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’ll be honest. I’m still trying to find myself. Yes, I know that this expression is decades old. But so am I, and I still crave adventure and who knows what else. I have been so many different people throughout the years. Baby to child to teenager to adult to wife to mother to name just a few. Babysitter to bookkeeper to manager to business owner to counselor to social worker to motivational consultant to teacher to writer to fitness instructor to name just a few. But who am I really?
Many followers of my blog know me personally. However there are others from around the world who read my posts and have never met me in person. So this post is dedicated to you. Here is a glimpse of who I am as I travel through this journey of life in an attempt to find myself.
My name is Karen and I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province and is smack dab in the middle of the prairies. It is infamous for the brutal winters and has justly earned the nickname of “Winterpeg.” Other than a brief few years in Oak Bluff, Manitoba I lived in Winnipeg all my life until November of 2010.
I still vividly recall the day I left. First stop was Grace Hospital to say goodbye to my daughter, who was a nurse there at the time. From there my son took me to the airport where another tearful goodbye transpired. I was on my way to my first ESL teaching job in Mexico. I had never been apart from my children for more than a couple of weeks at a time, and this was going to be a ten month separation. I cried all the way to Minneapolis and my first layover on the journey to Culiacan. And I must admit that I am still tearful as I don’t see my children often enough. I love them, I am so very proud of all their accomplishments and I miss them terribly. But we are all adults and we all have our own lives to lead.
I returned to Winnipeg in July of 2011 and halfheartedly began looking around for a job and a place to live. I also had legal issues to deal with as my divorce decree was nowhere in sight although the marriage had ended in January of 2009. And then I received the phone call.
Are you interested in coming back to Mexico? We have a job opening in our private school here in Irapuato. Really? Hmmmm, teaching in Mexico was to be a one year plan. But the Skype interview went well and a couple of weeks later I was on my way back to Mexico.
It is now February of 2018. And I have retired from teaching. I’m into my third year here in Mazatlan after a few years in Guadalajara. I have also discovered a new summer home in Leavenworth, Washington where I lead an active life including a fair amount of volunteer work. Yes, summer home. Mazatlan is far too hot in the summer.
I have published two self-help books. “When Glad Becomes Sad” deals with depression and anxiety. “Alive Again” deals with separation and divorce. I am currently working on a book of fiction and enjoying writing it immensely. I have contributed articles to books published by other authors, and hope to publish more of my own poems and short stories in the future.
When I’m not writing, my favorite pastime here in Mexico is attending music and dance performances. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I belong to a Red Hat group and I play Hand and Foot regularly. I spend hours walking along the malecon. I love the ocean. That is what influenced my decision to leave Guadalajara. I like to watch movies and am hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush. I also take hundreds of pictures with my smart phone. And I have more recently begun volunteering at a Christian mission. And as an aside to my friends in Leavenworth, yes I am still coloring.
I am forever indebted to former Tlaquepaque housemates Omar and Sean who encouraged me to begin writing a blog on WordPress. And I am flattered that so many people take the time to read my posts. And I now have the time to read other writers’ blogs.
Now that I am retired, my focus will be on my writing, especially my current work in progress. I have no idea what my next post will be about. I hadn’t anticipated this one until the words began to flow. So we’ll all be in suspense until the next one.
My friend Mitch commented on my wall the other day that it has been just over ten years since the auction closed down. Auctions were a big part of our lives back then. Mitch worked at Wachniak’s in Winnipeg. And my friends and I went to these auctions hunting for treasures for our E-Bay businesses as well as for ourselves. We’ve all had so many changes in our lives since then. Partners, occupations and residences have all changed. All that is left are the memories of another lifetime.
Today my friend Kathy posted that her dog is still enjoying the many toys I gave her when Koal left us. And that was just over nine years ago, although sometimes my heart aches like it was just yesterday. My life has changed so much since then. Travels and people and adventures have made the time pass by way too quickly.
The last time I had Christmas dinner with my children was eight years ago. We actually enjoyed it together a week early, as a friend and I were off to Cuba for Christmas. I envy my friends who are able to celebrate the holidays with their families back home. For me it has just become an impossible dream at this point in my life.
Just over seven years ago I arrived in Culiacan to teach English. Juan was a colleague eager to improve his English, and my Spanish was non-existent. We became great friends and he and his wife adopted me into their family. Indeed their entire extended family has welcomed me. Over time, Juan and Lucila’s family has grown and I now have three precious nietos (grandsons). I am off to Culiacan in two weeks to ring in 2018 with my family. I can’t wait to see how much the kids have grown since I last saw them in April before I headed up north for the summer.
Do you recall that proverbial question that was asked at all job interviews……Where do you see yourself five years from now? Well, five years ago I never would have predicted that I’d be dividing my time between Mazatlan, Sinaloa and Leavenworth, Washington. Five years ago I was living in Guadalajara and had never even heard of Leavenworth.
So now I cannot fathom where I will be five years from now. Can you? But I am enjoying where I am right now………………
Last month I was in Guadalajara four times related to my cataract surgery. And I took advantage of every moment to spend time with friends and to visit some of my favorite places. I loved living in Guadalajara and if it had an ocean I’d still be there.
On my first trip, I headed out to Parque Mirador for the afternoon. The view of the canyon is breathtaking, and I used to spend hours here gazing out at the spectacular scenery and writing, while sipping my favorite Bohemia.
I spent a fair amount of time in the Jardin Hidalgo in San Pedro, the area where I used to live. It is so peaceful there early in the morning and the pigeons are a delight to watch. The two churches are busy places with people coming for early mass. The man selling cheese and the lady selling bread have their usual spots. The shopkeepers have not yet opened their doors and the garden is a perfect place to relax.
In the evening the Jardin Hidalgo is a busy place. Salchichas, tortas, churros, ayot and hamburguesas are only a few of the offerings here. What I enjoy is plopping down on a bench and watching people. And of course there is the added spectacle of the churches lit up at dusk.
I stayed with my friend Pedro and his family and it is always a delight to visit. Pedro is a former student and we used to get into quite the conversations in the classroom. My students always tell me that they are so grateful to have a native speaker of English teach them, but I feel privileged to have students like Pedro as I have learned so much from them. Here is a shot of Pedro, an avid cyclist.
On a sad note, my favorite coffee shop closed down. Claudia and her mom ran this place for eight years and their lease was not renewed. The ambiance was awesome and I treasure the memories of hours spent there with friends over the years. The food was outstanding and always cheerfully served. I was able to enjoy one last meal there in February just before it closed.
Another one of my friends opened up a cantina and I spent an enjoyable night there with friends. I highly recommend Alaz Luchas for cold beer, great music, interesting decor and of course wonderful food.
I enjoyed a morning in the Centro Historico although the main street was ripped up by the construction for the third line of the Tren Ligero. Here are some shots I took of the cathedral and the area nearby.
One morning I headed to the mercado for a delicious breakfast of pizole and tacos. The lower level is where the crowds of locals come for traditional Mexican fare.
I also squeezed in a quick trip to Forum Tlaquepaque, one of my favorite shopping malls in the area. I had planned on seeing a movie, but time just got away from me.
The main purpose of all these trips was the cataract surgery. The following photos are of this amazing clinic in Zapopan where I saw the opthamologist and had the surgeries done.
I miss you Guadalajara. If only you had an ocean. I look forward to returning again soon, but this time it will be all pleasure and no medical issues to contend with. I intend to spend time with friends and revisit my old haunts.
I was talking to my son last night and he remarked that I am a nomad. Apparently what I consider a long period of time and what he considers to be a long period of time are miles apart. Fourteen months in Mazatlan to me is a long period of time. The move to Leavenworth for three months is a much needed change.
I glanced back over my blog posts and noted that I had already published Am I A Nomad back in January of 2014. And I have been on the move since then. Therefore I have titled this post Still A Nomad.
I actually did remain in the same house in Tlaquepaque until April of 2015. The plan was to visit my Mexican family in Culiacan and then fly to Winnipeg out of Puerto Vallarta. I was having a book launch for Alive Again and had a few medical appointments scheduled. Then I would return to Guadalajara.
While I was in Culiacan, I received a job offer in Mazatlan. So I decided to check it out. I stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, and it was a great reunion. On the way to Puerto Vallarta, I spent a couple of days in Sayulita with a former housemate from Guadalajara.
Back in Winnipeg, my 10 days soon became five weeks. I stayed with my son and a variety of friends and lived in various areas of the city during that time. By the time I returned to Mexico, I’d been living out of suitcases for almost eight weeks.
I moved in with a family from Mexico and stayed there for 5-1/2 months. I then stayed with a friend for three weeks until I was able to move into a condo. I remained in the condo for eight months before arriving here in Leavenworth almost three weeks ago. I plan on staying here until sometime in October when I will return to Mazatlan for the winter.
I still haven’t found that perfect place yet where I might settle down. And I don’t know if I ever will. But it has been the most amazing experience traveling and moving around after spending decades in Winnipeg. Obviously there doesn’t appear to be any real stability in my choice of lifestyle unless you categorize change as stability. And that is an interesting thought to ponder as I sit out on the deck and enjoy this view:
I can’t believe it’s December already. The months have flown by quickly and 2015 has been quite a hectic year filled with activity. In reality, the older I get the faster the time flies by.
In January I was living in Tlaquepaque and teaching at Avery Franz De Witt. I was working on the final edit of my second book, Alive Again. And I bought a pair of mitts and a headband because it got so cold at night in Guadalajara with lows of zero degrees. But the fountains still flowed with water in the daytime.
February was another busy month of teaching and writing. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with Carlos. Then I found myself traveling to Manzanillo for a few days by the beach.
When I returned to Guadalajara I began the arduous process of preparing for a book launch in Winnipeg. March was the first of many stressful months. I had to book flights to Winnipeg and arrange a variety of appointments while I was there. I had medical matters and financial issues to deal with in addition to the book launch. I had to sort out accommodations and ensure that I had time to see my friends.
April was insane. Right after Easter, I headed to Culiacan for a visit with my family. Off to Mazatlan next where I reunited with Larysa whom I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. I also accepted a teaching position at a language institute. I headed south to Sayulita to visit with Debbie who now owns a bed and breakfast there. We also spent a day in Bucerias before I headed back down to Puerto Vallarta to catch my flight to Canada. Yes, four different beaches in just one week!
I flew to Winnipeg via Calgary. David met me at the airport and I moved in with Donna and Loris for a few days. Next it was Audrey, Nancy, Kyle, Carolyn, Kyle, Donna and Loris, then back to Mexico. I had my book launch at McNally Robinson, spent time with my friends and had a myriad of medical and other appointments.
I flew back to Mexico at the end of May and rented a room with a Mexican family in a working-class Mexican neighborhood. It was a fabulous opportunity to get immersed in the culture and practice my Spanish skills.
In June I taught staff English at Hotel Torres. July was a holiday month from teaching and left me time to explore Mazatlan and do quite bit of writing. I also volunteered at The Vineyard Church making sandwiches to distribute to the poor people out near the dump.
The months flew by and I was soon on my way to Toronto. I spent a couple of days with my friend Deb whom I hadn’t seen in years. I then joined my daughter Kimmy and the rest of the group at the airport and was on a flight bound for Punta Cana, the destination for her wedding.
What an amazing week that was! I spent many happy hours by the pool with my daughter and her friends and new family. Kimmy had organized a fabulous group event that included everything from cigar-making displays to horseback riding and everything in between. There were also family dinners, a bachelorette party and then finally it was the wedding day.
A friend of Kimmy’s performed the ceremony on the beach Thankfully the rain held off until after the big event, but the dinner on the terrace was moved indoors. And then it was off to the disco for dancing.
One more day of relaxing by the pool and then we were heading back to Toronto. Except that WestJet had mechanical problems so our return flight was delayed by a day.
I returned to Mexico and had a very busy November. I started teaching again and then made plans to move into a condo with another woman from Canada. But the condo wasn’t available until early December, so I wound up moving in with another friend for three weeks.
December was another busy month. I moved into the condo and began to settle in. There is a pool so it has been nice to get back into the water again. And of course there is another new neighborhood to explore. Christmas was approaching and I found myself traveling again, to Guadalajara and Tototlan.
I am now back in Mazatlan and happy to be home. I’d like to wish everyone all the best for an amazing 2016, a year filled with peace, happiness and good health.
This year I took an overnight Turistar to Guadalajara. I arrived early in the morning and headed to the Jardin Hidalgo. The shops surrounding the square were just opening up as were the vendors’ stands. It was very peaceful and I have missed this pastime.
Next I went to Jahanve, a coffee shop I used to frequent. It was great to see Claudia again and I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast. My friend Steffie was visiting from Switzerland and we hadn’t seen each other in three years. Another friend, Monica, also joined us.
That night I stayed with my friend Pedro, a former student, and his family. Pedro and I used to get into sparring debates in Conversation Club, and it was great to converse once again. Here is a photo of Pedro and his wife Mary.
The following day I headed out to Parque Mirador, my favorite place in all of Guadalajara. The canyon is amazing, and I have spent hours gazing out at the beauty of this marvelous creation of nature.
That night we headed to Indio Rock to hear my friend German’s band play. Barbershop is an awesome band with fabulous renditions of 60’s and 70’s English rock. The guys posed for a photo before their performance.
The next morning found me on a bus to Ocotlan, where I met my friend Omar. We went grocery shopping and then headed to his home in Tototlan. We enjoyed a traditional turkey Christmas dinner, visited, watched movies and relaxed.
We also ventured out around town on his moped. We had a delicious lunch one day near the plaza. Omar has a large family and we visited with his aunt and several of his cousins. We then headed up the mountain to the temple and the view of the town was spectacular.
All too soon I was headed back home to Mazatlan. The days had flown by far too quickly. It was indeed a Merry Christmas.