From Toluca to Cuernavaca, México

I couldn’t find a first class bus to Cuernavaca. Apparently it’s such a short trip, they only have second class buses. That means stopping every 15 minutes to load and unload passengers along with seats that are not assigned, nor comfy. The trip on a second class bus would have taken 3.5 hours. Bleah 🙁

I got up early on travel day and ordered an Uber! Ha ha! 🙂

Getting to Cuernavaca wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

The first Uber driver showed up and once I got in he was shocked to see I wanted to go all the way to Cuernavaca; a 2+15 hour drive by car. He thought it over and then claimed he didn’t have proper signage onboard in case he got a flat tire on the way.

Really? That’s the best excuse you have, buddy?

I picked up my laundry at a local dry cleaner’s – see next photo for an explanation

That trip was cancelled and I ordered another Uber. Grrr. He showed up and once I got in…yep, “You’re going to Cuernavaca???? Are you kidding?”

These Uber drivers just accept ride requests without bothering to look at the final destination wasting my time and pissing me off.

While the clerk was getting my laundry, I snapped this photo. This is the very hot steamer he uses to steam clothing. On top is apparently where he cooks lunch. Clever 🙂

He started to make an excuse as to why he couldn’t go to Cuernavaca. I just cut him off, asked him to please cancel the fare and got out of his damned car. He stank like cigarettes anyway.

Uber #3 showed up and I was getting a little angry. I didn’t even try to get in his car. I walked up to the driver window and said curtly, “Voy a Cuernavaca, bien?”

He thought it over for a second…”Sí, bien, bien.”

Cuernavaca has the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever been in. It even has a coffee-making museum you pass through before ordering.

Hmmm. Okay, cool. Here we go! He was a pretty cool guy. I really got a workout in Spanish over the next two hours. I couldn’t remember the word for, “skills”. I thought it was “habilidades”, but I wasn’t sure. Turns out I was right. I need to trust myself more, but I feel so damned rusty. I also forgot the word for employer – “empleador”. Grrr again. It’s okay. Mistakes will help me remember words in the future.

Cost for the trip? 850 pesos or $45 USD. Wow, that seems so cheap for such a long trip. I tipped him very well.

This is my house. Four levels (count ’em) and I have lots of trees and potted plants all over the terraces. On the very top, which would be the fifth level, is a rooftop terrace overlooking the city. John Wayne had good taste.

This is a beautiful little colonial city. It was here long before the Spanish, led by Hernán Cortéz, conquered the area in 1519-1522. Cortéz even built a palace for his wife in the city center which today is right next to a Starbucks.

When your husband builds you a palace like this, you’re livin’ like a rock star

There’s a ton of construction going on in Cuernavaca. Just this year there was an earthquake that damaged a lot of buildings here. We’re in a valley surrounded by active volcanoes. I really need to make time to visit one.

The Duke lived in the house I’m renting

The house I’m in is beautiful and ancient. It’s physically attached to the Cuernavaca Cathedral which is under reconstruction due to the earthquake. My house was lived in by John Wayne for a while during a movie they filmed down here decades ago. I’m sleeping the in same room John Wayne slept in. That’s cool 🙂

Happy gringo

The house is huge. I have four balconies and one rooftop deck overlooking the city. The house has four levels and three living rooms. One person can really spread out here. Plus, it’s on a quiet restricted street in the middle of downtown. Everything is close by. Lovin’ Cuernavaca 🙂

Jardín Borda, Cuernavaca, México
Jardín Borda, Cuernavaca, México

 

At the checkout counter

 

A stroll through Parque Matlazinca, Toluca, México. The Matlazinca were the native people who lived in Toluca before the Spanish invasion. Many Matlazinca descendants live here today.

While seven people waited behind me, the girl at the checkout counter asked me, “So, are you from around here?”

🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Yes, I am.
  • No, you’re not.
  • Sure I am, don’t I look Mexican?
  • No, you don’t look Mexican. Not at all.
  • You’re right. I’m from Denver, Colorado.
  • Where’s that?
  • Hmmm, well, it’s in the United States; in the mountains.
  • But, why are you in Toluca when you could be in the United States?
  • Well, it’s interesting being here. Not for you, I’m sure, but it is for me 🙂

By now the people waiting in line behind me were getting antsy, so I smiled, wished her a good day and left 🙂

Toluca means, “Hill of the God, Tolo”

The #1 rated restaurant in Toluca is only three blocks from my place, so I had to try it. It was fantastic! Brilliant ambience. Brilliant food. Plus two Coronas. Price? $12.91 USD.

Are you kidding me???

Double meaning. “Capital con valor” can mean the capital with value or the capital with bravado.

Now, don’t rush out to buy plane tickets to Toluca. It’s not really worth visiting for most people. It’s actually quite industrial except for the very nice residential areas in the city center. That’s why I’m only staying here a week.

Alameda Central Park, downtown Toluca, México

The city is small and you need to squint hard to see the beauty in it.

Where’s Latka Gravas when you need him? (anyone get that joke?) 🙂

But hey, the food is great and they have a Starbucks that opens at 6:00! Gotta love that! 😉

La Esperanza Panadería, Toluca, México

I ate too many pastries at a bakery today.

Café Mexicano – in México. Makes sense.

 

Morelia to Toluca

The day before I left Morelia I had quite a bit of running around to do, so I broke down and used a few taxis. Normally I prefer to hoof it and put in 15-20,000 steps a day, but getting around without a taxi wasn’t possible.

Rooftop dining, downtown Morelia

But, what the hell, I got to have some good conversations with the taxi drivers. I missed a couple of words while I was chatting with the first guy. I wanted to say I avoid tourist areas like Cancun because I prefer to experience genuine Mexican culture. I stuttered a bit on the verb, “to experience”. I started to say, “experimentar”, but it sounded strange to me. Turns out it was correct. Ah well, after eight years of not speaking Spanish, I need to knock the rust off.

The best beans and chips I’ve had in my life. I miss them so much 🙁 Morelia, México

The other one I fumbled was the word for the weather. Again, the word I used was correct, but it struck me as incorrect – tiempo. I wanted to say how much I like the weather in Morelia. I looked into it later and, “clima” (climate) sounds much better to me. “Me encanta el clima de Morelia”.

Rusty!

By the time I was in the third taxi I was hitting my stride. The driver said he couldn’t quite place my accent, but he assumed I was from Argentina.

You think I’m a native of Argentina? I’ll take that 🙂 🙂 🙂

Last day in Morelia, México

I really need to check into a language school and put my nose to the grindstone. I’ll probably do that in Cuernavaca.

The first-class bus from Morelia to Toluca was excellent. It was a double-decker and I chose the upper deck. I reserved two seats so I could spread out. It was only about 20 bucks per seat, so well worth the price. The trip was 3.5 hours long. My limit is five hours.

On weekends the city center is closed to vehicles. Normally these four lanes are packed solid with them. Cars are evil. Morelia, México.

The major reason I have for stopping a week in Toluca is that it’s a major city on the way to Cuernavaca. If I’d taken a bus from Morelia to Cuernavaca, I think it would have been a total of 5.5 to 6 hours on a bus.

Nope.

My first morning in Toluca, México

So, here I am in Toluca. I got to Starbucks right at opening time; 6:00. Lots of comfy chairs, a large white mocha (extra hot), and a relaxing atmosphere free of flies. Can’t beat that 🙂

It was a 40-minute walk to Starbucks, so I had to get up early. There was a light drizzle and 49°f (9.44°c) in shorts. Walk fast; stay warm 🙂

City Center, Toluca, México

 

Day 65 of retirement – Morelia, México

Here are a few words in Spanish you can use on your next holiday.

This is something I use regularly in restaurants. You can hang your backpack or purse, or whatever on this instead of using the floor or a chair. It’s a tripod called a, “perchera”.

“Traígame una perchera, por favor”. Bring me a perchera, please.

I’ve always referred to the trash as, “basura”, but to be more specific, here is a trash can; “un basurero”.

“Dónde está el basurero?” Where is the trash can?

If you want your Starbucks coffee in a “take-away” or “to go” cup, you ask for a cardboard cup.

“Una taza de cartón, por favor” A cardboard cup, please.

In just a few days, I’ll be on a bus to my next Airbnb destination; Toluca, Mexico. After being in Morelia for two weeks I ask myself if I could live in this city?

Morelia is beautiful – and almost no gringos 🙂

Maybe.

It’s nice and the city is currently designating a number of streets for pedestrians only. If I could find a nice house to rent on a pedestrian-only street, I might like it here. The temperatures are mild year-round, fantastic restaurants and I haven’t noticed any mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes.

A lovely meal in a hidden-away restaurant where I’m the only customer. Series 4 of Sherlock. Beer. Here is the second of five courses. Perfection.

These are a couple of photos from a late lunch yesterday. Just for the hell of it, I decided to see how much money I could spend if I maximized everything and walked out bloated. I had a five course meal at an expensive restaurant, three Coronas and tipped 25%. Total cost: 600 pesos, or $32 USD. This is an extravagant meal by Mexican standards.

Peace and quiet. Heaven.

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