Tour de Pueblicitas

We’ve secured our apartment in Mexico DF, but the tour continues. In the last week, we’ve visited San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Leon. We’re starting to experience moments of grumpiness – we may have bitten off as much as we can chew. Things that are not perfect include:

  1. A total lack of leafy green vegetables in our diet. If we weren’t eating
    IMG_0181
    Random Alleyway

    so much fruit we may develop scurvy.

  2. Our inept packing – we each managed to pack 50 lbs of gear into our personal suitcase, and have found only ~15lbs of it useful. One bag is damaged from the weight of it all.
  3. Our spanish language skills. We can generally get across what we mean to say, but cannot understand the words of others. So far, we’ve just been assuming they are saying what we expect them to say. That seems to work about 75% of the time, the rest of the time we resort to comical miming or transition to english.
  4. Cultural idiocy: We’re absolutely sure we’re offending left and right with either being too formal or not formal enough in our language and gestures. But it goes both ways. We went to see the mummies of Guanajuato yesterday and ran out of that museum as fast as we could. Our sensibilities were totally shocked by the displays of mummified pubic hair!

All of this is not to complain. We do want to make sure we haven’t painted a picture of us walking blissfully hand in hand, as locals pour tequila and anticipate our every need.

One great thing is to call out is the bus system. We’ve been taking busses between cities. Tickets are generally ~$5 per hour of travel and they are awesome. I’m writing this on a 4 hour ride From Guanajuato to Guadalajara. I’ve got a bag lunch with water, personal entertainment system, wifi, huge comfy seat with footrest and beautiful scenery flying by a huge window. It’s really nice. Greyhound should be ashamed of itself.

But enough commentary, you are here for pictures and descriptions of cities. All that starts now.

San Miguel de Allende

We were lucky enough to stay with some wonderful new friends in SMA that showed us the city (Thanks Yoed and Tasha!). It’s beautiful, calm, and we heard more english there than at any other point on the trip. The town is small enough that the stars come out at night. It’s just as beautiful and iconic as we thought it would be. It’s no wonder so many gringos come to spend the winter or all year there – some call it the Disneyland of Mexico.

We can totally see ourselves living there someday, or at least visiting often. Right now, we want more immersion in Spanish. We’re afraid that we could exist there indefinitely without learning the language.

 Guanajuato

Guanajuato is like a city built on the sides of a canyon. Everything is vertical, so you get fantastic vistas – especially at night. It’s not much bigger than San Miguel, but exists as both a tourist stop and a college town (20K students).

To accommodate all of the traffic, they built tunnels for the cars throughout the city. It is really fun to drive through – except the exhaust fumes are super powerful down there.

We were also able to see Star Wars: The Force Awakenings in a cine super close to our airbnb, on opening night, in english and with about 10 other people in the theatre. $2.50/ticket. For this reason, Guanajuato will always occupy a special place in our hearts!

Leon

We were happy to steal an old friend as a tour guide for the few hours we spent in Leon (Thanks Janna!). Leon is a city of more than a million people known for its leather goods. There is a fabulous mercado across from the bus station, with super high quality goods – we’re talking about fashionable leather jackets, shoes and bags. There’s also tourist crap, but totally go and expect to get great stuff. We’ll have to head back to get some decent pictures.

 

Tour de Pueblicitas

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

Mexico City Report

We love Mexico City and plan to stay here a while. We’ll continue with our tour of several cities (and share our pics), but we’ve put an offer in for an apartment to rent and hopefully it will come through.

Things that surprised us on this trip:

  • Really easy: even with our pitiful spanish, we could do/get everything we wanted
  • Lots of guns: the police here are fully armed, and not all of them look smart/awake
  • The metro is cheap and awesome: 5 pesos to ride the subway means that we don’t need a car
  • We forgot about the pollution: it is real. Especially if you are on a busy street. But not Beijing real, more like LA in the 90’s bad.
  • Fences everywhere: the universidad and all major parks have fences around them. super weird.

In these few days here, we walked over 50 miles, rode the subway 6 times, hailed 3 ubers and one cab. And we haven’t even experienced the beginning of this huge city.

El Centro Historico

Our first couple of nights were booked here. The plaza is supposed to be in the top 3 biggest central plazas in the world: Tienamen Square, Red Square, and here in El Centro. Our airbnb host says this is also the largest ice skating rink in the world.

Here are some pics of the area. Sorry for the weird google+ embed. This is the downside of using all free tools

San Angel

This is a ritzier neighborhood. The mansions in the area were spectacular, but it’s a little rich for our blood.

Roma/Condesa

This is the place that’s calling to us. Hipsters with french bulldogs, everywhere. We’re trying to get this little apartment in a neighborhood called the Hipodromo: named such because it used to be a horse racetrack before it was developed. If all goes well, we’ll be adjacent to Parque Mexico and Roger will be jogging the 1.5 mile loop daily (altitude adjustment required) and Allison will be upside down in the Iyengar yoga studio (if she can understand Sanskrit-Spanish).

We didn’t take many pics of the area, but google image search does it justice

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Once we finally got past all of the fences, this museum was incredible. We spent most of the day and only made it through 1/3 of the spaces. And it’s attached to this ginormous park (Bosque de Chapultapec = ~1700 acres). Tons more here, but here are some pics from us at the museum.

That’s it for now. We’re off to Queretaro next. Then San Miguel, Guanajuato, and finally Guadalajara before we’re done.

Mexico City Report

Launch Day!

Today we set off. We’re not ready at all. Current status:

  • Our cats are in kitty jail for the next 30 days (actually the super swanky Mission:Cats)
  • Allison lost her voice (1st time in her life!) due to some cold-like thing.
  • We signed our house sale docs (The closing is next week)
  • Roger and Allison are in a U-haul somewhere between San Francisco and Las Vegas with all of our worldly possessions. (That’s where we’re storing our shit)
  • We’ve booked exactly 3 days of our 3 week adventure in Mexico. Fortunately these are the first 3 days.

We’ll be flying into Mex City on Saturday. From there we’ll begin our tour of central Mexico, hopefully finding a city where we will settle in January. That’s when we jailbreak the cats and fly them down to join us.

We’ll post more after we land. Meanwhile, here are some pics of the kitties getting put in jail

 

Launch Day!

A big place

We’ve heard: “Mexico is a big place, can you be more specific about where you are going to be living?” Well, no, not really. We don’t know. We’ve not yet been to any of the places we’re considering. But we hear good things.

This may sound like not-a-very-good-plan. But we think it will be fun. Lots of exploring!

Here’s how it will work: We’re spending 3 weeks to find the first landing spot in our adventure. After this exploratory trip, we’ll come back to the states to get our cats and household goods. We’ll then settle somewhere for at least a few months.

We want to be in an area with a strong city center, very walkable, with lots of things to do and fast internet. Here’s the list of current contenders:

  • Mexico City
    • why it might be great: incredibly big and diverse, direct flights everywhere
    • why it might not: expensive, gridlock, pollution, income inequality, possible groping in buses(?)
  • Querataro
    • why it might be great: rated the safest and highest quality of life in Mex.
    • why it might not: expensive
  • San Miguel
    • why it might be great: cheap to live, active expat community, beautiful
    • why it might not: small, gentrification
  • Guanajuato
    • why it might be great: a pedestrian’s city, beautiful,  tunnels
    • why it might not: maybe too small
  • Cuernavaca
    • why it might be great: cheap to live, clearly spoken spanish, close to Mex City
    • why it might not: ???
  • Guadalajara
    • why it might be great: cheap to live, tech center, really big/diverse, tequila and mariachis, direct flights back to the states
    • why it might not: Cartel de Nuevo Jalisco
302c
Guadalajara to Mexico City is ~350 miles.

Of course, we know nothing until we’ve been there. We’d love to hear from anyone who has! As we go through these cities in December, we’ll post our reports here.

A big place

Goodbye San Francisco, Hello Mexico

An Announcement

We’ve quit our jobs, sold our house and are moving to Mexico.

Let’s get this out of the way first – it’s not because of the politics. We love hearing from the candidates and receiving the ads in the mail. If we could have stuck around for another year of it, we totally would have.

The place we live(d). Very San Francisco. The cable car runs just one block away

Why? WTF?

It’s for the adventure, or a way of downsizing our lives, or a mid-life crisis (that came early, of course). We’re not really sure, to be honest. Because it’s possible.

We want many things from this adventure. We want to gain some command of the Spanish language. We want to immerse ourselves in a different culture, outside of our comfort zone. We want to live more simply, with less stuff and more time. We want to eat some major tacos.

So we’re doing it. Next month. December.

We’ll follow up with another post soon about how the next couple of months is going down.

Goodbye San Francisco, Hello Mexico