Sunday, March 02, 2008

Morelia, Mexico

Last night we took a direct flight from San Francisco to Morelia, Mexico. Morelia is the most expensive city to fly into Mexico to and our flight on Mexicana Air was only about 1/3 full. The 3.5 hour flight was pleasant though. The flight attendants were courteous, we each had our own row of seats, and we were provided with pillows, blankets, a meal and legroom. Nonetheless, because the flight was in the middle of the night, we arrived at 5 a.m. local time pretty exhausted.

I was impressed at the airport with the modern, clean bathrooms and the presence of a changing table. We made it through immigration and customs with no real hassles, then took a taxi to the homestay where we’d be spending the next two nights. It was a 30-45 minute ride to the city, so I chatted with our driver, Jesus. He was very friendly and polite, framing all of his questions with, “If it’s not an indiscretion,” “If I may ask,” etc. He told us the city is safe and one doesn’t need to fear assaults here. He offered us information on what to see, welcomed us to his city, and told us he’d be happy for us to stay here. I was surprised and pleased to see that he drove carefully and slowly, a sharp contrast from the taxis I’ve taken recently in Central and South America.

We arrived at our host, Renata’s, house, just as the dark sky was lightening. She undid the chains on the three doors leading into her house and welcomed us in. We were given a small but comfortable room with two twin beds and access to a modern bathroom. We slept for several hours, went down for a tasty breakfast, then slept some more.

Renata works at an adult school, which covers post high school material. She doesn’t receive tourists so often, but when she does they come from the U.S. and Canada. She said she usually receives older tourists and young people. She’d never hosted a baby until River showed up though and she really fell for him, even offering to babysit when we went out later in the day.

When we finally got going, around 1 p.m., we walked out to the local bus stop and hopped onto the orange combi (minibus) that would take us into town. We both got seats and it was a pretty easy and comfortable ride. Again, our driver was surprisingly patient and cautious.

As we neared the city center, the streets narrowed and the sounds became more vibrant. Being Sunday, many of the local businesses were shuttered, but many families had still come out for the afternoon.

We arrived at the central square, marked by the city landmark, a cathedral built in 1744. Both the cathedral and the surrounding buildings were built of rose-colored stone, giving it a colonial and Spanish appearance. We walked a few blocks looking for a place to change money. We noted the popularity of ice cream and fruit drinks, with many people either licking a cone or sucking on a straw.

A series of cars drove by with a racket. The occupants waved and shouted out the windows. They held signs that said things like “Live to love,” “treasure the family,” and “Be happy.” We thought it was something political, or maybe a wedding. But when I asked a bystander what was going on, she said they were celebrating The Day of the Family, which is today. I was impressed that among all the activities they could have chosen to do on a Sunday afternoon, they went out to promote love, happiness and family unity.

We took a one hour tour by trolley car of the city, which gave us a nice introduction to the city layout and the truly vast nature of the colonial architecture. After seeing the long stone aqueduct with cupolas that we drove alongside, the numerous fountains, and the stone buildings and churches, many built in the 1500s to 1700s, I understood why Morelia was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

After the tour, we spent the remainder of our afternoon in the Garden of the Roses, a small park with a fountain and stone benches, as well as three cafes with outdoor tables. Enjoying grilled trout and apple crepes, we spent a few hours there, warmed by the nice breeze, enjoying the sound of the tinkling fountain, the low chatter, and the passing guitarists.

The cost of living here seems to be less than in the U.S., but substantially more than in the other countries I’ve worked in recently. Our lunch cost $30 for the two of us and since we barely saw any gringos, the prices seem to be set for locals rather than tourists. We also saw a large selection of consumer goods available, everything from Xboxes to Californian children’s clothing to Allbran cereal bars.

I liked seeing how the families gathered in the parks and squares, especially in the early evening. There, a large crowd surrounded a pair of performing clowns, concerts were underway, and children nudged their parents to buy brightly colored balloons and cotton candy. I had the impression that, in general, people seemed to be content. I certainly enjoyed my first day in central Mexico.

1 comment:

Napa Help / Work Wanted said...

30 dollars!!!. my fam and I, about six of us, ate for about 17 dls at san agustin. the food was very delicious.
Housing, u can rent a 2-3 bedroom house for about 125-165 dls/ month. a 3 to 4 bedroom with, 2 bathrooms + car garage and balconies (about 1 or 2 blocks from the catedral= about 3 or 4 min walk,) for about 3 to 4 hundred dls