Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bistro Los Senderos


Today, being a beautiful sunny Sunday, Todd and I decided to do something different. We drove out to Los Senderos ( the trails ) and had brunch at the Bistro there. Surrounded by 300 acres of untouched rolling hills, the view was spectacular. The restaurant is mostly outside but is walled with glass and the lower end is covered, should there be inclement weather. The upper patio area is built around two giant old trees whose limbs spread wide covering the entire area with sun-dappled shade.



Bistro, Center Patio


In the back, roofed but walled with glass, is the bar which overlooks the garden. The whole restaurant area is surrounded by beautiful cactus gardens but this particular one is of the organic vegetable variety.



Bar in Bistro Los Senderos


I thought the food was wonderful, all obviously very fresh, as so much of it came from the garden right outside the restaurant. Everything is organic and what they don’t grow themselves is purchased from the same organic growers that supply the Saturday organic market at the Rosewood. Saturday Morning in San Miguel

I had an omelet stuffed with mushrooms, asparagus and brightly coloured bell peppers, topped with some mozzarella cheese and a little white daisy. All of this was couched on a bed of crisp lettuce, rainbow chard, thinly sliced rings of red onion and finely shredded carrot. A really beautiful presentation. Todd’s Eggs Florentine were also beautiful, sitting atop a bed of baby spinach, cooked so lightly as to still be bright green. This came with large slices of grilled vegetables, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary.



Eggs Florentine


Right after our food arrived the chef came to our table with another poached egg bathed in hollandaise and told us that one of Todd’s eggs had broken a little and she was afraid it might be a little overdone. Gotta like that! He said everything was perfect, but needless to say, did not turn down the proffered egg. Todd was so pleased when he saw the grilled vegetables that he ate half of them before it occurred to him to take a picture though.



Bistro Garden


The 300 acres of Los Senderos, as  the name infers, is riddled with trails. You can walk, borrow a bicycle or take a tour by horseback. The website says that even your dog is welcome, definitely true, as I noticed someone had brought their German Shepard to lunch. The equestrian area looked very nice and they even offer riding lessons. Although the horseback option is a little pricy, I will definitely do that when I get the okay from the doctor to ride again.



Waiting For A Trail Ride


Garden 2

Cactus Gardens Near The Restaurant




There are a lot of options here for your day in the wilderness. You can arrange a package which includes a guided tour on horseback and then a gourmet lunch at the Bistro, or they will pack you a picnic that you can take along with you or just eat at one of the patio areas around the restaurant.



Nice Spots For A Picnic Lunch




The weather was really perfect today, hot with a nice cool breeze, and I would have loved to have been able to do a little exploring in all that natural mountain desert. Today, however, I had to be satisfied with a walk among the gardens, which I enjoyed immensely. Every time I venture out I discover another reason why San Miguel is such a great place to live!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Little Niggle of Fear

El Buen Fin ad from Liverpool
3 Months Interest Free!

Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Rocío and she told me that this weekend was “El Buen Fin”, Mexico’s version of Black Friday in the USA. I said that I had never heard of this and she told me that this was only the second year that the sale has been in existence. “The times they are a’changin.” As I dropped Rocío off at her home I felt an odd little niggle of fear.

This morning I was reading a post by Joanna, a fellow blogger who writes Writing From Merida, and she too was talking about El Buen Fin in the Yucatán. As Joanna spoke of the throngs of humanity, credit cards at ready, in the big box stores in Merida, I again felt that little niggle of fear.

It seems to me that up until a few years ago most Mexicans had not incurred much personal debt. I admit that I have spent more time in small towns than big cities but now, even in these areas I am seeing a disquieting trend towards the use of credit. The first thing you see upon entering most stores are signs offering free interest for a given amount of time. Next you will be greeted by a smiling face flogging a credit card for that particular retail outlet.

I was gratified to hear that my friend Rocío feels much the way I do about this growing trend. She was shocked when her cousin purchased a new car and entered into a seven year term to pay it off. I told her that this was pretty much standard operating procedure in the USA and Canada, but she was quite vehement in her opinion that this was a very bad thing. She had not even been aware that such agreements existed, which again led me to believe that the average smaller town Mexican has not, until recently, become entangled in the web of debt.

It used to annoy me when the Christmas decorations started to appear too early in Vancouver. Sometimes we would even see them before Halloween. I guess I just wasn’t ready to think about Christmas yet. This year they began to surface in Costco and Wal-Mart in Querétaro and Celaya in early September. I am uncomfortable with the retail industry’s push on the Mexican people to spend spend spend. Perhaps I am over sensitive as I am a refugee of that industry, but again, I feel that little niggle of fear.

I hope that the majority of Mexicans still feel, as Rocío does, that personal debt is a frightening thing to be avoided at all costs. Sadly however, I suspect that I am hoping in vain. I love Mexico and this growing trend toward a broad use of credit worries me a little. I even see credit cards being used in the grocery stores. I would hate to see Mexico go down the same financial road that brought the USA to it’s knees.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Día de los Muertos: Past and Present

Well, the celebrations have all wound down and life has returned to normal. Of course there are still vestiges of the famous “Day of the Dead” celebrations to be seen around town, and in the cemeteries. All in all it was a very different experience for me this year. Having spent the last few years in Patzcuaro, Michoacán, where people come from all over the world to see the Day of the Dead celebrations, I was a little surprised by the rather low-key preparations being made for the big day here in San Miguel.

Certainly the ubiquitous cempasúchil, marigolds, and the rich burgundy coloured coxcomb were in evidence on every street corner in the days leading up to the celebrations. Catrinas, skeletal figurines in lavish outfits, abounded and papel picado, paper banners with designs cut out in shapes of skeletons, coffins, birds and flowers, hung above altars in most stores and homes. The mercados, markets, teemed with sugar skulls and candy animals.


Cavities Waiting To Happen

I think the difference was in the manner in which these objects and events shaped the holiday here. I know that sounds a little obscure, but there is a subtle difference between the San Miguel holiday preparations and those of Patzcuaro, that is hard to explain. In Patzcuaro as Day of the Dead nears, there is a palpable excitement in the town. There is not a vacant hotel room to be found, every restaurant is hopping, the tianguis, a huge market where people from all over Michoacán come to sell their arts and crafts, is in full swing and the plazas throng with visitors, locals and vendors.

20091030_105 (2)

Cempasúchil and Coxcomb, Patzcuaro

On November first, “All Saints Day”, the children who have died are mourned. On that day people who have lost children go to the cemetery to celebrate that short life and commune with the spirit of their lost child. At midnight it becomes “Day of the Dead” and the lost adults are mourned. The cemeteries fill with families and well-wishers and the spirits of lost loved ones are evoked using the smell of the cempasúchil , candles, incense, pictures and favorite belongings, food and drink of the spirits, in life.

Of course there is sadness associated with this, but also happy memories and warm feelings shared by the whole family. In some places in Patzcuaro, such as the island of Janitzio, these congregations can become quite the party.


Cemetery in Patzcuaro

Here in San Miguel the mood was entirely more sedate. I have now come to realize that simply because the people here observe the holiday in a more subdued manner, it does not mean that it is less important to them. In San Miguel the cemeteries close at sunset.  On November first those who have lost children come to the grave sites during the day and on November second, those who have lost adults attend the cemeteries. They come early in the morning and some will spend the day there. These visits here seem a little more quiet and intimate.

I was lucky enough, on November first, to be invited to a restaurant for a very different type of Day of the Dead celebration. One room was set aside for an ofrenda, an altar or offering, and we all brought pictures, candles, candy and marigolds for decoration. We had a wonderful lunch with many of the dishes prepared containing the cempasúchil petals. I had a pumpkin and marigold soup that was absolutely fabulous!


Our Altar in Restaurante El Muro

After lunch we all went to the altar and shared our stories about the pictures of our loved ones, in Spanish, of course. Some were very recent and sad, while others were happy remembrances. It was a lovely way for a group of strangers to share a special day.


Mi Papa

The picture above was my ofrenda to my father, who passed away just before I left Vancouver. However, not everything that day was so somber, as the following pictures will attest.

Day of the Dead, El Muro 084

El Catrin

Day of the Dead, El Muro 091

Enjoying Corn Cake with Rompope

Rompope is sort of like eggnog, but much better!

There were also some other fun events happening for Day of the Dead, like the Desfile de las Catrinas, Parade of the Catrinas. For this one day on November first, the Catrina comes to life. It began at the Rosewood Hotel, and after the costumes and makeup the Catrinas paraded through town to the Plaza Principal where they threw candy to the kids waiting there, and were then judged for best costume.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Catrina, she is a skeletal icon associated with Day of the Dead, and seen everywhere in Mexico. Below is a picture of one of my Catrinas, carved by Enedina Castillo in Tocuaro, and painted by me.

catrina 008

This year we had the first, and possibly the first annual, La Calaca Festival de Arte Y Cultura, The Calaca  ( '”The Skull” ) Festival of Arts and Culture. This went on from November first through fourth and offered a number of great events, including 2 concerts of Andrea Brooks playing the Earth Harp, free in the main plaza.

When all was said and done, Day of the Dead was a very different yet equally enjoyable event this year in San Miguel.