Road to Uruapan

Uruapan is a city about 30 miles southwest of here. We hadn’t been there, not downtown at least, in maybe two years due to the Kung Flu hysteria. We rectified that error Saturday.

Heading out in the Honda before noon, we barreled down the autopista, not something I enjoy doing. Decades ago, Mexico’s toll roads were almost universally four lanes, which is how the Goddess wishes it. But some years ago, economic geniuses decided to make new ones with two lanes. Of course, it was a fiscal decision.

The problem is that Mexicans, who drive like lunatics anyway, continued driving on two-lane autopistas as if they were still four lanes. The shoulders now serve as the missing two lanes, or sometimes straddling the center line adds a lane. Around a curve. This makes for interesting drives. Nobody has slowed down.

The autopista between my mountaintop town and Uruapan is one of the newer two-laners, and driving on it is a white-knuckle proposition. We drove down on the autopista, but we returned on the old route that was used before that autopista was constructed.

The advantages of the old route is that it’s free, and it’s a beautiful ride. Autopistas are toll roads, and they can be quite pricy. The main disadvantage of the old route is that you can get caught behind a slow semi for miles because the route is very curvy.

The photo above is the return, and it was taken through the windshield because it was raining.

It’s a beautiful drive that runs from our high town down, down, down to a noticeably different world that is tropical. Banana trees and avocado orchards are plentiful. And so are narcos, unfortunately.

Our destination was two-pronged. The national park that sits in the middle of town, and a hotel restaurant that rests on the edge of that park. I call it the jungle park, because that’s what it looks like. You could be in Ecuador. The hotel is La Mansion del Cupatitzio.

A good-looking babe who sleeps with me strikes a pose in the park.

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About 20 years ago, a then-friend here in my mountaintop town recommended the restaurant in the hotel, specifically the avocado cocktail.

Cocktail!

I say “then-friend” because a couple of years ago, when she discovered I was a Trump fan, she cut ties via an expletive-filled email. Twenty years up in smoke.

We’ve been going to the park and the restaurant for years, and we always get the avocado cocktail combined with some additional vittles. After the park, and after lunch, we hopped into the Honda again and headed home in the rain.

It was good to leave Uruapan because, with some notable exceptions like the jungle park, it’s mostly a butt-ugly city.

First time I’ve ever seen ziplining in the park. Must be new.

Road to Cuanajo

I shot this photo today as we drove toward Cuanajo, which is a village near here that specializes in handmade wood furniture, from utter junk to wood masterpieces the queen of England would be happy to have in one of her taxpayer-funded castles.

Much of our Hacienda furniture was made in Cuanajo. Our latest acquisition was the dining room set we bought two years ago.

Just driving to Cuanajo is a pleasure. It’s not that far, and the road, when you get off the highway toward the state capital, offers spectacular views.

You might see a bull or even a burro.
Wood waiting to be transformed into something beautiful.

The reason we drove toward Cuanajo was to visit a new restaurant which was located before Cuanajo in a much smaller village named Tupàtaro. The restaurant was so-so, not likely we’ll return, but the drive always is worthwhile. Tupàtaro’s claim to fame is not the restaurant but a centuries-old church with incredible ceiling art.

Returning to the Hacienda, barreling down the highway between our mountaintop town and the nearby state capital, I pulled over and took this photo. It’s not Kansas, Toto.

Grape leaves in Guanajuato

barnew
The bar in the Teatro Juarez where Porfirio Díaz once imbibed. Set ’em up, José.

WE RETURNED from Guanajuato yesterday evening. We fled there Saturday to escape Carnival in our hardscrabble barrio where the natives go berserk.

It’s so bad during Carnival — also called Mardi Gras elsewhere — that a high, chicken-wire fence is erected around parts of our neighborhood plaza to keep drunks corralled.

Chicken wire. So we hightail it out of town.

Though Guanajuato is only about three hours away from our Hacienda, it was just my fourth visit, and the first in over a decade. My initial visit was in the mid-1980s with my second ex-wife. We made the obligatory trip to see the mummies who were stacked up against the walls in a carefree manner. Absolutely lovely.

Flash forward about two decades, which was my 2002 honeymoon. I returned to the mummies, but the exhibit had been sanitized. The corpses were behind climate-controlled glass cases. Most of the grotesquery had been eliminated. Damn shame.

We did not revisit the mummies during this trip.

This week we stayed in a great hotel directly downtown because we did not drive the Honda. Driving in the middle of Guanajuato is a nightmare, which is why I had not visited in a long time. The streets are narrow, bend all over the place and often vanish into ancient, underground tunnels. So we traveled by bus.

Visit highlights included dining at a Vietnamese restaurant, something that cannot be found even in our nearby capital city. I love pho. There was also an Arabic restaurant where we enjoyed stuffed grape leaves, pita bread and hummus! Yum.

Guanajuato is hyper-touristy, very different from my initial visit in the 1980s. Especially on Sunday, I felt like I was in Venice, Italy, due to the horrendous mobs of people. It improved on Monday and Tuesday, but not all that much.

It’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there, even for Vietnamese pho and stuffed, Mohammedan grape leaves. It’s good to be home again.

Some of the chicken wire is still up, but the drunks have been carted away.

Morgue, jail, home. Who knows?

Ms. bones
In case you missed them at the mummy museum.

city
Guanajuato from on high. In color, of course.

Sick unto death

catrinaFOR MANY years before relocating to Mexico, I was a big fan of the Day of the Dead tradition. In my Houston condo, I had a ceramic Catrina on my bathroom counter, one that a Mexican crafts store outrageously overcharged me for, which I didn’t know then.

It had been marked up about 10 times. Double is the norm. Those crafty Mexicans.

By pure dumb luck I settled in one of the two most popular and highly publicized towns in the entire republic for Los Muertos, as the Day of the Dead is commonly known in Mexico. The other is Oaxaca.

This really tickled me 19 years ago. Now I’m just ticked off. The tourist mobs have grown to stunning levels and, for that reason, this year we are fleeing for the first time.

We’re riding a bus to Guadalajara late next week.

I have not been to Guadalajara since 2000. Our mountaintop town is located about halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City. Actually, it’s a bit closer to Guadalajara. In spite of that, I have visited Mexico City a gadzillion times, and I have not returned to Guadalajara since my mother (R.I.P.) and my sister visited in that long-ago summer. I picked them up at the airport there, and then returned them a week later.

We’ll be staying in a downtown hotel that’s two blocks from the Hotel Morales, which is where I stayed three nights after flying to Guadalajara from Atlanta on January 19, 2000. It’ll be fun to take a peek into there for ole times sake. I tried to book a room at the Morales, but nothing was available for the dates of our visit.

We’ll be visiting the famous zoo and eating some Vietnamese pho, which I love. Other than those two things, nothing much is planned. We’ll just wander around. This will be our first trip to someplace “new” since our 2013 visit to Mérida. We don’t travel much.

What I remember most about Guadalajara is the atrocious quantity of pigeons that pollute the downtown plazas. I’m not a fan of pigeons, nasty birds.

But there will probably be more tourists here next weekend than there are pigeons soiling the center of Guadalajara. Gotta pick your poisons.