crazy days

 crazy daysSunday June 19 was truly a crazy day. (See how late this entry is? —I’m still recovering.) Here’s a little ditty about the same holiday a few years back, when we were in a different location…

—–
At 5:54 am on the second Saturday in June, I am catapulted out of sleep by a brass band playing under my window. Several trumpets, a trombone, a large marching band bass drum and an actual tuba for the requisite oom pah pahs. Oh, yes, can’t forget the cymbals. A dozen pair, by the sound of it.

It’s not, alas, a romantic serenade. (Such a suitor would be summarily dismissed.) It’s the day before el Dia de los Locos, San Miguel’s yearly celebration of Saint Anthony of Padua and lunacy in general. This Sunday in June is reserved for crazy people. The entire town, and then some, participates.

For the hip, there are two places to be in San Miguel on Locos Sunday: in the parade or watching it. If you’re in the milling mile or so of costumed revelers and flatbed floats with blaring, competing soundtracks, you dance across town all morning and into the afternoon. Of course, in your foam and felt frog/fat lady/ex-president costume, there is a risk of heat exhaustion. But, you get to pelt spectators with candy, which makes it all worthwhile.

If you’re watching the parade, you may be in the crushing two-meter thick throng on each side of the road (a human wave of people that police officers have to keep pushing back so that the show can literally go on). If you’re into efficiency, you’ll be holding an upside-down umbrella above your head as a candy catcher/shield, which can also be used as a parasol if you ever get over your sugary greed. Or, you might be one of the privileged with balcony or rooftop seats, watching the colorful chaos from on high, with a mid-morning beer in hand and perhaps wearing a funny hat. Uncool option number three.

Or, you could be lame, like me, holing happily up in your (momentarily) quiet house. (The parade is downtown now, and, amazingly, out of earshot.) Around one in the afternoon, you might suddenly laugh out loud (startling the dogs) when you imagine just how horrific traffic’s going to be for the next couple of hours. And you’re so peacefully chez you! But the Locos will get the last laugh. If you live in Colonia San Antonio, like me, you didn’t sleep well last night (even before the band) and you won’t again tonight. Not for a couple more days.

The cuetes (gargantuan bottle rockets from Hell), which first woke you a couple of hours before the band, will start again late this afternoon, continue sporadically all day tomorrow, and on into Monday, with a few more artillery-style early-morning crescendos. Sunday evening after the parade, there’ll be a big, loud baile at the San Antonio church (sadly only two blocks away). The music will reverberate off your pots and pans and rattle your windowpanes ‘til the early morn. Around three a.m., you’ll be up Googling industrial-strength earplugs.

And then, after two days of madness, just for good measure (right as you’ve finally fallen asleep, most likely), there’ll be another fusillade of cuetes around dawn on Monday morning. (This one, at least, I understand. Monday morning being a concept highly worth protesting.)

 crazy days

local locos

Meanwhile, outside my bedroom at 5:55 a.m. on the day before Locos day, the insanity has just begun. Rilke, my spoiled, reared-in-the-U.S.A. dog, is terrified of loud noises (and thus extremely ill-equipped to live in Mexico). During the cuetes a few hours ago, he was under my bed, whining operatically. Now he’s at the window, barking wildly at the band. I would bark too, if I thought they would hear me.

Once my heart resumes its customary pace, I get up and stumble across the room to close the window. I’m laughing, because it’s the only possible sane response. By the time I get there, the band has stopped playing. (Gracias a Dios!) As the sky begins to lighten, the musicians sip cups of hot spiked ponche offered by the neighbors as ritualistic “thank you for waking us up” gesture. As they launch into a spirited, carnivalesque encore, I fall back into bed with several pillows over my head. Then, at last, they oom pah pah off to rouse somebody else.

 crazy days

a young Mexicana shows her true colors

I’m lucky—at least my street wasn’t their first stop. But really, I can’t complain — it’s all part of the ongoing raucous technicolor celebration that is San Miguel de Allende.


Viva Mexico!

xoxo,

Casita de las Flores

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
www.casitadelasflores.com

Stunning, world-famous B & K* in lovely and lively San Miguel


*A B&K is a Bed & Kitchen — like a B&B, but more affordable, more fun, and with a kitchen!

the triscuit tally takes off!

 the triscuit tally takes off!

triscuit beauty shot

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO—Sanmiguelenses are amazed at one local B&K’s tasty marketing breakthrough: The Triscuit Tally.

Throwing caution to the wind, five intrepid travelers have braved the beyond-intimate scrutiny of TSA* bearing WMD’s (Wafers of Massive Deliciousness**)—all to participate in Casita de las Flores’ one-of-a-kind marketing scheme.***

The news has sent multinational corporations scrambling to adopt a cracker mascot of their own.

“This strategy could revolutionize the way people do business–and snack,” says Joe Suit, CEO of Promotions R US, a marketing think tank in Petaluma, Florida. “Betcha Bill Gates is bummed Triscuits are taken. Wheat Thins just don’t have the same archetypal emotional resonance.”

“Our focus groups have good things to say about Ritz crackers, but it’s nothing like the Triscuit phenomenon,” he added.

* Not to mention the goofy customs stoplights at the Mexico airport (pray for green!)
** Triscuits are a fully legal, importable item. Hint hint. (If they do get confiscated, which is oh-so unlikely, it’s only cause the customs guy is a fellow wafer lover.)
***Wondering what the heck we’re talking about? See “about us” on our website: www.casitadelasflores.com

—-

So, there you are.

To our five (count ‘em, five!) Triscuiteers—thanks from the bottom of our hearts and tummies!! (See the actual tally to the right.)

We love you!

Yum,

Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen)
www.casitadelasflores.com

—Your best value (and most fun) alternative to
expensive San Miguel de Allende hotels and B&B’s

 


the holidays in san miguel de allende


img 0029 15 the holidays in san miguel de allende

Neighborhood altar to la Virgen de Guadalupe on our back street.

 the holidays in san miguel de allende

Notice the snacks left out for our Lady

As 2009 draws to a close, we’d like to give thanks to all of the wonderful people who’ve come to stay with us over the last seven years. Mil gracias for your company and your support. We hope you’ll all be back.

It’s been a slow year, tourism-wise. (Of course, we’ve been busy fixing up the place, revamping the website, and even getting on FaceBook.) Based on advanced reservations for winter and early spring, the general situation seems likely to improve in 2010. Yay! (So book early!)

Let’s hope things get better for everyone who’s suffering economic hardship right now.

December in San Miguel is yet another month of fiestas. December 12 was the day of the virgen (the Empress of Mexico, in case you didn’t know). It’s a day and night of altars, neighborhood processions and parties, and yet another night of cuetes (monster bottlerockets, set off all night long, and culminating in a dawn crescendo. Sleep is overrated.)

Then there are the late-December Posadas, neighborhood open houses with candles and altars, and pilgrims aplenty going ’round asking for room at the inn (and getting ponche and other goodies, if not a bed). Don’t forget midnight mass. Christmas is a really big deal in Catholic Mexico, of course.

Then, there’s New Year’s Eve—it’s literally a blast in San Miguel. Apart from private and public parties and dinners and such (with the good-luck ritual of eating one grape for every midnight chime of the clock), there’s the public blow-out in the jardin, or main plaza.

We look forward to this night every year. Nearly everyone in town—young and old, rich and poor, locals, expats and visitors alike—gathers in the jardin for live music and dancing, funny hats, and even a bit of drinking.

At midnight, there’s a big fireworks display, and castillos are lit (large firework-encrusted structures that whiz and hum and pop and eventually burn up, sending out light, sparks and clouds of joyful smoke, as well as shooting flaming spinning projectiles into space, to much clapping).

Other festive fire hazards include gorgeous three-foot long sparklers waving everywhere. (But really, it’s quite safe, very fun, and very Mexico.) The dancing and drinking goes on ’til quite early in the new year. Eventually we all stumble home, usually singing, to sleep it off.

What could be better than a huge, loud, jovial, communal celebration of the new year, a new beginning? (Especially with sparklers and funny hats—it just doesn’t get any better than that.)

No invitation required—just get there well before the witching hour to stake out a spot to see and be the show (comfortable shoes and a warm coat are essential, says me.)

And, after that spectacular night, we begin looking forward to Spring, which starts in February here, thank you very much. The weather has now gotten chilly at night and in the morning, but we still have warm sun most every day. (The nearby hot springs are fab on winter mornings!) We know we really can’t complain about the climate here, but we still can’t wait for primavera.

Casita de las Flores wishes you all the happiest of holidays, filled with peace, warmth, joy, love, and maybe even a couple of nice presents. And a new year overflowing with prosperity and cool travel plans.

ho ho ho,

Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen)
www.casitadelasflores.com
Your best value (and most fun) alternative to
expensive San Miguel de Allende hotels and B&B’s

PS. See you soon…

(real) life in san miguel

img 27765 (real) life in san miguel

a thing of beauty is a joy forever (or at least until it breaks)

 

The first installment in our new, ongoing series.
(Only a couple of months late…)


Today was a Red Letter Day, a Day of Great Accomplishment, a Day to Remember.

Fortune smiled upon me. I feel vindicated, fulfilled, extremely lucky (blessed, even), and a bit tired.

Today I got windshield wiper blades for my car. That work.

If you think this is a minor achievement, you’ve never lived in the third world. Read on…


Their predecessors were in sad shape. The driver’s side had lost its rubberness altogether and screeched alarmingly on the glass. The other trailed a rubber ribbon loosely up and down like a squiggly black tail. (The San Miguel sun cooks things, pronto.) As the rainy season loomed, then tentatively began, then inundated us, I pondered my problem.

Back in April, I had stopped by Billy’s, my mad expat mechanic, to ask where I might find replacements. In his oil-stained blue coveralls, he clutched his stomach and laughed heartily, torso bobbing back and forth. When he got his breath back, he said “you’ll never find ones to fit a Japanese-made car here. You’ll have to have them sent down from the states.”

Daunted for a month or so, I finally decided to give it a shot, silly or not.

It only took two weeks and six visits to five stores (some open during published working hours, others not). And, I only had to buy four different kinds in order to find the one that worked.

In my quest, I circumnavigated SMA (a Formidable Task, in itself), visiting all the refaccionarias I could locate. No small feat, as my search involved waiting for a non-rainy day so that I could see while driving, dodging eight-year old unlicensed drivers, idling not-so-patiently behind taxis who refuse to ever, ever pull over when loading and unloading, swerving around tourists chatting in the middle of the street, and having to find parking (horrors!) at my destinations, which may or may not be open.

No luck.

As a last resort, I tried at what I call the Mega Eyesore (our new, terribly modern, not-at-all-colonial Mega Comercial Mexicana superwarehousegrocerystore.)

Amazingly enough, they had 11 different kinds of blades to choose from. For a good twenty minutes, I sat on the floor, inspecting the selection. (Getting some stares. This is simply not done here—but I’ll be damned If I’m going to take the tedium of comparing overpriced pieces of rubber standing up.)

Time for a romantic (if unrealistic) flashback to the good old US of A: Drive to nearby auto parts superstore. Enter the air-conditioned, tire-scented establishment. Ask friendly uniformed salesperson for windshield wipers for a 96 Nissan. She or he types a bit and the computer spits out 43 options. Choose one set, take them home and they fit!

Ok, maybe I’m embellishing a bit. Perhaps the salesperson is really a clueless, apathetic, malnourished teenager who just got fired from Burger Barn and actually knows less about automotive supplies than I do—supposing the latter is possible. But there would be somebody else to ask, I just know it. (Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been out of the States for a long while.)

So, back to the Mega.

Of course, not one of any of the available wiper blades actually claimed to fit the make and model of my car. So, I had to wing it. After much careful deliberation (I really should have gone to jury duty when they called me up, way back when. I would have been good at it), I chose four different blades that seemed, in some indefinable way, more compatible with my car than the others.

Yes, I could have enlisted the help of my friend and his pendulum, to make matters simpler… “Is it this one?” we ask. The pendulum’s swing says: “no way!”

But if I get hassled at Mega for bringing in my water bottle so it doesn’t hit a full boil in the car, I can only imagine what they’d do over a full new-age divination ceremony in aisle 36, even without the incense.

Armed with my four sample contenders, I asked the check-out girl if I would be able to return the ones that didn’t fit. After a few segundos of blank staring, she went to ask Someone in Charge. The verdict was: “yes, if the packaging is in good shape.”

Great. I shelled out about thirty dollars and took ‘em all home. With the utmost care, I opened them and tried them, one by one.

As only one type came with directions, written in fluent, universal, incomprehensible manual-ese, I spent about an hour trying them all on the car.

I was getting discouraged. I tried each type a million ways—upside down, right side up, backwards, forwards, with and without the extra plastic doohickey. So far not so good.

I got good grades in school, I thought. I run a business. My father is an engineer. Surely I can figure this out.

Finally, I closed my eyes and asked the great autoparts god(dess) for guidance. Taking a deep breath, I tried the final candidate upside down and backwards. And, lo and behold, the damn thing clicked on. After some more tinkering, I even got the claspy thing to close.

A massive thrill of accomplishment filled me, similar to making it to the top of Mount Everest, finishing the great pan-American novel, or finding a legal parking space in the centro on a Saturday afternoon in July.

I pulled an old bottle of water out from under my seat and doused the windshield. (My car’s spritzers stopped working long ago, after I made the mistake of putting San Miguel’s calcium-laden tap water in the tank. “You did what?” asked Mechanic Billy, guffawing—I amuse him quite regularly.) I said a little prayer to Santa Funciona (the patron saint of things that work), bit my lip and hit the lever.

It was a thing of beauty. After a month of not driving when it rains, or of chancing it and looking at the moving world through a perilously impressionistic lens, the sainted plastic blade made a gorgeous, lazy arch and left half of my windshield as clear as…well, as glass. I could see! I could drive in any weather!

Now I only had to get its mate, and return the runners-up. Easy, right?

Nope. Of course, policies had changed during my 18-hour absence from Mega.

We don’t take returns on these.” Said the woman, dismissing me and turning to chat with her co-workers.

No. Wait.” I said, panicking. “I specifically asked and was assured that you would.” Three big pairs of eyes turned and stared at me from behind the customer service desk. (Around here return policies are as rare as snow. And almost nobody insists—they’re accustomed to being denied and take it with grace and honor. But not me—I come from the land of the squeaky, ungraceful wheel.)

I was told I would be able to return these,” I insisted. “I just bought them yesterday.” Getting nervous, Customer Service Lady radioed somebody from the auto department, who confirmed that yes, they most certainly do NOT take returns on wiper blades.

But look,” I went on, pointing at my careful glue job. “The product is brand new, the packaging is perfect. You can’t even tell they were opened.”

No dice.

Having no other option, I launched into the full, unexpurgated tale of buying four different kinds to see which would work and how my audacious plan had been Approved by Mega Officials, and how it’s a matter of safety, and how I would now really, really just like to buy the other wiper blade, and get on with my life of safe rain driving, etc.

I think she relented just to shut me up. (Whatever works.) I thanked her kindly and went for the matching wiper, dodging eight-year-olds playing bumper carts and swerving around tourists chatting in the middle of the aisles.

And the matching wiper blade was still there. (Amazing.)

The excitement was too much—I couldn’t wait until I got home. In the sun-blazed parking lot, after a bit of fumbling, I attached the other blade and gently laid it back down. I petted it, “Nice wiper. Nice wiper.” Got out the windshield water bottle, squirted the glass, flicked the switch, crossed my fingers, and then—oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you—their gentle, cleansing duet.

A thing of beauty.

Ahhhhh.” I stood, grinning and hugging myself in the Mega parking lot, admiring my prodigious triumph.

It was a golden moment. I drove home with the clearest of windshields, eagerly anticipating the next downpour.

Of course, it hasn’t rained since.

—-

So, when are you coming to visit?

xo,

Casita de las Flores
Rules San Miguel de Allende Hotels and B&Bs

www.casitadelasflores.com

PS: Always on the cutting edge, Casita de las Flores is inaugurating a revolutionary new marketing scheme. The Triscuit Tally. Each box of wonderful woven wheat wafers that makes it down here will represent one person who found this story, read the whole thing without falling asleep (maybe) and who then made it all the way to the Casita. Keep up with the Triscuit Tally here, on our very own blog.

notes from abroad: perspective gained as innkeeper-turned-guest

— or —

the view from the other side of the check-in desk: the fine art of lodging reviews

 

 notes from abroad: perspective gained as innkeeper turned guestFortunately, it doesn’t happen often, but yes, we do get the occasional complaint and have received a couple of not-very-nice reviews. My favorite is from a Brit who ignored our detailed arrival instructions (which have been efficiently bringing guests here for nine years), failed to tell us when he would be arriving, and had apparently lost the carefully-made location map we sent him.

He had to (gasp!) ask for directions. A friendly local he had accosted actually brought him to our door. And, since we didn’t have an ETA, he had to wait a bit to be checked in.

To me, this would make for a fun travel story. To him, it was The End Of The World. He was very upset upon arrival and would not accept my repeated apologies, even though his discombooberation was no fault of ours. Said gentleman later wrote an online review, titled “Charming comfortable place – but really poor organisation.” (He also dissed my lovingly made map…)

There are those who simply shouldn’t travel. (Or maybe, they should only vacation in the first world.)

People get lost, wires get crossed, planes, trains and buses get delayed—stuff simply happens. (More often than not, in the third world.) It’s an integral part of what real travel is. If mishaps are so traumatic, it’s probably best to stick to cruise boats (assuming there are no icebergs around, that is). Or, just stay home, where everything is nice and safe and predictable.

Still, every single dissatisfied guest hurts, even the unreasonable ones. I’ve been trying to thicken my skin, without noticeable results. Recently, however, a friendly guest helped me put it all in perspective. We were sitting in the patio, talking about the Casita and the subject of Tripadvisor came up. I told her my concerns. “Oh, we don’t pay attention to every malcontent,” she said. “We look at all the reviews and try to get an overall picture.”

Whew!

Of course, the Casita isn’t perfect (trust me, nobody knows better than i) and we do sometimes make mistakes. But, we care and we try—two attitudes that are not exactly omnipresent in today’s business world. (Have you flown with a U.S. airline recently?)

For the price and for what you get—and, more importantly for what you don’t get—i have to say that Casita de las Flores is absolutely fabulous! Consider a recent travel experience of my own:

(It made for what i think is a fun story.)

—-

I’m traveling in Costa Rica and paying more than $45 US for a single room with this view:

 notes from abroad: perspective gained as innkeeper turned guest
Please note the homey touches, such as
 notes from abroad: perspective gained as innkeeper turned guest
junk heap on abandoned parking lot ringed by razor wire
 notes from abroad: perspective gained as innkeeper turned guest
blinding all-nite streetlight, and the busy thoroughfare behind.

Turns out that calle is San Jose’s Avenida Central (guess what that means–yes, mucho traffico). Another detail perhaps not visible in the photo—the razor wire on the fence and the camera aimed at my windows. (Nothing gives you that warm, fuzzy, at-home feeling like a security camera.)

The room itself is pretty nice, if bare. It’s in a 1930’s home near downtown San Jose. The tile in the hallway is gorgeous and the room has hardwood floors (tons of hardwood around here) and huge arched windows, but…there is a sad, dismal, depressing fluorescent (ack!) energy-saver bulb in overhead lamp. Makes me think (rather vividly) of movie interrogations. Or insane asylums. (PS: we do use energy saving bulbs at the Casita, but only the modern, bright, warm, fuzzy-light bulbs)

Meanwhile, my Costa Rica windows have no curtains, just tropical-looking bamboo-type blinds which no longer open unless you roll them by hand and try to tie them off with dangling bits of erstwhile pull cord. But really, this is a blessing, given the view.

At night, I am living in a Film Noir, with bright yellow 4000-watt stripes zig zagging across the bed and back wall. In order to sleep, I must carefully position my head where the bit of wall between the windows blocks the all-night streetlight blazing in.

In the morning, I wake up at 6:00 am, squinting and roasting in stripes with hot sun pouring in. Also, the unscreened windows must be kept closed to block at least part of the noise from the small freeway just beyond the junk heap. (Hot, hot, hot, and stuffy.) And, saddest of all, for me–no fan, ceiling or otherwise. No moving air in the tropics, in a room whose windows are far better closed. (PS: each room at the Casita has a working ceiling fan, and a heater, for winter).

A bonus: squeakiest bed imaginable. Cannot even think of moving without unmusical accompaniment.

Not to be PI (politcally incorrect), but I’m guessing it’s owned by absentee landlords, who are probably blind (straight) men. Very low on creature comforts or atmospheric touches. When decorating the Casita, at least, I imagined myself sleeping in the rooms, cooking in the kitchen, sitting on the patio—and I tried to include the (affordable) comforts I would need, were I my guest. (Unfortunately, the Jacuzzi was a bit out of our price range, and there just wasn’t anywhere to put private baths, or I woulda.)

Ok, so apart from the hardwood floors and cool hall, my room kinda sucks, aesthetically speaking. But the people are very nice and the sheets are clean. There’s wifi. All in all, it’s been a safe, comfortable home base for my forays into town.

So, guess what? I am not going to go online and give them a bad review. I shall give the desk person some friendly, annoying suggestions (that will most likely be ignored) and be on my way. Tolerance is a beautiful thing, yes? (She says after venting to complete strangers.)

But really, it’s not their fault. I take responsibility for my aesthetic sensitivities and will simply have to pay more to get the little things that make me comfortable.

One more thing.

This is for the cranky guy who complained to the universe at large (on Tripadvisor) about the detailed Casita map (lovingly and personally drawn and written by yours truly, then photocopied with care).

The map of San Jose provided by the hotel is an antique. And not in a good way. Borrowed from somewhere (in the early seventies, I’m guessing), it is at least an 8th generation photocopy. No black in evidence, only grey and white.

Someone tried, though. He or she went in and pasted numbers on a handful of places of interest (half the time, however, the number blots out the name and/or shape of the edifice it marks).

Somewhere along the Xerox chain, the numbers in the key describing what each place actually is have conveniently been cut off. So the map numerals remain mysterious symbols obscuring unknown landmarks that you simply must see.

(Or maybe it’s a travel game: identify the building and match the number with the description. Hours of fun for the entire family.)

After an hour or so of inept circling whilst searching for a recommended restaurant, with blood sugar dangerously low, I try showing the map to locals, asking how to get there from here. I might as well have a map of downtown Hong Kong in my hands. The helpful Josephinos try, but are unable to decipher it.

Of course, most of the time, they don’t even know what street we’re on. This is one of the many charms of Costa Rica. People do not use street addresses. They speak in landmarks…”The hardware store? It’s 500 meters west of the whatsit.” (Which is fine if you know where the whatsit is…)

Complain about OUR place, our map will you? Why I oughtta….

But it’s all good. Great, actually.

Don’t worry, be happy­—we’re traveling, what luck! Do you realize what a small percentage of people on the planet actually have this luxury? (If you do know that number, please tell me cause i’d love to know.)

Pura vida,

Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen)
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico budget accommodations

www.casitadelasflores.com

Summer in San Miguel

img 19801 Summer in San Miguel

Weather’s ideal, wish you were here.

Well, the weather here is so perfect, it’s approaching obscene. The monsoon rains finally started a few weeks ago, but we’ve gotten a week or so off. Many glorious, not-too-hot, sunny technicolor-blue-sky days. And the clouds—elaborate white confections floating benignly above. Ahhhhh. Never happy, of course, we locals now start itching for the standard afternoon downpours, whose drama squeegees the soul and leaves our world brand new.

Global weirding is taking its toll. Used to be you could set your watch by the summer clouds. From late June ‘til early September, at four p.m. on the dot, the sky would suddenly turn deepest, darkest grey and open up, making rivers of streets, dropping temperatures by at least ten degrees, and stranding visitors and locals alike under the arches around the Jardin. (I once lost my flip-flops trying to cross Umaran Street in a July downpour. They just sped down the hill, little black speedboats on the stream. Being in a hurry in Mexico never seems to work.)

Now the weather’s a bit quirky. Last year, we had a mini-winter in July. Grey skies and rain all day and most of the night for a couple of weeks. It got cold(ish). (We may be in Central Mexico, but at 6,000 feet, the sun has a lot to do with the general balminess.)

This year, however, has been gorgeous. We’ve gotten a good amount of rain and lots of cerulean skies—but nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen each day. We look up at the sky, gauging the clouds’ intentions. We wonder whether or not to water the garden, wash the coche. “Can I leave the sweater at home?” We ask ourselves. “Or will an afternoon shower leave me shivering under an arch somewhere?”

We’re also still waiting for our usual freak summer hailstorm, which leaves trees denuded, cars in full leaf, and the streets looking like a blizzard passed. For ten minutes, you can see your breath. Then, the sun comes out again, the ice is gone as quickly as it came and we have yet another glorious sunset.

Such is Summer in San Miguel: fickle, dramatic, beautiful.

Meanwhile, absolutely everything is blooming. The bougainvillea has gone berserk. Red, gold and fuchsia flowers tumble everywhere. The Huele de Noche (smells-at-night) Jasmine drenches the courtyard with scent. Birds are chirping and procreating like the world’s about to end. Butterflies and hummingbirds abound. Tree leaves are all shiny and the air is clean and golden enough to rival the South of France. (Even the omnipresent Mexican dust has taken a hiatus.) Our avocados are ripening, turning dark, plump and yummy. In the campo, the wildflowers are rioting, ahead of schedule.

The ubiquitous fecundity is contagious—even the bricks in the patio are sprouting green, while the high Mexican desert does its best Hawaii impersonation. The nights are blacker, the stars brighter, and the moonlight is blinding. Even peoples’ dreams are running riot, sending out tendrils that snake into waking life and bear fruit.

Tell me again, why aren’t you here?

xo,

Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen
www.casitadelasflores.com
Your best value (and most fun) alternative to
expensive San Miguel de Allende hotels and B&B’s

__________

This just in: in the couple of days that I procrastinated posting this, we’ve had a wonderful all-night rain, complete with a temporary brown-out. (always entertaining) And today, at four on the dot, it sprinkled while the sun shone. As I write, the sky is grumbling—another delicious rainy night may be on its way. And tomorrow will be glorious.

Violence in Mexico — The Real Story

ilovemexico Violence in Mexico — The Real Story

'nuff said

Safety in Mexico is suddenly a hot topic, thanks to the U.S. mass media (and, in part, to the drug cartels). Unfortunately, a lot of what these sources report is less than accurate. Or at least, it’s only accurate for a tiny portion of a very large, very pacific country.

Most of Mexico is safer than much of the US, in fact. Yes, there is drug-related violence in Mexico. (Where isn’t there? And how does it compare to, say, downtown Chicago or L.A.?) It is a problem, of course, but a very concentrated one — affecting specific areas, and specific people (generally those involved with the trade). It is not all over Mexico, and it’s not in San Miguel.

Of course, not all Sanmiguelenses are angels. Someone might overcharge you. You could get your pocket picked in a crowd. And you don’t want to valuables lying around (ie: cell phones and ipods on café tables, or your purse dangling on the back of your chair at a restaurant). You might reconsider taking your purse to the Tuesday Market.

These, however, are not the signs of an outlaw state. They are merely the universal symptoms of poverty living side by side with wealth.

San Miguel de Allende is a peaceful place (unless you’re driving, then things can get a wee bit confrontational — but that’s not violence, so much as what happens when everybody subscribes to their own version of the rules of the road.)

Statistically speaking, you’re safer here at four a.m. than you are in a major American city at noon. Probably safer than where you live, unless you live in one of those (mythical?) tiny towns where everybody knows each other (and are all related) and nobody locks their doors.

If you really want to compare San Miguel with, say, the U.S… Ok. Let’s see. So far, we have no serial killers, axe murderers, snipers, carjackings, road-rage gunfights, mad bombers, Crips, or Bloods. We’ve had one high(ish)-speed car chase that we know of. Nor do we have school or workplace shootings.

In San Miguel, “going postal” denotes how badly you need a margarita after spending two hours in line trying to mail a postcard, and then realizing you’ll arrive home before it does.

Apart from the extremely rare and easily-avoided mugging or robbery, visits here are rather uneventful. (If it’s drama you want, try caching a cab in Mexico City — even there, drama is not guaranteed.)

The real crime here is how Mexico has been portrayed. This recent gory image of Mexico — as a dangerous, lawless land to be avoided at all costs by anyone who values his/her life — is highly irresponsible sensationalism. By wreaking havoc on tourism (the nation’s third largest source of income) not to mention the millions of people that work in the industry, this portrayal hurts exponentially more innocent people than does the violence it trumpets.

One North American voice of reason, award-winning journalist Linda Ellerbee, recommends a certain sense of proportion when judging Mexico:

“The U.S. media tend to lump all of Mexico into one big bad bowl. Talking about drug violence in Mexico without naming a state or city where this is taking place is rather like looking at the horror of Katrina and saying, “Damn. Did you know the U.S. is under water?” or reporting on the shootings at Columbine or the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by saying that kids all over the U.S. are shooting their classmates and all the grownups are blowing up buildings. The recent rise in violence in Mexico has mostly occurred in a few states, and especially along the border. It is real, but it does not describe an entire country.

It would be nice if we could put what’s going on in Mexico in perspective, geographically and emotionally. It would be nice if we could remember that, as has been noted more than once, these drug wars wouldn’t be going on if people in the United States didn’t want the drugs, or if other people in the United States weren’t selling Mexican drug lords the guns.

Most of all, it would be nice if more people in the United States actually came to this part of America (Mexico is also America, you will recall) to see for themselves what a fine place Mexico really is, and how good a vacation (or a life) here can be.

So come on down and get to know your southern neighbors. I think you’ll like it here. Especially the people.” (To see the the full text of the article, go to: http://www.hispanicvista.com/HVC/Columnist/Misc/041509Linda_Ellerbee.htm)

Nicely put, Ms. Ellerbee!

So what are you waiting for? Come on in, the water’s fine!

xo,

Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

www.casitadelasflores.com

Your best value (and most fun) alternative to
expensive San Miguel de Allende hotels and B&B’s

welcome to slice of life: san miguel, our official san miguel de allende blog

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The official blog of Casita de las Flores. The Casita is San Miguel’s charming, affordable, friendly, and slightly unconventional alternative to expensive hotels and B&B’s. Being eminently qualified to show you the quirky side of visiting or living in San Miguel de Allende, we offer you this blog. Enjoy (or just shake your head at) our news, musings, local color, and the occasional rant. Then come stay with us. You won’t regret it!

(PS: We don’t rant in person. Just in cyberspace.)

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Casita de las Flores B&K (Bed and Kitchen)
San Miguel de Allende hotel
/ B&B style budget accommodations
www.casitadelasflores.com