Blog 10: December 2009

Blog 10: First Impressions                                                                           17 December 2009

Dear Home-Bound Ones:

We made it to our sight-unseen rented casita/cabaña in Zirahuén in the late afternoon on Tuesday. Although we read the directions carefully, we got totally lost; tried all four of Z’s cobbled roads; asked directions from 3 groups of people, and then, finally caught on:

Just like in Kingston, our house is located on the highway!  The traffic noise was really something.

Yet, as you can see in the attached picture, perhaps you’ll understand why we had some problem actually identifying the road as a highway. Maybe some day they’ll pave it, or at least replace the missing cobbles.

We rang the bell at the correct portal, were met by a wonderful man named Pichi Martínez, and given the tour of our digs. I [Linda] hardly made it past the gate, for in front of me was a fully-in-bloom bottle brush tree with at least 2 different kinds of hummingbirds zooming in to get the nectar. Then as we looked [a bit further] past the tree, we could see the entire Lago /Lake Zirahuén below us shimmering in the

late sunlight. Trees for shade, blooms for sniffing and marveling at, rocking chairs at every corner to be able to sit and enjoy…

Sr. Martínez’s pet, “don Gato” [Mr. Cat], oh, yeah, came to check us out. I think I passed the test, as he lay down on my left shoe and demanded to be petted.

Whoa?!? Wait a minute. Pichi says there’s more?

 We followed him into the various rooms. The house is built on a semi-Hispanic plan: Imagine an open square. From the “highway,” we walk into the square [on 1 side,] through a gated wall to an interior open space, both patio and yard. The rooms are built around 2 sides of the square. The 4th side should be another wall, but we have open space and a scraggly hedge that lead to another casita, far enough way not to bother anyone.  One of the rooms’ sides has 2 doors, each opening to a bedroom with private bath, windows letting in air and light. The second side of the L has one large door that opens into a living/dining space and a fully-equipped kitchen. And, just in case we need it, the kitchen has another door that leads out to an elevated patio—built over a garage, where our Dodge Caravan now rests--  with a view of the Lake and more bushes and flowers.

For reasons I do not understand, while there are a zillion butterflies and lots of birds, there do not appear to be a large number of mosquitoes, flies, or nasty insects. Yes, there are some, but not many. That means we have no screens on our doors or windows, and in fact, in the 70-degree weather, we leave all the doors open.

Exterior walls are painted Hispanic dark red; interior walls, white. Decorations are the tasteful Mexican crafts of woven fabrics, pottery (green pottery is the style around here), wood shelves, lots and lots of baskets. The furniture is all Mexican artisan “primitive style” wood.

Oh, and there’s wifi.

If I get cold (you all know I get cold quickly) – there are clay chimeneas in each room, for one’s own personal fire. The clay heats up and radiates the heat around the room.


Market day in Zirahuén is Wednesday, so we walk down the “highway” to the center of town and from the 3 vendors of foodstuffs we choose fresh veggies: broccoli, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, onions. And of course the requisite limes – everything tastes better with limes. Eggs from the chickens roaming the streets. Cilantro is a peso a handful (1 peso = 9 cents). Rosemary grows like a steroid-fed bush on “our” patio. Thyme climbs the wall of the house next door. Mint is whacked away often, but there’s enough to make something tasty.

Zirahuén: Altitude:   2140 meters [= 7000+ feet]

Population: unknown, maybe 1000 people and almost as many horses, burros, cows, dogs, and chickens.

The village is built [not] on a grid [but more on a maze-like street plan with 1 paved [official] highway leading in and a cobbled highway leading out. You enter the village through a kind of wall (almost medieval) and you must immediately turn left or right or drive right into the church. From then on, for me it gets tricky because where the highway enters is outside the grid. There are several streets at bizarre angles along which you can find 3 corner groceries, 1 tortilla-maker, 1 drinks vendor, a doctor’s clinic and maybe (on the weekends?) a lunch place. The streets seem to curve because Zirahuén is built at the edge of a crater lake (we’re in the middle of a volcano). We know that there are two docks from which one motor boat makes lake tours. It’s the only motorized boat allowed on this lake. All others are sailboats, rowboats, kayaks. And we suspect that on the weekends, big-city folks will come here to eat fresh fish at restaurants located on the docks, but they are all closed up during the week.

Back to our casita, named San Gabriel: Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a “nester”: David didn’t even get the car unloaded before I had him help me move every piece of furniture in the living room. The tall cabinet went from the near to the far wall. The working desk was put in the corner between 2 windows, one with the bottle brush bush, the other with the newly-hung hummingbird feeder that we brought from Rhode Island. The dining table was moved to the right 4 feet. The leather and twig couch and chairs rearranged around the chimenea.

Oh, and the kitchen. If the plates were in the bottom cabinet on the left, I had to move them to the top cabinets on the right. If the glasses were in the upper cabinet, I moved them to the wood shelf over the sink. It was a whirling thrill of realigning the casita interior. I must have my own feng shui.

David found that the nicely-aligned working desk called to him almost immediately, so as I unpacked clothing and a few odds and ends we’d brought with us for the kitchen, he sat down to start writing.

Hey, but this time, I beat him to the blog!

For more views of our place, check out