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Paying attention in Puebla

sunny 23 °C

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My Uncle Jim used to say the "G" was for gullible, not Ginny. I was born without the skeptic gene and over the years have only developed it to a slight degree. So when I saw a man tie his two huskies to a window grill, and encourage people to come over and pat them, I thought nothing of it. When he kindly offered to use my camera to take a photo of me with the pooches - still no bells went off. It was only after I was hit up for money for the "photo op" that I realized it was all a cynical ploy. I told him I had no cambio (change), and walked away feeling vaguely foolish, and mightily annoyed.

Still, for a big city, Puebla feels safe and friendly and requires only the usual safeguards. This is an immensely walkable city, with an easy grid layout, which makes aimless wandering a pleasure. One nondescript block turns into a cozy pocket park, which unfolds into a pedestrian walkway. We crossed a busy highway, strolled for a while behind some newly renovated buildings (including the spectacular convention centre) and came upon this park:

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This whole area, which includes the convention centre, an old church, a stunning luxury hotel and a spiffy new shopping plaza, appears to have undergone a fairly recent renaissance. Workmen are still on site, and a number of small businesses are not open yet. Original crumbling walls have been incorporated with modern design details, flowing paths and structural landscaping to create an unexpected oasis. One of the intact buildings, a 19th century water purifying factory, now houses La Purifacadora, a showpiece hotel and restaurant, designed by a big-deal design firm out of Mexico City.

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They have mixed up old and new to great effect, with a broad black marble staircase leading upstairs, single-species plantings, columns encased in rough wood, and most interestingly, this floor, which is made of hundreds of square cut, removable wood blocks. (I'm trying to imagine the cleaning, but what a grand idea for a small foyer or sunroom back home). Travelling through Mexico is like shuffling through one big Pinterest board - DIY inspiration everywhere. Now if only I had the required talent, patience and generationally-honed craftsmanship.

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Other little eye-catchers along the way - colour, sculpture, street art, history, and serendipity

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One thing we have noticed in Puebla are the special-interest shops and services grouped together on one or two blocks. Our street is home to trophies and sports clothing - store after store catering to those who have moved beyond "participation". We walked down a bridal street - possibly dozens of stores selling almost identical gowns and accessories. Then there is the optician block - same thing - one small shop after another, selling frames, sunglasses, cases, and eye exams. For anyone in the market for cowboy gear - hats, shirts and boots, we have just the spot for you - hand-tooled leather boots for $60.

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On a more high-brow note, Puebla has almost 40 museums - everything from
the Museum of Miniatures to the soaring Museo Amparo.

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The Amparo is Puebla's must-see museum, if only to admire the modern structure, and the rooftop cafe.
More design ideas - would these tiled planters survive a west coast winter?

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The Amparo has a little of everything - from pre-hispanic artifacts to contemporary art. We found this three-dimensional timeline fascinating and very helpful. Beginning with 2400 b.c. and following along to 1500 a.d., it contrasts major man-made achievements occurring during similar periods on six continents.

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Artifacts from the Valle de Mexico

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Fanciful bronze bench

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Pantone is a paint colour-matching system - arranged in a fan of coordinating colours on thin colour chips. In recent years, Pantone has decreed the "Colour of the Year" to reflect current trends. Presumably this installation is meant to suggest that when it comes to people, there is no such thing as "Colour of the Year".

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Absolutely no idea - I'm open to all suggestions. Is the red cloud a metaphor for something? Is the artist playing with us? I find it both hilarious and repellent.

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There is always something happening in the streets. The zocalo is a natural for street performers, musicians - impromptu entertainment all for the price of a small propina (tip). Today, the zocalo was filled with cartoon characters, Stormtroopers, The Hulk and Edward Scissorhands. After watching several excited little ninos posing beside their favourite characters, I got my chance.

[b][center]Snuggling up to Edward Scissorhands - the closest I'll ever get to Johnny Depp

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A decent Michael Jackson impersonator

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When we stopped for a beer, these old gents were just two tables away from us, beating the daylights out of a xylophone. When I wondered how long they had played together, Oscar observed, "not long enough to get any better."

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Naturally, food was a focal point - we often met up with Joy and Oscar for dinner or snacks. We had a great time at this restaurant, La Fonda Mexicana. The food was good, and the service was great. Our charming server (the improbably-named Joshua) spoke English very well, and we discovered he was finishing a degree in Communications, and was in a band.


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Today was our 35th anniversary, but we chose to celebrate last night, as a lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays. We went to a restaurant that had decent reviews, an interesting menu, and two pretty rooms; one of them out in the open courtyard. Since last night was quite chilly, we initially chose the inside room, but after listening to a large group loudly chatting (and allowing their kid to plunk listlessly on the piano), we moved out to the courtyard. Our food was good, but the service was so inept, we went from being annoyed to hysterical. The Fawlty Towers waiters lurched and ran about wildly; at one point, flinging my dirty cutlery from my plate to my placemat (rather than sedately changing between courses).

On top of that, the entertainment for the evening, a singer and guitar player, set up on the staircase in front of us, and when the singer began to loudly emote, we just about lost it.

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We decided our "date night" was a perfect metaphor for our 35 years of marriage. Things often do not go as planned, but there is usually something to laugh about. At the very least - there's a story.

And so, our time in Puebla has come to an end. Next stop - Cuetzalan - about 3 1/2 hours of mountain driving to arrive in the land of waterfalls, coffee plantations and birds. See you in a few days.

Posted by millerburr 18:04 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

Congartulations on 35 years. Happy Anniversary! Hugs

by Lesley and Glenn harris

I laughed out loud a few times on this post! G for gullible and the dog story, the anniversary date, these are the things that will remain long after all is said and done. This is the stuff of life, keep on laughing at yourselves and your predicaments, life is good, isn't it?

by Laurence

Happy 35 Anniversary ! CONGRATULATION !
Ela and Piotr

We enjoy reading about your Mexican adventure.

by Ela and Piotr

Happy Anniversary and many more filled with exciting travel. Enjoying all the beauty and the wonderful weather at least for a few minutes each morning.

by Anne Katz

Happy Anniversary and safe travels! As usual, love your humor, your photos, and your thoughtful descriptions of the areas you visit.

by Marilyn Horn

Happy Anniversary!! Enjoy your next trek, cant wait to hear about it.

by Ann

Happy Anniversary you two! We're loving your adventure stories and photos!

by Donna Deacon

Happy Anniversary to a lovely couple! Hope the next 35 are as filled with love and laughter as these years have been. Wishing you a safe trip to Cuetzalan.

by Heather Scott

I am still giggling !!!! That man standing on the bed with a Celine Dion dress up around his head while his supposed partner and dog sleep is hilarious... I have too many ideas for a caption. I would love a pair of cowboy boots, siz 7 please. Toasting your 35th!!!! I remember when it all started. Cheers

by Nanc

Best ever! Next time in Puebla - I'm meeting you there! What so much fun in reading, your humour and love the architecture. All of it!

by Carol Martin

Your anniversary dinner [or more accurately, your response to it] is an inspiration for us all in how to arrive at 35 years as a married couple, still laughing together and squeezing the most out of life. Congratulations and Cheers

by linda ogle

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