Saturday, January 31, 2009

the beginning of #46

I have been remiss in keeping my faithful reader(s) up to date on the Tlaquepaque celebration. Here, in one place, are two days' worth of observations, comments, photos, and travel ramblings. It's going to be a long read so get a glass of wine, get comfortable and come along for the ride.

Thursday morning, the actual Day of Celebration of #45 we decided to stay in town and not brave the mobs up in Tonalá. Been there, done that, bought that, seen that. We thought Friday might be much more civilized and less crowded. On the schedule was a trip to the El Refugio ceramic and art museum, the Museum of Ceramics, more lamp searching, and a celebratory luncheon somewhere. I was opting for a taxi ride into Guadalajara to the Café Coyote, but as you will learn as you read on, that option was not on the table. And I'm not sorry.

First stop was the El Refugio, some 6 or 8 blocks from the Casa de las Flores. It is a huge, block-square cluster of buildings that have been a hospital, a convent, an abandoned wreck, and is now a museum-convention center-gallery-civic building. The original building, constructed like a typical hacienda was founded by a local priest as a hospital for the local people, most of whom were Indians. This effort took longer that anticipated. Ten years later the building was completed and served as a hospital for over 100 years. Then it was turned into a convent which lasted over 50 years, until that Prince of Darkness, Plutarco Elias Calles, was elected president in the 1920's and declared war on the Catholic church. He lost but managed to do a great deal of damage. He shut down all the convents and monasteries he could find. He was hugely unpopular and hated.

As is true in every country, boys born during the administration of presidents, prime ministers, and other functionaries are named after such worthies. It has been reported that there was a spate of boys named Barak right after our election. In Mexico, you'll find various Carloses, Benitoes, and of course, Vicentes. Even a few Venustianos and Lazaroses. But I have never met a Plutarco!
Fin de deviación.

The main auditorium houses the "history of ceramics" throughout the country. No photos allowed. But then we wandered through the rest of the building, and my, what a gorgeous place.

There are four "squares" making a larger square, each with its own garden in the middle.

Along each corridor are tiny rooms ~ there are a total of 700 of them ~ just large enough for either a hospital bed or a nun's cot. Each opens onto the corridor and the little garden; it would cure you or inspire you, depending on why you were there.

After a couple of hours we wandered through some of the neighborhoods of Tlaquepaque. The houses and their paint-jobs were reminiscent of San Miguel.

We walked down to the ceramics museum. Most of what they are showing is from ceramic artists from the Tlaquepaque/Guadalajara area. It's varied, colorful, detailed, and a marvel of artistic invention. I think this pot and lid piece was my favorite.

Now it was time for the anniversary lunch. We ended up at El Adobe, a place we have seen for years but never tried. It was spectacular! It is in the back of a very pricey furniture/home accessories store although you can get to it by a side door. The Patient had checked out the menu on Wednesday while I was browsing the (extravagantly priced) lamps. But, as he so sweetly said, "Nothing it too good for you" so we went in and, oh my! What a treat.

With Tanya Liberdad crooning "Sombras, Nada Mas", followed by "Gracias a la Vida" in the background, it was a perfect place to celebrate the occasion. I ordered crab quesadillas and a green salad. What I got bore no resemblance to traditional quesadillas in the least. Instead, there were four little puff pastry pillows filled with sweet, succulent crab. I would have taken a picture first but I fell on these little beauties before I could even think about getting out my camera. But I did manage to get a picture of this gorgeous salad.

The ceiling of this restaurant is hung with pierced metal 3-D stars that I would give anything to be able to hang around my palapa down here. But in about 15 minutes they would turn into rusted wrecks. The waiter saw me eying them and, bless him, turned on the lights so I could get the full effect.

It's absolutely beautiful. We need to go back at night for dinner and look at the restaurant lit only by these lights. But I was mighty grateful to see them like this.

After lunch we strolled back along Independencia, the main pedestrian walkway in the shopping district. We went back to the store where we had seen the pots that we thought might be made into lamps and decided that we were probably not going to find anything better (we didn't) and bought two of them. I will get in touch with Gustavo, the Cuyutlán resident electrical genius, and turn them over to him to make lamps.

Thursday night we did not go out to dine. Instead, Stan had baked a wonderful chocolate cake that we christened "Dinner" and called it a night.

The next morning we feasted on Stan's chiles rellenos for breakfast. In a former life Stan worked at Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley. It has served him, and his guests, well. Then we headed off to Tonalá by bus. I had a short shopping list and was determined to stick to it. First stop, the zocolo, the central square in front of the cathedral.

Then we walked around the indoor market. First I saw the bread lady with her big canastas of pan, five or six different varieties.

Not the bollios or talera limitations we have here. Cheese bread, little batards that might have been sourdough, and something very crispy and fragrant with herbs. Then around the corner was the vegetable stand with a big pile of chopped nopales, chiles, cebollos, and some other green vegetable I didn't recognize. You buy this mixture by the kilo in a plastic bag. What you do with it after that I don't know. The basket of tiny green droplets are baby tomatilloes. The other green is nopales leaves.

Down the way was the carneceria with all his wares hung out for inspection. He was delighted to get his picture taken, too.

At least, at first he was. Then he thought better of it. But by then it was too late. Chorizo sausages, hunks of pork, tongue, and a few mystery meats hung on hooks. I didn't buy anything but it all looked good.

Desviación #2:
I try to be very careful about who or what I take a picture of, especially "who." These folks are just going about their daily routines. What do I find so exotic and snap-worthy about selling beautiful bread or chopping vegetables? Children are usually easy; they are happy to smile and mug for the camera. Adults, on the other hand, can get miffed in a hurry. But sometimes they, too, will smile and be proud of their pile of tomatoes or display of fabric or pottery. You never know.
Fin de desviación #2.

We decided, after getting all our purchases ~ four wine glasses for Chuy's birthday gift, four hurricane lamp covers for outdoor candles, some artificial greenery for outdoor vases, a dozen tiny salt dishes for tea lights ~ we would go to our favorite restaurant, El Rincon del Sol for a beer. Stan had fed us such a wonderful breakfast that lunch was out of the question.

We happened on this place many years ago, thanks to a taxi driver. We were staying in Guadalajara on that trip. We had heard about the glories of Tonalá and made the trip out. The driver pointed out the restaurant as we sped by, gave us a flyer (his cousin is probably the owner!), and the deal was sealed. We've been back there every time for lunch. But this time it was drinks only. It's still the same; same menu, same layout, same music. But nice.

We caught a taxi home, spent the afternoon reading,then went across the street to Victoria's, a local cenaduria, open for dinner (or supper) only. During the day you would never know this place existed. It is in Victoria's house. In the evening she and her family haul out onto the sidewalk all the cooking equipment; deep fat fryer, tanks of gas, pots, pans, plus tables and chairs for sidewalk diners. They cook up some really delicious food; posole, enchiladas, pollo, tacos, all fresh, well made, nicely seasoned. For $40 pesos (about $3) we had a delicious and filling meal. Then back to Stan's, a cup of tea in the garden, and it's lights out. Home in the morning.

Desviación #3:
Entrepreneurship in Mexico is alive and well. A common sight in residential areas are tienditas (little stores) set out in front of a house, doing a brisk business in food, drinks, sometimes vegetables and fruits, or candy and other snacks, magazines, comic books, frequently clothing like sox and underwear, baby clothes. The fresh food stands are the hardest to by-pass. You can find every sort of taco imaginable ~ beef, pork, chicken, cheese, potato ~ plus wonderful tortas, sandwiches made with talera buns filled with shredded beef or pork, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, all topped with salsa and hot sauce. Then at night, everything gets packed up and moved back indoors and the tiendita and all evidence thereof disappears until the next day.
Fin de desviación #3

I am too tired after all of this (and you probably are, too) to give you a tour of Stan's B&B. I promise I will do it tomorrow. Needles to say, we had a lovely three days. It has become a tradition to spend our anniversary there. I trust we'll go back next year.


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