Patzcuaro is a town located near Morelia. Many city folks from Morelia enjoy going to Patzcuaro on the weekends to relax with family. We are no exception. As with many towns in Mexico, it has a centro (central) plaza downtown. Patzcuaro’s plaza is home to children who dress up as old people complete with the masks to truly appear older. They dance the Danza de los Viejitos or the Dance of the Elders. We took in the sounds of their clackety clack shoes, the bright colors of their clothing, and their festive palma hats to realize they are dancing in celebration of those who reach a mature and hopefully wise age.
Across from the plaza, the nieve or ice cream is a locally known sweet treat for the weekend. Nieve can be found in many flavors such as nuez (walnut), rompope (alcohol drink similar to eggnog – but this is frozen!!), chocolate, fresa (strawberry), canela (cinnamon), and many more. The best part of this ice cream is that all ingredients are fresh. They are served with child size spoons that make anyone feel like a child again!
Patzcuaro is, also, known for their tiny fried fish, charales, that are caught from the Lake of Janitzio. One time we ate at a local restaurant right off the water. While eating the small fried fish with fresh squeezed lime on freshly made tortillas topped with homemade salsa, we experienced more of the Danza de los Viejitos. There is nothing like fresh made tortillas!
Another delicious dish and one of my favorites is the corunda. The corundas in Patzcuaro are more generous in size than in the city. The city corundas are the size of a small fist. These in Patzcuaro are at least three times bigger, so maybe start with one first… Corundas are made with a corn masa similar to tamales, but are shaped like pyramids filled with your choice of chicken, pork, or cheese with salsa.
As mentioned before with the fish dish, Patzcuaro is near a beautiful lago or ‘lake’ with an island called Janitzio. A ferry takes you from the town of Patzcuaro to the island of Janitzio.
When stepping off the boat onto the dock, I could feel the water all around me. It felt like a private island. I saw the local island folks wearing their huaraches (leather sandals). The day we went it was raining and the ground was slick. However, we proceeded to climb the mountainside despite the drizzle. I suggest you check the forecast ahead of going as it can be slippery when the rocky stairs are wet. This way you have a good pair of foot wear. Luckily, I had my huaraches on as I carefully made my way up the mountainside. As we climbed the spiral staircase on the mountain, there were many family run stores and restaurants along the way.
Once at the top of the mountain, we were at the base of the Morelos statue. So, of course, we climbed up more stairs to get to the very top. The view was absolutely worth it! Also, we worked off all the calories we ate in town between the corundas, charales, and nieve!!
We climbed down from the statue plaza and enjoyed elote in a cup. Elote is boiled corn on the cob served (off the cob) with water, cream, cheese, and hot sauce. Yum. Yum!!
As we climbed back down the mountainside, we discovered a tree growing out of the mountain that had homes, storefronts, and restaurants built around to make it part of the architecture. I love that in many parts of Michoacán, folks choose to keep nature in their building plans. Can you picture yourself on the balcony? I can!
We returned to the dock to board the ferry to the mainland Patzcuaro. A local band joined us on the ferry to our delight! We enjoyed a relaxing boat ride with live music. When you visit Morelia, check out Patzcuaro!!
Many may know Houston as an oil and gas industrial place. However, Houston is, also, a port city that has two large medical centers. So, plenty of work, right?! What is there to do for fun? Whether you are there for a business conference, a weekend visit, or a full relocation to live and work, there are plenty of places to go without spending too much of that hard earned money! There is so much to do that I will include more places in upcoming blogs! But, I will work my way from the city center of downtown to out and about an hour or so drive. The drive is so worth it!! (Also, I posted the links to each place at the end of the blog to make it easier to find out more about them.)
The view of Houston’s downtown from above is great! You get to see the penthouse pool of a building nearby. You can see the aquarium with all the amusement rides. A miniature replica of the outdoor sculpture seen in the front plaza sits in the center of the lobby along with a story about it.
A great way to spend a date night. Or, take the whole family. Visit sea life up close and learn more about the native wildlife near Houston such as from the bayous and gulf coast ocean. For only $5 more you can touch and feed the sting rays. My husband and I fed the sting rays. It was a fun experience.
Are you done with the indoors? Go outside and play! The aquarium has several amusement rides including a large Ferris wheel. It gives a grand view of downtown Houston. Also, get a bird’s eye view of the highways without the worries of driving them! It gives a new perspective of them too.
Alright, enough of the above ground fun. Let’s take y’all underground. Yes, you read that right. Houston’s best kept secret is underneath the downtown area. Bring out your inner adventure explorer while keeping cool in the Texas heat! Sure beats a gym membership. There are restaurants, shopping, and connections to downtown sights such as the Chase building.
My brother and I discovered this when he came to visit us in Houston. We went downtown and soon became confused that we didn’t see anyone in a major U.S. metro city on a weekday! I know the heat can be a bit much, but… Finally, we saw a few folks. My brother asked a young woman where everyone went as the downtown seemed empty for a weekday. She replied simply for us to follow her. As we arrived to a building entrance, she explained that everyone was down below and we needed to take the stairs. Down below? We followed her lead down an escalator. Boom! There was such a hustle and bustle. Folks everywhere! The aroma of food. The sounds of conversations. Oh and it was nice and cool too.
4. Hermann Park Where? Just South of Downtown near Rice University and the zoo. Cost? Free.
This one my husband and I discovered when looking for another new place to walk our dog. This park is very dog friendly! It is a large park with joggers, sports teams, and outdoor theatre and music performances. One night we sat outside with our dog Charlie to enjoy live music. Another night we watched a dress rehearsal for a theatre production. Also, ever been to cities where you can not find a public restroom anywhere? Not a problem here. Plenty of clean public restrooms. It can be the small things in life that make or break a place.
5. Galleria Shopping. Where? Downtown. Cost? Depends if you are buying or window shopping. Parking is free.
The Galleria is one of the downtown spots that are accessible through the underground tunnels. But, if you are out and about and decide to drive there, the parking is free as well. Parking is underground so you can avoid coming back to an oven heated car! You can spend the day visiting an art gallery or trying out a luxury car. My brother and I went into an art gallery to learn more about the artists behind each piece. Then, we went into a store where they had an actual floor model of a Tesla. It was nice to try a car without the pressure of a dealership or crowd of a car show.
6. Buffalo Bayou Park. Where? 15-20 minutes East of Downtown. Cost? Free.
Buffalo Bayou Park is another great place to walk the dog, walk with friends, play sports with family, and just enjoy the tranquility of the bayou. Also, the night view of downtown is a local’s treasure. Our view was located in the Greater East End of Houston. Yes, that is the name of the neighborhood!
7. NASA Space Center Where? 30-35 minutes Southeast of Downtown. Cost? $29.95
Do you want an out of this world experience? Go check out the NASA Space Center located just Southeast of Houston in Webster! You get to sit in the control center. Yeah the one y’all see in the movies. Then, you see the Saturn V up close. This space craft will make you feel petite.
8. San Jacinto Monument. Where? 30-35 minutes East of Downtown Houston. Cost? Free.
Do you admire large battleships? Do you crave seeing one in person? Do you like learning more about history? Do you like relaxing outdoors? This is the place for you! The San Jacinto Battleship is docked as though still ready to go back out to the sea. Across the road stands the San Jacinto Monument where you can read more about the battle. Also, there is a vast dog friendly park area. Yes, we take our dog to as many places as possible! He gets much needed exercise while we get our much needed adventures.
9. Galveston Beach. Where? About 1 hour Southeast of Downtown Houston. Cost? Free. Free entry! Free parking!
Enjoy the warm gulf water at Galveston Beach. There is a pier with amusement rides along with good eats along the main street that runs along the beach. Also, it is a great place for a house sightseeing drive. Then, you can park right on the sand! Free. Take your children and dogs to play by the beach. Galveston Beach is a great place to see natural sea animals from starfish to sting rays. We even watched as a guy put a lost string ray back in the water. Charlie loved running along the beach with my husband! Even the seagulls enjoy the free parking!!
10. Galveston Ferry. Where? Northeast of the beach. Cost? Free. Dog friendly.
Oh yeah, done with the beach for the day? Catch the sunset on the water! Galveston has a free ferry that you can drive onto and be taken to the next port to go home.
11. Kemah Beach. Where? Cost? Free. Dog friendly.
The Houston area boasts of another beach area – Kemah. Do you enjoy sailboats? Look no further! Kemah has beautiful sailing water. Visit Kemah center to see the vintage police car too. Fun for the kids! While there, grab some fresh delicious seafood.
Those are not access or frontage roads along the highways. They are called feeder roads. They don’t all follow along the entire highway either…so if you are trying to avoid the highways, better learn no such thing as shortcuts. You will be going the long way.
BTW, do you feel like you are going in circles when driving? That is because you ARE going in circles! The city highways are a series of circles called loops. So, you will hear references such as Loop 1604, Loop 410, and Loop 610.
Highways – they are so big! The largest one called Katy Freeway or Beltway 8 in Houston has 26 lanes!! 26!!! Do not attempt the Katy Freeway during rush hour!
As if that is not enough, they have towering overpasses with highways everywhere. So, if you get a bit confused about where you are going and what lane you should be in. You are not alone! 2 or more in the car? Take the HOV lane. It is a breeze!
Houston – football. If you see a bunch of banners that have bulls with a star for an eye, you know you are in Houston Texans territory. You will see them everywhere. Utility poles, bumper stickers, license plates, laundry, grocery store, jerseys, hats, and even the dog’s collar! If you see this, you are likely in Houston.
Speed bumps? No ma’am, those are speed humps. They are everywhere. They are massive! When you drive here you will understand why we all are doing the bobble head.
Oh yeah I did say ‘no ma’am’. You will not hear ‘yes, miss or no, miss’. You may feel a bit older when you arrive here.
Houston – we have NASA! It is awesome!! But, it really is located in the suburb of Webster, TX.
Houston – downtown in the summer – where is everybody?Did the heat scare them off?! No, they are likely wandering underground in the tunnels under the city. It is like a second city with shopping, restaurants, and walkways to explore!! The Galleria has underground parking as well.
Southeast Texas from Houston to San Antonio – free air shows nearly every day – between all of the Air Force bases and the large international airports. Even the local wildlife is ready to be air borne!
Oh yeah, Texas is broken down into regions. One region is Southeast Texas that includes Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and the gulf beach cities. Each city is unique.
Heat – Texas has all different kinds of heat for ya! It is not uncommon to hit triple digits in the summertime. Houston – is hot and humid – very sticky sweaty heat. Kind of like stepping out of a hot steamy shower and into an oven. Never tried that?Well, lucky you! San Antonio – is a dry heat with some breezes that feel cool. Shade and A/C will become your new best friends! Lucky for us San Antonio has plenty of large shade trees.
Cold – Days and Nights in ‘winter’. Yes, you will feel that 20 degree drop in the temperature soon after the suns sets for the evening. Yes, you will have a blanket. Yes, your Midwest friends back home will be like What?!
Winter – I still laugh at that coming from Chicago!! Winter? No, no snow except a dusting in Dallas.
Southeast Texas has another season – rain season! The thunderstorms are terrifying with tremendous lightening displays. When first arriving to Houston, it may a good idea to trade in your car for a boat. Be sure to get a real pair of rain boots and a raincoat along with that oversize umbrella. “Texas is like a desert” they all told me back home. Ha ha, no.
So, during rain season take one of the many bayous (pictured below) rather than the highways. Sure beats being stuck in traffic!
Oh yeah! When it is raining in Houston, do NOT drive. Just don’t. Find an indoor project to occupy your time. Or, you can take the bayou.
No, not everything is bigger in Texas. That is just fine in some cases. Such as with the fire ants and wasps.
Ants – they are red hot and pack a nasty bite! Oh look an ant walking over my toes so tiny! No, do not be fooled by their size. Get it off ASAP!!
Wasps – they are also red hot and come with a nasty sting. You will likely swell up. No, not with pride, but with plenty of pain.
Yet, some things are bigger in Texas like fleas – they are ginormous. So be sure to stock up your pets and home with pest control. I will spare you the photo, but you will see them.
You will see owls on many businesses and homes. No, they are not real. Folks put them up to scare off the noisy, messy grackle birds. There are plenty of sounds of nature such as the grackles. They hang out at the HEB stores. You cannot miss them. They are loud and carry on full conversations all day and all night. They watch your every move with a deep soul stare. You have to see them for yourself…
Oh yeah, H E B is a large grocery store chain in Texas based in San Antonio.
Buc-ees – what is it with all these beaver bumper stickers? Have to admit it is adorable though. You will not see a gas station bigger than these gas stations!
Ah, traveling by car is an adventure of it’s own. It is really great as we get to see so much that is otherwise missed by air. However, traveling with pets brings in another dynamic to the trip. It can be a challenge. We have to prepare before each trip. However, we have learned more each time. The tips written here have developed over time through mishaps and aha moments during our adventures. We travel with our cats and dog. Oscar and Iquito have been together since they were kittens. Charlie came on board as a pup four years ago. We decided that where we go they will too.
Preparing for the trip – write a list!!
It is easy to forget something and be halfway to a destination to realize, ‘Oh no! We left that on the table or hanging up on the door hook!!’
Cats & Dogs
Vaccinations & Vet Documents – We make sure that each of our pets are up to date on their vaccinations before our trip. We, also, get health certificates for them from our family veterinarian. This helps ensure that we have no issues when entering through the border into Mexico and on our return trip to the states. We carry their veterinary records folder that has their medical history and photos/description. This is just in case they need veterinary care in Mexico during our stay. It is helpful during an emergency to simply pull out the dates of prior visits and medical conditions.
Medicine – We bring calamine lotion and allergy tablets (recommended by our veterinarian) in case of insect bites or stings.
Food – We bring enough food for the stateside part of our trip in a sealed plastic container. This keeps out pests. The food we expect to need during our stay in Mexico remains in the original sealed package from the manufacturer. Basically, we load it into the car as it was from the store.
Water – We bring a good amount of filtered water in containers. Just as we need water so do our pets.
Litter & Supplies – We take litter to use at our destination, litter scoop, travel size litter pan, and pet pee pads. (More about the absorbent pads below in the During the Trip section.)
Travel Safety & Comfort – We bring;
Carrier for the cats – We have more than one cat and our little guys get along well. We have a carrier large enough for them to travel together. This helps them to stay more calm. We simply use a carrier that we originally bought for our dog, Charlie, when he was a puppy. He grew up to be a bit larger than we expected, so we kept it for the cats. Enrique modified it a bit. He cut a piece of plywood to about half of the length of the carrier and placed it between the top and bottom halves of the carrier. Then, we added a pillow and blanket. This gives both senior felines plenty of space and comfort on the second level while also providing space for a small litter box on the first level. (During our first drive to Mexico, we found one of the cats sleeping in the litter box. Not good for him and he smelled like pee. Hence our carrier modification.)
Portable carrier for the cats – We have two soft portable carriers for the cats.
Blankets – We do not use clean blankets rather we opt for 1-2 day old blankets that have the scent of home. Charlie even gets pillows for extra comfort. They, also, minimize the vibrations he feels from the road and helps him to relax more.
Toys – Again we do this so they have the scent of home. Also, they have their favorite toys to play with when we arrive to our destination.
Harness for the dog that works with seat belts – This is important for sudden stops or when driving over a hidden tope (Mexican speed bump) in the middle of a highway.
Leash – One of the essentials. This is good to have handy for potty stops along the way.
Household Cleaners – baking soda, vinegar/water mixture in a spray bottle and/or Lysol disinfectant spray, our favorite air freshener Febreeze, and paper towels.
Leaving for the trip – Today is the Day!!!
We give everyone a light breakfast and some water.
Dogs – We take Charlie out for a pee and poo walk when we first get up and right before we leave out on our road trip.
Cats – We load our suitcases and personal items first to give the cats time to use the potty too.
Getting everyone in the car! We put the cat’s car carrier in the car with the door facing toward the car door – this helps on the road when removing the litter box for cleaning. We place the travel size litter box with absorbent pad in the carrier. We, then, bring them to the carrier in their portable carriers (car carrier is heavy with them in it). Then, we tell Charlie it is time for ‘Up and In’. He happily jumps into the car!
Finally, we Double Check that we have everything – go down the list(s). Our passports and supplies, suitcases, personal care items, and the pet list.
During the trip – Yay on the Road Again!!!!
When we stop to gas up or use the restroom, we take Charlie out to pee/poo and check the litter pan for clean ups. We carefully open the carrier door to ensure that the cats do not get out. While opening the door we give the cats food and water to keep their attention on that. Then, we remove and replace the litter pan as they eat their food.
We realized that instead of litter which can get stinky with urine – one of worst odors ever in a small space like the car! – that we could try an absorbent pee pad that we can throw away and replace with a clean one. Dog training pads will work. We used what we already had and it worked wonders!! The pads have less odor than litter. We simply remove the pad, spray the pan with our cleaner, wipe it down, and replace with a new pad.
Weather permitting we leave the windows open to keep fresh air flow in the car!
Iquito sleeps after a long trip
Oscar is amazed at his exploring space!
Charlie enjoys the sights
Arriving at your destination – Whew Done with the Drive!!!!
When we arrive we take the cats out of the carrier in their portable carriers.
The dog helps us carry in our suitcases. No, not really but he does walk along with us. This gives him stretch and unwind time after a long drive.
We set up the cat’s litter box(es), give them food and water, and let them out to explore.
Then, we take the dog out for his evening walk.
Finally, we eat, drink, and rest. Then, we enjoy our stay! We hope that you do too!!