Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Back to Palenque and The Temple of the Inscriptions

Palenque is one of my all time favorite Maya sites.
The Temple of the Inscriptions, in the ancient Maya city of Palenque. 
The city was named after a Maya king, Pakal, founded about 225 BC and inhabited until 850 AD.  That was 1,075 years!
To put a little perspective on that time frame, Columbus "discovered" the new world in 1492, 642 years after Palenque was abandoned.
It was a gorgeous day and not too hot or crowded.  Encountered a few Portuguese, Italian and French tourist.
The estimate is that the city of Palenque has over 1,100 buildings built without metal tools, pack animals or the wheel.  Less than 10% has been excavated or explored The buildings highlighted in orange on the map above are those that have been excavated.
Imagine as you explore the ruins, the gray stone buildings at one time were stuccoed over and painted red.
Interesting background on Palenque and its explorers....
It has been written that Hernan Cortes came within 40 kilometers of Palenque, never knowing of its existence.   
In the 1770's, Maya hunters told two Spanish priests that stone palaces were within the area.  The priests led an expedition to Palenque where they wrote a book claiming it was a capital of an Atlantis-type civilization.
Captain Antonio del Rio led an expedition in 1787 to Palenque.  For some reason, his report was locked up in the Guatemalan archives.  A British resident of Guatemala translated the report and it was published in England in 1822. (Note: this was the period that Chiapas broke from Guatemala and became part of Mexico).  This publication spurred on expeditions to seek out this exotic, hidden city.
One explorer being Count de Waldeck who lived atop one of the pyramids  from 1831 - 1833 where he wrote a book mystifying the site as the lost Atlantis and Palenque's fame grew in Europe.
But it was not until John Stephens along with artist Frederick Catherwood arrived on the scene in 1837 when he wrote about the six pyramids they started to excavate and the remarkable aqueduct system.  This paved the way for future archeologist.   

The aqueduct shown in the photo above along with the magnificent Palace which dominates the center of the site. See below, it is right above the Temple of the Inscriptions.
The Temple of the Inscriptions is marked on the map above with a bright green star.
Pakal was buried in a tomb, within the Temple.  There are 68 steps that lead down into his tomb, each step representing each year of his reign. The tomb was discovered, intact in 1952.
The Temple of the Inscriptions (House of the Nine Sharpened Spears) is 79-feet-high and Palenque's most famous structure.   The structure consists of a "temple" structure that sits atop an eight-stepped pyramid (for a total of nine levels). The five entrances are surrounded by piers with carved images and the hieroglyphic texts in Mayan for which the temple was named.  Inside the temple, a stairway leads to the crypt containing the sarcophagus of Pakal.

A drawing showing the stairway that leads down to the crypt.
This secret stairway, discovered in 1949 by Mexican archeologist Alberto Ruz L'Huillier, was originally hidden under a stone slab.  The stairs were intentionally jammed with rubble to prevent access to the tomb.  It took three years to excavate until Pakal's tomb was revealed.
The lid, alone, for the King's sarcophagus is 7' x 12', 9" to 11.5" thick, depending on the thickness of the decorative carvings and weighs 7 tons. It is believed that the tomb was built first and the temple around it.  It wasn't until a few years ago, one was allowed to enter the tomb.
Pakal's sarcophagus is on view at the Museo Nacional de  Antropolog√≠a in Mexico City.   On the lid is an image of Pakal on top of "earth monster".  Below him are the open jaws of a jaguar.  Above him is the Celestial bird, perched atop the Cosmic Tree (represented by a cross) which holds a serpent in its branches.  Pakal lies between two worlds, the heavens and the underworld.  Beneath the crypt is a snake-like hollow ventilation tube connecting Pakal to the realm of the living.
Also on the sarcophagus are Pakal's ancestors, going back six generations.
Pakal’s death mask was made entirely of jade, while the eyes made of shells, mother of pearl, and obsidian. 
Pakal accended to the throne in July of 615 and ruled 68 years until his death at the age of 80!  His 68 year reign is among the 30th longest worldwide.  He was responsible for the construction of some of Palenque's most notable surviving inscriptions and monumental architecture. 
On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1984, 124 artifacts were stolen from the Museo Nacional de Antropolog√≠a in Mexico City.  One being the death mask of Pakal. June of 1989, Pakal's death mask and 110 other artifacts were recovered.

Palenque and the setting is breathtaking and one not to be missed!

I am putting together another tour to Chiapas next year around the same time, February 9 - 17, 2018.  I have added an extra day in San Cristobal de las Casas because there is so much to see and I have made sure that we will be visiting San Juan Chamula during Carnival which is a very special time and something you will never have witnessed before!

Let me know if you are interested in joining me.
It's a small group so plan ahead.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day - Some cards from the past

 Going through some old photos, etc, I came across some old Valentine cards from the late 1950's.  They are priceless, especially the corny verses.

There are several pages within this card with the cat making different faces and with each face the verbiage reads, "Love ya scrappy, Love ya tearful, La ya happy, Love ya Mopey, Love ya gay (totally different meaning back then), Love ya, Sister, Any way!"  signed "Carter."  Looks like this cost 25 cents back then.

Inside it reads, "Who's sweeter than sugar And very nice, too?  Who's somebody special? Who is it? It's you!!" 
This card came from a box of many different designs.  Those were the kind we gave fellow kids at school and dropped them into cereal boxes that we had decorated.
 "Just think how purrfect It would be If we were Valentines - -  You and me!  (A big 10 cents)
 "You're like a Valentine yourself, So sweet in all you do, It's any wonder, Dear, That everyone loves you!  This card was from "Grandpa + Grandma Mullen".
Inside the card reads, "Cathy's getting ready to come and visit you.  She's bringing you a Valentine with love and wishes too! But Cathy can't make up her mind which skirt to wear today, And she's bringing several so that you can choose, OK?"  (there were cut out skirts to put on Cathy).  From "Grandma + Grandpa Hedean".

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas in Denver with a touch of Mexico

Hoping you all had a Merry Christmas!  This year I decided I would use all my Mexican decorations to adorn the tree.  And what a colorful tree it turned out to be.  There is a story behind each decoration and fond memories on what market in Mexico I found these treasures.
Years ago I had been up at the Tuesday in San Miguel de Allende with my brother, Carter.  There was a man selling these colorful little baskets that he had about 20 strung together like a stringer of fish.  I could not resist and ended up buying about three strands of the baskets with the intention that some year I would decorate my Christmas tree with them.  Well, I finally did.
  The fabric Mexican couple is one of my market finds.
Paper maiche dolls, munecas, from Celaya.

For years I have been collecting little ceramic pots and plates at the Friday market in Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan.  I used to decorate twig wreaths with these pots along with other treasures that I found in the various markets around Mexico.

A hombre with his straw hat and serape.

A ceramic hand-painted pinata that I bought in Guanajuato at Gorky Gonzales's studio.  You can also find them at my friends beautiful shop, Camino Silvestre, in San Miguel along with other ceramic pieces by Gorky.
Heart shaped milagros on the tree.  I had originally bought several of these in the San Miguel market, just below the open food market, to use as decorations on bundles of heart shaped shortbread cookies that I gave to friends on Valentine's Day.
On my last Oaxaca tour, I bought several tin churches to use as decorations on the Christmas presents.  Having a Mexican theme, everyone had to relinquish theirs after they opened their gifts and hang it on the tree.  Next trip I will have to pick up a few more.
Of course I had to have several tin mermaids on the tree.  Len, my husband, nicknamed my ladies water aerobic group at the Denver Athletic Club, the Mermaids.  And that is what were are referred to!
A hand-painted ceramic cross from Dolores Hidalgo, a town 25 minutes from San Miguel, known for its Talavera pottery.

 My mom had bought these black ceramic angel candle holders in San Miguel.  They are all playing different instruments.  They originally came from a small town south of Oaxaca City, San Bartola de Coyotepec.
I'm a day late in getting this out there.  I was to busy cooking and enjoying Christmas Eve and day with Len and my parents.  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and best wishes for a happy New year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Join me in celebrating the patron San Miguel Archangel in San Migeul de Allende - September 29 - October 5, 2017

September 29th is the day that honors the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende, San Miguel Archangel.  According to the Bible, Saint Michael (San Miguel) Archangel defeated Lucifer and he then became the symbol of good over evil and life over death.   And how appropriate that San Miguel is where the fight from freedom from Spain was fought.

In my opinion, this weekend, starting on the 29th, is the most colorful and celebrated.   
You will see the wild Mojigangas (giant paper mache figures) and parades featuring the Conchero dancers and the Chino dancers.  There will be religious processions with beautifully designed Xuchiles, the offerings of flowers built upon platforms made of reeds and sticks, then decorated with flowers, mostly marigolds, and cucharillas, the interior of a cactus meaning little spoon.  You will never encounter a weekend as extravagant as this! 
One of the Xuchiles with San Maguel Archangel at the top is propped up to create an decorative archway leading to the Parroquia, the main parish church, right in the center of town.
The interior of the Parroquia is lavishly decorated with floral arrangements.
The beautifully costumed Conchero dancers performing in front of the Parroquia.  This dance represents the conflict between the Spaniards and the indigenous people.
What a striking young lady in her feathered and beaded outfit.
And music...
 Along with the Chinos representing the Spanish Moors.

You will see the the Volvadores de Papantla (the flying pole dance). It is a centuries old tradition, one that the Aztecs performed.  A tall pole is set up in the middle of a plaza, fitted with a small (and I mean small!) revolving platform on top.   Four fliers and a musician climb to the top. The flyers wear a hat with a crest of feathers which give reference to eagles or macaws, the birds dedicated to the sun.
A ceremony is performed at the top on a small platform.  The musician (the captain) faces each direction and leans back, arching his back as he plays his flute and drum. 
The other four men tie the ropes around themselves and fly down.  Making 13 revolutions around the pole and turning a somersault to land lightly on their feet as they reach the ground.  The captain increases the tempo of the music as they near the bottom.  They do not free themselves from the rope until the captain has joined them.  The captain slides down one of the ropes, reaching the ground at the same time as the flyers, without having stopped playing his instruments. Then they all take leave of the rope and dance around the pole.  The crowd goes crazy with applause and admiration.
Numerous Castillos, wooden towers covered with fireworks and rocket-propelled pinwheels,
erected right in front of the Parroquia.
And one of my all time favorite ceremonies is the blessing of the cowboys and their horses.  Riders from all over ride into town from the surrounding pueblos and congregate in front of the Parroquia to be blessed by the priest.  

Join me September 29 - October 5, 2017  for a wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende.  Experience the exceptional treasures of San Miguel; its beautiful colonial architecture, delicious cuisine, native culture, comfortable climate, elegant accommodations, endless shopping and outstanding service. 
A walking tour on Day Two with lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.  We will take a few side trips.  One will be a day over in Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato  where we will experience the elegant architecture, the Opera House, Diego Rivera Museum, ceramic studios and a sublime, gourmet meal.  Another day we will visit two unique homes in the countryside and the Sanctuary of Atotonilco (often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico).  And much, much more!

For more information, contact me at robindsg@aol.com.  Please include your full name and mailing address.    

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Hotel Londres y Inglaterra in San Sebastian

The Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is one of my favorite places to stay in Spain, especially since it is in the ideal location overlooking La Concha Bay!
We always get a room overlooking the bay.  What a way to start the day.
Since were here last, the entire hotel had been beautifully remodeled.  This is the bar that overlooks the bay.  Flor from Austrias was our waitress and she could not have been nicer.
Such a pretty room with comfy beds, pillows and linens.

Morning view of the bay from my room.  As you can see, La Concha bay has a very high tide but the when you walk out into the water, it is a gradual decline in depth.  It truly is a swimmers paradise or even for those who love to jog in the water.
The sun setting on the large building which is the City Hall.  It was once the home of the Gran Casino from the 1st of July of 1897 to 1924 when gambling was prohibited.  It was built during the Belle Epoque which was a period of peace and prosperity.  
Every morning the beach is dragged and ready for the swimmers and sun bathers.  I shot this photo using the panoramic setting on my Iphone. 
It was fun being here during the regatta which takes place the first two Sundays in September.  For over 115 years, people have crowded in all around La Concha to view the regattas.  The origins of the regatta come from the fishing and whaling culture of the Basque.
Looking down on the hotel's outdoor patio which is a great place to relax at the end of the day.
Tourist and locals alike gather to have a drink and visit.
 Such a beautiful setting.
The city comes to life when the sun sets.  This is the view from my balcony.  It's tapa time soon!

Join me for my Jewels of the Northern Spain tour.  Space is limited.
September 11 - 24, 2017.   Contact:  robindsg@aol.com
We will be at the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra for four nights.  It's such a lovely place to stay, you will never want to leave.