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!! 

Four Days in Paris, 2015

A month ago, I promised a blog post on our wonderful Paris Adventures in October, but returning to San Miguel shortly after that, I found it hard to find time to write. SMA is a very stimulating place with lots to do. I'm back at the sculpture studio two days a week, working on my next novel about three days a week, and with Yoga, theatre and music performances, and get togethers with friends I find it challenging to get back to my blog. So, you'll get a double whammy today when I write about Paris and do my annual Christmas blog. Enjoy! 

Paris, needless to say, was magnifique! We regretted we had not allowed more time after our Italian journeys to spend there, but needed to get back to our casa in Mexico. We fit a lot into the four days. A highlight was my dear French girlfriend coming up to Paris from Poitiers for a day to spend with us. The three of us managed to flaner (French for "to stroll") the day away with stops for a long lunch and lots of talking and catching up with our lives. She is like a sister to me, and to Gary, too. 
Coffee at a cute cafe near the train station

A stop at "Beaubourg" outside the Pompidou Center We like the St. Phalle
Sculptures in the pond. 

A stop for lunch near the Pompidou Museum of Modern Art.
Gary and Michelle chat 
Hushing Sher up! Hard to do---so much to share with my dear French Sister!  

Gary and I loved strolling in the Luxembourg Gardens not far from where we were staying, on Rue Mouffetard, one of our favourite haunts on the left bank. The park was beautiful with it's trees just turning to fall colors and we enjoyed eating roasted chestnuts that vendors were selling in the park. This is a favourite fall Paris enjoyment for us, going back to the fall of  1971 when we traveled With Two Kids and a Van, title of my first book, published in 1973. Memories! 

Good "butt shot" observing this Luxembourg garden sculpture

We had an especially nice experience watching a wedding take place at this beautiful fountain in the Luxembourg gardens. We didn't photograph the couple as we didn't want to intrude but quietly observed. A romantic spot for a wedding! 
Our Sculpture Walk continued in the Tuileries another of our favourite strolls, near the Louvre. There was an outdoor exhibition of Maillol sculptures. 

 Me and Maillol nude! 

 I remember studying Maillol along with other French artists in my Art History class. There's nothing like seeing the  "real McCoy!"
The real thing! 

A couple admire the scene and I admire them.

Fall was in the air---trees were turning color and made a
beautiful backdrop for these three sculptures. 
As we approached the end of the Tuileries at the Place de Concord, we had another extraordinary 
experience. We came across a group of large granite rocks placed there, each with a sculpture of 
bronze hands, in many different gestures. 

 It was a chilly fall day and we decided to stop at a small cafe which advertised hot mulled wine. After imbibing, I sat and did some drawings of the couples sitting on a bench and others chatting at the neighbouring tables, one of my favourite past times.

Time for a glass of Hot Mulled Wine! 
Drawing the local scene

We spent late afternoons strolling the quais along the Seine. I loved stopping to peruse the collections of books, prints and antiquités at the many buquinistes, the small stalls lining the walkways along the Seine. 

The Seine with a view of the Ile-d-la-Cité and the Notre Dame Cathedral

Lovers put locks on the railings along the Seine

And carve their names into a tree. Paris is such
 a romantic city

Shopping at the buquinistes, the small stalls along the Seine, for a gift for my granddaughter. 
One last thing to see: An exhibition of art and design from Korea at the Museum of Art Decorative. It was an amazing show and we spent three hours there, at this wonderful museum of craft and design, one of my favourites. 
From the Korean Exhibition in Paris

The last evening we again strolled the Seine and watched the sunset, with some sadness that we were leaving our favourite City of Light!