A Word in Spanish

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This is a picture from a few years ago in Isla Mujeres.

I have been having a serious love affair with Mexico for a very long time. It started about 25 years ago when Fred and I went to Acapulco. We left Acapulco after the first night and went to Pie de la Cuesta, a tiny beach community that was a short bus ride – yet very far away – from Acapulco. We rented a little room right on the beach for $12 a night. It was very basic, but the main hacienda had a lot of charm, and the dogs on the beach were quite friendly. Every day was sheer bliss.
A few years later we started going to Mexico regularly, starting with Puerto Vallarta, where missing the boat back from a day trip to Yelapa led to many wintertime returns to this remote little village that could only be reached by water. When we were there we stayed in palapa-roofed cabanas, again right on the beach. I started to notice that when the plane landed in Mexico I felt an extreme feeling of happiness. The only way to describe this feeling is that whenever I land in Mexico I feel that I am right where I need to be. And when I leave, it always seems too soon.
When we finally decided we needed to explore somewhere else, we headed to the Yucatan. At that time, the mid-1990’s, Tulum wasn’t quite so hip and expensive as it is now, and we loved it. Playa del Carmen also hadn’t completely turned into “little Cancun,” and we spent some fun days there. We did a lot of traveling in the Yucatan and saw Merida, Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and many miles of interesting roadside and little villages, where life seemed to move at a far different pace than anything we were used to. One of my favorite days involved a ride in an old VW that we drove to the end of the Boca Paila Peninsula, which seemed like a ride to the end of the earth, to a little town called Punta Allen. The road was like driving in a dry, rocky creek bed and we had to frequently stop to chase huge iguanas out of the way of the car. Fred’s memory of this day is different from mine as he had to do the driving. He was very concerned that the ancient VW was going to completely fall apart, leaving us stranded in the jungle.
We spent some time in Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox (where a friendly bartender introduced me to the wonderful world of good tequila), Mahahual, at the end of the Yucatan, and visited Xcalak, the community that is as far as you can go without entering Belize. We visited Chetumal, the capitol of the state of Quintana Roo, and Lake Bacalar, called the lake of many colors for good reason.
When we realized we had pretty much covered the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, we decided to return to the Pacific Coast. Crossing the mountains by van from Oaxaca City, we ended up San Agustinillo, a tiny and very quiet fishing community. We loved Punta Placer, the hotel we found in San Agustinillo. While we were there we spent some time in the larger beach town of Zipolite, where we made friends with Javier Huesca, who runs La Providencia, the most wonderful restaurant we’ve found in Mexico. We spent some time in the beautiful colonial town of Oaxaca City as well. (Where another friendly bartender introduced us to the wonderful world of good mescal). Oaxaca is the state in Mexico that is famous for its cuisine and for its crafts. Pottery, weaving, painted wooden animales…and for its artisan mescal, another product of the agave plant.
About three years ago we started taking two trips a year to Mexico, spending some summer time in San Miguel de Allende. There are really no words to describe the beauty of this little city, which sits right in the center of the country. It is literally close to Heaven, way up in the mountains, where the weather all year is wonderful. It is an artist’s city. It is very clean, and the people are very nice. It is the kind of place I could see us settling down in, not for a vacation but for life.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Fred and I both “retired” last year. We are now free to go wherever, whenever, as long as we can budget it. That already means more time South of the Border. Last winter we again decided we needed to try something new, and went to Costa Rica for 6 weeks. Nothing against Costa Rica, but that trip pretty much sealed the deal for us. Mexico it is. So this coming year we are planning for six months in Mexico, spending time in both Zipolite and San Miguel. Then it may be time to decide what to do next. There is one more place in Mexico I am curious to explore, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. I don’t know when we’ll take that trip. Since I am an obsessive planner, I want to see the whole picture right now. I also know that no matter how much planning you do, life is best when lived one day at a time. (But of course, you do have to book tickets and secure rentals). So, we’ll see. We leave for Zipolite on December 14 so for the next few weeks I’ll be spending lots of time working on my Spanish. I have no gift for languages, but I am very determined. I’ve always heard that the best way to learn a foreign language is when you are motivated by love.

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