Life in San Miguel – What do we do when travelling?

Our 3 months in San Miguel recently came to an end.

San-Miguel-exploring

You can spend time just walking San Miguel’s beautiful streets

Of course we’re not leaving Mexico, well not just yet anyway. We’ve just started our 6 week beautiful house sit here in Patzcuaro.

Exploring the world slowly. What does it involve?

Often we get asked what we do with our time whilst travelling. I think I may disappoint a few people as I struggle to find an exciting answer. San Miguel was less like travelling and more like real life for us. We’ve taken a regular yoga class, volunteered walking beautiful dogs and even went to a Mexican wedding.

We are less interested in taking tours or seeing the must see sights. The joy we get from travelling is sampling local life and food, as soon as we begin to tire of a place we can move on. It’s not about seeing a specific place or thing, travel gives a sense of freedom, which we don’t get in our life back home. We also get the chance to concentrate on exciting new online projects, but we work the hours we want.

House sitting in San Miguel for 3 months gave us a good chance to get to know the place and settle into the community, it also meant that we’ve both been able to see our parents and stock up on Yorkshire Tea!

San Miguel has a massive expat community and although there maybe downsides to that, there are also many benefits, mainly food and convenience.

It boasts some excellent quality restaurants and cafes…

Top picks – cafes and restaurants:

best-pizza-san-muguel

The best pizza in Mexico? La Mesa Grande

La Mesa Grande; the coffee is great, they also have their own bakery and do the best pizza in Mexico (according to Rob).

El Petite Four; has a French patisserie feel to it and you can watch them create the most amazing looking cakes whilst sipping coffee and devouring a freshly prepared pastry.

cafe-rama

Working hard in San Miguel – Café  Rama

Café Rama; has amazing decor, which is a mix of comfy sofas, a Chairman Mao obsession and London kitsch. On paper it doesn’t make sense, but it’s the funkiest place in town AND the best coffee in San Miguel. Their lemon meringue pie is pretty special too. Rob based his office here for good reason!

Mivida is a posh Italian restaurant with a Mexican accent. The food was to die for. When Rob’s parents were here we went twice, that’s how good it was. Definitely not a budget option though.

Bhaji is a British curry house in Mexico. We’d been craving curry for a while and had already spied this before we even got here. As excited as we were I wasn’t holding out much hope. Turns out I was wrong and it’s one of the best curries I’ve ever had in my life!

Organic food – Healthy eating

Have I mentioned I’ve been ill? Just a million times? Thankfully healthy eating couldn’t be easier in San Miguel…

Rancho-toyan-san-miguel

We were lucky enough to discover Rancho Toyan, an organic vineyard and farm. They serve the best Mexican food we have ever tasted. These are the sort of places you only discover when you live in a place for a while. We found it through our new friend Darren, who we met in our Spanish class. Darren was living at Rancho Toyan with his Mexican fiancé Claudia. You can check out their Aztec wedding here.

Claudia’s parents own the organic farm and her mum runs the restaurant kitchen. It’s a real hidden gem, with an incredible chicken mole. They open their doors every Wednesday for the restaurant and organic market. The food is literally picked meters away from where it’s sold and you can pick up a bottle or 3 of the vino. It’s a short taxi/car trip from the centre of town but it’s well worth it.

On Saturday there is an organic market, located on Celayas Dolores-Hildago just up from the Instituto Allende. You can stock up on locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as honey, yoghurt, gluten free cakes, and there are Mexican food stalls to grab a snack. There are also at least 2 great organic shops around the town, Via Organica and Natura

Sweet-cheesus-san-miguelSweet Cheesus! San Miguel’s Luna De Queso

Our other favourite place to eat was Luna de Queso Deli. It’s a feast for the eyes for cheese lovers and they had some of the best olives I’ve ever had and I don’t even like olives! It has a shop where you can stock up your larder with all manner of food, which you don’t find everywhere in Mexico. Imagine sun dried tomatoes, quinoa, fancy cheeses etc… It’s also where I discovered pineapple and ginger juice; I’m a little bit addicted to that stuff now.

What to do in San Miguel

SPA-san-miguel

Volunteer dog walking – This was not only one of the best things we did here in San Miguel, but also whilst travelling! We volunteered with the wonderful SPA animal shelter and made many four legged friends who we miss very much now. You can volunteer 11am – 2pm Mon-Sat. Here’s Rob’s lovely post about it all…

Yoga classes – We took a twice weekly yoga class at Lifepath with Anabel. It was our first introduction to a yoga class and we loved it. Anabel was a great teacher, with over 13 years of experience. She mixes mind and body well, so you leave the class feeling like you’ve had a work out but so relaxed it’s like your floating on a fluffy cloud. Rob was a self confessed inflexible beginner, with various persistent back problems. The class sorted out his back pain and slowly built up his skill level, so no need for beginners to panic about looking silly.

Small movie theatres – There is a chain cinema in San Miguel but I preferred the Movie Pocket Theatre at Petit Bar. It shows what Rob would describe as ‘Kellie films’. There are no action blockbusters, but it does show art house and foreign films along with a good dose of documentary. For 100MXD you get popcorn and a drink thrown in too.

Thermal spasLa Gruta is a Restaurant and Spa about 25 minutes drive from the city and great peaceful escape when the noisy neighbourhoods get a bit much for you. Get a taxi there for about 140MXD. It’s a beautiful place filled with lush green trees and bird songs. There are a number of pools all filled from the hot springs. The largest pool has a cave you can swim through, with a waterfall inside. It’s simply a nice place to spend an afternoon. One word of warning, if you want to enjoy the peace and tranquility, go during the week, it gets really busy at the weekend and is more like a kid’s holiday club.

A good doctor – If you’re unfortunate enough to need one, I can highly recommend Dr Silvia Azcarate. She tries to find a natural way to heal where possible and uses antibiotics as a last resort. You can find her at Codo # 9, in the centre of town, call 415 152 1944 for appointments. Her English is great as is her daughters who works there too.

san-miguel-horse

Horse back riding – Rob got a bit adventurous with his Dad and did some riding for the first time in his life. He loved it and now thinks he is John Wayne… Xotolar Ranch offer excellent trips in the surrounding hills and valleys of San Miguel, at good prices ($95 for 2hrs+ in the saddle and it included a delicious home cooked Mexican meal).

So I guess in summary San Miguel was a great place to set up home (when I wasn’t ill), we discovered happiness through our four legged friends, ate tasty food, drunk delicious coffee, exercised and relaxed. Sounds good to me!

Beautiful house sit in Patzcuaro, Mexico.

Bienvenidos a Patzcuaro! Our latest house sit and home for the next 6 weeks!

When you make way your through the rickety streets of Patzcuaro you have absolutely no clue as to what lies behind the huge wooden front doors. Will they reveal a palace or a humble shack?

Patzcuaro-street

It’s much cooler here, which comes as a relief, the rest of Mexico seems to be baking at the moment. Today I wore 3 layers and still felt a shiver!

This high altitude Mexican town, nestled between green hills and Lake Patzcuaro, is a World Heritage Site. Every single building is painted red and white, which can disorient you as you walk through town. But it’s nice to get lost sometimes, you discover much more about a place. Like the huge market, or the perfect deliciously sweet hot chocolate!

Patzcuaro hot chocolate

Gringo Spotting

Patzcuaro has a different feel to our previous house sit in San Miguel, which expats have invaded and with them brought along all the comforts of home. We enjoyed San Miguel very much, but it’s nice to discover yet another side of Mexico, away from tourists and the beaches.

You will find no British curry houses or Starbucks here, only local restaurants and food stalls. Gringo spotting is a much harder game. This is where Mexicans come to escape the city on weekends.

The US National Embassy’s website advises not to come here. Apparently there is a Cartel war in them there hills! But like so many times in the past when we’ve been advised not to go somewhere for safety reasons, we discover it’s not the full truth.

Yes we may be one of a few white faces roaming the streets, but nobody even bats an eyelid, they are welcoming and friendly just like the rest of Mexico we have experienced. We feel safe. In fact safer than many places in Britain.

The fact that we are white and I look a bit like a bearded homeless man may work in our favour, nobody wants to kidnap a gringo, we are too much hassle and they would soon discover our travelling budget wouldn’t maintain their drug filled lifestyle.

Anyway enough of this Cartel talk, it’s all just rumours, and rumours cause unnecessary fear.

Families fill the streets, the square in the centre of Patzcuaro is immaculate with neat paving and lush grass. Speakers pump out jazz and classical music, whilst people lounge around eating the famous ice cream of Patzcuaro. Walking groups head out every weekend to explore the surrounding hills, we hope to get involved, and Kel may test her fear of water by taking a boat trip to the island on lake Patzcuaro.

A warm welcome

We instantly felt settled here. Judy and Lee the homeowners, along with Tai the dog, gave us a lovely warm welcome, before we were left in charge of their beloved home.

Patzcuaro-taiThey are foodies and oh my could you tell!! Homemade curry is what greeted us on the first night, they even made it gluten/dairy free for Kellie’s restricted diet. So thoughtful. I could have kissed them!

Then they showed us their kitchen. I could have french kissed them. It’s huge, with every single gadget you could imagine, spices galore, knives that could cut your hand off in one swipe, water that you can get straight from a tap (trust me this is unheard of in Mexico), a million recipe books and much much more. We can’t wait to whip a storm, and who knows we may finally add some new recipes on the blog!

Beautiful home in Patzcuaro

On top of the warm welcome we discovered that behind the big wooden doors Judy and Lee have created a beautiful home, with huge comfy sofas (Mexicans usually make terrible sofas) and beds, picturesque gardens filled with fresh herbs, a million places to sit and contemplate life, and so many fascinating pieces of art I sometimes feel like we have stumbled into a museum.

It’s the perfect place to get cosy in the cool evenings, all snuggled under a blanket.

We have landed on our feet again….

We use Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find our house sits.

Patzcuaro-artifacts

Patzcuaro-bedroom

Patzcuaro-kel-garden

Patzcuaro-beautiful-garden

Patzcuaro-art

Patzcuaro-kitchen

Patzcuaro-Frida-Kahlo

Patzcuaro-relax

“The worst thing about travelling, is the travelling.”

The-worst-thing-about-travelling

Not the usual inspirational quote, which makes you want to grab a backpack, and go travelling off into to the big wide world to ‘find yourself’.

It came 8 hours into our 10-hour journey, as we made our way from San Miguel to La Peñita on the west coast of Mexico; Kellie turned to me and summed up my thoughts like some kind of psychic in one short sentence.

The worst thing about travelling, is the travelling.

For me it’s just as valid as:

“Not all those who wander are lost”

Or

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” which is so clichéd it actually hurts my teeth to write it. Cringe. Apologies to all those who have it tattooed on their anatomy.

In my head I often romanticise journeys…

Remember when we travelled through India by train?

It was so magical mixing with the locals. Fleeting glimpses of the world outside passed by my window. With the beautiful glow of amber sun setting over the distant mountains, the gentle rhythm of the tracks slowly rocked me to sleep. I felt an inner peace and warmth for all other human beings.

Really?

Remember the train was 4 hours late?

Remember you started to have a mild panic attack because you thought you’d missed your stop when the 11-hour journey actually took 17-hours?

What about trying to take a dump through a hole in the floor and praying you wouldn’t fall onto the shit stained walls? Do people really aim that poorly? Or is it a classic case of poo smearing?

AND being stared at for 17 f**king hours by over 30 people in the surrounding bunk beds?!

Yeah, travelling. It was so romantic… Honest…

Crying into my pillow

I didn’t cry into my pillow at all, and decide travelling 3rd class wasn’t for me….

Actually, yes I did. You can keep your cheap travel! I want comfort, a curtain and my own personal space thank you very much.

We like to keep this blog positive where possible. We don’t really have all that much to moan about and journeys aren’t usually as horrific as my India experience, but my word it’s the mind numbing dullness I can’t bear!

I love the feeling as you set off to a new destination and the exciting moment you arrive ready to explore and discover (after a long nap obviously). Everything else in between is bobbins.

No amount of loading my MP3 player with riveting podcasts can resolve it and my Spanish is no where near good enough to watch the movies on the long distant buses here in Mexico.

If you had any sympathy for me before that last sentence I imagine it’s all evaporated now. Yup, you get movies on the super posh buses, which are more spacious than any airline flight I can afford, plus you get a FREE sandwich and drink! Wow!

travelling-by-bus-to-San-MiguelTravelling in style – This is a real life size Kellie, the seats are just so big she looks likes she’s very far away

Travelling – Chairman of the bored

But still a posh bus doesn’t stop the boredom, the long silences, achy backs, travel sickness, numb bums and being stopped from snoozing by the screaming kid in the seat behind you who likes to kick your chair. Aren’t kids so cute?

I guess although travelling brings freedom there are still limitations on that freedom. We choose to travel by public transport rather than purchasing a car. Which means we go where the buses go and stop when they do and get delayed when they don’t show up.

If we had a car we could go where we please, and stop to admire the pretty views along the way. But on the flipside we’d have to maintain it and then sell it before we flew off to another country reducing our sense of freedom.

Maybe we should just have done with it and purchase a couple of bicycles for a good old-fashioned adventure.

Right that’s enough of my grumbling I need to finish on a positive to restore the natural order.

Your hair looks lovely and that blouse is nicely fitted, well done.

Do you love travel journeys? If so tell me what are your miracle tips are to dispense with the boredom. Or feel free to tell me to man up and just get on with it. Thanks…

sun-travellingIt is worth the boredom when you get a feast for the eyes like this in La Peñita, when the travelling is complete

Adios San Miguel! So what’s next?

Today we finish our lovely house sit in San Miguel.

So what’s next?

A few months ago Rob had a severe yearning for mountains, lakes and hiking. We toyed with the idea of heading back to New Zealand. It’s a country that we both often think about and I’ve no doubt that we’ll end up there one day.

Then we realised that we could have all these things, somewhere not too far away from Mexico.

Next it’s the beach

Next-sea

Rob has missed the sea…

But first we have 2 months left in Mexico.

We’re craving the ocean, the beach and sea air.  So we’re heading over to the La Penita for a few days, we’ve heard it’s nice, apparently has amazing sunsets and fresh fish for sale on the beach. We’ll be heading over to see our friends Sarah Somewhere and Tell Them I Said Something, who seem to be living in a palace in their latest house sit..

Whilst still back in the UK we’d read Bridges and Balloons posts about the chilled out coastal town of San Pancho. They loved it and really sold it. We’ve had it on our Mexico wish list since then and we’ll eventually be visiting for a few days, during August.

Then it’s off to lush green Paztcauro for 6 weeks for our next house sitting assignment. We’re looking forward to the change in landscape and it’ll be good to finish our time in Mexico somewhere very traditional Mexican.

Hasta Luego Mexico. Howdy USA!

Next-USA

After 10 months we’ll eventually be saying hasta luego Mexico and howdy to the USA.

Our plans we’re always pretty vague but those vague plans didn’t really ever include the USA.  But that’s the great thing about this life; we can change our minds and make new plans.

In October we’re heading to San Francisco for a few days before picking up our camper van and heading out to Yosemite National Park for 3 nights of camping and hiking. I’m so excited; I can’t tell you. If I start I may burst!

When I met Rob I wouldn’t have exactly described myself as someone who liked the outdoors. No fleeces, or waterproof clothing in my wardrobe, but we all change.

We’ve loved our time in Mexico but it hasn’t offered us the chance to do one of the things we love most. Making a pack up and heading out for a long walk in the mountains. For one it’s far too hot, and Mexico isn’t exactly famed for it’s well crafted walking routes.

More House sits

Then we’re off to Colorado for a 3 week house sit. Still chasing the mountains. We have 2 adorable dogs to look after and lots of places to take them on beautiful scenic walks. Our neighbours in the jungle lived in Colorado, their stories and photographs had us hooked. So it has been on our list of places to visit since then. We saw the house sit and just went for it.

We’ve also got a month of the unknown ahead of us in November with no commitments, where we’d like to explore some more of the USA. Portland is high on my list, so is the Grand Canyon, perhaps a road trip up the west coast, who knows….

Next it’s Canada for Christmas. We’re so excited to spending Christmas in cooler climes after Rob’s futile attempts to recreate the festive season in Mexico. I’ve always wanted to visit Vancouver Island and we’re getting the chance to go there and look after a very cute dog for 5 weeks.

After that who knows?

What we do know is that we’re very excited about all the adventures that lay ahead of us.

Crazily we have just realised we’ll only have paid for 1 night of accommodation in 6 months! Rob begrudgingly shelled out £20 for an average hotel in Guadalajara. House sitting is the future my friends…

Hot-air-balloon-nextFarewell San Miguel