Wednesday, July 18, 2012

South of the Border

Decision made....

Vamonos !

Bells peel-
                                                                ding and dong

every 15 minutes

San Miguel de Allende

This quaint colonial town 
now a UNESCO site
200 miles north west of Mexico City
dates back to the 16th century and Spanish

FIVE STAR - Third World
The old world meets the new 
Optical fiber cable is laid beneath cobbled streets 

Every level of hotel accommodation is available
 from the very edgy modern
Hotel Matilda hidden behind an 18th century facade
to the all new Rosewood 

...but if you are especially lucky 
to have friends with a home in San Miguel

you might score a room where even 
the bathroom has a spectacular view

If you are not so blessed 
then you can still become a temporary local .
 Find the perfect
holiday rental through 
 Firecracker transplant from Birmingham, Alabama
gone native
Her rentals are fully staffed so you can opt 
 have your meals cooked for you or
 try your hand with the local ingredients

There are many really good restaurants using only fresh
ingredients and innovative recipes


For authentic Mexican food eat at the stands in the markets
Try the Carnitas (confit of pork)

The town is pristinely clean  

charm - charm- charm 


 Architectural eye candy
and history
...everywhere you look
House of the Inquisitor
The Spanish Inquisition found it's way to New Spain and
the church official in charge in San Miguel lived in this house until
the inquisition was abolished with the liberation of Mexico in 1820

Could  it be the house carries bad juju 
making it a difficult sale
despite it's glorious architecture ?

The modern world's leading authority on the Spanish Inquisition
died recently at the age of 102

Father of Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
Yonathan Netanyahu
the leader of the succesful raid on Entebbe, 1976

The recently made documentary film
about Yoni's extraordinary accomplishments , is
a well deserved tribute to a modern day hero 

San Miguel had it's own hero
Inspired by the Revolutions in France and in the United States
Allende was a leading figure in organizing the uprisings that led to
Mexican independence

His home built in the first half of the 18th century
on the main square of San Miguel
is now a museum

San Miguel locals 
( many of them Gringos - US expats living the good life)
are all friendly and welcoming

The native residents are as colorful as they are friendly

Street scenes are so charming they border on cliche 
but it's all real

Life is lived in real time unrushed-unharried 
yet completely integrated with 21st century conveniences

Leave Manolo at home  

Get some rubber soled footwear
for navigating the cobbled streets

Never sacrifice fashion completely
This great little number will dress up any outfit
and will handle those cobbles nicely

With the right walking footwear hit the steets

Shop with the locals like the locals
...and spice up your life

The visual overload is fantastic !

The Butcher
The finest meats are available

The Baker
Interior designer, Jeffry Weisman, 
now a San Miguel local,
 shops daily for fresh baked breads and pastries

Pick up a hat like Jeffry's and you can blend right in

The Candle maker
Fine hand-made beeswax candles
I shipped home a huge carton of assorted sizes and 
I am crossing fingers and toes they don't arrive melted

The Green Grocer
and every other color you can imagine

The  Cheese Maker
 Artisan Cheesemaker
El Capricho

Cristina is self taught  (over the internet)
on everything goat 
Goat Cheese
Some of the very finest you will ever taste
" TRY IT-You'll like it "

The local daily market

Squash blossoms at the Organic Farmers' Market 
Breakfast at 
The Farmers'Market

Handicrafts at the MERCADO ARTESENIAS
Elaborately hand embroidered textiles in sizes ranging from
toss pillows to bed covers are a terrific buy

Embroidered Mexican cloths add a bright dash of color on this pool terrace

 Metal work of all kinds is a BARGAIN worth shipping home

San Miguel is in the silver mining state of Guanajato. 
Mexico still provides 25% of the silver used in
 high tech manufacturing around the world 
Silver jewlery can be irresistable 
Be prepared to dig through a lot of stuff to find classic pieces 
like simple beads and heavy ropes with toggle closures
"You must kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince"

Artist and Interior Designer,
Andrew Fisher  has struck gold living in San Miguel.
His inspirations are prolific

Hundreds of gold leafed paper squares 
are handstitched into his glorious creations
ranging from small jewels to majestic treasures

A week in San Miguel is barely enough - 
there is so much to see and do in town- 

but there is also much to see in surrounding towns and villages
like this  Baroque 17th century church
 just outside San Miguel
You could have a local stone carver 
carve you a sink just like this antique font

Charming frescoes combine christian symbols 
with those of the native indians cleverly interwoven

San Miguel has been unjustifiably hit by Mexico's recent bad press 
of "narco terrorism"
that has plagued the northern areas and the Pacific coast.

We felt completely safe  and always welcomed

Mi Casa Su Casa
Bien Venidos

Friday, July 6, 2012

Size Does Matter

Living LARGE by thinking small

We have rented a cottage 
walking distance
to downtown St Helena in the 
Napa Valley

It's sweet and it's teeny 
Less is more
less house = less maintenance=more free time

A narrow staircase leads up to our lofty little bedroom

Without the BIG house responsibilities 
we have been inspired to take road trips , explore and discover..

A perfect way to begin the day is
in neighboring Sonoma at
The Fremont Diner

Fresh eggs laid by resident hens  

or why not bread pudding ?

...and the Tamales- YUM ! for breakfast or lunch

Winding  through the Sonoma countryside 
towards the Pacific Ocean
vineyards give way to old barns and poultry sheds
that dotted the landscape before 
wine became a cash crop

Small towns

Reminders of other times

Chicken Ranch Beach is small and sheltered

...and just down the road
on Tomales Bay 
the quaint community where
summer homes are handed down 
 from one generation to the next

A "two horse" town

one grocery store and Vladimir's, the local bar 

it even boasts a yacht club 

Here there is every intention to keep things 
small because size does matter

... but I can't imagine that the Inverness
post office will be here much longer

A great overnight destination is Nick's Cove in Marshall
where small individual
cottages hang over the water's edge. 

Small is beautiful

In-room massages are available 
after a day of hiking, fishing,  kayaking , cycling
or even after doing not much of anything

The restaurant serves delicious local farm 
fresh products
and of course
the famous oysters of Tomales Bay

Visit the oyster beds and 
see how they are cultivated

Continue north along the coast road 
and you will pass THE HERITAGE HOUSE
a once divine retreat in Little River, 
made famous by the 1978 movie

Sadly the inn appears to be closed and ramshackle 
a sign of the times
but rumor has it that it has been bought 
and will reopen summer of 2012
Let's hope

star in the 1978  comedy
A couple of strangers  meet at the inn and become lovers,
returning once a year for their romantic tryst

Rent the movie -
it's worth watching  even if you have seen it before

Great  writing -Great acting

If you were not even born in 1978 watching 
it will give you a  window into a past era

The village of 
Mendocino on Bodega Bay
is the quintessential small town 
A Hollywood favorite 
for filming anything featuring  a small,  quaint seaside locale
 either east or west coast - so suspend your disbelief

Shingles weathered by the salty wet air
An old lighthouse leads to safe harbor


The thriller was filmed in Mendocino

(AKA mother of actress Melanie Griffith)


Hitchcock referred to THE BIRDS
 as the most terrifying movie he had ever made.
You may never look at a sea gull the same way again

also filmed in Mendocino
The hit television series supposedly unfolding in 
a fishing village in Maine ran for twelve seasons 

Onward to the land of the GIANTS

Folk hero,  Paul Bunyan and Babe his blue ox
A lumberjack of epic proportions

In 1850 there were 2 million acres of Redwood forest in California
Today there is less then 5% left of that old growth.

Reclaimed redwood barn siding 
used for planking an exposed ceiling

Redwoods can live to be 2000 years old giving them 
plenty of time to become columnar giants 

The Giant Redwoods

Redwood trees thrive along the California coast 
which is often shrouded in fog.  
They absorb 30% of their required moisture through their foliage 
and the condensation of fog that drips to their roots.

A fallen Redwood 12 feet in diameter hosts 
all kinds of symbiotic ferns and mosses

Tree trunks so broad that a full size SUV can drive through them
The tallest recorded Redwood is  379 feet tall- 
taller then Big Ben in London

Thinking BIG we confront the dilema

Which way to go next?
Day trips could become more then simple overnights

Prepare to be surprised.

Happy trails