Una Visita a Morelia

February 16, 2013

The Vagina Monologues on VDay was an absolute blast and such an honor it was to be part of an outrageous and lovely group of women who, together, were part of the 1 Billion Rising against domestic violence.  My character had red hair, so I used watercolors to add in the color.  And I must admit, the other Vgals and I kicked some butt.  I would be thrilled to do it again another time. And the crowd at Los Afortunados (the venue) was awesome.  They were focused, engaged, fun, funny, and appreciative.  Add to it, we raised a nice chunk of change for the women’s shelter that will be built in the Banderas Bay region.  I was filled with contentment and inspiration.  Still am.

At the Puerto Vallarta bus station
At the Puerto Vallarta bus station
4 Pesos to use los banos
4 Pesos to use los banos

So now we’re road trippin’ it to the states of Michoacán and Mexico.  Yes, there is a state called Mexico in Mexico.  And what an adventure it has been already on our second day.  It started yesterday at 8:00 AM in Sayulita.  We took a taxi to Puerto Vallarta.  While this was the more costly of the options (with the other one being a bus), we wanted to play it safe to catch our 10:00 AM bus.  Yes, our road trip is via bus.  Our first real bus experience around the country.  I’m not including the bus we took to Bucerias last October to go to the Mega, because that 15 peso adventure came  chock full of a rickety, dust-filled, wind-blown, and smothering heat-in-our faces bus that seemed like it was on its last leg at every point of elevation.  And where we live, elevation is only about 200 feet above sea level.

But now that we’ve experienced PrimeraPlus, our perception of the Mexican bus system has transformed.  We are converts.  For all of about 50 bucks (each) we went from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara to Morelia.  Outside of a short layover, we were bussin’ it for 10 hours and about 600 miles.

PrimerPlus has plush, comfy seats.  There’s an extension on the back of the seat in front that pulls down so one can stretch her legs over it.  The first bus had a big TV in the front, and I watched movies in Spanish for most of the 5-hour trip.  The free headset plugs right into the seat arm.  I was hoping to write on the bus but was inconvenienced by an old and unwanted trip companion, motion sickness.  We crossed some mountain passes that left me yellow and contemplating grabbing the plastic bag (each passenger got a drink and a sandwich placed in a plastic bag, but Scott and I abstained having packed snacks and plenty of water) of the guy who was in the aisle seat across the way.

For several hours, I practiced in my mind lunging toward the bag in a moment of regurgitation desperation and in one fell swoop dumping his free goodies and barfing in his bag.  It fortunately didn’t get to that.  I am still recovering today feeling like I was knocked down with jet lag with that one day of travel.  But by the second bus (Guadalarjara to Morelia) I was feeling good enough to finish a game of iPod scrabble with Scott.  I stared for a good 90 minutes out the window (I was unable to look out the window on bus #1) soaking in the brilliant sunset and then total darkness.   I saw a fire along the side of the road and wondered if that was one of the ways the drug cartel people get buses to stop.  I then occupied my mind for another 30 minutes or so figuring out ways to escape the potential road bandits that we could have feasible encountered on this journey.  But alas, putting all the drama aside, it was a fairly ordinary ordeal.

My most pleasant shock of the day was the 40 peso cab ride from the bus station to Morelia Centro.  A 20 minute cab ride for $3.20?!  And then the cabbie seemed embarrassed to accept a tip.  With my mouth gaping at the minimal cost of this cab, Scott said, “We’re not in Sayulita anymore”.

I learned some new words while watching movies and trying not to puke on the bus:

Es horrible! – you can guess these words
Imbecile – you can guess this one too
Puesto – since
Tambien – also

Most of the words came from the movie Good Luck Chuck.  This is not a movie I would recommend, because while I was unable to understand most of the words, the images clearly reminded me it was muy tonto.

We encountered many awesome and engaging people on this journey – mostly workers at the bus stations like the taxi drivers and the security people or wait staff at restaurants who are very willing to start a conversation and help us practice our Spanish.    So many folks we meet like talking about their travels to the US or their family members who have visited or live in the US.  I can tell already that I’m really going to enjoy this trip.  We’re too enabled to speak English in Sayulita and even when we try to speak Spanish, we tend to revert back to English.  It seems like many folks we’ve encountered in Morelia speak English well or fluently, but they do something I really like:  they ask, “¿Quieres que hable español o en Inglés?”

Our hotel – Hotel Casino Morelia  – is almost directly across from the Catedral de Morelia in the Centro Historica.  It’s a beautiful, old place with a lot of character.  The room is large, so big actually that I don’t mind the very small bathroom and its accompanying leaky shower, which explains the drain in the middle of the bathroom floor.  Very clean, has free WiFi, filtered water, and is in the heart of Centro, I think we got a good deal at about $50/night.   PLUS Scott discovered the FREE laundry.  Mostly and oddly enough, I love walking around barefoot in the room without the nagging worry of filthy feet or stepping on ants or in gecko poop.

Catedral de Morelia
Catedral de Morelia

Morelia is a lovely colonial city founded in the mid 1500’s and has about 600,000 residents.  It is rich with history and culture.  We are now at 6400 feet above sea level, so it’s cooler at night and perfect during the day.  Today was a gorgeous day, and I have forgotten the feeling of a dry climate.  We literally have swung the opposite end of the humidity spectrum going from VERY to NONE.  My skin and throat have all but started their own little desert ecosystem.  I am once again applying lotion and chapstick.  This bothers me not, because I have seen zero mosquitoes.  I am willing to be a parched up prune with the trade off of having no winged warriors to combat.  And sleeping without a mosquito net, or more specifically put, sleeping without all kinds of bugs clinging to our mosquito net, one sheer layer of protection between me and biting outside world, that rocks.

Today we explored the Centro Historica area walking for a few hours.  There are a plethora of restaurants and cafes right here just outside the hotel’s front entrance, just beneath a beautiful stone atrium that extends for about two blocks.

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Several blocks from the Centro, we stumbled upon the Cultural Center, a totally awesome bookstore-like place.  I bought myself five children’s books ranging from preschool to about 2ndgrade.  Yes, I bought those for myself.  This just seems like a good avenue for me to learn more Spanish.  I’ll eventually donate them to the local school after I have mastered essentials such as La Casa de los Animales y Anastasio está en las Nubes or Visita a la Abuela.

At Onix, we enjoyed a very late lunch of guacamole and chips while sharing a tomato aquacate sandwich noting the very lack of dogs in this city.  At that point, I counted 7 dogs that I saw and all were with humans on leashes or in arms.  Julio our server told us that it’s not usual to have mascotas (pets) in Morelia.  On the outskirts of town, one is likely to see more dogs including those that are strays, but it still is not as common as in other areas of Mexico.

Just before our conversation with Julio, we were approached by an old guy selling newspapers.  Mind you, by this point in the day, Scott had pulled out about two dozen coins to give to buskers, old begging ladies, and the cute old mapman (this is how we procured our map of Michoacan).  He had nothing else to give, and I didn’t have my wallet on me.  This darling, ancient, worn faced, gimping man with a cane, his lopsided cowboy hat and worn shoes wobbled off.  My heart was breaking.  I told Scott that one day we’ll have to own a very large ranch to take in all the stray dogs and old, homeless people (mind you, I was only presuming he was homeless).  I want to call it The Happy Ranch for Old People and Stray Dogs aka El Rancho Feliz para Las Personas Viegos y Los Perros Callejeros.

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At night we eagerly awaited the light show at Catedral de Morelia.  This well known event would’ve been unknown to us had a friend not shared the secret prior to our departure.  Since we were early for the 8:45 PM start, we ambled back into the cathedral to find night mass in progress.  Earlier in the day we interrupted a wedding mass and hung out to witness the nuptials.  We were among many other tourists, so no, we weren’t being total intruders.

Catedral de Morelia
Catedral de Morelia

We found a spot on the curb Avenida Franciso Madero in front of the cathedral.  They close this major road for a 10-minute weekly (always on Sabado) light show.  It was incredible – dramatico and fun and beautiful.  I took a video that you can see here.  You can save some time and start it at about 4 minutes.

Not sure how we could possibly top yesterday’s jaunt around Morelia especially with the spectacular light show.  We awoke early and went down for our free continental breakie.  It was just OK.  I ate the big bowl of fruit with granola and decided I don’t like the seeds in Guayaba, thus I don’t like Guayaba because it is impossible to take a bite without seeds.  To our delight, the entire Avenida Franciso Madero was closed again.  There were runners, bikers, skaters, walkers.  How cool in a city this large that a major thoroughfare is closed for Sunday activity!

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Let the exploration begin…with the Museo de Dulces!  We walked to the Acueducto de Morelia along a beautiful pedestrian way called Callejón Romantico that started at the Tarascas Fountain/Fuente de las Tarascas (aka the bare breasted fruit holding ladies fountain).  This fountain celebrates the indigenous women of Tarasco and the three Capitol cities of Michoacan.

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The old and young alike were found on this tree-canopied walkway.  We came across a couple and their six dogs – four of whom were English Pointers (a family all of its own – father, sons, mother) and a gorgeous albino Great Dane.  We spoke with them while others stopped to gawk at the canine entourage.

Kenda and the canines

We then came up to a young boy of about nine who was taking a photo of a woman and her children.  Assuming the was part of the family, we offered to take the photo for them.  He wasn’t part of the family which made me wonder where his parents were.  When they found out we are American, the little guy told us in Spanish that he knows some English.

“Hello how arj you?”
“I am nine jears old”
“My birthday is in Octobre”

He could also count to 10 in English. He had such an intent look on his face when speaking English.  I wanted to adopt him.

We THEN came across two little guys who were selling THREE DAY old puppies.  I think they were Pit puppies.  O.M.G.  The whole lot was outrageously cute – puppies and boys.  I took a gazillion photos, which the boys seemed to enjoy reviewing.  Naturally, I was worried about those little pups being away from their mama. WAY too young to be removed from her.

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Such a beautiful day it was.  Too beautiful to be inside, hence our decision to bypass the many museums in this charming colonial city.  I noticed yesterday the cleanliness of Morelia.  Seriously, I didn’t see one piece of litter until later at night and even then it was minimal.  As we neared the Acueducto, we noticed more litter and Scott noted there were less trashcans.  FYI:  The trashcans here have large pinwheels on top of them.  Reason unknown.

There is a beautiful old park lined with cafes – Jardin de Las Rosas.  Artisens, musicians, cafe-goers.  Picture perfect.

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We landed at a local café and I got a Pina Colada sin alcohol.  Scott got a limonada.  We then found ourselves partaking in a 2-hour conversation with Doctore Luiz Gonzalez.  A very interesting man who talked our ears off about the philosophy of life.  He is a psychologist, of the humanistic, solutions-oriented sort.  Despite the very one-way dialogue coming from Doctore (for which I have a high tolerance and Scott not-so-much), I enjoyed his philosophy.  He said the best place to be is the place where we can reach our dreams, and that there are only two things that create a good life:  1) respect for and serving others and 2) being happy.  Simple.

After an early dinner at Onix (Scott and I shared a roasted pepper, aguacate, tomate sandwich with guacamole/chips again, Julio was our server and remembered that I like mustard with my French fries) we went to the Plaza de Armas across the street to watch a show of local dancers in their brilliant costumes.  The place was packed, and I looked in amazement at how this city does such a great job of pulling the residents together.  Old and young sitting together on benches or standing by the fountain.  Estoy satisfecha.

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February 18, 2013

We skipped breakfast and instead opted for a coffee (from Lilian’s who has Leche de Soya y vainilla) in the Plaza de Armes spending a slow morning people-watching.

Several times today we saw a caravan of Federales passing us by on Avenida Franciso Madero .  This is intimidating and curious.  Each truck held at least 6 Federales, all of whom had full weaponry and some with their faces masked.  I did wonder if something was “up” and scoped out the area looking for a place to stop, drop, and roll into cover…just in case.  Scott wanted me to share the contrast of that ominous scene in the morning to that of a parade of clowns coming down the same avenida later in the day. Not sure what was more frightening, the masked Federales or masked clowns.

Federales
Federales

We found Vegetalia Restaurant at the corner of Allende y Abasolo very near to our hotel.  They have a vegetarian lunchtime buffet.  Turns out a buffet here is not the same as a buffet in the US.  It’s not all you can eat.  As I wanted to parcel my meal into a main, then sides, then fruta, I took three trips up there.  Fortunately they didn’t charge us three times, but we were charged twice.  But for $4.50 US it was totally worth it.   They had a rockin’ soy chorizo, yummy potatoes, and it felt good to have some simple yet very tasty rice with broccoli.

We then hit up the Museo de Estado, detailing the history of Michoacan ranging from the prehistoric people to the conquistadors.  I learned some new words:  Cazadores y Recolectores – Hunters and Gatherers.  This dank, cool, and clearly old place had two floors of remarkable pottery, jewelry, and weapons (obsidian arrowheads for example).

Later, sitting once again in the Jardin de Las Rosas sipping on limonada, we chilled for about an hour soaking in the scene at one of the many cafes.  Young girls nearby showing one another some new clothes and bellowed Aye Mio Dios (AMD instead of OMG), a young chico chasing pigeons, a male pigeon fluffing his stuff to attract a mate, a viejo shoe shiner hobbling along the walkway, people ambling or biking by, and others, like us, just hanging.  Scott noted what a relatively calm city this was, and I agree.  There was no hustle and bustle.  Just folks doing their thing in what appeared to be the absence of angst. Muy tranquillo stated one of the waiters at the cafe.  Many of the buskers who approach the tables really need some musical training, but this doesn’t stop Scott from giving them pesos.  My softest spot is for the very old and very young folks who are selling their goods.  I now have a bag of caramelized peanuts and a new pack of Trident for that very reason.  The girls selling the Trident looked about 8 years old.  It was 10 pesos, and I gave her a 20.  Yo no hay cambio, says she.  Esta bien, say I.  I didn’t expect the change anyway.

A beautiful tree at the edge of the Jardin
A beautiful tree at the edge of the Jardin
The beautiful tree through Scott's glasses
The beautiful tree through Scott’s glasses
A viejo with a sign on his back asking for help
A viejo with a sign on his back asking for help

The rest of the day was spent tooling around – checking out a local bookstore and the biblioteca publica near the university.  At 5:30 we hopped on a streetcar and received a 1-hour tour of the town – all in Spanish, of course.  I understood about one word out of each paragraph.  But it was totally worth it, because they took us to the Santuario de Guadalupe.  On the outside, this temple is an ordinary, one would go as far to say, boring-looking building.  But on the inside it was striking – it looked like a giant, golden, fairyland.  Some say it has a Hindu influence- colorful and ornate.

A young guy sat down and began playing his guitar and singing.  Absentmindedly, I walked to the front barely noticing a young mother and her bald child who was in a wheelchair in front at the altar. She was leaning over the child with an arm around her, whispering in her ear.  The haunting, somber music and this child filled me with emotion.  I could barely see between the tears as I walked out of the place stunned by the sensory and emotional overload.

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And soon we must leave this charming place, but the good news is that tomorrow we head off to Zitacauro to see Las Marisposas de Monarcas!  Not sure if we’ll have internet.  I’ll check back in when I can! Adios mis amigos!

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”
~Anatole France

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*Photos and stuff*  Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.

This is Mexico Post #5, to see the other Mexico posts, click click click

Mexico Post #1, Me and My Trimalleolar go to Mexico with my Husband and our Pooch
Mexico Post #2, Dos Americanos y Su Perro en Mexico
Mexico Post #3, Feliz Ano Nuevo 2013
Mexico Post #4, Ballenas, Ballenas Hermosas
Mexico Post #5, Una Visita Morelia
Mexico Post #6, Mariposas Monarcas!
Mexico Post #7, Los Pueblos de Patzcuaro, Paracho, y Tzintzuntzan
Mexico Post #8, La pintoresca ciudad de San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #9, Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Mexico Post #10, Back to Sayulita and Jaime Visits!
Mexico Post #11, Semana Santa y Semana Pasqua
Mexico Post #12, Semana de Animales
Mexico Post #13, Semana de Amigos y Amigas
Mexico Post #14, Frida y Diego
Mexico Post #15, Adiós Sayulita
Mexico Post #16, Living and Grinning in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #17, Puddle Jumping in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #18, Guanajuato International Film Festival
Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul
Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico
Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor
Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #23,  Viva la Independencia! 
Mexico Post #24,  Adios San Miguel
Mexico Post #25,  Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán
Mexico Post #26,  Ciudad de Oaxaca
Mexico Post #27,  50 Shades of Green: On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas
Mexico Post #28,  San Cristóbal de las Casas
Mexico Post #29,  Almost Halloween Ed.: Dark Mountains,  Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles & Shamans
Mexico Post #30, Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos

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