Its always wonderful to come back to San Miguel de Allende as it is a return to the familiar after so much that is new and unexplored.  Friends, streets and vistas and neighborhoods we love, the smells of the street food vendors, the tolling of the church bells, even the fireworks at dawn for what appears to be no reason at all–this is a place we truly love.  We spent a lot of time with friends but even then didn’t see them all, and even made some new ones in the campground where we stayed for the first time.  Below are Mike and Terri Church, authors of “The Traveler’s Guide to Mexican Camping,” the absolute bible of travel in Mexico for campers and what was our first point of reference when on the road and looking for the next place to stay.  They are now on their way to Alaska in what is the ultimate ‘we never stay long in one place’ life.

Terri and Mike Church in front of the rig they have used for the last few years.

Terri and Mike Church in front of the rig they have used for the last few years.

We finally departed San Miguel, but in very short order ran into an interesting sight on the road near Morelia and one that had Bonnie hanging out the car window taking pictures.  Looks more like an art piece than a truckload of mannequins, but that’s what it was!

There must be hundreds of Mannequins on this truck!

There must be hundreds of Mannequins on this truck!

 

Art Piece or just another delivery?

Art Piece or just another delivery?

We were headed for Patzcuaro, another famously beautiful town on the central plateau of Mexico though in many ways very different from San Miguel.  Where San Miguel is a paintbrush of different colors, Patzcuaro is uniformly white with red tile roofs, very Mediterranean in its feeling and atmosphere.  Where San Miguel has probably over 8,000 Gringos resident part of each year, Patzcuaro has perhaps 300.  And while San Miguel is tight and urban with only a minimum of trees on its streets, Patzquaro is tree lined and dispersed and even a bit wandering as it slides across the hills it fills.

Patzcuaro's main plaza is surrounded by arcades which provide both shade and shelter from the rain

Patzcuaro’s main plaza is surrounded by arcades which provide both shade and shelter from the rain

 

It's main plaza is spacious, green and treelined.

It’s main plaza is spacious, green and treelined.

Patzcuaro is situated on a rather large lake and the area was first settled by the Spanish in 1533 and was led by a priest named Vasco de Quiroga on the model of Thomas More’s “Utopia.”  He encouraged each of the Indian villages around the lake to become skilled in a particular craft, so there are copperware towns and wood carving towns and pottery towns, and this rather utopian model persists and in some cases thrives even today.

We were lucky enough to be connected by Terri Weedy now McElwaine, an old friend of Dave’s from teaching days, with Marcia Parrino, born in Mexico and raised in Spain, who after years living and raising a family north of New York City has moved back to Mexico and to Patzcuaro.  She has become extremely knowledgeable about the pottery and other crafts of the region and with Enrique, her boyfriend, took us around the lake to a number of potters’ studios where we saw them at work and enjoyed what they were creating and how.  Since Dave had built a number of pottery kilns in a prior life, he was particularly interested in how they were firing the pottery here since their traditions go back hundreds of years.  In addition, Enrique and Marcia have been working for months on perfecting a particular kiln in one of the villages, so there was a common interest here as well.

Bernardino Barrajas and his wife Socorro just outside his studio

Bernardino Barrajas and his wife Socorro just outside his studio

 

A simple wood fired kiln which when full of pottery is covered with earth and fired

A simple wood fired kiln which when full of pottery is covered with earth and fired

 

Another wood fired kiln no longer used and more sophisticated in how it works

Another wood fired kiln no longer used and more sophisticated in how it works

All in all we had a wonderful day with Enrique and Marcia and enjoyed a continuing conversation with Marcia back at our campground in the late afternoon.

Marcia and Enrique at lunch and happy together

Marcia and Enrique at lunch and happy together

We spent a couple of nights in this lovely campground on the edge of town which for us included a small structure complete with fireplace and table and chairs, so for the first time in a campground we enjoyed a meal inside, sitting at a proper table in candlelight–a real treat.

Dan next to the little common room we dined in and enjoyed

Dan next to the little common room we dined in and enjoyed

This is also where we met a young couple from the Ardennes region of Belgium who take the prize for smallest camping vehicle.  They bought it in Australia where they had worked and traveled for two years and shipped it to Los Angeles, from where they have driven it south to Patzcuaro.  Their intention is to continue on all the way to Argentina and Chile and we wish them the best.

The prize winner for smallest camping rig, which they set up in about twenty minutes

The prize winner for smallest camping rig, which they set up in about twenty minutes

We then set off for Sayulita just to the north of Puerto Vallarta.  We have really come to dislike the roads and traffic around Guadalajara, which we had to pass, and so this time decided to stay at a water park and campground that others had liked and that would allow us to bypass Guadalajara altogether without a stop.  Turned out that the campground was virtually empty but there were lots of families enjoying the hot springs and pools, and particularly the enormous bucket of water that is periodically dumped on the throng below.

One of the many pools at the hot springs resort we camped it.

One of the many pools at the hot springs resort we camped at

 

By three o’clock on the 11th we were back in the campground in Sayulita, which given all our travels over the last 4 1/2 months, is pretty close to a home to us now.  Bonnie is obviously comfortable here; let’s talk about putting your feet up!

Now this is what we call relaxed!

Now this is what we call relaxed!

We love the setting beside the sea, the sound of the waves in the night, the chance to have that broad ocean horizon parked there beside us.  And while it is pretty close to empty now and most of the last campers are preparing to head north for the summer, there is always something going on, if not in our campground then in the tent campground with a bar next door:

We are getting ready to do the same.  Bonnie leaves next Sunday the 28th to fly back to Santa Fe; Dave will be here until he finishes up the dental work he started in January and will drive Dan north around the middle of May.  From there we expect to head north to Canada and then across to the east, dipping down into Michigan for the usual family reunion over the 4th of July, and then we will just have to see where the road, or the rivers, take us!