Pharr Away – Q3

Roger and I have been in Mexico City for 10 months now. Seems about time for our quarterly report. Here’s what’s new:

Is this a sabbatical or what?

Now that we’re about to round out the year, the whole “we’re on sabbatical” thing is wearing a bit thin. The truth is there’s so much more adventuring to do, this whole living abroad thing is a lot more doable than we expected, and we can (since we’re US citizen, don’t need much, and have the savings).  Since we can, we’ll keep it up for as long as we can!  We might be retired or we might be retraining for another career. We’ve kinda slid off the map of normal adult milestones and there aren’t many role models for us to reference (although there are a few), so it’s kinda hard to tell. 

For now, our lives are all about learning Spanish and projects!  My newest obsession is turning used clothes and scraps into other (hopefully) useful stuff. (See a pic of my latest quilt below.) It’s made of my brothers and my childhood clothes, which Mom had been holding onto for (ahem) 30-40 years. I persuaded her to part with them if I turned them into a quilt for my nieces.  We’ll see where this goes.  I have a fantasy involving making quilts and other stuff to raise funds for nonprofits. Something like “Quilting for Good.” For now, I plan to strong-arm friends and family into releasing old clothes to me so I can make them warm, cozy, time-travel blankets.

Would we move back to Mexico City?

Here’s something Mexico City taught us. We love cities, but a city can be too BIG for us (para nosotros).  Mexico City is a city of 25 million people and 600 square miles (that’s just the city proper, not including all the suburbs). Compare that to San Francisco–under 1 million people and 49 square miles.  It takes a seriously journey to leave Condesa (where we live) in the center of Mexico City.  That means if we want to leave the city, to be in nature, for example, it’s an overnight affair.  So living in the center of Mexico City means being city-locked, which is great sometimes. But ideally, I’d like to be able to hop a train and take a hike in the same day. Enter Valencia, Spain (see below).

Other than that, yeah, we’d move back to Condesa or Roma in a heartbeat.  But first, get us to the beach!…

What’s next?

  • We’ll be saying a fond “adios” to Mexico in December, and spending Christmas and New Year’s in Colorado and Nevada.
  • Heading to Valencia, Spain in late January. We fell in love with Valencia when we visited in August (see pics below). It’s a city of 1 million on the mediterranean with super picturesque narrow alleys, very cool street art, a dry river converted to a long narrow park running through the city (El Rio), a well-developed bikeshare, and a train or ferry to anywhere you’d want to go in Europe or North Africa. Come visit! We should be there most of 2017.
  • Our friend, Erin Moore, will be visiting next week for Day of the Dead.  Can’t wait to put on some sugar skull makeup and show her around! 

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Pharr Away – Q3

Querétaro Report

Tldr: Querétaro is beautiful and said to be the safest city in Mexico, but not where we’ll call home.

First off, old town of Querétaro is beautiful.  The place wasn’t declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for nothin’.  That’s the city of Querétaro (full name is Santiago de Querétaro), not the state of Querétaro we’re talking about.  The colonial streets were built on a grid with lots of plazas, fountains, and churches; they seem to go on forever until they don’t.  If you keep walking the charming narrow streets turn into wide car-dominated clouds of exhaust with barely a metrobus in sight.  This is where we get hung up.  Roger and I created a list of criteria to evaluate the cities we might call home:

  • Walkable?  
  • User-friendly public transportation?
  • Lots to do?
  • Fast wifi?
  • Time/distance to airport?
  • Lively city center?
  • Rentals available?
  • Pet store with cat supplies?
  • Weather/pollution?
  • Bonus points for running path, yoga studio, etc.

While old town (el centro histrico) is very walkable, it doesn’t seem very livable. One needs a car or taxi to get to a grocery store (or mercado), pet supply store, etc.  Since we’re hoping not to buy a car; that’s a miss for us. Also, while the place is steeped on Mexican history (our lovely guide Martina McLenehan gave us a taste) and the plazas/parques are great for people watching, we didn’t find the present day culture calling to us the way Condesa did.  And el centro is super touristy, packed with people and feels very contrived. (Since I’m now an authority on Mexican culture I obviously know what contrived Mexican culture is when I see it!)

To be fair, Querétaro might never have had a fighting chance to begin with. Since Condesa felt so familiar and cozy we might have arrived with our minds already made up.  It might also be that a diet of primarily cheese and fried tortillas (no fruits and vegetables to speak of) for eight days and spotty wifi has made me incredibly grumpy—more grumpy than anyone who voluntarily chose this amazing adventure possibly has the right to be.  I don’t want the re-con part of our trip to be over, but I am dying for a huge spinach salad and a tall glass San Francisco tap water with lemon.  What an entitled gringa!

Anyway, we shall see.  The true test will be our next cities (San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Guadalajara).

Here are a few pics of gorgeous centro historico de Querétaro:

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Querétaro Report