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Friday 4 March 2016

Homeward Bound

Monday February 29th has arrived and marks our last day at our Mexican Casa. We had packed our suitcases the day before and are completely in control of our time. The BajioGo shuttle bus will be here at 14:15 to pick us up, along with a few other travellers, and drive us to Guanajuato International airport. We had a healthy breakfast of yoghurt and berries, and a generous lunch of sliced chicken breast, roasted the night before, with fresh raw veggies.

The front door to our Mexican home
The houses in "Balcones"
At the back gate to the botanical gardens

Between breakfast and lunch we had one last walk through "Balcones" and its fancy houses. It's always good to get the cardio going in the morning. The fancy houses here are mostly occupied by wealthy Mexicans, from other cities, as holiday homes. Only a handful of people north of the border live here.

All packed up
Waiting in the courtyard

We said goodbye to Josefina, the house keeper, Javier, the grounds keeper Darcy, the neighbour and Barbara, the landlady. Plenty of hugs, kisses and tears. The shuttle bus arrived on time and we were the first passengers to board. A mother and son from Chicago joined us in town along with a gentleman, also from Chicago and a gentleman from Mexico. The hour and a half drive went by without a problem and soon we were busy checking our luggage. My suitcase was overweight so I had to remove an item and put that in the carry on bag. All frazzled I chose the toiletries bag and transferred that. After the check in procedure I realized the toiletries bag included two pairs of scissors and a nail file. Well, we are going to lose those when we clear the safety check. Through the gate we went and our carry on bags were scanned and no one said a word, we breezed through without a problem and our sharp implements of death came with us onto the plane. This is Mexico, not the Excited States of America.

The Guanajuato airport waiting area
They recycle!
Boarding our plane to Los Angeles

We had planned to order some food on the plane, but after 20:00 they only serve snacks like crackers and cheese. Good thing we had a hearty lunch. We each had two wines with crackers and cheese. The flight was completely in the dark so there was not much to see except on arrival in Los Angeles, the sprawling city all lit up is quite the sight. The airport shuttle from the Travelodge LAX soon arrived and we were checked into our room at 21:55. With the flight behind us, we were ready to relax a bit, so we went to the gas station across the street, where there is a handy store that sells good wine for less than ten bucks. We were choosing a nice Merlot when the store clerk told us in a very strict voice that between the hours of 10PM and 6AM there will be no alcohol sales. It's a State law! I could lose my license! Oh well, the hotel has a bar and the bartender sold us the same bottle of Merlot for considerably more dinero. He pulled the cork for us and handed us two wine glasses. Take it to your room and have a good evening. Perfect.

Sleep came without any problems and we were soon awakened by the early birds leaving their rooms for their businesses. We got up and headed for the breakfast room where they served sausages, hard boiled eggs, waffles, toast and jam, coffee, tea and juice. Shelagh made waffles and I had the more savoury fare. Then we vacated the room and settled the bill, got the 09:30 shuttle to the airport to start the final leg of our journey. I had repacked the toiletries bag into my suitcase and pulled a one kilo bag of Chiapas coffee beans to put into the carry on bag. This made everything problem free for our friends at the checkin gate. Shelagh lucked out with an express checkin! Me not so much, I went through the full body scanner, shoes off, belt off and all that. It takes a few minutes to regroup after that. Ever since 911 I have a hard time with US authorities, probably because my passport states my birthplace as being in Saudi Arabia...

Our plane to Vancouver
Comfy waiting area with good wifi

The flight home was uneventful. We enjoyed a delicious chicken wrap combo meal with raw carrots and celery, and a glass of wine. The three hour flight went by quickly, and the arrivals at Vancouver airport ran like a well lubed machine. Self checkin through customs is easy and our luggage came quickly too. All loaded up we walked through the gates and were greeted by Liam and Amber along with Bailey. The drive home took a while. There had been an accident the the Massy Tunnel and that caused bumper to bumper traffic all over the place. Chris wanted to join us but he had a dead battery, so we decided to stop at his place to give his car a boost.

We had a fun evening with pizza, wine and story telling. We warmed the house up and lit the water heater and the fireplaces. The house was surprisingly clean considering we were away for three months. Not as much dust as we had envisioned. After a good night sleep Murphy reared his ugly head...

I got up to shave and shower when I realized that there was no hot water. I went downstairs to investigate and found the water heater spewing water from the top. Luckily there is a drain in the floor, but still a lot of water found its way under the carpets. I tried to shut off the water supply to the tank but could not budge the tap so I had to shut off the main water supply. Now the entire house was without water. Six hours later we had a new water heater installed. $1100.00 lighter in the bank account, but the old tank was nine years old and that's about the lifespan if these things. All's well that ends well, time to do some laundry... Two loads done and I see the carpets are getting wetter. As the washing machine pumps out its water the floor drain spews up laundry water! Clearly we have some kind of blockage. Now we are waiting for the plumber to root out the pipes. Life is good here in the great white north, we miss Mexico already...

My favourite sculpture at Casa Tranquilo


Wednesday 2 March 2016

Our last weekend in San Miguel

Friday morning we were invited to join Darcy and John Eckrote on a tour of houses for sale in San Miguel. We are not yet interested in buying real estate in Mexico so we were just along for the ride. It's amazing the scope of homes that are out there. You can spend as little as US$80K for a fixer upper or go into the millions for a colonial mansion in down town. We saw four houses listed under US$200K.

The authentic look
The modern look

The first house was quite cute and owned by two artists, designed in the style of Antoni Gaudí with a sculpted concrete stairway to the upper studio. It also had a small casita for rental income. And a nice back yard to relax in. The second house was amazing and blew us away, it also had the adjacent lot for sale to add to your privacy. The views of town were excellent and the house was listed at $199K. For an extra $40K you can have the vacant lot next door for a private garden or swimming pool. The walls were constructed of a mix of stone, brick, ceramic tile and roof tiles, randomly cemented in place. The look is amazing and very colourful.

Then onto some listings closer to the centre of town where you don't get as much for your money. The third house in the Colonia of San Antonio was very small. Shelagh and I could live there after some renovations but it was not right for Darcy. The next house was also in San Antonio. Much larger with a great view to down town and a rental suite. Extensive renovations are needed for this one. The vendor is 85 years old so a deal could be had. Darcy has a lot to ponder...

An eclectic mix of media
This is our last Friday in San Miguel and Darcy wanted to treat us to dinner at "La Grotta", a nice Italian restaurant close to the Jardin. We all enjoyed a perfectly prepared calamari appetizer, followed by a pasta dish each and drank copious amounts of wine. We shared dessert, and talked about home ownership in Mexico.

Leaving the restaurant we wanted to show Darcy the action in the Jardin on a weekend night. A wedding had just wound up and the crowd was in the plaza pouring shots of Mescal and Tequila for anyone interested. We have learned that that kind of booze is best left in the bottle. We chatted with some people, one who could barely stand up anymore. Darcy had a dance with the father of the bride while the Mariachi band played and played. A wonderful way to end a great day. We walked home dragging Darcy up the hill, she was quite proud of herself!

This guy could barely stand up

We still feel that buying a house should happen after renting for a while so that you can really get a feel of town and not end up in a neighbourhood that will ultimately drive you crazy with church bells peeling, dogs barking and roosters crowing. Besides, Mexico is not nearly as regulated as Canada. You could buy a nice house and end up with a small engine repair shop next door. Better to rent, so you can bail.

On Saturday morning we saw one more house with Darcy and John, also very nice and built by the same contractor as the nice house with the fancy stone work. It was only two doors down from that pretty place and listed for considerably less. Ultimately these houses were too far from the action for Darcy, she wants to be able to walk to town and this neighbourhood does not afford that. John dropped us off in town and we went and did some shopping at the markets for gifts etc. Darcy was hungry and stopped for a taco al Pastor from a street vendor, delicious. We took Darcy to the "Hecho en Mano" market which is open every Saturday and Sunday. The local artisans sell their creations here. Jewelry and pottery, weaving and carving, preserves and teas, it's all there on the Calle Ancha de San Antonio. A few blocks further is the Saturday organic market where we would top up our veggie supplies and fancy bread. Darcy was a happy shopper. Here we said goodbye to Darcy and went our own way. I had something special planned for Shelagh as this was to be our last full day in San Miguel. We headed to the ear ring maker at the organic market and Shelagh chose a pair of ear rings like a Milagro, or a pair of wings representing a miracle, then I had planned to shop for a pair of shoes called San Miguel shoes which hug the feet real well for easier walking on the cobble stoned streets. I figured that she would benefit from such shoes, however her bunions won the battle and she could not find a pair that were comfortable. Bummer.

Taco stand, delicious and safe

Lunch time was now upon us and Shelagh chose to go to "Mare Nostrum" an Italian restaurant where the pizza and pasta is as close to authentic as I have tasted. The owners hail from Sardinia and have passed their culinary skills on to the kitchen staff. The restaurant is comfortable, situated a ways from the street through a garden path. There is a nice dining room and a courtyard. The courtyard is covered with glass and very cozy and airy. We enjoyed a lovely Pinot Grigio along with a pizza capriciossa. Life is good.

Sunday came along and we were invited to join Barbara and Darcy for lunch at "La Mansion de Montitlan", a beautiful private home in the colonia of Balcones in San Miguel. The owner, Gail, opens her house every Sunday for lunch. She is especially well known for her Southern Fried Chicken. Reservations were made by Barbara and we had a choice of chicken, salmon or pork loin wrapped in prosciutto. The three course lunch started with a salad, a delicious romaine heart topped with citrus fruit, avocado and a fresh dressing. Shelagh and Barbara had the chicken, Darcy had the pork and I had the salmon. Finally a choice of three desserts and coffee. The house is stately and has wonderful terraces upon which the tables are placed for the guests. The event was well attended, and lunch was delicious. After lunch we walked home and started packing up our lives into the suitcases that had spent the last three months in the bedroom closet.

At La Mansion de Montitlan

Dinner was easy, left over chicken from lunch. We still had a couple of chicken breasts in the freezer and I decided to roast them in the oven for Monday's lunch, that turned out to be a good idea...