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Saturday 26 December 2015

Our first Christmas alone

I was a little apprehensive when we booked this winter away, thinking it would come to tears and heartache at Christmas. And on Christmas eve it did, albeit briefly. The fact that Shelagh has had Christmas with our lads for 35 years, and I for 25 of them, sets a precedent that's hard to break. However, after seeing our boys on "FaceTime" having a wonderful Christmas dinner at Liam's new home gave us peace of mind in the knowledge that they can and will have a great time without us. Both Shelagh and I were young when we left our home comforts and migrated and immigrated to new places, so the feeling of celebrating something like Christmas without our parents and siblings is nothing new to us. But suddenly celebrating Christmas without our kids has never happened to us before...

Christmas day started with the usual coffee and tea while checking e-mails etc. This year we decided to have gift giving on January 6th, in the Mexican style. So nothing under the tree, no tree either actually. Later in the morning we had Mimosas on the roof deck in the warm sunshine followed by a nice brunch of delicious bacon and scrambled eggs. Then we went into town to the Jardin to watch people enjoy Christmas day. It's an interesting mix of children, some happily playing with a balloon ball on a strong string, and others with tablets playing video games. Like any country there is a noticeable devision in wealth here... We were also quite surprised to see many shops open for business, including the market at plaza Civica.

This couple toured the streets handing out candy canes

Strolling through the plaza we checked out the bandstand which has been changed into a Nativity scene, complete with sheep and lambs. Then we found a bench at the opposite side of the plaza and people watched some more. A couple had just bought lunch from a street vendor, then they spent 15 minutes flicking bits of their lunch into a garbage can! I zoomed in with the camera to take a picture, people are funny.

Gringos locos

The time had come to climb up the hill to our home and have a glass of wine on the roof followed by dinner prep. We bought a plump chicken at the "Carneceria" (butcher) two days ago, it has been thawing all day. It just fit in the toaster oven, an inch of space to spare all around. We made a stuffing with bacon from scratch, haven't done that in years, some cranberry jelly for Shelagh and an assortment of vegetables. No dessert, we are already sweet enough.

Dinner cooked up wonderfully, the toaster oven has a convection option and with that running the bird got evenly roasted. Bird out, potatoes in. Shelagh at the stove top making gravy from the chicken drippings. Not much later "A la mesa" at the table for a great meal. Then, of course, comes the reality of doing dishes and cleaning up, but with a combined effort that was done in a snap. Evening wine on the roof top. Followed by a wonderful sleep.

Tight fit
Making stuffing
Dinner served

We hope your Christmas was wonderful too...


Tuesday 22 December 2015

Pricklies and Pizza

Today, Monday, the sun is shining and there is a warm breeze. The perfect day for a wander through town. Bill and Edith had mentioned a cactus garden behind the restaurant Francesco's. We checked our map and figured out where to go from the restaurant. To get there we must walk clear across town, mostly downhill, so pretty easy stuff. But we also like to take different routes to our destination to see more of the city and the houses that look so simple from the street, but once in a while you get a glimpse of what lies behind the iron gates. Usually a courtyard surrounded by the house, in most cases a very impressive house. Initially the courtyard functioned as a place for the horses and carriages, but now they are more in use as a decorative centrepiece with possibly a fountain. This is the colonial style introduced by the Spanish many years ago. In the city centre of San Miguel most of these old colonial houses are now hotels and restaurants

We chose a path, actually a stairway down to town. I wouldn't want to climb these stairs because you can't set your stride and that can be incredibly tiring. Our descent led us along hidden houses, built before there were cars. People were on horseback and used burros to haul their stuff. When we came out of the alley we were on familiar ground and continued to the Jardín. From there the way was easy and well known to us.

The view from the top of the path
Taking a break at the Plaza Civica

When we got to Francesco's we turned right and walked along the road until we came upon the cactus garden. A gardener was at work watering and cleaning the grounds. We strolled around the place and took a seat on some of the concrete benches scattered about. A swing hangs from a tree waiting for a child to be pushed by daddy. Various species of cacti were planted here along with some orange trees and Benjamina trees. The garden is located among some very fine houses built on a looped street that sees little traffic. We wandered through this little neighbourhood and returned to the street that led us to the garden, then onwards to a little alley with more fine houses and beautiful murals.

Notice the braided trunk
After admiring all the real estate we were hungry and finally the timing was right for a pizza at "La Grotta" supposedly one of the city's best Italian restaurants. Our pizza was delicious and the restaurant is quaint and close to the Jardín, hence a little more pricey for a slightly smaller pie. It's a bit more Neapolitan than Francesco's, but both deserve equal ratings.
La Grotta interior
The view from our table

We wiled away the afternoon on our roof deck and finished the day with another pork schnitzel combined with a Caesar salad. A Mexican creation by the way!


Monday 21 December 2015

The Organic Market and a Party

Saturday morning, while warming up with coffee, the phone rang... It was Barbara calling from the guest house with the news that a couple could not make it to the Christmas get together and would we like to join the party. We thought about it for a while and decided to decline, worried that we would be a "fifth wheel" at the party. Barbara was a bit disappointed and left it with the option that if we changed our minds it would be great.

Hand rushing chairs

Saturday is "Organic Market" day. Our first time there, last week, was more or less just to see what's for sale there. And to meet up with Bill and Edith whom we had met at the Léon airport when we arrived here. This time we were into doing some shopping. Picked up some fruit, broccoli, chevre and a hand crafted wooden Rubix Cube style puzzle. Then we bought a cappuccino to share and sat down people watching for a while.

The busiest stall at the market

Soon Bill and Edith were there and we chatted a while. We were joined by their friends who had just moved here two months ago from South Carolina. Great people, e-mail addresses were shared. They bought an older house in town and are building an addition, to be completed in February. We will see more of Bob and Kathleen in the future. We were invited to join them for lunch at "Francesco's" just a short walk from the market. Francesco's has wonderful Mediterranean dishes including pizza. We had been craving pizza for a while so ordering the house special was a no brainer. Delicious pizza and huge, we took three slices home for lunch later.


As we were leaving the market Trey, who along with his partner Bill are hosting the Christmas get together, stopped us in our tracks and had a few questions...

"I hear you are not coming to the party"!?

"Well, we did not want to impose... We are the newbies, and we don't really belong just quite yet" and some more jargon like that...

"That's un-acceptable on all levels! You're coming and that's that!"

"What can we bring"?


After our delicious pizza lunch we hoofed back to the Jardin and bought a couple of twiggy reindeer that an indigenous lady was making right there on the sidewalk. A token thank you for the invitation to the party. We got back home and Barbara had already been informed of the fact that we had our minds changed. What a riot. We had 30 minutes to get ready.

Then off we went to the neighbourhood called "Los Frailles". It's a ways out of town and the houses are newer. We parked the car and were greeted by our hosts Trey and Bill. Bill is one of (if not the best) interior designer and architect in Texas. The house is worthy of an article in "Better Homes and Gardens". Beautiful arches, boveda ceilings and the décor so tastefully done, you just can't stop looking at all the perfection. Since this is a private residence I did not take any pictures. Just imagine perfection. At night the house was lit with laser lights projected onto the walls and trees, very effective.

The party was a blast! We're so happy to have been there. Trey and Bill had gifts for all and there was also a gift exchange that we did not partake in because of the short notice. Next time! Dinner was a pot luck affair with lasagna, cream corn, broccoli salad and scalloped potatoes. And dessert included Barbara's not yet world famous pecan pie.