The Wow Factor…

Hola amigos and amigas,

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I haven’t blogged for two reasons. The first reason for my long absence is that I was hired to write a grant proposal for a fantastic organization that builds schools in Timbuktu, Africa. I did some work for Caravan to Class a few years ago, and two weeks ago the founder contacted me and asked me to assist him in writing a large proposal to teach literacy to 200 illiterate women from Timbuktu, Africa. I was so pleased and honored to be asked I could not say no. I spent 30 hours working on the proposal. It took up a lot of my time, but it was worth it.

The second reason for not blogging is because we’ve been busy exploring Morelia, my new favorite Mexican city, but more about Morelia later. First let me catch you up.

After house sitting/dog sitting, we spent two glorious days in Itxapa, Mexico at an all-inclusive resort, the Azul Suites and Spa. It was fantastic. We swam, ate good food, enjoyed their three pools, (best infinity pool ever) took a jacuzzi in our huge tub, and we played ping-pong. Andy won, but it was a close match.

They were only at 40% capacity so we never had trouble finding a lounger, or getting into the specialty restaurants and the service was phenomenal. The kids were all very well-behaved too. Very little screaming in the pool or misbehaving.

On the whole, Mexican kids are very well-behaved. In restaurants they sit quietly, never raising their voices.  Mexican parents are very loving and demonstrative towards them. I’ve noticed this especially in the way fathers relate to their children. They are always smiling and touching their kids.  And for some reason, Mexican parents don’t seem to have that worn out parenting look that many Americans have. Now I realize we saw them at their best, while on vacation, but even in the streets or while playing in local parks, parents and children just look happier together. Maybe it’s the absence of technology that is making them feel so connected. I just don’t know.

I didn’t want to leave the resort, but new adventures were beckoning. We jumped in our rented Nissan SUV and drove 4 hours on the toll road to Patzcauro, Mexico  where we spent one night. While in Patzcauro we also secured a two-week rental of a nice two- bedroom, two bathroom apartment right in the historical center for a whopping $10 a night. $166 for two weeks!!!  More about how we found this great apartment in another posting.  It’s a great story, but I need to tell you about the here and now–the awesomeness of Morelia, Mexico.

I know…you’ve ever heard of Morelia. I’m not surprised.  We’d never heard of it either, until very recently.  It’s just spectacular and it’s got a big “wow’ factor.

Imagine yourself in a European city  (Rome, Venice, Paris, Madrid. Brugge) oozing with old-world charm. Imagine sparkling cathedrals at every turn, town squares bursting with happy coffee drinkers, curious pigeons trying to find their next meal, kids eating ice cream cones and walking with balloons in-hand. We turn corners and see fountain after fountain bubbling in the glistening sunshine. That’s Morelia. There are interesting historical sites from every angle, all courtesy of the 1600’s.  The weather is picture perfect, too. Sunny, with a high of 80. We’re not in the scorching heat any longer and it feels great. The nights are cool and we are often treated to magical thunder and lightning storms.

So I must ask, why fly to Europe and spend thousands of dollars on expensive hotels and airfaire when you can experience an amazing, beautiful colonial city of 700,000 for way less money?  Why isn’t Morelia on more tourists radar screens?  We rarely see Americans or Canadians here. A whole day will go by and we’ll see perhaps 3-4 other tourists. And, we’re the only people staying at this beautiful B & B, (besides one other single man) although I do understand more people are coming on Thursday. We have this whole fantastic seven room house to ourselves!  We’ve got a great two-bedroom suite with a big bathroom and we’re only two blocks off the main plaza. We have full use of a well equipped kitchen to cook lunches and dinners and they have a great living room where we can lounge out on the couch and enjoy some nightly Netflix…that’s only when we’re not out and about on the town enjoying some coffee on the main plaza. We walk everywhere!  Our car is happily taking a long siesta in a parking lot right next door for $15 a week.

I surmise that many potential tourists are scared away by the news of the drug cartels and violence in the state of Michoacán. We’ve had only good experiences so far. Whenever we are out walking, many people smile and say “hola”. And unlike Havana, Cuba, or even more touristy parts of Mexico, we’re not bothered by touts trying to sell us timeshares, (there are none here), nor do they try to take us to their cousins (brothers or uncles) restaurant for overpriced touristy meals.

And the prices…let me tell you about the prices.  As I previously mentioned Zihutanejo is expensive when compared to other places in Mexico. I think Morelia is cheaper than Asia and Andy concurs.  A very good quality hotel in the historical district can be had for $30 a night. A plate lunch (plato del dia) featuring soup, your choice of 3-4 entrées, fruit flavored water and a small dessert costs $45-55 pesos, ($2.68) and we can usually split it!  I tried one the other day. It came with a huge bowl of fresh black bean soup, three red vegetarian enchiladas, a bean sopa,  homemade tortillas, tamarindo water, and a small cup of jello.  Mmmm.  A few days ago we went to a taco stand for lunch and I ordered a mushroom and napal (cactus) quesadilla It was $1.64 and I took half home!

And there’s so much more to like about Morelia. With a population of 700,00 it’s got a big city vibe. It’s got  tons of upscale, modern coffeeshops, a few box stores (Best Buy, and Sears) to shop for things that you can’t buy in Zihuatenejo, plus concerts galore. Last night we attended the opening of the Morelia International Guitar Festival for free!  Andy and I are so enamored with Morelia, we’re thinking about spending a substantial amount of time here next summer.  Friday night we’re going out for live jazz.  We’re in love!

Put Morelia on your bucket list. If you are planning a trip to Zihuatanejo to visit us, please make time to visit here. You can easily take a first-class bus or rent a car. You won’t be sorry. It’s truly magical.

We’re here for one more week and then we’re going to drive 45 minutes to Patzcauro. Andy found out that there is a lit lanturn (cantoya) festival happening there and we really want to see it. It’s going to be a beautiful sight to see thousands of these lit lanterns launched above Lake Patzcauro.

I have more to say, but I’ll save that for my next post. Here are some photos for you to enjoy. Most were taken around Morelia.

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A vacation from our vacation

Mucho trabajo para ustedes!!!

Number of walks taken: 84
Number of water bowls filled: 84
Number of doggie meals served: 168
Number of vet visits=1 (for Maggie to diagnose a bacterial infection)

Our six-week dog/sitting house/sitting gig is about to come to a close in just a few hours. We will bid a fond farewell to Maggie and Sierra, the greatest dogs in the history of dogdum. We loved hanging out with them. They helped us see Zihuatanejo in a new way. They led us down narrow alleys, and they played with us on wide beaches. We had a ton of great adventures with them.

Now we’re just plain beat!  Our lives for the past six weeks haven’t been exactly restful.  We had some down time and we did get to enjoy the beach once or twice a week, but being on doggie duty was not relaxing.

We never knew taking care of canines could be exhausting. We walked them every morning for at least 45 minutes, most days for an hour, and we walked them for another 30-45 minutes each night. And each morning we swept the house from top to bottom because one of the dogs shed constantly. No sleeping in either. When you are taking care of dogs, a 10 AM reveille just won’t cut it.

Time for a bit of R and R before we make our next move to Morelia.

We’re going on a  well-deserved two-night vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Ixtapa, Mexico, the sister city to Zihuatanejo.  It’s about a 10 minute drive from where we are now. We’re going to be staying at the Azul Grand Spa and Suites.

For those not familiar with all-inclusive resorts, they are resorts where you pay one price for all meals, snacks, and alcohol.  Usually the hotel has a choice of 3 or 4 bars, and 3 or 4 specialty restaurants where you can dine. In this hotel they have an on-site Japanese, Italian and Mexican restaurant to choose from plus, a very nice buffet.

All-inclusive resorts were first created in Jamaica, so Andy and I got to visit many of them (Sandals, Breezes, Beaches, Hedonism) while we were serving in the Peace Corps. Some people would never step foot inside an all-inclusive resort because they consider them “compounds” where individuals never leave and don’t get to experience any local culture. We’ve actually had great experiences at many of them. They provide a top-notch vacation for those who want to truly unwind. Once on-site, you don’t have to worry about ordering an extra margarita or fancy poolside drink, because everything is paid for in advance.  Bring on the Grey Goose fountain!  You know exactly how much you are spending well in advance and you can’t beat the value–especially in low season when we will be visiting.

Last week we went to check out the property, the Azul Spa and suites to see if we liked it enough to book a two-night stay.  It was absolutely beautiful.  They have an amazing infinity pool and I can’t wait to jump in. And  all of the rooms have ocean views!  I’ll be sure to post photos.

Here’s what we plan to do.

Crank up the air conditioning and run around naked
Enjoy their morning buffet breakfast. I hope they have jugo verde (green juice)
Sleep in!!!
Shoot some pool in their billiards room
Dine at one of their specialty restaurants

After a two-night recharge, we’re heading to Morelia for two-weeks. Then our plan is to head to Patzcauro for a month.  Then, my mom, sister and brother-in-law will join us back in Zihuatanejo for a week staying  on La Ropa beach where my mom usually rents.

After a week, my brother-in law will return to the United States. My mom, Pam, Andy and I will slowly make our way to Guanajanto. My mom and Pam will stay there for a few days while Andy and I plan to go to language school, probably for three or four weeks.

Fun times ahead!   I hope to share them with you. We’ll miss you Maggie and Sierra!