Sunday Morning 6/5/2022: A Very Colorful Week

There is an abundance of beautiful, happy color in San Miguel de Allende.

One of the upsides of staying in a location for more than a few days is that we don’t feel compelled to be out and doing something every single day. This past week was mostly another hot one, and with the heat and altitude still having their way with me I spent a good portion of the week indoors with a book. We did get out though: Brett did a small bit of grocery shopping on Tuesday and we went out to brunch on Friday morning followed by some more food shopping. Last Monday we wanted to go out for lunch, but the restaurant we chose was closed and we ended up stopping instead at a lovely little six-table cafe and enjoying a nice lunch there. We discovered a couple of interesting little food shops on that outing that we plan to revisit.

On Wednesday evening there was a nice breeze and the temperature had cooled down enough that we walked into Centro. We used a “back road” and were treated to several colorful murals along the way as well as beautiful houses, flags, and a churchyard with the setting sun bouncing off of them. The Parroquia was absolutely glowing in the setting sun when we arrived, so we sat in the nearby park to look at it for a while, enjoying ice cream cones and listening to mariachi playing. When the sun was no longer visible we headed for home, and met the Senior Nomads on the way back! It was a lovely evening and we’re looking forward to doing it again.

Scenes from our Wednesday evening walk to Centro. I loved how the last of day’s sun hit different buildings along our walk and made them or parts of them glow. The big vine covered house in the upper right corner is my new dream house.

I’m still adjusting to the dry air and altitude, although it’s getting better. In Hawaii I never needed body lotion, for example, because of the humidity. Here I slather myself in it every day and my skin still feels dry (the humidity level here has been around 25%; the lowest it ever got in Hawaii was something like 65%). One of my eyes has been affected by the dryness and I occasionally have had to add drops. I’m going through lip balm like crazy and drink water like a fish. On the plus side, everything dries quickly, and produce and bakery goods don’t get moldy in a couple of days like they did in Hawaii. And, my hair doesn’t frizz! I know there are people who love this climate, who thrive in it, but may not be one of those people, and a lower altitude and a bit of humidity might suit me better. I may change my mind by the time we leave, but this is where I am three weeks in. Otherwise, I grow more enchanted with San Miguel de Allende every day and am very glad we decided to come and spend some time here.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) I made some pretty darn good refried beans with the beans I cooked on Sunday, and don’t know if I can ever use any from a can again. 2) For the first time in around three years, I read an actual book (left in the apartment by a previous guest) versus reading from my Kindle. The small print was difficult for my eyes at the beginning but eventually they adjusted. The book, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower, was a great mix of personal stories from the White House staff as well as some White House history. 3) I downloaded another book from the library when I finished, although that ended up requiring a late night call to Amazon customer service. Amazon had locked my account because of the VPN we use when traveling, and I had to go through some pretty rigorous questioning before they agreed to unlock the account.
Luna de Quest may prove to be a dangerous location for us: they sell more than 100 varieties of cheese from around the world. Their cafe menu is fabulous.
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) We’re getting together with the Senior Nomads on Wednesday! We’ll be meeting at our apartment and then walking over to a wonderful nearby restaurant (Luna de Queso/Moon of Cheese) for lunch. 2) I have two books that should come off of hold from the library by the end of this week, but thankfully have a new book to read in the meantime. 2) We’re of course looking forward to exploring more in SMA – we plan to visit a toy museum this coming week – and hopefully we’ll finally get to eat brunch at Lavanda this coming Friday (they were closed for vacation this past Friday).
We’re looking forward to visiting the colorful toy museum next week.
  • The ways we saved: 1) Spending this past week was kept to a minimum: we bought only a few groceries, ate one lunch out, and enjoyed our regular Friday brunch. I love that we can afford to eat out here without breaking the bank. 2) May turned out to be a very expensive month for us – between all the moving and traveling, road food, hotels, rental cars, YaYu’s graduation, a family reunion and everything else, at one point our daily spending average was up to $73 – yikes! We’re looking forward to seeing how low we can get it in June.
  • Good things that happened: 1) YaYu successfully started her new job and moved into her new apartment – on the same day – this past week and all is going well. I feel such relief and satisfaction that all our children have been launched and are doing well. 2) We almost literally bumped into the Senior Nomads on Wednesday evening – we were walking home, they were coming around a corner! So happy to see them again and be getting together again. 3) Seeing so many murals in different styles on our Wednesday walk was a very unexpected good thing!

Murals and paintings spotted along our Wednesday evening walk.

Could we possibly live here? is a question that has started popping up recently. The cost of living is very inviting, the climate not so much, although so far we’ve only experienced what everyone says is the worst month of the year. We have commitments coming up that make the question purely academic at this point, but it is fun to think about from time to time and San Miguel de Allende could definitely be a contender for a future location to settle. I think if an apartment was available in this complex, with its great location and lovely neighbors, we’d be far more likely to vote yes and maybe even jump at the chance.

It’s wonderful nonetheless to know we still have nearly two full months to spend here. In spite of my slow adaptation, we are getting out more, and the hot weather does feel like it’s going to break soon. We are having a wonderful time, and we haven’t even begun to take advantage of all that’s on tap here. We’re looking forward to next week, all that we already know about but also the potential for new and unexpected good things as well. I hope everyone had an enjoyable week, with loads of good things happening, and that you’re looking for to this coming week as much as we are.

“Choose peace, joy, hope, and positivity” – Gurdeep Pandhur

Food Shopping In San Miguel de Allende

Feeding ourselves in San Miguel de Allende is costing us a lot less than we imagined. Today, along with going out to brunch, Brett and I did our food shopping for the coming week. We stopped at three places today: the fruteria (produce store) down the hill from us; Panio, a French bakery located a short distance away; and La Comer, the big supermarket that reminds us of a cross between Target and Costco. As this was a somewhat normal week of purchases for us, I thought I’d share what we spent (in US$) and what we got.

We actually stopped at the fruteria on our way to brunch, and purchased a large honeydew melon, a bunch of five bananas, four mangoes, and two limes. Total for everything: $4.09USD.

After finishing our brunch we headed down the street a short distance to Panio, happy that our stomachs were full so that we would hopefully not be too tempted by their wares (it didn’t work). Panio is owned and run by a French-trained pasty chef, and walking into the bakery we both felt like we were back in Paris. Even though we were not hungry in the least, we left with a big bag of meringues, a big bag of butter cookies, two pain aux raisins, two pain au chocolat, and one large brownie for us to share. The total cost for all this goodness: $23.04USD (actually more than we had just spent on brunch). The pastries are for breakfast tomorrow morning and the day after, and the brownie or a few cookies will be for dessert this week. The pastries are, to put it mildly, exquisite, and we promised ourselves we will make an effort to stop at Panio every week going forward.

Then it was on to La Comer. We had a short list, but it contained two non-food items we hoped to find, a potato masher and an inexpensive pitcher. Our front balcony gets sun almost all day and I’ve been wanting to make some sun tea out there, but had nothing to brew it in. We easily found both items – a plastic Rubbermaid pitcher and a hefty masher, for approximately $5 each. Otherwise we bought a large package of sliced manchego cheese, a can of tuna, a small jar of mayonnaise, a loaf of whole grain bread, a box of herbal tea bags with lemon, two big bell peppers and two carrots (I want to make sweet & sour tofu this week), and two large boxes of Kleenex tissues. Our purchases at La Comer came to $29.79USD. The potato masher will go with us when we leave (along with our olla frijolera) but we’ll leave the pitcher behind for future guests.

A total of $56.92 bought us a whole lot of goodness today, both high quality food and two useful non-food items. We typically make a second trip for groceries on Tuesdays or Wednesdays to fill in, but have yet to spend more than $30 on any of those trips. I can’t remember the last time I spent less than $100/week on groceries, certainly never while we lived in Hawaii. Spending so little and getting so much for our money has turned into another wonderful thing about staying in San Miguel de Allende!

Old School Beans in Mexico

After our first experience cooking beans in a clay olla last Sunday, I admit I still have much to learn. We ended up with some very good tasting beans, but there were issues along the way, some of which we can fix, but others that we can’t and will have to figure out a way around.

Last week we bought both an olla frijolera and a kilo (2.2 pounds) of flor de mayo beans. Sunday afternoon Brett and I sat down and sorted through all the beans, removing several small pebbles, a few small twigs, and any bean that looked suspicious (moldy, mis-colored, etc.). For one person this would have been a tedious task, but the two of us had the sorting done in a short time. The beans were then placed in a colander and washed.

We sorted by taking small handful of beans from the bowl on the left, spreading them out on a solid blue plate and removing anything that shouldn’t be there (rocks, twigs, discolored beans, etc.) and putting the good beans onto the blue and white plate. It took two of us around 20 minutes to sort through a kilo of beans.

I used the recipe for cooking the beans I had found in this informative post about some of the varieties of beans available in Mexico and how to prepare them. I chopped up half an onion and four large cloves of garlic, put them in the bottom of the olla and added some olive oil, placed the washed beans on top, covered everything with water, placed the pot on the stove, and turned the heat to the lowest possible flame, which turned out to be not all that low.

Washing off the sorted beans; chopped onion, garlic, and olive oil in the bottom of the pot; beans covered with water; beans cooking on the lowest flame available

I knew in a very short time that I was trying to cook w-a-y too many beans in our small olla as they quickly swelled and moved closer to the top, ready to spill over. I removed enough to overfill a bowl; those beans went into the freezer and will be cooked later. The beans in the pot were covered with more water and continued to cook.

These swelled beans had to be taken from the pot because it was ready to overflow. They’ll get cooked later.

We were expecting it to take around two hours for the beans to cook due to the altitude, but because of the amount of beans remaining in the olla it took a little over three hours until they were soft. Also, because the flame was too high the water continually boiled off quickly, and we were constantly having to add water; a lidded pot might have worked better. The design of the pot and the number of beans also made it somewhat difficult to stir the beans at the bottom, and in the end some were scorched, but not enough to ruin the pot or the rest of the beans.

We finished our first bean experience with a gallon Ziplock bag of some very delicious beans! Cooking in the clay pot definitely gave the beans a good flavor, far better than anything I’ve ever had cooked in a metal pan or from a can.

Making frijoles refritos. Mine ended up somewhat lumpy as we do not have a potato masher in the apartment, but they were still very tasty. I followed Don Day’s recipe but added the juice from 1/2 a lime at the end. The beans that had gotten scorched in the pot also added a subtle smoky flavor to the finished beans.

I used three cups of the beans i cooked to make refried beans (substituting olive oil for lard) on Monday and used them in some simple tacos for dinner that night and huevos rancheros on another night – delicious! We will be using the leftover beans in other dishes or as a side. Kept in a sealed bag they will store well in the refrigerator, up to a month or so.

Frijoles refritos tacos with pico de gallo, avocado, and cilantro . . .
. . . huevos rancheros

We’ll try cooking a fresh batch of beans when this one is gone and will use some of the lessons learned from our first try:

  • We won’t try to cook so many beans at once! Half or a quarter kilo or so at a time will be enough.
  • Although soaking is not necessary, it will lessen the cooking time.
  • A lower cooking heat would be better, but since we can’t go any lower on our stove here, we’ll need to watch the beans move carefully.
  • As the beans cook, we’ll trying covering the top of the pot with a plate so the water doesn’t boil off so quickly, and creates some pot liquor.
  • Beans cooked in a clay pot taste far superior to those from a can or made in a saucepan or pressure cooker!

Brunch Every Friday: Rustica

Brett and I went to bed last Thursday night with every intention of having brunch the next morning at Lavanda, a small restaurant in Centro that specializes in coffee drinks but also serves wonderful food. Lavanda is currently rated the #1 place to have brunch in San Miguel de Allende, and I had been hearing and reading about it since we arrived two weeks ago. We were told there was a good chance we might have to stand in line to get a table because it’s become so popular.

We woke up early Friday morning to already warm temperatures, and knew the day was only going to get hotter. I felt beyond exhausted, like my eyelids were made of lead, and asked Brett if we could possibly postpone our trip to Lavanda and eat at a place closer to the apartment because I just couldn’t imagine walking into Centro. We made a quick decision to instead head down the hill and around the corner to dine at Rustica again, the little restaurant we ate at the morning after our arrival in SMA.

Rustica seems to be very well known, and a favorite of expats and visitors. All we have had to say is we live “just up the hill from Rustica” and we’re told we’re in a great location in the city. The restaurant was crowded when we arrived, but we were told there would only be a five to ten minute wait for a table and we were seated in less than three at a cozy, shaded, and cool table in the corner of back courtyard.

Rustica’s back courtyard is cool, shady, and relaxing.

Just like our first time there, the service was impeccable. Out came a big bottle of purified water, a couple of different hot sauces, and the drinks we ordered arrived soon after (iced tea for me, an Americano for Brett).

I dined on a delicious and filling vegan burrito this week, a big, crispy flour tortilla stuffed with tofu, soy chorizo, avocado, and beans and served with a creamy tofu sauce. Brett ordered the breakfast tacos, two fresh corn tortillas each filled with a fried egg, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, and beans. As with our brunch the week before, we left Rustica feeling full and satisfied, and didn’t feel hungry again until the evening. The total for this week’s brunch, including the tip, was $17.64.

We’re going to try for Lavanda this Friday. We stopped at their coffee bar last week for some refreshment, and I’d love to have another one of their lavender lattes and give their eggs Benedict a try. But for two tired diners last week, Rustica was the perfect spot.

RUSTICA is located at Salida a Celaya 34, Allende, 37700 San Miguel de Allende

Sunday Morning 5/29/2022: Another Hot Week

Meeting the Senior Nomads was the highlight of the week!

We were out an about a bit more this past week, although we still tended to feel tired and worn out by early afternoon, both from the altitude and the heat. We would have normally considered Tuesday’s 30-minute walk over to Centro for hot chocolate and churros easy by any measure but by the time we arrived on Tuesday we were both very tired, overheated, and I was struggling to catch my breath. We followed our chocolate treat with a long visit to the big Tuesday market and completely wore ourselves out. We felt better on Wednesday when we met with the Senior Nomads, although once again the heat turned out to be our nemesis later in the day and we returned home exhausted once again. Thursday we did our weekly supermarket run but took a taxi back to our apartment and spent the rest of the day cooling off. On Friday we changed our brunch destination because we didn’t want to face another walk the heat, and yesterday we decided to skip a visit to the organic market in favor of staying home and staying cool. We still ended up having a fun and interesting week that included meeting the Senior Nomads, touring the Fabrica Aurora to enjoy the art, antiques, and other beautiful goods for sale there, and visiting the giant Tuesday municipal market.

A tiny fraction of what can be found at the Tuesday Market (plus the produce we bought).

I have been on a quest since we arrived to find a simple clay pot for cooking beans, an olla de barro or olla frijolera. They’re widely used in Mexican households, so you’d think they would be an easy thing to find, but locating one in SMA took some effort. Brett and I were sure someone would be selling them at the big Tuesday municipal market, the San Miguel Allende Tianguis, but even there they were not to be found. Although we came up empty-handed with the olla, our visit to the market was still quite an experience. First of all, the market was HUGE, set up in four giant halls under tarps, with quite literally everything for sale: clothing, tools, garden supplies, candy, spices, produce . . . everything and anything you could think of. I think the only things we didn’t see were live animals or bean pots. We visited all four halls and looked at everything, asked several people about where to find an olla and were pointed toward possible vendors, but a bean pot was not to be found. We did fill two shopping bags with produce while we were there that included two melons, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of fresh strawberries, a bag of onions, another of potatoes, four avocados, a giant head of garlic, and three mangos, all for less than $10 USD.

After a delightful visit with the Senior Nomads on Wednesday morning, Brett and I walked through the Fabrica Aurora for a while, enjoying all the art on display and for sale and the many other gorgeous items available, including fabrics, jewelry, ceramics, antiques, and more. We fell in love with and purchased a very small (4″ x 6″), affordable piece of original art that will easily fit into our suitcase and didn’t break the bank. We then headed back to the Mercado Artesanias as we’d been told that’s where we’d most likely find an olla, and at the very end of the market, in one of the very last stalls, there they were! The vendor had several beautiful painted ones that were unfortunately way too big for our needs, but we found a smaller, simple clay olla and for just $5 USD brought it home. I bought some Flor de Mayo beans on Friday and tonight I am going to cook up a first batch in my pot!

My olla frijolera is very simple. Most pots have a handle on each side but because this one is smaller it has just one. The pot can be used directly on a stovetop, either gas or electric.

This past week the Fiesta en honor a la Santa Cruz del Valle del Maíz passed right outside the gates of our complex. The group visits various neighborhoods around the city before their main fiesta and last week was our turn. The festival has not been held for the past two years because of COVID.

El Valle del Maiz is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The majority of its inhabitants are of Chichimeca or Otomi origin, and during its festival, which takes place the last weekend of May, people venerate the Santa Cruz, in a mixture of Catholic and pre-Hispanic traditions.The celebration venerates a Catholic symbol, such as the cross, but also performs indigenous dances and rituals like the blessing to the four winds, part of the Chichimeca culture before the Spanish domination. The main objective of the festival is to give thanks for the blessings received during the past year and ask for a good rainy season and an abundant harvest.

The costumes were colorful, fascinating, and some were a bit scary. Almost everyone in the parade was dancing though and the participants threw candy to the audience. The whole event was incredibly noisy, and we were glad when the parade passed to another location.

Although she looks sort of benign in this photo, Brett said this woman “had the moves like she was going to make someone dead.” One neighbor said she was the scariest thing she’d ever seen.

The video was taken by a neighbor. The music was actually VERY loud, and there were also VERY, VERY loud mortars being repeatedly fired. Although the parade and costumes were interesting to watch, the whole complex was VERY happy when the parade had moved on and quiet returned.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished this past week: We did a lot of walking this past week even though it was hard at times – we still haven’t completely adjusted to the climate here although Brett is coming along faster than I am. I’m thrilled with my olla frijolera – it’s just the right size for the two of us. Fingers crossed I don’t burn the beans tonight!
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: We don’t have anything set on our calendar other than brunch on Friday. We’ll probably head into Centro or another neighborhood once or twice for something – we want to check out the organic market on Saturday, for example – but otherwise plan to stay home to rest, save money, and keep cool.

We’ll definitely be returning to this cafe again: two cups of creamy, spiced hot chocolate with freshly made churros (three each) for just $6.25 USD.

  • The ways we saved: We purchased a couple of things this week beyond groceries (the piece of original art and the bean pot), enjoyed a delicious brunch on Friday, drank Mexican hot chocolate and churros on Tuesday, and made a couple of stops for coffee, but still stayed within our spending limit. We ate leftovers most of the week and no food was thrown out or wasted.
  • Good things that happened: Meeting the Senior Nomads was the highlight of the week, and we wish we could have had a longer visit. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet again before they leave SMA in June. We found some new places to eat, I found a bean pot, and we tried out a great new supermarket (La Comer), which can best be described as a high-end cross between Target and Costco with prices like Aldi.

We may be in Mexico, but Brett and I have spent most of the week feeling sad, depressed, and incredibly angry following the horrific mass shooting event in Uvalde, Texas last Tuesday. What’s made the incident worse beyond the horror of the children’s and their teachers’ deaths is the constantly changing story of what happened that day, especially why it took anyone in law enforcement so long to confront the shooter. The United States has become the alcoholic who refuses to admit he or she has a drinking problem. I have to wonder what has happened to this country when an 18-year-old, who can’t buy alcohol (including beer) or a handgun or even a single bullet for a pistol, can’t rent a car or legally take on many other responsibilities, can still walk into a gun shop and purchase two high-powered, semiautomatic military-style rifles and a huge amount of ammunition in order to go shoot up an elementary school (58 magazines were discovered at the school, over 1,650 bullets). Why does anyone need to own a semiautomatic rifle such as an AR-15, guns whose design and sole purpose is to kill a lot of people in a very short period of time? I am not opposed to gun ownership for hunting, personal protection, or sport, but I draw the line at the easy purchase and open carry of these weapons of mass death. Last week’s tragedy has nothing to do with reinforced doors, or a good guy with a gun. Ten people were massacred at a grocery store in Buffalo the week before this, and the good guy with a gun, a former police officer, was killed by yet another 18-year-old shooter wearing body armor. Are we supposed put in place door control and bulletproof plate glass on every public building in USA? The Las Vegas shooter fired from a hotel window; do those need to be controlled as well? Last week’s tragedy may have been the result of a mental health issue, but every other country in the world has citizens suffering from mental health issues, and mass shootings happen extremely rarely if ever, and when they have occurred, laws are put into place to restrict further tragedies. What these countries have that the U.S. lacks are sensible, well-regulated, sane gun ownership standards and laws. The reason for repeated mass shootings in the U.S. is the enhanced availability of guns and a culture that venerates the ownership of them. Think of all the many things that require effort and registration in our country, from getting a driver’s license to buying Sudafed or having certain prescriptions filled to being allowed to vote, and compare those to how easy it is to buy a gun, especially a semiautomatic rifle, even if you’re only 18 years old and perhaps have some mental health issues. I pray that the beautiful children and their teachers who were slaughtered last Tuesday, and the 10 that were killed in Buffalo, will not be forgotten, that we as a country can finally admit we have a serious problem and the direction we’ve been traveling has to change. There has been sweeping legislation passed that has cut drunk driving deaths in half. There are penalties for underage drinking, overserving, and driving under the influence. Sellers are closely monitored & taxed. We can do the same with guns and stop this madness.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, when we honor those service men and women who gave their lives serving our country. Brett and I are planning to watch Saving Private Ryan on Netflix tomorrow evening, but there are other great movies to watch that honor the day and the sacrifices of those who died: Glory, Courage Under Fire (a personal favorite), Platoon, Gettysburg, The Hurt Locker, and many others. I hope everyone will at least take a moment to remember the service members who died in defense of our country and honor them in their own way.

This past week was fun but busy, and also somewhat exhausting, so we are planning to slow down this coming week and keep outings to a minimum and enjoy our surroundings at the complex. Temperatures will be in the 90s again this coming week, and as has become obvious these past two weeks, I don’t do well in this kind of heat (especially when altitude is added to the mix). I’m grateful we’re staying in a place where we can retreat, relax, and stay cool and comfortable. I hope everyone had a good week as well, got a lot accomplished, and are looking forward to a great week coming up!

Eating & Exercise: Staying Healthy So Far In Mexico

We’ve enjoyed avocado toast on whole grain bread with fresh pico de Gallo for breakfast and lunch.

After nearly two weeks in San Miguel de Allende, I think I would give our attempts to eat healthy meals and get enough exercise every day a grade of B-. We have been on a fairly steep learning curve when it comes to dining, for a variety of reasons, and the amount of exercise we’re getting remains hindered by both high temperatures here since we arrived (thankfully without humidity) and the altitude.

We’re fortunate that healthy/vegetarian/vegan foods have been easy to find, things like tofu, oat milk, whole grain breads and such, and are extremely affordable as well. We have good access to a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (which we soak in a special disinfectant and rinsed if they will be eaten raw). We drink a lot of (bottled) water, are careful about the produce we eat, and so far have suffered no ill effects.

Meals have been sort of weird though, to be honest and we’ve had a few days where we just didn’t feel like eating, or eating much. We do eat breakfast every day and have enjoyed things like avocado toast, banana bread with peanut butter, huevos rancheros, but we mostly have our favorite, a bowl of cereal with fruit and oat milk. Lunches have been hit or miss – some days we’re out and skip lunch completely, maybe only stopping for a snack or a cup of coffee, but we usually try to pull together a few things out of the refrigerator and convince ourselves it’s a meal.

One of our “weird” (but delicious) dinners: fried potatoes with onion and garlic, and a fresh fruit salad.

Dinners have been hit or miss as well. We’ve had meals from pasta with tomato-basil sauce and roasted vegetables to just a bowl of potato salad. Evenings are usually still quite warm and since I don’t relish standing over a hot stove I’ll often just pull a few things from the fridge and put together a cold dinner from whatever I can find (cheese and crackers with fruit, for example).

Brett and I shared this little mini blueberry pie for dessert one evening

We still enjoy a small dessert most evenings, like sharing a mini pie or having a slice of banana bread from the organic store. Things are less sweet here than they are in the U.S., and we like that.

We carry water when we walk, but if we start feeling too hot we stop for a cool drink and a rest. The above is a chilled lavender latte – it was very refreshing!

I think eventually we may have to be very careful not to overeat, but so far we’ve been able to keep our portions under control. I continue to record my calories each day and have yet to go over my daily allotment. When we’ve eaten a big calorie meal, like our brunch last week, we cut back the rest of the day and we plan to do the same in the future.

We also continue to walk every day and have so far gotten in at least two miles each day, sometimes more. The route into Centro from our apartment complex is downhill, but that means we have a climb when we come back. It’s exhausting, but good for our legs and hearts. On the hotter days, or if we’ve had to carry several shopping bags, we’ve taken a taxi home and those have been worth every peso spent (cost ranges from $3-$4 USD).

I love the colors of San Miguel de Allende

The altitude seems to affect me more than Brett – a downhill walk into Centro this past week left me gasping for breath, for example. But, I get a little better each day and can go further without getting weak so hope to be fully acclimated by next week. Most streets here have sidewalks, although they’re narrow, and the only place we really struggle with the cobblestones is right outside our gate – they are very uneven and there is no easy way of getting over or around them. Every walk we take, no matter where we go though is a visual delight, with loads of interesting things to see, discover, and ponder, so we try to take a slightly different route each time if we can to keep it interesting.

Brunch Every Friday: El Encanto

The entrance to El Encanto

One of the perks that comes along with our sweet little apartment in San Miguel de Allende is housekeeping service every Friday. The housekeeper, Juana, arrives around 10:00 in the morning, and does a thorough cleaning of the apartment including washing and changing the bed linens. We want to be out of the apartment while she’s here, and decided that Friday morning would be the ideal time to try a different place for brunch each week, sort of along the lines of having gelato every day in Florence.

Juana came this past Saturday instead of Friday, apparently to give us an extra day of rest in the apartment. We headed out shortly before she arrived to check out the Centro and included brunch as part of our day. San Miguel de Allende has an amazing array of good restaurants to choose from so the most difficult thing for us that day was choosing where to eat!

Since we were in Centro, and intending to go to the Mercado de Artesanias, we opened up our maps, put brunch in the search bar, and were rewarded with loads of choices in our immediate area. Reviews for several of the restaurants were available as were menus, and after some discussion we settled on El Encanto because of the reviews and its location half way between where we were and the Mercado.

The downstairs dining room

Although it’s a small restaurant, El Encanto’s colorful decor is captivating, and highlights art and design from around Mexico. There is also a whole Day of the Dead theme going on as well. The small restaurant has two distinctive dining areas that we saw: an open air patio and a colorful enclosed dining room behind it. There’s apparently also rooftop seating but it wasn’t open when we were there. Because of the hot weather we chose to eat in the dining room where it was nice and cool.

My huge serving of enfrijolades, rice, and salad

The menu had a selection of around seven brunch items. Brett chose ham and cheese quesadillas, while I went for enfrijolades, tortillas drenched in bean sauce then rolled and filled with shredded meat and topped with cheese. Both dishes came with a huge side salad topped with fresh fruit and a creamy mustard dressing. My dish also came with seasoned rice. Brett drank an Americano with his meal; I had an iced green tea. We ate everything with relish except the lettuce (which I can’t eat anyway).

Exiting El Encanto through the open air patio

We left El Encanto feeling very full and immensely satisfied. Both our meals were big enough that neither of us felt like eating anything the rest of the day! The total for our two meals, drinks, and tip came to $15.36 USD.

We’ve already researched and found where we want to brunch this Friday, another restaurant located in Centro with an impressive coffee menu and some interesting entrees, including a spin on my favorite, eggs Benedict.

Sunday Morning 5/22/2022: Beginning in Mexico

We are slowly settling into our life in San Miguel de Allende. We continue to recover from the long journey to get here as well as the altitude and climate. It is very dry here, especially so for us after living in always-humid Hawaii, and Brett and I have both been drinking lots and lots of (bottled) water since our arrival. It has also been very hot here so far (in the 90s every day all week), another big change for us, so we’re also trying to adapt to that. Our apartment has thick stucco walls, good fans, and heavy drapes that block out the afternoon sun when it’s at its peak so we stay comfortable indoors and only go out mornings or evenings. Altitude adjustment will happen gradually and there’s really nothing much we can do to speed it up, but we’ve basically come from being at sea level to an elevation of over a mile and think it will take a few more days before the drowsiness and sluggishness completely fade away (we’ve been told it can take around two weeks to fully adjust).

The meat case and charcuterie island at City Market, just a 15-minute walk from our apartment. While we love the little shops that line the streets, this is the most beautiful and impressive supermarket I have ever seen in my life. It’s like entering a fantasy store with everything and anything one could possibly want. The aisle full of nothing but olive oils alone is worth a visit.

We’ve spent the past few days discovering what’s available nearby and so far we’ve found a nearby supermarket that can only be described as Whole Foods on steroids (but with prices like Aldi); a smaller, less expensive, but equally nice supermarket; a couple of lovely little organic markets that sell wonderful breads, produce, and other good things; a nearby tortilla shop; and lots of great little restaurants and cafes. We’ve just started our exploration of the center of SMA and other neighborhoods, and we’re looking forward to discovering more about the city. Brett and I try to use Spanish as much as possible, but frankly we’re pathetic (yesterday I answered the taxi driver in Japanese). I’m hoping more of what I learned in the past will come back during our stay.

Last day in Philadelphia

We had a great final day in Philadelphia last Sunday afternoon. Meiling was on her way back to Boston before 6:00 a.m., but WenYu didn’t have to be at the train station until 4:30 in the afternoon, and YaYu needed to move out of her dorm room by noon. So, Brett, WenYu, and I went over to Bryn Mawr in the morning to help get everything out of YaYu’s room and over to a temporary room in another dorm where she’ll live until the end of the month. After we were done with that chore (more like chaos) we headed downtown to the Reading Street Market for cheesesteaks. We each got a traditional with grilled onions and Cheez Whiz at Spataros, and boy was that sandwich tender, juicy, flavorful, and downright DELICIOUS! We wolfed them down. While we were eating I asked YaYu how far we were from the Liberty Bell and it turned out to be just a 15 minute walk away so as soon as we were done with lunch off we went! None of us had ever seen the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall before, so we enjoyed a brief look at both before taking WenYu to the station. Following that we took YaYu back to Bryn Mawr and said our goodbyes to her, then went back to our hotel to finish packing and get a good night’s sleep before departing for Baltimore in the morning. By the way, after living on quiet little Kaua’i for the past several years, driving in Philadelphia gave all of us heart palpitations!

A special note to commenter Libby: I found your most recent comment in my spam folder this past week, maybe because you’re posting from overseas? I thought I had rescued it and was planning to read and answer but instead the comment vaporized and can’t be found anywhere. I’m so sorry.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting to San Miguel de Allende provided a difficult travel experience once again, but we stayed calm, persevered, and eventually arrived. 2) In spite of everything we were completely unpacked and settled in on our second day, our pantry and refrigerator are now stocked for the rest of the month, and we’ve started venturing out of our neighborhood into other parts of the city.

Clockwise from the top left: a colorful street in our neighborhood; a design shop along the Ancha; Parque Benito Juarez; the Parroquia San Miguel Archangel; the entrance to El Encanto restaurant; traditional pottery in the Mercado de Artesanias;.

  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) Besides getting out more, we’re going to finally meet Debbie and Michael Campbell, the Senior Nomads, on Wednesday! They were the inspiration for our nomadic life, and Brett and I have long hoped our paths would cross someday and . . . here we are! They have been to SMA several times and we’re looking forward to learning more about things we can do and see while we’re here. 2) We’re planning to go to the big SMA organic market for the first time this coming week. Besides loads of fresh organic produce for sale there are also vendors selling homemade enchiladas, tamales, tacos, and other good things – we want to try some vegetable tamales!
  • Ways we saved: 1) Parking in a downtown Philadelphia lot last Sunday came to $33 (!!!) for two hours and five minutes but Brett remembered to get our ticket validated and we only had to pay $11, still expensive but much, much better than what it could have been (after we couldn’t find any street parking). 2) There may be some potential savings: because our flight from Baltimore to Toronto was over four hours late in arriving and completely the fault of Air Canada (not the weather), we qualify for a refund and were told we may get as much as $400 (CAD) each. We’ve filed for the refund and will see what happens. 3) We have found food to be very inexpensive in SMA so far – we’ll probably spend less than half of what we used to spend on Kaua’i for the two of us.
Waiting for brunch in the back courtyard at Rustica, a lovely little restaurant right around the corner from us.
  • Good things that happened: 1) On our first morning in SMA, we had a delicious brunch at a restaurant down the street and around the corner that our host had recommended. We got sticker shock when we saw the menu, and our entire meal plus tip ended up being around what we use to pay for one breakfast entree on Kaua’i! 2) Because of the great organic and natural food stores near our apartment, we have been eating healthy vegan and vegetarian foods once again. We were getting very tired of airport, fast, and other unhealthy food options. 3) Fresh tortillas in Mexico are mind-blowing if all you’ve ever had are ones from the supermarket in the U.S.

Both Brett and I have high hopes that another week here will find us feeling back to normal. After all the interruptions and ups and downs and changes we’ve been through over the past month or so, we’re looking forward to being settled for a while. Both of us are done with feeling tired, having our sleep interrupted or not getting to sleep at all, and not eating as well as we should. I’m looking forward to being alert enough to read again without immediately falling asleep! San Miguel de Allende seems like it will be an ideal location to pull ourselves back together.

Although this was a somewhat crazy week for us, I hope everyone else had a good one and got lots accomplished. I also hope everyone is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!

Our Home In San Miguel de Allende

We somehow ended up with another beautiful view out our front door!

We’ve only been in San Miguel de Allende for a couple of days, but we are already in love with our apartment. Located in the Allende neighborhood, the apartment complex is a little slice of paradise tucked away in the city. We’re located just a short walk away from the center of SMA, and the streets that take us there are filled with everything we could possibly need. The only downside, if there is one, is that the complex is located up a hill. That means the walk down is easy, but a bit more difficult on the return, especially when carrying bags full of groceries or such. Our neighbors have already advised that we should walk into town but take a taxi to come back. We haven’t tried that yet, but it’s good advice.

Our apartment is located on the second level of the three-level complex. We have a open-plan living/dining/kitchen, a bedroom with a king-size bed and a big closet, a small bathroom with a shower, and a large hallway with extra storage. Like our living room on Kaua’i, the front door looks out onto nature, to a gorgeous central courtyard, complete with a fountain. It’s all very peaceful, and a wonderful place to relax and come home to.

The fireplace in the living room works, but is not for use by renters. The floors throughout the apartment are tiled – they help keep the place cool.

Another view of the living room from the dining table, looking back to the hallway and bedroom. The very comfortable sofa can be pulled out to make another king-size bed.

The dining area with the kitchen behind. The cabinet is full of cleaning supplies because once-a-week maid service is included in the rental (a surprise to us).

The well-equipped kitchen with the purified water jug front and center. We will probably use a bottle a week, with it delivered to our door when requested. The only downside here is we are still washing dishes by hand. There’s a very nice, new washer and dryer that’s out of sight to the right.

The hallway to the bedroom with its lovely built-in storage – Brett is keeping his clothes in three of the drawers. Our small bathroom is to the right.

The bedroom with its very comfortable king-size bed, big closet for our clothes and suitcases, and built-in corner desk which Brett immediately commandeered when we arrived.

I love everything about our apartment, but the courtyard may be the best thing about this place. Cool, colorful, peaceful, and filled with plants of all kinds, it’s a joy to have all of this right outside our door and to awaken each morning to birds singing outside. We also have delightful, friendly neighbors!

We’re in Mexico! (in spite of another wretched travel day)

The view from our front door: palm tree, flowers, and an orange tree again!

After some sad goodbyes to the girls throughout the day, Brett and I were packed and ready to leave Pennsylvania last Sunday night. We got a good night’s sleep, and woke up at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, ready to head back to Baltimore to turn in our car and get checked in for our afternoon flight to Toronto. The drive back to Baltimore was lovely this time, the complete opposite of our trip up to Philadelphia. There was little to no traffic, the scenery through Pennsylvania bucolic, and we arrived at the car rental return right on schedule. We had time for a leisurely lunch at the airport and were checked in for our flight approximately two hours before boarding. Heavy storms had been expected to pass through Baltimore, but although it was cloudy when we arrived a couple of hours later the sky was clear and there were nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see. What could go wrong?

Plenty as it turns out. At 3:30, less than an hour before boarding, we received a notice that our flight had been delayed by an hour because of “technical” problems up in Toronto. Soon after, a second message arrived that the flight had been delayed for a second time and would now be departing two hours after the original flight time. Over the next five and a half hours we receive eight messages, each announcing a further delay, caused as it turned out by staffing issues in Toronto and a very inexperienced ground staff in Baltimore. We were finally boarded around 7:00 p.m. but sat on the plane for another hour while the staff tried to fix the tickets of six passengers they had screwed up earlier (they failed). We eventually arrived in Toronto at 10:20 p.m., more than six hours later than our scheduled arrival.

Our room at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel was beautiful and comfortable, and conveniently located to the airport, but we spent less than four hours there.

We had been told to expect possible long delays at Toronto airport both for arrivals (two to three hour waits to get through customs) and departures (two to three hour waits to get through security), but we sailed through immigration and were welcomed to Canada. Brett’s suitcase appeared quickly on the baggage carousel but mine was nowhere to be found. We eventually learned that was because the staff at Baltimore had checked my bag all the way to Mexico City but Brett’s only to Toronto! All I can say is thank goodness we went to look or Brett’s bag never would have made it to Mexico. We then headed the short distance to the Sheraton hotel only to find ourselves at the end of a line of over 50 people, all waiting to get a room for the night. After standing in line for over a half hour the manager came out and announced going forward only those with a reservation would be given a room. The line suddenly got very small and we were soon handed our key. We walked into our gorgeous room just after 1:00 a.m., the room where we had planned to get a good night’s sleep before heading to Mexico. We instead got a two-hour nap and a hot shower before leaving before 4:00 a.m. to recheck Brett’s suitcase and beat the long lines at security.

When we set out yesterday though our fortunes had changed, thank goodness, because we were now flying Business Class. We had a special check-in line and a special line through security so no waiting. We ate a light breakfast at the airport (bagels and coffee, purchased with the dining voucher we had been given at Baltimore by Air Canada), boarded on time, and had a very comfortable flight to Mexico City, which arrived on time. I got to watch my all-time favorite travel movie during the flight, Crazy Rich Asians (I’ve so far watched it 12 times on different trips), and we both got a little sleep. The line to get through immigration in Mexico City was long, but before long we were through and on our way up to San Miguel de Allende in a private van with a great driver. We were delivered to the door of our charming apartment by our driver and lovely host, then unpacked our pajamas, fell into bed, and slept for another 14 hours!

We awoke this morning to birdsong and a lovely view from our front doors, almost like the view from the apartment in Kaua’i! I’m enjoying my second cup of coffee, the washing machine is taking care of our first load of dirty travel clothes, and all is well. We’re heading out in a little while to check out our neighborhood and have some breakfast, as well as find a grocery store to stock up. But otherwise, today will be a day of rest and recuperation as we begin our time in San Miguel de Allende. We’re so happy to be here!