The beautiful Playa de Boquita in Bahia Santiago!
Wow, where has the time gone? I knew I was overdue in writing a blog, but didn't realize it has been almost 2 months. I can't seem to talk anyone else on board to share their thoughts so I guess I'll fumble through.
Some of you know that this year the plan for our family was to be back in Banderas Bay by mid-February so we could prepare ourselves and Endeavor for the Pacific Puddle Jump (www.pacificpuddlejump.com) which is basically a migration of sailboats that depart independently sometime between March and May, and head south to the Marquesas. Our journey would continue through the French Polynesia to Tahiti, Tuamatos, Bora Bora, back to Tahiti, on to Hawaii, and then home. The first leg is 2600+ miles and takes roughly 3 to 4 weeks. In Rick's estimation, the entire route from Puerto Vallarta to Washington via French Polynesia would be somewhere around 10,000 miles. That's a daunting number when you have to cram all of those miles into about 4 months. We would be moving all the time which really defeats the purpose. Having at least a full year from the time you leave Mexico for us is more realistic. So, the difficult decision was made and we have put "the Jump" on the back burner. Spending a 2nd season in sunny Mexico isn't too hard to handle!
Anyway, since leaving Zihuatanejo after the first of the year, we've been plugging along, taking our time along the coast from the Santiago / Manzanillo area to Tenacatita, dropping our anchor in a few of our favorite spots in between. We even managed to squeeze in a field trip inland to Calima City. So Instead of filling this blog post with more words, I've decided to fill it with pictures instead. Enjoy!
Love the fine dining experience of the 10 peso street tacos!
Go James! Taco #3!
Colima City field trip! Check out more photos of the banana plantation, brick factory and a various photos of the city....in the gallery!
Rick snorkeling in Carrizal
This is why we love Carrizal!
...and for the clear warm water
My favorite reason to go to Barra! Fresh baguettes, croissants, and pastries delivered every morning to our boat. Love him!
The walk way up and around to the Secret Beach!
The Secret Beach behind the Grand Bay golf course by Barra.
Watch out Dad! He's catching up!
My surfer kids...
01/07/2013, Various villages around Morelia
We started our day with a nice cup of coffee in front of the Christmas tree in the living room of Casona Rosa, followed by an amazing breakfast prepared for us by Maria, who by now we love dearly and want to take home with us! Our favorite Mexican breakfast dish is Chilaquiles which Rick orders in every town we visit, not always with great success. Maria said she made pretty good Chilaquiles which we now know was an understatement! By far the best we've had....we savored every bite and continued to eat until we couldn't breathe! We finally rolled ourselves away from the table and were out the door by 10am with our local tour guide, Jesus. (His information is located on their web site www.casonarosa.com.)
Statue of Don Vasco in Santa Fe de la Laguna
All we really knew ahead of time is that we were going to tour some local villages, including the archeological zone of Las Yacatas in Tzintzuntsan. Jesus began by telling us stories about the history of Michoacan which include these small villages inhabited by the Purepecha Indians. There was quite a bit of brutality involving the Spaniards and the indigenous people. I think I'd rather share a little about one of the good guys, Don Vasco. In a very small nutshell, Don Vasco came to Mexico from Spain in 1531. He was so moved by the people of "New Spain" that he decided to leave his profession as a magistrate and become a priest. Using his own savings, he founded the hospital-towns of Santa Fe, which were special charitable organizations. They were not hospitals but a type of community in which education, medicine, faith and law fit together. Don Vasco organized communities by trades. The Purepecha people already worked with wood, clay, metal and textiles. His influence turned their survival tasks into professions, encouraging them to stay in their communities, specializing in one specific trade. As we stopped in these villages, we saw these beautiful artisans continue with these traditions of the past.
Artist, Sculptor, and creator of the Catrinas - Juan Torres
CAPULA - Our first stop was 15 kilometers from Morelia in the town of Capula. This small country village is the origin of three types of handicrafts: traditional pottery, dotted pottery and catrinas. Catrinas are the fancifully decorated skeleton figurines of Dia de los Muertos. Jesus drove us up the hill to the house & workshop of the famous painter and sculptor, Juan Torres, creator of the catrinas. We were fortunate enough to meet him in his workshop, tour his lovely grounds which have many of his sculptures on display with sweeping views of the valley. Also on his property is an old church that he has converted into a beautiful art gallery. From there we drove down to the artisan co-op in the village. Jesus explained that about 80 families come together in one open space to sell their various styles of pottery for extremely reasonable prices. Yes, we left a few pesos behind in Capula.
1 of the 7 brothers giving samples and serving up Carnita Tacos!
QUIROGA - This village is known for its woodworking, but more importantly for the Carnitas! We found a parking spot in this bustling little tourist town, walked down main street and through the artisan market displaying everything you can think of that's made of wood! We continued on to the beautiful old church where Jesus explained the story of Guadalupe as he pointed to the story that was painted in pictures on the ceiling. Continuing on, we made our way through the crowds to the plaza where the famous Carnitas were being served up from a line of individual carts. We learned that all of these vendors were brothers, 7 in total, each of them owning their own little business selling these amazing pork tacos! YUM!
Semaneros preparing Carundas for feast
SANTA FE DE LA LAGUNA - My favorite stop of the day and one of the oldest Purepecha communities which still preserve many of their traditions. Here the elders are highly respected and the older women continue to wear their pleated skirts, colored aprons, and blue shawls with black strips; not much has changed in this town for hundreds of years. We parked the car and walked through the town square where you'll find a huge statue of Don Vasco and a few locals who were selling their wares. One woman was selling these tiny white lake fish called Charalitos. Evidently they fry them in large flat pans and serve them up as a snack with salt, chili, and lime. We continued on and entered another courtyard where the church was located and further on the old hospital of Our Lady Rosario. This hospital town is run by semaneros, families of this community who take turns every week to look after it according to the rules on one of its walls. While they perform their tasks, they prepare local specialties on open flames and stone ovens. Every Friday the outgoing family prepares a huge feast to share with the incoming family. We were lucky enough to be there on a Friday and witnessed these cheerful ladies hard at work. Santa Fe de la Laguna's specialty craft is black pottery which we saw displayed in the courtyard.
TZINTZUNTZAN - Say that 10 times fast! We spent quite a bit of time here, starting with the artisan market where the locals specialize in weaving baskets, mats, and various Christmas decorations using the fibers from plants that grow close to the lake. Yep, a few more pesos were left here as well. Behind the artisan market was the entrance to the huge courtyard of the monastery complex. A long stone pathway surrounded in ancient olive trees leading to two large beautiful churches, an old Indian hospital, and a former Franciscan monastery which is now an impressive museum. After touring the complex, we got back into the car and drove up the hill to the archeological zone of Las Yacatas, which you can actually see from town. Unfortunately, the museum at the site was not open so our tour consisted of walking around the 400 square meter platform in which the five Yacatas (pyramids of rock) were built. Being the only visitors there at the time, we thoroughly enjoyed the peacefulness and spectacular views of the lake and valley below.
One of Teo's beautiful pieces!
TEOFILA SERVIN Artista del Bordado - Yes, this is a person, not a town. While we were sitting at breakfast that morning talking to Rose, the proprietor of Casona Rosa, about the various villages, I told her I'd love to find some of the lovely embroidery work similar to what she had framed and displayed on the walls of her casa. She told me about her friend, Teo, who is the award winning artist of those pieces. Rose claims she's simply the best in her field. So Maria made a phone call to let her know Jesus would be bringing us by her casa in the late afternoon on our way in to Patzcuaro. Ok this was my 2nd favorite stop of the day. Her work is amazing and every piece tells a story. Rick tried out his charm on her, but she wouldn't sell him her award winning pieces she had framed and hanging on the walls of her modest casa. That was ok with me....everything that was for sale was gorgeous and reasonably priced. We left with a few treasures!
Catrinas created by Juan Torres
PATZCUARO - Our last and final stop. Its 5pm, we're exhausted, and we successfully find ice cream to keep us going for just a little longer! This town is gorgeous and has been said to reflect the essence of Don Vasco with its cobbled streets, palaces, murals, handicrafts and charm. Patzcuaro is best known for its gorgeous textiles, along with lacquer work, toys and furniture. Unfortunate for us, we only had about an hour to explore a small piece of this intriguing town. A few days here would be more like it! Patzcuaro is also known for its celebration of the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This Mexican national holiday, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, focuses on gathering to pray and remember friends and family members who have died. Preparations fill Patzcuaro and all of the villages with activity as the women decorate the cemeteries and individual tomes with flowers; they prepare their deceased loved ones favorite foods and bring it to their graves. Thousands of candles illuminate the graveyards as the Purepecha sing traditional songs.
Our day of touring was coming to a close. We arrived back to Casona Rosa after 7pm where Maria had prepared a delicious feast of burritos, rice, beans, and homemade salsas. It was fun to rehash our day's events with Rose and Maria who seemed as excited to hear all of the details as we were to share them. We were leaving the next morning to head back to Zihua and sadly had to say goodbye. Maria sent us on our way with homemade Chile Rellenos baked in pastry that she ordered from her favorite neighborhood bakery. A nice little treat to take back and share with Terry and Diane.
Our ride home was on a bus nicer than the one we come up in and included our own "flight attendant" serving beverages and snacks! We've been spoiled from beginning to end and loved every minute of it! Time to wrap presents, bake cookies, and watch sappy Christmas movies!
01/06/2013, Our road trip to Morelia and surrounding villages
We decided last spring that our 2nd and final year of cruising would include more side trips to explore inland Mexico. Since we knew we'd be settled in Zihuatanejo through the holidays, we took advantage of the time and headed up into the hills of the state of Michoacan, spending 3 nights in Morelia and visiting a few of the surrounding villages.
Terry and Diane watched over Endeavor as we headed out of town in our premium class seats aboard Parhikuni bus line to Morelia. No, there were not any chickens or roving Mariachi bands aboard....this bus was blissfully plush, clean, quiet and more comfortable than any airplane I've been in! Each seat was provided with a screen to watch movies, surf the web, listen to music, or play games. Of course the internet wasn't working and all the movies were in Spanish, but the kids were perfectly content and in no hurry to leave the comforts of the bus. We sat back and enjoyed the 5 ½ hour air conditioned ride through the beautiful countryside, climbing higher and higher up into the hills of Michoacan. The view from our window transformed from the familiar tropical vegetation to dryer rolling cactus covered hillsides, gradually resembling nothing of the Mexico we've seen and more like the familiar terrain of central Oregon, including the scrubby Pine trees (which made Sydney extremely happy!). Taking us up to over 6000 feet, the hills and valleys became obviously more fertile and green, revealing quaint farming communities scattered along the countryside.
The entrance to Casona Rosa. More pictures in gallery!
Finally as we reached the sprawling city of Morelia (pop. 1,000,000) in the middle of rush hour traffic, we were feeling ready and anxious to disembark. The bus terminal in Morelia was more like a small airport bustling with activity! When Rick paid for the taxi to take us to Casona Rosa, the place we'd call home for the next 3 nights, we assumed it would be close since the cost of the taxi was only 30 pesos. As soon as the cab left the terminal we noticed the surrounding neighborhood was sketchy. The streets were full of trash and every single building was completely covered in graffiti. We were all feeling a bit nervous but finally we saw evidence of the city we had read about and we all breathed a sigh of relief! It seemed as though we drove out of Mexico and into Europe! We turned onto Galeana and stopped in front of Casona Rosa, rang the bell outside the cast iron door, and immediately were greeted with open arms and a kiss on the cheek by Maria. She quickly brought us in, gave us a tour and showed us to the "Patzcuaro Suite", which was perfect for our family. This lovely 16th century home offers 5 suites, each uniquely decorated with the various artwork handcrafted from local artisans from the surrounding villages. We immediately felt right at home and was already regretting not booking a 4th night!
Fernando & Maria!
After chatting with Maria, we decided to spend the evening exploring the city. Casona Rosa is within walking distance to all the main attractions up and down Madera and along the quaint side streets. We walked all the way down to the aqua duct, enjoying the city lit up for Christmas, and continued on to the colony of Inmaculada where we met Maria and her sweet husband Fernando for dinner at their neighborhood church. In the bustling basement of Iglesia Inmaculada you'll find a co-op of volunteers serving up local favorites such as tamales, enchiladas, Pescole soup, Carundas (triangle shaped tamales without filling), all for 10 to 15peso each (about $1.00USD). For dessert we had Bunuelo, which is a very tasty tortilla covered in brown sugar and cinnamon and deep fried. Yes, it was delicious. My favorite part of the evening was just being among this beautiful culture and amazing community. We were the only gringos in the neighborhood, if not the entire city of Morelia! Oh I forgot to mention that since the elevation of Morelia is above 6000 feet, this gringo cruising family was freezing their fannies off!
Hot Cocoa and Lattes at Augustinos!
The next day was a day spent exploring the city more thoroughly! After enjoying freshly baked pastries that Maria so kindly brought in for us, we stepped outside about 9am and WOW! It was so cold we could see our breath! Off we went and successfully scouted out the perfect breakfast spot, Augustinos, which the kids claim serves up the BEST hot chocolate they've ever had. The café Latte made me pretty happy, too! From there we walked through the majestic Plaza de Armas to the Cathedral, officially named Cathedral of the Divine Savior of Morelia. It was built over the 17th & 18th century and I just don't have the words to describe the beauty. It was simply amazing! As we walked through this colonial city, rich with architecture mainly from the 17th century, it felt like we were walking through the streets of Spain. Morelia has been described as being more like Spain than Spain! We walked through museums and by government offices that were once palaces, and through churches, monasteries, and schools. I was proud of the boys for hanging in there through the early afternoon before they walked their tired feet back to the casa. Sydney and I lasted a few hours longer. We shopped a bit, hit a corner ice cream parlor, and finally gave up, dragging ourselves back for a rest. We didn't want to give up but our feet thought otherwise!
We ended our day with a fantastic meal at a restaurant called "LU", located across the street from the beautifully decorated and festive plaza. It must have been the combination of colder weather, a city decorated for Christmas, and the beautiful Cathedral that finally made it feel like Christmastime!