Conroe, Texas: population 53,075, elevation 247 feet
From Galveston, our next stop was Conroe, Texas. This is a sprawling suburb north of Houston that is at least 6 freeway exits wide. We found a super deal on an out-of-season lakeside resort so we grabbed it. This week was not so much sightseeing as getting ready for Mexico. We got our flu shots, sorted our clothing down into one suitcase each, bought a few things, made plans. The most notable things about Conroe were the meals we had.
At the Copperhead Brewery, we were having a great time sampling the beers and talking with crew and locals when a friend of theirs, a BBQ pit master, came in with a big box of end-of-the-day leftovers: brisket, sausage, chicken, and ham. He gets free beer, we get free BBQ. What a great treat!
At the 7 Lequas Mexican Restaurant we enjoyed some very creative cooking with a unique seaside Mexican flair. I had grilled chicken, smothered in a spicy mushroom gravy, topped with grilled shrimp and catfish tails. Such a great departure from the usual “stuff wrapped in a tortilla” Mexican food you find everywhere. Me gusta el mucho!
We left the resort early to get to a Red Roof hotel near the airport in Houston. The hotel has a big parking lot where we can leave our trusty, dusty car, Gypsy, for the next month, much cheaper than the big commercial lots. They also have a shuttle to run us to the airport. By 7:30, we are at Bush Intercontinental, going through the airport security gauntlet, getting set for the 9:00 flight to Leon.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Population = 139,297, elevation = 6,200 feet, average January low temp = 42.8, Average July high temp = 81
By 11:00, we are in Leon. The line through immigration is short and our luggage is prompt. At the door, we see our shuttle driver holding a card with our names on it. He somehow magically fits 6 people and their luggage into a Suburban and off we go, snuggly squished together. For the next 90 minutes or so, we experience rural Mexican roads. The roads are about 1 3/4 cars wide so oncoming and passing traffic is a game of nerves and timing, played on a washboard with many speed bumps.
We are the last unloaded and it takes a while for the driver to find the place. There are two series of numbers on this street and ours is not obvious. The street is very steep, narrow, and cobblestoned. Our place is like a shotgun house, stood on end; one room wide and three stories tall.
Mexican housing looks very strange to this Gringo. The street is all walls and doors, a blank face to the public. The houses are one continuous brick and concrete row with no gaps between units. Most have yards behind the walls; either tidy little gardens or junk piles. Inside the homes are big airy rooms with lots of ceramics and wood and windows. Many have rooftop patios. Count on a LOT of stairs. From what we have seen so far, ours is kind of typical for a rental.
Once we get settled in, we need to take care of some business: get some lunch and buy groceries. We heard in the shuttle ride that it is a short hike to downtown and there is a store there, so we set off on foot. It turns out that all of the streets here are very narrow and the cobblestones are not the nice smooth round ones you find in Europe. We are, essentially, walking down a cheese grater. After we find lunch, a “tour guide” directs us to a bigger, more modern store so we taxi over to that. The selection is good, yet odd. There are a lot of things we have never seen before and a lot of familiar things we do not see. No frozen food, for instance. Eggs and milk are not refrigerated. We taxi back to our casa, exhausted after our long day and climb the many steps inside.
Next up: exploring SMA