February 16 - 26, 2014…Casa Paul, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato Mexico

Oops..I may of had an extra glass of wine and became a little chatty... so this is a large entry!

Riding out of the 1770's hallway of Hotel Mansion Iturbre

Riding out of the 1770's hallway of Hotel Mansion Iturbre

It was exciting to ride the bikes out of the closet of the 1770's Hacienda, Hotel Mansion Iturbe where they had been safely stored.  Our route today has us traveling north, through Morelia, out of the state of Michoacan and into the state of Quanajuato  and on to our destination, San Miguel de Allende.  The ride was nothing to rave about, really!  The open areas we traveled through were dry, dusty, and ordinary….and the towns we traveled through matched the surroundings…pretty unappealing with the usual standard smoggy congestion.  

As we rode through one of the small towns. a bright clean little restaurant, caught my eye and thought that it would be a good place for lunch.  Being Sunday, menudo was really the only thing on the menu!  Hmmm, I really don't know if Im into eating beef stomach…tripe, which I know is a traditional Mexican delicacy that can lovingly take up to 7 hours to prepare.  The Señora offered us tacos…I said "carne?"….Hmmm, I don't think that "regular meat" is on the menu today, by the way she smiled, shook her head, pointed to, and rubbed her stomach.  I got the whole charades thing….today is menudo tacos!  OK then!  I looked over at the other patrons seated at the counter, enjoying their meal…their  tacos looked pretty good.   There was a good heaping of a bright orange chopped mixture in the middle of a small warm corn tortilla…gotta try it!  "Seis, tacos…tres y tres", I said, as I pointed to Kev and I.  The Señora smiled proudly, eager to serve us her obvious specialty!  Kev and I sat down then up roared an old Chevy truck, stopping right outside the restaurant and next to our bikes.  Out hopped a keen young man swaggering towards Kev and I.  "I heard that there were some travelers in town that may need my in help translating the menu", he crowed, in perfect english!  Huh, what do you know, we have only been here for 3 minutes.  "Thank-you, but I think all is OK", I replied.  Kev and I thanked him for his kindness and concern, and told him that we had ordered 3 tacos each.  He then proceeded to tell us that food was wonderful and that he eats here daily, had lived in Florida for 10 years, illegally, wants to go back with his girlfriend, and so on and so on!!!!  He sat across from us, intently watching Kev and I top our tacos with fresh chopped onion, cilantro and hot salsa.  He was obviously waiting for some sort of facial reaction…or maybe just some friendly conversation?  The menudo tacos were delicious, and the unexpected help was heart felt!!

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We are not far from San Miguel de Allende now and it has been a long day.  We chose not to stop for a sightseeing opportunity, earlier on in the day, and it has turned out to be a wise move.  As we ride into the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende I'm happy to see many people al fresco dining.  The paved road quickly turned to cobblestones and the beauty of San Miguel unfolds.   Kev and I are on alert…there is a lot of traffic.  It is hard to see down the orange, yellow and brown painted concrete high-walled narrow streets for approaching vehicles.  We don't know the flow of the town and I feel like I am a bother to the taxi that is right up my jumper!  The agent of this vacation rental has asked us to call him when we arrive in town so Kev programed in the approximate location from the internet.  We come to a stop awkwardly perched on the crest of a steep cobblestoned street…"The place is around here somewhere!", Kev states.  "Alright…Let's pull over there and figure out how to contact the agent!", I say with strain precariously holding up my heavy bike on the uneven crest.  Taking care not to block a driveway that has a big red letter "E" with a line through it, meaning "no parking". We pull the bikes as far off the narrow roadway as possible.  The traffic is just crazy.  We must have picked the narrowest, busiest street in town!  At one point I even had to jump out in front of an approaching car yelling "NO", as she was about to take out Kevin's left pannier!  "This is really frustrating…I cannot get the number to dial through, and, "is it me or are people just crazy here?", Kev says.  Yeah, I agree that it is a little much!  Now we wait, seated in the gutter, for our email to be answered by the renting agent.  As we wait, a "non native" lady who lives where we are waiting, exits her home with a friend.  Her friend pauses in front of the driveway with the red letter "E" with a slash through it and says…."What does that mean, Tiffany?"…"Oh, that means that you cannot park here, Becky…but people do it all the time!"  I really couldn't believe my ears…The obvious planned exchange by these gringo's was exaggerated, snotty, and evidently meant for our ears!  Damn…Maybe you two need remove the egg from your ass as well as buy some new glasses, I thought!  We were close, but not impeding their entrance or driveway!  Kev and I looked at each other both rolling our eyes!…I know that we are both thinking the same thing…How many days did we schedule here? 

The streets of San Miguel de Allende

The streets of San Miguel de Allende

Do you see a "slashed E" behind our bikes?

Do you see a "slashed E" behind our bikes?

"Cat! Cat!", I hear being called out …"Hi, I'm Jim, glad you guys made it.  Funny you stopped here!  We are very close to Casa Paul, in fact it is just down, around the street!", says the rental agent  Kev and I smile to each other!  "It will be a little tricky to get to it though.  If you obey the oneway roads it will take you 15 minutes to move around the corner in this traffic…but if you just head out the wrong way on this street it will take you 1 minute!", Jim states. So as a gap opened up we cautiously disobeyed the law!

Casa Paul…The yellow and burgundy building….Looks can be   deceiving!

Casa Paul…The yellow and burgundy building….Looks can be deceiving!

I look down the street and see Jim so precisely and neatly dressed perched on the front steps of Casa Paul like a peacock…damn, there is no parking here I think! I remove my helmet and look up at Jim seeing a puzzled look on his face.  Jim says "Wow!!  What are we going to do with these big bikes?…Come inside so we can go over the contract, then you can park the bikes in front of the house while you unload, but then they will need to be moved to a parking spot"  Slightly bothered I pointed out to Jim about prior emails on the bike situation! 

I stepped into Casa Paul…it was very architecturally angular, very modern and extremely cool…in temperature that is!  Ahh… what a cool pleasant relief!  "Now the contract is fairly straight forward, and since the owners gave you such a huge discount on the price, I just rounded it up to the next whole number", Jim rattles off!  What did he just say I thought, and turned as Kev entered the Casa!  "Wow this is cool!", Kev mouths.  I'm preoccupied, calculating the difference per day in the rate…It is only $3 per day, and we did get a huge break…but a deal is a deal, I'm thinking…Although bothered about the presumptuous move on Jim's part, I decide to let it slide!  Kev quickly and ungracefully unloads the contents of both bikes' panniers while Jim happily parades me through his chic property.  "Now the maid comes 3 times a week and works from 9am till 3pm, she will do your laundry and you can email me if you need anything else!" Jim pitches….Wow…cool!  Hmm 18 hours a week is a heck of a cleaning schedule!

Western, although very cool nevertheless! The 18 hours of cleaning was over kill and a little intrusive I have to say!

Western, although very cool nevertheless! The 18 hours of cleaning was over kill and a little intrusive I have to say!

This pad was much much cheaper than a hotel!  Vacation rentals work really well if you can spend more than 7 days.

This pad was much much cheaper than a hotel!  Vacation rentals work really well if you can spend more than 7 days.

Look up!  

Look up!  

The roof opens.

The roof opens.

View from the roof.  Sometimes I felt as though I was in  San Francisco!

View from the roof.  Sometimes I felt as though I was in  San Francisco!

Pano from the roof

Pano from the roof

Jim leaves, Kev and I hop on the bikes and proceed to scout out secure parking.  We pull into the parking area closest to Casa Paul and ask about leaving the bikes with them for the next 10 days, with approximately 3 in and out privileges.  The answer….$700 US!  No negotiating, no budging…just $700 with a smile! Whoa, Nelly!!!!  That seems a little steep.  Kev and I pull out of the parking lot and ride up the street.  I pull over next to another motorcycle parked curbside on the street to chat with Kev.  It is hard enough maneuvering our bikes through these streets, let alone be caught up in serious conversation.  We decide to try another lot I saw as we circled once through the one-way'd maze of cobblestone streets.  This lot was further away, but looked pretty secure.  We are in luck…they are willing to make a deal!  After 15 minutes of texting, including snap pics of the bikes….which seemed weird, their price was $500…Better, but we did not want to fork out that much…maybe $300, even that makes me a little sick! Kev says "I had it in my mind to check out the parking before signing rental paperwork, but, with all the kafuffle I was sidetracked!  What is your opinion on locking up and covering the bikes parking curbside…the place we pulled over?"  I reply "I'm not that comfortable with it, but, I feel that the parking is a rip off!"  Kev and I rode back around to the curbside street parking marked specifically for motos.  Kev removed both sets of panniers, our back boxes and our Kenwood 2-way radios.  He then center-standed, chained-locked and covered both bikes.  "Cat I feel OK!  The bikes are under a bright street light, and I feel that it would take a bit of work to steel the bikes, besides, they are insured!", Kev states as he enters the Casa.  

Where we ended up parking the bikes.

Where we ended up parking the bikes.

I have been nervous about the bikes.  I have woken up several nights while at Casa Paul, swearing that the bikes were being taken….The traffic on the street is very, very noisy day and night.  Mexican towns are all noisy, but this felt exaggerated.  The street noise actually amplifies, rising up the walls of the connected homes.  It actually sounds as though you are living under an old time rickety roller coaster hearing the cars drum and rattle by the Casa encased within the narrow streets below.  My ears are pricked and aware during the night, ready to pick up that familiar thud.  It is like I am secretly  listening to a baby monitor, and I do not want anyone to take my baby!   It is a lesson well learnt….gotta have secure parking.   

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So far you have heard me go on about the awkwardness we fundamentally faced in San Miguel de Allende, it did ease, but, did not completely subside!  The town is charming!  There are no parking meters, traffic signals or fast food restaurants here!  The narrow cobblestone streets funneled by the solid colorful walls of homes against its sidewalks cover this hilly terrain in a grid formation and are always swept and pristine.  You do not see any street rubbish as garbage is collected daily.  You will hear the clanging of what sounds like a triangle being clanged by someone walking the streets.  It is the garbage guy.  He walks the streets of San Miguel, a block or so ahead of the garbage truck, ear pods in his ears alerting you to bring your rubbish outside.  You cannot leave a can out!  If you hear the sound of someone blowing a flute, this is the knife sharpener walking the streets ready to sharpen your knives! There are many, many, many clothing, shoes, silver, art, kitchen earth-ware, glassware, specialty craft and designer shops.  Shopping is exploring as you cannot see the face of the shop or what it carries until you are on it's historical footsteps peeping in.  Each shop is a fun discovery and an added leg work out as you stair step up into each boutique then continue onto the next,  zigzagging up and down the steep streets within the San Miguel de Allende maze.  The jardin, or centro, is continuously busy, day and night.  Food vendors are selling corn on a stick lathered in a tangy mayonnaise, grated queso, chile powder and a squeeze of lime. There is a taco cart, and a shaved ice cart.  Basically all that you need for a great night out!  You can shop from hombres selling hats, baskets and woven items, or buy the kids a large blow-up pencil or unicorn on wheels from the blow-up-toy-guy.  Watching the kids bang the ends of the large pencils onto the ground so that they shoot up into the air and whizz past unsuspecting onlookers is great evening entertainment.  I love the jardin's or centro's of Mexico, they are always entertaining! 

Garbage guy

Garbage guy

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San Miguel de Allende has great knockers!

San Miguel de Allende has great knockers!

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San Miguel de Allende's baroque, neoclassical colonial structures and churches are absolutely beautiful.  Along with the assortment of iron and brass knockers attached to large heavy carved wooden doors, fancy wrought iron work on windows and bright cascading bougainvilleas trailing from roof terraces over the brightly colored casa walls is a welcomed daily charm.  The audio is just as charming as the visual in San Miguel.  The chime and ring of bells from the surrounding churches of the area can be heard day and night.  Surprisingly one of the church's bell sequence does tell the time here!  San Miguel de Allende is said to have over 300 churches.  I am glad that they do not chime at the same time!  I have enjoyed shopping at the mum & pop chock-packed little grocery stores, the well stocked butcher, complete with daily visiting dog, and fruit and vege shop in town.  There are many diverse restaurant choices especially catering to the high concentration of foreign residents.  Mostly exCanadians and Americans, many of them retired professionals, along with a multitude of colorful artists designers and writers. Prices here are elevated and the expat/gringo vibe is snooty.

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Hey Cat…there is a dog next to you!

Hey Cat…there is a dog next to you!

Unfortunately there is a serious air pollution problem here.  The smog from the burning of toxic waste including plastic, tires and computer parts, along with the sheer volume of rich sooty running vehicles continually circling the town creates very unpleasant breathing conditions.  The smog and expat/gringo vibe has finally got to me, and I am glad to be moving on!

Washing the gear.

Washing the gear.

Loading the bikes, ready to leave.

Loading the bikes, ready to leave.