Wednesday, March 27, 2013



A few weeks ago San Miguel de Allende held it’s annual Writer’s Conference. San Miguel has hosted this event for several years and it is well attended by people from all over Mexico as well as the US and Canada. I am told that the speakers were all extremely good and that the lectures and workshops were helpful and informative.

However, although I will likely attend next year, the conference is not the reason that I am writing this post. It is merely the event that began a series of happenstances. One of my favorite blogs is Writing From Merida, written by Joanna Van der Gracht de Rosado who attends the writer’s conference. This year when she mentioned on her blog that she would be in San Miguel, I told her that I would love to meet her if she had any time free from the conference. To my delight she contacted me and we were able to meet.



Joanna was able to find time to join me for dinner twice during the conference so we had a chance to get to know each other a little better. I knew from her blog that Joanna had grown up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, as did I, and that our childhoods had been very similar.

Over martinis at El Pegaso we reminisced about our lives in North Vancouver and discovered that we had both attended Delbrooke Senior High one year apart, had most of the same teachers and knew some of the same kids. As children we had both gone swimming in the pool at Princess Park, across the street from the house where I grew up, and may even have played together.



Life is indeed a curious thing. I discovered that, also like myself, Joanna enjoys drawing and painting. We talked about watercolour pencils, which were entirely new to me. What a great concept! For some reason I have done very little painting since moving to Mexico. I guess my new life here was all-consuming for some time. Everything was new and interesting and I found I had little time for past hobbies.

Since my accident I have not picked up a paintbrush at all. This is sort of surprising as I am not terribly mobile and certainly have more time on my hands these days. My husband Todd was with Joanna and I for our last dinner together at El Pegaso and I guess he saw that the talk of the watercolour pencils had sparked and interest in me that had been laying dormant for some time.


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About a week later he came home with a set of pencils and some watercolour paper. My brushes and painting supplies found their way out of storage and I began to experiment with this new medium. As it turned out the pencils that Todd had bought were Derwent Inktense. They are a water soluble ink pencil. Somewhat different than watercolour and much more vibrant.

This was a whole new ballgame. I went on line to find out how to use this new mystery and not only found someone demonstrating my new pencils, but a plethora of art classes. I have taken classes before and quickly learned the basics but somehow, no matter what I tried, may painting always seemed a little tight. I have always loved watercolour and aspired to paint like Paul Cézanne, but have never managed to achieve that loose, free quality that he, and so many other watercolour artists bring to their work.


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Above is some of my past work. Over the last few weeks I have been experimenting with different tools and different styles.


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I think it is pretty clear that I am never going to be a great artist, but I think I am beginning to see some of the fluidity that has been missing from my work. I don’t know if I will ever really get there, but the journey is great and it’s nice to be painting again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Where Everybody Knows Your Name


Since moving to Mexico there are very few things that I miss from my former life in Canada. I love the lifestyle, the people and the culture here. But there is one thing they do not have. The Neighbourhood Pub.

There are restaurants, bars, nightclubs and old fashioned saloons. But there are no Neighbourhood Pubs. The closest thing I have found here is the bar at Hank’s Louisiana Grill. They play great old music, have 2 for 1 drinks every day from 5:00 PM to 8:00PM and a wonderful staff that always greets us with a smile and a kiss on the cheek. A huge polished wood bar, in authentic British pub style, dominates the room.

You have to get to Hank’s early if you want to get a table as it will be standing room only by 5:30. I will always continue to go to Hank’s, as a matter of fact we are meeting another local blogger friend there tonight for Taco Tuesday, when they offer crunchy Texmex style tacos for 20 pesos each.

Still……it is just not quite the same as the Neighbourhood Pubs of Vancouver. Near our home in North Van, there was the Pemberton Station, the Rusty Gull, Sailor Hagar’s and the Maplewood Inn to name a few.


The Gull at Night

The Rusty Gull


The bartender knew what our beverage of choice would be and it often made it to the table before we did. There was lots of seating so you could almost always expect to get a table. The atmosphere was easy going and convivial. You could shoot a game of pool, play darts, challenge a friend to a game of cribbage or just relax and enjoy the live music that was usually offered in the evenings.


Sailor Hager's, North Vancouver, BC

Sailor Hagar’s


For a wonderful ( and fattening ) lunch, pub fare usually included Shepard's Pie, Steak and Kidney Pie and Cornish Pasties among other tasty and hip-enhancing meals. You could also often get a huge steaming bowl of clam chowder at many of these venues, which was one of my personal favorites. 

Enter Hansen’s Bar and Grill. To San Miguel that is. If I could actually stroll, it would be a short stroll from our house. It is not in “El Centro”. It is not a trendy tourist spot. Although I’m sure the tourists will enjoy it if they find it. It is located at #12 Calzada de la Aurora a few blocks past the Fabrica La Aurora, going towards El Centro.


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Okay, it’s not exactly like a North Vancouver Neighbourhood Pub. It’s in a small Mexican city, in a small Mexican colonia with Mexican staff. Absolutely great Mexican staff! You can get a bucket of 6 beer for 80 pesos, about 6 1/2 or 7 Canadian dollars. The 3 partners are charming and personable and all of the staff are friendly and helpful. Right now they are only open Thursday through Saturday but I hope that they will get enough business to expand that, should they wish to do so.


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Hansen’s Bar


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The menu is small but very well thought out. They offer sandwiches, roast beef, Ruben, turkey or chicken breast, Italian sausage and Ratatouille. You can choose from chapata, multigrain or rye breads and a side of French fries (which I think are the best in town), potato salad or coleslaw. And then there is the pickle. It is the best pickle I have ever eaten.

There are also salads, minestrone soup, soup of the day, garlic bread and desserts. But the absolute best thing on the menu is the chicken liver pate. It is served up with what must be a baseball size ice cream scoop and comes with garlic toast slices.

That, however, is just the menu. Each day they also have a dinner special. Thursday is a pork chop. You may not think that this is very exciting but wait until you see it! It is at least 2 inches thick ( I am not exaggerating ), cooked through perfectly and still juicy. Last Thursday I had it served with linguini in a light fresh tomato sauce with fresh parmesan. I ate my dinner there, made a sandwich the following day, Todd made 2 sandwiches the following day for dinner and I finished off the pasta. Did I mention that this was 98 pesos?

It was all so good that we went back on Saturday for Prime Rib. Really…Prime Rib.


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Now I’m not a Prime Rib fan, but Todd assures me that it was some of the best that he has ever had. I had Tortilla Soup and that incredible Chicken Liver Pate.


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Sorry, I ate half of it before it occurred to me to take a picture. I was hungry. And the soup was wonderful. Just the right amount of spice. Friday is Osso Bucco night which I have yet to try, but I most definitely will.

The restaurant has a small intimate feel but is actually quite large, as there is the main floor, the bar area, a sort of terrace above the bar and another room upstairs, which I have not seen as stairs are not my strong suit these days. Hansen’s motto is “Our specialty is making people who recommend us look good”. Indeed they do.

All in all, Hansen’s Bar and Grill is a welcome addition to our neighbourhood, and sort of fills a small void in our otherwise near perfect lives here in Mexico.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Gallery of Graffiti



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There is Graffiti…..


Several months ago as I was driving into town for something, I noticed a young man painting on a wall in our neighbourhood. I didn’t holler out the window at him, to “stop that”, I didn’t call the police and I didn’t even just drive away and ignore him. I stopped to watch.


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And Then There is Graffiti


He was painting the “graffiti” in the photo above. Amazingly it is still there, untouched. The other more traditional graffiti artists have left it unsullied. Actually it turns out that this fellow is not only talented but quite prolific. His work is starting to pop up all over the neighbourhood.


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Black Beauty


The horse in the photo above appeared a couple of months after the first painting, just around the corner from our house. I love it. You can see the cement on the wall around the horse. This is where other, more traditional graffiti, had been covered up. The city is actually pretty good about coming out and painting, or cementing, over regular graffiti but unfortunately it is usually back within a few days. Not here though. It seems that this new artist commands a certain amount of respect.


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El Lagarto Verde


The next to arrive was this beautiful green lagarto, lizard. He looks like he is about to jump off the wall!


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The newest additions joined the neighbourhood about two weeks ago. Just a couple of blocks from out house, alongside the arroyo, a brick arch straddles the road. On the far side the lizard stands guard, while on this side, the flower lady releases birds on one side  of the road and a Catrina, burdened with bird cages, graces the other.


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I think that this is such a wonderful mode of self-expression. I hope that I will have the opportunity to meet the artist again so that I can thank him for brightening up our neighbourhood.

Many of our local graffiti artists are capable of this kind of street art. We discovered this last December when a gigantic Christmas tree was erected in El Jardin, our main town plaza. Under the tree were huge boxes, representing Christmas presents, painted by some our local street talent. It was all done with spray cans and was really quite impressive.



Christmas Graffiti


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This latest painting, in the above photo, has only been there a couple of days. It is around the corner from the original paintings and I don’t know if it is the same artist or not. There is a definite difference in the style of this painting from the others.

We clearly have some artistic talent here in San Miguel. If more of it could be focused on enhancing public property rather than defacing it, our beautiful city could be more beautiful still.


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