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 Cuernavaca to Campeche, Morelia to Mérida - In Search of the Perfect Town

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Hound Dog
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Posts : 195
Join date : 2011-02-21
Location : Ajijic & San Cristóbal de Las Casas

20110807
PostCuernavaca to Campeche, Morelia to Mérida - In Search of the Perfect Town

I, upon being correctly admonished for allowing this thread to wander about when my original intent was to simply discuss Cuernavaca as another in a string of places I have considered as a place to retire in Mexico, am modifying this thread to reflect the fact that it has evolved into a discussion of several alternative cities where the reader might achieve eternal happiness in retirement pending the big escape into the ether. It was suggested I, in my role as a moderator, test my skills at editing the thread by separating the discussion into light chats on various places but I felt perhaps a modification of the subject matter would be more appropriate. Thus the new heading assuming it survives scrutiny.

The original post started:

Later this year we plan to spend a few days in Cuernavaca with the tentative notion of exploring the possibility of buying or renting long term a home there in the city´s colonial centro. Should we do this, it would mean moving our primary residence from Ajijic to Cuernavaca and, perhaps selling, but certainly at the minimum, renting our home at Lakeside but keeping our home in San Cristóbal de Las Casas if possible. I am writing this in order to see if any readers are familiar with Cuernavaca Centro and also if anyone is familiar with nice hotels in centro where we could stay for a few days while looking around. We are not open to the idea of living outside of the immediate centro area as ten years at Lake Chapals´s Lakeside area has taught us the value of living in the central urban area itself rather than outlying areas as we have here relative to Metro Guadalajara.

Any input would be appreciated from those familiar with Cuernavaca including any negative input as well. I wouldn´t be surprised, for instance, if some familiar with the city find it too congested and/or noisy or, as is the case with San Cristóbal´s historic center which, while not too congested, is not a truly pedestrian friendly city with its often narrow sidewalks difficult to negotiate with steep curbs and marginal traction during rainstorms. I am reminded that on the Chapala Informational Forum today is a debate as to whether Ajijic or San Miguel de Allende is a better place to live based upon a number of posited criteria and entirely reasonable people came to entirely different conclusions based upon what characteristics of each place was most important to them. An interesting e-conversation I commend to the reader.


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Cuernavaca to Campeche, Morelia to Mérida - In Search of the Perfect Town :: Comments

I big plus/minus is its proximity to Mexico City. Although Papirex on MC was pleased living there he did complain about some of the services like the mail claiming it was routinely tampered with. I seem to recall some bureaucratic hurdles there as well. Taxis were cheap though other costs of living were somewhat high as I recall.

It is the land of eternal spring and generally has the mildest climate in Mexico as it claim to fame. Similar claims have been made about Chapala and indeed the central highlands of Mexico has a very livable and agreeable climate in many parts. I understand even in Cuernavaca the different parts of town don't all have that climate advantage because of geographical features. I'm unaware of any particular cultural claims to fame in Cuernavaca.

Not sure why you continue to blow-off Morelia though, won't even visit here. Your former nemesises (plural sp.?) are either gone or rendered irrelevant these days. They were reason to steer clear from here. Unless there is some compelling reason to select Cuernavaca as a matter of necessity you owe it to yourselves to re-explore this area once again. I recall you had Morelia topographically mischaracterized, so I'm not sure you actually saw it. Tere would love it if you and Brigitte were to visit us sometime.
Peter wrote:
I understand even in Cuernavaca the different parts of town don't all have that climate advantage because of geographical features. I'm unaware of any particular cultural claims to fame in Cuernavaca.

Not sure why you continue to blow-off Morelia though, won't even visit here. Your former nemesises (plural sp.?) are either gone or rendered irrelevant these days. They were reason to steer clear from here. Unless there is some compelling reason to select Cuernavaca as a matter of necessity you owe it to yourselves to re-explore this area once again. I recall you had Morelia topographically mischaracterized, so I'm not sure you actually saw it. Tere would love it if you and Brigitte were to visit us sometime.

Peter:

Well, Peter, I had to look it up and discovered the plural for nemesis is nemeses but, frankly, Dawg likes the feel of "nemesises" so the latter will suffice.

I have been to Cuernavaca but that was in the 1960s and I remember that the city´s supposedly splendid gardens for which it is famed were generally hidden behind high walls so the casual visitor would be unable to share in their splendor. I was thinking that I would seek a dwelling enclosed by those high walls in which to enjoy that eternal spring but, of course, I already enjoy that attribute of Ajijic. As you state, the city is said to be generally on three levels. The north is at the highest altitude and experiences more rain and cool temperatures, the center is the mid-level "eternal spring" part and the south is at a warmer, lower and more arid region.

Perhaps Dawg´s topographical mischaracterization of Morelia came from the fact that my in-depth research on the city´s topography was conducted from the central plaza adjacent to the Burger King with a double shot of straight up Herradura Silver with sangrita chaser in one hand and a Cheese Whopper in the other. My perspective may have been somewhat skewed as a result. The invitation from you and Tere to conduct follow-up research with your able assistance is accepted but, first, Dawg must continue with his rather strict diet with certain weight loss goals in mind before undertaking any more road trips. Perhaps October or November would be a good time for a visit and Brigitte and I thank you for the thought. We´ll be in touch once the svelte new Dawg makes his appearance if, indeed, that is to be.

Maybe Cuernavaca is just a pipe dream. Ajijic ain´t so bad. Lots of big new casinos with luxury hotels and restaurants coming according to news reports. Also lots of new residential subdivisions aimed at the middle and upper middle class Tapatio market. Next thing you know, Wayne Newton will be taking up residence here. Why leave when the action is just starting.
I remember some years ago studying the real estate ads that is what stuck me about the state of Morelos is the homes and gardens inside high walls style, homes being distinguised by the design plate on the gates. Our home is more a modified "C" shape with home structure front, side, and back with tiered patios and a small garden inside the C.

Looking very likely I will buy another home available on my block in the coming week or so. Not sure how high this stock-crash will take the exchange rate but it is presently up higher than it had been for a year or more. I would kick myself if I bought now and it would reach 2008 levels of 15 pesos to the dollar. This modest little home we're looking at can be bought for about $30k in us dollars at the moment. It needs a few upgrades in the water system - add an aljibe and pump, improve plumbing, fairly easy stuff.

It's attraction is that it is a small home situated on the back of the lot with a large garden with some mature trees, grass, bamboo, and reminds me of the coastal homes and very tranquilo inside the high fence. A large part is that I can buy the home for about what a lot in my colonia is going for, and there is a new commercial center with cineplex and all going in about a 5-minute walk from us that will surely kick the values up more very soon. It is a smaller home but more comfortable and relaxing than the one I currently occupy and share with a friend from California. Tere and I need our own home. We both like this house and Tere has commented that the garden setting reminds her of your Ajijic home. She has insisted I put in a round gazebo/palapa/kiosko, something like that, resembling yours.

Very good news that you will visit us in November perhaps. We'd love to show you around the greater Morelia area that we know. There are town in Mexico I like very well but they are all centered on a specific city or town. Perhaps the real magic of the Morelia/Pátzcuaro area is that it is not centralized so much as spread around these various communities here and offer all varieties of living style from big city Morelia, which is comfortably and comfortingly large but not so menacing, to the big town of Pátzcuaro, onto smaller communities and into rural settings that are expat-friendly and comfortingly connected for shopping and transportation.

This situation keeps our gringos likewise de-centralized and not overwhelming the culture which is fairly strong here. I have no reason to "push" the area except when someone asks about where to locate to in Mexico I ask what they are looking for and their answer typically brings to mind such an environment among these communities. I often get the idea from what they describe and the reasons given that they will have a change of mind after trying it for awhile, but what I feel they may really be looking for is also located here. All except the beach, which is about a three-hour drive. Even though I grew up in a beach community/coastal town the climate of such here leaves something to be desired for year-around living. A three-hour drive to the beach is an acceptable trade-off for having a more comfortable climate for a primary home here in the highlands.

As regards Cuernavaca, I have never been there but have had an interest in that area, at least enough so that I have paid attention to all that was being said about it by those that live there. I guess any place has some trade-offs but I've been wholly satisfied with this area we live in now as I can travel about an hour in any direction and remain in a foreigner-friendly area and is an interesting, artisan-type place. Yet after living in Morelia Centro for about two years I know I can walk around downtown and hardly see another white European type the whole week, though I know when and where to find them when I want to.

That itself is comforting, having paisanos within arms reach. Tere and I both love visiting Ajijic but for her that is not a Mexican town at all but decidedly an American village where for her it is a unique cultural experience. She was shocked to learn there was such an American village here in her home country just a short distance form her home. I find the yellow taxis somewhat humorous, probably the only town in Mexico that has such. And for Ajijic, what other color could taxis possibly be?

Yep, I'm not in the real estate or tourism business, no ax to grind and nothing to push but sincerely think that within our larger community area there is the near-perfect spot for almost anyone. And it is fairly central to most other destinations. Get a map and a ruler and place it on the map across Guadalajara and Mexico city, then find the half-way point between them and that is Morelia. Draw a circle with a three-hour radius and within that is about 90% of all historic points of interest in Mexico. Chiapas and Oaxaca are the exceptions but those are like worlds of their own and worth the exploration.

Good luck with the dieting, Dawg. Fortunately Mexico has a lot of good wholesome and healthy food that is more the rule than the exception. At least that is true here. Ajijic is where we go to pig-out on gringo comfort food.
La Señora Cuevas and I have spent considerable time in Cuernavaca, since 1992, when I went to language school there.. I don't find the centro particularly attractive.

I've met a modest number of citizens, and while many are nice, I found more than a small percentage to be social climbers and show offs. There seemed to be considerable snobbery. But, Dawg, tu kilometraje pueda variar.
Don Cuevas wrote:
La Señora Cuevas and I have spent considerable time in Cuernavaca, since 1992, when I went to language school there.. I don't find the centro particularly attractive.

I've met a modest number of citizens, and while many are nice, I found more than a small percentage to be social climbers and show offs. There seemed to be considerable snobbery. But, Dawg, tu kilometraje pueda variar.

Thank you Don Cuevas:

Sharing a community with exhibitionist social climbing snobs is not a goal of The Dawg. Besides, I just returned from an afternoon stroll with the perritos along the Ajijic malecon and in the leafy streets of sylvan La Floresta and, while I still plan to look Cuernavaca over this fall just for the fun of it, I have no need to escape this place on the lake. Some would say that Ajijic is also a place with an abundance of border-promoted social climbers and insufferable phonies but, as a dedicated recluse ensconced behind my walled redoubt only venturing forth to engage in primarily solltary pursuits , I haven´t noticed. If I want an attractive historic centro I still have Peter´s invitation to Morelia in hand plus a modest residence in San Cristóbal´s beautiful historic centro so Cuernavaca´s centro has a lot to live up to to induce a move on our part. My kilometrage will have to vary considerably from yours to induce this possible move. I´ll report back as to our experience upon our return. Meanwhile, thanks for your perspective. By the way, over the past six years we already tried Mérida, Pátzcuaro, Oaxaca City, Campeche City, Queretero City and San Luis Potosí City and found all had some great assets but, in the final analysis, rejected them all as places of permanent residence for different reasons. After all, the search is more rewarding than its culmination.

Just for the fun of it, here is Dawg´s ranking among those cities we have visited with an eye toward moving there from the Lake Chapala/Guadalajara Metro Area. Listing by favorites:
1) Oaxaca (Splendid historic centro.Too anarchic and tense. Expensive centro residences, butt-ugly suburbs & exurbs. Highly touted restaurant fare generally a disappointment except superb Casa Oaxaca)
2) Mérida (Fun & Beautiful centro. Too hot and humid. Bare and oppressive concrete barrios. Loved the food.)
3) Queretaro (Nice centro but expensive for decent housing)
4) San Luis Potosí (Great pedestrian-friendly centro. Beautiful but kind of cold high desert)
5) Pátzcuaro ( Too many ghosts. Disappointing restaurants & food vendors. Three hour town.)
6) Campeche (Beautiful old centro. Ugly beaches. One morning there is an eternity.)

These are just our favorites and we have no particular expertise in urban living so these rankings are just for fun and only consist of cities we at one time considered as a home base.

One place we never considered but which might be a really neat city to live in is Uruapan. In many ways a really attractive city with what seems a great climate and a relatively short drive to Zihuatanejo beaches.

Ajijic malecon gallivanting with the perritos sounds pleasurable. Does that extend down to the end of your street to get on it? It would be nice if the Parque Nacional in Uruapan would accomodate your k-9 crew. The Centro could be somewhat confining for dogs.

In Morelia I might suggest finding a place close to The Bosque. This is easily spotted an any Morelia map as a criss-crossed pathway through a densely tree-sy area at the edge of the Centro and connects up with several other colonias and attractions.

Amazes me how quickly the new Wal-Mart is coming along. It appears it will be open long before its before-holiday-season projected date. This should be a sizeable commercial center with cineplex, food arcade, and more. Due to its proximity we are all looking forward to this.

There are two new parks near us in the planning or in the works by now. One, known as the Long Park is supposed to be a long narrow park for a long walkway and area for family gatherings, carne asadas, and larger festivities. It should connect Estadio Morelos where the Monarcas play, to that new commercial center and beyond. I can't picture how that will be done but my neighbors talk of the park as a coming reality. I envision it as something similar to what is along Camelinas but larger. There is speculation it will extend all the way to the other new park that is coming, though I have doubts about that.

This other new park will be further away but in our sector of the city. It is supposed to be the largest city park in Mexico, Latin America, Hell's Half-Acre but bigger. All this is coming, though the commercial center is all I see actually being built right now. This all fits with a grander plan to make a highway bypass around that side of Morelia that will connect the autopista to the Pátzcuaro and Quiroga highways. These parks should help fill in some gaps and provide an attraction between the existing part of Morelia to that bypass that is also being suggested as being a part of a new outter beltway.

Anyways, Dawg, this thread hijack might be a good exercise for you to practice your mod skill by splitting the thread and moving it to a proper section. It's in your power to do so and something I I might do later if you don't. These Morelia revelations might be news to other locals here. I'm the only gringo I know of living in this sector of town.

Sorry I haven't offered more Cuernavaca information, I just dont know much more. I told Tere about your inquiry. She was born in DF and visited Cuernavaca numerous times. She always remembered it as being upscale with large homes and nice parks and plazas. Bear in mind she did not live in the ritziest section of Mexico City and her memories were from 20-30 years ago or more.
Oh, UGH, Uruapan. Fea, fea, fea. Wit a few exceptions.
Peter wrote:


... Dawg, this thread hijack might be a good exercise for you to practice your mod skill by splitting the thread and moving it to a proper section. It's in your power to do so and something I I might do later if you don't. These Morelia revelations might be news to other locals here. I'm the only gringo I know of living in this sector of town. .


A good idea, Peter, but I hope you like my alternative solution of expanding the subject matter of the thread to include some fun, if necessarily brief, information on places other than Cuernavaca as disparate as Morelia and Mérida. In an above post, I mentioned other towns we had considered in our quest to broaden our horizons beyond Lake Chapala and, while I´ll admit my word pictures were abbreviated and shallow, if anyone wishes for me to expand on the theme of any particular town they may have also been considering, I am ready to do so. Just let me know.

Now, a couple of towns we looked into that would be welcoming of foreigners as long as they are conversant in Spanish include:

COMITAN DE DOMINGUEZ, CHIAPAS
This is a really attractive and properous small city in the Chiapas Highlands at about 1,530 meters with a population I would estimate at around 80,000. It´s about two hours southeast of San Cristóbal de Las Casas at an altitude conducive to a very pleasant highland, springlike climate. The Comitan municipality is close enough to the border with Guatemala that it is in the restricted zone and foreigners cannot own property there in fee simple but must use a bank trust which is OK, technically and, as long as one stays within the city proper there should be no controversial ownership issues. Comitan is in an attractive wooded valley and is close to some very beautiful Chiapas tourist attractions including the Lagos de Montebello National Park, El Chiflon Cascades and the Chinkultic Maya ruins. In Comitan, one is also near the Lacandón Forest and such splendid Maya ruins as Yaxchilán and Bonampak. Frankly, had we known of this pleasant town and its amenities when we explored Chiapas, we might have chosen it as our Chiapas headquarters instead of San Cristóbal but buying and selling property in Chiapas can be a cumbersome process so we haven´t tried to move to Comitan and, besides, it´s a short drive from our present Chiapas digs so periodic visits are simple.

BACALAR, QUINTANA ROO
This delapidated town sits adjacent to extensive Lake Bacalar with its crystal clear, multi-colored, cenote-fed waters which is, perhaps, the most beautiful lake in Mexico and is uncharacteristically clear and pristine because of the fact that it is fed by pure underground cenote springs and is, thus, not subject to the turbidity generated in most tropical lakes in Mexico by incoming rivers introducing mud and silt into the basin. While the town of Bacalar is no great shakes, the lakeshore, or much of it, is home to many very nice residences as well as a huge fort with an interesting history I won´t go into here. One can buy or rent some very nice homes along the lakeshore and if one is into fishing or boating or swimming in the pure crystal waters, this would be a fine place to settle for a while. For urban amenities, Quintana Roo´s state capital of Chetumal is about 40 kilometers away on the attractive and clear (if polluted) Chetumal Bay on the Caribbean.

While we look at Bacalar and this part of Quintana Roo as nice places to visit from our home in the Chiapas Highlands, this is not a place that appeals to us as a place to establish a year round residence. Bacalar is sort of a melancholy place despite the incredible beauty of the lake waters and, while Chetumal and its big box stores is nearby, it is not an inspiring town either. True, that Belize is nearby as are some very nice Caribbean beaches for great diving and deep sea fishing at settlements in Mahahual and Xcalak but this gets old rather quickly. I asked a denizen of the Xcalak area what there was to do all day in that isolated region and he told me that there was always diving on the reef and occasional deep sea fishing in the mornings but with afternoons devoted to swilling booze and achieving a coma-like state. One must also remember that all of these places in southern Quintana Roo, as in all of Quintana Roo, are at sea level and fine for ocean or lake breezes on the waterfront but wiltingly hot and humid inland. If you decide to settle here, you need the dough to live directly on the beach and it ain´t cheap.

One other thing. Look for the area from Mahahual to Bacalar to be subject to massive tourist development in the coming years and suddenly you won´t be lonely anymore - rather, you will be annoyed.
Perfect solution, Dawg, expand the horizons.

Not so much to get us into new territory as I have never visited these places myself, I had some boater friends that found their way around Baja and made that home for a couple years. These boater types seemed to be even more foot-loose than their RVing counterparts though restricted to living along the coast.

My friend, Borracho Charlie, made his home anchored off La Paz where he could row his dinghy into shore and walk about town. This was necessary to do for entertainment, food if he wanted something besides fish, and most importantly to hit the farmacias to buy very cheaply some near pure ethyl alcohol and a two-litre bottle of mixer. That became the main part of his lifestyle for that time in Baja to tolerate the sweltering heat and enjoy life to the fullest.


La Paz
He had given me a brief travelogue of his journeys, first docking in "Cabo San Locos as he calls it but it was too glitzy, fake, and mostly too expensive there so ventured further on into La Paz which he liked much better. I imagine the difference in those places being similar to Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, like night and day.

Further adventures to him to Lareto and on to Mulegé where he describes as beautiful, a large river coming out into the Sea of Cortez and he could sail a bit up-river and take in some fresh-water fishing as well. He met retirees in Mulegé that had fallen in love with the place and immediately decided to live the rest of their lives there in that paradise, and now after three years in that beautiful pristine and desolate hell-hole were looking for some way to escape it.


Photo taken from the Mulegé Mission
BC wandered around the Sea of Cortez but the allure of La Paz and the farmacia that would sell him liter bottles of ethyl alcohol beckoned his return, his adventuring spirit giving way to the heat. He had tales of his land adventures in La Paz and mainland Mazatlán which was less welcoming to his free-spiritedness. Such Mexican adventures for a young man are perhaps best left to the imagination, but some of you know or at least can imagine what some of them would be like.

At some point you may be envious of the free-spirited youths wandering around the Mexican ports and beach towns, but at the same time are quite thankful of using your age as an excuse for not engaging in those similar adventures. You are probably quite comfortable with your nice homey and not too exciting life retired here in paradise. Adventure in the US sounds oh so enticing but you now have some idea that adventure in Mexico can take you places well outside, way beyond your comfort zone in a hurry.

This was in the 90's and I had received word from Borracho Charlie wanting me to take some time off and join him there. I just couldn't do it, I was well-involved in my own adventures on the missile test range I called work in those days. After almost two years and through about $5,000 American dollars BC found himself one day with 6 pesos left, a full stomach, and a sobering reality that his good life there was coming to a close. It was time to set sail and head back up to California where he knew he had the opportunity of generating some dinero.


Lowering shark cage into Baja coastal waters
It's not easy sailing around the horn, the little Baja horn that is enormous enough, one must tack into the wind well west if they did not want to end up shipwrecked on the high-cliff shores and shark-infested waters of Baja. In time he had become a well-seasoned seaman, enough so to listen to the advice from others he docked with in Mexico. He was ready to head back NOB in his 36' concrete-hulled sloop, alone, and make his way back to California's Ventura Marina. He sailed well west to get away from the cliffs and to have some downwind sailing into California.

He encountered the Coast Guards who boarded his boat to have a look-see that he wasn't bring back one cigarette of contraband, though by that time he was no longer a "hippie" but a full-on borracho sobered-up for his journey home. Theirs were some of the first words of English he had heard in many months so welcomed them aboard. They were concerned with his being alone and wanted to know how he was navigating and avoiding collision, what his sleep schedule was, and so on.

Over the next couple of nights he knew it was them playing cat and mouse with him. He could see their lights out in the distance and they would set a collision course for him. He used a wind-up alarm clock to wake himself every 15 minutes or so, take a bearing on the lights, correct his course to avoid collision, then return to sleep a few more minutes. After adjusting their course for his and him re-adjusting a few time they were satisfied he knew what he was doing so left him alone but kept a watchful eye, and he was thanful for that. Eventually he made it back into his California port safe and sounding a bit different than the BC I knew before he left.


 

Cuernavaca to Campeche, Morelia to Mérida - In Search of the Perfect Town

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