After the Day of The Dead festivities ended in San Miguel De Allende, we moved on to the city of Guanajuato to finalize the last leg of our trip. I have been to Guanajuato a couple of times and I have so many fond memories from walking its streets and I always felt it was a place Josh would love.

The best way to hop over to Guanajuato from San Miguel was via cab. Some people like to do the bus but when you have 3 people, the cab ride is far more cost effective and convenient. An hour ride will cost you about $25-40 depending on your driver. The ride was incredibly scenic. Along the way we got to see tons of clouds and a funeral procession in the streets of nearby pueblo.

Guanajuato is a really kooky little town and there is an entire network of underground tunnels. These tunnels make you feel like you’re on the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride. You go in a tunnel and next thing you know there are minutes worth of dark, dank pathways. (click on the link above to witness)

It was entirely way too complicated for our cab driver to get us to our hotel so we got dropped off underground and just walked our way up. Quick!

I chose a centrally located hotel called La Casona de Don Lucas. It had some average reviews but I didn’t really care because convenience/location was key. Here is where it gets interesting. We walked in to our room and had a full on HOLY SHIT.  See that top left balcony? That was our room.

This was our view. Total wow for us especially considering the place we stayed at in San Miguel (more on that later). The room was HUGE and was everything we could have hoped for as a place to close our trip out. That particular area is very hustle and bustle, can be very loud at times but the doors are so thick that they cancelled out the noise so well and we slept like babies besides the singing in the streets at 1 a.m. We all spent quite a bit of time on that balcony, reading, drawing, taking in the daily life of Guanajuatenses to the sound of church bells ever hour on the hour.

Guanajuato is a beautiful, colorful labyrinth of stacked architecture. Narrow alleyways take you into another undiscovered jewel only to loop you right back into the heart of downtown. Unlike San Miguel, it is extremely walkable and far more forgiving on the feet. It definitely has some very steep areas so good walking shoes are still a must. But you can hussy up your feet a little more here without a high risk for ankle rolling.

The city itself has a heart that I didn’t feel in San Miguel. Far less touristy and definitely has a beat to a different tune. There are sculptures on corners, wheat pasted art that shows a contemporary embrace and a nod to Don Quijote everywhere. Once a year they host the Festival Internacional Cervantino, usually in the month of October, where the city is overrun by music, theater, art, concerts, art installations, crafts and dance… in venues and on the streets. People from all over the globe flock to the city and immerse themselves in a cultural experience of the arts. It’s a pretty fun experience if you have the opportunity to go, just make sure you book your stay far in advance because you won’t find an empty bed in the city.  Also, since it’s not as touristy as San Miguel, I found it to be far more affordable because they’re not gouging the man. You can seriously live like a king here depending on the dollar exchange. Just note, if you plan on changing dollars while there, your bills better be crispy, new, unmarked, and un-torn in any way. They simply just won’t take them.

Highlights include…

Nieve de Garrafa which pretty much OWNS traditional ice-cream any day of the week. And it’s cheap! This cup of heaven was less than $1. To say it wasn’t a daily treat would be a LIE. So so tasty.

A visit to the infamous mummy museum, las Momias De Guanajuato. Not for the squeamish or easily affected by the sight of bodies. It can be pretty graphic for those with a weak constitution. Even more because part of the museum is under a portion of the cemetery so it can get pretty dank.

And of course the cemetery which happened to be right next to the mummy museum. Different air at this one since we were catching it post Dia De Los Muertos so there was no one there and we were able to freely roam without making anyone feel uncomfortable. A lot of the Day Of Dead type altar/offerings had already been cleaned up by the time we got there though, boo!

Visiting the birthplace and former home of Diego Rivera, now turned museum. We were not allowed to photograph any of the artwork but rest assured it was a real treat to see many pieces by this beloved Mexican treasure.

Wandering around the Mercado, where amongst all the kitschy, touristy crap, you can find some real gems to bring home with you.

And of course no trip is complete without a lot of tasty eats (ice cream!), hunting for bad ass souvenirs, naps, hotel room lounging. There was a lot of that. Especially since I got slammed with monthly chick shit that no one wants to deal with on vacation. Note to you ladies: pack your things cause using tampons you’re not used to sucks BALLS. Yes, TMI. I don’t care.

So about the hotel vs AirBnb. Ok so after doing both on the same trip, I can say that we preferred the hotel experience FAR more. Not that the room we booked through AirBnb was bad, but honestly it’s hard to completely relax when you’re in someone else’s home. You have this air of accountability and you just can’t chill. Not like in a hotel. In a hotel you can get purple hair dye drip on a towel and not worry they’re gonna have your ass over it. Add free breakfast buffet, room service, sending away your laundry to get washed and folded for next to nothing,  getting your bed done for you every day? That’s vacation! And honestly well worth spending the extra peanuts to make it happen. Sorry AirBnb… not sorry. 😉

The trip home was a long one with too much time to kill at the Leon airport, an insane layover in LAX that entailed hustling through immigration and customs and hauling back to another terminal with barely enough time to stop and pee. I will say this, the international terminal at LAX has certainly changed since we were last in it and they were ninja quick in getting us through since we had a connecting flight to make. Add another hour drive upon landing in SFO. Still, for the cost of the airfare, it was so worth it. ($400 rt – it costs more to fly to the East Coast! Just sayin’)

So what did I bring back? To be continued….

The rest of the photos from this leg of the trip can be found over on our flickr page.

San Miguel De Allende

It’s so hard to conjure up a post to describe your travels when you know that the photos and what they depict can say it far better than you ever could. Maybe.

After 8 long years of vacation time being spent on familial obligations, we decided it was time to check the F out of the country. Just us. And that we did.

It has been a long dream of mine to share Guanajuato with Josh. For him to experience the real Mexican interior, and with the Day Of The Dead holiday looming, a search for ticket costs turned into a last minute “let’s do this shit!”. We split up our time fairly evenly between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato (the city, not the state).

First stop, San Miguel.

We took the red eye out of SFO and had a small layover in LAX which almost didn’t happen cause they were over weight capacity and bribing people to get off the plane with vouchers and hotel stays. We came this close to doing it too ($700 in vouchers per person) but someone beat us to the punch. I am seriously surprised we didn’t get sick cause that flight greeted us with 4 fucking kids in the row in front of us and one of them coughed THE. ENTIRE. FLIGHT. So much for sleeping on the red eye. Exhaustion, party of 3.

We hired a car service to shlep us from the airport to San Miguel. It costs more but is infinitely more convenient than a bus, even more when you’re tired as fuck. We arrived at 5 a.m. and the ride out to San Miguel was another 90 minutes. It was still dark but the beauty of it is we got to watch the sun rise on the horizon.

San Miguel doesn’t seem like much till you get deep down in it. I could totally make a sex joke right now but will refrain cause I am trying to adult here. We showed up to the place we booked through AirBnB. We knew they weren’t going to be ready for us so we dropped off our shit and immediately took off to walk around and find something to eat. Note to self: don’t ever book shit like that again… pay so you have the time to roll right the hell in.

We were beat as all get out but managed to make the best of it and going through the photos, it paid off cause we had a very sleepy city and little to no hustle and bustle to work around.  The streets are narrow, cobblestoned (more on that later), and color in every shade of the rainbow. Since the city is crawling with ex-pats, we had no problem finding a Starbucks to get some delicious “keep me awake” fuel. Yes, they spelled my name right.

First off, the door porn here is amazing. All unique, rad knockers (*snicker*) and since the holiday was looming, some had beautiful floral arrangements around the entrance. There were lots of door photos.

San Miguel de Allende has a heart, a beautifully landscaped square and gazebo but the meat of the burrito is the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel (church). Incredibly picturesque and will be the backdrop to one a many photos in the days to come.

The town itself is incredibly walkable and cab rides are really cheap ($2-3) but what the guides don’t tell you is that you will be dealing with cobblestone streets, uneven-steep-narrow sidewalks, lots of dog shit, and lord will your feet HURT. The stones are not even in the least so a good portion of the walking is a delicate balancing act in ankle stability. So if you ever go here is tip #1: Bring good, comfy, flat shoes. Leave your heels at home unless you plan on using them for hotel sexy time only, or you want to roll one of those babies straight on to Fracture Island and end up ruining your entire trip, by all means, bring your Louboutins. TRUST ME. Considering I saw a couple tourists on crutches, I know how they got that way. Don’t let the above picture fool you… what Josh is really thinking is “Fuck this street, my feet and calves are on FIRE!”

We were there for the Festival La Calaca, aka a planned out Day Of The Dead festival. The actual holiday is 11/1-11/2 but the celebrations started a couple days prior. The city was abuzz with it. You could see it, feel it, smell it. It started filling up with people, obnoxious tourists, vendors and marigolds galore. There is so much color it is almost blinding when the sun is at its highest. Some of my photos needed little to no editing because yes, it was that vibrant.

As the days go on, they had an inaugural celebration complete with an Aztec blessings and dancing, chains of flowers, smells of copal incense and marigolds, papel picado banners everywhere. It is a truly magical experience, even more when witnessed with far more authenticity. You sense the community coming together to build their altars and installations in a way that you can just feel inside you. It reaches in and punches you in the gut when you least expect it. You realize that there is far more to the holiday than fancy face make-up and catrina cosplay. It’s a celebration of reverence, where every color, flower, offering has a significance. A cultural tradition that should be treated with respect.

Highlights from the festival include…

The perfection of this couple in the parade along with hundreds of kids and adults in awesome costume. Skull faced mariachi, stilt walkers and giant towering paper mache skeletons, devils and catrinas.

This gigantic pyramid compiled from a bunch of “nichos” (enclosed altar/tributes) that was set up in a local park along with a craft fair. 
The market that had nothing but sugar offerings, papel picado, candles and candy  for the graveside and altar installations.

Exploring the cemeteries that were fully decked out, covered in petals, candles, candies and bees. So many happy bees. Beautiful, meticulously put together altars and floor murals made of grains and sand.

Make no mistake, amongst all the festivity and cheer there is also a very somber feeling when we visited the cemetery. This is a very real thing for those who are local, part of which I did my best to be respectful of and not take a lot of photos. At one point I recall turning a corner, and there in front of me was a woman who stood in front of what had to have been her Father or Husband, a hand over her heart and tears in her eyes. This is what it’s about: honoring those who have left us by walking the space on the day when the veil is thin.

Overall we had a great time between lounging in our room, shopping, exploring and going out to eat every day.  The food of course was glorious even if it wreaks intestinal havoc. Nothing a trip to the pharmacy and a bowl of menudo won’t fix.

We stayed there about a day too long though… after a while you have seen it all and as observant as we are, it was hard not to feel sad how a small little jewel like that is slowly becoming gentrified by the people who retire there and are driving the cost of living up. When real estate offices have prices in dollars, well that says it all.

Despite some curve balls here and there, which traveling with a sassy 9 year old who gave up Halloween will bring, we had the best time wandering around and exploring. So after a few days, we said goodbye to San Miguel and headed to Guanajuato.

To be continued…

All photos/videos from the San Miguel de Allende portion of our trip can be viewed over on flickr.

The Remembered

Recently it has become more and more apparent that I need to stress the importance of my heritage in our family. Reza hasn’t been exposed to much of her Mexican side, much less the types of traditions and cultural celebrations that come along with it. The entire thing is foreign to her, so much so that she doesn’t believe she’s Mexican, well, 50% at least.

On Halloween, I got a last minute impulse to make an altar at home for Dia De Los Muertos. Luckily we now live in an area that has a larger Mexican community so acquiring some of the key items was a tap easier at a moments notice. So we went to the local Mexican market and picked up some candles, pan de muerto and I was lucky enough to find a vendor selling flowers off the back of his truck in the parking lot: beautiful, fresh, orange & yellow marigolds and magenta celosia or as I call them “brain flowers”.

I managed to get really sick on Halloween night, as we were returning from trick or treating. Luckily I had everything I needed at home and was able to put together an altar for us to remember our dearly departed on the following day. This was the result.

The tiered platforms were just boxes I had lying around, wrapped in colorful tissue paper. The rest? Now that is the important part… photos of who you want to honor, personal artifacts (if you have them), offerings or tributes.  In ours we have Josh’s Grandmother Floye and his dad Raymond, Kevin, Nena, my grandmother Carmen, my brother Henry and Reza’s former fish Cloudy & Tree. It also helped I had a few Muertos related items in my personal collection such as the sugar skull I made years ago and some paper maché skeletons I picked up this summer.

It goes without saying, but I really enjoyed the process of putting this together and Reza sparked up enough interest in it that I fully expect there will be more in the years to come.

You can view this photo in larger form  here.

SoCal Summer

I just got back from busy,  sunny hotter than shit, two week trip in SoCal to reunite with the family. Crazy town! Look, get a bunch of Mexicans who haven’t seen each other in a long time, it is going to be chaos and LOUD. Yes people, this is our speaking voice. Loud and louder… unless you are my father who watches his novelas at volumes only dogs can hear.

I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have (as usual) and carting around the DSLR everywhere is a pain in the ass. Of course I regret it later to here is a hodge podge of phone, camera and stolen photos from the family. Pic spam will ensue!

So without further ado, here is most of  what happened, was seen, etc.

My place to stay fell through the day I was leaving. Stressville galore but thankfully we had some friends bail us out and fuck if I don’t owe them my right kidney. You try looking at hotel prices in the middle of Comic Con, it would be more than your kidney.

We arrived at the beginning of Comic Con and were not able to see, do or partake in any of it. I am not bitter. Nope.

Got to meet with my ladies Tania, Michelle (and their respective nuggets) and Paige for quick hellos over grub. Always nice to squeeze up on my ladies.

Goal #1 – get there and give Chewbacca a lopping. My hair was in a sad state of affairs and luckily Jason & Eryc were more than happy to oblige. Off it went… two days later I am back to respectable, purple and edgy conditions. And who can beat Jason giving me a good boob squeeze while whispering in my ear, “I just grabbed your boobs in front of your Daddy”.

A small gathering at the beach and got to see tons of my cousins. This is just a very small fragment of my awesome family… bunch of wonderful, colorful people! It was great catching up with them.

Got some solo, quality time with these awesome people. Damn I miss my sisters already.

Reza and I boned out to Mexico to spend the rest of the trip in Baja with my sister Liz who was awesome enough to put us up. We were later joined by the rest of the Garcia posse. I love Liz, she doesn’t mess around, is an awesome host and cook and always manages to make us feel spoiled and right at home. She lives right on the beach which is a blessing and curse cause she has the influx of out of towners renting condos in her building. One night was a massive clusterfuck in the form of a building jam packed full of people from Mexicali, who seem to think the elevator was a clown car (lol, typical Mexican stereotype). They shoved in it so much that they broke one of the two elevators, the building blew a fuse somewhere and we were without power and water for several hours. Did I mention we were on the 12th floor? JOY. Dinner by grill and candle light it was. Funny enough there were some outlets that worked and yes, we had no power in most of the place but the wifi router still worked. PRIORITIES. Adventure time! Still, the views did not disappoint.

I knew there would be some downtime so I packed up a couple art supplies and still managed to churn out some of my favorite drawings to date.

Bee, Reza and I did a lot of beach time and despite my efforts to stay whiter than white, I failed. Reza came home looking like the damn Coppertone girl.

Trip didn’t come without some downsides in the form of family drama, one of which was butting heads with my Father whose middle name should be “No Es Cierto” (it’s not true). The man loves to argue with us about the validity of things. He asked us questions, we answer and it is quickly followed by “no es cierto”. He loves to contradict us about shit he knows absolutely nothing about and it makes me insane. I just can’t chuck shit up to “that’s just the way they are and you need to let it go” when it comes to anyone. Our relationship has never been the best and as he gets older, he only gets more crotchety and complicated. He is price tag obsessed and living in Mexico for such a long time, he has become completely out of touch with the cost of living in the USA. Everything is “too expensive”, he makes rude comments about people, makes comments about everything we spend on, going anywhere with him was a production about prices and if we took him to eat it had to be cheap or needed “lime and chile on it” as far as he is concerned. I just feel like nothing I do pleases him. Mom has become very vacant in her stare, like the life has gone from her eyes and it was very heartbreaking to see. She has become very forgetful and absent minded which is scary since Grandma had really bad Alzheimers. We have brought it up and denial is very present there. As much as I hate to admit it, they have never been the same since my brother passed away.  It makes me angry because he was never around, never called them, yet here they are, destroyed over his absence. I get the part about parents mourning a child, but they need to move on and enjoy the life they still have. It’s like he took a piece of them with him… motherfucker. All of this paired with my impatience was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen and it was probably for the best I cut out earlier despite my wishing to be around so I could spend more time with Bee and Liz.

Lots of FaceTime sessions with my favorite dude. It really sucked traveling without him even more when were in Mexico cause I know he would have loved it so much. Thankfully I had wifi and was able to have lots of conversations with him. The man is my prozac.

Our homie Adrian came down from LA with his buddy Joe and there were some awesome conversations, beach and taco times. I love sharing the insider guide to Mexico with friends cause when we do it, we do it right, dammit. Although, I have come to the conclusion that I just can’t drink anymore. The very few times I drank rewarded me with a full on headache the next day. It’s just not worth it.

Lots of hanging out, walking around looking at curios. I also scored some Dia De Los Muertos souvenirs and was hella inspired for the next round of pieces I want to make one of which is another annual, limited batch of sugar skulls for the shop. Mexico never disappoints.

I came home with a very small amount of things, like Day Of The Dead loot, my lock of hair, a quartz from Liz and this awesome case for my glasses that Bee brought me from Japan. How she knew I needed/wanted a new one? Who knows but it matched my old phone case perfectly.

My  god, the eating…. freshly made churros, gorditas, tacos of all kinds. Pair that with Liz’s amazing cooking? I am going to have to live in the gym and eat plants for the next few months to undo it. It’s not like I get that business on the regular anyway but lets just say I have some work to do. I had to steal that beer and banda on the beach photo from Bee, that is some classic Mexico right there.

Reza got a lot of family and cousin time. It was really nice to expose her to family and all the Spanish. All things considering she did pretty well and everyone ate her up. She did get overwhelmed and bitchy though which was a tap frustrating at times.

On our last night we had dinner at a cliffside joint called Splash that’s between Rosarito and Ensenada. Fish tacos at sunset? Hell yeah. I will never tire of Pacific Ocean sunsets. I still can’t believe I let Reza stand out on that rocky edge by herself. But that shot? So worth the anxiety.

And just like that, the two weeks came to a close. I did my best not to have a full on ugly cry when saying my goodbyes with Bee. It’s always the hardest part when it comes to these things… but we were also so ready to be home with Josh and the cats who cannot be happier to have us home. I slept like the dead last night. Tasty!

I have a lot more photos and a couple videos over on my flickr set  if you are so inclined.