Thursday, May 24, 2007

House Update #4

The upstairs bedroom with a new little room for our tinacos (water tanks) on top. Note our neighbor's tinaco, not too pretty; and presumably against the law in new construction and renovations. But hey, rules are meant to be broken, right?

After a month lost to INAH, we had a reduced crew of 2-4 for nearly a month, slowing down the process considerably. We are now 2-3 months behind the original estimate for one reason or another. BUT- things are looking up. The main patio is still a mess, but the bathrooms are being tiled, the walls are being stuccoed and painted, and the floor tiles are being installed. Here are some pictures.

Birds seem to be a theme. For the front guest bathroom we selected a simple blue, bird design, and for the upstairs guest room we selected a green/blue, bird design. These talavera bird designs are pretty much straight from the 13th century when they seem to have found their way from north Africa to Italy to Spain. You can still find them in Morocco, or you could 40 years ago.

We have to wait for the tiles for the kitchen, half-bath and master bath since the tiles had to be ordered from Dolores Hidalgo (la cuna de la revolución). They are really nothing special, but they make tiles down here as they are needed, all hand-made of course. The kitchen counter and wall designs will include yellow birds on a red background for highlighting and yellow tiles for the counter top. Most new "traditional" kitchens here seem to be bright red, blue or green, but we liked the yellow tiles which have a nice glow and warmth to them that you often don't get in recent Mexican kitchens. And besides we just did not want to be like everyone else.

The tiles in the half-bath in the study will have an abstract cobalt blue design on natural terra cotta, with an off-white tile for the counter top. We will not tile the walls, which we can do later if we want to.

Our master bath will be white and blue with two types of blue crosses, following a design that Christiane liked at the house (i.e. mansion where the sitting president of Mexcio who signed the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty once lived) where she takes her culture classes. It will be somewhat sedate and formal (I hesitate to say distinguished) and easy to live with.

The patio will be brick set on edge in a series of concentric circles, a little modern, but it will really be spectacular when it is finished with large terra cotta flower pots and some bougainvilla.

The outside walls look so nice in plain white that I am tempted to leave them alone. But we will probably paint them off-white in the patios, except for one wall in San Francisco orange/red or something. With bougainvilla climbing up the walls, they too will be spectacular; and since bougainvilla blooms every other month down here and geraniums are always blooming, we will always have a wide variety of flowers to sit and enjoy. I can barely wait. But at least we are finally making progress again.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Catorce and Charco

Not a happy camper, but at least a safe one.

The last couple of weekends we have made two great trips, Real de Catorce, an overnight trip to a nearly abandoned mining town in San Luis Potosi, and a quick trip to Charco del Ingenio near San Miguel de Allende about 45 minutes from our house.

The last weekend in April, we made the Real de Catorce trip with Pierre and Sophie and their son, Antoine, along with Byron, the Mexico country director for the Peace Corps. It took four and a half hours to get there, the last 1.5 miles of which were through a one-way tunnel, the only car access to the town. It was inhabited late as mining towns in Mexico go, having been discovered in the 18th century, and its mines were exhausted by the early 20th century after producing tons of silver. Since prehistoric times it has been a pilgrimage site for Huichol Indians who live in another state, Jalisco.

Until the 1990s it was pretty much abandoned and had a population of around 80 in the 1980s. It now has around 1,200 mostly because of tourism. There are probably more restaurants and hotels (and horse rental guys) per square meter than anywhere in Mexico.

The afternoon that we arrived we walked up the mountain to the first abandoned mine. The road was so bad, even for walking, that I was afraid that C would fall and split her head open. She had fallen the week before in Querétaro and bruised her chin. The next morning we rented horses to take us back the same way we had gone the day before, but we went beyond the first mine to the second, which is locally known as el Pueblo de Fantasma. For some pictures of town, the hotel, the ruins, the abandoned buildings, and yes, Christiane on a horse, go to our Flickr site. We had a really great time, good food, good company, good scenery, and some mediocre horses.

Cañon de Chan at Charco del Ingenio, Guanajuato.

A couple of weeks ago we attended the Querétaro international guitar festival like we did last year. The only difference is that this year we knew a lot of the people. The last night we attended the Guitarras de America concert, and our friend, “el famoso” Ramon, was recognized by the group. Among other things, Ramon plays the guitar, besides being an electrical engineer who specializes in solar energy and ecology, and being a pretty funny guy. After the concert we went with Ramon and Elvira to a lecture on ecology, or more precisely on an ecological preserve near San Miguel de Allende called Charco del Ingenio. The speaker, Cesár, introduced Ramon in the audience because Ramon had done all the solar energy at Charco. With the guitar guys and the ecological guy, I have dubbed Ramon “el famoso”. Elvira says it was a fluke that he seemed to know everyone that evening, but wives always try to keep you from having a swelled head, so “el famoso” it will remain, at least for me.

Anyway, after the lecture Ramon wangled an invitation for us to visit Charco with Cesár today. Not only do they have a unique program, there is only one municipal ecological preserve in Guanajuato state, and none in Querétaro state, but the plants and water are beautiful, the trails are safe (much safer than Catorce) and walkable; AND they have some real archaeology, a couple of old mills (remembrances of my days at New South), including one that is from the late 1600s. Since they don’t have much money, and virtually none from INAH or the feds, they need volunteers. It may be that I can find some archaeology to do after all. We shall see. Check here for some photos.

I invited Angel along. Angel lives in our apartment building or patio and works for the Peace Corps. He is in charge of the new environmental program they are starting, and I hoped he would be able to make some useful contacts for himself and the Peace Corps. He had already been to Charco three times recently, but had never met Cesár. He filled out our “team” and made it a truly memorable trip. It was fun talking with people like this after being away from it for over a year, and the preserve is beautiful.

We will have to take people by here on our way to visit San Miguel in the future. But we will still visit the cactus nursery in Cadareyta near Bernal which is always interesting for visitors even though both places are heavy on cactus. They are really very different and complement each other.