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.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Join me for my Jewels of Northern Spain Tour in September of 2017

Please join me for my Jewels of Northern Spain tour from September 11th to the 24th of 2017 when we will visit Barcelona, San Sebastian and Bilbao.  Last fall I spent a couple of weeks in these towns and it was my fifth visit to Barcelona in the last ten years.  My "to do" and "dining favorites" lists have been fine-tuned over the years.  All three cities are pedestrian friendly so walking to many of the sites is a great way to see the architecture, museums, shops, galleries, restaurants and get caught up in the Spanish culture.
The first part of the trip will be spent in Barcelona where we will be staying at a 5-star hotel right in the middle of the Eixample district.  
 And nothing is better than a dip in the rooftop pool with its incredible view of the city at the end of the day before heading out for an evening of tapas, wine and cava.
The Eixample is noted for its boutique shops, extraordinary Modernista architecture and excellent restaurants and tapas bars.  Modernista is the 19th century Art Noveau movement that emphasized natural forms, bright colors and curvilinear lines that were carried over into the architecture, design and furniture.
You will see many buildings adorned with "scraffito", a wall decoration of the 18th century which is a technique of scratching thru a top layer of the plaster to reveal a different layer of color below.
One of many of the Modernista foyers that you just can not resist taking a peek at.
The first part of the trip will be spent in Barcelona.  We will visit many of Antonio Gaudi's sites such as the Casa Batlo shown above, where the facade refers to Catalonia's Middle Ages and the scaly roof line represents the Dragon of Evil impaled on St. George's cross.
We will have a guided tour of La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's final project that is still under construction
and spend part of an afternoon up at his Parc Guell, Barcelona's most celebrated park that sprawls across the hillside with views of the city and out to sea.
The tile mosaic benches at the Parc are spectacular.   
One of my all time favorite church's in Spain is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.  We will have a special treat when we take a guided tour which takes us to the church's rooftop.  You can not believe the view! Antonio Gaudi was so inspired by the tall columns in the Santa Maria, he modeled his columns after these when he designed La Sagrada Familia.
The stained-glass is so diverse, from traditional scenes, to very abstract.
One morning we will have a private tour of the Monastery of Montserrat located on the magnificent Monsterrat mountain 40km outside of Barcelona.
 Another morning will be spent at the Mueso Nacional d'Art de Catalyna with its diverse collection of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art.  My particular favorite department is the Catalan Modernisme featuring such artists as Ramon Casas, Joaquim Sunyer, Salvador Dali, Julio Gonzales, just to name a few.
We will have a relaxing lunch in the museum's restaurant while we take in the breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
A visit to the Picasso Museum, where five medieval palaces were converted into a museum, which contains a vast collection of Picasso's paintings, from when he was a young boy to his later years.  A stop at the Fundacio Antonio Tapies, the foundation of Barcelona's most internationally celebrated living artist and the new home for ceramics, textiles, graphic arts and design at the Disseny Museum.
We will explore the Barceloneta area down by the water front where you will find many outdoor sculptures such as the Barcelona Head by Roy Lichtenstein.  This is an area that was revitalized in 1992 in preparation for the summer Olympics.
The next two sites designed by architect Domenech i Montaner are prime examples of Modernism!  We will have a guided tour of the world's most flamboyant concert hall with its rainbow-colored light streaming into the auditorium through the ornate stained-glass skylight. 
Montaner's other magnificent project is the large complex, the Hospital de Sant Pau.  A great civic work, this "garden city" consists of 17 pavillions,
each with its own collection of expressive sculptures, murals and mosaics.
The Spanish cuisine in my opinion is the best in the world, using the freshest ingredients.  One morning we will have breakfast at the famous Bar Pinotxa located in Barcelona's outstanding food court, La Boqueria.  
I have had the Garbanos con Chipirones (chickpeas with baby squid) at quite a few places around Barcelona and Pinotxo's hands down makes the best!   And of course a glass of cava and a cortado (Catalan drink of half espresso and half warm milk) and the yummy pastry up on the left called a chucho.
Tapas at one of my all time favorites places, Paco Meralgo. 
The jamon Ibercio is the best jamon in the whole world, it just melts in your mouth served with pa amb tomaquet (a toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil).
The perfect season for the pan fried Padron Peppers!  
Off to San Sebastian on the first class train. On the way we will have a picnic dinner from items bought at La Boqueria: wine, cheese, Jamon Iberico, fresh figs, Marcona almonds... all the good stuff.  San Sebastian is one of the old time lovely seaside resort towns and a place to kick back and relax after a full week in Barcelona.
Our hotel overlooks one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, La Playa de Concha, where we will be able to enjoy some swim time in its crystal clear waters.
A view from the hotel balcony, we are right in the middle of the historic district with its 16th century buildings, boutiques and countless tapas bars. 
A walk around Monte Urgall brings us to this magnificent iron sculpture, Empty Construction, by Jorge Oteiza.
Gourmet tapas are plentiful in San Sebastian.
Next stop, Bilbao where we will stay in the ultra-modern hotel overlooking the Guggenheim Museum.
A view of the Guggenheim Museum and the Puppy from our hotel room.  The Puppy created by Jeff Koons, is a huge sculpture of a West Highland terrier topiary covered in bedding plants. 
We will take in a series of eight massive sculptures by Richard Serra.  Interactive sculptures that allows you to walk through and around them.  They dwarf you when standing next to them. On the other floors we will view the special exhibitions on display.  And a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes with work representing every Spanish school and movement from the 12th century to the 20th century.
Between visits to the museums, we will dine at the ultra-chic restaurant down the street from the hotel, La Porrue.  Phenomenal cuisine!
Breakfast up on the hotel's top floor with gorgeous views of the museum, river and countryside, where we will enjoy one of the most extensive buffets in Europe, before heading to the airport to fly back to Barcelona.  You will have the afternoon free before heading back to the states the next day. 
I have just hit on some of the highlights of my Jewels of Northern Spain tour.  I am limiting the tour to only eight ladies which I already have a few signed on.  It's going to be a trip you will never forget.  An opportunity to  experience one of the world's most captivating areas with exceptional architecture and culture, cutting edge boutiques and shops, delicious cuisine, a comfortable climate and elegant accommodations.

If you are interested in joining me, please contact me at your earliest convenience. 

Email:  robindsg@aol.com