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Archive for February, 2008

img_4036a.jpgFriday I said goodbye to Linda and Eric and to Veracruz and headed for the airport. I left feeling like I had barely scratched the surface of what there is to do and see here.

I may not be able to get back here soon, as I want to make a couple of trips to Europe next, but I do want to come back. Veracruzanos are really nice to be around.

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Chatchkes on Parade

Here are the results of my prowlings for trinkets.

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This little mask is actually an ocarina and is only about an inch
and a quarter in width. I found it in one of the shops on
Callejon Diamante in Xalapa.

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Another ocarina, about two inches high.

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Made in Oaxaca, bought in Xalapa.

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A ceramic pitcher I got at the Naolinco market.
Can you believe it was only forty cents?!

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But then, it doesn’t hold much.

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A rock, painted as a frog by a Xalapa artist.

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A jarocha dancer, bought in Veracruz, four and one-quarter inches tall
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A larger dancer, seven and a half inches tall
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Horse carrying firewood, about 4.5 inches tall
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Forgot to tell you, I bought a house in Veracruz.
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Getting ahead in Veracruz is easy.

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Last Day in Veracruz

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Was back in Veracruz by 12:30. Thought I’d go down by the malecon again to see if I could find some souvenirs. Even though Veracruz’s sidewalks are in bad condition, I reminded myself how much easier walking is here because it’s so flat.

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And then there is that tantalizing sea breeze…

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I was able to fill my chatchka quotient at last. Found a nice little shop which sold a variety of handicrafts by Veracruzano artists. It was across the street from the so-called artisanal market on the malecon, where they seemed to sell mostly things made in China.

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Here there were embroidered items for the home, some clothing, rattan furniture and some pottery. I bought a number of clay figures and hoped they’d get home all in one piece.

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Last Day in Xalapa

This is my last day in Xalapa. I’ll be getting on the ADO bus around noon to head back to Veracruz, as my plane for Mexico City leaves midmorning tomorrow.

Miscellaneous Observations

I don’t think anyone has ever exaggerated about the climate in el puerto de Veracruz. Veracruz can be uncomfortably warm and humid at times, and this is still winter! However, it does have nice breezes and did cool off nicely in the evenings, although I did need to turn on the AC in my room for comfortable sleeping after a couple of days. Didn’t get any bug bites while I was there, but Eric confirmed it was partly because of the time of year. It’s got lots to see and do and is close to a number of interesting little towns to visit. It’s flat, so I was able to do a lot of walking without problems. In the warm weather, I seemed to have fewer aches and pains.

Xalapa wasn’t too hot and had a much more comfortable level of humidity. Pat got quite a few bug bites. She wore capri pants sometimes; I always had long pants and shoes with socks. I only got a few near my elbows and a couple on my hands. I’m assuming these must be the no-see-ums. The bite is pretty small, very red and leaves a tiny blister. Hers itched quite a bit, but mine didn’t. They’re taking a long time to heal and go away.

I liked Xalapa very much, especially the people, who are wonderfully kind and friendly. What I didn’t like so much are the hills. Coupled with the altitude, it may be a big issue for me ten years from now when I retire. The city is very charming, with lots going on. Coatepec is even more charming, and much flatter, but Dennis told me there isn’t much going on in the way of cultural activities or nightlife.

I’ve really enjoyed my first taste of Mexico and am now looking forward to exploring other areas on my next trip, whenever that may be. There are a couple of trips to Europe I want to make first, and I ought to do them while I still live on the East Coast. But I will be back!

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A Rainy Day in Xalapa

Today it’s cool, breezy and rainy. Weather Underground showed Xalapa at 49 degrees F at around 8:00 this morning, but it seemed colder.

Steve and Pat went to Coatepec today with Dennis and Ellen, but I stayed behind, feeling a little under the weather.  In Mexico it’s not unusual for smaller pharmacies to have a doctor available for consulations, so I went off to find one.  The first one didn’t have one, at the second he hadn’t arrived yet, but the third time was a charm.

The pharmacy doctor was a nice young man who didn’t speak English. With my limited Spanish I was able to describe my symptoms. He took my blood pressure, checked my pulse, listened to my lungs. He asked me a number of questions, about half of which I understood right away. A couple of times we didn’t understand each other at all, but we managed. I wrote down a couple of things in English, like bronchitis, and he looked them up on his computer.

I think he told me that there are things in this environment that irritate the throat and lungs, which accounted for my cough, and that I might have a bladder infection, which accounted for the need for way too many trips to el bano the last couple of days.

What I thought he was telling me at one point was that to help the cough go away faster, I should stop taking lactose. I told him in Spanish that I don’t drink milk, and he looked at me funny, so I said “hay lactose en leche, no?” (There’s lactose in milk, isn’t there?) Turns out the Spanish word for the noun “cough” is “la tos.”

Total cost for my visit to the pharmacy doctor, including two prescriptions, was about $18.  No wonder retirees love it here.

Walked around for a bit after that but started to get tired fairly quickly, so I headed back to la casita to take my meds and rest up. I suppose if I have to be sick, it’s better to have it happen at the end of my trip. It’s much better than the time I spent nearly three days in bed with a pretty good case of bronchitis on my first trip to Paris.

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Park Day and Asadero Cien

My record is intact. Since I was about 30 years old, I haven’t been able to fly anywhere without getting bronchitis. I’d been coughing a little since I got to Xalapa, and two days ago it started getting really bad. It’s not painful, mostly an inconvenience, but it kept me from getting a good night’s sleep a couple of times.

Today we visited a couple of parks. Parque Tecajate is somewhat small, maybe only a couple of acres, but it’s quite beautiful, like a mini-rain forest in the middle of the city.

Afterwards we visited the Jardin de las Esculpturas. The terrain was pretty hilly and I started getting warning signals from my feet and right knee, so I didn’t see it all.

The weather today was pretty warm, so we were all ready for a siesta after that. I managed to sleep a bit between coughing fits.

Went to Asadero Cien for dinner, a very nice steak house. Dinner was preceded by a really good bean soup. I had the house specialty, a marinated top sirloin steak, which was very tender and juicy. Steve and Pat had a sampler plate which was supposed to be for two, but when it arrived it could easily have fed three people. There were several varieties of steak and a little chorizo, all of which they said were wonderful. Pat and I had margaritas which we both agreed were the best we’d had in a long time.

Steve and Pat had chocolate marble cake for dessert. I was too full for dessert but sampled a little of what Pat couldn’t finish. It was not too sweet and very good. The service at the restaurant was also excellent, and we all would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a steak fix.

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Orizaba stayed mostly hidden in the haze

Had coffee with Dennis and Ellen midmorning at Cafe Italiano at the edge of Parque Juarez. The cafe terrace has a great view of Mt. Orizaba. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy for a good photo.

Dennis and Ellen are married, retired and have lived in Xalapa two years. They gave us their impressions of living in Xalapa, which they enjoy very much.


Oaxaca handicrafts at Parque Juarez

Mondays a lot of things are closed in Xalapa, so it seemed like it would be a good shopping day to pick up a few souvenirs. After coffee, we all parted company and I set off alone to prowl for trinkets. There was an exposition of Oaxaca handicrafts set up in Parque Juarez, so I started there. I found mostly clothing and some unremarkable jewelry, none of the brightly colored carved wooden animal figures that are practically Oaxaca’s signature.


Callejon Diamante

Next stop was Callejon Diamante, Xalapa’s well known tourist shopping mecca. Again I was disappointed. Most of what was available seemed to be either from China or India. I suspect because the highest percentage of tourists who visit Xalapa are from other parts of Mexico, it stands to reason that they wouldn’t be interested in Mexican handicrafts, unlike Guadalajara or numerous other cities in Mexico which are visited by large numbers of Americans and Canadians. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


La Fonda Restaurante

Lunchtime came around, and since La Fonda’s entrace was on the Callejon and had been recommended by someone from the Visit Xalapa group, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a charming place. The food was well prepared, the service was good, and I’ll just let the photos tell the rest of the story.


Food prep area at La Fonda

On the way back to the casita, I passed by the marimba players downtown.

Today was the hottest day in Xalapa since I got here but still not bad at all. The casita that Steve and Pat are renting from Roy doesn’t have air conditioning, but we’re not suffering. All that’s needed is a fan.


Xalapa Expats Dinner

This evening was the date of the Xalapa expats meeting at Tavola Trattoria. In addition to Steve, Pat and I, Rich Collins and John Spence were there, who I met the first night I arrived. Butch and his wife were there. They had moved to Xalapa about eight months ago from New Mexico. Butch’s wife, whose name escapes me at the moment, was born in Xalapa. Last, but far from least, Roy Dudley was there, too. It was another fun evening!

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