Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Bridge Too Far!

The view from the ruins towards Cucuchucho and Janitzio
(Click on the picture for a larger view)

Have a look at this picture. I took it a short time ago but saved it for today's post.

Here you see the ruins at Ihuatzio in the foreground and the island of Janizio in the background. Now the way the shot is taken it almost looks like the land is connected, but that is not so. In actuality the island is about a bit less than a kilometer from the shore.

Janizio is a very popular tourist destination for the area, especially for day of the dead. Which has lead to an interesting announcement.

Department of Infrastructure Advancement (D.I.A.) representative Santos Inocentes has announced that by December 28th of next year there will be a bridge put in place to increase tourist access and also to speed up access to emergency services for those on the island.

Sadly progress marches on.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from "El Corazon"

Just wanted to wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
And that's from the heart.

Now that's a Christmas Cactus!

If I had more time I would do a better picture of it, but we have to get ready for Christmas dinner!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Church at Tupataro

Today we go exploring. Driving along a back road between Corazon and Cuanajo, know for its hand made furniture, we continue on to the little village of Tupataro.

The Quaint Plaza

Across from the small town plaza is the Church, with a stone cross at the entrance. Wandering in past the austere entrance, the church is very dark. Shortly, your eyes adjust to the dark and the first thing you notice is the retablo against the back wall, that's not real gold is it?

Templo del Señor Santiago

Then as your eyes travel up the wall you realize the ceiling is covered with paintings. Saints and sinners, Angels and demons, Last supper and maybe even a brunch or two.

Ceiling Detail

You will notice going in a sign that says photography is not permitted. But the caretaker is a very kind man, and if you ask nicely he will allow one picture, no flash, no tripod.

Now, what little I have come across on the internet and books talks about the church being from the 17 hundreds, but the caretaker was telling me the building dates back to the 15 hundreds, but all the artwork dates from the latter date. The federal institute for anthropology and history arranged for the ceiling to be restore in the 80's and 90's by local artist Enrique Luft.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cat Rangler!

Well, no home found for the new kitten, so it seems we have rescued 2 kittens in less than a month.


We tossed a number of names around for the latest kitten. I suggested Divorciado, Shannon was not amused but did promise to stop bringing more kittens home.

The name we ended up with was Scooter as he is always scooting around, usually at 50 miles an hour. When he stops he is out like a light. Scooter and Bindi have become fast friends, and generally sleep in a jumble of arms and legs together.

Although occasional when they find Diego in a deep sleep, they will use him as a pillow.

"I'm a pillow now! Are you sure I can't just eat them??"

With three cats I think I might need to start taking some cat handling tips from the guys in this video!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ruins in Ihuatzio

As promised earlier here is a post on one of the ruins we have in the area. About 10 kilometres from here, as the crow flys, is the village of Ihuatzio, once capital to the Purépechan empire. The name Ihuatzio comes from the Purépecha meaning "Place of the Coyotes" The village is well know for its reed crafts.

Just north of town are some ruins. Like many of these sites, only a portion is currently restored. Radiocarbon testing on a number of items found has dated the site as being established between 1510 and 1575.

The Main Restoration (click on the picture for a larger view, for scale that dot in front is a person!)

Admittance to the site, is quite cheap, as are all of the sites I have visited. This one was 29 pesos, if I remember correctly. So rather than telling you all cool things I discovered , I think I will just wet your appetite and motivate you to visit. Signs throughout the site, are in Spanish, English and Purépecha and describe the site in detail.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Behind Closed Doors

Patzcuaro's Hidden Treasures

This year we will be volunteering again with the Colonial Home Tour, to benefit the Hogar Tata Vasco (foster home/orphanage) and ninos de patzcuaro lunch program for children in need. If you are in the area, this is something not to be missed.

Here are a couple of pictures to wet your appetite. Please click on the pictures for a larger view, the small size does not do them justice!

Remember it's more than just the homes. It's also the courtyards, the gardens, the folkart collections that go back generations!

Friday,October 31, 2008
Proceeds to benefit Casa Hogar Tata Vasco (foster home/orphanage) and ninos de patzcuaro lunch program for children in need.
Tour of 7 Colonial Mansions
Tours begin at10.30 a.m. departing every 15 mins.
last tour leaves at 12:00 p.m.
Departs from Museo de artes e Industrias Populares
Approximate time of tour is 1.5 hours
Cost $100 pesos per person.
¡ Don´t miss it! ¡See you there!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Real Patzcuaro Cutie!

Yesterday was a busy day at Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro.
Artisan packed elbow to elbow under the big tents, tourists and cars milling through the streets. In amongst this controlled chaos we found a new friend.

I Need A Home!
Zipping through car traffic and feet we found a grubby, hungery little kitten. If left we were afraid how long it would be before one of the tires won a race with him. A little clean up and a quick trip to the vet for a clean bill of health, we bring him home. Well, we think it is a him, but it is a little early to tell. Currently he fits in the palm of my hand. The vet thinks he is about 4 weeks old.

With the 3 pets we have already, we really dont think we can handle another. Especially considering that pet #3 is a new rescue this month, that we are still trying to integrate into the household.

If you are in the Patzcuaro area and think that you could take this little kitten please let me know!

Wanna Play?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Déjà Vu All Over Again!

I love the quotes of Yogi Berra, and one of my favourites is..
"It's like déjà vu all over again"
and I think it is the perfect title for todays post.

Those of you who have been following the blog for some time will remember how we ended up with a cat by the name of Diego.

...Creeps in on little cat feet.

Smitten by the Kitten!

And how him and our bunny rabbit, Larry, have become best buds and playmates.

The Cat and Bunny Show

Well it seems we have a new addition to the family. Her name is Bindi and this is her story.

Bindi (because of the dot on her forehead)

It all started when I heard Tao, the boxer next door, barking in an uncharacteristic manner.
Upon investigation I saw he had a kitten frozen with fear in the garden. All Tao knew was someone who wasn't part of his family was in his yard, so he barked at it. He wouldn't hurt it, and had no idea what to do with it so he decided he should just bark louder.

Once I got the dog to settle down, the kitten took off like a shot! While all this is happening I am thinking back to the day before when I saw our new neighbour walking down the street saying "here kitty, kitty, kitty" Ahhh, says I, this must be the wayward cat, and I should try and grab it.

So after some hunting we have found the kitten up a tree. With a little help from our ladder the kitten is rescued. It seems like it is 2 or 3 months old. A quick chat with neighbours reveals that the missing cat from the day before was a full grown black cat that was found almost as quickly as it was lost.

It looks like we have a new kitten.

Stay tuned for the Cat and Bunny Show, Part II

We will see how they all fit together, but so far Larry the rabbit and Bindi get along great.
Bindi and Diego will take some time, I think the term "Hissy fit" would be an appropriate description for that meeting.

Tonight's plan has them both in the den with us while we watch a movie, I have my fingers crossed.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Peña de Bernal

A Big Rock

For todays adventure we are on the road to the village of Bernal.

Bernal's claim to fame is la Peña de Bernal. What's that? Well, it's a big rock. No, I'm serious, its a big rock, a REALLY big rock.

I have no idea why one would want to see something like that. Save a trip and just pick up a small rock and hold it really really close, then it looks likes a big rock. Never the less, we are on the road to see a big rock.
Perhaps you can guess that my expectation were not high. So it was with genuine surprise when we reached our destination and I found myself rather impressed with the rock and accompanying vista.

Clean streets, bright colours.

Shops and Tolley Car.

Lots of little shops. Stores with jewelry made from the opals that the state of Queretaro is famous for and many with rugs and other woven works. We popped into one called "La, Aurora"

They seem to like commas!

As you can see from their sign, they seems to like commas. That's okay, I like exclamation points!! After chatting some time with the proprietress, we were invited back to see the production facilities. All done by hand, even one old giant of a machine, that seemed like it was once attached to a motor, but was no longer used that way.

Motor? We don't need no stinking motor!

It was comida time for the production staff so there was not a great deal of activity in the back but it gave us a great chance to look around.

Light Dancing Upon The Looms

We ended up purchasing a black and white wall hanging. Ironically the scene it depicted seemed more like a scene in the Andes of South America rather than Mexico. It was like a weaving of an old black and white photo.

In Its New Home

Before we left, CJ insisted on posing in front of the peak. Then off for a bite to eat. We dined at Meson La Roca, quite tasty. I think it might be nice to come back and actually go up the rock. About half way up there is a chapel that many people make a pilgramage to. We have also heard tell that on the spring equinox new-agers (is that a word?) come, all dressed in white robes and cirlce the mountian. Hmmmm

Señor Cabeza Jícama

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pyramids of San Felipe Los Alzati

After leaving Tlal, we headed south to towards the little village of San Felipe Los Alzati, just north of Zitacuaro. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might catch a glimpse of well known cook book author, Diana Kennedy, who lives in the region.

About 2 kilometres outside the village we reach the ruins. Entering from the rear, you pass a number of petroglyphs that are displayed along a pathway leading to stone steps.

Stairway to .......

After climbing the stairs you, you enter between 2 structures
Now, it is hard to get a sense of scale in this picture, but trust me, it's BIG!
Climbing to the top you get a breath taking view of the valley. I don't think there is anywhere else in the world with as many shades of green as the Michoacan countryside in the summer.

Valley View

To the right of the picture above, you can see some of the steps for the other pyramid. There is a sort of plaza between the two. It gives the impression of being the base where the pyramids were built

The Base?

No, there's more!

But, if you look over the edge, you see that this is just a platform on a much bigger structure, that is only partially restored. I can only imagine what it would look like, with the entire site restored. Hopeful that will happen soon.

Now I am in a "ruins" mood, So in the next month or so, I will make sure I do postings on the sites that are a little closer to home. There are 3 of them within about 25 kilometres of Patzcauro, as the crow flies. So, keep watching!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tlalpujahua- Say That Fast Five Times!

Just a short drive from "Round Town" is the village of Tlalpujahua.

I will not try to tell you how to pronounce it. I think I now have it down pretty good, but it has taken some time. I think that the pronunciation is like the concept of "absolute zero" , something you can approach but is impossible to reach.

Once a great mining town, a massive landslide (and slag heap slide) covered half the town.
To this day you can visit the church what was buried by the slide. Okay, you can visit the steeple, the rest is still underground. I took more pictures of the church but through a technical error (that was entirely my fault and sadly not the only one of the day) most were not usable. Good! That will give me an excuse to go do some more!

A Church in the Basement???

The town is now know for its cantera (stone carving), Christmas bulbs and ceramics.

Sadly we got there mid week, and SO many things seemed to be closed. Which will give me yet another excuse to return. We took some time and looked at some of the cut stone that was available there as we are planning a patio in the back. Prices there there close to half the cost of what I have priced around here in Patzcuaro.

This is a very charming village.. It, like Patzcuaro, has been designated a "Pueblo Magico"
Walking through the town you find cobbled streets, winding stairways, large town square with children playing.

For those of you who are geekie science fiction fans like me, here is a little trivia tidbit for you.
Frank Herbert, for a time lived in Tlalpujahua. If that name is not familiar with you he is the author of the Dune series, one of the best selling sci-fi books ever. What Lord Of The Rings is to fantasy writing, Dune is to sci-fi. The town is mentioned in his biography, DREAMER OF DUNE.

Tlal is also conveniently located near the butterfly sanctuaries (Chincua and Rosario) . So we are planning on staying there and doing an overnight from Patzcuaro so we can be at the sanctuaries first thing in the morning. So, as we had extra time, we thought we would check out one of the hotels we had heard good things about. We popped into El Mineral Hotel, looks cute and comfy, but the rooms sizes range from claustrophobic to very comfortable so have a look before you book.


Warm and Roomy!

Many people who go to see the butterflies stay at Angangueo. We drove through that town as we continued our trip. It did not seem to have a great deal of charm or amenities for visitors. Perhaps if you have been there you can correct me on that.

Next stop, ancient ruins!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Round Town?

Not as in "What's happening 'round town"
But a town.
That is round.

Some time ago, I came across an across an aerial photo of a town in the eastern part of the state on a message board. A round town that went by the name of Venta de Bravo . Nobody knew why it was round, just seemed sort of odd.

It was right close to the town of Tlalpujahua, and as we were headed there, I thought I would have a quick peek. Now I could be the one to find out why!

View Larger Map

Now when we drive into town, we head for the bullseye of the circle, which turns out to be the church. Guess what, round town = round church, just makes sense.

Round Town = Round Church

It seems that today is a very big day in the little village of Venta de Bravo.
The entire town is out on the street in a procession around the church, singing as they walk.

And of course, round church = round procession.

Round Procession

Every dozen yards or so, they had an altar setup, at which the priest would kneel at and chant.

Gathered 'Round The Altar

Now I want to find out why the town is round, but everyone is in the procession.
But wait, there is one store that is still open on the street. There, standing on top of a 5 gallon bucket, is a young lady watching the proceedings.

"Hello" I say. "why are all the streets in your town, round?
"Oh no, only this street is round" is her reply.
Hmmm think I.

Maybe she is having some fun with the stranger, maybe not.
Either way, the mystery lives on. Perhaps it is better that way.

Her Secret Intact.
(click the picture for a better view)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cocuchas In Cocucho

We have all our furniture and decor done. Landscaping is still a work in progress, but we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is one spot between two bookcases that a nice vase or something could go.

After a little thought we decided to get a small cochuca.

Cocuchas are the shapely pottery vessels from the village of ......
Cocucho! Makes sense doesn't it?

You may remember them from the post I did on the day of the dead market here in Patzcuaro. Click the link below to check it out.
Day of the Dead Post

So for a bit of an interesting afternoon, we decided to drive out to the village itself to find one small enough to fit in the spot selected for it. The drive to Cocucho is about 90 kilometres each way. On the way, you can stop into Paracho, a village world famous for its hand made guitars.

If you love guitars, you don't want to miss the annual guitar festival.This year it is August 2-10, 2008. Perhaps we will have to pop back to check that out.

Driving through the mountains and valleys you come across striking panoramas. Now that we are in the rainy season the hills are lush and green, painted against dramatic skies.

This view alone was worth the drive!

After a leisurely drive we have reached our destination. Parking across the street from the Templo de San Bartolome I see a photo-op, a cross that is echoed in the background by the cross on the top of the church it is set against.

Just as I was about to take the picture, the sun broke through the clouds. Very dramatic! If it was a movie you would expect to hear violin music and maybe a choir of angels.

300 years ago?
(click on the image to see it larger.)

I couldn't resist sepia toning to the image before I posted it. It looks like it could be a scene from 300 years ago, except for the basketball court tucked into the lower right of the image.

Now, we are off to select our cocucha. While there are signs and shops on the street directing you to where you can purchase them, most of them are taken elsewhere for sale. Because of this, most workshops are just part of peoples homes, hidden from view and lacking storefronts.
Luckily we have received advice from an expert on cocuchas and other folk art and were soon knocking on an unassuming metal door. Shortly we were ushered into the humble but warmhearted home.

Soon Francisca and Felix we showing us not only all their wears but their family also.

One big happy family!

Now, I am not sure how it happened, but instead of getting one SMALL cocucha for between the bookcases, we somehow ended up with 5 of varying sizes, 7 if you count the two little mugs.

It was a fun afternoon, and I would recommend it to anyone BUT keep a couple of things in mind.

It is not a tourist town and in many ways things there are the way they have been for 100's of years. While I was taking pictures of the cross, every woman in sight covered her face and head with her robozo. So I took my picture and put my camera away. I did also take a picture of the family and their pots, but only with their permission.

Also if you are like me, you really enjoy the negotiations that go along with these types of purchases. So have fun with it like I do, but you can tell coming into this town, that there is not a great deal of wealth, so don't overdo the bargaining. Dirt floors are very quaint and charming when you are not the one who has to live with them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Taste of the Cosmopolitan.

A Japanese Restaurant in Patzcuaro!!

One of the things I like about where we live is that we have the best of both worlds.

We have the village of Patzcuaro, a 10 minute drive. With a provincial sort of charm. For a taste of the more cosmopolitan we have Morelia a 30 minuted drive (40 if you drive sensibly)

Well yesterday I discovered a new restaurant in Patzcuaro, that is just a little more cosmopolitan. You will have to look for it. It is very new. It was its second day open when I came across it.

When it comes to Japanese food, I am not much for the Sushi, but love the rest. For my first visit I had the yakimeshi followed by the prawn and vegetable tempura.

When my meal was served, it was presented along with a small wooden bowl. In it were some fresh sliced pepper, and then poured over them was a blend of soy sauce and lime juice. Very tasty !

Light and tasty.

All in all, very enjoyable and highly recommended. I want this restaurant to do well, so I can keep going there! Next time, I think I will try the teppan-yaki.

The restaurant is located on Calle Benito Mendoza, number 8.
That is the western most street that goes between Plaza Grande and Chica.

Currently the picture below shows the sign to look for on the street, but I assume that it will be updated soon.

The gateway to Japan?

Below you can see the menu, click on the picture for a larger view, and I hope to see you there!


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