I was awakened at about 5:30am by several gunshots! H did not stir so I lay there waiting to hear what would come next. More gunshot sounds, sometimes in rapid fire; it sounded close by. I slowly realized that it must be fire crackers. The firecrackers continued for about 2 hours. I’m thinking “What on earth is going on?!”
H finally wakes up and we finally decide its time to get up; the firecrackers are not going to stop any time soon. While drinking coffee we see our wildlife camera at home has captured two foxes. They are chasing each other, jumping in the air and it is hilarious!
We have a food restaurant tour scheduled for noon. The walk to the meeting area is about a mile. We pass through beautiful old sections of San Miguel—houses painted in lovely colors with neat gargoyle downspouts and rooftop gardens. Most of these homes have engraved dates of more than 100 years ago. The streets are cobblestone and it is quite a climb to our destination. I’m worried about my hip and knee—can I go the distance?
Our meet-up point is at Paseo Del Chorro, the hilltop where an ancient spring still gushes and where San Miguel was founded because of the water. There are “lavaderos” (clothes washing basins fed by the spring) that even today are used for that purpose. A chapel tops the hill and there are beautiful gardens fed by the spring. This walk has made me realize how magical San Miguel is!
Our tour leader, Les, is there when we arrive about 15 minutes early. We have him all to ourselves for the day and we tell him we want to hear all about San Miguel. So we set off on the tour with Les telling us all about San Miguel’s history, architecture, culture and food.
Our first stop is a restaurant we had on our list to visit: La Parada, a Peruvian restaurant. It has a beautiful outdoor space with rock walls covered in succulents. We sample their bass, corn & mango ceviche. It is delicious! The name was of the restaurant is “bus” in Spanish. This restaurant is supposed to be the bus stop. All over the restaurant are vehicle related items: bus tickets, license plates, a coffee table at the entrance had all sorts of nuts, bolts and other automotive items under glass. Speaking of nuts and bolts, those were the only indications of the restroom genders!
Here is a list of the other stops:
La Casa Del Diezmo, a Yucatán Restaurant: slow roast pig tostada
La Cocina, Café Del Viajero: mole enchilada. Such a wonderful chocolatey flavor!
Nieves de Garrafa: street vendor with great ice cream
Los Milagros: tortilla soup
Baja Fish Taquito: fish tacos on a roof top terrace with great views
San Agustin Churros y Chocolate: churro stuffed with cajeta (goat cheese caramel)
As we walk between stops, Les gives us all sorts of local information such as:
1. In Mexico whatever I have is yours. If a door is open you can just walk in. The bars on the windows have no relation to safety; there are there to keep your friends and neighbors from lifting items out of your home.
2. “Manana” here does not mean tomorrow it just means “not today.”Les says in Mexican culture no one wants to say NO. So they say anything but NO.
3. The streets are sooooo clean! Les says there are citizens that will litter purposely because they know their actions result in someone having a job! There are very few dogs loose on the street and virtually no evidence of dogs on the run.
4. Fire crackers: in Mexico when there is a celebration (and there’s always a celebration) the louder the better. And firecrackers are the best way to make that noise. Although music and yelling are also good ways to make the celebration better. That can happen any day of the week and all night long. Dogs and roosters contribute to the festivities. Les says “Get used to it!”
5. Only family is invited for meals at home so the town squares, restaurants and bar are really important for getting together. Any night people will meet up with friends until the early hours of the morning.
6. Les says the best restaurants are rated BBB: Bueno (good), Bonito (pretty) and Barato (cheap).
7. Les showed us a comparison of traditional Mexican cuisine (Milpa Diet) to Mediterranean cuisine. He advocates the TRADITIONAL Mexican food/cooking may be even better than the Mediterranean diet. Here are a few differences between the two (Mediterranean vs Mexican): olive oil vs avocado oil; mediterranean beans vs fava beans; Mediterranean seeds and grains vs new world seeds and grains including chia seeds. He says corn treated with lye is better digested and an important ingredient in Mexican cooking and should be an important ingredient in a healthy diet.
8. The Mexican people include in their lives “milagros” (it means miracles), medals, charms, paintings, alters, etc., that they believe protect the people who wear/have them. These Milagros ask God, the Virgin or saints to protect them or to answer their prayers. When we were in Puerto Vallarta decades ago I found a very interesting Milagro painting that I bought and gave to my mom. She liked that sort of thing and she was Catholic. Now that I think about it, it was a painting in gratitude to the Virgin for her help in healing someone. Les was wearing a corn Milagro pinned to his collar. He offered us a variety of Milagro medals so we could choose a charm that might be particular for our petition to Heaven. I chose a leg since my hip and leg have been particularly bad (I’m praying for a hip replacement soon after we get back!) H chose a pig because he thinks pigs are great creatures.
9. Les is very happy with the healthcare provided here and the low cost of living. He and his wife have lived here about 13 years (prior to that in La Paz, Mexico) and live about a 40 minute walk from town. (That means a good bit of hill hiking.) He would never even think about driving into town because there is no place to park and too many cars in the narrow streets. Besides walking and the traditional Mexican diet have resulted in him losing 57lbs!
When it came time to tip Les for his wonderful tour, I got completely mixed up with the exchange rate. I was going to give him a couple of dollars. Fortunately H stepped in and figured out the correct amount for such a wonderful tour.
Back home we relaxed; we were completely satisfied and had no interest in having more food.
We sat at home (with a glass or two of wine) with a renewed understanding of the neighborhood noise. We now were having the experience of a new sound outside our window: a man who was making a god-awful noise apparently hoping to advertise whatever he was selling. He walked slowly down the street as his incredible sounds flooded the neighborhood! H thought it was an animal…dying? in distress? The mariachi music is echoing from the square a few blocks away. Fire crackers now! Lotsa noise til 9pm.