Life in Paradise. What is it like?

People often ask, what do you do all day now that you are retired? I love that question, especially when you are retired in a beautiful location like Lake Chapala.

Take today, for instance. We left the house around 1pm, when our wonderful cleaning lady Mary arrived, and headed towards Jocotepec, a town west of us, for a nice drive by the lake’s edge.

After running some errands and on our way back to Ajijic, as we were driving past the row of restaurants on the lake, my husband Nick said… let’s stop for a cold beer. I didn’t need to be asked twice. He pulled into Restaurant Playa Azul. What a great choice.

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The first thing that grabbed us was how beautiful and serene the lake was. It was like glass. I wished I was out on the water on a boat or a kayak.

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Even though the sun was hot and around 80 degrees outside, sitting at our table in the shade looking out at the water, it felt perfect. There is always a wonderful breeze blowing from the lake. I sat there mesmerized wondering how did we get so lucky?

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Everything was calm. In the distance there was a flock of birds just sitting on the water.

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There was a small boy at the end of the wooden jetty fishing. And he was good at it. He probably learned to fish from his father and grandfather.

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Our friendly waiter, Marco, came over and we told him we were just having some guacamole with topopos (tortilla chips) and cold beers. He said no problem. He then asked us what kind of music we wanted to hear, since we had the place to ourselves, I guess. And I said Salsa, of course. I thought that was pretty cool.

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I walked out onto the jetty and took a picture of our restaurant on the shore.

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The afternoon just slipped by as we sat there enjoying our guacamole and ice cold Pacifico beers taking in the view of this magnificent lake and thanking God for bringing us to this little paradise called Lake Chapala. We will definitely be back to Playa Azul.

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Viva México!

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Piñata History and Meaning

Breaking a piñata is a fun activity at Mexican children’s parties. A piñata is a figure, traditionally made from a clay pot covered with paper mache and painted or decorated with brightly colored tissue paper, that is filled with candy and fruit or other goodies. The traditional shape for a piñata is a star with seven points, but now it’s also popular to make piñatas that represent animals or cartoon characters.
At parties, a piñata is suspended from a rope, and a child, often blind-folded and sometimes made to spin around several times before taking their turn, hits it with a stick while an adult pulls on one end of the rope to make the piñata move and make the game more challenging. Children take turns hitting the piñata until it breaks and the candy falls out onto the ground and then everyone rushes to collect it.

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History and Meaning of the Piñata:
The piñata’s history in Mexico dates back to the same time as the Christmas posadas in Acolman de Nezahualcoyotl, in the present state of Mexico, near the archaeological site of Teotihuacan.
In 1586 the Augustinian friars in Acolman received authorization from Pope Sixtus V to hold what were called “misas de aguinaldo”, which later became the posadas. It was at these masses that were held in the days leading up to Christmas that the friars introduced the piñata. They used the piñata as an allegory to help them in their efforts to evangelize the native people of the region.
The original piñata was shaped like a star with seven points. The points represented the seven deadly sins, and the bright colors of the piñata symbolize temptation.
The blindfold represents faith and the stick is virtue or the will to overcome sin. The candies and other goodies inside the piñata are the riches of the kingdom of heaven. Thus teaching that with faith and virtue one could overcome sin and receive all the rewards of heaven.
The Piñata Today:
In Mexico piñatas are an important part of birthday parties and other parties for children. They also figure prominently in the celebration of posadas at Christmastime. Although the star shape is still favored at Christmas, piñatas now come in a very wide variety of designs. In Mexico, many piñatas are still made with a ceramic pot, but you will also find some that are made purely of paper maché. The ones with a pot inside are easier to break because they don’t move so much when you hit them, but they can also pose a danger, of shards flying as the piñata breaks.

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The Piñata Song:
As the piñata is being hit, a song is sung:
Dale, dale dale
, No pierdas el tino
Por que si lo pierdes,
 Pierdes el camino.
Ya le diste uno
, Ya le diste dos
, Ya le diste tres
… Y tu tiempo se acabó.

Translation:
Hit it, hit it, hit it
. Don’t lose your aim
. Because if you lose it
, You will lose your way.
You hit it once
, You hit it twice
, You hit it three times
, And your time is up…

Find out how to make a Piñata by clicking here.

The traditional Happy Birthday song in Mexico is called Las Mañanitas and it is usually performed at birthday parties by wonderful mariachi bands similar to this.

 

Las Posadas – The Nine Nights Leading Up To Christmas

Mexico Travel Article
Posadas are an important part of Mexican Christmas traditions. These community celebrations take place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish, and in this tradition, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is re-enacted.

Posadas are held in neighborhoods across Mexico and are also becoming popular in the United States.

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The celebration begins with a procession in which the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the way, or occasionally images representing them are carried. The procession will make its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song (La Cancion Para Pedir Posada) is sung.

Asking For Shelter
There are two parts to the traditional posada song. Those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room.
The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper decides to let them in. The hosts open the door and everyone goes inside.
Celebration
Once inside the house there is a celebration which can vary from a very big fancy party to a small get-together among friends. Often the festivities begin with a short Bible reading and prayer. Then the hosts give the guests food, usually tamales and a hot drink such as ponche or atole. Then the guests break piñatas and the children are given candy.

The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent nine days journey to Bethlehem.
History of the Posadas
Now widely-celebrated tradition throughout Latin America, posadas originated in colonial Mexico. The Augustinian friars of San Agustin de Acolman, near Mexico City are believed to have celebrated the first posadas. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria, the Augustinian prior, obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V to celebrate what were called misas de aguinaldo “Christmas gift masses” between December 16 and 24.
The Aztecs had a tradition of honoring their god Huitzilopochtli at the same time of year (coinciding with the winter solstice), and they would have special meals in which the guests were given small figures of idols made from a paste that consisted of ground toasted corn and agave syrup. The friars took advantage of the coincidence and the two celebrations were combined.
The celebrations were originally held in the church, but the custom spread and later was celebrated in haciendas, and then in family homes, gradually taking the form of the celebration as it is now practiced by the 19th century.

Just another wonderful Mexican tradition.

Close-Up Of Poinsettia

 

 

Hiking The Ajijic Mountain Trails.

After living in Ajijic for almost two years I finally decided to join the hikers that gather every Tuesday and Friday morning at 9 am in front of Donas Donuts to head up the trails of the magnificent Ajijic mountains. Each time I drove passed in the carretera I would see the group of people waiting to head up the mountain for their hike.

So I decided to join their Facebook page to learn a little more about their schedules and groups (Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced) and tips on what to wear, what to bring, etc. The page has a lot of helpful information and gave me a better idea of what to expect. If you would like to check their Facebook page, please click on the following link.

This past Tuesday I decided to join the Beginners group. It was the first time for me after many many years when I lived in Caracas, Venezuela and hiked el Cerro del Avila on the weekends.

I was bit concerned whether it would be too much for me but this hike proved to be just perfect. Our group was small, nine people, including our seasoned leaders Jim and Ed. At the bottom of the trail, we gathered in a circle and we all introduced each other by name and gave a little background information on what we did before we got to Ajijic. That was very nice. And then off we went.

They took their time, considering that for some of us, it was our first hike at this altitude. Keep in mind that Ajijic is about 5,200 ft above sea level and we were going up approximately 700 additional feet. As we went up, Jim and Ed pointed out different trees, fruits, animals we encountered in the trail and they had some very interesting stories, facts and anecdotes about previous hikes. They were very experienced and knowledgeable and made this whole experience very enjoyable.

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When we got to the highest point of our climb, like an hour into the hike, we took a break and we drank some water and ate some nutritious snacks (everyone brings their own). The views are simply amazing.

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During our hike we came to a beautiful stone shrine erected to Mexico’s queen, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day before our hike, on December 12, the Mexican people celebrated her day. It is a national holiday and a huge deal. Somebody had dressed up the shrine with beautiful and bright paper decorations, typical in Mexican fiestas (festivals). I captured it in some photos.

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We encountered a couple of hikers with their dogs during our walk. The day and the weather was just perfect and I have decided to do this at least once a week. What else can be better than hiking these amazing trails and enjoying nature.

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As we reached the bottom of the trail and we were heading to the carretera (main road) I ran into another amazing shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I cannot wait for the next hike. img_3036

Thanksgiving Beach Fun.

The week of Thanksgiving we decided to do something different. So on November 21st, together with some friends, we boarded a luxury bus and left Ajijic, JAL at 8 am. The tour was organized by a local travel agency and they did a great job. There were four different buses going to different “all inclusive” resorts on the Pacific coast. We chose the Rui Jalisco in Nuevo Vallarta in Nayarit. The bus was an ETN and the drive took a little over 5 hours.

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We were very pleased with the hotel and service as well as their staff. Before you know it, we were all booked into our respective rooms and were roaming the property to pick a place to have lunch. Ours was a very nicely appointed room on the main floor with our own private balcony close walking distance to the pool, theater, disco, pool and beach. We could not be happier.

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We had lunch at one of the many restaurants in the property. A wide variety of foods, salads, snacks served buffet style. After lunch the group of us got together and headed to the pool for some refreshments. There are lots of bar stations throughout the grounds conveniently located. We had great Margaritas,  Miami Vice, Piña Coladas, cold beers, etc. You name it, they had it, and all part of our all inclusive package. Just wonderful.

Here are some shots of our fun stay. The beach was just wonderful and safe with no big waves. The water temperature was perfect.

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The group of us met for dinner every night at one of the many great restaurants. Lots to chose from… Italian, Asian, Mexican, steak house, etc. just to name a few. The breakfast buffets were also fantastic and they included all the Mimosas you can handle.

Every night around 9, the staff would put on shows for the entertainment of their guests. You could see that a lot of effort, rehearsals, and hard work went into their productions. They were fantastic!

This resort was so wonderful that we met people from all over that have been coming here for years. There was a lot of international tourists but also quite a lot of Mexican tourists which was great to see. They truly enjoy their vacations with all their family.

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This vacation was all what I had hoped for. Relaxing and having a wonderful time without having to go anywhere. Even though Nick and I had visited Guayabitos in April, this was our first trip to the Nuevo Vallarta resorts and beaches.

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Since we were only 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, a group of us decided to drive down for a visit. The hotel got us a small taxi van and off we went. He dropped us off at the famous Malecón where we wondered around and took in the sunset. Then we had dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant called La Posta. My four cheese ravioli were out of this world. After dinner we strolled the malecón some more and then arranged for another van to take us back to the Rui Jalisco.

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Before you know it, it was Friday morning and time for us to leave this wonderful place. We will definitely be back and highly recommend this all inclusive resort to anyone considering visiting the area of Nuevo Vallarta.

Viva México!

Stepping Back in Time. Los Guachimontones and Hacienda El Carmen.

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Approximately one and a half hour from Ajijic you will find the archeological site of Los Guachimontones in the town of Teuchitlán, and the impressive Hacienda El Carmen which has been converted into an luxury  Hotel and Spa.

Since moving to the lake we have heard about these two sites and were looking forward to visiting. So when a group of us that get together for lunch once a month told Nick and I to pick our lunch spot for November, we knew this was our destination.

I called the hotel to make lunch reservations for our group and I was informed that lunch service started at 2:00 pm. With this in mind we decided to visit Los Guachimontones before lunch. The archeological site is only 15 minutes away from the hacienda. You definitely need to follow your GPS or google maps closely to reach this destination since it is a big tricky with lots of twists and turns.

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We were very impressed with the archeological site, it’s museum and a very interesting film (in English) about the pyramids and the indigenous culture. Once you leave the museum there is quite a steep climb to get to the actual pyramids. Here are some photos of our adventure. Hope you enjoy.

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For more information about Los Guachimontones, please check the following link.

Our next spot was the Hotel and Spa Hacienda El Carmen. A stunning hacienda dating back from the 1720’s that has been renovated and converted into an amazing place to visit and explore. The menu is a Seasonal menu that changes daily to reflect fresh produce and products of the area.

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Once you arrive at the gates you are taken back in time. The architecture of the buildings and the well kept grounds are beautiful. We headed to the reception area to inquire about our lunch reservation. A staff member took us to the back courtyard where we were going to be seated for lunch. He said we could walk around and take pictures. And we did.

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Our lunch was served in a beautiful outdoor terrace instead of the inside dining room which was just perfect. The day was a bit overcast so the weather was just perfect for dining al fresco.

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Everyone enjoyed their meal and drinks and after a stroll around the grounds we all headed home and were back at the lake around 5:30-6:00 pm. We definitely recommend this day trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the Colima Volcano


Since we moved to Ajijic from the US we have been hearing about the volcano in the neighboring state of Colima. Well, never having lived close to a volcano before, we immediately put it in our bucket list of places to visit. 

One day our friends Wendy and Jim Howard told us, Hey, we are planning on going to Colima and see the volcano, do you guys want to come with us? And of course, we said yes. 

Nick and I left our house in Ajijic and headed to Jim and Wendy’s in Jocotepec from where we were going to travel all together in one car. 

The road from Ajijic to Colima is actually a very good road. It is in fact a highway or cuota as it is known in Mexico. Four lanes and in excellent condition. We left early in the morning so there was not much traffic on the road. 

Seeing the actual volcano from the road is pretty impressive…


Instead of going to the actual town of Colima, we went to Comala which is just 15 minutes away and everyone told us we had to visit. It is known as the white city because most of the homes are painted in that color which makes it very bright and beautiful in a sunny day. The town did not disappoint. 


The square, the church, the streets, in typical Mexican fashion, were enchanting. 



We visited the museum located in front of the square. Beautiful exhibition about the town and our friends Jim and Wendy bought an original piece of art from the artist that was there that day. 


After the museum we strolled around town square taking in the view. Local vendors were setting up around the main plaza selling their wares and crafts. It was a beautiful cool sunny day. 


A friend of ours recommended us to go eat at the Le Petit Suisse restaurant in town. It had wonderful reviews and we were excited about trying it out but we got there a little early around 11:30 12 o’clock and they did not start serving lunch until 1:30. At this point we were starving so we had to make another choice for a place to eat. 

My friend Wendy Howard came up with the fabulous suggestion to go to El Jamal in the little town of San Antonio where they promised a spectacular view of the volcano. And they delivered. 


The restaurant sits high up in the mountain and it gives the impression that you are in a treehouse. Beautiful, beautiful views, great restaurant and grounds, excellent service and the food was fantastic. 





On the way back we went into the actual town of Colima which is the capital of the state of Colima. It is a much bigger and busy city than Comala.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Comala and the volcano.  We will definitely be back. It is a perfect day trip since we were back at our homes at around 6:30 that evening. 

Loving and enjoying life in Mexico!