This and That, Here and There

25 Sep

Last year while on our daily walks to the park, Oliver and I routinely passed a handsome hacienda where some kind of construction was underway.  We peeked in one morning in late summer and saw tables and chairs and learned that Calenda Restaurant, the newest addition to the lively San Miguel restaurant scene, was about to open for business.  Thus, we became among its first patrons and were greeted by its owner Karen, a beautiful young woman and professionally trained chef with a successful restaurant in Mexico City.  The food was far and away the most innovative we had yet encountered, five-star quality without five-star prices, so we became ‘regulars.’   Shortly thereafter Karen and her delightful beau Andres rented a house just around the corner from us and acquired a puppy, a chocolate lab named Toro who took a liking to our dog Oliver.  Increasingly enchanted by San Miguel, over time Karen decided to close her Mexico City restaurant and she and Andres now live full time in San Miguel, recently acquiring land on which they are raising goats (for goat cheese), alfalfa, zucchini, corn, etc.    Our friendship has grown and deepened over the past year,  age and cultural differences notwithstanding, and we now count them among our closest friends.   They introduce us to their friends as their “San Miguel parents” and we have now met both of their families and a variety of their other friends who frequently visit San Miguel from Mexico City.  It is a great privilege to be allowed into the inner circle of a Mexican family and to acquire Mexican friends, of whom we now have several.  Because Karen and Andres both speak excellent English, and no topic is off-limits, they have given us a unique perspective about the country and its culture and have greatly enriched our experience of being here.

The first Sunday of September found us piling into Andres’ Volkswagon SUV, dogs and all, for a seven hour road trip over the mountains through the State of Jalisco to the State of Nayarit, passing through Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco and the second most populous city in Mexico.  Our ultimate destination was Sayulita, a seaside village some 395 miles from San Miguel, located 25 miles north of Puerto Vallerta, on a coastal corridor extending from Litibre to the historic port of San Blas known as the “Riviera Nayarit.”  Sayulita has a mostly young population of about 4,000 and was not well known until the late 60s when the construction of a new road made it more accessible.  Known for its consistent river mouth surf break as well as a breeding and birthing ground for Humpback whales, it is a haven for surfers and has an eclectic quality about it; it reminded me of the north shore of Oahu in the 60s, with shorts and flip-flops de rigueur.

The rental house that Andres had secured for the week was situated up a small incline from the long, wide and spotlessly clean white sand beach, a few miles from town.  With unique architecture, the living room, dining room and kitchen were open to the elements with only the two bedrooms enclosed by walls and doors.  September may not have been the best month to visit since it was hot and humid, reminiscent of the beaches of Panama, with daytime temperatures in the 90s and 90 percent humidity.  But the ocean temperature was perfect and most of the week was overcast, shielding us from the intensity of the sun.  The bedrooms had air conditioning and rest was easy to come by, the rhythm of the surf lulling us to sleep.  We spent a fair amount of time in the water, in the pool at the house but mostly in the Pacific, home to the largest pelicans I have ever seen.  Oliver, who grew up on the edge of the San Francisco bay, seemed delighted to be reintroduced to the ocean and I felt as if I could actually watch his brain work as he became reacquainted with the waves, re-learning when to turn his back to the surf, when to turn sideways with all four paws firmly planted, and when to go for it, splashing into the wave, going after the stick.  We made various excursions into town, a few times in the car but mostly walking at the water’s edge with the dogs in tow.

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The purpose of the trip was a combined birthday celebration:  Karen turned 28 while we were there, and both dogs had August birthdays just past, Toro turning one, Oliver seven.  On the eve of Karen’s birthday we went to the Four Seasons for dinner, located at Punta Minta, a short 20 minute drive from Sayulita.  The food was excellent, the live music memorable and the ambiance elegantly understated.  We got back to Sayulita around 11 and just after midnight Andres had arranged for mariachis to come up the beach, serenading Karen on her birthday.  IMG_0629The next day as part of the birthday celebration, Andres had arranged for horses to be brought to our beach late in the afternoon and we took a lovely ride, first on the beach and then through the jungle-covered hills that tumbled down to the sea.

IMG_0642When we returned from horseback riding, we found a chef in our kitchen preparing a special birthday dinner with fresh lobster and shrimp; it was fabulous!

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A good time was had by all, including the dogs.  Toro spent a lot of time in the small swimming pool, just sitting there quietly,

IMG_0653while Oliver got into the beach lifestyle quickly.

imageBut my favorite photo from the entire week was the sunset we saw on our last evening there.

IMG_0657The week sped by and Sunday morning found us packing the car, with suitcases strapped to the roof, retracing our route back to San Miguel, taking us over mountains and through valleys lush with green.  There was so much green I was reminded of an anecdote about Georgia O’Keeffe who left her New Mexico landscape each year to visit Lake George in the State of New York.  Over time she developed an aversion to the color green, so prevalent in the Adirondack landscape and once wrote to another painter that, “I walk much and endure the green and that is about all there is to it.”  A singular person indeed.  But I digress.   The green finally gave way to fields of blue agave, the rust color of sorghum and the ever-present acres of corn, Mexico’s primary crop.

Home again to the cooler climes of San Miguel, flags were a’flying as the city prepared for the independence day celebrations, an event chronicled in detail in this blog last September.  This year the celebrations were somewhat muted, courtesy of both Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel, but because San Miguel now has a live webcam in the Jardin Principal, I was able to view the festivities from the comfort of my bed via my laptop computer.  As I write this San Miguel is preparing (or bracing itself) for El Dia de San Miguel, also known as Alborada which can mean “Song of Dawn” or “Battle of Dawn”  in honor of San Miguel’s patron saint.   St. Michael, one of three archangels mentioned in the Old Testament, was reportedly victorious in his battle with the devil (a battle which must have occurred in the wee hours since this festival lasts all night long).  I was mercifully in San Diego at this time last year so this will be my first experience of the all night celebration with thousands of rockets and fireworks anticipated.

Sometimes I am asked what I like best (and least) about San Miguel.  Without question fireworks are my least favorite phenomenon and I have yet to fully understand why it is such a huge part of the culture.  Some say that it has to do with the Aztecs and their early morning prayer rituals.  I’m also told that the Catholic Church, even in impoverished villages, spends an inordinate amount of money on rockets and fireworks because it is so important to the people.  And the things I like best?  Ah, there are so many.  But if I had to pick just one I would say it is the sound of a muted trumpet, emanating from a not-too-distant jazz club, that I hear late at night while falling alseep.

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2 Responses to “This and That, Here and There”

  1. Penny Short September 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi Lynne,

    This has to be your best effort to date! I felt as though I was there with you and your friends on your journey to Sayulita, dogs and all — I meant to comment on your previous post, but time slipped away from me, so this will have to do double duty in that arena.

    All is well with us here in the Great Northwest, with summer on the wane and fall (the liquid sort) literally falling around us as I write. We had a spectacular summer, though, so no one should complain, now that we can put away the garden hoses until next year.

    If we ever find ourselves in the vicinity of San Miguel de Allende, you can be sure that we’ll let you know well ahead of time. And both our children send their very best to you and Michael, as you made lasting impressions on them in the few times we were together… Let’s hope that we’ll meet again!

    Love,
    Penny (Dave too)

  2. Maria harrison September 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Hello Lynne,

    so glad I signed up for your blog up dates. It’s been a while but I do often think of you, how you and Michaela re doing. I can tell SM was a terrific choice for you. Enjoyed reading about your trip to Sayulita, What a delightful couple you have met and mutually adopted !
    I can see from the pics Oliver has no problem relaxing…

    Maria

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