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May 27, 2017

San Miguel De Allende

By Maryanna Gabriel

Me In San Miguel 
     I was curious about this place for a number of reasons. Foremost, San Miguel had seemed to capture the heart of my mother who absented herself every winter to join the burgeoning numbers of gringos who were drawn to this artistic city. The pull was Escuela de Bellas Artes, the art school. Artists flocked here and over the years the painters and sculptors gave it a bohemian feel which gradually morphed into richer gringos who decided to retire permanently. There is a huge population of English speaking residents, prices tend to be higher than anywhere else, and it is almost possible to get by on English alone. It was not just the art. My mother had an extensive social life and loved her new friends.

     I was charmed by the old world Spanish feel of this place that was rife with heritage, and I found myself fascinated with the stone work. I could not help but admire the creative Mexican spirit that was expressing itself even in the radiating patterns in the cobble stone on the streets and within walls. Older doorways with heavy iron clasps, huge bells, street lamps of wrought iron, and the colonial curvature of church rotundas graced with all of the intrigue and bric-a-brac the Roman Catholic Church has to offer,
 played with the eye and have fortunately been valued and preserved. In short, I loved it. I could see why people sold up and moved to this beautiful place without looking back for I was asking myself the same question.

     I wish to dedicate this blog to the memory of my mother, Joy McAughtrie, and include her art work here that so captures the spirit of this special place where she so loved to live in and paint.

May 20, 2017

El Paso, Texas

By Maryanna Gabriel

Dinner In Juarez, Mexico

Texas was, well, Texas. Hotels posted that there was no water for showers. Any waterbed that had been there was now dry. The United States had been tapping out this most precious resource. However as I duly noted this, we were simultaneously concentrating primarily on crossing the border. We wanted to drive through the mid-section of the country so that we could make our way to San Miguel and so El Paso was our crossing point. I cannot imagine how this experience would be now with today's political climate. What seemed to be the focus of the Mexican federales was that I was not trying to flog my vehicle in order to sell it. To ensure that we were not, we needed a special permit to cross. It was a doomed scenario. Six hours of having my identification photocopied, including my credit cards, and me being bounced from one bureaucratic agency to another finally led to a successful outcome. We could have been running arms or drugs, nobody seemed to care about the contents of the truck and camper, but hey, we had the piece of paper!

Vowing I would cancel my cards when I got home and happily departing from the heat and chaos of the border, we drove into Juarez, Mexico, seeking the heartland and the lovely San Miguel de Allende. 

May 7, 2017

Sedona, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Oak Creek Canyon  (photo from a postcard by Bob Bradshaw)

Interesting Sandstone Formations


Sedona is in the Upper Senoran Desert and is a city of roughly 10,000 people. Coming from an art town myself, I was intrigued not only with the artistic aspect of the place but with the spiritual vibe. Sedona is reputed to have vortexes or energy portals and as a result of this an interesting subculture has sprung up. I had heard a lot about this place and I was eager to see it. I wasn't disappointed. Walking in the hills and in Red Rock State Park, the lovely red rock and sandstone formations, were interspersed with huge Bromeliads and Prickly Pear Cactus. We camped by a pretty river. It felt quite magical. I remarked that it was how I imagined Lothlorien to be, the elvish land, that Tolkein describes in the The Lord Of The Rings. 

Sedona - photo from Wikipedia

May 6, 2017

Bait And Switch

By Maryanna Gabriel 

It was bound to happen sooner or later. A man had entered my life. My new friend and I 
Mexico Bound
concocted a scheme. We would travel in my camper to Mexico and head for the west coast. How grand, I thought. Another adventure. He was experienced with Mexico, a place I would never dream of attempting on my own with the truck. In spite of my eagerness for the experience I was bothered by something. I wasn't exactly sure what it was. Trying to calm what was niggling at me, and dismissing it as new relationship jitters, we made a pact on how we would arrange practicalities and set out. I am taking you, dear reader, to the geography where we left off from which is Arizona. I had been wanting to see Sedona for some time. So the journey continues as we once again focus on travels southward from my island in the Canadian north. 

May 3, 2017

Chinle, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel

My purse. Oi. Where was it? I had just been admiring it and thinking how long I had owned the beautiful wallet that was hand-crafted, a gift from my ex-husband for a birthday. Had I Ieft it in the camper? I had walked away from the camper with it on the bed, door unlocked. Oh no. Or had I left in the washroom? I didn't know. It was hard not to panic. I raced to the Canyon de Chelly Guest Center thinking surely someone would turn it in. Nope. Day two. Nope. Day three. Nope. I came to understand that this was a frequent occurrence. Signs were up warning visitors about their valuables. It seemed there was a kind of retroactive karma happening and I was payback. Visitors were marks.

Nothing is more heart rending than losing something like this in a foreign country. I spoke with a young Navajo woman who talked to me about her own experience of having silver jewelry that she had made that was stolen. We commiserated. I knew what I had to do. I went to the Navajo Tribal Police in nearby Chinle and made a report. The law enforcement officer with the email handle "devil dog" was very nice. I would need the paperwork for when I crossed the border to my island home in Canada. It was time. I had no choice. While I was able to cut off my credit cards I was now without means. I was due back at work shortly. This wonderful trip was coming to a close.