Today dawned bright and clear, and in spite of our late night last night, none of the kids thought that sleeping in was in order. Erik fed them some yogurt and took them out for a swim, and then we decided to walk into town. Since we normally eat breakfast and lunch here, then go out in the evening, we thought it would be fun to switch that around and go into town earlier in the day. It was after ten when we left in search of a place to eat breakfast. Our first stop was Delices de France, a bakery run by a French pastry chef named Guillaume. We met him last year and greatly enjoyed his fine quiches, pastries, and croissants, as well as his friendly manner. It was good to see him again and he shared a cup of espresso with Erik. We purchased a few little treats to eat later in the day and bade him farewell.
We walked further on to Lucy's "comida economica" where we'd eaten dinner a few nights ago. We were greeted warmly by Lucy, who even remembered some of the kids names. There we enjoyed a filling breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice and "huevos mexicanos" (eggs scrambled with tomatoes, onions, and peppers), refried beans, and chilaquiles (day old tortillas lightly fried and smothered in red sauce). I was told by "the coconut lady" at the farmer's market that the little carnicerias (meat markets) tend to sell better quality, local, and more naturally raised beef than the big stores, so Erik asked Lucy if she could recommend a good one. She pointed us around the corner to where she buys her meat, so we made that our next stop.
I guess I've come a long way since my vegetarian days, because I was sort of excited about finding a good meat market, and only slightly grossed out by the large slabs of meat lying around. While I fumbled my way through asking in Spanish for a kilo of hamburger, Erik picked out some chicharones for the kids. In case you're not fortunate enough to have experienced them for yourself, these are fried pork rinds, or "piggy skins" as my kids called them. They were a hit with the kids, and while this certainly won't be every day fare, it's a traditional Mexican snack, and hey, we're in Mexico, right? I was impressed with the cleanliness and lack of flies in the carniceria, and only wished that the man who handled the money wasn't the same one cutting away at the meat without any hand washing. He did sort of wipe his hands on his apron at one point, which has got to count for something, right? Ah, well, at least the meat will be well cooked before we eat it!
We walked a little further up the street and found a little general store, for lack of a better description. We'd stopped in there last year and bought a number of inexpensive little items we needed for our kitchen, and had looked for it the other day but not found it. I wanted to pick up a couple of little notebooks, and I also let the kids pick out a coloring book. Across the street was a "fruteria" and I wanted to get a few produce items, but first I needed to find a bathroom. I was in luck, as just a couple shops up the street there were some nicely kept public banos where for only three pesos one could use the toilet! (Hey, it's a very small price to pay for a clean bathroom and toilet paper. I've seen the alternative and it's not pretty!)
Back at the fruteria Erik stood outside in the shade with the kids while I picked out some squash, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, as well as some cheeses. There are so many varieties of cheese, and we're starting to learn which ones we like and how to tell the difference. Today I got Queso Oaxaca, which is sort of like string cheese, only it comes in a big ball and you "unwind" it. I also got some panela, which reminds me a little of fresh mozzarella. It feels like a small accomplishment to be able to look at the various unmarked cheeses in the case and recognize a few of them!
While we were exiting the carniceria, a man walked by with several bags of coffee beans. This, of course, piqued Erik's interest, and so he struck up a conversation with the man, who was a roaster and had a shop right around the corner. So after filling my market bag with produce, our next stop was the coffee place where Esteban let Erik smell different beans, roasted and unroasted, and sample some of his brewed coffee. I spied a pile of poblano peppers, roasted, stuffed with cheese, and ready to be made into delicious chiles rellenos, sitting on a table in his little restaurant. I think we'll need to return there for a meal as well as some coffee.
By the time we headed back home the sun was pretty hot, but I was glad to have discovered some new places. I much prefer that kind of shopping- a few days worth of veggies, a little meat, supporting the smaller shops- to the "Mega" experience. It feels so much more "real" to me.
When we got home it was time for siesta, and Erik left to go into Puerto Vallarta to pick up a rental van which we'll have for the next few days. We plan to return to the little mountain town, San Sebastian del Oeste, that we liked so much last year, as well as visit another town "out there" somewhere. We also have plans next weekend to meet up with some friends who are spending the winter over in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. Adventuring we will go!
Picking up the rental car was, as might be expected, a bit of a runaround. Even though I'd made a reservation through Orbitz, Erik ended up going through a different rental agency that seemed a little more above board and up front about their costs. Three hours after he left, he returned with a van. We went for a swim in the pool and decided it was a lovely time of day for a swim. The sun wasn't so hot, but the water had warmed up a little. After our swim we decided to drive into town for dinner, and that was that. I'm feeling mighty tired this evening and think it's nearly time to call it a night. Until next time...