GratiTuesday: Post Labor Days

My husband and I went to a neighbor’s Labor Day party yesterday. There were about 25 people in attendance and, by my count, over half of us were no longer working at a regular, full-time job. Some of us are officially retired (as in no longer receiving a regular paycheck) and some are involved in a few part-time, money-making ventures out of want, not need (which still qualifies as “retired” in my book).

I remember when Labor Day felt like a final hurrah before summer bid adieu. Even though the weather might still say “summer,” school and work told us different. The Labor Day parties were always fun but bitter sweet. We enjoyed the company of our friends, but we also knew that it was probably the end of outdoor gatherings for a while.

Now that we are retired, Labor Day feels more like a beginning than an end. From now on, the roads will be a little less crowded, the beaches more accessible, and businesses less busy. Just like before, the weather will still say “summer” but there will be fewer people competing for space to enjoy it.

In addition to the joy of dwindling crowds where we live, we can also take advantage of fewer crowds when we travel. What are called “shoulder seasons” – typically spring and fall – are prime travel times for those of us who no longer live by someone else’s schedule. The weather is often still nice, but the crowds are lighter and the prices cheaper.

We still have a lot of summer left and the time to enjoy every moment.

Last night at the party, the conversations we had with our neighbors and fellow retirees were full of stories of how we spent our summer and how we were planning to embrace the months ahead. We talked excitedly about travel plans we’ve made and interests we wanted to pursue, about projects we planned to work on and events we hoped to attend. What there wasn’t was any talk about school schedules, work piling up, or the end of another summer… and I think we were all grateful for that.

Thursday Doors: Adorned Doors

When we returned from our trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I started to look through all my pictures of the beautiful doors we encountered, I decided to separate them into bite-sized Thursday Door post chunks. This week’s group of doors stood out because of their unique hardware. Some of the hardware has a practical purpose (door knockers, hinges, etc.) and others are purely decorative. Some – like the traditional hand knockers – were found all over the city (including for sale in shops) whereas some looked custom designed and fabricated.

The faces on this door seemed part human, part demon, and part animal.
The knocker was traditional but the teal painted hardware gave the door an artist’s touch.
Look closely and you will see multi-legged lizards guarding the entrance.
A close-up of the lizard-shaped door lock with the sun peeking out underneath.
This hand on this traditional knocker is holding what appears to be a small apple.
The intricate design of the metal frame, stone surround, and terra cotta paint made this door a stunner.
The homeowner must be a dog-lover.
A knocker made out of bicycle parts. This picture was taken by my husband and hasn’t been edited… the door was really this gorgeous color.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

Thursday Doors: Weathered Doors

Continuing the Tour of Doors through San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this week I’m featuring a collection of weathered doors. I loved how the patina of age and the result of exposure to sun and rain has worked their magic over the years. Just like last week’s rounded doors, and the carved doors the week before, these doors exemplify the unique beauty to be found in colonial Mexico.

Even though we walked by these doors often, they never offered us a peek inside.
Teal blue and terra cotta seemed to be a favorite color combination.
So many of the doors we encountered made us want to see what was inside.
Often the door’s beauty was enhanced by its surroundings.
Teal and terra cotta again… embraced by the bright blossoms of the bougainvillea.
Interesting translations: the sign over the door reads something like Bar of the Female Dog (or “Bitch”, which has the same negative meaning as in English). The sign to the side indicates that no women, people in uniforms, or anyone underaged are allowed. This was not an establishment in operation… I think the painted signs were just for fun. 
It looked like there were several layers of colors on this door.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors from his trip to Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

GratiTuesday: Delightful Discoveries

When planning a trip, especially one where we will spend a decent amount of time in one location, I often do a search on Instagram. Although guidebooks and general internet sources are fine, Instagram can be a great tool to scout unique and interesting locations. That is how I discovered Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, and decided we had to go.

Located a few miles outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the house and gallery (which is really the entire property) is a fanciful, whimsical, and joyful celebration of color and creativity. The house, outbuildings, and grounds provide a canvas on which the fantastic mosaic and sculptural creations of owner/artist Anado McLauchlin are assembled and displayed.

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To call Anado’s and his husband Richard’s home merely colorful doesn’t do it justice. It really was more of an explosion of creativity, artistic talent, celebratory color, and love. From the moment Anado greeted us just inside his gate to when the tour ended inside their home (where we had the pleasure of meeting Richard, an art historian and professor) we were embraced by their kindness, welcoming spirit, and their joy of sharing this magical place.

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The property wasn’t easy to get to, but the trip was well worth the effort. Tours are by appointment only (anado@madebyanado.com) and not all cab drivers were aware of its existence. Once there, we arranged for the driver to come back after the tour (which lasted about two hours) since it would have been impossible to find another cab where they lived.

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During are stay in San Miguel we visited many of the locations that our Moon guidebook recommended and we very much enjoyed all that the beautiful colonial town has to offer. Sometimes, though, it was nice to get off the beaten path and be delighted by the unusual and unexpected. Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray were a highlight of our trip and I am grateful to Anado and Richard for fully embracing their playful natures and for allowing us to explore their fantastical home.

Casa de las Ranas (House of the Frogs).
Richard welcoming us into his home.

Thursday Doors: Rounded Doors

This week, I’m sharing more of the beautiful doors we found in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Over our seven-week stay, I took so many door pictures that I decided to break them into groups. Last week, I shared pictures of Carved Doors, and this week all the doors are rounded at the top.
Some doors are set off with rich paint colors and some have intricate stonework as their frames, but all are indicative of the stunning architectural details found all over this colonial Mexican town.

We walked by this stunning building almost daily during our housesit. Since it fronted a narrow walkway, it was difficult to get the whole building in a single frame.

I love everything about this door – the color, the ironwork, and the beautiful stone surrounding it.
I really like the contrast of the modern door and the aged stonework.
Another residential door that I would love to open and see inside.
The muted color of the door and the warmly painted building made a lovely scene.
Bougainvillea vines frame this door, the red blossoms a striking contrast with the wall color.

 

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

GratiTuesday: Sharing the Joy

One of the many things my husband and I love about Mexico are the public celebrations. Religious celebrations, wedding celebrations, birthday celebrations, and who-the-heck-knows-why celebrations are often at least partially held where onlookers are welcome to share in the festivities.

Every weekend during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, a wedding (or three, or four) was held in the stunning Parroquia church. Once the wedding mass was over, the bridal party and guests would spill out into the courtyard and onto the street in front of the church. A fancy car or horse and carriage would often be waiting to take the newlyweds to their reception, but not before the invited guests – and anyone in the area at the time – were swept up in the joyful celebration.

The bride and groom waving goodbye before leaving for their reception.

On our way to dinner one evening, we stopped to watch an expat’s 70th birthday celebration. Along with her and her partner’s guests, lucky onlookers enjoyed the revelry, which included a mariachi band, dancing in the street, and the antics of the giant mojigangas (pronounced mo-he-gan-gas) that were decorated to look a bit like the couple.

Betty, celebrating her 70th birthday.
Dancing in the street with the giant mojigangas to the music of the mariachi band.

One event that is unique to San Miguel is Dia de Los Locos (day of the crazies), which is an annual celebration that takes place in June. Los Locos has deep religious roots but much of the festivities appear to be completely secular. Although the day begins with a mass at the San Antonio church (which was just a few blocks from our housesit), once the participants head out to the streets where the crowds are waiting, all vestiges of religion fall away.

As the flamboyant procession moves along the main avenue, onlookers are treated to wild (and often delightfully politically incorrect) costumes, loud music, dancing, and hard candy projectiles being tossed their way. Over 10,000 participants join in the parade costumed as cartoon characters, politicians, clowns (both friendly and scary), and fantasy figures, while an even larger crowd watches from the sidewalks that line the route.

Celebrations and festivals are an integral part of Mexican life. In San Miguel, barely a day goes by that does not commemorate a patron saint, a beloved chapel, or a revolutionary hero. And then, of course, are the personal celebrations like weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. We were very grateful to not only be there when many of these celebrations occurred, but also grateful to be able to join in and share the joy.

Thursday Doors: Carved Doors

I was not at all surprised to find a plethora of door pictures among the hundreds of images I took when visiting San Miguel de Allende. After all, spending seven weeks exploring a colonial Mexican town known for its beauty, history, and culture of art (both old and new), is bound to keep my camera busy.

After going through my images and picking the ones that I thought were most interesting, I still had way too many to share in a single post. To avoid door-overload (is that even possible?), I have put them into groups (carved, rounded, weathered, opened, decorated, and not doors), each of which will be shared over the coming weeks.

My carved door group has the greatest number of images. Some of the doors were very old (and most likely restored) and some were of more recent vintage. All were works of art.

Casa del Mayorazgo de la Canal is one of the most spectacular examples of 17th-century civil architecture in the region. The inner courtyard of this magnificent mansion now displays high-quality shows by important Mexican artists and is open to the public.
Who wouldn’t want to come home to this?
I loved the intricate carving and the beautiful blue-green wash.
These doors need some care but they are still beautiful
So many of the doors of private homes made me want to see inside.
I’m pretty sure this was a garage door… a bit nicer than the one on my house.
These were some of the happiest doors we saw.
These beautifully carved doors were just off the main square and provided a backdrop for lots of selfies.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view his collection of doors, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.