Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Halloween !


I shot this over in Guanajuato when I took my group from San Miguel de Allende over for the day.  I would have bought him, but I thought I would have a hard time getting him into the overhead storage on the plane.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Talented Watercolorists

Just recently, I returned from my home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from another one of my extremely successful guided tours.  As I have mentioned in the past, I have made so many new friends from these tours, have gotten to know acquaintances better and have met some pretty talented people.  Last week, I had lunch with my good friend, Laura and my new friend, Susan.  Both were on my last tour and boy did we have fun.
Susan Montague has a small studio in Littleton, Colorado, just off Main Street on Prince.  An interior designer by profession, she started painting in water colors and drawing with charcoals about four years ago.  I can not believe she has been at this for such a short amount of time.  One would think she has been painting for ever.
Susan entered this extraordinary watercolor above in the American Watercolor Society's 143rd International Exhibit in New York and I am not surprised that she was awarded the "AMS Bronze Medal of Honor."  She really executes the image with such a flair for composition along with her talented use of color.
Susan works from her own black & white photographs and some vintage photographs too.  This gives her the ability to interpret the image without being influenced in what she would see from a color photograph.  Working from a black and white photo, she finds she has more artistic control of the contrasts and shadows.  I think that makes for a much more interesting work.
Susan started this new piece in her studio, later to be completed on the road.  I love her choice of subjects.  It reminds me of some old photos I have of my Mother. 

I can hardly wait until she starts painting some of my images that I have shot over the years in Mexico.

Please check out Susan's website.
or contact her at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A side trip to Guanajuato

My group and I left San Miguel de Allende around 9:00 in the morning to spend the day over in Guanajuato.  It was a glorious day, the weather was perfect.  Our first stop was the scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the whole city and the mountains where the Valenciana silver mine it located. This mine was at one time the richest silver mine in the world and at its peak, supplied one-fifth of the world's silver. 
The yellow church in the middle of the photo is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The large building behind it is the University of Guanajuato.
Pepe, one of my drivers, was showing the ladies what some of the buildings below are in the little book on Guanajuato.  Vendors sell these books for 60 some pesos which is a great purchase for is has an overall history of Guanajuato along with some good photography. 
Ricardo, my other driver, was telling us the history behind many of the buildings below.  
The Pipila Monument was erected in 1939 in honor of Juan Jose de los Reyes.  This miners knickname was El Pilpila.  Pipila is the Mexican word for a hen turkey;  he had some physical deformities and walked like a hen turkey.  Two hundred years ago, he was responsible for setting fire to the large doors of the Alhondga de Granaditas.  The Spaniards had barricaded themselves along with supplies and plenty of silver in this granary which was a stone fortress.   Pilpila tied a long flat stone on his back to protect him from the Spanish troops firing on him with their muskets.  He stormed towards the large granary and set the wooden doors on fire.
My group was busy checking out "El Pipila." 
 Guanajuato is famous for it brightly painted homes. 
What a colorful scene.

Once we had shot our share of photos, we headed down to Union Square, Jardin Union, that is shown above.   The triangular garden of Laurel trees is also know as the "piece of cheese."  Next stop, the Juarez Theater, on the right of the photo.
I was standing in the gazebo in the Jardin Union looking up at La Pipila. What a gorgeous view.  What a gorgeous day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Guided Walking Tour of San Miguel de Allende

On day two of my guided tour, I led a walking tour of the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.  The first stop was to the jardin (the town's main plaza) where we toured the Parroquia, the main parish church.  The entrance was recently decorated with the large Xuchile in honor of Saint Michael, the patron saint of San Miguel.
On the other side of the jardin, we popped into Galleria San Miguel, the oldest gallery in town, and visited with the owner and my friend, Sylvia Samuelson.  She has quite the stories to share for she has had this gallery for 48 1/2 years! Next we headed next door to ONO, a fabulous boutique featuring exquisite textiles and clothing.  Matina is modeling the pretty pink blouse that she ended up buying.  A few others did not leave empty handed either.
 The ceramic plates were so colorful and unique.
ONO is really known for it contemporary wood designs;  boxes, coasters, games, sculptures (that remind me of Miro & Picasso)...  the furniture is exceptional.
 I loved these bracelets.  I don't know why I did not buy a few for gifts.  Next time...
ONO has a wide variety of scarves and rebozas.  I have quite the collection that I have bought over the years.  One can never have too many scarves.
After seeing a few other churches, galleries, shops, the huge market... we took a break in the courtyard next to the Oratorio Church.  From left to right:  Laura (Chica), Susan, Cheryl, Alex, Alice, Phoebe (with her "swell" pink Converse sneakers on), Ronda, Bobbi, Dudley (by the way, he loved being the only man in the group and we loved having him on the tour along with his wife Ronda), Rosie, Dianne and Matina.  Just two blocks away, our table was waiting for us at Casa Blanca.
We had a fabulous comida (lunch in Spanish).  We ended the meal with a choice of three yummy desserts.  Every dessert plate was decorated differently.  This was an apple crepe with a little vanilla ice cream.
With a margarita down the hatch, you would think that Alice was playing with her food.  But no...  She was taking instructions from her daughter, Susan, on how to make the decorations that graced our dessert plates. 
Everyone in the group hit it off magically from the start.  It was the beginning to a perfect week together!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just not your normal market

I love the market in San Miguel de Allende! Can you imagine walking into your local Safeway or Whole Foods and having a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe next to the bathroom doors.
Have your choice of soccer balls.
A little love going on in the market amidst the butcher stalls.
I've never seen Barbie look so cool before.
These masks are pretty frightening.  Just in time for Halloween.
Going to the market certainly is your one stop shopping.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Plaza Allende

Plaza Civica is also known as Plaza Allende, or at least part of it is. In 1962, this plaza was created by happenstance. News spread that President Diaz was coming to San Miguel de Allende to dedicate the Ignacio Allende Dam outside of town. So why not have him dedicate the new and un-built plaza at the same time. Workers were recruited and even prisoners were used to get this plaza built in time. A sculptor from Mexico City was finally convinced in getting this huge equestrian statue of General Ignacio Allende done. When the statue was making its way into town, down the steep streets, a hand was broken off. Also looking a bit too new, it was drenched with acid which turned it green. With time running out, there was not enough time to plant the gardens so cut flowers, trees and vines were stuck into the ground.

When the President arrived, he spoke a few words to the public and muttered for those to hear close by, "Another equestrian statue, just what this country needs!"
It was Allende, the captain of the militia in San Miguel, who joined forces with Father Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest from the nearby town of Dolores Hidalgo, that helped lead the movement in 1810 to free Mexico from Spain. I like to think that 200 years later, Allende is still watching over us.

Join me in June of 2011 on one of my guided tours of San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas. This favorite plaza of mine is part of my walking tour on day two.

You may contact me at

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Twenty-Second Anniversary

Thursday I flew back to Denver from my home in San Miguel de Allende.  This past week I had another successful tour with a wonderful group of ladies and one couple! We had such a great time, the week just flew by.
Friday, October 15th, was my twenty-second anniversary.  We decided to go out to dinner the following week so my husband stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a steak for dinner. 
He asked the butcher to cut him a two-inch thick Porterhouse.  I just about fainted when I saw it!  It was the size of Texas.  It weighed 3.47 pounds and cost a pretty penny too, $48.00.  Needless to say, part of it went into the freezer for another meal.  Now I know why I do the majority of the grocery shopping, or at least give Len a detailed grocery list when I send him to the store.
He did crack me up though... Len told me that the modern day gift for the twenty-second anniversary was a Porterhouse Steak.
We had a great dinner along with a 2003 DOIX Priorat from Spain.  It's nice to be home!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Plaza Civica

Plaza Civica in San Miguel de Allende is a big plaza and my favorite place to hang out. I really call it The Peoples Plaza because that is where it is happening. These steps lead up to the main section of plaza, the Church of Our Lady of Health (La Salud) and more stairs that take you to the market. The man sitting in the lower, right hand corner is my Dad. The lighting that day was remarkable beautiful.
The plaza is full of children playing, people coming and going to the market, people socializing... People selling rebozos, balloons, cotton candy, nuts...

The La Salud Church has a Churrigueresque (an ornate style of decoration that erupted in Mexico in the 1700's) facade with the sign of St. James with the shell. Inside, it has the only altar in the area that is dedicated to Santa Cecilia, patroness of music and musicians. On St. Cecilia's day, November 22, musicians come and play at the entrance of the church. She is also the patroness of the blind, being blind herself.
These steps and a few blocks take you back to the jardin, the main plaza. The big structure is the backside of the San Francisco Church. It is amazing that you can stand in the middle of the plaza and see THREE churches. Of course, all Catholic.
Sunday is a time for relaxing and hanging out in the plaza.These girls were so cute. They were proud that they knew a little English and could rattle off numbers and colors in English. I asked them if they were sisters, they giggled and said, "Oh no, we are just best friends!"
People stop to get their shoes shined.
Balloons, toys and Mr. Bubbles are sold by numerous venders.
This little guy was in another world. He was mesmerized by the older children playing soccer.

It's a wonderful place to be!  And I am lucky to be here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

San Miguel is a Shoppers Paradise

This one page article, "What $100 buys in San Miguel de Allende," was in the July/August issue of Budget Travel. You will be able to read the text if you click on the image above to enlarge it.
One of the items that the article listed was oilcloth.
I am a nut about anything to do with oilcloth. I have oilcloth purses, a gym bag, tablecloths, a garmet bag and a whole variety of reversible place mats that I have made. I made the tablecloth above and trimmed it with a wide, royal blue grow grain ribbon and a fancy, cotton lace that I found in a little store in san Miguel.

I also have the straw place mats (featured in the top, right hand corner of the article) that I bought ages ago in the market in Oaxaca which have lasted for ever and they still look brand new.

Join me on one of my tours and see first hand what a shoppers paradise San Miguel de Allende is!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Xuchiles in San Miguel

With the celebration of the Bicentennial (200 years of independence from Spain), San Miguel de Allende and many other towns around Mexico are participating in colorful parades and festivals. This particular procession was in honor of the Archangel, St. Michael. Xuchiles are carried through town and then erected in front of the Parroquia, the town's parish church.
These ceremonial frames are made of reeds and wood. These frames are decorated with the interior part of the cucharilla cactus; cucharilla meaning little spoon in which the cactus is shaped like. Once the cucharillas are in place, the Xuchiles are decorated with colorful marigolds, carnations, mums, cockscomb, ferns and greens. Creating all kinds of designs.
San Miguel de Allende's name has evolved over the years. The first name was San Miguel de las Chichimecas, named after the Indians that lived in the area. San Miguel Viejo, meaning that older San Miguel during the time of the Chichimecas. Later it was renamed San Miguel el Grande to reflect its grandeur when it became part of the route of the silver mines from Guanajuato, Zacatecas and San Louis Potosi to Mexico City. in the 1700's, San Miguel was the wealthiest town in new Spain. After Mexico achieved its independence, San Miguel became the first town in Mexico to be released from Spanish rule and its name was changed to San Miguel de Allende to honor General Allende. As you can see, the Xuchile in front of the San Rafael church (next to the Parroquia), is pretty big.

These Xuchiles truly are a beautiful form of art and made by the talented people who carry them all the way to the Parroquia!

The Conchero Dancers are pretty wild!

San Miguel de Allende has an extensive and very colorful procession the weekend closest to September 29, the town's celebration of their patron Saint Michael. Some of the most beautifully outfitted participants in the parade are the Conchero Dancers. The Conchero Dancers claim to be Chichimechas related to the Otomi culture. The town's original name was San Miguel de Las Chichimecas. Over four hundred and fifty years ago, Friar Juan from Spain tried to establish his missionary here and convert the Chichimeca Indians to Christianity.
This sequined dress was gorgeous. I am sure it cost a pretty peso or two.
Their name, Conchero, comes from the Spanish word for shell, concha. Shell like forms are used in two different ways; the traditional musical instrument is made with the shell-like covering of the armadillo and the other as ankle bracelets that make a clicking/clacking noise when dancing.
Each Conchero group has anywhere from 50 to 100 members called a mesa, or table, referring to the altar around which it is organized. Each mesa is named after a saint. They honor the Holy Cross and the Cardinal Points (the four winds).
The dancers follow a certain pattern and dance step. It is the devil that accompanies the group that dances as he pleases.  He will clear the way for the dancers, entertain the spectators and keep them from crowding the dancers.

What a beautiful costume and what a striking young woman.
The style of dress of the Concheros varies from mesa to mesa.
This dancers represents the Apaches with his his face so artistically painted.
It's a pretty crazy time to be in the jardin! I wouldn't miss it for anything.