Have we found our new “it” place?

Have we found our “it” place in Morelia, Mexico?  Just maybe…it really could be!

I always refer to Morelia as the ‘greatest city you’ve probably never heard of” but if you follow me on Facebook, and if you are a regular reader of my blog, you are probably now familiar with this great city in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.  I often wax poetically about it.

We’ve been here for almost four weeks (with three months to go) and we’re loving it.  Let me set the stage for you so you can understand why.  Some of this is covered in my earlier blog post about Morelia, but it’s worth repeating again, and again and again.  If you already know why it’s superalicious, you can skip reading this post cause I’ve already said it once.

Morelia is a huge city of roughly 525,000. It’s greatest attraction is the Central Historico–a mind-boggling jumble of old colonial buildings, huge public squares and sky stretching cathedrals from the 1500’s– all anchored by a kick-ass main cathedral located in the center of the historical district.

mainmoreliacathderal

Until September 30, we’re living in a lovely three bedroom flat owned by a friend we met last year while having coffee in Morelia. At a local cafe, I spotted what I assumed to be an American or Canadian dame enjoying a frothy delight. Now seeing anyone non-Mexican in Morelia is a very uncommon sight because it’s not a big tourist destination (which is mind-boggling given how cool it is) so I decided to talk to her. I asked her if she lived in Morelia and when she said “yes” I bombarded her with a litany of questions which she politely answered.  When I told her I was going to be in Morelia for several more weeks, but had no chicks to hangout with, she gave me her email address and told me she would be glad to show me around. Score!!!

A week later and after a few pleasant email exchanges we were having pedicures and grabbing lunch. Over the course of our three-week stay in Morelia last summer, we saw her  several more times.  Once we got to Zihuataenjo, we stayed in touch. And then, when I came to Morelia to visit my Morelia-based oncologist, (every three months) we’d pow-wow over dinner and libations.  Eventually, Valda became a cherished part of our lives and asked us if we would be interested in renting her apartment in the Central Historio for five or so months since she wanted to spend time with her family back in the good old U.S.A.  She’s an Indiana girl.

plazaSanFrancisco

This is plaza San Francisco. See how happy this fountain is?

Andy and I had already fallen in love with Morelia, and knew we wanted to spend more time here, so we said absolutely. Now we’re tending to her house plants that sit on her spacious rooftop with a killer view and experiencing life in the big city.

Valda’s apartment is in a six or seven unit complex located behind huge wooden doors. It’s on a very busy street. And it’s only a five minute walk from the main plaza. Everything is at our finger tips and the location is A #1.  All around the main plaza are street cafes where Mexican’s gather at all hours to enjoy coffee, beer and meals.  In the late afternoon, vendors come by selling trinkets and musicians stroll by playing traditional marachi music and other kinds of music.  It’s sidewalk cafe culture at its finest and anyone who knows Andy and me knows that we can spend hours sitting outside drinking coffee and people watching.  We are simply in heaven and we couldn’t be more pleased to be here for an extended period of time.

Everywhere we look we see old cathedrals, vast plazas and dancing fountains. And we hear music all around us because Morelia has several  well respected music conservatories. We see students hanging out with their friends, sometimes playing music, sometimes enjoying drinks. This city has a frantic and amazing energy. Mexican’s love a party and Morelia gives them the opportunity to enioy life. There’s always a party or  going on– whether it’s a public magic show for kids, or it’s the weekly Saturday night fireworks display overlooking the main cathedral. The plazas are always packed to the gill with people hanging out and we love it.  There is tons and tons to do. A local club right around the corner from our house hosts weekly Friday night jazz and blues, and serves up some great vegi burgers and artisanal brews, and another hotel hosts guitar music and then there’s free plays and other performances to enjoy.  Last Saturday night we saw a Doors and Rolling Stones tribute band!

courtyardsoledad

This is the courtyard of my favorite hotel in Morelia, the Soledad.

The Central Historio is an area of beautiful old buildings, many from the 1500’s.  The best way to describe is the French Quarter on steroids. It’s way bigger. Some of the buildings are in a state of great disrepair due to gang tagging,  (I’m reminded of Havana) and need a lot of work, but others are simply stunning. The iron work, and tile work is a great architectural wonder. When we walk through the endless streets, we often can glance into beautiful courtyards and see stunning historical homes.

Moreliastreet

This is a typical street in the Central Historio.

And then there’s the cost. Morelia is way cheaper than the touristy Zihuatanejo.  We’re spending way less on rent here and restaurant costs are crazy cheap. The peso has been moving around a bit, but the prices below are calculated at around 17.81. That’s low. When we moved last year it was closer to 20. Here are some typical costs in USD.

Beer- $.80
A cheese quesadilla-$1.78
Breakfast including juice and coffee-$3.64
Latte at a nice cafe- $2.25
One avocado-.65
Tickets to a live concert-Mostly free!  There are tons and tons of free concerts here.
Tickets to a private concert at a club or concert hall- $5.60
Cocktail/Martini-$3.93
Dinner at an upscale restaurant for two- (drinks, appetizer, entrees and a shared dessert) $38.00 and this is at a super, super fancy place. We rarely spend more than $19 on a nice dinner out.
A monthly yoga pass- Unlimited classes $19
90 minute hot stone massage $29.00

Morelia also has a lot of box stores including Home Depot,  Office Max, Sears, and even a Bed, Bath and Beyond so I can get items I can’t get in Zihuatanejo. Also, it has a really great grocery store with more American brands than I can get in Zihuatanejo.  I feel like everything is at my fingertips  and after living in a city of just 100,000 it’s a welcome change.

Finally, Morelia is a walking paradise. Four of five times a week, my swanky new Fitbit accompanies me on a urban walk and since the Central Historio is mostly flat I can walk far.  And the weather is picture perfect for traipsing around. It’s usually around 80 degrees and it’s sunny every morning when we wake up. Often there are lightning and thunder storms in the late afternoon or early evening but they don’t last very long.

We do have several people coming to visit us and we’re excited.  We will be here until September 30 so let us know if you are interested.  It’s really the cats meow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When can we go back?

Hi folks.

Where have my blog posts disappeared to?  Truthfully,  I have no excuse for not writing sooner. Ever since we returned to Mexico on April 30th, we’ve been getting settled into our new place, and I haven’t found the time to write. Plus, I’ve been doing some non-profit consulting and grantwriting for some international organizations and this has kept me busier than normal. But I’m hoping to start communicating again more frequently.  In fact, right after I send out this missive, I am going to start working on a blog post about our current digs in Morelia, Mexico and I promise to get it out this week.  But for now, I want to tell you about our trip to Japan and Korea. What an amazing time we had!!!   I want to go back so bad. I loved both places. This was my third visit to Japan and I think it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited.  Please put it on your bucket list. You won’t be sorry.

sushihand

There were so many highlights during our month-long trip and I’m happy we went to Seoul. I really enjoyed getting new glasses and experiencing their coffee culture which was just mind-boggling.

Here are a few additional highlights of our trip.

  • 1. Traveling on the bullet train in Japan, which went 199 miles an hour!  The trains were clean, efficient, and always punctual.
  • 2. Enjoying some of the best sushi and Japanese food I’ve ever had. It was plentiful, fresh and not expensive.
  • 3. Staying at several traditional Japanese inn’s and experiencing true Japanese hospitality.  I really enjoyed bathing in traditional Japanese baths, know as onsens.

4. Seeing amazing cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Gumna prefecture, and in many other places.  They were spectacular.cherrybloosomorgy2

5. Relaxing on the cruise, despite the daily average temperatures of just 42 degrees. Brrr.  Despite the cold weather, the cruise was a blast. I even got to sing in the cruise choir!  I practiced every day while on the ship and then 60 of us performed for 2,200 passangers. It was super inspirational.

Here are a few things I learned about myself and about life while on the wide open road.

  1.   I loved the sense of freedom being on the road brought and I loved not knowing what our day-to-day life would be like.  Although I was tired on many days because we walked so much, I never felt like i wanted to stay in one place for two long and I enjoyed moving around frequently.  I never yearned to be back in Mexico.
  2.  It’s easy traveling with the same person day-in and day-out if one leads (Andy) and one follows. It doesn’t work if both people want to lead. Someone has to take a back seat.  This greatly reduces arguments.  I’m happy being a follower.
  3. Crazy little things made my trip really enjoyable.  Things I never thought about. One of my friends gave me three essential travel items before I left and I used them like crazy. 1) A small notebook with pages that can tear out. 2) An erasable pen 3) A portable charger for our many devices. What great gifts!  I won’t leave home without these items ever again.

About Japan planning

Onsen2

This is one of many hotsprings found throughout Japan. Going to hot springs are a national obsession.

  1. Japan had amazing on-line travel resources which made travel planning easy.  There were tons of websites and blog posts we used to help us plan our visit. Purchasing a rail pass was probably one of the best decisions we made because it gave us a lot of flexibility and it allowed us to travel to many, many places.  In the past several years, Japan has really upped their game and has made many more resources available in English for tourists.  They also anticipate travelers needs so there are always people who speak English (and wear cool hats) available at train stations and major tourist sites to help people.

As my good friend Kara told me, “everything works out in Japan”. She was right. We never encountered any places that didn’t have our hotel reservation, the trains were always on time, and things just worked. I even needed to go to the emergency room one day to get two stitches in my leg, and this worked out just fine too.

bloosoms3

This is one of my favorite pictures from Kyoto. We were there during the height of the cherry bloosom season.  This cherry bloosom canapy was magical.

Japan isn’t as expensive as one might think. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Nice hotels were running $130-150 a night and a nice dinner for us both at a traditional Izakaya, was around $45.  Want to enjoy a bowl of ramen for dinner? Shell out $6 and you will be in noodle heaven!  Our trip was very affordable, not as cheap as Mexico, but not as costly as one might think.

A few thoughts on what I brought with me…

I packed really light because I didn’t want to be lugging around a ton of stuff and because Japanese hotel rooms are so small.  I bought a few new things before I left, but not very many.

FYI, the companies I’m mentioning below didn’t pay me and I didn’t get free swag so don’t fret.  I just really want to give them a shout-out because they made my trip way more pleasurable.  I’m kind of a cheapskate and I don’t like to spend money on stuff, but paying for the items below was sound judgement and I had no regrets.

  1. I packed my stuff using ebags packing cubes. Packing cubes kept all of my clothes organized and they allowed me to bring more clothes with me.  Best invention ever, seriously.
  2. I purchased two cute travel skirts that I wore over and over again. Both were from Royal Robbins and I got them at the Royal Robbins outlet in Berkeley, CA.  You can also find these at REI. They were both great to walk in and they washed like a dream. I can’t recommend this line of travel skirts enough.  One of my skirts is orange and the other is gray and I wish I had hundreds more to wear every day.
  3. I purchased a new pair of walking shoes (Mary Jane style) from SAS and I while they were a bit pricey, they were really great.  I also walked using Sketchers which never let me down.

Offshegoes

Finally, one thing Andy and I both realized during this trip is that we like not knowing where the wind might take us–we’re open to more exploring and luckily we’ve set up our fall schedule to have time to be open to new adventures.  Our lease ends in Morelia, Mexico September 30th, so October and November is wide open.

We’re returning to Zihuatanejo for four months in December, but we’ve got eight weeks to explore more of Mexico, or perhaps even venture out through Central America.  I want to go to El Salvador, Honduras and perhaps Nicaragua, so perhaps this might be a good time to do so. Who knows?  We’ll start figuring this out soon.

Hope your summer is off to a peaceful start.

Stacey