Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inverness and movies

This was the view from the deck of our hotel in Inverness, out toward Tomales Bay, on Sunday morning. Calm, serene, beautiful.

We arrived at the Motel Invenerss at noon on Saturday to meet our friends for the weekend. What a gorgeous spot. It was clear and sunny, although very windy. That did not slow us down. Off we went to Drakes' Beach for a lovely walk and lunch at the cafe right by the water. Then back to Pt. Reyes to check out the shops and to check in at the Bovine Bakery, famous in our household for its sourdough bread. We changed our Pt. Reyes Station reservations to a later hour, then headed back to the motel for naps.

We met in the motel's "great room" for cocktails, then headed over to the restaurant for a delicious dinner. I had mussels; luscious. Great conversation, a good bottle of wine, then back to the hotel for more conversation over a cup of tea and some biscotti. And so to bed.

Sunday morning we had breakfast out on the hotel's deck overlooking some rich marshland with interesting birds and wonderful views. We took a drive up to Tomales Bay to see the profusion of wild flowers along the route. Back to Pt. Reyes where I picked up the sourdough loaves I had ordered, and then to home. It was a lovely get-away to reconnect with wonderful friends.

I am probably the only person of your acquaintance who did not like "It's Complicated," the movie starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. I thought it was utterly stupid. All except for John Krazinski who plays the intended son-in-law. I LOVE him in "The Office". And I thought he did a great job. Meryl Streep's character was so wishy-washy (unlike her usual roles), Alec Baldwin was an utterly unlikable jerk, Steve Martin wasn't nearly funny enough . . . who thought up this drivel? And why waste Meryl and Steve in it?

Loving "The House of Elliot." More discs should arrive tomorrow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

a weekend at the beach

You may have thought ~ correctly ~ that we had just left the beach. But that was a different beach. Tomorrow we are driving over to Inverness to spend the day with wonderful friends who are on the west coast from DC. This couple was part of the merry pranksters who sailed from St. Lucia to Grenada in 1989. They are great fans of "exchange your house" and have taken a place in Carmel for a couple of months while those owners are hanging out in their condo on the banks of the Potomac. They decided to drive up to Inverness for the weekend. We will drive over tomorrow, spend the night, get caught up on everyone's news, eat and drink whatever goodies we can find, and then drive home on Sunday. One thing we will definitely do, weather permitting, is take a long walk on the beach. The last beach the four of us walked was, I think, in Canouan in the Grenadines.

I had a "Dorothy" moment yesterday. She and I drove up to the Post Office to pick up mail. I got out of the car and was approached by a delightful elderly woman making her way slowly across the parking lot with the help of a cane. "That is the cutest car I've ever seen," she said. "If I were still able to drive and were a youngster like you I would drive a car like that!" Then she tottered back to her car, driven by someone else, got in and left the lot. It made me think seriously about my "youngster" status.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

movie madness

Since I have been home ~ 8 days ~ I have watched five movies or movie-like DVDs. I started out with two discs ~ four episodes in all ~ of the BBC series, "Blue Murder." Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis, divorced mother of four. All fun.

Then I watched "10 Items or Less" which I thoroughly enjoyed mainly for the presence of Morgan Freeman. But the woman who plays the clerk, Paz Vega is really wonderful.

Next came "Children of Heaven", an Iranian movie about two children who share the same pair of shoes so they can go to school, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Sweet. You'll have to see the movie to know what the goldfish mean.

Yesterday I saw "The Blind Side" and although I liked it, it was not, in my opinion, Oscar-worthy by any stretch of the imagination. Sandra Bullock played Sandra Bullock. It was a basic feel-good movie.

I have been adding movies to my Flix® queue as fast as I can. I'm going to try to get through this list before December! Tomorrow I will receive the two disc series from the BBC "The Impressionists" about the French painters in the movement.

I'm prepping for my trip to the deYoung Museum in San Francisco to view the fabulous show of Impressionist art on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. I'll also get disc one of "The House of Eliot" set in 1920's London. All suggestions for further viewing are cheerfully accepted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

road note

If you have read this blog in the past you will remember that I have a thing about the cars I see on long trips. Actually, it's a way of fighting long-trip boredom. How many cars, what colors, what models, etc. So here's my Road Note for the trip from Cuyutlán to home: I saw one, just ONE, Smart Car* along all those miles. It was crossing into Mexico at the border as we drove into the US. That was it. One. Oh, and one Hummer, too. It counts as three Smarties!

*The above Smartie is the adorable Dorothy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

getting from there to here

It's been several days now since we pulled into the garage at the end of a long drive. Seven days on the road, shut up in a car traveling 70 MPH through mostly boring landscapes is about 6 days too many. But we got home safely. That was the big concern. And not only as we headed to El Norte through the serious Mexican Government vs. Drugs war zone, but after we crossed, we made it through the dangerous alley from the border to Tucson. I was just hoping that if anything untoward happened it would be on "our" side of the border so I could plead for my life in my own language. Nothing out of the ordinary. During the entire trip, 3 stops for agricultural inspection in Sinaloa, one army stop in Sonora where they took out only two small suitcases are put them through an airport-style X-ray, a perfunctory stop at the border ~ no inspection this year; we were in line and onto the other side in one hour ~ and one brief Border Patrol stop between Nogales and Tucson. For all the hype about the close monitoring of traffic, this was a piece of cake.

My computer desktop is littered with photos that I have not put up, detailing more of the trip home. So I will go back to the morning of Thursday, May 6 as we head out of Tepic. This was the sight. Diverted traffic around the city center. Up and down side streets. Two Mexican army convoys, both with heavily armed soldiers in big trucks and a HumVee thing with a machine gun mounted on the top. It sprouted some sort of big lethal weapon on top of the cab with a man hanging on to it who, I presume, knew what to do with it if the occasion arose. I was of two minds about this sight. On the one hand, given what we've been hearing it was reassuring to know these fellows were around. On the other, why would I want to be in a country where this is necessary?

We made it to Topolobampo at 3 o'clock, checked in to our usual room at the only hotel in town, opened a beer and relaxed.

We went to Chicho's for dinner ~ the only restaurant in town ~ watched the sunset over the bay, and tried to figure out why this little burg hasn't been discovered by gringos yet. It is a gorgeous location, but in truth it's even seedier than Cuyutlán. The idea of trying to upgrade one of the falling-down houses that ring the bay is too daunting, even for me, el primo renovator.

Next morning we had breakfast in the garden by this lovely fountain and watched in amazement as the town's fishermen ~ Topo is famous as a fishing spot ~ filed into the hotel dining room for some sort of celebration. I never could figure out what was going on. The only thing the server said in answer to my inquiry was "pescaderos" so I let it go. By the way, this hotel has truly remarkable towels. They have been treated with Scotchgard® that thoroughly and efficiently repels water. Makes drying off a challenge.

We were on the road to San Carlos by 9 am and arrived at La Fiesta Real at 3, got our room with the fridge, had another beer and prepared for a nice rest. However, as I have previously written there was to be a big party on Friday night to celebrate the milestones of some children. It was actually a party arranged by three families for their three children; two for first communion (Sophia and Manso) and one birthday (Maria). The front lawn was all set up with tables, chairs, a dance stage, lanterns and a piñata.

We went out to lunch down at the marina and when we got back the disco speakers and light standards had been set up. That's when I groaned and thought, "Oh great! Right outside our room!" The guests started arriving at 4 PM. The adults roamed around the grass drinking exotic concoctions; the kids changed into bathing suits and hit the pool and the beach. At 6 o'clock everyone was corralled for a huge buffet dinner. Then the mariachis arrived. This was a really great band, a more modern take on mariachi music but with some oldies thrown in, such as El niño perdido, my favorite. The female singer had a spectacular voice with lots of passion and vibrato and color. That pink ball on the right is the piñata.

(Sorry you can't see them very well, but what you can see is the disco set-up!)

Meanwhile, the guests were enjoying their dinner as the sky began to turn a lovely pink.

Several of the guests got up and sang with the band. It was a wonderful celebratio n enjoyed by a mix of Mexican and gringo guests who sang along, got up and danced and mingled around. Lots of kids having a fine time. It was fun to watch all the guests, obviously a well-to-do group of beautifully dressed and coiffed women and men in the traditional bright white guayabera shirts. The teen aged boys and girls sat at separate tables and were all very well behaved!

This was the sight at dusk.

Soon the lights came on and it was quite magical.

We were about to go downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner when I noticed people standing around holding big white disks of some sort. I couldn't figure out what they were until I saw one person pull the disk apart and open it up into what looked like a big balloon with openings at the top and bottom with some sort of crosspiece at the bottom. Then he lit something on the crosspiece, waited a minute or so, and then let go. It was like a little hot air balloon and it took off into the night. Then everyone started on the same routine. It was the most beautiful sight imaginable, about 50 of these glowing globes floating up into the pitch black night, drifting out over the bay. These are called Globos de Luz.

They are very popular for celebrations of any kind. I had never seen them before and asked one of the guests about them. She gave me the wrapper from one and I looked it up. They are not available in the US but you can have them sent here. Of course if you lit one anywhere around here you'd go to San Quentin. They would be spectacular floating over the sea after a good shrimp dinner at Dago's.

The disco started up about 10 PM, rocked and rolled until 1 AM, but I was so tired I slept through it all. We were up by 5:30 because it gets light so early. I stepped out on the balcony to survey the wreckage.

Here's what the piñata looked like.

We finally got underway at 6 AM, tore through Hermosillo up to the border. We got there at 10:30 and were through and on our way to Gila Bend, AZ by 11:30, a fast clearance for us. The further NW we went, the hotter it got. It reached 100º in Gila Bend that day, but our old standard motel comes well equipped with AC, a fridge, a big TV and, best of all, water pressure. Dinner thanks to Burger King (chicken salad and a bottle of Mexican wine) and so to bed. Sunday we went on to spend Mother's Day in Palm Springs where it was not only hot but incredibly windy. First thing we did was hit Trader Joe's for staples for the rest of the trip; cheese, wine, fruit, avocados. Driving I-10 is not the pilot's favorite route; too much traffic, not a very good road, but that's the only way to get where we wanted to go. I don't think we'll do that route again. Monday we drove on to Bakersfield. Bakersfield? Yes, so we could go to a Basque restaurant we'd been told about. Turns our it's closed on Monday, so we went to another one, Benji's. Food was delicious and very abundant. I had roast lamb, the pilot had lamb kabobs (which we turned into moussaka when we got home), all of which comes with soup, salad, several side dishes (including boiled tongue which we turned into sandwiches on the way home), hot and cold. You'd think we had been herding sheep all day. And nothing goes to waste around here, either.

Tuesday was the last leg of the return. We left early and arrived home around 2 PM. Our tenant was still scurrying around trying to get ready to move out. It was so good to be back. There are things I miss about the US; really clean water, reliable electricity, water pressure, newspapers and radio in my native tongue, friends and family. Of course, there are things I miss about Mexico, too; weekly delivery of Indio beer (it is not exported), inexpensive food, wonderful mangoes and papayas any time, fresh-out-of-the-vat tortilla chips, sunsets over the sea, the laid back, relaxed living, the kindness and generosity of our neighbors and friends. I think I have the best of all possible worlds.

We've now spent the past five days cleaning the house and garden area, rearranging the cupboards and shelves, going through a mountain of mail, getting things back in some sort of order so we can function for the next 7 months. Then we'll take it all apart, pack up and take this journey again. Dorothy was thrilled to see me as I was to see her. She flashed her lights, beeped her horn. All is well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2,210 miles later . . .

. . but much too exhausted to write anything about the trip. Seven days on the road is about five too many. But here we are, back home, and looking forward to good a night's sleep in (one of) my own bed(s).


Monday, May 10, 2010

in country

San Carlos to the border on Saturday ~ safe and fast. Border wait, 1 hour. In Gila Bend, AZ Saturday night. Hot. To Palm Springs on Sunday. Hot. To Bakersfield today. Probably hot. I hope the person who invented the AC got a Nobel Prize.

I take back everything I said in the last post about the party outside our room in San Carlos. It was fantastic. More and photos when I get home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

from San Carlos

We made it through the Valley of the Shadow of Death ~ aka Sinaloa, where all the warnings are centered ~ and arrived safely in San Carlos and got a room at our favorite hotel. BUT, little did we know that there is a celebration of a First Communion to be held out on the seaside lawn. Mariaches, a big buffet dinner, huge bar whipping up all sorts of drinks in blenders for the adults, rows and rows of soda cans for the kiddies and, to top it off, a HUGE disco set-up that is about 25 yards from our bedroom and balcony. All of this for a 10-year old girl. Imagine what her quinceanaro will be like! Much less her wedding. Had we known this we would have moved down the road to another place. Any other place, in fact. But we're here now and I can only hope everyone will be wiped out ~ one way or another ~ by midnight.

Tomorrow it's off to the border at Nogales. If we get out of here just when it's light we'll make it there by around 11 AM with one stop for gas. It will be good to get back. This is a long, arduous drive with the added wariness that goes with having read too many State Department warnings. But Mr. C clutched the steering wheel and kept up the pace while I clutched my good-luck talisman travel necklaces, and so far so good. Next stop: Gila Bend, AZ.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the news from Tepic

Actually, there isn't any news. This was a very easy drive, except for the crazy traffic in Guadalajara. There is a distance of about 35 miles through some mountains that is a 2-lane road, a bit nervous-making with big double remolque trucks lumbering along at 30 MPH. And it you get stuck behind one it can be a complete drag. About half way along this route you come around a bend and there, glowing in the sun, is a stand of jacaranda trees about 5 miles long. Although they are a bit beyond their full bloom there are still plenty of blooms in that gorgeous purpl-y blue color. It never fails to stun me when I see such a color.

Up at 5 AM this morning, out of the door by 9 AM (half an hour late!), and we arrived here at 2:15 ~ although it was only 1:15 here. Tonight it's early supper ~ bnrought with us ~ and early to bed. Tomorrow is the long drive from Tepic to Topolobampok although it's mostly 4-lane. No more internet until Gila Bend. So no opera this week. It's Lulu by Alban Berg.

leaving behind

We spent yesterday finishing up the packing of the house. I have paid particular attention to things like the sound and smell of the ocean, the tinkling tune of the ice cream man who drives through town ~ he's playing the same tune as he did the first time we came down here 20 years ago ~ the message of the gaz truck as he trolls up and down the streets selling his gas canisters, the talera vendor who always slows in front of our house just in case. Fernando and Chuy came by to talk about what needs to be done over the summer months; not a whole lot, it turns out, except to pay the bills as they trickle in and to water the garden until the rains start. I've said "Good bye" to Jack, other year-rounders, Marie (she leaves tomorrow morning), to the vegetable man and the chicken man in the tianguis, to the Santorini water delivery man, the Indio beer delivery man, to Dago. Is there anyone I've forgotten? Hasta año proximo.

I will be internet challenged until we hit Gila Bend, AZ on Saturday. I may have a connection tomorrow in Tepic, but definitely nothing in Topolobampo or San Carlos. I'll fill you in on any adventures encountered along the way. To hear the State Department and the consulate in Hermasillo, there are numerous possibilities. I am praying for tedium.

It's been a very good season, with lots of lessons learned, domino games played, books read, friends visited, walks taken, beer drunk, shrimp consumed on Friday nights at Dago's. I look forward to more of the same in 7 months. Life is very good down here in the tropics, in this seedy little Mexican village by the seashore.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bless This House

Yesterday was Dia de las Cruces, a festive holiday in our village. The main street was festooned with palm branches tied up with big paper flowers. There was a palm arch spanning the main road down by the railroad tracks, and houses displayed crosses of various kinds on front doors and windows. There was a parade reminiscent of the Palm Sunday parade held here.

This was the most beautiful cross of all, one loaded with significance. The workers on Jack's roof constructed this cross, decorated it with paper flowers and ribbons that flutter in the breeze, and installed it sometime on Sunday, presumably without his knowledge. (I don't think he knows it's there yet.) It is meant as a house blessing and should stay there for a year, rain or shine, to insure that only goodness and harmony reside there. These workers have not always had an easy time of it but their willingness to present such a lovely gift to the casa is truly heart warming. Either that or they figured this place needs all the blessings it can get!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

sharing 11 boys with friends

Last night our delightful friends Bobbie and Philip hosted a dinner billed as "Pearl Moser's South African Curry Supper." This couple has a lovely home down in the colonia ~ airy, spacious with plenty of room to seat 14 guests (plus the silver, china and napery to go with it!). We gathered at 6:30 for drinks, then sat down to a delicious dinner featuring perfectly spiced beef curry with 11 condiment (boys) on a big Lazy Susan in the center of each table. The hostess had (wisely) separated couples; husbands and wives at different tables which made for lively, wide-ranging conversation. We met one couple who has just completed a quite fabulous house on the beach (he refers to it as their "cottage." Some cottage!), plus a charming chap who has moved into the house next door to that of the hosts'. What a very special end-of-season treat the evening was. Mr. C made a divine chocolate ice cream using the cinnamon-flavored hard chocolate used here for the yummy chocolate caliente made with rich milk and cream. It was quite a hit after the spicy curry. Put the fire right out.

More packing up today including stowing all the wonderful bara cookware I have collected and use faithfully. Tomorrow is the last visit to the tianguis for this season. Marie and I will go a bit later than usual and end up at the Jacaranda for bean tacos and beer to bid an official adios to our Monday routine. I am already girding for the initial sticker shock when I make my first trip to the US supermarket. It's going to hurt . . . a lot.