Tag Archives: Travel Mexico

Museums, Parks and Attractions in Guadalajara and Mexico

Jalpan, Queretaro

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Jalpan, Queretaro

Jalpan is classified as a Pueblo Magico. Thankfully the sun was shining and it was warm on the day I chose to visit. The weather here in San Ciro has been quite a challenge. One day it will be 85 degrees and the next day only 60 degrees. Several cloudy days with sporadic drizzle as well.

Nonetheless Monday dawned sunny and warm and I accepted a ride to Jalpan with Froylan, the man who owns the hotel where I am currently staying. He also owns the junkyard that surrounds the hotel. And my ride that morning was one of the vehicles he buys for parts. Electrical tape secured the sensors beneath the hood and the back seat had been removed to accommodate space for an engine that needed transporting. However the vehicle made it to Jalpan with no problem once the battery had been boosted.

The drive was beautiful and afforded a view of the spectacular mountains. Actually it made me kind of homesick for the mountains in Washington state. It seems that I just can’t get enough of mountains!

My first stop, of course, was the church. This magnificent structure was at least a couple of hundred years old. I asked several people the age but none of them knew for sure.

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I then headed for the plaza. There was a celebration going on and the stage was alive with music, a play and speeches. I was totally enchanted with some of the statues as well as the Christmas displays already in place.

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I then wandered the streets. I came across this little footbridge near a hotel. It led to a steep staircase that ended on the highway. I chose to remain on the bridge and admire the view instead.

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As I continued meandering through the streets, I saw the usual loncherias, taco stands and a variety of shops. I engaged in a variety of conversations with the friendly locals who were all curious about the single gringa wandering around their town.

I boarded a bus for the return trip to San Ciro and enjoyed the amazing scenery along the way. 

My Bus Ride

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My Bus Ride

I received an email this morning from a friend in Leavenworth. She wanted to know how long I was staying in Mazatlan. Well, you miss a blog post and you lose track of yours truly. Two weeks in Guadalajara, one weekend in Mazatlan, and now I’m in Culiacan. Right now the plan is to stay here for a week, and then your guess is as good as mine. After decades of routines and schedules I am completely caught up in the world of mindfulness and moving along when the time feels right. That’s why I found myself on a bus to Culiacan yesterday morning.

I mus tell you about the bus ride. ETN/Turistar is my preferred mode of travel but my route from Mazatlan to Culiacan has been discontinued. I reluctantly bought a ticket on TAP, on a first class rather than an executive class. The plan was to arrive in Culiacan around 2 pm so that Juan could pick me up after school.

It’s been years since I took one of these, and I forget how annoyingly entertaining it can be. The TV hovered inches above my head. Amazingly enough the movie was in English. No computer terminal at my seat on this bus. I put in my headphones and scrolled through the music channels. Nothing too exciting there. But the air conditioning was blasting and it was only a couple of hours. Suck it up princess.

The bus slowed down on the outskirts of the city and two vendors got on. I’d forgotten how amusing this can be. Vendors are not allowed on the ETN buses.

The first vendor to approach me was a young woman with a basket filled with wind-up toys. I smiled back and shook my head. No, gracias. But she was determined. She must have demonstrated four or five toys before she moved on to the next passenger.

Apparently the toy sales were not doing well. Moments later she was back with chocolate……melted chocolate. After all, the temperature outside was in the nineties before she boarded the bus. Once again I declined her offerings.

The second vendor was hot on her heels. This man had a cooler full of tamales. He wasn’t quite as aggressive and a shake of the head was sufficient enough to send him on his way.

She’s back! Vendor number one was now spouting me the benefits of the cream with marijuana she held in her hands. And then vendor number one was selling honey while she was still promoting her cream. I shook my head once again, reclined my seat, and closed my eyes.

Only another hour………………

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Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

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Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

Years ago when I’d go on short winter holidays, I always marveled at the fact that the locals from California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Texas always looked pale. They didn’t have that bronzed suntannned look. However now that I actually live in that type of climate here in Mexico, I completely understand it. In the days when I was teaching, I had to travel to a beach area so that limited the opportunities. Even living here in Mazatlan and retired now, there are just so many other things I have found that fill my days.

But I finally did it! On Friday a friend and I ventured out to the beach on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). We took a bus down to the embarcadero and paid 30 pesos for a round trip ticket on the ferry. Of course “ferry” is a loose term for some type of watercraft that amazingly not only remains aloft but makes dozens of trips a day out to the island. I took advantage of the life jackets provided anyways.

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There were two other gringos on the boat with us. They were two men from Penticton, BC who were looking for somewhere to stay on the island. There was a young Mexican with a huge tray of pastry he was going to sell out on the beach. The rest of the passengers were Mexicans and did not speak English.

Our brief voyage over was uneventful and minutes later we were on the beach. We claimed two loungers and were delighted with the prompt arrival of a server to take our drink orders. It’s important to keep hydrated and I carefully balanced my cerveza with bottles of water.

My friend prefers an area with more solitude but the photographer in me thrives on the hustle and bustle of vendors and other beach goers. A line was strung across the sand to keep the hawkers at a distance.  Jewelry, tattoos, clothing, hammocks, sunglasses, hats, fruit, a variety of seafood, donuts, pastry and much more were readily available.

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And this being Mexico, of course there was music.

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The beach at Stone Island is very different from the rest of Mazatlan. There is a completely different feel to it. There are no strings of hotels along the beach. The restaurants are more casual. Bare feet and bathing suits are accepted attire. There is no evidence of Senor Frog’s or Oxxo.

I didn’t venture into the town itself. That will be for next time. I was quite content to hang out on the beach for seven hours instead working on my suntan. 

Semana Santa

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Semana Santa

Semana Santa has arrived, that dreaded time of year when the beaches here in Mazatlan are packed due to the invasion of vacationers from inland areas in Mexico. Children have two weeks off from school and the beach is always a popular spot. Of course there is also the added nightmare of the rerouting of traffic in an attempt to alleviate some of the congestion.

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I will be hiding out at the pool in our condo complex for the next three days.

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Then I will escape to Culiacan for a long overdue visit with my Mexican family.  We will attend the procession Friday morning to the cathedral. There are also special masses to be celebrated. Although I am not Catholic, I enjoy attending church and observing the traditions with my family.

Semana Santa is a busy time for all modes of travel, especially buses. Buses are crowded and it’s necessary to purchase tickets in advance, as opposed to merely showing up at the bus station and purchasing a ticket at the last minute, which is usually the norm here.

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When I lived in Canada Cadbury creme eggs symbolized Easter. When I lived in Guadalajara empenadas were prominent. I miss both of these, but I do look forward to a pina colada raspado in Culiacan. But most of all, I look forward to spending Easter with my family. After all, family is what life is all about.

Mi Amigo Telcel

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Mi Amigo Telcel

Cell phones. Can’t live without them, especially smartphones. When I arrived in Culiacan just over six years ago, I ventured out to buy a cell phone and obtain a plan. How hard could it be? After all, in Winnipeg, you went to the MTS store, chose a phone, chose a plan, gave them a credit card number for automatic payments, and away you went. The entire process took under a half hour.

Not in Culiacan. I went to a Telcel store and was told that I could buy a phone, at an outrageous price, but could not have a plan as I was not a residente permanente. My Spanish was extremely limited at that time and their English was non-existent. I left the store empty-handed.

My friend Juan Pablo offered to help me. He took me to a friend’s house to buy a phone. She had boxes full of cell phones, every make and model you could imagine. I chose a then state of the art Blackberry. She hooked me up with Telcel then and there and introduced me to the idea of pay and go. I was set.

Until I moved to Irapuato a year later. I had to get a new chip with a local number. Once again I had a Mexican friend help me out. But this time it took almost four hours until the chip was installed and the phone was working.

I stayed in Irapuato less than three months before moving to Guadalajara. Here we go again! This time my command of Spanish had improved and things went smoothly at the Telcel store. The new chip was installed and this time it only took two hours until it was activated and working. And I got this nifty little chip at Oxxo for adding saldo.

By the time I arrived in Mazatlan more than a year and a half ago, Telcel had done away with roaming and I was able to keep my Guadalajara phone number. The problem was that my iPhone was locked in Canada and my Blackberry was now vintage. And I despised carrying two phones around all the time. Telcel also has this annoying habit of requiring you to feed your phone monthly or your credits disappear. I quickly learned the art of calling people on What’s App which works off of WiFi.

I spent several months in Washington state last summer with no cell phone at all. Just before I left I bought an unlocked Android and took it with me to Mazatlan. Now I was faced with the challenge of removing the chip from my Blackberry and inserting it into the new phone. Of course it didn’t fit.

My Mexican friend Sofia took me to Telcel at Gran Plaza. They were reluctant to even try to insert it and wanted me to get a new phone number. Now that would have been a major pain. Sofia got them to try to agree to somehow cut it and get it to fit. But now there was another problem. Back in Guadalajara the man at the Telcel store had for some reason used his name to register my number. So now in Mazatlan they didn’t want anything to do with it because the number wasn’t in my name. Somehow Sofia convinced them to do it. And as a plus I was able to get a plan for 150 pesos per month that has data, unlimited texting and phoning, free Facebook and What’s App and long distance to USA and Canada. I love the Amigo Plan 150!

A month later I go in to renew this pay as you go plan. I go to the cashier and pay my 150 pesos. I go to get it activated and she informs me that I have paid a day too early so they now have to set up a new plan. And we go through the whole thing again of who the number is registered to. She was satisfied that I said it was in a man’s name and started a new plan for me. She told me that the day my plan expired I should come in and renew it in a month.

Yesterday I received a text that it had expired. I go to Telcel and pay my 150 pesos. I go to the desk to get it activated. Oh oh! The rules have changed. Now I’m supposed to wait a day after it expires and then go in to pay and activate it. This time the staff member who assisted me spoke amazing English. He offered to change the registered name into my name. Yay! It’s finally all mine! And he gave a number to text the following day, along with a code, in order to activate. And it actually worked today when I did it! He also told me I’d get a confirming message, which I did, and that I didn’t need to reply to it.  So I didn’t.

But I then got another text which I didn’t understand at all. Oh well. I’ll see Sofia on Saturday at our cooking class and I’ll ask her to deal with it for me.

A side note, I’ve been told to never ever give my credit card number to Telcel. Even my Mexican friends pay in cash every month!

Where Does The Time Go?

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Where Does The Time Go?

The other day I had lunch with friends who are returning to Calgary for the summer. They know I haven’t been teaching much and are amazed when I tell them that my first year here in Mazatlan has gone by so quickly. Whatever do you do with your time Karen? So it appears that it’s time to reflect upon what I’ve been doing.

Last year at this time I was back in Winnipeg. I was preparing for a book launch and I had a lot of loose ends to tie up so that I could return to Mexico for an indefinite period of time. My two week visit became five and I was more than ready to return to Mexico, especially when an unexpected snowfall graced us in Winterpeg.

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Living in Mazatlan is very different from living in Guadalajara. It is much hotter here and much more humid, although Guadalajara gets a lot of rain and some flash flooding. Mazatlan is a much smaller city and the air is much fresher. English is more common here, especially in certain expat areas. I actually have met people here who have lived here for years and do not speak any Spanish.

Because it is a smaller city, nothing is really far away. The traffic is lighter, and the roads are better as well. But the one big lure for me is the ocean. If Guadalajara had a beach, I’d still be there. I miss the museums, art galleries, parks and especially the canyon. But nothing compares with zipping along the Malecon here on a motorcycle with the wind blowing through your hair.

My friends have visions of me basking on a beach all day with a cerveza at my side. While I do make a point of going to the beach to relax, just the sight of the ocean from a bus window on a daily commute is calming and peaceful.  I teach, I write, I volunteer and even tried my hand at acting, but I most definitely do not lie on a beach all day long everyday.

I suppose you could say that my major focus has been on writing. I’m working on my third book and am writing fiction as opposed to self-help books. I belong to writers’ groups online. I also contributed to a book published here in Mexico extolling all the wonders that this country has to offer.

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At the moment I am only teaching private students. But I did find myself back in the classroom obtaining a CENNI examiner certification as well as a certificate to administer TOEIC exams here in Mexico.

I volunteer with Vecinos Con Carinos and La Vina. I also attended my first Friends of Mexico meeting this month.

I haven’t done too much traveling in Mexico. I went to Culiacan last September, Guadalajara in December and spent Christmas in Tototlan. My big trip was to Punta Cana in the Dominican for my daughter’s wedding last October. En route I spent a couple of days in Toronto.

I can’t believe I haven’t made it back to the aquarium yet. I went there a few years ago and it has expanded since. I also haven’t gone to Bosque de la Ciudad or to Stone Island yet. I also want to try out the ocean pool on the malecon.

Friends have introduced me to a multitude of restaurants and bars. And I have still have several on my list that I am eager to try.

But the best discoveries are all the beaches here in Mazatlan. Pueblo Bonito is fast becoming a favorite, although Olas Altas and Playa Bruja are also beautiful. These beaches are far less congested than the ones in Zona Dorada, and there are fewer hawkers to bother you as well.

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I checked out the art gallery here but it was pretty dismal compared with the galleries in Guadalajara. The Angela Peralta theatre is an elegant historic venue with a variety of plays and concerts to offer. And there was an abundance of entertainment on the streets during Carnaval and Semana Santa. Motorcycle Week featured four nights of bands and a fabulous parade. And of course fireworks are always part of any celebration.

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There are also markets featuring home-baked goods and crafts. The Plaza Machado has a weekly market and an abundance of restaurants. It was also the scene of celebrations during Day of the Dead and featured a parade.

The Malecon is an amazing stretch of about 20 km which I have yet to walk in its entirety. Beautiful statues, restaurants and bars on the beach, as well as artisans selling their crafts are found here. Benches are plentiful, and the view of the ocean, especially at sunset, is spectacular.

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My first year in Mazatlan is fast coming to a close, and I know that many more adventures await as I explore this coastal city. I’ve been hearing a lot about play readings……………………

Mazatlan Sunsets

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Mazatlan Sunsets

Mazatlan has the most beautiful sunsets as well as fabulous beaches. The other night I was totally mesmerized by the colorful display in the sky. I was out on my second floor terrace and cannot believe that my iPhone did such an incredible job of capturing the vivid colors.

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My next project is to wake up early enough to view the sunrise, which I;m sure will be equally as spectacular.