Saturday, December 16, 2017

Passages From Puebla

Day 1 of our trip to Puebla, December12, 2017:

We left San Miguel in the chill of the early morning, 8 am, and headed south towards our destination, the city of Puebla, also known as Puebla de los Angeles,  home of the Poblanos, not the chilis, but the people of the city. Located southeast of Mexico City and west of Mexico's main Atlantic port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two, it is the largest city of the state of Puebla, Mexico with more than 3 million people.On our way we passed the huge Audi and Volkwagon factories, a source of many jobs for the region. For more interesting facts see:

For years I celebrated Cinco de Mayo, wrongly believing it was a significant day of the Mexican Revolution. Not so. That day in May of 1862, the Poblanos defeated the invading French. As happens often in history, an occupying nation leaves its mark on its victims. Puebla is a city rich with French and European influences from its architecture to the city plan laid out in a neat grid of wider streets than we have in San Miguel de Allende, running North to South and East to West.  In the center is the huge central plaza, the Zocolo crowned by the Catedral de Puebla, one of the most renowned churches of its kind in the world. Also, the “crown jewel”of some 90 churches in the city.

After a 6-hour ride in our luxury tour bus, we arrived in Puebla, unfolded from our seats and walked a short block to the charming Hotel Colonial, once a convent, built by the Jesuits in 1698. Once our luggage was unloaded, and kindly brought to the hotel lobby, we checked in and went to our second-floor room, which surprised us with its high half-timbered beam ceiling and tall, carved wooden French doors. We opened the doors to find windows overlooking a lovely garden of trees and shrubs. 

The pretty Christmas tree in the hotel lobby 
We looked out on a lovely garden and interesting roof tops 
Our pretty room with a view 

We soon set off to find a restaurant for lunch and discover the treasures of Puebla.

Though we traveled there in a group of 47 people, we saw our travel mates only in the morning at breakfast in the hotel dining room and in small groups of one or two couples and singles at shared restaurant meals. One of the fun parts of the trip was making new friends. Lots of free time allowed us to discover and enjoy many of Puebla’s treasures. With the help of the hotel concierge, Gary and I found the near-by “Casona de la China Poblana” (see the legend of “la China Poblana” at the end if this blog). Our tummies stuffed with a delicious lunch of local cuisine, we headed off to discover the city.

Christmas decorations in the restaurant  

Our table 

The legendary "China Poblano"

First stop, the Zocolo.  Because our trip began on the Dia de Guadalupe, a Mexican holiday, hundreds of families were strolling in the Zocolo, the main center of the city, a huge open plaza. Children were dressed in the Poblano costume of the day and ran, jumped and played in the plaza in front of the cathedral. One of our favorite pastimes in Mexico is watching the darling chlidren run about and play. We invariably find this is a great way to meet  Mexican families, and this day was no exception. After a brief conversation with this delightful family, their three daughters, each with a small child, we waved “adios” and continued on our exploration of the area. We were struck by the very European “feel” the city, charming wrought iron ornate balconies suspended from second and third floor windows against beautifully tiled or painted facades. As darkness set in, the lights of the seasonal decorations came on.

In the plaza in front of the huge Cathedral de Puebla, many families were gathered

The nice family we met in the plaza 
 Day 2: After an early breakfast we joined many in our group who had decided to go on the Africam Safari tour. Everyone boarded the bus and an hour later we pulled into a broad natural area of varied flora—and fauna. I’m sure many of you will be as skeptical as I was and say: “ African Safari in Mexico? You’ve got to be kidding! Poor animals, they’re probably under-fed and in cages and miserable,” but joyfully this not the case. We spent 3 hours roaming in a tour bus with large viewing windows, this amazing place started 45 years ago by Captain Carlos Carlos Camacho, thus the name “Africam” after its originator.  He loved nature and animals and wanted to share them with his countrymen and others. Read the story here:

Then join us on a photo safari: 

The Lioness and her cub. So content. 

Beautiful scenery, too.

The King of the pride.  He looked so relaxed, content and well cared for. Couldn't believe how close we were to him. 

That afternoon we joined two other couples for comida, the large mid-day meal in Mexico.We found a wonderful restaurant, Augurio's,  in the heart of the historic district. 
We even had to wear bibs with the restaurant's name on them.  
The restaurant was not only had charming décor, but offered fabulous local cuisine, some of the best I’ve tasted in Mexico. Amongst the famous dishes are the appetisers “chulupas,” small tacos topped with delicious salsas and sometimes shredded pork or chicken. Perhaps, the most famous dish being is the Mole Poblano a thick chocolaty sauce over chicken or pork. We regaled our attentive waiter and had a fun time, laughing, eating and getting to know one another. 

 On our way back to our hotel we stopped at the well-known Museo Amparo, one of the many renowned art and history museums Puebla offers. We enjoyed a wonderful show of fiber art by Sally Hicks, and other artists from the US and Paris. 

That night, after a short nap at the hotel, Gary and I enjoyed another long stroll in the beautiful Zocolo all lit up with holiday lights. We stopped at the rooftop terrace bar/restaurant of the Hotel Royal for a glass of wine. The view, overlooking the Zocolo was spectacular.

Beautiful lights everywhere! 

That's Gary in the foreground as we began our walk through the tunnel of lights 

This delightful lit up bear in yellow and blue made me think of my alma mater, CAL, Berkeley 

No mistaking the season! 

Day 3: After breakfast, those who wanted were treated to a trip to Cholula, an archiological site of repute. Gary and I opted out of that in order to visit the amazing Museo International de Barroca. This recently opened museum, designed by Japanese architect, Toyoo Ito, was featured in a recent National Geographic Magazine. Its striking, pure white modernist exterior reminded us of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain designed by the Canadian American architect, Frank Gehry. We visited that several years ago.  The interior exhibits and arrangement of open spaces at the Barroca are spectacular. We found ourselves enthralled. Of course, I opted to spend the day. There were so many interesting exhibits, not only about the Baroque period of art and design, not always my favorite, but also exhibit halls with modern artists of Mexico, one being Amador Montes whose paintings I fell in love with. Too much to take in without a break, we met friends in the charming restaurant for a gourmet lunch, an art feat on its own with elegant service to match. 

Outside the front of the International Museum of the Baroque 

Gary awaits the taxi

We ended the day with a taxi ride in traffic back to our hotel and met friends for dinner at another well-known Puebla restaurant, Casereyna, where we had another delicious meal, though Gary and I opted for the lighter one of soup and salad. We walked back to our hotel tired but satisfied after another stimulating day in Puebla. We knew we had to pack and prepare for our next morning’s delivery of our suitcases downstairs in the lobby of the hotel so they could be loaded onto our tour bus. Fortunately, we had three more hours before meeting the rest of the group at the Fonda Santa Clara and boarding the bus to head back to San Miguel. A few of us decided to take full advantage of the time and headed off, a few blocks away, to the Uriarte Talavera factory. Puebla is famous for it’s beautiful Talavera ceramics and boasts six factories within the city’s borders, all with a history of their own. We had a tour of the whole facility and marveled at the craftsman ship of the many artisans working on the complicated forming, glazing and producing of the fine Talavera ware and sculptures we so admired.  

 After the tour we had just enough time to walk a few blocks to the Fonda Santa Clara and enjoy another amazingly delicious lunch, our last one in Puebla. Though I did not order this I was delighted my friend offered me a taste of her Mancha Mantel, a delicious dish of chicken topped by a sweet and fruity red salsa composed of tomatoes, plantains, peaches and pears. I’ll end on a humorous note. The words mean:  “spotty tablecloth,”  which I guess is what happens when one enjoys the dish so much they accidently spill much of it on the white tablecloth, as they relish their meal. We felt we consumed a fabulous meal, figuratively speaking, taking in some of the many sites of Puebla. We plan on going back for “seconds.” 

Felice Navidad to all. Hope you enjoyed the trip with us to Pueblo!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Writing Adventure

I'm just getting back to the "adventure of writing," after the busy holidays. I've featured my post about my book tour back in 2014, to remind everyone I have a book Under the Salvadoran Sun
on Amazon, waiting for more readers!

Even though you may have received several books for gifts this past holiday season, I know you'll want to consider one more. It's not only a love story, which takes place in Latin America, it's full of interesting characters such as a wise Guatemalan shaman, a very funny and irreverent nun, banditos and gangs.  Even San Miguel, my adopted city, is featured in one chapter. The story is wrapped around a current topic of debate.: immigration. This past month, I  gave a talk about Immigration and the Current Refugee Crisis at our borders. My novel will give you some insight into that topic and let you make up your own mind where you stand.  Speaking of my book, I want to tell all my blog followers, I will be offering my Kindle version  starting in February for the low price of $1.99. It's my Valentine's gift to all you ebook lovers.

My writing adventure continues with the new book. The working title is Scream. It's a story of a Swedish Immigrant and the horrible thing that happened to her during WWII when she returned to Sweden with her young daughter. It will have a ripple effect over two generations and we enter her story through that of her granddaughter, a student at the Sorbonne in Paris trying to find out the family secret of why her grandmother screamed at night and eventually took her own life. Her journey to Sweden uncovers secrets about Sweden during the war as well as her grandmother's misadventure. I hope to have it done by the end of this year and ready for publication by January, 2017. Watch for a progress report on my website,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Embracing Christmas in Mexico

Last week I began to feel a bit sad that I wouldn't be with my family in Oregon this year. Gary and I had decided to stay in our home in San Miguel de Allende and enjoy a Mexican Christmas. The following days, I began to embrace this idea as I saw the beauty of the season all around me. It' really began to unfold during our five day stay in Mexico City two weeks ago.  We watched the huge Christmas tree lit up in the Zocolo (the city's main plaza). We enjoyed  ushering in the holidays there. 

Christmas tree at the Zocolo in Mexico City(You can see the  Ice Rink
in the background.

As we strolled one of the main walking streets the first night in Mexico City, Calle Madero, we encountered Minnie and Mickey mouse, snow raining down on the strollers (artificial, of course), performers dressed up in neon lights and Christmas music playing over loud speakers---of  course, the huge US influence was evident in all! How about Jingle Bells in English, for a start? 

Fathers carried little ones on their shoulders and everyone seemed merry. Stopping at the Santa Clara ice cream shop we observed our fellow strollers enjoying a delicious ice cream cone---almost as good as Italian gelato! Mickey and Minnie mouse were also there to greet us. 

We loved eating out at our favourite Mexico City restaurant, El Azul Historico, on Calle Isabel la Catolica. It's always present blue-light wrapped trees created a lovely atmosphere along with the  decorated staircase to the upstairs balcony shops around the courtyard.
A highlight of our holiday trip was to visit the Retrospective Exhibit of the Javier Marin's  sculptures. Marin is one of Mexico's foremost sculptors, working in Clay, Bronze, and many other mediums. He has sculptures displayed around the world. His figurative work is amazing and I was inspired. Working in clay at the Barro.Co studio in San Miguel has fed my creative muses this past year and this was a special "meal" of artistic delights. 

Jose Marin's sculpture exhibit at the
Palacio de Cultura Banamex 

Another highlight of our visit was the Christmas Choral Concert we attended at the magnificent Palacio de Belles Artes designed after the Opéra in Paris during the time of Porfirio Diaz, who admired the French. He asked the architect of that famous structure in Paris to design the Belles Artes for Mexico City. The concert was conducted by John Daly Goodwin (we know him as "Jack"), a friend in San Miguel who after a long career conducting in New York, moved to San Miguel and now spends his weekdays conducting the Mexico City Coro del Teatro de Bellas Artes, and his weekend in San Miguel. I met his lovely, wife, Ruth, herself a singer, in SMA through the Literary Sala three years ago. We were joined by several other friends and acquaintances and, after the concert,  we all went to the Cafe Tacuba for a late night dinner. I knew then that Christmas holidays were going to be fulfilling in spite of the distance from my family. 

The beautiful Belles Artes, regrettably on an overcast morning

A Christmas tree at a Culinary Arts School and restaurant

Rounding out our week's activities were visits to the colonias of Condesa with its lovely parks and Art Deco period houses, and busy Roma, another neighbouring colonia.  Our sweet teeth were satisfied when we stopped at a Mexico historical landmark, the Pasteleria Ideal, housed in a two story building where one can go upstairs to see what I think must be the grandest and largest Wedding, Birthday and other occasion Cakes on display. We enjoyed selecting an assortment of Christmas cookies there for the Posada and fiesta we planned to have once back in San Miguel.

A Mexico City Landmark 

 a mini-example of the many cakes on display

The best part of our Mexico City visit was the wonderful reunion we had with friends we met 14 years ago in the suburb of Coyoachán, where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera once lived. We met our dear amigos, Charro and Enrique on a street corner while perusing a map those many years ago.  They stopped to help us and the rest is history. We had only seen them once in the last 14 years on a previous visit to Mexico City. At that time their now 14 year old daughter was about 8. We were thrilled they could come into the city and meet us on our last day there for breakfast at a lovely restaurant. It was fabulous to re-connect and we are looking forward to their visit with us in San Miguel at the end of January. Charro is a French teacher and her daughter Marianne speaks fluent French and English. We feel so blessed to have these dear friends in Mexico. 

Charro quickly zipped off this card to us via email after the waiter took a photo of all of us 

Marianne and her mother, Charro
Back in San Miguel, we saw the tree was up in the Jardin (the Central square), streets decorated with the traditional papeles picatos and lights. The roof dogs were being replaced by reindeer and the week of Guadalupe was fast upon us, a beautiful time, when Mexico's most important religious figure is celebrated. 
Our beautiful Parroquia, the parish church of San Miguel.
Didn't get a photo of the tree this year!

Reindeer are replacing our famous San Miguel "roof dogs"

Guadalupe is honored in the local Mercado San Juan de Dios
Shopping at the San Juan de Dios market 

Picking up a Santa's Hat at the Local San Juan de Dios market,
I met a darling neighbor, 8 year old Angel and his very nice mother

It was fun to shop for surprises for the children  who will be attending our Posada party 

Another honouring of Guadalupe 

Outside the market one can find lots of crepe paper and paper
mache decorations for the holidays 
Picking out a Piñata for our Posada celebration was fun, too. 
Holidays are a time for singing and we sure did that at the San Miguel "Home for the Holidays" performance led by a wonderful group of our most talented singers and performers in San Miguel. 

Home for the Holidays was a big success
with some of our best local talent 

Gary with our friend, Cynthia

Last Saturday, our friends from France arrived in their RV. They are touring Latin America for the next six months. Joel is the son of a old college roommate, who married a Frenchman. They have three sons and we remember a Christmas many years ago when traveling to Europe with Two Kids and a Van, (my first book, published in 1973). At that time, Joel, the third boy, was not born. We later met him in France right after his and Chloe's first son, Leo was born. It's been a special holiday treat to see them again and host them in our home. The boys remind us of when our grandchildren were younger. Now, 22, 20, 18 and 15, our grandchildren are actively pursuing studies, new jobs and activities with friends. We miss them this holiday season but Joel and Chloe's boys have helped fill the void.

Our French friends, Joel, Ibon, Leon and Chloe enjoying San Miguel

Getting ready for posada with Maribel Martinez, little Basheba, Abby, Ibon and Leo.
They made the night special!

We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!