this event hosted by Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene. It was an amazing weekend bustling with activity. In addition to the chapel sessions, the kids did everything from zip line to cookie decorating. The first photo is the group of girls who were in my cabin. The second photo gives you an idea of the beauty that surrounded us. The third photo is the chalet where we stayed.
My friend Christina and I went out for dinner on Sunday when I returned from camp. Monday morning Karen and I were back in Wenatchee doing a CPR refresher course. This morning I taught a fitness class and had lunch after at the senior center. Then I was off to the library to pick up a book for book club.
Here are some photos of the trees in their spring glory.
Of course there is still snow up on the mountains………
Finding a Christian church in Mexico is difficult enough as this is definitely Catholic country. Finding a Christian church where I feel comfortable and welcome is another hurdle. Finding a church where I am able to become involved is a blessing. I’ve lived in several places in Mexico and have attended a few Christian churches. The gringo churches were not my favorites. While I am still not completely fluent in Spanish, I still prefer the Mexican churches over the gringo churches.
Here in Aguascalientes I have discovered a gem of a church, and it’s only two blocks away from where I am staying. One Church is only two years old and has only fifty congregants. A husband and wife, both pastors, not only spearhead this church but they also financially support this church with outside jobs. Although One Church is affiliated with Redime (Redeemed Church), it receives no funding from this organization. Additional funding is provided by contributions from the congregants at the services. Tax receipts? Not in Mexico.
Services are held Sunday mornings at 11 am and Thursday evenings at 7 pm. The worship team lead the congregation in prayer and praise followed by a short coffee break. A nursery as well as a children’s program are available when the pastor next gives a sermon. The service concludes with more prayer and praise.
The church has an active group for young adults that meets on Saturday afternoons. A time of prayer and bible study is often augmented by going out into the community and evangelizing. The church also sponsors a radio program on Saturday afternoons where the pastors and congregants participate. The pastors were also instrumental in establishing a drug rehabilitation center in Aguascalientes. Many of the congregants volunteer their time at this facility.
The pastors themselves come from very different backgrounds. Martin attended Ana Sanders Seminary in Mexico City and received a doctorate from Vida Nueva Para El Mundo. Elizabeth had traveled around the world with profeta Yalile Diaz, Interestingly enough, Martin and Elizabeth met on Facebook. They have been married for three years and have an adorable two-year-old son.
If you ever find yourself in Aguascalientes, I highly encourage you to seek out this church in Las Flores. I’ve been in Aguascalientes for only three months, and I truly feel that I belong to this church family. The pastors and the congregants have been most welcoming to this gringa, and I know that I will miss them when I head back up north in a couple of weeks.
Today is April 4th. In three weeks time I will be back in Washington. I’m now into crunch time with several last minute things to do.
Here in Aguascalientes I still have one museum and one church on my list. A day trip to San Jose de Gracia is still on my list. My one month stay turned into three months and even that isn’t long enough.
The Feria San Marcos is coming up and it is the largest fair in all of Mexico and goes on for more than two weeks. Some of the events are happening right at the end of my street. Friends have warned me of the 24 hour loud music and the millions of visitors who come here to Aguascalientes for this fair. My dilemma is do I stay here for that extra day or do I leave a day early and spend a day in Puerto Vallarta before getting my flight to Seattle.
I have also begun investigating in earnest the joys of travel health insurance plans. Not all plans cover the USA and apparently not all plans cover the state of Washington either.
I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Culiacan with my family. My new grandson is a month old today and I met him for the first time last weekend. There is also nothing like having your six-year-old grandson crawl into bed to cuddle with you at 6:30 am on a Sunday with a Mamut (chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie). Or playing Spanish card games with him and his two brothers. The weekend flew by all too quickly.
I’m off to explore the Thursday tienguis in my neighborhood now. I enjoy engaging the vendors in conversation and always find something to buy.
This has been a very different winter for me here in Mexico. When I left Culiacan back in November, I was determined to explore parts of Mexico that I had never seen before. When I lived in Guadalajara, I traveled to various pueblos on the weekends. I visited friends in Mexico City. I lived in Irapuato for a few months and checked out Guanajuato. But there was still lots of new territory left to explore in central Mexico.
Many of my friends back in Washington were skeptical about my plans. You’re going to travel alone? You’re going to take overnight buses? You’re going to a place where you know no-one? You’re not sure where you will wind up or for how long? But that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past few months and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
When I first arrived in San Ciro de Acosta, I marveled at the quaintness and the simplicity of life there. The town didn’t even have a bank. You couldn’t use a credit card here if your life depended on it. It was like stepping back several decades in time. And I thought that a couple of weeks here would suffice.
But I was mistaken. I spent two of the most relaxing months of my life in San Ciro. I had time to work on my book without interruption. More importantly, for the first time in a decade, I had time for ME. I had time to contemplate life, time to process all the changes, time to reflect on my experiences and time to think about what lies ahead.
When I felt ready to leave, my destination was the city of Aguascalientes. Former students had raved about the beauty of this city and I was eager to see it for myself. And I have not been disappointed. The museums, churches and parks are amazing. It is such a clean city and is right up there with the Yucatan in terms of safety. Initially I planned on a one month stay.
But as the one month mark drew near, I knew that a second month was definitely in the wings. And when the second month drew near, I knew that a third month was indicated. And as the third month is drawing near, I am seriously considering returning here next winter for several months.
Years ago my therapist remarked to me that I was fortunate that I made friends easily and adapted well to new situations. Sometimes this blessing is also a curse. While the transient lifestyle has its appeal, it also has its downside.The older I get, the harder it is to say good-bye to people I meet on my journey. However the friendships I have made are priceless and the growth I have experienced has been incredible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,
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.
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.
This park also has animals. Most are caged but some of the larger birds roam free.
There is an amusement park area with rides for the children.
My favorite part was the fountain area. I always find water calming. I was also delighted to see ducks swimming around in the pond.
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.
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.
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.
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.