Thursday, January 23, 2020

Chihuahuas, chickens, children and clothing

Si, this is me after a Pink Room make-over!!
I had my hair done recently here in San Miguel de Allende at The Pink Room. 

The calm, serene environment made me smile. 

It was nothing like my normal hair appointments on Isla Mujeres, where a parade of relatives, kids, and dogs, or even customers interested in buying clothes ambled through my friend Amaranta Ancona Cerveras' home. 

She lived about a block south of my casa and hair appointments were always an adventure. 

Behind her house were an assortment of roosters and chickens owned by a neighbour. The roosters didn't know they were scheduled to crow only at sunrise. 

They bellowed whenever they felt the need, which would set Amaranta's two ankle-biting chihuahua-security-alarms into a frenzy of barking and yapping. 


In the same neighbourhood - but not the noisy roosters.
Some days her large assortment of siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews would be in and out of her house chatting, searching for another relative, or wanting their hair cut in a particular way for the start of school the next day.

I always marveled at Amaranta's unflappable ability to, as Katie Cain once said, simultaneously manage at least four clients. She was efficient, quick and inexpensive. Color, shampoo, cut, blow-dry and you were on your way. 

At my request Amaranta spoke only Spanish to me, to try and force my brain to hear the words. I usually understood what she was saying, especially when the story was accompanied by hand gestures and hilarious facial expressions. I miss my monthly entertainment.


The two chihuahuas and her son, a few years ago
Amaranta and her young family have moved to the colonial town of Izamal, near Valladolid. The move was to benefit her son, with a better education at a good private school. She is working at the Tattoo Barber Shop G-P in Izamal, taking appointments for new and former clients. 

She does return to the island on a fairly regular basis to visit with her large and extended family and take care of long-time customers. 

However, for me, that doesn't work. I just have to get used to the peace and quiet. It's relaxing, but not nearly as entertaining.

Now, where did I put my glass of champagne?

Cheers from Mexico
Lynda 



Wandy and Olga on a warm summer's evening

Islanders probably remember Amaranta's grandparents, Wandy and Olga, sitting on their front steps and greeting passersby. Wandy recently passed away, leaving another hole in the fabric of the neighbourhood. 



~

Grab your copy today! Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance on Isla Mujeres. Available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Out and about in our new 'hood

Calle Quebrada near my place 
I am Canadian. I was born, raised, married and lived for fifty-seven years in Canada until we moved to Mexico in 2008. I love my country but I admit, I really love the European feel of Mexican towns and cities, where small businesses are conveniently located close at hand. Similar to Isla Mujeres, in our new 'hood I can find a lot of items within a few blocks interspersed between the houses. 

It's a bit chiller here than my previous location of Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean side of Mexico, and I needed warmer clothing. Two blocks away a small store had the quilted black vests, that are very popular in San Miguel for $270.00 Mx pesos. (About $18.00 CDN). I stood on the sidewalk with Sparky at my feet while the young lady rooted around to find the size I needed. I tried it on, and handed her the money. Done! 

Purchases are handed over without plastic bags as of Jan 1st.
Up the street is a veterinarian who also stocks doggie beds, bowls, harnesses and different types of food in his tiny space. Sparky has a second bed to snooze while I am writing, and new inexpensive water bowls on each level so that he doesn't have to walk too far for a drink. They also carry a brand of food that he can eat without bloating up with really stinky gas. 

I know, TMI. Too much information.


My jazzy new red hose!
The best find so far is a tiny hardware store that is about five-feet wide, and who-knows-how-deep. It disappears into the dark dimly lit depths, beyond where I can easily see. The family is very helpful to this Spanglish speaking Gringa. Sparky and I step about two feet inside the doorway and wait at the counter while they find what I need. A few days ago I wanted a another garden hose so that I didn't have to lug the only hose from the second level to the rooftop to water the pots. Their son custom-made me a new one. 

"How long?" He asked.

I shrugged, "Ten meters, I guess."

"What colour? Red? Green?"

"Red!"

"Do you also want the male and female connections?"

"Si, por favor."

And for about $10.00 CDN, I got my custom-made garden hose.

Fresh juice stand
The chicken store, drugstore, bakery, pharmacy, hair salon, barber, shoe store, and street vendors are all within a two-block radius from our house. On the main streets are dozens of restaurant options and cafes. 

I am really enjoying this small-store shopping, and I am resisting the big Costco shop that we typically did once a month when we lived on Isla Mujeres. 

I am trying to buy fresh, eat fresh, and not stockpile supplies. How much food does one person really need?

Cheers from San Miguel de Allende

Lynda and The Sparkinator


~
Come join the adventure!

Grab your copy today - Amazon, e-books and paperback





Thursday, January 9, 2020

My view of San Miguel de Allende - by Sparky

Early morning in San Miguel - before the streets get crowded
Hi, this is Sparky. My hooman, whom I call Servant, said it is my turn to write the blog. 

We recently moved from Isla Mujeres off the eastern coast of Mexico, to San Miguel de Allende located in the mountainous region north of Mexico City. We left the hot sunny beaches for a cooler climate. I was born with an enlarged heart and the heat bothers me. Here I can walk for an hour and not get tired. 
Rooftop terraza at our hotel 




After a week in a funny hotel with lots of skinny spiral stairs to climb, we are now in our own little place. It has a sunny rooftop deck and an enclosed garden - they are my favourite places to hang out. My only complaint with our new place is the windows aren't designed for doggies to look out at the street. Everything is people height. Even the patio wall upstairs is too high for me to see over. 

Different horses - but part of the same police troop

Last night three big brown horses carrying police officers came by our house. I had to get Servant to pick me up so that I could see them. Because she was holding me in her arms Servant couldn't take a photo of the horses, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Yesterday I saw a super-fast little bird in the garden. It was a bright green colour and had a long skinny beak that looked dangerously sharp. I'm going to stay a long way away from that guy. Servant said he was a hummingbird. Funny, I didn't hear him humming, but he did chirp at me a few times.

Reading the local pee-mail
When we walk the streets in San Miguel, Servant thinks I am on the trail of suspects, criminals, and murderers, but really I am reading the pee-mail left by other doggies. 

I like it here, but I am still getting accustomed to walking on busy sidewalks. At times my hooman gets a bit testy with me, yelling,"Sparky, watch where you are going!" 

It's not my fault that the sidewalks are crowded the hundreds of pairs of feet. Those people should watch where they are going! I'm a busy detective dog.
My favourite cafe - Ojo de Agua, two blocks from home

In our neighbourhood we have discovered four restaurants that allow well-behaved doggies to come inside. 

It's a nice treat for me to lay on a sunny patio while Servant has her morning coffee, or sometimes we stop in for a glass of wine in the evening. Well, she has a glass of wine, I have a drink of water.

Well, that's all for this time. Woof! Woof! Sparky.

Protein bowl and a latte at the Ojo de Agua


~


Don't forget to read all about me in the Isla Mujeres Mystery series, available on Amazon in e-books, or paperback. 


Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance.

Get your copy today!


Friday, December 27, 2019

Why San Miguel de Allende?


San Miguel de Allende at sunrise, December 
Why did you choose San Miguel de Allende? 

That one question keeps coming up on my Facebook posts, over and over again. After skimming the last few blogs I realized I hadn't fully explained my reasons. So, here's the Cole's Notes version:

#1 my fascination with history 
When Lawrie and I, plus his sister and brother-in-law, drove from BC Canada to Isla Mujeres in 2008, one of our stops was San Miguel. We arrived on October 31st, and stayed until November 2nd. We were in the city during the Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertoscelebrations. I was hooked, and always wanted to return to more fully explore the city.


That beautiful blue ocean
#2 change is good
Lawrie and I were restless people, always looking for the next adventure. We
had several discussions, while enjoying our evening glass of wine, about where would we like to live if we ever tired of looking at the Caribbean Sea. He was reluctant to leave the warm temperatures and our view of turquoise water. He insisted he never wanted be cold again, so we stayed and enjoyed our lives on Isla Mujeres.


City park in San Miguel de Allende in December 
#3 a more temperate climate
We loved the warmth of the Caribbean area of Mexico, but neither one of us were sunworshippers. We rarely ventured to the beach, preferring instead to hang out in the shade of our palapa, or refresh ourselves in our own pool. One of our cheeky friends suggested that we didn't even know how to find Playa Norte. I flapped a hand in the general direction of the north end of the island and replied, "it's over there, somewhere."

Summers on Isla Mujeres can be very hot and humid. Not as hot as some parts of Mexico, or the southern USA, but occasionally uncomfortable. We rarely used our air conditioning except to sleep at night during the months of July, August, and September. We had adjusted quite well to the climate, until recently. I think as I get older the heat effects me more. Showering and changes my clothes three times a day became a bit of a bother. 
Image from San Miguel Writers' Conference

#4 a flourishing community of writers and artists
I started writing and self-publishing books in 2014. The first was my bilingual book for children The Adventures of Thomas the Cat - Las Aventuras de Tomás el Gato in partnership with islander Diego Medina. Then in 2016 I self-published my first novel Treasure Isla. Since then I have published four more novels in the Isla Mujeres Mystery series, and Diego and I are working on completing the second bilingual book for kids. I am hopeful that my new community will help improve my writing skills.



#5 And, San Miguel has only a few memories associated with Lawrie and I as a couple.
As I posted in my December 20th blog, I finally realized I was being crushed by the  powerful memories of a romantic and joyful life. He was on every street corner and in every restaurant. He shares my morning coffee, my afternoon meal, and my evening glass of wine. 

He is still with me and always will be, but I can walk these streets without living in the past, our past. 


I am looking forward to this next chapter of my life.

Cheers from San Miguel de Allende
Lynda, and my furry sidekick, Sparky


~
Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance.
Grab your copy today on Amazon



A surprise gift - Sparky's story
Proceeds donated to Clinicia de veterinaria de IM
to help island animals. 



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve in San Miguel de Allende

Horseback police near  the Parroquia San Miguel Arcángel 
It's a different type of Christmas eve, but a fascinating one. I probably won't get much sleep tonight but that's okay. It's another adventure.

By sunset the individual house parties and accompanying fireworks started, church bells rang at regular intervals throughout the day, and in the evening the music began flowing from restaurants, bars and hotels. The majority of the restaurants are fully booked with a special Christmas eve menu being offered.

The day started early with my four-legged alarm clock, and we wandered the empty streets while he read the local pee-news and left his responses.

Being the only human in this duo I can't get a cup of coffee for our strolls because my walking partner is not allowed in most of the restaurants. I did see one this afternoon that said 'pet friendly.'  They may become my new best friends.
Sparky and I enjoying the view at cocktail time

Later in the afternoon Sparky and I discovered a rooftop terraza at our hotel and we enjoyed the warmth of the setting sun, while I sipped on a glass of my favourite Malbec. As I returned to my room to get a second glass of wine the front desk attendant knocked on my door to inform me that I was being moved to the suite upstairs -  where the rooftop deck was located.

"Uh, at 5:30 in the afternoon you want me to move rooms?" I asked.

"Yes, you booked a kitchenette, and we have to move you because your current room is booked for new arrivals this evening."

This is the first 19 stairs - and then there are more.
She was right. 

I had booked a kitchenette but had decided that the listing was probably out of date, and I really didn't care as long as we had a place to sleep.

So, I repacked our suitcases and we moved upstairs to the Penthouse ... and I say that very tongue-in-cheek. The suite is roomy and it has a kitchenette, and a great view.

But the 38 spiral stairs from the bottom floor to our suite will either give Sparky and I great leg muscles or they will kill us.

It's a 50/50 chance at this point for both of us.
Sunset from our 'penthouse' deck.
It's about 8:45 p.m. and the church bells just went wild. I am assuming an 9:00 p.m. mass is about to start. When it is over, the partying will begin in earnest.

I think I will end this and try to catch a bit of sleep. Sparky is already curled up in his bed.

Sleep well, and I hope Santa is good to you

Lynda and The Sparkinator


~

Technically - you still have time to order your Christmas gifts on-line, as long as they are e-books!


Murder and mayhem. Revenge and romance.







We're footloose in Mexico!

Sunrise December 23rd on Isla Mujeres
"How do you plan to get from Isla Mujeres to San Miguel de Allende." My cousins asked.

"The same as any trip. First a golf cart ride to the Ultramar, a boat ride to Puerto Juarez, then a shuttle van to the airport, then an airplane ride, then another shuttle to my hotel. It's a piece of cake!" I quipped.

Well, the gods got even with me for my cheeky response.

Our journey started with four close friends Julie and Rob Goth, and Chuck and Marcy Watt taking Sparky and me plus my three heavy suitcases to the passenger boat. It was Sparky's last golf cart ride for awhile but he doesn't know it yet. Boo the Cat didn't come with us. A couple of days ago the Fairy Dogmother Eileen Regn and her hubby Doug said they would be happy to adopt her, leaving me with one less thing to stress over. I was so thankful not to have to deal with relocating a semi-feral kitty.

Hasta luego! 
At the Ultramar terminal I started to walk to the boat, and there was Elmo! Waving goodbye. My crazy friend Freddy Medina was wearing the Elmo suit and holding a sign; Elmo loves Lynda. That was my undoing. I bawled like a baby, my face crumpled with emotion. Why is it that in real life crying looks nothing like the tender tears leaking from the beautiful eyes of the leading lady? There's nothing pretty about the way I cry.

More friends hugged and wished me well as Sparky pulled me towards the boat. We climbed to the upper deck where we could wave goodbye to everyone. Elmo was still dancing and waving.  Yadira Velázquez and Diego Medina videoed the event, and watching it made me cry all over again.

On the Cancun side I pointed out my suitcases to the porter and he said, "yes don't worry, I will bring them for you." I wasn't concerned, this isn't the first time that I have traveled from the island and asked the porters to deal with luggage. Sparky and I headed up the ramp to meet the driver for CARM, our shuttle driver for the ride to the airport. I turned my head and checked for the porter who was loaded down with bags - and then I noticed - mine were still on the dock, about to be put back on the boat by a helpful deckhand.

I didn't know I could run that fast! I dashed past the security, the ticket agents, waving my arms. No! No! The guy finally realized I was yelling at him and stopped.

Bye-bye for now, Sparky and I
Once we got the bag thing sorted out, the shuttle to the airport was easy and smooth. At the airport another porter took my bags and we zipped through the check-in. Without thinking I bought two small bottles of water before heading to the security check.

Ten feet away from the little store was a huge sign - no liquids! Well, of course. Sparky and I drank as much as we could then we added our two bottles to the overflowing bin of full, new bottles. That little tienda must make a fortune selling water to travelers.

At the security check I asked the attendant if I had to take my computer out of my carry-on bag.

Oddly, she said no, it wasn't required. I stuffed my purse, jacket, and other items into a bin, added the carry-on bag to the conveyor belt then asked the guard how he wanted me to deal with Sparky. Take off his harness, add it to another bin, and let him walk through, then I should walk through. Okay, done.


Finally all done with the security stuff
But things were about to get interesting. The suitcase with my camera, computer and backup drive had to go back to the beginning with everything electronic taken out. Unfortunately Sparky's harness was still a little way back on the conveyor. The flight crew had arrived, and deposited their things a head of the plastic bin holding his harness. I held Sparky while I explained the problem, and someone eventually handed me his leash. I had visions of my sociable pooch visiting with everyone in the terminal. We started back at the beginning with all my stuff, pulled the electronics out and tried the whole thing one more time.

No, we were pulled aside again. Now the suitcase had to be carefully examined because I had two items that concerned them. One was a large piece of amethyst that has been in my family since before I was born. My dad found it in Ontario in 1940, and it has been in my possession since my dad died when I was seventeen. I am very attached to this one last memento of my family. Apparently the concern was it could be used for a weapon. I Spanglished my way through that situation and was able to keep it.

The other item was a square plastic container of ashes. Yes, my sweetie is with me. I knew from my trip to Canada in May, with some of his ashes, that I couldn't use the original wooden box. Clear plastic is the recommended means of transport. Again I had to Spanglish my way through that. Thankfully he was able to continue the journey with me. Lawrie would have been very unhappy if he had been confiscated by customs officials.

The Volaris flight was almost an hour late, but eventually Sparky and I and my small but heavy suitcase thumped our way out to the plane and up the stairway to our seat. I paid a premium to get 1F, and priority boarding. I wanted the extra legroom so my travel companion would have space to sleep. Other than the incredibly uncomfortable seats, with little if any padding, the flight was uneventful. However, when the flight attendant was about to close the doors, she warned everyone that this was their last chance to get off the plane if they were on the wrong flight. Seriously? Three separate people had checked our tickets, but Volaris had obviously had incidents where people were on the wrong flight, otherwise why mention it? It gave me goose bumps. Was I headed to Guadalajara? Mexico City? Or Leon? Two weeks ago I got on the wrong Ultramar boat and ended up at the farthest end of their route in the Cancun hotel zone. Yeah, that's another story.

Waiting for me at the airport was the San Miguel de Allende shuttle service operated by BajioGo. It's a 90 minute drive from the airport in Leon to my destination. Our driver, Jose, was professional and friendly. We had an interesting chat about living San Miguel and about his family. According to Jose, San Miguel de Allende has about 370 fiestas a year that just naturally require fireworks. Oh boy, Sparky is going to love that.

By the time we reached the hotel at eleven at night, Sparky was asleep on my lap. The poor little dude was worn out, but before hitting the bed we had to walk a few blocks to let him stretch his legs and deposit his pee-mail for the other dogs to read. The area where we are staying is clean and vibrant with restaurants, bars, and interesting stores.

The street where my hotel is located.
This morning Sparky woke me up at 5:00 a.m., again. It's one hour different here, so I actually got to sleep in until 6:00 a.m. Don't tell him that.

Right now he is asleep, but hungry and chilly. Thank you Rose-Marie for the sweater. Sparky is wearing it right now.

Today's mission is to find some dog food that he can eat. He has tummy issues with a lot of the commercial food. It will mean leaving him in the hotel for a bit while I do a food run, but so far he's been calm and okay with all the upheaval in his life. Fingers-crossed he doesn't bark and upset the other guests.

"I is cold and hungry." 


Merry Christmas from San Miguel
Lynda and Sparky













~

Don't panic shop at the local 7-Eleven.  
Buy Isla Mujeres Mystery novels on-line as a Christmas gift!


Amazon e-books and paperback copies.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The beginning of a new adventure - Widowhood 101

I'm excited! We're going on an adventure.
It's time to say "Adios." Sparky, Boo, and I are leaving Isla Mujeres on Monday December 23rd, for a different Mexican experience. We are moving to San Miguel de Allende.

Living twelve years on a tropical island, just steps away from the beautiful Caribbean Sea, has been a life-changing opportunity

As of this week, our little ocean-front casa has been purchased by Tracy and Karl from Wisconsin.



The infamous golf-cart-trap at the north end of Medina Ave.


Despite their recent and hilarious discovery that golf carts can't swim through rain-flooded streets, Tracy and Karl are looking forward to their new adventure. I hope you will give them a warm island-welcome.

Our first experience with this little Caribbean paradise started seventeen years ago when Lawrie and I stayed at Villa Makax on the western side of Isla Mujeres. We later stayed on the Caribbean side in 2003 and again in 2005 before deciding to buy a lot and build our home. 


2007 builder and dear friend Patricio Yam giving us the keys
In the winter of 2008 we threw ourselves into retirement, island living, and just having fun. 

Lawrie was always the 'social butterfly' willing to chat up anyone, to tell them how much we loved living on a tropical island in Mexico. 

He happily told everyone he met how much we enjoyed the culture, the people, the food and the beautiful turquoise Caribbean Sea. We made many friends, from both the born-on-the-island local community and the recent arrivals from Canada, USA, Britain, Scandinavia, Europe, and Japan.


2011 Evan and Ethan being greeted by their granddad Elmo
Our two grandsons experienced Mexico, Elmo-style, with their fun-loving grandfather meeting them at the Ultramar in his authentic Elmo costume. That costume was repeatedly used to greet siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, until it became the centre piece for the Elmo's Christmas Caravan - La Caravana Navideña de Elmo.

We created great memories, showing our grandsons Xcaret, Xhel-Ha, Xplor, Garafon Park, Tulum, Zama Beach Club, and the sugar-white sands of playa norte. We also organized an island-wide pirate treasure hunt for the entire family. 


Custom-made bootie bags for the younger generation!
Son, John, really enjoyed floating in his Mexican office - our swimming pool. 

We also amused John and Maia by getting hopelessly lost in the backroads between Valladolid and Izamal, while the gas-gauge alarm pinged in increasingly shorter intervals .... low on gas, really low on gas, Hey, wake up! You're running on fumes

John's GPS skills on his phone saved the four of us from certain death from a lack of cervesa


Maia,"Do they have any idea where we are?" John, "Nope!"
Our year-around entertainment consisted of the annual cultural events: New Year's Eve, Carnaval, Día de la Independencia, Día de los Muertos plus many other parades, processions and fiestas. 

We danced on the sand, in the street, at beach bars, and under the moonlight on our ocean-side patio. 

There were many laughter-filled neighbourhood parties, family birthdays, and New Year Eve's celebrations at our house. Siblings, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews, cousins, and many old friends visited the island. 

One Canadian friend remarked, "all you seem to do is party." Well, maybe, but posting the celebration photos was far more interesting than uploading pictures of our day to day routine of cooking meals, making the bed, or sweeping the floors.
Waiting for the lights on the Eiffel Tower in Paris France
And living in paradise didn't stop us from taking a vacation from our vacation. We traveled back to Canada every second year to visit with our families and as many friends as we could squeeze into the time available. 

We traveled with Lawrie's siblings to Desolation Sound Canada in 2011,  Europe for his 70th birthday in 2012, and the Florida Keys in 2013. Recently he and I celebrated his 75th and my 66th birthdays in Argentina. 


July 1st 2017 at Javi's Cantina on Isla Mujeres
As many of you know, Lawrie, my adventure-partner passed away on September 3rd of 2018. I was convinced that remaining on Isla Mujeres with my network of supportive friends was the best place for me. 

However, I finally realized I am being crushed by the  powerful memories of a romantic and joyful life. He is on every street corner and in every restaurant. He shares my morning coffee, my afternoon meal, and my evening glass of wine. 

In June of this year, I listed our home with my friends at Mundaca Real Estate. Within three days I had a good offer that I accepted. And then I waited, and waited, and waited.

It's a lengthy and frustrating process to sell real estate in Mexico, especially when the deal spans three countries: American buyers, a Canadian seller, and Mexican property. The folks at Mundaca patiently pushed the deal forward one document at a time. In the end it all came together. 

I am ready to start writing the next chapter of my life.

2008 Our first experience of San Miguel de Allende
The first chapter spanned from childhood to high-school graduation. The second chapter was my first marriage at age nineteen, when I mistook the discovery of sex for true love. The third and most exciting chapter was my almost forty-year-love-affair with Lawrie. 

So, now I am heading into a new adventure, to experience new places, and perhaps write a second mystery series. I am still working on book #6 of the Isla Mujeres Mystery series, Treacherous Isla, but due to the recent changes my writing schedule has been a bit erratic. Be patient. It will happen. 

Thank you all for being a part of our lives. I'm certain I will run into many of you again, either here on Isla Mujeres, or in San Miguel de Allende.

Adios y grandes abrazos
Goodbye and big hugs

Lynda, Sparky, and Boo the Cat


~

The quote below was always one of our favourites. Thanks to Julie and Rob Goth for reminding me ...


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”  ― Hunter S. Thompson,


Isla Mujeres Mystery novels - available on Amazon.com


and 








Chihuahuas, chickens, children and clothing

Si, this is me after a Pink Room make-over!! I had my hair done recently here in San Miguel de Allende at The Pink Room.  The calm, se...