The Road to San Miguel

Published: October 17th 2006
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First off, we’d like to thank our many friends who hosted us in Sunriver, Bend, Sisters, Vancouver and Tucson in September while we made the transition from our travels in South America to Mexico. We couldn’t have done it without you. We’re just sorry we couldn’t make time for everyone.

What a long, long trip it’s been!

We drove from Bend to Tucson in two and a half days, driving through Yosemite National Park. Spectacular scenery, but a bit crowded in the park and overpriced concessionares. While we were in Tucson visitng Rick and Anne, we finalized one of the two requirements to drive our car into Mexico - we purchased Mexican car insurance from a local agent. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s a legal requirement in Mexico. For the second requirement, a temporary import license for our car, we obtained this at the border crossing when we were issued our 180-day tourist visa. The whole process was very organized and easy.

Our first firm destination in Mexico was Nuevo Vallarta where we would finally get to stay in one place for a week - a swanky hotel timeshare. Our friends John and Molly had an expiring timeshare that they graciously offered to us. It took us three days of driving, with stops in Guyamas (325 miles), Mazatlan (498 miles) and in Sayulita (220 miles) to reach Nuevo Vallarta. We traveled on the tolls roads most of the route which are considered safe and fast. In general, the toll roads are in good condition and consist mostly of commercial traffic and gringos. We confirmed to ourselves along the way that we have no interest in any of the coastal towns, which are purely geared for tourists and don’t appeal to us. We were surprised by the landscape along the drive to Sayulita. It was reminiscent of Hawaii, very lush and green, and totally unexpected. Our stay at the Grand Mayan was relaxing, but to be honest, we’re not the type that enjoys sitting around the pool day after day. It really is bothersome to hear drunken Americans sitting at the pool bar calling the bartender, “Hey, Guacamole, another beer!” But since we had spent the winter season in South America, it was our chance to catch up on some hot summer weather. The accommodations were very comfortable and the staff was very friendly. Another benefit was
The Grand MayanThe Grand MayanThe Grand Mayan

Our digs in Nuevo Vallarta
a wi-fi connection where I could email some inquiries for apartment rentals in San Miguel. I subscribed to a Yahoo Group for San Miguel ex-pats and quickly got some leads, including some asking if we could housesit. As it turned out, one resident needed a last minute house sitter to look after his dog while he traveled to Houston for a week. We made plans to meet once we arrived in San Miguel.

From Nuevo Vallarta, we had a ten-hour drive that put us in the colonial city of Guanajuato late Friday afternoon. What a surprise this city was. The city was named a Unesco Cultural Heritage site in 1988. It’s another city that made its wealth from nearby silver mines during the 1500’s. What struck us first were the colorful buildings, and also that the all main roads are diverted to underground tunnels, which allow the streets above for pedestrians only. The city is home to a major university which gives it a youthful feel, and we also arrived at the start of the International Cervantino Festival, a yearly arts festival, with a buzz of it’s own. We enjoyed wandering the winding cobblestone streets marveling at the variety of buildings, the outdoor cafes, and the street performers. Yes, for the first time since we crossed the border, we found the Mexico we were looking for. We were enchanted with the city and decided to stay and explore the city another day. (see nytimes article on this link)

On Sunday we made the hour and a half drive to San Miguel. Our first stop was to meet with the homeowner for our potential housesit gig. We connected with Pierre and agreed to stay at his house starting the following day. It’s a beautiful house he’s designed and has been building over the last 3 years. Our accommodations are a one bedroom, self-contained casita located on the ground floor. As we’re a 20 minute drive from the town center, we head into town in the mornings to search for an apartment and return in the late afternoon to settle in for the evening to take care of the dog at our housesit. The city is a blend of ex-pats and Mexicans. It’s similar to Guanajuato in terms of the architecture, though not quite as dramatic. What we have found is that it’s the character of the people that make this a special place. The ex-pats are very friendly and helpful with many speaking Spanish, and the Mexicans are just as friendly and helpful to the ex-pats. The city hosts numerous cultural events and is home to one of the largest English language libraries in Mexico as well as the Instituto Allende, a fine arts and language school, established in 1950. We’ve found an apartment after hoofing it around town for 3 days and we moved in today, Monday, October 16th. It’s situated in town, on a hill overlooking the city and it’s quite reasonable. We’re on the third floor, with access to a rooftop terrace, and a living room with a gas fireplace and a balcony with a view. The owner is an American woman who owns and lives in the building, has been a resident here for 15 years and works as a realtor. Her Dad lives on the first floor, and former live-aboard boaters like ourselves live on the second floor, so I think we have a nice group. We also have wi-fi internet access and a phone in the apt. We've been using our long distance carrier as they have a Mexico 800 access

Notice the gardener
number, but we'll probably sign up for Skype or a similar internet phone service. We still have our mail service address in Florida collecting our mail and forwarding it to us on request. We’ll probably end up changing that at the end of the year as a number of mail services here offer a similar service with a U.S. mailing address in Laredo, TX for the plentiful gringos living here.

We’ll always welcome guests and can keep an eye out for house-sitting arrangements for anyone who is interested. Just let me know. It’s a pretty common situation here as there are many gringo pet-owners who travel and would prefer not to place their pet in a kennel. The next celebrations here will be the Day of the Dead, on November 2nd, which I’ve read about for years and have been curious about. We’ll keep you posted.

Additional photos below
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17th October 2006

Sounds like fun.
HI Nancy and Dennis, Things are starting to get chilly here in Bend. The warmth of Mexico seems appealing. I'd love to hear some details of the delicious cuisine you are partaking of. We miss you here at OTE Nancy. Had my ultrasound yesterday...19 weeks and the baby looks wonderful. I'll forward the photo. Hugs, Crystal
25th October 2006

Hey guys! It is so nice to finally hear from you! I was so disappointed that I did not get to spend any time with you while you were here visiting the kids. They are doing great by the way! Randall has experienced his first girlfriend and break up, but is quickly moving on and has plans to ask a girl to a dance on Friday. He has acclimated himself to middle school very easily, and of course is getting banner grades. Becca had a rough start this year concerning harrassment from other girls, but of course, I have squashed that. Now she is moving on and doing very well. Angel just went to homecoming and had a terrific time. She enjoys school and is looking forward to getting her drivers permit. And what can I say about Sage? Well the boy is doing good in school, but getting him to clean himself up is like putting teeth! I guess he likes to be the stinky boy nobody wants to sit next to in class! Both boys have joined the cub scouts and boy scouts. They like it a lot and it gives them something to break up time in the middle of the week. Well, gotta go, I miss you all bunches, take good care of yourselves!

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