Cost of living in Morelia, México

It’s actually quite surprising. Whenever I eat in restaurants, I try to find the very best. There are quite a few restaurants here that are excellent. But, no matter how fine the food is nor how elegant the ambience is, I struggle to spend over 20 bucks. Most meals are much cheaper. To break the 20 dollar barrier, you have to have at least three cocktails.

Cleaners of parks use long palm branches to sweep the grounds.
Cleaners of parks use long palm branches to sweep the grounds. Morelos Park, Morelia, Mexico.

I took my clothes to be laundered. Price for the service? 14 pesos. That’s about $.76. Yep, seventy-six cents to wash, dry and fold my bag of dirty laundry. They even had it ready for pickup within three hours. Unbelievable.

The barber shop around the corner is where I’ll go in a few days to get a haircut. The sign in the window advertises it’s only 35 pesos. That’s the magnificent sum of $1.89. The cost of living here is unbelievable. Every time I eat or buy something I do the calculations and shake my head. How is this possible?

La Pila de Sorinne, Morelia, Mexico
La Pila de Sorinne, Morelia, Mexico

The place I’m staying at is excellent – overall. It’s a three-storey building with a rooftop deck overlooking the city. I have three bedrooms and three beds. It’s a massive place for one person. The only drawback is that it’s directly across the street from a shopping plaza. Unfortunately for me, singers come to the plaza with amplifiers and boomboxes to sing and hope for tips from passersby. Bleah. At least that’s mostly just on the weekends.

The plaza across the street as viewed from my rooftop deck.
The plaza across the street as viewed from my rooftop deck.

The noise is irritating. But, I’m still new to living in Mexico. I knew going in that there would be lessons to learn. From now on, no Airbnb across from shopping plazas 🙂

They don't use stop signs here. Whoever gets to the intersection first, has right-of-way and assumes all other traffic stops. Sometimes there are disagreements as to who gets there first. As a pedestrian, I find it disconcerting.
They don’t use stop signs here. Whoever gets to the intersection first, has right-of-way and assumes all other traffic stops. Sometimes there are disagreements as to who gets there first. As a pedestrian, I find it disconcerting.

One more week and I’ll be on my way to a new house experience in Toluca!

On Sundays they close the city center off to cars and it's pedestrian only. Cars are evil.
On Sundays they close the city center off to cars and it’s pedestrian only. Cars are evil.

 

Morelia has a new gringo

The bus from Guanajuato was first-class and very enjoyable. It was only 280 pesos for the 3.5 hour trip. 280 pesos works out to about $14.00 USD. Brilliant. As I was sitting in my seat reading “Eva” by Arturo PérezReverte, a spy novel set during the Spanish Civil War (yes, I’m reading it in the original Spanish), I was hit with the idea that since bus tickets are so cheap in Mexico, should I buy two tickets so I don’t have to sit next to someone? Hmmm.

After getting off the bus, I got my backpack sorted, tossed my little bag of trash in the “basura” and headed out of the bus terminal to the line of waiting taxis. I never get in a taxi without asking the fare first, so after asking, “Cuánto me cobra hasta, blah, blah, blah…?” the taxi driver said I had to go back inside and get a taxi ticket. Damn! I didn’t think about that. Not all terminals do that, but I like it. It keeps the drivers honest 🙂

The taxi ticket/fare cost me 60 pesos (three bucks). Once we got to my new rental casa, I gave the guy a 50 peso tip. They always seem happy with a tip that seems large percentage-wise even though it’s only two dollars and fifty cents. He deserved it. I liked the classical music he was playing.

Any self-respecting city has to have a statue of a general on a horse. You have to have a general on a horse!!!
Any self-respecting city has to have a statue of a general on a horse. You have to have a general on a horse!!! (aqueducts and palm trees are a nice touch)

Pigeons 3; Jack 0

After a month in Guanajuato I felt like a boat in Pearl Harbor, 1941. Getting dive-bombed by pigeons is disgusting beyond words. Of course, it never happens when you’re near home and you can’t just walk around with feces all over you, so you buy some paper napkins and water and get to work.

Morelia is sweet!

I haven’t even noticed any pigeons! No dog doo-doo to step over! (but, I’m not going to be lulled into not looking – that’s when they getcha)

Morelia has an aqueduct - and I like it
Morelia has an aqueduct. Why am I on the left side in every photo?

The sidewalks here are wide and there aren’t nearly as many people walking on them. In Guanajuato I was worn out playing dodge-human on the six-inch-wide sidewalks. In Morelia, walking is a dream! I put in over 20,000 steps today without breaking a sweat – and when I say I didn’t break a sweat, I mean I broke a lot of sweat.

I found the greatest restaurant ever. The food was amazing! The chef even came out to say hi. The waiter took a liking to an odd gringo speaking Spanish and told me all about his hometown; Patzcuaro. Apparently, I really, really need to visit Patzcuaro.

Restaurante Los Mirasoles, Morelia, Mexico. My waiter says I should retire either in Morelia or his hometown of Patzcuaro :)
Restaurante Los Mirasoles, Morelia, Mexico. My waiter says I should retire either in Morelia or his hometown of Patzcuaro 🙂

Well, since it’s only 45 minutes away by bus…why not? 🙂

Very, very few foreigners in Morelia – shhh, this place is a secret.

Guanajuato wrap-up

Today I got on a bus and headed to the next stop on my path to South America. The following post will be about Morelia, but first I’ll wrap up my reflections on Guanajuato.

Mexico has a never-ending love affair with the bug
Mexico has a never-ending love affair with the bug

First, it’s a great city and well-worth visiting. It’s beautiful, it’s romantic and it’s unique. Could I ever live there? No.

As wonderful as the city is, it needs to clean up its act in a variety of ways. First, there is far too much dog shit on the streets and footpaths. It’s disgusting. I almost stepped in it many times, but never did. I checked the bottom of my shoes every time I stepped back into my house rental. Whew! Something needs to be done about barking dogs (especially at night) and there are too many dogs wandering the city without any apparent owners or guardians.

Near La Abadía, Guanajuato
Near La Abadía, Guanajuato

Something I didn’t like about life on the outer rim of the city center was the lack of mufflers on cars and especially big city buses. They create an amazing amount of noise pollution. That mixed with very loud booming car stereos drove me up the wall. I’ve never been in a Mexican city that’s like that. I think this is a Guanajuato phenomenon.

The noise in the heart of the city on weekends is unbelievable. I don’t remember Guanajuato being so full of noise the last time I was there ten years ago. The city really needs to get a grip on it. But, hey, I’m just a visitor and not a local. Each city of the world can decide its own future.

Careful where you step!
Careful where you step 🙂

Still, I did love the city. The crowds can get huge and the sidewalks are tiny, but there isn’t much Guanajuato can do about that. Trying to walk from one end of the city to the other is a task of constantly dodging in and out of crowds in spaces that are too small, but Guanajuato is hemmed tightly into a small valley surrounded by mountains. They can’t do much about space limitations.

A branch of my gringo family visiting Guanajuato
A branch of my gringo family visiting Guanajuato

I always felt very safe alone on the streets and I was there for a full month. That being said, I didn’t go out after dark. I wasn’t afraid, I just like to go to sleep around 8:30-9:00 and sunset was around 8:45. Interestingly, two blocks from where I was living, a small-time gangsta wannabe named, “El Gordo” was gunned down on the street at two in the morning. I never heard it (thank you white noise). Two gunmen filled him up with eight bullets. Adios, El Gordo. When I got up at 6:00 and started my walk, I couldn’t get through the street because it was blocked off with yellow police crime scene tape and a dozen police cruisers. I wondered at the time if there had been a murder. But hey, those things happen everywhere, including the U.S. Gangsters kill gangsters. They’re generally not very interested in tourists, so I’m not generally interested in them.

I highly recommend a visit to Guanajuato, but no city in the world is perfect 😉

Frog on my back

My latest traveling companion is a small green frog made of clay hanging from a keychain. Good luck, buddy. The reverse side of my backpack may not be the safest place to hang.

The ubiquitous symbol of Guanajuato
The ubiquitous symbol of Guanajuato

Every time I leave my house I take a few coins with me. They come in handy. There’s no shortage of people who ask, “Me regalan unas moneditas?” Because I was in the UAE for so long, I keep thinking in dirhams. I need to get used to pesos.

Inside Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato
Inside Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato

When I entered Teatro Juárez, I asked the guy how he was doing. “De película”, was his reply. As in, “Everything is so great it’s like I’m in a movie”. Thanks, dude. I think I’ll use that 🙂

Green indicates a city I've hit, or will hit soon (click to enlarge)
Green indicates a city I’ve hit, or will hit soon (click to enlarge)

The last few days I visited the cities of Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende. Tickets are extremely reasonable and I’d highly recommend buying tickets on first class buses, if available. Once, I got on an economy-class bus where there were not only no seats remaining, my shoes practically grafted themselves to the bus floor as I walked down the aisle. Someone had apparently spilled a soft drink. Yeah, it was a mess. Always go with first-class buses. You won’t regret it. Tickets were in the three to four dollar range for a 1.5-hour trip.

Hostess station at the entrance to Quince Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende. I hate the guy too.
Hostess station at the entrance to Quince Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende. I hate the guy too.

Soon I’ll be on my way south to Morelia (staying for two weeks), then Toluca (staying for one week) and Cuernavaca (staying for three weeks). After I made reservations I realized I get to Cuernavaca at the height of the rainy season. Oops

¡Tequila! 😋

My Mexican landlords brought me a bottle of tequila from their own distillery. Sweet.

I'm going to need some help with this
I’m going to need some help with this

On one of my walks today I passed a large house…

Wow

Staying clean in Mexico

One of the many things I love about Mexico is that there always seems to be a laundry within two or three blocks of where I live. Whenever I pick up clean clothes, I hand them a bag of dirty clothes. I always want something at the laundry. Just now, I picked up some clean laundry and made sure I dropped off the smelly stuff. Cost? Cheap. I dropped off two t-shirts, two pair of socks and two pair of underwear = 30 pesos or $1.50 USD.

Is there a more colorful city in the world?
Is there a more colorful city in the world?

See? I told you it was cheap. I always tip the girl as well. You never know when a tip will come back to help you later on. You should always tip people who do things for you. I give her 20 pesos each time – a buck. It’s not much, but she seems to like it 🙂

Openstreetmap

A hobby I’m passionate about is mapping. Over the last few years I’ve dedicated thousands of hours adding to the world map. There are basically two map formats in the world, Google and Openstreetmap. Google is a company and they make you pay for their maps one way or another. Openstreetmap is free to the world for use and editing. It’s addictive. I add quite a bit of detail to the map wherever I go. One technique I use is to photograph sections of streets and then refer to them later when I’m adding to the map. I delete most of the photos when I’m done with them, but sometimes I accidentally end up with photos I like.

Men delivering Tecate, XX and Bohemia beer, Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato
Men delivering Tecate, XX and Bohemia beer, Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato (click to enlarge)

Openstreetmap (OSM) assists in humanitarian efforts that Google isn’t interested in. For example, when an earthquake, hurricane or other disaster hits remote areas of the world, local governments often have no idea where their populations are or how to reach them with help. The U.N., the Red Cross and other international organizations need detailed maps quickly so that response teams know where to focus their efforts. For example, when the volcano exploded recently in Guatemala, a team I belong to rushed in and we used satellite imagery to map thousands of small houses, shacks, roads, rivers, etcetera and within hours teams on the ground were able to use OSM maps to help communities affected by the deadly effects of the active volcano.

Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala
Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala
One of the villages destroyed by Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala. Over 100 died and over 2,000 missing.
One of the villages destroyed by Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala. Over 100 died and over 2,000 missing.

 

 

Another fabulous day in Guanajuato, Mexico

Compare the high temperatures in these two cities. I think I’m in the right one.

Read the last sentence at the bottom of the pages
Read the last sentence at the bottom of the pages “the high will be __”

Today I had the most amazing meal. It was fabulous! Thank you for the recommendation, Tere Sandoval, manager of https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21669851.

The restaurant is “Mestizo” in Guanajuato. https://web.facebook.com/MESTIZO-175719989168712/

The entrance to Mestizo Restaurant, Guanajuato, Mexico
The entrance to Mestizo Restaurant, Guanajuato, Mexico

The food was obviously created by a professional chef, not a cook. I had three courses, 1. a vegetable/fruit salad “Mezcla de lechugas con fresas, arándano, pera y nuez” ($5.00 USD), 2. a cream of black bean soup “Crema de frijol negro ” ($3.00 USD) and 3. a seared tuna dish for the main course with a pico de gallo sauce “Atún a la parilla con pico de gallo”($11.00 USD). It was the best meal I’ve ever had in Mexico in all my years traveling there.

Keep in mind, this is a fairly expensive meal for Mexico. In the U.S. a meal like that would have cost me 75-80 bucks. On a normal day in Guanajuato I spend five bucks at Starbucks, maybe 7-8 bucks for lunch and then maybe $2.00 on a yogurt at home in the evening. That’s about $15.00 USD for food a day. Other than that, I really have nothing to spend money on. Happy days.

While I was waiting for the restaurant to open for lunch, I popped into a nearby salon and got a haircut. It was only 70 pesos; $3.50. I gave the girl a 100 peso bill and called it good, but I wasn’t thinking correctly. 100 pesos is only five dollars. That means my tip was only $1.50. Damn it!!! I hate to give poor tips. I need to go back tomorrow and give her a proper tip 🙁

I hit the tunnels again today. That was fun. I gotta tell ya, getting 10,000 steps a day in Mexico is easy.

So far, no bats, no rats
So far, no bats, no rats
Photo bomb. Check your six.
Photo bomb. Check your six.
Except for occasional auto, the tunnels are empty
Except for the occasional auto, the tunnels are empty
What are these? Buttresses keeping the walls from falling in?
What are these? Buttresses?
Living a hard life, but keeping a stiff upper lip
Living a hard life, but keeping a stiff upper lip

Under Guanajuato

The tunnels under Guanajuato are awesome. I spent some time in them today. I need to do that more ’cause I still have trouble figuring out where the hell I am when I resurface. Navigation down there is tricky.

Old water shafts changed into streets, Guanajuato
Old water shafts changed into streets, Guanajuato

The city above is packed with people, but for some reason the tunnels are deserted. I wonder why the locals seem to use them so rarely.

The longer tunnel sections can get a bit stinky due to auto exhaust
The longer tunnel sections can get a bit stinky due to auto exhaust

Diverting most auto traffic to the underworld of Guanajuato makes the city above ground much nicer.

Starbucks confession

I hate to admit it, but every morning I go to Starbucks. I’m not a big fan of them normally, but here in Mexico, they really are the only game in town.

Joaquín is my alternate identity
Joaquín is my alternate identity

I get a high-quality white chocolate mocha. I get more power sockets than I could ever use. I get a large comfy chair. I get free wifi – truly free; I don’t have to hand over my email. Plus, nobody bats an eye if I stay for hours and hours. Sorry Mexico, you need to up your game if you’re gonna pull me outta there.

Do you see the roofdog here?

You should let sleeping roofdogs sleep
You should let sleeping roofdogs sleep (click on image to enlarge)