Saturday, July 25, 2015

Crusing On The Cobblestones.....On Four Wheels

Instead of driving a big red fire truck yesterday Clyde was driving a little, red golf cart through the streets of Ajijic, Mexico.  For something different we decided to rent a golf cart for $30 from a gringo owned company called, "Lake Chapala Golf Carts." It seemed like it would be a fun and easy way to explore the tiny town, or so we thought.  We forgot about one little thing, or should I say many little things that line each and every street in this town.  Those pesky little things are known as cobblestones and make for a rough ride.

Our Ride For The Day

We Took A Short Hike To This Waterfall
Views From Hilltop

Sights Around The Neighborhood
A Mural On Someone's House 

Another View 

This Is A Type Of Altar Where The Procession Begins On The Day Of The Dead
The Day Of The Dead Is A Mexican Custom Of Remembering The Dead On November 2nd

Cobblestones Everywhere.....With A Tree Growing In The Middle Of The Street 

Local Cemetary

Many Elaborate Graves 

And More 

Different Homes
Local Shops, A Truck With An Elephant In The Rear Advertising The Circus Is In Town

An Interesting Light Fixture 

Another Waterfront Malecon In The Village Of San Antonio Tlayacapan

Town Square in San Antonio Tlayacapan 

Tiny Local Church 

Old Women Ringing Church Bells Every Fifteen Minutes

Municipal Building

Caught Him Drinking From Fountain
Too Cute

Our Rental Car......We Just Walked Away For A Few Minutes And Came Back To This
Just Kidding...... 

Mexican Caballeros Shoeing Horses

La Floresta......A Ritzy Part Of Ajijic

Another Home

After getting the hang of it by driving around for a while we stopped for lunch at a hole in the wall restaurant.  A tiny place that specializes in "torta ahogando," which literally translates as, "drowned sandwiches."  This is a type of sandwich commonly eaten here for lunch and something that I just had to try.  The only choices offered in this little place were either the sandwich or tacos, so I choose one and Clyde had the other.  When my sandwich arrived it was served in a bowl.  A sub type of roll filled with chunks of pork, with sliced red onions on the top of the bun.  The whole thing was covered in a generous helping of red juice, that reminded me of a watered down tomato soup flavored with meat. Clyde was served the same type of meat but it was put into corn tortillas and also drenched with the red sauce.  While my sandwich was tasty it wasn't something that I'd choose to eat often even if we lived here.  The total for the two meals including one drink that we shared came to $3.50 and we were both stuffed full.

Tortas Ahogadas Here

Tiny Restaurant With Two Choices On The Menu 

Clyde's Tacos

The Famous Torta Ahogada
I Had A Spoon, Fork And Knife To Eat It

After lunch we drove around the heavily populated tourist and gringo area and Clyde mistakenly drove down a one way street. Wherever Clyde goes he manages to find trouble so of course there was a police office nearby who noticed and pulled him over.  The officer approached the golf cart and began his questioning.  Clyde asked, "is this a one way?" to which the policeman said, "si."  Clyde apologized but the officer still wasn't done with him.  He then asked for the documents on the vehicle and we explained that it was a rental and we didn't know where they were.  He than began to scold Clyde saying that this type of vehicle is ONLY to be used on a golf course, and never allowed on the road.  I interjected explaining that it was a rental and asked that he call the owner of the company who told us the cart was legal everywhere except on the highway. The officer asked Clyde to step out and walked him over to the police car to talk to his supervisor.  Finally Clyde just said, "are you going to give me a ticket?"  It was then that the policeman said, "go....get out of here."  Of course all of this was in Spanish and Clyde was nervous dealing with a police officer in a foreign country.

The owner of the golf cart rental company told us about the police here and said they were usually looking for a bribe.  He said he'd never seen one actually write anyone a ticket but assured us if we received one he'd pay it, unless it was our fault. Upon returning the golf cart we let the owner know about our experience to avoid any similar problems occurring to future customers. The owner did contact the police department and tried to talk to someone about the problem.  Apparently this man did consult with local authorities before opening this business.  They assured him of the laws regarding golf cart use and he was told they were legal to use everywhere except on the main highway.  We were allowed to cross the highway at traffic lights to access the other part of the city as long as we proceeded with caution.

Back at the casa we rested up a bit before heading back out for dinner.  Since we were up to our eyeballs in Mexican food we opted for another choice.  A nearby Italian restaurant called, "Alex's Pasta Bar, " caught our eye so we headed over that way. The lovely little place was decorated in a black and white color scheme with the menu printed in English.  A young, Mexican waiter welcomed us in English as he took our drink orders and offered us a menu.  He came back with a small green salad topped with sliced salami alongside a bowl of cut up tomatoes, onions and cilantro in lime juice. A basket of round crusty bread slices was served also and I asked if it was all "gratis" or included, to which he said, "si" The menu offered a large selection of pasta dishes with a choice of many sauces.  Clyde ordered cheese and spinach ravioli with a white sauce while I ordered the same ravioli but with a red, wine sauce with bacon. The food was yummy and served with a small plate of round, seasoned bread rolls. The restaurant was elegant, crisp and clean looking which certainly gave it an expensive look.  Yet each of our meals was only $90 pesos which converts to just $5.50 each. A small price to pay for luxury dining which included a few extras along with great service.

Our Rented Golf Cart In Front Of Restuarant
Free Appetizers

Clyde's Ravioli

 My Ravioli

Today we took it easy and headed out for lunch at a place called, "Chile Verde."  The owner of the golf cart company mentioned it to us yesterday explaining that it was a tiny hole in the wall that had cheap, good, Mexican food. The place was so small it had only three tables with a tiny cooking area in the back.  Clyde ordered a Mexican plate that came with chicken enchiladas, rice, white refried beans and a chili rellano (stuffed chili pepper). I ordered two chicken tacos that were served with cilantro and raw onions. To drink Clyde had a lemonade and I had iced tea.  The total for all of this was only $132 pesos or $$8.15, and we left there stuffed again.  And out of the three tables in the joint there was another table with Texans.  A couple that moved here from Austin were having lunch with a female friend so we chatted with them a bit as we all dined.'

Today's Lunch Place......Chili Verde Restaurant 

Clyde's Lemonade Made With Tonic Water

At several local stores we noticed a square thingy  that looks like some sort of bird seed formed into a patty that resembles a rice crispy treat. So today while at Walmart we decided to buy one of the strange little creatures which were displayed with the candy, so we assumed they were people food.  Turns out after reading the ingredients they are made with amaranth or "amaranto" in Spanish which is a kind of weed, plant or flower grown locally.  Another strange ingredient was something called "piloncillo" which is a type of unrefined sugar commonly used in Mexico. The bar has about 174 calories. plenty of carbs and even some protein.  The taste can best be described as a cross between a rice crispy treat and pop corn, lightly sweetened and made up of millions of tiny, little balls glued together with a sweetener.  I think these are something that I like and would eat again, providing that I don't start chirping or jump off the roof thinking that I can fly. Time to relax on the rooftop terrace so I can, well ah.....put that theory to the test?

Bird Food Or People Food?
It's People Food

Just returned from a dinner out at a place called "Gossips."  Clyde told me I'm writing too much about what we're eating here, but let's face it there's not much else exciting going on.  Since this isn't too much of a touristy place we can only venture out to touristy things so often, the rest of the time we're hanging at the house with the cat just chillin'. Anyway, back to the food we enjoyed some crispy fish tacos topped with veggies, sprouts and an orangy sauce.   They were served alongside black bean chili and we just couldn't resist some sangria too.

 Tonight's Dinner.....Fish Tacos, Minus One That Clyde Already Ate And Black Bean Chili
Spotted This Tree While Walking Back To The House 

Strange Windows And Sculpture

A Cute Puff Ball On A Balcony

Family Coming Home On Horseback

More Local Homes

They're All So Different 

Love The Door

A man seated beside us at a table alone was chatting on the phone in Spanish.  We couldn't be sure if he was a foreigner from elsewhere in Latin America or a dark complected gringo, but his Spanish was fluent yet easy for us to understand.  As I eaves dropped on the conversation I heard him say there were many gringos here and they all had lots of money.  Although I was thrilled that I was able to follow parts of his conversation there was yet another part of me that hated being stereotyped.  But I suppose it is ......what it is......and to many others in the world us Americans ARE wealthy, even though we all know we're not.  Perhaps it's just another experience we've had while out exploring life......along the gringo trail.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Toilet Paper And Teeth.....Livin' La Vida Loca In Mexico

Today began like all other days with me getting ready in the usual way.  But when I brushed and flossed my teeth my temporary crown popped off.  Back in Panama I had undergone a route canal procedure during the past month.  Out of the three canals in the molar the dentist was only able to locate two of them because the third one was calcified.  It was because of this that he suggested we leave the temporary or provisional crown in place for a month or two before putting on the final one. When I asked he said it was perfectly fine to brush and floss the provisional crown, however it was during flossing today that it came undone.

So we left the house and off we went trying to find a dentist that could see me here in Ajijic, Mexico. Over the past week here we had noticed many dental and doctors offices so I knew we'd have no trouble finding one.  We stopped into "Ajijic Dental" located on the main carretera or roadway through the village. Immediately we were greeted by an attractive, young Mexican women with a bubby personality and big white smile.  She wore a dress under a white lab coat which her long dark curly hair fell over like a water fall. She introduced herself by name and said that she was the dentist's assistant.  I inquired if there was a dentist in the office and explained my dilemma.  She spoke a little bit of English but seemed to understand what I was telling her.

Since there were no other patients in the office she quickly escorted me into an exam room and got me settled into a chair.  I was draped with a napkin around my neck and another one clipped to the front for extra protection  She even put a pillow under my neck as she asked me to lay back in the chair. Once I was reclined she spread Vaseline over my lips, apparently preventing them from drying out?

A few minutes later an attractive women dressed in maroon scrubs approached the side of the chair.  She had brown hair with reddish streaks added to it, was probably in her early 40's with a full face of makeup. She wore a white lab coat too which gave her a professional and clean look.  I asked if she was the dentist and she said, "yes."  She spoke fluent English and I began to explain my problem to her.  The assistant set out all of the supplies that the dentist might need to take care of my crown. 

The dentist was efficient, professional and very pleasant to be around as she re-cemented my crown making sure it fit properly with the rest of my bite. While I was there I also told her about another issue I was having in my mouth.  On the bottom of my mouth I wear a partial plate that I've had for many years.  For the past few weeks I've had some irritation underneath the plate causing terrible pain.  While back in Panama I went in search of Anbesol or other topical numbing agent but there was none to be found. Eventually I asked our Spanish teacher and she gave us the name of something used for teething babies called Chicodent. While it did have numbing qualities it still didn't solve the issue of my gum irritation and I knew I needed to see a dentist.

The dentist said she could file down the partial to change the shape a bit which would take pressure off the sore spot.  She disappeared to another room and the dental assistant approached me from behind the chair at the top of my head.  "Poquito masaje," she said as she proceeded to massage my face.  Her fingers moved in a continual tapping motion from my forehead, to my temples, cheeks and chin causing me to spontaneously relax, whether I wanted to or not. It happened so fast and caught me by surprise that I didn't have time to object even if I had wanted to. 

The dentist walked in and said, "here try this to see if it's better," as she handed me the partial.  It literally took me a minute or so to react as I was in a state of pure relaxation from the facial. The dentist wasn't happy with the results and left again to reshape it some more. The assistant continued with the facial massage bringing me into an even more relaxed state of consciousness.  I just had to ask, "so did you learn how to do this massage in dental assistant school?"  She said, "yes."

There were several more fittings by the dentist until she was satisfied with the results of the fitting.  She suggested also that I rinse my mouth with baking soda and water which would change the PH of my mouth causing it to heal faster.

After she was done the dentist said, "ok so the cost is $250 pesos....ok?  Not too much is it?".....she asked?  Clyde was giddy with happiness at the sound of that number since $250 pesos is only a mere $15.52 US dollars!

After that we picked up some more coffee from a local roadside stand which we dropped off at the house.  The home owner's maid comes on Thursday at 1pm so we intended to stay out of the house so she could clean. We headed over toward the gringo plaza as we call it since the restaurants there seem to cater to the foreigners. 

Along the way on a side street we spotted a rather east Indian looking man standing outside of a restaurant.  Clyde asked him what kind of food they had and he explained.  Before long we were seated in the lovely court yard looking at the menu.  We each choose an order of chicken enchiladas swiss that came with rice and beans.  Before the meal arrived we were served chips and a selection of salsas.  One salsa was green and the milder of the two, the other was red and hot.  The meal was huge consisting of 4 enchiladas covered in a green sauce topped with a white cheese. Along side it was white rice with some veggies mixed in.  The other side of the platter held a tiny bowl formed from a small tortilla.  The decorative bowl was used to hold black refried beans that were smothered with more white cheese. The little bowl was garnished with a red pepper.

Restaurant La Una
Chef Preparing Our Food

Outdoor Dining Room 

Our Lunch.....Green Chicken Enchiladas With Rice And Beans

Colorful Neighborhoods Near The Restaurant

Stuffed from a huge meal we decided to take a walk along the malecon.  The malecon of Ajijic is a paved walkway that runs alongside Lake Chapala.  It follows lots of green space, gardens, a playground, skate board park and other public spaces for all to enjoy.  As usual the weather was just perfect, sunny in the 70's and a bit cooler in the shade. We stopped to use the banos at one point for a cost of $3 pesos each, or just 18 cents each. After Clyde paid our fees the male attendant allowed me to choose my wad of toilet paper that was sitting in a plastic container. Another attendant apparently was listening that I was finished.  He walked into the ladies room and offered me "jabon," or soap to wash my hands with.  I suppose as funny as this whole thing is at least they provide paper here, another thing not often seen in Panama.

More Shops Along The Way
An Outdoor Gym Near The Lake Front 

A Type Of Leg Press

Once we had enough of walking we stopped for a cup of coffee at a nearby café that also caters to gringos. The waiters spoke fluent English as we ordered two cups of café con leche.  After we drank one cup we were offered another, something that never happens in Panama.  Refills in Panama are never free.  The total for two cups of coffee here in Mexico.....just  $25 pesos or $1.86.

Last night we found a place called "La Nueva Posada," to enjoy dinner. As the name suggests "la nueva posada," or "new inn or hotel," features a lovely hotel attached to a huge restaurant.  Clyde and I were the only people inside the restaurant while several tables of gringos sat outside.  Just then another gringo approached us and asked, "are you new here?"  We explained that yes we were new and just visiting the area.  He invited us to join the group that meets every Wednesday just to socialize. Drinks during the event were a two for one offer so we quickly moved to join the others.

La Nueva Posada Restaurant

The crowd was much older than us, most were late 70's or 80's but all very friendly and welcoming.  As the night went on we learned the stories of many of the retirees who moved to Mexico for a more affordable way of life.  Some had been here for 10 years or more, owned property and told us of their adventures of living in Mexico. The restaurant was just lovely with elegant décor, white table cloths, cloth napkins and very attentive wait staff.  Surely a meal here would cost of a fortune?  Clyde and I ordered the same thing off the menu.  We each had a ground sirloin steak that was topped with grilled onions along side mashed potatoes and mix veggies.  It was served with a crusty dinner roll and butter. The price was $85 pesos which converts to just $5.27 each. During the two for one drink hour we each had a coke for a cost of just 75 cents for both.  We chatted for hours with this group of Mex-pats comparing life in Mexico to our life in Panama. 

Another View

Some of the benefits they told us about were as follows:  they can see an English speaking doctor for around $5. A dental cleaning is around $10.   A man told us about having prostate surgery with two days in the hospital for around $3000.  Trash pickup here is free, and they really do pick it up, we've seen that for sure. Property taxes run between $50 and $200 per year for most people.  Water is not drinkable so most people install water systems and water softeners.  Many homes install solar panels to save on electric costs since rates are high here.  Eating out here costs less than eating at home.  The bus system is efficient and cheap.  A cheap $3 trip to Guadalajara is a monthly trip for many expats for shopping.  The big city has malls and large warehouse clubs where foreigners can find everything they're looking for. And this area of Mexico truly does have the most perfect weather in the world.  There is no need for either a/c or heating since the temperatures remain spring like year round.


Stairs Up To Hotel Rooms

Lobby Of Hotel And Restaurant

How exciting to meet a whole different group of expats who did the same thing we did just to another country.  And what fun to be able to compare notes, stories and adventures of life in Mexico vs. life in Panama.......along the gringo trail.

Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...