Friday, February 09, 2007

We had our mystery tour yesterday. Our first stop was at the village Ian had heard about and wanted to explore. El Quelite turned out to be a beautiful little town.

A few years ago their town council decided that in order to attract tourists they should clean up the streets and paint all the houses.
The result is very impressive. It is also a little sad. If only all Mexican towns would develop this kind of civic pride. We visited the town square, admired its bandstand, wrought iron benches, stone fountain. Then we strolled the main street, which has raised, covered sidewalks. We stopped to enjoy coffee and muffins at a café that was just a table set up on the sidewalk outside a private home.

Most of the businesses in El Quelite are house-front operations. I recognized the village laundry by the smell of bleach and the fact that I saw a couple of laundry tubs outside. On the suggestion of one of the locals, we had wandered down a side street for a glimpse of the back gardens. People seemed very pleased to see us and eager to show off their charming homes.

We could see a bell tower way up on a hill outside town, so we decided to climb up there for a bird´s eye view. After taking pictures of the town and surrounding countryside, I discovered that the tiny building adjacent to the bell was a shrine.

The local graffiti artists have been at work in the “fingerprints in candle soot” medium, and they mostly write petitions. I didn’t take a picture of the little Virgin of Guadalupe shrine on the side wall, but I should have. People have crammed their business cards and driver’s licenses into the front of the alcove. It detracts from the photogenic quality, but I guess it helps the Virgin to remember all those names. Or maybe there’s a monthly draw. First prize would be lunch at El Meson de los Laureanos . Second prize would be two lunches at El Meson de los Laureanos.

Which is by way of a segue into the story of our visit to that establishment. As we strolled through the town, we came across a very charming restaurant, and we made a note to come back later for lunch. After our climb to the bell tower, we descended the hill and walked back to the restaurant. It really is a beautiful place. The owner has been at pains to create a cozy ambience. A weaver bird’s nest
hangs from one of the trees, and iguanas mate noisily overhead, dislodging leaves, which then rain down on the heads of the diners (I imagine that’s a seasonal treat). We found a table on the patio and settled in. A very pleasant waitress took our orders - beer for the guys and Mysterious Fruit Juice Drink Containing Hibiscus Flowers for me. Appetizers began appearing on the table – tostadas, salsa, pico de gallo, and then the waitress returned with our menus. We opened them to find that there was absolutely nothing that appealed to any of us. We could see dishes arriving at other tables, and everything appeared to be very heavy. Beef and pork, mostly, tripe. It was still early in the day, and we had had a muffin not all that long before. It was a small muffin, but nevertheless none of us felt up to eating a heavy meal. When the waitress arrived with our drinks, we explained to her that we weren’t going to be ordering dinner. I told her that I would have liked something light – involving maybe fish or chicken. She disappeared.

Another dish materialized, little pancake-like things, sizzling hot and greasy, proffered by what proved to be the owner of the restaurant. Mexican pizza, he said it was, free appetizer before our meals arrived. Cheese and pork fat and salsa. Ah, we said, we’re sorry, but we aren’t going to have dinner. It's a bit early for us to have our main meal. Never mind, he said, I won’t charge you – but.

Whereupon he launched into a loud and overtly hostile speech about how we were in Mexico, not in our own country, and we couldn’t expect to just wander into a restaurant and get a hamburger or something, because the whole idea of traveling is to experience new things and if we didn’t want to experience new things then we should just stay home.

This, by the way, is the short version.

Midway through the tirade, our waitress arrived to tell me that she could get me a chicken quesadilla – which would have been absolutely fine by me, and Ian would have liked one as well – but by that time, it was all I could do not to throw my chair at the proprietor. I said no, thank you, but we wouldn’t be eating, and “La cuenta, por favor.” She looked surprised, but went off to get our bill. When she came back I mustered all the Spanish I could manage, and some that I couldn’t, to tell her that I was sure that the food was fine, and she was a lovely lady who had treated us very well, and none of this was her fault, but her boss was an extremely disagreeable man who had shouted at us and made us lose all interest in eating there. We paid the drink bill, left her a sizeable tip and walked out.

All this was a shame, because it tended to overshadow the pleasure that the town had given us. I’m glad I had taken a lot of pictures.
I can look at them and remember that every village has an idiot, and we just happened to find El Quelite’s.

After that adventure, we headed farther north, to La Cruz, in search of a couple of RV parks R had heard about. He wanted to check them out for later reference. We didn’t find them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our Camping in Mexico book with us. There was something about “turn left and go ten miles on a dirt road” that R had missed on first reading, which is one reason why we didn’t find the camps. The other reason is that the map we were using showed the toll road east of La Cruz, when in fact it is west of La Cruz, so we suffered from extreme bafflement. Of course, if we had known about the dirt road, we would never have gone looking for the parks to start with. We did, however, have a lovely day’s ride. Ian drove the whole way – quite a treat for us.

Home. Tea. Sunset. That was yesterday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read your salutory comments re the cleanliness and beauty of El quelite and then about your "dressing down" by the fellow who ran the restaurant.
You may be interested to know that that same fellow is the one responsible for the "rebirth" of El Quelite and its spic and span image.
He obviously gave tongue to what many Mexicans feel about visiting gringos who are ofetn loud in their criticism of things Mexica--expecially their food.
I have sat there time and again and cringed as somecorpulent gringo loudly bemoaned the absence of his beloved big mac or some equivalent and derided the local offerings.

Not saying you did--but I understand where he is coming from!!

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