Random Musings

🦩Flamboyance & The Yellow City 🐝

So many little Mexican pueblos, so little time. We usually head off on adventures with a general plan, but we are always open to switching it up, especially when locals give us the skinny.

To the west of Progreso is a small coastal pueblo that offers a look into Mexico’s conservation efforts. Celestún, home to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún, one of many preserves that seek to protect the 10%+ of the world’s total amphibian, reptile, bird & fish species that call Mexico home at least some part of the year.  We headed to Celestún on the recommendation of several locals. Celestún, along with its neighboring pueblo, Sisal & another reserve further east, Rio Lagartes & quite honestly all places in between are the winter migrating grounds for the flamboyant flamingo🦩 You may or may not know that a flock of flamingos is in fact, called a flamboyance 😉 

We turned off after the first bridge as you head into Celestún, where we caught a boat out into the pink waters. Have you ever seen a flamingo in flight? We had not, but now we have. Our boat continued through the mangroves & back to shore. 

My mother will be happy to know, we pretty much stayed out of trouble, with the exception of feeding some furry little bandits that live near the boat dock. 🦝

The flamingos of Celestún were the draw, the bonus was the sunset & marquesitas 🧇 What is a marquesita, you ask? It is delicious, Mexican happiness in a paper wrapper.  A man & his traveling waffle cart set up on the beach next to the sunset, for $50mxn pesos or the equivalent of $3usd, he pours fresh batter on to the piping-hot propane-enabled waffle iron. Then to decide on your fillings which are abundant, both savory & sweet. Nutella, lechera, queso, strawberries, bananas, mangoes, the list goes on & on. We chose Nutella & strawberries, slathered & sliced. Some marquesita masters fold others role, this guy added a crimping technique to the bottom so the goodness didn’t escape. A hot, crunchy, tasty treat enjoyed on the beach, watching the sunset, a sweet life. 

This would be our last adventure in this part of Mexico, or so we thought. Next we would head east, toward the coast, discovering & exploring the colorful pueblos of Izamal & Valladolid. 

Izamal is referred to as the Yellow City.  We joked that Comex, the local Sherwin-Williams must have had a fire sale. Cobble streets of horse drawn buggies, sunshine buildings & beautiful people, that about sums up this hidden gem!

Our boat mate in Celestún, a Mérida local, suggested Izamal & a great restaurant, Kinich, named after the Mayan solar deity & local ruins. Like most places in Mexico, the simple facade opens onto a grand courtyard of ladies in traditional Mexican dresses, eager to serve you the delicious dishes of Yucatán… Poc chuc, a traditional wood-grilled pork fillet… 😋

After lunch, we wandered further into town to the Convent de San Antonio de Padua, where in the park below we also got to enjoy the holiday tradition of the Camino de Flores. Unfortunately, we were unaware of the Pirámide Kinich Kakmó just three blocks to the north. The truth is, we can’t see everything, 👀 I’m sure we have missed a few treasures but that doesn’t discount the beauty we have seen along the way. 

Our next unexpectedly beautiful little pueblo, was that of Valladolid just the other side of Chichén Itzá. It doesn’t get old. Every little pueblo has a parque principal, colorful letters, painted to express the community’s personality & a rich history of its thriving people. As we do everywhere, we wander the streets taking in their beauty, when we’re lucky 🍀 getting an occasional glimpse behind simple doorways into the lives of beautiful Mexican families, lounging in hammocks instead of on couches, eating & laughing together. 

Valladolid & the Yucatán peninsula are home to 16 stingless bees, one of which is the Melipona bee, revered in Mayan culture for its medicinal honey or miel. We had the opportunity to visit, Xkopek, a bee farm in the base of a dry cenote. If you didn’t know any better, which we did not, you could easily mistake these tiny bees for flies & under value their immense significance to the region.  As if humanity wasn’t enough of a risk to these tiny pollinators, amongst the 16 species is an impersonating thief, that makes no honey of its own, but rather intoxicates other bees with its pheromones & steals their golden goodness.  🐝

We had a chance to visit their hives, watch them toil away & sample the tasty goodness of a hard days work. It would be a sweet ending to our time in Yucatán. 🍯

👍🏼Hitchhiking & Faith in Humanity❤️

I love my mother, so it makes me sad that I worry her so, but worry her I do & apparently a few other ladies in her over 55 community 😜 There has been more than one conversation that has begun with, “mom, we are okay!” She knows that means there is a fun story to come 🤷‍♀️ Or not so fun, as she would see it.


We headed off one bright sunny afternoon to the far west side of the peninsula, about 25km to the small pueblo of Churburná. We used an app to get a taxi for something like $20usd, thinking we would have no problem finding a return taxi when the night came to an end. The taxi dropped us in town, where we headed down to the beach to have a look around. The place we really wanted to be was another 3kms east & the shoreline didn’t look completely passable. We walked back to the town square & decided to grab a snack. Guacamole & World Cup hit the spot as we regrouped on the plan. We decided to grab a mototaxi, a motorcycle with a metal framed sitting area attached to the front 😬 Pretty sure the driver gave us one price at the start & another at our destination 🤷‍♀️ We paid the the latter with the agreement (we thought) that the driver would come back for us just after sunset 🌅

3 kilometers

This area had no services or facilities, it was just one long stretch of beautiful Mexican beach 🏖️ We spent the afternoon watching the pelicans dive bomb into the water & follow along with the returning fishing boats.

The sunset did not disappoint as the tide made its way up the beach.

As the light began to fade, we made our way back to our agreed upon meeting spot. You will be as shocked as we were to find our man never returned 🙄 3km, it’s not that far. However it was a narrow, mosquito infested road that was growing darker by the minute. This is the point where you may begin to understand my mother’s concerns 😉 With every passing car, I began to convince myself, I would just have to flag someone down & ask for a ride back to town. We walked past the fishing boat yard & I thought, we just need one of those guys to stop & we can jump in the back of a truck. You know, safety first! Two seconds later a pick up pulled over & a young guy motioned for us to climb in. Dave actually said, “Can you imagine what your mom will say when you tell her about this?!”

It was a short ride back to Churburná where they dropped us. We said our thank yous & goodbyes & they were on their way. I think we like to believe that all people are good & helpful, that doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention to our surroundings. We headed back to our guac spot & tried to call a taxi. No joy. We also failed to remember & ask about the Colectivos, although that would have made for a pretty long night.

In a moment of brilliance or desperation, I decided to text our new found friend Paul. A little about Paul… Paul left his job amid the pandemic 😷 & chose to start a family business & turn his front courtyard into a quaint dining patio. Paul & his family work together to bring true Mexican flavor to the neighborhood. It doesn’t stop with tacos 🌮 Paul drives folks around, rents bikes & scooters & pours into his community while loving every expat that stops by. He & many like him, that we have met along the way are why we come to Mexico 🇲🇽

Our Hero

Thank God for WhatsApp! This would be the first time Paul would come to our rescue but not the last 😂

Paul would later help us rent a car & send someone to help us when we locked the keys in said rental car 🤦‍♀️

So as things tend to do, all worked out! We are safe, we are okay👌🏼 We ended up back in the area about a month later. It was great to see Paul again & laugh about the continuing predicaments we seem to get ourselves into. Fun times!

🇲🇽Yucatán, Let’s Pause Here a Minute🐚

We have been wanting to travel to Yucatán, MX for some years now, so it was high on the list of must-sees. It was not the easiest place to get to even before covid 🦠 It is just beginning to get a bit more accessible as the colonial town of Mérida is finding its way center stage. Mérida boasts an amazing mix of traditional Maya & colonial Mexican (Spanish) culture. Merida is on the rise with ex-pats, especially Canadians, with its growing art scene, amazing food, rich, abundant culture & breathtaking geography from the tops of basamental pyramidals to the unreachable bottoms of deep freshwater cenotes.

We planned to spend a month in the area, which was not nearly enough time to take it all in. So of course when the sh*t hit the fan later, it would become our “safe place” of return. Progreso, especially, will forever hold the memory of unexpected beauty with the incredible added bonus of quick & easy friendships.

Progreso is the largest pueblo along this Yucatán peninsula peninsula (no that is not a mistake.) Progreso sits in the center of the smaller pueblos of Churbaná, Chelem, Chicxulub, San Benito & Telchac Puerto, all amongst the Chicxulub Crater. The peninsula is separated from the mainland by a long stretch of state-protected swamps & mangroves.

Colectivo $8mxn (=.50usd)

Progreso was not nearly as walkable as San Miguel but once we learned how to flag down the colectivo, we were well on our way to discovering all this small pueblo had to offer. First & most importantly, we had to find a place to watch the World Cup ⚽️ What better place to be than Latin America especially as we neared the finals 🇦🇷


We found a great little Cuban place along the malecon, looking out onto the beach & across the Gulf of Mexico. Sarten Cubano became our go-to place for games & cocktails. Their Cuban sandwich was on point & it was one of the few places we found tostones (savory Cuban-style plantains as opposed to the more traditional sweet Mexican ones 🍌) In between matches, we took walks on the beach outside our condo, chasing the tide 🌊 ate tacos with new found friends & enjoyed the slow pace of Mexican time 🕰️

I think one of my favorite things about Progreso was the endless shoreline of seashells🐚 On our first long beach walk, we began to think this is where all the seashells must come from. Miles of beaches covered. Dave picked up one that seemed slightly different from the rest & handed it to me. “Oh, am I collecting these?” I asked.  He said he thought I might want to, but I declined, figuring if I changed my mind, I knew where they were. 😉 A few days later I was talking to our daughter, Erin. We were discussing the upcoming holidays & she said, “I know what I would like for Christmas, something “hecho en Mexico.” 🇲🇽 I told her I would be on the lookout, but truth be told I was struggling with that myself. Most shops I visited, stuff was “hecho en Vietnam” or “hecho en Taiwan”  Then a thought crossed my mind. “Do shells count?” I asked. She said, sure as long as I hunted them myself. I guess I was collecting seashells after all.

A few days later, Dave & I ventured out again for a beach stroll. My goal was to find a few dozen shells, maybe I could string a necklace or fill a small water bottle with sand & shells to send her upon our return to the US.  Much to my surprise, not far from our apartment’s beach access we came across a sprawling pile of shells… I would spend the next days combing the beach, thrilled by each new find. Needless to say, I collected way more than a water bottle worth 😬

Now as not to let you all be lulled into a false sense of us staying out of trouble… let me assure you… It’s what comes next 😬

!Feliz Cumpleaños! 🎂

Due to its timeliness, I am once again breaking into our regularly scheduled calendar of events… Why? Because February is my birthday month & I get to do whatever I want 😛 Let’s be honest the month doesn’t really effect that. So a quick interlude about an impromptu girl’s trip in what we refer to as a month of Jessicas, you see it begins & ends with 2 of the best.

Beach @ The Reef Playacar

She is at least the second Jessica in my life to call a best friend. We met a dozen years ago when we found camaraderie in parenting & marriage. We have seen a lot of life in those dozen years, growing children, passing relationships, moves from here to there. We have worked for each other, we have worked with each other, then counseled & supported one another through exciting changes & tough times ❤️

Jess & Jessica – the names we prefer, if anyone is asking 🙂

Jess joined me for a minute on the beach 🏝️ in Mexico for our February birthday month.  We stayed at The Reef Playacar, the same place Dave & I spent our anniversary a couple of years ago. The Reef is a cute & cozy all inclusive hotel/resort along the Playacar neighborhood beach.  With the exception of randomly locking ourselves out of our bathroom because of a janky knob, our room was quite nice. Comfy beds, cold a/c & good water pressure – when traveling as a way of life these become priorities. 

As a talker, it has taken me a lifetime to learn & cultivate the ability & enjoyment of sitting in silence. The best relationships are those where we do both. Jess & I share more than a birthday month & beautiful name 😊 although you can tell us apart by our preferred monikers, Jess & Jessica. We also share beliefs, values & experiences that make it easy to catch up on life & at the same time, sit quietly enjoying our books. Add some cushy beach loungers & we were stuck in for days.  Read a little, talk a little, eat a little, drink a little (or a lot one afternoon 🥴) The days went too fast.

Sidebar: Some places in MX only use third party booking sites for their accommodations, others give you added benefits for booking with them directly. The Reef Playacar is one such place. The Reef is also sort of a timeshare something or other… that is how we originally discovered it when some friends of ours shared their bounty of weeks with us for a great 25th anniversary deal. This time I booked directly through the Reef website & by doing so received a gift of a 2 for 1 massage. (Those massages could have been free, had we sat through the 2 hour TS presentation, not surprisingly we passed on that.)

We did however avail of our massages & an afternoon in the spa steam room, sauna, cold plunge & relax room. Nothing quite like a little extra pampering on an impromptu girl’s trip. 

As our visit came to an end, we booked the hotel shuttle to the Reef’s sister property in town, Cocoa Beach to enjoy dinner at their Japanese Samurai restaurant. We had an almost lovely evening of birthday laughs. We were joined by a family of four with two teenage girls who spent most of the time on their phones & a couple celebrating their 6 year anniversary, who pretty much argued the entire meal 🤦‍♀️  The restaurant put on a pretty good show, though there were moments I thought maybe our hibachi master was just learning the trade 😆  

Another birthday in the books, another decade coming to an end (at least for me), another girl’s trip full of cherished memories made. Not to mention another half a suitcase worth of “stuff” she took back to the States for me! That is true friendship right there!

Now where was I? Right….. Progreso 🏝️

🪳Cockroaches & Cabinet Reorgs

I think most folks would agree, the only good cockroach is a dead cockroach 🪳

So in a slightly better frame of mind than the night before, I set out to clean & negotiate. Now to be fair we are in the jungle tropics 🌴 There are bugs here. As much as I hate the creepy crawlies, I wasn’t going to overreact. AndI certainly wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to pursue a financially beneficial situation.

You can take the professional organizer out of COS but you can’t take the OCD entrepreneur out of me!

So as some of you know & many may not, I had a thriving & successful professional organizing business in Colorado Springs for 15 years. I loved my business. I believe I never felt more truly alive, in the zone, who I was built to be than when l was designing, creating & organizing space! https://www.facebook.com/MAS.Movement (If you are interested in more back story.)

I know a lot of people who are not big fans of cleaning & organizing. But even more so, hate the idea & cannot even bring themselves to ask for something when things are not right.  I actually love doing both of these things! Not only am I all about bartering & negotiating, but I truly believe there is zero harm in asking. What is the worst they can say? No….better than not asking!

We have stayed in ten different AirBnBs over the last 11 months in a dozen different cities. Half of those have said yes to some sort of refund or stay extension. Almost every host has been eager to “make things right.” I infer that means they would rather give a little than receive a bad review. Which of course works in my favor! Some times I ask for too little, sometimes I asks for too much, but in the end there is a mutually beneficial resolution.

I should have asked for more here at the bug condo but got a quick refund for one night & the cleaning fee. I did give the kitchen a minor cleaning, including washing every dish before we used it & also bought a can of bug spray at the store. 

Other AirBnBs have agreed to similar refunds, usually due to lack of cleanliness more than anything else. A “nice” resort place in Pagosa had hair every where & no vacuum 🤢 $100 cleaning fee refunded. Our AirBnB in Albuquerque was actually wonderful all the way around & as it turned out we were actually acquaintances & now good friends with the owners. NOTE: Always really look at the person’s name & photo, you might end up knowing them 🤦🏼‍♀️ & could contact them directly 😉 At their place, I reorganized the kitchen just for the shear joy of doing so & sharing some ❤️.

One of the worst was our AirBnB house in Colorado Springs. After collapsing on the couch from the exhaustion of moving in all our crap, I noticed all the trash under the beds I could see from my living room vantage point.

The host offered to resend the cleaners, which almost all offer to do. I always decline this in exchange for a refund of some kind. Why? Mainly because they didn’t clean it well the first time & I can do a better job better! BTW have I mentioned how much crap we still seem to have during this living on the road period of our lives?! I don’t need or want some random person “cleaning” around the melee. 

Needless to say, this turned out to be one of my most lucrative negotiations. I spent a day doing a pretty thorough cleaning of the entire house & re-orged the kitchen. The host was so pleased, he asked me to check out his other AirBnB across the street. I spent a day there as well. In the end, we were refunded our cleaning fee & nearly an entire week! 

What advice can I give to help you get a deal? Quick & easy… 1st thing, always when you arrive at a vacation rental, check everywhere & take pictures 📸 The 3 places I focus are: 

Bathroom: 🚽 check the space behind the seat, check the seat & raise the seat – if there are any areas of concern, take a picture.

Kitchen: 🍽️ I start in the cutlery drawer, how does this drawer get so crumby? If it is overrun with crumbs or worse little black spots (roach poop) – take a picture. I check the fridge. I also check a few dishes to make sure they are clean, especially if there is no dishwasher. 

Bedroom: 🛏️ have a good look at the bedspread, I don’t think these ever get washed 🤢 then pull back the covers. Grosser still, I found crumbs & hair in one place that was given no grace, we just left & got a full refund.

It hasn’t happened yet, but my goal is to create a “business” where I am able to barter stays in vacation rentals in exchange for design, organization & efficiency advice & implementation. Once again, remember, Dave is working 8-5, M-F. I have a lot of time on my hands 🤲🏼

Our other five AirBnBs have been clean enough not to warrant complaint. However in an attempt to garner my own own great reviews, I try to offer constructive criticism on how they can improve. Again most hosts have been very receptive. But as I ramble on, I realize this is a story for another time. 

In case you were not counting there is one AirBnB I left out. This AirBnB is the reason why I am off track & this blog is out of sync with our actual location & timeline as well as why I haven’t been posting a ton on the socials. Hopefully you will stick around for that one, it’s a doozy 🔪 😬😉

💼 Baggage Difficulties & Other Airport Fun👮‍♂️

Let’s discuss why you want to decorate the hell out of you luggage… because people do not pay attention! The pilot gift at Balloon Fiesta one year was a rolling carry on size suitcase, black with AIBF artwork embroidered on the front. We were one of 650+/- pilots that received these, so it’s safe to say at some point we might be traveling with someone with the same suitcase 😬 Our FIG bus to GTO, the Bajío airport was the day. I didn’t think much of it when we left our suitcases with the porter, I didn’t even think much of it as we exited the bus to retrieve our suitcases until… I reached for the black carry on with the embroidery of the front, not noticing the absence of my signature ribbons & our balloon sticky on the front.

What I did immediately notice was how light the wrong suitcase was, because mine was heavy as Ffffff… Only then did I notice the lack of identifying bits I adorn all our suitcases with much to Dave’s chagrin & this would be why! Panic set in pretty quickly. I called my girlfriend who was already gate-side & asked her to be on the lookout as I headed to security. Dave stayed back at the ticket counter scouring the crowd. Just as I was about to hand the guard my passport, Dave called & said he had the bag 💼 PTL 😇 Dave just happened to notice a Brazilian pilot at the counter looking confused as he lifted a way heavier bag than he expected 😬 Once again, crisis averted, well this one…

On to security, where we would discover that a metal comb apparently could somehow be used as a weapon so that got confiscated along with our channel lock pliers… Why do did we have channel lock pliers you ask? Well that would be because I brought a shower head with us 🚿 Yes, you read that correctly, a shower head. A shower head, channel lock pliers & plumbers tape. In nearly every bathroom we replace the shower head for our time there. Why, because I want what I want & I want descent water pressure! (The shower head has no flow restrictor on it, btw.)  So, channel lock pliers confiscated because they should have been in a check bag, with that I can agree, metal hair comb, not so much. Not nearly a crisis, but certainly an annoyance 😣

On we went, we caught our flight to Mexico City after a lovely chat with friends in the airport. We landed without issue, we tried to rebook on an earlier flight but because we had checked bags, we had no joy. So we found a place for dinner, then settled into a spot near an outlet to watch Netflix for our 6 hour layover.

We finally boarded our flight around 730/8pm. It was going to be a late night. I had already informed our Airbnb host that we would not be getting in until after midnight, he recommended a driver to pick us up at the airport & we seemed to have all in hand. Little did we know the adventure to come….

We arrived on time into Merida, Yucatán, collected our bags & headed out to find our ride. My first clue for concern should have been the vague WhatsApp message that the guy I had been expecting was sending another guy. A young guy pulled up in a car I wasn’t sure would hold all our luggage but it did. We were loaded up & ready to roll when two police officers joined us as the car. My second clue should have been when our young driver asked if we spoke Spanish. Our reply as usual, “Un poco.” He then said to us in Spanish that we were amigos, si.? Si.? We then spent the next 20 minutes going round & round in Spanish, broken English & Google translate with the police officers. The officers were very nice, they were clearly trying to be both understanding & impart information to us, at no point did we feel unsafe or threatened in any way.  So as it turns out, only licensed taxis are allowed to pick up at the airport & post Covid, Merida & most of Yucatán has continued to enforce a strict curfew & general licensing of other, non taxi drivers. Apparently our young man & us were breaking all kinds of rules 🤷🏼‍♀️ Long story longer & this is only the half of it…. we got out of the car & unloaded our bags. We were told by the police & our young amigo that we should walk to the corner & he would circle back around for us. 3rd clue!? We walked, we waited, we saw him drive by & on… I called him & asked if he was coming back for us, he said no. 🤦🏼‍♀️ It is now 1am  🕐 We walked back to the airport. I opened my Uber app & picked a new driver. $650mxn. Just to cover our bases, I asked a taxi driver their coast, $950mxn. Save $15usd, sure. So off we walked to our pick up spot, clue #4. As we stood on airport property, the taxi driver drove around to us & said he would take us for $650mxn & explained again that non licensed taxis were not allowed to pick up at the airport.

Have you ever heard that one about the guy who was waiting for God to save him in a flood? When the water was low, a truck came by, when the water got higher a boat came by, as the man sat on his roof along came a helicopter 🚁 All asked to help him & take him to safety, but alas his response was always God will save me… he drowns & goes to heaven, where he meets God & asks, why didn’t you save me? God says, “what do you think the truck, the boat & the helicopter were for?” 😬😉🤣

Nope, taxi-man, we got this! But just in case, we walked out to the main road & waited for our Uber. Uber stupid. Our second driver arrived, we loaded our bags, we got in the car, we almost got away & then 🚨 Poor Dave had held it together but was now at the end of his rope. The police were very nice & with little to no conversation, we got our bags & headed back to the airport. As I write this, I chuckle because it is as laughable now as it was then. Some how, some way we seem to keep our shit together 😝 Our $650mxn taxi-man was gone as was the offer. At 2:30am & $950mxn later, we were finally headed to our apartment in Progreso. 

We arrived about 3:30am, still fully hyped on adrenaline 😳 After a little unpacking to calm us down, we headed to bed for the few short hours before Dave had to be up for work 💻 The next day, I would clean the kitchen & try to find & kill the giant cockroach 🪳 I had seen the night before but was too exhausted to care about. That of course, is another story, for another time, maybe next time…. 

Back On Track…🧳

With our res cards in hand, after only two & a half weeks in Mexico & a full three weeks before we expected & were scheduled to, we once again regrouped & repacked & rescheduled & rambled on…

We have been coming to Mexico for the last few years to participate in the Festival Internacional del Globo (minus a Thanksgiving conflict in 2019 & that thing in 2020 🦠)

FIG is the first international event we have done as a married couple, with our own balloon. Not to discount our family adventures ballooning in Ireland & France in the early 2000s or Dave’s family trips as a teen. You see, I married into hot air ballooning where as Dave was born into it. That of course is a much longer story for another time…

So FIG, the Festival Internacional del Globo in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. Our good friends Chris & Anna urged us to join them in 2017 & we are so glad we did. Not just because it was a new adventure but reflecting on it now, I think it helped us regain & rediscover our identities outside of parenting, work & a decade of little to no international travel. 

It takes a little bit of extra trust & faith to ship your rig to another country. Every year we get slightly more proficient at it. This year we included an AirTag so we could track its journey. As it has in all the years we have been coming, it arrived safely with the other hundred or so balloons from the US. It had been unwrapped & inspected, which was a first for us but not unexpected. 

Having been on the road for nearly seven months & the last month prior to León in Mexico, arriving at the familiar hotel & seeing friends was a great boost for morale. Especially after my morning meltdown. Packing continues to be a huge stressor & feels like it will be at every transition going forward.  Not to mention the decision fatigue I have had to deal with after every accommodation booking & rebooking, along with the adventure scheduling to ensure we are making the most of our time here. Does it

sound like I’m complaining? That certainly is not my intention & I also don’t want to give the false image that everyday goes as smoothly as we would like. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Catharsis over!

So FIG! León is a great city of leather & shoes & tacos 🌮  The rally is said to be the biggest in Mexico. It is incredibly well run & well organized. 😬 Most of the time. 

We have watched the city grow & flourish over the last years. Our favorite taco stand across the street from the hotel gained a seating area & a neighboring burger truck. But most exciting is the crosswalk they literally finished the day of our arrival! Why so amazing? Because this is where we discovered Mexican Frogger 🐸 Unlike SMA, where pedestrians always seemed to have the right of way, not so much in León. In León, it’s run for your life 😬😆 

Mexican Frogger 🐸

This year’s event was a bit unusual as compared to previous in that our weather was not as stable & typical for the time of year. We launch from a beautiful park just north of a large lake. The goal is to fly over the lake, then head west to land. Dave has found his groove here after our first year when we landed in a less desirable field amongst trash & rebar & our second year landing at the zoo, thankfully on the prey side of the fence. 

As I said, the weather was a bit unusual & unexpected this year. Thankfully, we were in agreement in our discomfort about putting up the balloon Friday evening. There were moments we nearly reconsidered & in the end we were glad we did not.

45 minutes of lovely glowtime…
and about 5-10 minutes of pandemonium 😬

Shit happens! Unfortunately yes, a few people got hurt, balloons were damaged & resolves were shaken. It’s a rare occurrence & an opportunity to check our safety procedures & debrief our crew.  Speaking of crew… we have been lucky enough to have some of the same kids year after year. I call them kids because they are the same age as my kids & I love them as such ❤️ They make fun of my Spanish & bring us gifts & are eager to participate & learn.  💕 Pepe, Cynthia & Axel (missed you Enrique!)

All in all, a pretty good time was had by all…

Until 2023…

🇲🇽Best Laid Plans meets Bureaucracy🇲🇽

Wonderful food, beautiful art & amazing culture were a nice distraction to what would become a plan of changing plans, with stops, starts & many changes in direction.

Here is the incredibly long story about the drama on Monday & Tuesday, the beginning of November at the immigration office for those of you who were concerned & wanted to know. We were never in any danger ⚠️  just jumping through hoops, as rules & schedules changed. Originally we were told we had to make an appointment w/immigration in order to exchange our 30-day entry visa that we got in Albuquerque into a temporary residency card. Which I did on the first business day we were in town, as you may recall. It was good that I got the appointment; however the appointment was for November 30th.

Our original plan was to be in SMA until November 16 then go onto the FIG balloon rally in León, then continue to Mérida, Yucatan, naïvely thinking we would have completed the residency process. Thankfully, we didn’t have plans set in stone, except for the rally in Leon. We had not yet purchased plane tickets & I had specifically booked a refundable Airbnb in Merida. We regrouped & began looking into accommodations to stay in SMA through the end of the year because we had also heard that even when you go to your appointment, you might be sent away without your card which they would later email you to pick up.  We really had no idea how long the process was going to take. 🤷🏼‍♀️ We knew this part of the journey would require flexibility  & it certainly did 😊

So we filled out our paperwork & settled into a longer stay in SMA, waiting for our appointment. Then one evening I was scrolling through Facebook only to see an announcement from a local advocate that all future appointments had been canceled & anyone that had an appointment would now have to go to the office, stand in line & get a number to be seen. To be clear, this was the one  & only announcement about the change & canceling of appointments, on Facebook, not through the government website, not via email. 😲 After a small amount of panic, we decided we would go first thing Monday morning. Let’s remember at this point that Dave works Mon-Fri, 8 to 5 depending on the time zone. We are not retired, we are not on vacation, we are living down here for roughly 6 months. So Dave took Monday off, we woke up at 4 AM & started walking the 2 1/2 km in hopes of finding a taxi along the way. 🚕 About halfway there we got a taxi which shortcut our route 10-15 minutes, we arrived at the INM at roughly 5:55am. There were already a few folks there, when the place actually opened at 9 AM. When numbers were handed out we were 5&6, we felt pretty good about this. We brought snacks, the Internet was good to keep us preoccupied about the passing of time. At about 10:45 we were called into the building. Dave went up first & then came back down five minutes later…pretty quick!  I knew this was not a good sign. He said, “we filled out the wrong form.“ 🤦🏼‍♀️ I was then called up & decided to go up to ask a few more questions. I asked her specifically where on the website was the correct form, she showed me the drop downs, the URL & I literally took pictures of computer screen. 🖥️ Then we went home.

After some hemming & hawing & gnashing of teeth & trying to decide who’s fault it was, we found the correct form, filled it out & I walked down the street to have it printed.

Dave took a second day off, we woke up before 4 AM & began our walk down to the INM. This time we did not grab a taxi & arrived at roughly the same time as we did the day before. There were now twice as many people there as the previous day. When numbers were passed out we were 12&13. Long story continuing to be longer, we finally got called in just after noon. Dave went up first, they confirmed his form was correct, took his money, & began to finalize the process. Now this is sort of the important part, you know when you feel like you have a plan & it doesn’t go to plan & then you feel like the world is against you? That was our Monday & then when we were super successful on Tuesday we better understood why Monday happened as it did. As I said before, if we had had the correct form on Monday, we still would have left the INM without our actual residence card because they were not making cards on Monday. However, because we went back on Tuesday, they were making them & we left with our cards in hand 💳

I would later learn from Facebook via the same advocate who had posted about the canceling of appointments that the process had further degraded. The first Monday we went they were passing out numbers 1 to 30 & I heard on Tuesday that the INM stayed open an hour later than normal to process all 30 of those people. When we arrived on Tuesday, they only passed out numbers 1 through 20. After Thanksgiving we heard, they were only giving out numbers 1 through 15 & people were queuing up at 2 AM in the morning to make sure they were seen.

It was quite a mess! Could they have done better, sure. But the bottom line is Mexico has seen more than a 100% increase in residency applications over the last two years. As people complained & tried to find someone to blame, I did my best to muster as much grace as possible. The ladies at the INM never stopped running up & down the stairs, they had lunch brought in & barely took time for a bathroom break. 

So were we lucky, blessed, in the right place at the right time? Yes to all of those I would say. We are officially done (for now) We are temporary Mexicans, at least until October 2023 when we will have to decide whether or not to come back & trudge through the process again to extend our residency for an additional four years. Thanks for reading all the way to the end. We are in fact, good, most of the time we are having fun & some of the time we are not 🤣❤️

If you are looking to learn more about the Mexican immigration process, I highly recommend these two websites… https://www.mexperience.com/tag/residency-in-mexico/ and https://soniadiazmexico.com/category/visas/

San Miguel de Allende 🖼️ Art & Foodie Wonderland 🇲🇽

If you ever find yourself self in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, I highly recommend not only the colorful city of San Miguel de Allende but also its two other nearby cities, the state’s capital & university town of Guanajuato City & the larger, Leon with its Zona Piel (leather market) & Plaza de Zapatos 👠 (plaza of shoes.)

We have visited this general area on multiple trips to the Festival Internacional del Globo over the last several years. We decided to extend our travel to the event by coming early to check out San Miguel de Allende. As I said before, 3 weeks was not nearly enough time to explore all SMA had to offer, so we did our best on weekends & after Dave’s work days to explore as much as possible. (However at the writing of this post, I am seeing there is so much more we missed. Clearly we will have to return and continue to explore.)

San Miquel is a city of quaint patio restaurants, rooftop bars, & stunning sunsets 🌅 Here were a few of our favorites…

Relox 25, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

Restuarante Patio Relox

Strolling along the cobblestone streets, we discovered this inviting courtyard cafe, Patio Relox. Sadly, it has some pretty bad Google reviews, mine being one of the only 5 star 🤔 I guess we found them on a good day. The highlight was the best guacamole we would find along our travels.

Xoler Wine Bar

A hard to find, corner wine bar that was totally worth the hunt. Xoler is a tiny spot with just over half a dozen tables. We had no reservation but gladly accepted a couple of spots at the bar. The recommended wines & charcuterie board were plenty to accompany our casual conversation & people watching 👀

La Posadita Cocina

La Posadita Cocina

Tradicional Mexicana

Again, no reservation for two but lucked out with a table on the rooftop patio at sunset on the evening of Halloween, when the city was a bustle 😉 We even got to practice a bit of our Spanish as Dave ordered the highly recommended Pozole Verde. The waiter humored us, then switched to his better English in light of our hesitations 😬 The sunset did not disappoint.

Mexican Flan

Neither did the Mexican flan, although I do not believe my Cuban stepfather would have approved of the cherries 🍒 but then again, it turns out there is a significant difference between Mexican & Cuban flan 🍮 Having been raised on Cuban flan, I will have to agree that Cuban flan is the best in world (when made correctly 😬)

This may have been our most spectacular sunset in San Miguel de Allende, which is why I made (I mean asked 😉) Dave to hike up hill a kilometer or so… for this stunning view (minus of course the radio tower 🤦‍♀️) Once again, without reservations, we were seated on the patio. You might be getting the sense that reservations might be worth considering in SMA. You might also be realizing, we are fly by the seat of our pants renegades 😆 We were graciously allowed a spot on the balcony with the understanding that we could only have drinks or eat quickly, we chose drinks & a lovely conversation with a gentleman from Oregon, who himself was in the tourist industry, clearly at the Terraza 48 to check things out. 🍽️

Sometimes you just need a burger. Grandpa & Sons 🍔 fit the bill & was a quick five minute walk from our apartment inside the Fabrica de Aurora (an incredible textile factory turned gallery of galleries 🖼️ ) Chili dogs, mushroom burgers, shrimp 🍤 w/manchego y aguacate 🥑 🤔 We could have eaten here several times & still not tried everything on the menu, but that is true of all SMA, you would need to live in the city for a year to experience all the amazing restaurants.

Milagros & Milagros Terraza

A bit of mixed reviews on this one but we stopped in for the highly recommended molcajete.

Molcajete refers to both the mix & the stone bowl it comes in. The waitress was nice enough to point out when I ordered my own dinner that Dave’s molcajete would be more than enough for both of us & it was, even the night after with what we para llavared 😆 We ate at the location nearer our apartment & then later realized there was a second location, they share the same menu & live music but as can see the view from Terraza was quite stunning 🌅 If you ever find yourself here, this is one for which you definitely want to make a reservation.

Our last night out on another uphill stroll to capture the sunset & soak up the last of San Miguel de Allende, we happened across, quite possibly our best meal of the entire adventure. La Parada, a Peruvian restaurant inconspicuously located about a block off the Parque Benito Juarez.

Around every corner, between every eatery, along every route, there was a continual feast, this time for the eyes. Street art, gallery art, interactive art 🖼️ It took twice as long to get anywhere just because one had to stop & admire along the way.

To combine it all we made a stop slightly south of town at the Viñedo San Miguel, where they have created a beautiful gallery & tasting room within their winery & production facility 🍇 After a short tour of their dormant fields & lonely fermentation room (sadly, we were a few months late to see anyone at work) we enjoyed a delicious food pairing with several of their signature wines. It was a great lesson in changing flavors & highlighting notes 🍷

It would be a good distraction to keep our minds off the ever changing INM process & the sudden & unofficial announcement that all previously scheduled appointments would be cancelled, effective immediately. Up next… the first of several adventure dramas. If you have made it with us this far, thanks for stickin’ around as you may have also noticed I haven’t posted in the last 2 weeks due to other drama that found us further down the path, but alas we will get to that too 😬💜

🌼San Miguel de Allende💀

Three & a half weeks was not nearly long enough to take in the beauty & grandeur of this quaint yet bustling town. SMA was the perfect spot to get started on this adventure, a bit of comfort in the expat community with plenty of opportunities to learn how things work & gain the courage to use & improve our Spanish skills.

We arrived near the end of October 2022 because I specifically wanted to enjoy the Dia de los Muertos celebrations & although SMA is not the top place for the spectacle, it was everything I had hoped & imagined. It was a week long celebration where the city transformed into an even more colorful site, with its shop doorways adorned with iconic yellow marigolds, calaveras & catrinas 💀

I am sure Dia de los Muertos deserves an entire post & I may circle back to it one day but that is not today, so on we go…

SMA is an incredibly walkable town, so that is what we did, we walked, we walked a lot. Our first Monday was my day to venture out solo & move things along as though this is where we lived. First stop, a bank to exchange our American $$$ into Pesos. A young man directed me down a few blocks (in Spanish) I decided to pause on a bench in the jardin as not to look like a total tourist scanning my google maps. Per Samantha Brown’s advise, I struck up a conversation with two American looking folks, Oklahoma it turns out. Your man directed me to a currency exchange app & then on to the exchange bank, one block down on the left.  Dollars exchanged 19 to 1, the best we would do over the entirety of our MX adventures. 

Second stop, the INM, or Instituto Nacional de Migración. San Miguel is a relatively small city, so by the time I was to the bank, I was a quarter way to the immigration office, so I decided to continue, 2km mas o menos. Arriving at the immigration office is when the real fun began. I realized I didn’t have a mask, which apparently was still a thing. I scanned the .gov QR code, which translated itself into English & was still not clear. 🤣  A women came out & asked me what I needed, I said the form to get my residency card as l already had my temporary visa & an appointment for finalization (all this in my ridiculous Spanish) She invited me in to the office & took my passport. I was still trying to make sense of the translated website & asked her if she spoke English, but not before apologizing for my subpar Spanish 😬 she said no, then added, “no more English.” Long story longer, I got outta there with 2 appointments, one for me & one for Dave. Will that be it? Who knows? Information is not super forth coming here. Would it be better if I were more fluent in the language, ABSOLUTELY!!

I would later learn that showing up & asking for help & actually getting it, doesn’t generally happen. We would also begin to realize the temporary visas were probably not something we necessarily needed to do as it began to be more of a time & money sink than was necessary but as with any adventures there is much learning along the way. You may notice that becoming a theme here, rest assured there are going to be many more opportunities for flexibility & learning at every turn!