Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 Trip to Mexico for a Wedding (2/10-14/2010)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
While snow closed down the DC area, and a cold front moved into Florida, we flew via Dallas to the city of Leon, Mexico. Undoubtedly because of the swine flu, we had to fill out a form declaring we were healthy, and pass a computer monitor that showed our body temperature. An SUV with cold beers was waiting to drive us the 1-1/2 hours to San Miguel de Allende in the Mexico Heartland. Passed through a dry rocky landscape, then forested hills before driving into the mountains. The car had to back up the street of the hotel, because it was blocked at the main square end. We checked into Hotel Posada Carmina, with our room just off a small courtyard.
Kent in hotel courtyard
In the room, two bottles of water labeled "Cecelia & Drew Wedding" awaited us, along with a note inviting us to dinner with the bride's family.
Since rain was predicted for the rest of the week, we decided to do a bit of sightseeing while the sun was out. Right outside the hotel door, we could see the towers of the Gothic parish church, La Parroquia.
La Parroquia towers
Originally built in colonial style in 1683, the church was given a facelift in 1880 by self-trained mason Ceferino Gutierrez who was inspired by postcards of French Gothic cathedrals.
La Parroquia
(Since he didn't know what the back of a Gothic cathedral looked like, it was done Mexican-style.)
The clock tower of San Rafael stood just beyond La Parroquia,
San Rafael clock tower
and they both faced the main plaza of El Jardin ("the garden"). A darling little square with fountains,
El Jardin fountain
a gazebo, wrought-iron benches and pruned trees.
El Jardin
Nearby, a Starbucks!
Next was the Templo de Inmaculada Concepcion (Church of the Immaculate Conception), with its dome that Ceferino Gutierrez modeled after the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.
Church of the Immaculate Conception
We continued walking the cobblestoned streets of San Miguel
Kent in a little plaza
 until we reached the Casa Cardo, a hacienda rented by the Tanaka family.

Kent knew Stuart from their high school days in Japan, where, although they attended different high schools, they became golfing buddies. Later after college, Kent & Stuart shared living quarters, and Kent was there when Stuart met his wife Cheryl. Kent & Stuart have kept in touch, and whenever travels took one near the home of the other, they would plan a golf outing. Stuart & Cher's oldest child, Cecelia, was marrying Drew, whose parents live half the year in Portland, OR and the other half here in San Miguel. Thus, we were here for the wedding. (The legal ceremony was performed in New York City where the couple currently reside.)

Casa Cardo was well-appointed, fully furnished with a grand piano, stained glass, and etched glass lighting fixtures.
Casa Cardo lamp fixture
There was an inner courtyard
Inner courtyard
leading to a study and one bedroom, and three bedrooms lined one side of the main courtyard, which also had a small pool.
Main courtyard
A veranda led to the living areas and kitchen.
We had cocktails on the rooftop terrace, and dinner of a local-style chicken soup and fish tacos.
Sonja practiced applying wedding make-up on her big sister, Cecelia.
Sonja and Cecelia

Thursday, February 11, 2010
Another beautiful day!
View from hotel window
Main courtyard of the hotel
Door to the hotel
Most of San Miguel was like this - doorways in flat walls led to beautiful courtyards.
Today was our day to sightsee. Casa de Allende (the house of Allende) was the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, a War of Independence leader and hero.
Casa de Allende
It is now the regional museum - a school field trip destination.
We explored inside La Parroquia -
Prayer charms
here the robe of a statue is pinned with prayer charms and photos.
In the Church of San Rafael, a near life-size sculpture group of the crucifixion on Mount Calvary.
Near life-size crucifixion scene
Another peek at El Jardin.
El Jardin
A few blocks farther brought us to Templo de Tercado Orden (Church of the Third Order).
Templo de Tercado Orden
Next to that was the Templo de San Francisco (Church of St. Francis) with its ornate Churriguersque facade.
Templo de San Francisco
Plaza de Allende contained an equestrian statue of Ignacio Allende.
Plaza de Allende
Next the markets.
Prickly pear cactus pads
Then the Mercado de Artesanias (Artisans Market).
Punched tin lanterns
Hand-embroidered items
Our next stop was the Biblioteca (library) that carries books in Spanish and English, and has an intimate courtyard cafe.
Biblioteca courtyard
A couple of artists
Artists at work
were painting the Oratorio de San Felipe de Neri (Church of St. Philip of Neri).
Oratorio de San Felipe de Neri
Passed the Teatro Angela Peralta (named for the Mexican soprano who gave the first performance here),
Teatro Angela Peralta
where high school students were gathered.
In Bellas Artes, a branch of the Palacio Bellas Artes in Mexico City, there was an exhibit of decorated petit fours.
Petit four as art
The Bellas Artes courtyard gave us a great view of the dome of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Bellas Artes courtyard
Our lunch included tortilla chips with pico de gallo (chopped tomato, onion, cilantro with a bit of lime juice) and a spicy brown salsa, and cantalope and cucumber topped with cayenne.
Lunch extras
Our main entrees were Cecina (a marinated beef left to dry in the sun) and Molcajetes (served in a heated bowl made from basalt, which kept the food simmering) with fish.

We detoured to Casa Cardo to get information on my tour to the Monarch butterfly preserve, only to learn the tour was canceled.
Continued through the shady Parque Benito Juarez, where a large flower and plant sale was in progress. Found the Lavaderos Publicos (public laundry), where one woman was taking advantage of the spring-fed laundry tubs.
Lavaderos Publicos
Climbed a steep hill past the Casa de la Cultura with its clock tower,
to reach the Church of El Charro, before heading back to our hotel for showers and a siesta.
Casa de la Cultura
That evening we went to dinner with Cheryl's Rockford College (IL) friends at La Posadita, only a couple doors from our hotel. At night it was too breezy and cool to eat out on the rooftop terrace.

Friday, February 12, 2010
Since I was not taking the all-day tour to see the Monarchs, we found other things to do. And the weather was holding out - no rain! Made an appointment to see the Mask Museum, and walked, or rather climbed, there.
Tamiko climbing the hill
The Mask Museum is the hobby of the owner of a bed & breakfast, and it contains over 500 masks. You could not photograph in the museum, but you could in the shop where he sells his overflow masks!
Tamiko in the mask shop
A favorite!
The bed & breakfast was filled with Mexican folk art, and had fountains and courtyards.
Bed & Breakfast courtyard
Stairway niches for more masks
Next we went on a hunt for tickets to a concert of a tenor singer, thinking we would join the Rockford College group early that evening. No tickets to be found at five diferent locations including the church where the concert was to be held.
Cobblestoned streets of San Miguel, and a mounted police officer.
Mounted police on cobblestoned street
Finally we visited Instituto Allende, a college of the arts that also offers Spanish courses. Toured their galleries. There was a beautiful courtyard,
Instituto Allende courtyard
Instituto Allende Mural
and a restaurant and coffee bar.
Instituto Allende coffee bar
Back to the hotel for showers and a siesta, before going to a restaurant in town for the Welcome and Rehearsal Dinner.
Drew & Cecelia (she is wearing one of her creations)
Open bar cocktails with a three-man band for entertainment.
Later, a lone guitarists played as we had dinner.
Dinner set-up
After dinner, there were more drinks at the Sunset Bar on a rooftop.

Saturday, February 13, 2010
Another gorgeous day! This time we took a taxi to El Charco del Ingenio/Jardin Botanico (botanical garden). We were on a plateau in the mountains, with dried grasses and cacti and small trees scattered about.
El Charco del Ingenio/Jardin Botanico
Cane Cholla Cactus
Nopal (a prickly pear variety) Cactus
Kent in the Agave Garden
A succulent
Some kind of brainy cactus
Golden Barrel Cactus
Conservatory of Mexican Plants
Opuntia microdasys
Water Garden 
Kent on the reservoir dam
Center railing washed out - do not cross!
Reservoir dam
Holy Cross of El Charco
Watermill ruins
El Charco, a spring-fed pool in the canyon
View of San Miguel
Pipe Organ Cactus
Cactus Garden
We caught another taxi to take us to the Fabrica la Aurora just outside of town. This former textile mill has been turned into galleries, artist studios,shops, and restaurants.
Hmm, where is the center of gravity?
Cala Lilies
Looms still sit in the galleries
After showers and a siesta, we readied to be transported by trolley to the wedding at Casa Cardo.
While Drew had a half-dozen Best Men, Cecelia had her sister, Sonja, and brother, Michael, as the Bridesmaid and Bridesman.
Sonja and Michael
Stuart and Cecelia
Drew & Cecelia
Cecelia & Drew
After the cerremony, there were cocktails on the rooftop terrace as Mariachis played.
Mariachi Band
Cecelia & Drew
Cecelia designs her own hats and shoes
Cheryl and Kent
Stuart and Kent
Kent & Tamiko
Table setting

Sunday, February 14, 2010
The rain had held off for the entire wedding stay!
As we were leaving, saw this man with his firewood-laden burros:
Burros in town
Goodbye, San Miguel!
San Miquel de Allende