The drive to Tepic was beautiful. We kept climbing further and further into the mountains. Our windshield kept getting dirty with bugs, and it was a funny (and sad) moment when we realized all of the bugs were actually BUTTERFLIES! There are butterflies everywhere!
When we arrived in town, one of the first street signs we found looked like this (pictured left). Wait...were we in Tepic, or____?
Luckily, the scenery cleared up our doubts very quickly. This was a busy "little" city with so much happening that we certainly didn't get to see it all!
We found a great hotel downtown (Hotel Ibarra), thanks to our Lonely Planet guide (can I say enough how much I LOVE this book?!), and they managed to squeeze our car into their "parking lot", which was really designed to fit perhaps 6 cars. Instead, they probably had about 10, and it required a shuffling of vehicles to get cars in and out (try taking driving directions from someone who doesn't speak English...). We were thankful for a safe place to park our car, however.We got in around dusk, and walked a few blocks over to the Plaza Principal and Market. It was EXTRAORDINARY!! Shop after shop after shop lined the streets (all with large garage doors that open up to create the "open-air market" feel), and there were food and toy vendors in every direction. It was a Thursday evening, and the place was PACKED! I got a $5 black peasant skirt, and Jared got a $15 pair of new shorts (sort of expensive, I know). Ella had fun trying out each and every one of the children's "rides" that lined the Plaza (the ones where we don't add the coins).We were blown away by how they set up shoe stores here. If you look closely at this photo, you'll see that all of the shoes are behind glass with visible price signs. As a customer, you would point to a shoe, tell them your size, and they would get it for you. This allows them to show a LOT
more shoes than in the US!
We stopped at a little cafe and Jared order a chicken burrito (literally JUST chicken, wrapped in a tortilla, with a dab of sour cream on the top), and I got a tostada ($1.50 or so each). My tostada was HUGE, but not really that tasty (too bad they don't have "salsa" by US standards, here). But it filled us, and we continued on our way to get some dessert. For less than $1 each, you could get these frozen fruit bars, which were actually quite good. I was bad, and actually enjoyed 2 that night (one strawberry yogurt one before dinner, and a kiwi one after).
The next morning we went back to the Plaza briefly, and found an inside market, very similar to the downtown Philadelphia Market (but obviously, with Mexican food).
We decided to try something new, and finally figure out what the heck a "Torta" was. We had heard were good, but couldn't find a dictionary definition actually telling us WHAT they were. It turns out that they're little sandwiches with meat, sauces, and who knows what. Jared got a pork one (which didn't appeal to me), and I ordered from the next stand over, and gotten a pollo (chicken) one. The cook asked me what I wanted on it (all in Spanish, of course), and I simply threw up my hands, and motioned for him to put anything on it. He made it for me, handed it over, and told me to add a little bit of caliente/hot sauce on it. I did, and it was EXCELLENT. The most enjoyable food I've had so far! It's amazing how you can "communicate" with people in another language, without ever actually "communicating."
In the food market, I had the opportunity to explain to Ella why they were selling pigs heads and feet (so daddy can eat them), and I became truly grateful that I don't eat a lot of meat (see the lovely photo?). Did I mention that is nearly impossible to be a vegan while traveling through Mexico? These people eat MEAT, and LOTS of it! I ordered an ensalada (salad) at a VIPS restaurant on our trip (VIPS is owned by the Mexican Walmart), and not only was it one of the lamest salads I've had (with CANNED mushrooms on top), but they even brought it out to me after ALL the other food was gone. I just had them put it in a box and I took it with me. Weird. I'm told the French eat their salads last...bit I digress...)
In the Plaza we took some photos of the 1804 cathedral, ladies making fresh tortillas, the old Mexican gentlement lounging under a tree, and the Huicholes natives selling their colorful artwork (beautiful beadwork)! What a wonderful little city! Certainly our favorite along our drive.We passed an LDS church on the way out of town (hurrah! And my apologies to the random girl who made it into my blog...it was a drive by photo "shooting"), and continued to climb into the mountains for about 3-4 hours, to get to our destination. It was very lush and beautiful!We arrived in Ajijic, our home for the winter, around 2pm. After searching and searching, we finally found our rental agency, and they took us to our rental house (we got there a day early, but they were so gracious to let us move in early). More details on the house and city later...