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!