Enchanting land and perfect climate
My mother and I both celebrate our birthdays at the beginning of June. Hers is on the 5th and mine is on the 7th. This year for our birthdays my brother, Wood, came to visit us from Gainesville, Florida. He arrived on June 2nd... and that evening it started to rain. It rained pretty much non-stop for about 3 days, so that when the sun finally did come out the humidity and the heat together made it seem much hotter than usual, like being in a steam bath. Now I had been hinting to my mother for quite some time that for my birthday I'd like for us all to go to Pátzcuaro, Michoacán together, and when the heat set in I again brought it up. Well lo and behold the idea took root and my mother made it a reality! (Click on the photos to enlarge them.) So on June 8th we loaded up her brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee, and my mother, my brother, Lupita and I were soon on the road to the sierra of Michoacán and Pátzcuaro! The Autopista Siglo XXI is in excellent shape for the most part, though it does have a few whoop-dee-doos if you drive at high speeds like my mother does (ahem). But it was a beautiful drive up into the high sierra and across the desert and cactus region called Tierra Caliente where the temperature was hotter than on the coast we had just left. I took some good videos as we bounced along the way listening to Gladys Knight and the Pips. ;~) Once we started seeing pine trees the temperature also began to drop, and by the time we got to Pátzcuaro it was cool and utterly refreshing. It even started to drizzle ever so lightly, but not even enough to get wet or be a bother. Here are some views of the Pátzcuaro skyline taken just after we arrived.
The rich history of Pátzcuaro can be sensed in every doorway, every building, every street. We stayed at a very comfortable and truly enchanting Bed & Breakfast called La Casa Encantada located on Calle Dr. Coss #15 just a block and a half from the Plaza Don Vasco de Quiroga. They offer free wireless internet access, among their other wonderful amenities, and so it is possible to work and do the e-mail thing for those of us who just can't completely ignore our businesses for even a day. There is secure parking in an old remodeled villa courtyard practically across the street. For other meals besides the delicious breakfasts at La Casa Encantada, Pátzcuaro offers quite a variety of places. One delightful reastaurant very convenient to La Casa Encantada at less than a half block towards the main plaza, Plaza Don Vasco Quiroga, is called Mistongo where we had our first meal after arriving. I enjoyed a delicious white fish, typical of the region, and started to feel some of the magic of Pátzcuaro seeping in with every bite.
Everything in Pátzcuaro closes at 10:00 PM. We managed to find one funky hole-in-the-wall café just off the main plaza where we enjoyed coffee, cappuccino and hot chocolate before turning in for the night. The next day we strolled around town for a while early in the morning, taking in some of the markets with their interesting locally made handcrafts. One place we came across on the Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra was a hotel called El Refugio, newly refurbished from an old palatial building. Then we decided to explore the region and see if we could find the pyramid at Tzintzuntzán. Located about 17 km from Pátzcuaro, this pyramid is the original center of the local culture and civilization, and it is topped with 5 structures called yácatas, which were temples. It is quite impressive to walk around this ancient structure and see the ruins of the buildings that are part of this site. In photos it is difficult to appreciate the massive size of this pyramid, which like most Mexican pyramids is actually one built on top of another, each dating back further into history. One thing I found interesting were small carvings in some of the stones of the yácatas, almost like signatures of the stonemasons. Among them were circles, spirals, and some that looked like the "f" hole of a violin. A couple are visible above my head in the photo to the left. Below are shown part of one of the yácatas (left) and the town of Tzintzuntzán fronting el Lago de Pátzcuaro (right). There was a marvelous breeze atop the pyramid, and even with the bright sunshine, it was a very pleasant and comfortable place to be.
After our visit to the well preserved and well maintained archaeological site at Tzintzuntzán, we drove on to the town of Quiroga at the eastern end of el Lago de Pátzcuaro where we had delicious carnitas for lunch at a historic restaurant on the Plaza Principal with its Monumento de la América. After lunch we went to a store just a couple of blocks away that specialized in leather goods where my brother bought himself a rather nifty leather jacket, which he got a chance to wear that evening in Pátzcuaro when the temperatures cooled once again. Our last evening in Pátzcuaro we went to a very interesting restaurant called Cha Cha Cha, another converted old villa, where we all enjoyed excellent service and portions so large that it was a challenge, if not impossible, to finish them. A painting on the wall next to our table depicting Zihuatanejo's Playa Principal made us feel right at home. Our last day, before driving back to the coast (just in time to watch the opening match of the 2006 World Cup) we wanted to visit a guest inn that friends of ours had recently remodeled from a former 18th century guest inn and stables. Mesón de San Antonio is an absolutely adorable inn near the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud.
Our last stop was to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, steeped itself in history and built on top of the prehispanic remnants of a cué, similar to a yácata. Here Lupita appears dwarfed by the Basílica's doors. A wedding ceremony takes place inside the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud. The entire time we were in Pátzcuaro the weather was absolutely perfect, and even during the daytime I don't recall once breaking out in a sweat even when huffing up steep hills at the high altitude of 2,140 meters above sea level. Time and time again since our return to Zihuatanejo, especially during the summer heat of las canicas (the 40 hottest days of the year) Lupita and I look at each other and say "Pátzcuaro... Pátzcuaro...", wishing to be back in that enchanting region with its superbly refreshing climate.