Category Archives: Mexico

Romeria in Guadalajara/Zapopan

Ave Maria

We Uber-ed from Ajijic up to Guadalajara on October 11 and checked into Hotel Morales. The hotel is in the historic center of the city and is classic and lovely. Courtyards with fountains, four stories of rooms, a pool, restaurant, and bar. Our room was very well-appointed with a spacious walk-in shower, lighted make-up mirror (!) and comfortable bed. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the hotel or explore on this trip, but the area around there is very walkable — lots of department stores, shoe shops, historic buildings, churches, and many, many stores with wedding and quincenera gowns. We look forward to returning!

We met up with some Oregon friends who became our tour guides. We had drinks at a nice bar overlooking a plaza and then saw the preparations for what we had travelled to Guadalajara for: la Romeria de la Vergin de Zapopan. The Romeria was to take place the next day, October 12, but some streets were condoned off the evening before and processions were headed to the cathedral for Mass. Many people with flags and long lines of men and women in religious order garb.

We had dinner at a restuarant called La Chata, very near to our hotel. We had good timing — the line looked hours long when we exited. The restaurant kitchen is in the front of the building, gleaming clean, filled with cooks (all female, it appeared, the night we were there) clothed head to toe in white, including white hoods over their hair. While we waited for a table, we got to see the cooks in action and check out the different types of food. I loved watching them! I was grateful to find an enchilada assortment that was all vegetarian (I will write another post about some of my struggles to eat well while travelling). It was might good, featuring enchiladas with beans, cheese, and (I think) panela (fresh cheese). My husband is a flan connoisseur and declared theirs very good.

We made it an early night as we wanted to see the beginning of the Romeria, which was reported to start at either 5:30 or 6:00. Either time is considered 0dark30 to me. We met in the lobby at 6:00 and joined the crowd at the cathedral. In a short time, the statue of the Virgin, in a glass or plastic case, was brought out and secured to a float covered with flowers. Another float and people with flags proceeded the Virgin and the procession began. We followed along, sometimes cutting down side streets to jump ahead and watch different parts of the procession. Walking through Guadalajara in the dark with about a million people (literally; they were expecting 1.5 million for the event) was a great experience, otherworldly.

Evidently, the statue of the Virgin has a home base in the Zapopan Basilica but travels to other churches in Jalisco from June until October 12. The Romeria is her procession home. According to what I have read, the icon of the Virgin is a small corn-husk statue and is credited with many miracles. The total route was about 8 kilometers and ended near the Zapopan cathedral. Along with multitudes of priests, nuns, seminarians, etc., the procession had several bands and many groups of dancers in different types of indigenous dress. As it got light out, a variety of vendors set up along the route with a special type of bread (looked like of like challah with some red and green candied fruit on top), ice cream, sodas, Romeria calendars, leashes so you don’t lose your children, and other items.

We waited behind barricades near the entrance to the Basilica grounds. Over the loudspeakers, a man led the crowd in choruses of Ave Maria (Catholic friends, it’s a different melody from the one we grew up with in the US), cheers, and prayers. The Virgin came in on her float and was then transferred to another float that was hand-carried onto the grounds and (though we could not see this) into the Basilica. We attempted to go toward the Basilica after this, but it was too crowded so we headed back. In our hotel bar, however, we were able to see some of the Mass on TV.

Ave Maria, salve Maria!



Ajiijc plaza:

JWs spreading the word on the plaza. As far as we saw, they weren’t getting many customers.


Near our house:

Our street, looking toward lake:

Futbol field in the AM:

When I tell visitors to bring sturdy shoes, I mean it. Cobblestones!

Street scene.

Our entry-way.

Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Super Lake, meeting folks, lightening

Yesterday we made our first visit to “Super Lake,” a grocery store catering to ex-pats. I found the American-style brown sugar I hadn’t seen at the other stores we visited. And I was overwhelmed by the narrow aisles crammed with expensive imported goods. Need Bob’s Red Mill products? They’ve got you covered. Tillamook cheese, vegan mayonnaise, Irish steel cut oats, Pop Tarts, Red Rose tea, Gold Medal flour, Prego spaghetti sauce, every kind of cracker you could want. Anything you are craving from NOB (North of Border), they’ve got it if you’re willing to pay. The prices shocked me. I think the steel-cut oats were the equivalent of about $15 and the Red Rose tea (my usual go-to), about $8 a box. I won’t be buying any of that stuff, I can tell you that! I am happy with the Mexican brands of flour, oatmeal and tea sold at regular stores.

My husband completed his first home improvement project with the assitance of the landlord’s handyman and a very very very tall ladder. He installed a pulley (which he had brought with from Oregon) on the rooftop deck so we can raise and lower our laundry to be hung on the line, a bottle of wine, binoculars, snacks etc. Seeing him climb that ladder made me scared, but the basket system sure is nice.

Last night, we woke to a big lightening storm. It went on for quite some time. Maybe the next time, I will get up to the roof to watch it!

As we settle in and interact with other ex-pats, I observe that some move here with very little (or no) experience of Mexico — what it’s like, customs, legal rules, the language. Seemingly, they see a price tag for their lifestyle that is less than what they are paying, and decide to move. I believe this leads to an expectation (and then disappointment) that things, people, places will be the same as they are used to in the U.S., only for less money.

This country has so much to offer. I want to learn more of the history (hoping to find a child-level Mexican history book), more of the language, more the customs, more of the food, the religions, holidays, beliefs. I want to be respectful. I don’t expect locals to speak English and I greatly appreciate their patience with my Spanish. I don’t expect stores, restaurants, systems, foods to be the same as they are in the U.S. If I wanted things the same as in the U.S., I wouldn’t be here.

That said, who’s perfect? I will probably duck into Super Lake for brown sugar when I want to bake some cookies.

In a box to the left

Things are getting emptier at our place, including our chicken coop. Our four Buff Orpingtons went off to their new home and we are down to the last few of the home-layed eggs.

We have taken several Subaru-loads of items to our new storage unit. As I pack, I am thinking once again about “needs” and “wants.” What do I need to pack for a year in Mexico? How many T-shirts do I need? What kitchen stuff? Are most of those things that will sit in the storage unit for a year “wants” vs. “needs?” When we come back, will I wish we had gotten rid of more things or will I be happy to be reunited with the art we love, my winter coat, my few pair of impractical-for-cobblestones shoes, my colorful 1960s Pyrex bowls and our juicer?

I’m starting to have anxiety dreams about packing the car — what if the things we want to bring won’t fit? What will we jettison to the storage at the last minute? Not my running shoes, golf clubs, art suppies, or kitchen knives, I can tell you that.


Sorting, decision-making, boxing, moving.  Busy days here.

Soon, we will be driving … and then sitting on the plaza in Ajijic…where a person might see a great band of school-aged kids who can really play.IMG_1385

Ready, set, ex-pat

So we went to the Mexican Consulate in Porltand to apply for our temporary resident visas.

But first…..
Since we decided last winter to plan for a year’s move to Mexico, I scaled back my garden efforts this year. I also had hand surgery in March which incapacitated me for long than i expected. Still, a friend helped me shop at the Food for Lane County plant sale and I bought some most excellent starts. I grew the largest cauliflowers ever. Broccoli was good, too. It wasn’t a good pea year at our place; maybe too wet for too long. It was a productive asparagus and artichoke year, though. Summer crops, we have enjoyed green beans (mostly roasted on the grill), tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers. The garden seems small since I didn’t grow anything for canning!

Great cauli year

And great potato year

Okay, on to our upcoming travel. We put our house up for rent with a property manager and have renters lined up for a year, beginning October 1. Our stuff has been and is in the process of being divided into the following categories: sell, donate, throw out, store, or move. Carloads have gone to St. Vincent de Paul. We have sold a lot through craigslist and our yard sale, including my beloved 1995 Nissan pick up truck. I will miss that the most of everything that goes away. Still, it was a good decision as we didn’t want to pay to store a vehicle and can likely manage just fine with only one when we return from our year away.

I’ve gotten rid of some sentimental items, including a folder of old family pictures (no idea who the people were) from the 1920-50 era, sold to a woman for $2 at our sale. My army jacket, sent to me by my retired Army cousin (now deceased) that I wore every day, all winter, during high school and college. Dishes belonging to my mom. Grandma’s doilies (the better ones sent to a family member, the others sold at yard sale). The little cast-iron stove I had since I was a kid. Many many things gone.

I have such mixed feelings, jettisoning so many memory items. But how much can a person hold onto if that person also wants to have room for the future,for travelling, for moving aorund the world more easily? Don’t get me wrong; I have a big tote full of photos, my HS senior yearbook, my first pay stub from Dominick’s Finer Foods (now defunct), all the concert ticket stubs from my youth (from AC/DC to The Who to Madonna to David Bowie). So still plenty of stuff to store or lug around. But much less.


Got rid of my mom’s old address book

So where are we moving and why? We are moving to Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. It’s a very ex-pat-friendly town on Lake Chapala, about 40 minutes from the Guadalajara airport.

Why? Like, many things in life, it’s a push and a pull. The pull is pretty easy: nice people and interesting culture; great weather; wonderful food; affordable cost of living; accessible health care; and well, because we can. And perhaps SHOULD while we are sill young and agile enough to have an adventure and actively enjoy it. The push? The current state of politics in the US is ugly and heart-breaking and frightening. And we are likely to either lose our health insurance completely in 2018 or be unable to afford any, given the actons against the affordable care act and its subsidies. If I am going to be uninsured, i want it to be in a country where I can afford to go to the doctor if I need to.

So away we go, leaving in mid-September and arriving at our destination on October 1.

Stay tuned.

Travel Planning

The summer is all about gardening and hanging out in the Pacific NW. The Olympic track and field trials. A little camping. Bike rides. Ball games. Foster dogs from the shelter. Canning salsa. Golfing with friends. Drying apples. Making fig jam.

And travel planning.

Looks like we are going to spend two months in Mexico this winter and I can’t wait. It will be our longest trip to date. Yes, I get anxious leaving home for that long, but soon after the plane takes off, I put it behind me and turn toward the adventure. We are planning to start our trip near Ixtapa with some (scary for me) surfing lessons administered by an encouraging long-time seldom-seen friend. Following Ixtapa, we will take an 8-hour bus trip to Guadalajara to spend time in Ajijic, a town on Lake Chapala. That will be followed up with some more nights on Lake Chapala, either Chapala itself or Jojotepec, or the hot spring spa at San Juan de Cosala. After, we will board the bus to Puerto Vallarta and the boat to Yelapa.

Love that Yelapa place! I look forward to seeing friends, playing croquet, relaxing on the beach and eating well.  We will spend a month there and I will still be sad to leave.

After Yelapa, not sure, but likely a car rental and drive down to the Mayto/Tehuamixtle area for a few days of super-quiet remote beach time. Or a a spell in the mountains (via bus) in Mascota and Talpa. We will finish up the trip with some big-city activities in Vallarta and head home to springtime in Oregon.

It can be frustrating to try to figure out logistics — where to fly in, which places we can go by bus, what fits in before and after our Yelapa reservation, searching AirBnB and other lodging sites. It’s also fun and exciting. We enjoy our enjoy travel three ways: planning and anticipating, the trip itself, and then the memories. A way better payoff, to my thinking, than a buying a big screen TV or a fancy car or a bigger house or cable TV or more stuff.

Says the woman who bought a new dress last week …. (See prior post)…


Cooking with Chef Diki

I had the privilege to step into the kitchen at Yelapa’s Tacos y Mas restaurant to watch Chef Diki prepare one of her specials — linguine with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and scallops in a light white wine cream sauce.

This dish was chock-full of seafood and the sauce was a creamy perfection. Diki assured me it was easy and fast. Watching her do it, I now believe it!

Diki starts with some olive and heats it up in a small skillet over a pretty high heat. She adds the clams and mussels and sautes them a bit. Next was a generous pour of white wine (sauvignon blanc), a little more time for the shellfish to open, and then a big clove of garlic was pressed into the mix.image

imageAfter cooking that a little bit (still the high heat), butterflied shrimp, calamari (small whole ones and sliced larger ones) and scallops were added. A quick toss and then additions of fresh chopped basil and parsley. And the cream. At this point the seafood was almost done. Diki moved the mixture to one part of the skillet and added cooked pasta. She mixed everything quickly and then plated the dish.

imageimageimageA big thanks to Diki for letting me watch and learn!!

And if you see this on the menu at Tacos and Mas and don’t order it, you will miss out on a great meal! (And, as my husband would say, you’re a dumbass.)image