Tag Archives: Patzcuaro

Patzcuaro… Story-style

Here is a more “creative” version of our time in Pátzcuaro.

Our car jostled down the narrow cobblestone street, flanked on either side by two-story, white-washed adobe walls with red doors and overhanging red tile roofs. As we looked at these 400-year-old haciendas with wrought iron balconies and open, inviting patios, we felt the anxiety of the last fifteen days ease out of our tired bodies.

“This is what I thought Mexico would look like,” I exclaimed excitedly.

My husband shrugged and asked me which way he should turn.

Squinting out the dusty car window, I frantically searched the building walls for any kind of street sign that could help me fulfill my duty as navigator. Unable to stop on the narrow street, I saw Mex’s forehead start to wrinkle impatiently. “Izquierda,” I shouted, having no idea where we were on the map. He swerved to the left and the towering 200-year-old ash and elms of Plaza Vasco de Quirago, more commonly called Plaza Grande, came in to view. “Thank goodness,” I thought. I had guessed the correct direction.

After circling the plaza three times in search of our hotel, the crisp uniformity of the buildings in Pátzcuaro became slightly less charming and a little more frustrating. Once the homes of the areas rich land holders, these beautiful haciendas are now restaurants, shops and hotels. Finally, we saw a small circular sign on the sidewalk proclaiming Hotel Misión San Manuel and darted in to the last parking space.

Walking through the grandiose archway, we felt like we were entering a realm of spa treatments and luxury linens. Then, remembering we were only paying $40 a night, we reined in our expectations. The petite woman behind the desk handed us our keys and we toted our suitcases up two flights of cement stairs. Buttery yellow walls, 20-foot archways with pale stone pillars and orange floors seemed to glow in the afternoon light. The central courtyard, which would have been open in the 1700s when the home was built, was now covered by an elevated sheet of Plexiglas allowing air and light but not rain to enter. The iron railings were punctuated with terracotta pots filled with draping plants and flowers.

After putting the suitcases in our quaint, beautifully tiled room, we walked around Plaza Grande looking for souvenirs. In 1536, Bishop Vasco de Quirago arrived in this region of southwestern Mexico to help the Purépecha Indians recover from the blight of Spanish conquistadors. Some say that in order to reduce competition and create proficiency and economic stability, Quirago taught each village surrounding Lake Pátzcuaro to specialize in a different craft. Those specialties can still be found in the shops around the plaza, almost 500 years later. We passed shops displaying delicate lacquer boxes with designs so intricate they seemed to have been painted by elves, and painted pottery with electric blues, pinks and greens. We ducked through a doorway and into a small courtyard circled by copper pots of all different sizes, straw sculptures of people and animals, and hundreds of skull and skeletal figurines, which seemed to call us back for November’s Day of the Dead celebration.

Exhausted from shopping and driving over endless speed bumps, or topes as they are called, we were lured in to a café by the smell of ground coffee and fresh pastries. Seated under the shade of the towering trees, we watched the uniformed school children play in the plaza. Ordering two iced mochas and, at the last moment, a slice of strawberry cheesecake, we felt like we were back in Minnesota living our normal lives. Putting aside itineraries, budgets and travel worries, we relaxed and begin to sketch a menu for the restaurant we hope to own one day.

Waking up the next morning, the peacefulness of Pátzcuaro was forgotten and the ticking of my watch seemed to echo off every stone wall in our room.

 “What do I wear?” I said anxiously. Nothing in my suitcase looked appropriate. Had I not thought of this until now? After six years together I was finally meeting his father and five sisters and with only one chance to make a first impression, I needed to get it right. My stomach wrenched.

“Anything,” Mex said. “They all look nice.”

“This is no time to try and score brownie points,” I sputtered. “I need help! My hair looks terrible.”

Seeing that there was no right answer, and clearly a lot of wrong ones, he chose to turn his attention to refolding clothes in the suitcase. Looking at my husband’s face I saw his cinnamon skin wrinkled in thought. Remembering that this day was his, a return to his father’s house after 13 years in the US, I grabbed my green travel pants and pink striped shirt and hurriedly put them on. With a quick hug, I said, “Let’s go, olorosito. I’m tired of travelling.” 

As our car left the shadowy canopy of Pátzcuaro and returned to the sun-drenched highway of Michoacán, I squeezed his hand, looked at my map and pointed east, counting the miles until we would arrive home.

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Patzcuaro

We drove from Aguascalientes to Pátzcuaro yesterday which took about five hours, almost an hour of which was navigating through the capital Morelia (we are in the state of Michoacán). As we drove through the state of Guanajuato there were at least a hundred roadside stands selling strawberries and strawberry products. Keep that in mind if you ever drive in Mexico! We didn’t stop because I’m nervous about stomach bugs at the moment and produce does not appeal to me.

Buildings around Plaza Chica in Patzcuaro

Pátzcuaro is a medium-sized town near Lake Pátzcuaro and is one of the most famous cities in the world for the Day of the Dead celebration, November 1 -2. Apparently some hotels are full up to a year in advance. It also has a huge Holy Week celebration which starts on Sunday. They are already putting tents up in the plaza and the whole town seems busy. This town dates to pre-hispanic times and the thing that makes it stand out for us is the trees. The street in to town and all the plazas are lined with 200-year-old oak and elm trees making it absolutely picturesque. Then the plazas are surrounded by 400-year-old haciendas that are now shops, restaurants

Mision San Manuel hallway

hotels (one of which we are staying in). Our hotel is called the Misión San Manuel and is on Plaza Grande. It is a converted monastery and the rooms are what used to be the monk’s cells. The credit card machine

Outside of our room - Mision San Manuel

was broken which put our cash situation in to a tail spin. We have learned already that cash is definitely the best way to do business in Mexico. Our hotel has no off street parking which, for safety reasons, is a huge down-side anywhere in Mexico. It costs $400 pesos ($35 US) a night and the interior walking spaces are lovely with rich terracotta orange and hanging iron chandeliers. The central courtyard is a little restaurant that serves breakfast and in the evening the sidewalk in front of the hotel sets up in to a little bar which on the weekends is probably pretty noisy but we were here during the week. The rooms have private bathrooms with occasional hot water (ours had a slow drain which is a HUGE turn off of mine). The room was sparse but pretty clean with a double bed and a lot of space, much larger than a typical chain hotel room.O

It is a town of about only 50,000 compared to the 400,000 in Aguascalientes and has a totally different feel to it. We are really high in elevation again, about 8000 feet. We got here about 3 yesterday and walked around, took a nap, walked around some more… I really love Mexico! As we were walking around at night we finally found some crafts that we really want to buy. There are absolutely gorgeous handmade wood carvings and woven baskets. And lots of the skull masks and skeletal figurines but those are not my style. We ate at El Companario restaurant on Plaza Grande last

Guacamole in La Campanaria

night and had the best guacamole! Mex had lake trout that was fabulous and I had great enchilada suizas. We tried to share a pitcher of red Sangria but only made it half way thru. It was sweet and strong with lots of

A little much for two light drinkers

tiny pieces of fruit mixed in. The atmosphere was very nice although the other customers seemed to be from a tour group and were all English speakers.

Delicious trout at El Companario restaurant off of Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro

This morning we took a little bus over to Lake Pátzcuaro and looked across at Isla Janitizio where the famous Day of the Dead celebrations take place. We decided not to actually go over there though. I tried to take a picture but it was pretty hazy and I cannot zoom in or my camera gets spots on it. We did take the camera to a repair shop but they said it can’t be fixed. In two weeks our friend Maren is coming to visit and my mother generously offered to send her camera with so we don’t have to buy another one for the time being. I have to strategically position the items in the picture to cover up the spots.

Templo del Sagrario in Patzcuaro

We walked through an outdoor market today and the amount of vegetable, fruits, herbs, clothes and sandals and just about everything you want to buy is amazing. Just blocks of stalls selling all you can think of. We did buy some mangoes and oranges to try. Now after an hour of typing my hand is cramping so we are going to walk around and look in some more stalls and find some souvenirs, have a little lunch, probably get more cash since we are running out and then walk around some more and people watch in the plaza. Tomorrow we are going to drive to Mex’s town. We were going to stay here another day and take the bus to Morelia because that is supposed to be a nice city but he is getting excited to see his family so we are going to leave a day early instead. We still have five weeks left and plan on seeing quite a few more places.

UPDATE at 8:30 pm. We had a mini crisis this afternoon when we tried to buy our souvenirs and realized

Templo de la Compania

we didn’t have enough cash and the cash machine wasn’t taking either of our cards. Luckily my mom was able to talk to the credit card company while I was on the phone from Mexico on the other line. Unfortunately, it costs about $1 a minute for me to call (at least I hope that’s all it is!) but it was worth the $10 so we could get some money since hardly anywhere takes credit cards. We would literally be stranded since you need cash for the toll roads too. This afternoon we sat in a cafe on the patio overlooking the plaza having cappuccino and cheesecake… Where are we again?

This city has such a huge holy week celebration that it started today. So we got to

Buildings in Patzcuaro

see a procession of young girls in traditional dress with paper flowers in their hair and painted plates and a little band. We ate at the same restaurant again because we aren’t very adventurous because my stomach is “off” since the Auto Hotel. Of course it was the most beautiful plate of food and I forgot to take a picture. We are trying to keep taking pictures of food as research for our future restaurant. =) It was a sampler platter and we highly recommend it! Completely delicious with enough for two people to share and get a good sampling of different dishes including cheese flautas, bean sopes, chicken tacos, guacamole with chips, served over a bed of lettuce and topped with shredded cabbage, sour cream and cheese. Great flavors and everything is cut in half (except sopes) so it is easy to share and enjoy.

Garden of the Chocolate Lady

Parade in Patzcuaro, preparing for the start of Semana Santa - Holy Week

There are sooooo many wonderful things to buy! If you want Mexican crafts I would definitely come to Pátzcuaro. There are wood carvings, straw sculptures, copper, pottery, lacquer, everything under the sun. It was very nice. I wish we had more room in the car (and more money!). One out of the way find was the family-run Chocolate Casero Joaquinita. Since 1898, the family has been making home-made cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate tablets. You can purchase the chocolate from the family’s home, across from the Templo de la Compañia at Enseñanza Arciga 38. When we knocked though, the woman inside was very cautious to open the door. She told us that there had been a number of cars stolen and broken in to right off the street in front of her house in the past few months. Good thing it is our last night parking on the street!

And, in case you were wondering, Pátzcuaro is mentioned in “1000 Places.” Check!

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Filed under Mexico, Michoacan State