Florida – West Coast to East Coast

I can’t believe I am still trying to write the blogs from our 3-week trip to Mexico and Florida! We have been home for almost one month. These next few blogs actually have boats and water in them.

When we left Mexico we had a long day of travel ahead of us, beginning with the ride to the Mexico City airport in a van. The van picked us up at Casa Garza at 6:30 am for our noon flight.

Even in the dark of early morning, you can see what a tight squeeze Garza Callejon is. The driver backed the van down he street right to the front door. That’s service! And some pretty darn impressive maneuvering.

Instead of flying straight home to Connecticut, we had extended the trip to include Florida so that we could visit family and friends. Florida is on the way home from Mexico, isn’t it?

Two weeks, 5 stops, 1200 miles of roads. 1= Tampa   2= Spring Hill    3= Stuart  4= Big Pine Key   5= St. Petersburg

After a long layover in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, we landed in Tampa at 10:30 pm and drove north to visit Al’s mother, Dot. Dot and Bill live in The Residence at Timber Pines, a senior living community in Spring Hill. Our visit overlapped with Cheri’s visit, Al’s sister, so we had some nice family time together.

Enjoying “the pub” together at Timber Pines.                                                                                    Clockwise from top left – Cheri and Dave; Bill and Dot, Al and me;                                                         Al and Dave are sitting with Bill’s uncle, also Bill, who is almost 102 years old;                                Bill’s daughter, Sharon  and her husband, Jack.

The Residence has a beautiful outdoor pool that I took full advantage of while we were visiting. I had to the pool all to myself except for this one moment when I decided to take a photo.

After a nice visit in Spring Hill, we hopped back into our rental car and drove four hours across the state to Stuart to visit Al’s brother, Bill and his wife, Barbara. The middle of Florida is flat and mostly country. Shooting photos from the window of a moving car is no easy task. I amused myself by trying anyway.

Spanish moss hanging from trees and horses out to pasture.

Orange groves line the highways along one stretch.

Neatly rolled bales of hay.

Views of the miles of pipeline along alternating sides of the highway.

In Stuart we saw the beautiful Christmas Palm. I remember how festive the berry bunches look. We first saw these palms in Hope Town in 2013.

As things sometimes happen in life, the timing of our visit in Stuart coincidentally overlapped with Colin’s. Colin? Colin who? We met Colin in Lake Tashmoo back in September when we were cruising around the New England islands  (Off to the Islands – Lake Tashmoo & Vineyard Haven, MV). Colin had seen us anchor in Lake Tashmoo and was interested in a Europa (“sedan-style”) trawler like ours. He asked to look at our Kindred Spirit and “talk trawlers.”  Al put him in touch with his brother Bill who found a trawler for Colin in Florida. Fast forward to January – Colin was spending two weeks on his new boat with his friend, Lynn. It was late afternoon when we reached Stuart and we eagerly accepted Colin and Lynn’s  invitation to tour Tortuga.

Tortuga, a 1984 Oceania 38 Europa design trawler, at Stuart Yacht Harbor.

Tortuga means “turtle” in Spanish, an apt name for a trawler since they move slowly (for a power boat.) That’s why former sailors like us are drawn to them.  It was truly amazing how similar Tortuga’s layout is to Kindred Spirit’s layout.

Colin suggested a happy hour dinghy cruise in the narrow winding South Fork of the St. Lucie River, where his Tortuga was docked at Stuart Yacht Harbor.

We met Bill and Barbara for breakfast on Sunday morning. Our conversation included the weather which had been on the windy side for the past couple weeks, and especially so on that day. Bill suggested that although it was still windy, perhaps Colin would like to get Tortuga away from the dock for some trawler tutoring. One phone call and our day was all set – we were all going out on Tortuga!! Extra wind …… extra Watson. Two for one deal. 😉

The Watson brothers discuss methods for pulling away from the dock in windy conditions.

Chartplotter lessons at the interior helm.

More discussions on the aft deck.

Colin and Lynn take the helm and Tortuga leaves the dock.

The test ride went from the lower blue dot in the South Fork of the St. Lucie River to the green dot at the entrance of the North Fork of the St. Lucie Rive, near the bridge. Although we always stopped in Stuart on our ICW-Bahamas trips, we stayed in Manatee Pocket, Port Salerno (yellow dot.)

A few of the sites along the way. Felt good to be out on a boat!!

The mooring field in Stuart. It’s a little choppy out here.

Bill and Lynn have anchoring lessons on the bow.

AL and Colin have simultaneous anchoring lessons on the flybridge.

Lynn and Colin, looking very at home on Tortuga. 🙂

Boating has brought family and friends together. Nice day!!

Last Day in San Miguel de Allende

Seven full days in San Miguel, but nine blogs to describe it. Overkill? No, not at all. We managed to fill every day with something fun or interesting or both.  I can see how San Miguel has even more to offer and why it would be appealing for many to live here.

We began our last day with breakfast at El Pagaso and then spent time in El Jardin.

There is a webcam in El Jardin. That’s the four of us win at the camera.

After breakfast, we tackled one more market.  Tianguis de los Martes (Tuesday’s Open Market) takes place every Tuesday just out of the center of San Miguel de Allende. It would have been a long uphill walk so we took a taxi. This market was different. Getting out of the taxi, we faced acres of colored awnings covering tables, shelves, and vendors. It was enormous, paralyzing to a novice like me. It is like a hybrid farmers market and flea market.

First impressions

Hundreds of vendors were spread out selling anything and everything: fresh produce, fish, chicken, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, clothing (old and new), kitchenware, souveniers, cleaning supplies, radios, cell phone cases, live birds and other animals. This was definitely where local people do their shopping.

Hardware and Houseware

Anything and everything — produce, grains, beans, pork rinds, candy …

Hot food stalls serving Mexican dishes were side by side with junk vendors.

People taking a break from their shopping to eat.

The man is scraping the prickles off of the nopales (cactus). Evidently, it is cooked and served as a side dish.

I was overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed in the Christmas Tree Shops, so this was tenfold worse. But….. if there is something you need, Tianguis de los Martes is the place to go!

I must describe one more park, Parque Juarez. Whenever we left Casa Garza to head in the direction of El Chorro, slightly southwest instead of north and down into the city center, we uaually found ourselves in Parque Juarez. Parque Juarez is the largest green space within San Miguel’s city center. It’s got fountains, winding paths, basketball courts, and public classes in tai chi, yoga, and zumba. It’s quiet, peaceful, and seemed very safe.

The park grounds were once full of plentiful orchards and vegetable plots thanks to the water coming down from El Chorro. Dr. Hernández Macías wanted San Miguel residents to have a place for recreation, and so, from 1895 to 1904, he bought the orchards one by one and put them together to create this park, an extraordinarily beautiful sight when it opened 100 years ago. Now, in mid-January, there were few blooms, but plenty of green.

The paths wander in and around gardens, exercise stations, playgrounds and fountains.

Artwork along another path.

I had to use the internet to try and understand most of the words on this cross, although some are obvious. (Ok, I didn’t have to, but I was curious and wanted to know.)

LEFT: humanos (people),  tierras (earth),  plantas (plant)
TOP: aire (air),  fuegos (fire),  luz (air)
RIGHT: animales (animals),  agua (water),  insectos (insects)
BOTTOM: pensamientos (thoughts), emociones (emotions), sentimientos (feelings)
The yellow base: yo soy nosotros  (I am us)
The bottom: Todo lo que ves oyes sientes hueles piensas haces …. Y aun lo desconocido y lo invisible es la manifestacion de dios. Fluye con amor actua con respeto y eleva tu consciencia   —–Everything you see hear, feel, smell, think, do… And even the unknown and the invisible is the manifestation of God. Flow with love, act with respect, and raise your awareness.

Carved tree trunks

A poinsettia bush, still blooming after Christmas. Rather nice to see one in nature instead of just a pot that gets thrown out after the holiday.

A zumba class and children playing basketball

Bridges take you over what is now a dry bed. In the rainy season, water would be flowing through there.

We walked through Parque Juarez one last time on our way to dinner that evening.

One of my favorite photos of Kayda and me, taken in Parque Juarez, that last day.

The four of us went to Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico), one of Sam and Kayda’s favorite restaurants.

Another beautiful courtyard setting for dinner. There is a hummingbird drinking at the feeder.

Dinner did not disappoint any of us. Clockwise from upper left: my shrimp tacos, Kayda’s chili rellenos, Al’s bacon burger,  and Sam’s fish & chips. Kayda and I tried the grilled nopales and they were actually pretty good.

We have had such wonderful time exploring San Miguel, especially with our gracious hosts and friends, Sam and Kayda.

Alas, the sun set on our visit to Mexico.

The lights of San Miguel de Allende at night.

Good Night, San Miguel.

The Streets of San Miguel

San Miguel is filled with striking examples of Neoclassical and Neo-Gothic architecture from  colonial periods. Given more time, it would have been especially nice to take an “architectural walking tour” and learn more about styles and construction. But it does not really require specific facts and knowledge to enjoy the beauty of San Miguel de Allende. Just look around ……. with caution!  It can be risky to simultaneously look up and out at everything without also looking down at your feet as you walk on the cobblestones or the narrow sidewalks.  A beautiful sight could easily be ruined by a tumble.

Instead of fancy and famous buildings, here are photos of buildings and streets that didn’t fit in any specific blog post. They are simple, not neo-gothic or neoclassical. Dressed in the colors of yellows, ochres, oranges and reds, and adorned with greenery and flowers they are a delight to behold.

In the photos above, funny “things” can be seen sticking out high on the walls. They are the San Miguel version of downspouts for rain. During the rainy season all the water is deflected off of the roofs by these pipes that stick out about two feet. Imagine walking down the streets during a rain and dodging these pipes!

Most of these spouts are simple rectangular tubes.

And some are very creative, like spouting gargoyles.

Speaking of water, there are fountains on many corners and tucked into little spaces along the streets.

Once used for horses, donkeys and other animals? Or for people too?

Within a very short time of our arrival, Al and I both noticed that the doors in San Miguel were extraordinary. Whenever I could, I would stop and try to photograph interesting doors. What patience my husband and friends have! With no rhyme or reason, here are 22 doors that I photographed.

Most doors are surrounded by stone work, simple or ornate. Windows were  less common on most streets.

Even the  simpler designs are beautiful..

The clean design on these doors are straight lines and rectangles that still create a pleasing look.

Some doors are enhanced with fancy stone work above.

A sunburst design on the left and a lovely vine carved on right door.

Examples of two more intricately carved doors.

An unusual touch of color on these two doors.

These doors may be more contemporary, but they are in keeping with the culture and heritage.

Even garage doors are treated as an opportunity for art.

Where there are doors, there are door knobs and knockers.

Just 3 examples of the decorative brass work on the doors.

There is absolutely no room for mailboxes on these narrow streets, so most doors have a letter slot. I noticed that the letter slots had different labels – correo, cartas, and buzon.

Correo = mail                    Cartas = letters                Buzon = mailbox

Since the title of this blog post is “The Streets of San Miguel” I am going to add two other uniquely Mexican traditions that we saw on our wanders through the streets.

Within Western culture, skulls usually depict the dark, macabre and gruesome death. During our visit to Mexico, I quickly noticed that festively decorated calaveras appeared everywhere. I had heard of the “Day of the Dead” (Día de los Muertos) celebration in Latin America cultures, but I knew little about it.  Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday, celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saint’s Day and All Hollow’s Day. The festivities start at midnight on the 31st October (All Hallow’s Eve, our Halloween).

Among the Mexican pottery in the markets, there are also displays of festively decorated calaveros, skulls.

Día de los Muertos is an important family tradition and time to remember loved ones who have passed away. Children learn to respect that life is brief; there is a circle to life and not to fear death. Danielle Conte, owner of Pachamama Native Art, Inc. and blog writer described the meaning of skulls in Mexican culture  (Las Calaveras – As Interpreted by a Gringa Living in Mexico) in a beautiful way- “Calaveras remind us to celebrate our lives and mortality, to look at the past and future, all the while being present. They are a way for us to appreciate and to acknowledge that life is sacred, but death, “La Muerte”, is another rite of passage in our lives, no less sacred than life itself. Death, too, is alive. The inevitable is not to be feared or avoided; it is to be embraced and danced.  More than anything else, calaveras remind us to live each moment to its fullest, to face one’s mortality with a smile and with courage, and to trust in the immortality of an afterlife.” 

In shop windows and on the streets, skulls seemed to be everywhere.

There were funny looking little dioramas hanging on the walls of several restaurants we visited. A closer look showed little people as skeletons made of painted clay, combining religion, mestizo spirituality and popular culture. Lots of popular culture. It took me a while to research a proper name for these – nichos or cajitas de muertos (Day of the Dead dioramas).

Walls of nichos for sale.

A closer look at two of them:
TOP – “me tienes hecho pedazos” = you got me torn apart!
BOTTOM – The Beetles/Beatles !!!!????

 While sitting on a wrought iron bench under the shade in La Jardin, absorbing the atmosphere around us, we heard a band. Looking up, we saw a “parade” coming down the street, led by a young girl and an older man. A Quinceañera !

A Quinceañera parade led by the young woman in blue with her father and mother.

A Father-Daughter dance. Click here to see 10 seconds of one of their dances .

Quinceañera (feminine form of “fifteen-year-old”) is an important celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday in Mexico and other Latin American cultures, marking the transition from childhood to young womanhood. Beginning with a mass and a blessing from the priest, a young woman is presented to the community with music, dancing, and feasting. It seems to be a combination of a “sweet sixteen” birthday party and “coming out ball” for debutantes.

Beautiful streets, happy streets.