A Travellerspoint blog

Markets and Mexican National Chili Cook-Off

sunny 27 °C

This week we ventured east of Ajijic and visited the weekly Monday Market in Chapala. We’ve decided this is our favourite so far. Beautiful produce and fruit at even lower prices that Ajijic.
Chapala is a larger and more commercial centre than Ajijic but still with that Lakeside charm. There is another beautiful Malecon along the lake on the south end of the main street. Being a larger centre there seems to be a little more action here. We’ll know more as we explore.

With all the retirees in this area there is a lot of talent here. In addition to the local artists, musicians and performing dance groups there are two live theatres, music concerts of all genres and artists galore amongst the ‘gringo’s’.
On Valentines Day we enjoyed a live theatre performance of ‘the Cemetery Club’.
The big deal this weekend is the 36th Annual Mexican National Chili Cook-Off. This is a three day event that boasts itself to be the Lakeside area’s largest fund-raiser. Competitions include Best Margarita, Home Cooked Chili, Restaurant Chef and Tournament of Champions. There are raffles draws, food booths and many shopping booths all in support of local charities and service groups.
We missed the Saturday morning parade, having been out late last night, but went by the fair grounds to see what all the fuss was about. After wandering about for a while and deciding that the line-ups for the chilli tasting were just too long Charlie decided the rest was all about the shopping and got bored pretty quickly so wandered off back home. I stayed to see the afternoon’s entertainment:

Voladores de Papantla (pole flyers)
This group is from Papantla in the state of Veracruz. Volador means flyer - he who flies. It is amazing to watch the performance as four men gracefully ‘flying’ upside down from a 30 foot pole secured only by a rope tied around their waists.

Even more amazing is the flute player at the top, he’s balanced on a narrow wooden platform without a rope or safety net, and dances on top of the pole as he plays his flute This is apparently an ancient ritual dance and has something to do with asking the gods to end a severe drought. If you want to read more about the history, check this website:

Caballos danzantes (dancing horses)
These dancing horses was the hi-lite for me. The colourful costumes and the intricate footwork of the horses was something to see. I think Charlie missed out on something special this afternoon.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 06:19 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Cobblestones and Doors

sunny 25 °C

One of the first things you notice here are the cobblestone streets and sidewalks. They are beautiful to look at, destructive to the vehicles that drive on them, and challenging to walk on. We have heard a number of stories of people losing their footing and suffering cuts and bruises, even breaking bones, noses or worse. After a few days we have become more comfortable walking on them and navigating our way thru town. With no vehicle and walking up to 10 kms per day, we’ve quickly moved from cobblestone virgins to seasoned veterans.
Having said that, on those occasions when walking becomes tiresome or strenuous, even for these walk-aholics, there is a good bus service here. Buses run back and forth from one end of the lake to the other, some staying on the Caraterra, others meandering thru each village. Yes, on those narrow, one-way, cobblestone streets. Quite an adventure in itself. They come by nearly every 15-20 minutes and you simply flag one down by fully extending your arm . . no need to wait by one of the few proper bus stops, they’ll pull over wherever there is room - or not. You can easily get to where you’re going, all for between 7 and 12 pesos depending on the distance.

Once you get used to the roads the next thing that catches your eye are the walls and the doors. Part of the old world charm here means that many properties are surrounded by stone walls that are often as much as 6-8 feet high and with varied styles of gated entrances. There are coloured walls, beautiful wrought iron gates in front of regular doors, painted and decorated doors, amazingly carved wooden doors. You never know what’s behind the wall and part of the mystery as we walk about is guessing where entering thru the doors will lead you. You could find an empty lot, a simple home or even small business. Many have beautiful courtyards and are often larger properties than you imagine.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 06:18 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

New Home Away from Home . . .

sunny 25 °C

After a good sleep we got up and explored the condo complex. There are 62 units here and the amenities include a pool, hot tub, fitness room, library and a meeting area, quaintly called the Bird’s Nest. It is mostly seniors here but they are an active and welcoming group. Many of the residents (both owners and renters alike) have been coming here for years. They have regular morning coffee, afternoon happy hour, weekly movie night and a number of social events.
Our first few days here were pretty action packed. Our immediate neighbours welcomed us here. Nellie was invited to join them into Ajijic to have a look around. She returned all excited to report how beautiful everything looked and that there is a really nice Malecon (sidewalk or promenade) along the lake that I just had to come and see. So we turned around and went right back and this is part of what we saw on our first day . . .
The Centro area of Ajijic has many colourful and shops and buildings. The murals are beautiful.
The next day meant a trip to the Tues Organic Market and our first movie night. The following day was the weekly Wed Market in Ajijic where you can guy anything and everything from local produce and fruit, to fresh fish, to flowers, to pots and pans, to jewellery, watches and . . . you get the idea. Top that with a Mardi Gras party that evening presented by the Bird’s social committee. We’ve quickly learned that there are no lack of things to do here and many helpful people with plenty of knowledge of the area and advice of what to see, where to shop, etc.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 06:18 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

The adventure always begins with the Airlines:

The plane taking us from Calgary to Salt Lake City was one that had two seats on each side of the aisle. However, our side (the right) had three oxygen masks and the other side (the left) had only two. A couple and their newborn baby were seated one row back of us, on the left, and would not be allowed to stay there. One flight attendant asked the two young fellows in front of us if they would move and one guy whilst pulling his headphones off loudly tells her ‘No!’ he had reserved and was guaranteed that seat and would not move. No doubt he was annoyed at having his music interrupted. So she says loudly for all to hear ‘well Sir, if you are refusing to Co-Op-Er-Ate I’ll find someone else but this plane is not moving until we do’. She then asks the two of us and we of course say ‘Yes, no problem’. Once in the air and the beverage and snack service begins she comes and quietly thanks us for getting her out of a bind and offers us any snack we want - her treat. We politely declined, but she insisted and tossed us extra peanut packs and cookies. She returned at least two other times to be sure she couldn’t get us anything else and kept offering more treats . . like we were her new best friends. lol

We are headed to Salt Lake City for an overnight stay which has allowed us a chance to meet with one of our nephews, Ben Whidden, who lives nearby. Ben and his wife Andrea have four beautiful kids and we are looking forward to a fun visit. Ben is a hockey fan, I mean a REAL FAN. They have three boys named Cooper, Bauer and Kessler. As you may know, Cooper is a firm that makes hockey equipment, Bauer makes skates and (Ryan) Kessler plays for the Vancouver Canucks. Too bad for Ben his team is doing a great impression of an anchor.

After a nice visit we started working on a problem. Nellie has a brand new suitcase and it has been damaged. We checked the Delta website and it seems that Delta assumes no responsibility whatsoever for any damage. I think they mean it too.

We woke early the next morning as we wanted to get to the airport so we could talk to the baggage people. On the way I was going over in my head all the lessons I learned at Dale Carnegie while remembering that Delta accepts no responsibility for damaged bags. We easily found the baggage office and were greeted by two old codgers, about my age, and I smiled and told them our problem. They looked at each other and the lady said “how about we just give you a new bag? I think we have one the same size.” Smiles and laughter all around and Nellie moved her things into her ‘new’ brand new bag (warranty tags and all still attached) and off we went to check in.

As we were boarding our flight to Guadalajara, we were standing in the usual long line to get onto the plane and I mentioned to the flight attendant positioned just inside the doors that on a recent cattle drive one cow said to the other “geesh, I wish they would stop treating them like airline passengers”. She couldn’t stop laughing and abandoned her post to tell the captain the joke.

Once we got comfy in our seats we both dozed off to asleep pretty quickly and I woke up to see us taxi-ing to the terminal. Quick flight I thought until I realized we were still in Salt Lake City. Apparently the plane had a mechanical problem and they soon determined that we had to change planes. We never get upset about this and we feel it is better to find a problem before you get into the air. Three hours later and much more familiar with the airport we hopped on a new plane and headed to Guadalajara.

The flight was uneventful and after retrieving our luggage we’re met by Liz Vera who works for our condo’s rental company. She’s here to take us to Ajijic. She kindly drove us first to a grocery store where we could pickup a few things to get started on stocking our kitchen . . breakfast items at least. Great service!
We’ve now arrived after dark so we spent our evening unpacking and checking out our new home at Bird’s of Paradise . . . a two bedroom, two bathroom condo. We are actually in an area called San Antonio, on the outskirts of Ajijic.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 06:18 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Aaahh, Retirement !!

We are sitting in the Calgary airport waiting for our flight to Salt Lake City and then onward to Guadalajara and thinking about the journey it’s been to get to this point in our lives. I was clearly ready to sell our last business at least three years ago with a plan to retire and travel the world. My younger, and some say wiser, wife wanted to work a little longer. I subscribed to International Living at that time and each month religiously read about the best places to retire and dreamt about visiting there and learning about the different cultures and warmer places to spend winter. I would tell her about some of the alternatives places we could spend the winters and a typical conversation would go like this: me, ‘there are about 3 billion women on earth and only about six of you want to keep working’. she: ‘tough luck buddy, but I’m not ready to retire’. I don’t know who first said ‘you can’t reason with women’ but he was clearly on to something.

Now I am a patient fellow so I quietly went about my business never dropping more than one or two hints each day about how I saw our future unfolding. Nellie didn’t care for this approach and said I was badgering her, but you know how unreasonable women can be. This routine continued for a couple of years until I’d finally had enough and politely broached the subject again . . . sell the business, so I could retire. She agreed but reiterated that she wanted to continue working part-time as she has been.

So we sold the business last March (2013). Unfortunately, shortly thereafter my mom took ill and we spent the better part of two months travelling to and from Kelowna to look after her needs until she passed away late in July. We then made a trip to Ontario to visit with family for a couple of weeks and while there one of our good friends in Lacombe passed away of cancer. These events get you thinking and Nellie finally accepted what I’d been telling her for years . . . no one on their death bed has ever been known to say that ‘they wished they had worked a little more or longer’. So, finally in agreement, we decided to try a three month hiatus from the Canadian winters.

We have been fortunate to travel to a number of places over the years. However, we have not been in a place that felt like a true home away from home. We wanted to find a place that would satisfy our wants of a different culture, a place with enough expats so that we could use our own language and where we could make friends, have enough variety to keep us happy and interested over a longer period of time, and most importantly a warm (not hot) climate with low humidity. We have experienced the higher humidity of the southern coastal areas and found that all too often it saps our energy levels. After much research and discussion we decided Ajijic in the state of Jalisco, Mexico came closest to filling all our requirements.


Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico is a “puebla magico” or Magical Village situated on Lake Chapala just south of Guadalajara. It is home to many thousands of Americans, Canadians and Europeans escaping the climate and higher cost of living north of the border.
Ajijic is one of the many villages along Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest fresh water lake and surrounded by the majestic Sierra Madre Mountains. At 5,000 feet elevation, Ajijic has a near perfect climate according to National Geographic Magazine and the many that have chosen to call Ajijic home. The average daytime temperature is 72 - 75 °F (22 - 24 °C) and the humidity is very low. The sun shines most days even in rainy season from June to October.
Ajijic and the surrounding areas of Lake Chapala were first discovered in 1522 by Captain Avalos, a cousin of Hernan Cortez, Spanish Conquistador of Mexico. His family was given a land grant by the King of Spain and soon other cousins arrived including the Saenz family who acquired lands in and around Ajijic and built the first mill on the site now occupied by the Old Posada at the foot of Colon by the pier.
The Franciscans arrived in 1533 and began building a monastery and later a church and chapel. The church originally build in 1535, later rebuilt is still in use today. The Lake Chapala area played an important part in the war of Independence from Spain. Local natives occupied Mescala island and fended off the Spanish from 1812 - 1816 and in the end, due to illness negotiated an honorable surrender. All are interesting sites to see in our area.
Today, Ajijic is a quaint colorful centuries old village, seeped in culture and tradition yet having all the expected modern amenities. It is not unusual to see a cowboy on his horse talking on his cell phone! Family life is very important in Mexico. You will often see parents or grandparents walking smiling children dressed in uniforms to the local school. Parades are a fairly common occurrence celebrating both religious and civil events. And any reason is a good reason for a Fiesta. Fireworks too!!

Posted by cnmcgeehan 06:17 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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