May 09, 2020

Life continues, life discontinues... Part III

Last Friday the « cubre bocas » became mandatory in the city of San Miguel. And we now need to leave the house for essential activities only. The sanctions for non compliance range from warning to arrest, for up to 36 hours. I wonder what are essential activities exactly.
I put my « Cubre boca » on and I go out to see what is going on outside, in the wild world. No lipstick anymore. It is going to be hard not to read people’s face. So much is said with a smile. Ni modo, Oh well ! We are going to communicate differently.

Body language

San Jorge street is quiet and as I am capturing the moment, an old man with a « cubre boca » calls me out : « Nice street, it deserves a photo ! ». From the café I was walking by I could hear conversations. Is having lunch out an essential activity ? On the other side of the street a man without « cubre boca » paid Paloma compliments. Nothing really changed since yesterday. Not less people in the wild world but more people wearing « cubre bocas ». Sad blue and dirty white are the dominant colors.

San Juan street

I am surprised to see the Italian bakery opened. Only « take away » but open with a new protocole : « cubre bocas » and gel, like in most places now. Pain au chocolat for me and, Tania’s treats for Paloma : cookies with sausage et sweet potatoes. Life continues...
Italian Bakery, new protocol
As I was running my errands at the market, a lady with her helmet and « cubre boca » calls me. I look at her and wonder who she is. She tells me her name and still, it takes me a few second to recognize her. I don’t know how she recognized me behind my sunglasses and « cubre boca ». We all look like ready for holding up a bank.

Fancy Cubre bocas shop

Upon the recommendation of my hairdresser, I head to the center for a shop, selling fancy « cubre bocas ». It always strikes me when I see a kaki Jeep running down the street with a ten of armed military men... Again, we can’t enter in the shop. There is a table across the entrance and a plexiglass window, through which transactions are made. This is the candy store of the « cubre bocas ». So many fun design and colors. Seller by day and « cubre bocas » maker by night, it takes her 15’ to produce one. I am significantly enlarging my 2020 spring collection to be sure I have a « cubre boca » matching my mood every day.

Mask and gel prior entering one at the time
The parks are still closed and the benches are still wrapped into security yellow tape. The access to the Plaza Civica is forbidden. So we are bypassing it, following the signs and the security tape like in the Parisian metro at rush hour, one behind another. And if it takes too long, you can always grab a churro. Just stretch your arm.

Everybody is selling « cubre bocas » and I must say it is fun to look at the different styles, design and, how people wear them : elastic behind the head or behind the ears. Hand made or mass-produced. Covering mouth and nose, covering the mouth only, under the chin or, front side back like a baseball cup.

At the supermarket

Something new at the supermarket : A sign « Prohibida la venta de alcohol - Ley Seca » on the shelf of the bottles of wine. Not sure how to translate « Ley Seca » but it means that it is going to be a dry week end, people ! The cashier shows me her new directive from the city. They are not selling alcool this week end to avoid people to gather.

Open stationary shop, but not so open

People are queuing outside the carniceras, butcher shop. More people buying meat or just the social distance making people look more numerous than they actually are. Same at the ATM.

San Miguel de Allende

And I wonder where is, Tony from Guatemala. He was on his way to the US for a better life...

April 30, 2020

Life continues, life discontinues... Part II

So here we are : phase 3. It feels like the countdown to the launch of something unknown.
Everyday, things got a bit more surreal. And I wonder what is going to be different today ?
The French bakery closed on Relox street, the mannequin in the shop window wears a mask matching her outfit.

And further down that street a panaderia, bakery is open and it takes a couple of minutes to read all the instructions prior enter. Pedro tells me that since last night customers needs to wear a mask before entering. Three bottles of antibacterial gel are available at the entrance. Three bottles. It is not an invitation, to wash your hand but a command.

The Panaderia, bakery

I guess, at this point I need to get myself a mask. Pedro takes me to a couple of places to find a mask. You would think pharmacies are the right places to get those but not particularly. We enter in three different pharmacies before I can find the uncomfortable disposable version of the « cubrebocas » at 10 pesos. My ears are too small to hold the paper mask on my face. I continue my quest for a « cubreboca ».

Pedro in front of the panaderia

The entrances of the gardens have been now sealed with barriers and security tape. Double layers of yellow security tape on benches too. The streets around the central park are pretty empty, not the same story in the streets by Ignacio Ramirez market. Busy people with colorful masks or no masks are running their errands.

By Plaza Civica

I am very intrigued with this small square opening in a wooden door. There is an improvised sign above that says « Abierto », open. That’s a papeleria, stationer’s shop. You make your purchase through the small opening in the door or ask to get in. One person at the time. Of course I asked to get inside. A man with a mask open the door and I make my secret transaction : two notebooks for my online workshops.

The papeleria

My quest for a « cubreboca » ends in a shop selling fabric where the man who seems to be the owner is cutting pieces of fabric in order to make the « cubrebocas ». Different colors with elastic behind the head. He makes 30 of them per hour. Undecided, I take several to start my 2020 spring collection of « cubrebocas ».

Masks in the making

My Spring collection of masks

The ice-cream place is nearby and I indulge myself with a macadamia and pistachio ice-cream in a chocolate waffle cone. The girls wear plexiglass masks. I remember seing those in Mongolia a couple of years ago, in a fancy pastry shop before it became trendy here. Masks are becoming a fashion accessory.  

San Miguel de Allende, center

And I meet Tony from Guatemala. He is on his way to the US for a better life. With his broken English and my broken Spanish we manage to have a conversation. He is looking for a restaurant to eat. I wish restaurants would be still open. I write in the air with my finger, the number of death in the US. Several times so, he really gets the number of zero I try to show him. He is in disbelief. Apparently in Guatemala when people sneeze nothing happens. I’m in disbelief.
Life continues

And this surreal day doesn’t end here. As I was going to enter the supermarket, two security guards walked out by me. One had a riffle. I grab a shopping cart after I wrapped the handle with my cotton shopping bag and proceed to the entrance. Another security guard, in charge of filtering the entrance asked me to put my mask on and to hold my hands open so he can pour some antibacterial gel on. Only one family member is allowed to enter. If we were in a movie, I would look behind me and someone with a tensed smile would tell me « Good luck ! ».

Life discontinues
At 9 pm there are not many customers. They all wear a mask and follow the directional signs on the floor, like they would in an Ikea store. I’m not very focused on my grocery list as I worry to break any of those new rules. So what ? Probably nothing. I finally found the Amaretto for my other family member. Rolling towards the checkout I notice there are new stickers on the floor. Keep your distance. And as I thought I was done with all this, the cashier informs me that she can’t sell alcool after 9 pm. This one is not a new rule. The bottle of Amaretto will remain at the store tonight. I leave the store by what used to be the second entrance door and feel released. Released from what ? I don’t know.

April 21, 2020

Life continues, life discontinues...

I was looking forward to my grilled Artichoke with Edamame purée, serrano pepper and mint at Quince and, enjoy as well their rooftop terrace overlooking the Parroquia. But this is not an option anymore. Quince closed a month ago. One after the others, restaurants have been closing down leaving us with the “Take away” or “Delivery” options. So, we did take away. Tacos para llevar from a street stand is weird. It is supposed to be a messy, noisy and convivial experience but it is all very sanitary.

Tacos para llevar, to take away

Our last lunch at one of our favorite restaurants was another strange experience. Hand sanitizers, cross table conversations because everyone has an opinion and a story to tell. We have been lunching and hanging under their lemon tree so often, that I know the meaning of Claudia’s tattoo, I know the last adventures of the dog “Solo Vino”, Paloma greets everyone because she knows everyone and, they know what I’m going to order. For long I was on a Burrata salad diet along with a green iced tea. But they have been working on a new menu and I have been trying some of the new dishes before they closed as well.

Burrato Salad and green iced tea

Decision, decision... And they re-opened last week with more hand sanitizer and face masks. Protecting the health of one’s community or putting food on the table of one’s family is the cruel dilemma.

Entrance gate

Sunset to reset and repeat. 
Life continues, life discontinues... 

Art display to celebrate the International Women day

The 303 pairs of shoes displayed on the building in Guadalupe neighborhood, as a piece of art to celebrate the International Women day are still hanging on the facade. Time froze. As my hairdresser is freshening up my haircut, I look at the combs and scissors soaking into a blue liquid disinfectant. It reminds me of the containers of formalin, in our biology classroom at school. They were containing dead batrachians. We talk about life and everything else. The tattoo across his neck says in French “J’ai envie de vivre”, I want to live with a skull painted in the middle.

El Jardin, park in the center

The parks of the city were opened until recently. Now, the green benches are crossed out with yellow security tape. So, we stroll through town and eventually seat on the side walk. San Miguel de Allende became a ghost town. The tourists deserted. Schools, restaurants, shops are closed until further notice. Life seems to be on hold until further notice.

San Miguel de Allende

Another sunset to reset and adjust. Life continues, life discontinues...

The fruteria and the ice cream man

The fruteria is still open and gives a sense of normality. A new organic shop just opened on that same street. The bakery nearby is closed. No more dog treats for Paloma, no more pains au chocolat for me. 

Spring in Guadalupe neighborhood
Spring is showing its colors. Bougainvillea and Jacaranda are blooming. And we are sneezing. Nothing suspicious, pollen is flying all over.

Work in progress

The construction workers are still on-duty. I’m amazed when I see them working with this profusion of cables. “How do you know which one is the one?”, I had asked. “The size of the cable...” And then he went on explaining me the technical aspect of the process... in Spanish and he lost me. The danger is not coming from the cables but from the dogs on rooftops. This, I understood.

The danger is coming from the roof

The ice cream man is still shouting out “Nieve!, nieve!, nieve!”, Ice cream! But he is not my ice cream man. My ice cream man is an ice cream lady and, she closed down her street stand. Ni modo, as they say. Oh well! As with every challenging situation comes opportunities, I found this tiny ice cream shop Santa Clara, open since 1924 in a street corner. I really don’t mind walking the twenty minutes from home for a Macadamia nuts ice cream with the whole nut rubbed into caramel... the premium chocolate, the coconut and the pistachio ice creams are as good. 

Santa Clara since 1924

But this Macadamia nuts ice cream in a chocolate waffle cone worth the twenty minutes-walk. If the Macadamia nuts ice cream is not in the window display, ask for it. They sometimes hide it in the freezer ;-)

Another day, another sunset

...Life continues, life discontinues...

November 26, 2019

The world is a big village

Sometimes I wish all my friends would be living in my neighborhood so we could see each other more often. And then, a friend, I haven’t seen for a while comes by my neighborhood. Florence is only 1h25 away from Paris.
Gelateria, pasticceria, pizzeria, trattoria, prosciutto, prosecco, biscotti... Another language, another culture, another world. Maybe the world is just a big village.
Touched down, got on a bus to the main train station, bought a ticket at the tabacconist and ran to the train platform #16. I had only a couple of minutes to get out at Camucia-Cortona station. No wifi, my friend is not there yet so I ask the bar owner to call her. Funny to hear Spanish words coming out of my mouth, as I try to speak Italian. My friend is here with her friends. It is already dark. We are now driving in a small car, on Tuscan countryside roads.
I'm going to fall asleep in an unknown house, in a foreign village. And, tomorrow will be a surprise. How does it look like outside that unknown house in a foreign village?

Florence Airport

When I woke up in the unknown house in that foreign village, Bosco, the hunting dog already had his morning walk in the neighborhood. Breakfast was homemade plum jam on a piece of homemade bread.
I am not a tourist or a traveler on that trip outside of Florence. I am a visitor. No rush, no plan, only the pleasure of the company of old and new friends. We will run errands, do the groceries, cook, bake, have long conversations. We are coming from different path of life but we are sharing similar life experiences. At breakfast with a cup of tea or, at dinner with a glass of Prosecco, around that same table we did literally cried and laugh.


Life can be as simple as that. Tuesday as the girls went for their Art class I had my morning strolling in the streets of Cortona. Why most people remain on that main street as a horde while they could have the town all by themselves if they would just take a left or right on that side street? It always strikes me. So I took those sides streets. Some weren’t larger than my both arms wide opened. For a moment, I was alone in Cortona.

Gorgonzola, pears and walnuts pizza at Bar del Riccio

I enjoyed the spontaneity of those few days in Cignano, the foreign village. This Gorgonzola, pears and nuts pizza in a small restaurant along the road, back from Castiglione del Lago, was probably the best pizza I ever had. Figuring out the labels in Italian for the heavy whipping cream, in the supermarket, was the hardest task for the making of the caramel sauce that goes with that flourless chocolate cake. I baked that cake in different kitchens, in different countries and I get always stressed out about the result. Different oven, different dish, somehow this time it was perfect. I baked it twice within a few days. The Apple Tatin Tart didn’t work out as well.

Cignano, an evening cooking and baking

Art lesson about colors: I knew the primary colors, I knew the secondary colors made out of the primary colors but I never knew about the tertiary colors, a blend of primary and secondary colors. Did you know?

Aert class by Sarah Miatt 

On my last day in the foreign village, we stopped at the market to get some cheese, olives and dates for the way back to Florence. Taking the train through the countryside had something old fashioned that I like. The slow motion maybe, the possibility to see the countryside going by the window and have nothing else to do than watch, chat and snack on olives and cheese.

Camucia market

Florence has a different pace. Pretty things at each corner: the front window of an Art supply shop, a detail in the facade of a building, the architecture and the richness of the city. Some more pizza and pasta, pistachio ice creams. Frutti di Bosco flavor is not bad too. The Cantuccini e vin santo, almond biscuits dipped into sweet wine seemed at first a large dessert portion but a biscuit at the time and, they were soon all gone. I like the sound of “piccolino” in Italian.

Florence, Piazza del duomo

As we were waiting for the blacksmith to change the lock of the door of our apartment, we went for a delicious lunch in a delicious place: Mushroom cream brulée caramelized with sesame, walnuts and tarragon. Pumpkin “bottoni” pasta in an almond sauce, orange flavored escabeche of zucchini and roasted chestnuts. Coffee flavored pears and creamy mascarpone with Tonka bean and pecan nuts. What else can I say? They know how to live well here.