Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Appreciation of Visitation - Loreto Style

As I mentioned last weekend, I have been enjoying the company of Guests for the last week and so, along with the Holiday celebrations, my normal routine of working most days in the Real Estate Office  here in Loreto Bay has changed during their visit.  This has reinforced my belief that one of the important benefits of having guests here is that their visit can be the motivation for those of us who live here to do things, and go places, that we may not during the rest of the Season - and this is particularly true for me, occupied as I am more or less full time with my business.

For instance, I was happy to be able to take my guests to La Picazon, a great little restaurant that is one of  my favorite places to go, it's about 10 km north of the town of Loreto, spectacularly located right on the shore across from Coronado Island, let alone being one of the best restaurants in the area.  However, because it is about a half hour's drive each way, and lunch there is a leisurely affair that can typically take a couple of hours, this was my first visit there this season, since my return here in the Fall.

Surrounded by the excellent hospitality of Alejandro and his wife Imelda, the Owners of La Picazon, we  enjoyed some of the freshest and tastiest seafood anywhere, and then relaxed in a sunny corner of their patio to enjoy more of the perfect afternoon on the Sea of Cortez, with beautiful Coronado Island in the distance.  It is perhaps not surprising that several times during this memorable lunch I found myself wondering why it had been so long since my last visit to this place, and promising myself it would not be so long again until my next!

On several trips to town during their stay with me, I have taken my Guests to a few of my favorite shops where they found a few well chosen gifts to take home with them - which I hope will become the basis of some of their own memories of their visit to Loreto.  Again, by showing them around "my town" in this way, I too came to re-appreciate some of the appeals Loreto has, and by answering their questions and relating stories about things that have happened to me here, I reminded myself again of some of the reasons why I love living here. 

I also realized how my normal week-to-week routine has gradually become more or less pared down to the necessities; like getting cash from the Bank, dropping into the same three or four stores to pick up my groceries and other supplies, and then making my way back home again to Loreto Bay - without taking the extra time to drop into a few other shops, or drive around the town a bit, if only to see what's new and keep up with the changes that are going on, but can be too easily overlooked, if one is blinkered by routine and habit.

Another thing I wanted to share with my Guests while they were here was the special experience of the Sunday Market.  Although you may recall that I have done postings about this market in the past, it has been several years since I have written an update about it.  But once again I blame my routine and other circumstances for this situation, since Sundays are one day I count on taking off, and between publishing the Blog and some of the other more mundane housekeeping realities, it has been too long since I chose to take the time to "hunt and gather" at the Market.    

Of course the other thing that has changed since my last visit to the market is its location - last Fall when the arroyos flooded with runoff from the mountains the previous site was washed away, necessitating a change of venue.  I knew that it had been moved to the north end of town, somewhere off the main highway, and so, last Sunday morning, we headed off to find the new location to show my Guests some of the local color that is market day in Loreto.

Highway 1 skirts around the west side of the main town site and continues north through a "less structured" suburb area called Miramar which is located on the west side of the road.  Because the new market site is not within view when you are on the highway, I had to stop and find out where to make the turn, which I found out is Calle Delfines, the first main road to the left, past where the divided road becomes the two lane highway heading north.  A couple of long blocks later you can't miss the hubbub of shade awnings, cars and people that fill what is usually a sports field but on Sundays becomes the social and shopping center of Loreto and the surrounding area.

After grabbing a vacant parking space we headed into the maze of stalls and people to get our bearings and see what was available where.  While the old market location was one long alley with booths on both sides set up facing each other, this new arrangement was more muddled with a sort of "main street" core surrounded by other booths (possibly late-comers, or with less seniority) squeezed in more or less randomly where they could fit. 

For the ex-pat community the main attraction of the market (aside from people watching and socializing) has usually been focused on the several fruit and vegetable stands which have a wider variety and often better quality of produce than what is regularly available in the "brick and mortar" grocery stores in town.  That is, however, changing, with the increasing competition from retail newcomers like the Lay Super Express that opened this Fall, and the improvements made by the previously existing stores in town in response. But for the large majority of the customers drawn to this weekly market, it is much more than chance to pick up fresh produce. 

Here you can find just about anything; clothing (new and second hand), shoes of all shapes and sizes, hardware and household items of almost any description (again new and used), children's toys, jewelry, etc.  There are also a couple of open-air restaurants doing good business for the Mexican equivalent of "Sunday Brunch" as well as peddlers wandering among the crowd selling cotton candy and just about anything else people want.

After a quick tour to get my bearings, my focus was on one of the smallest and least significant booths - just a folding table with three chest coolers and a scale - but it was what was IN the coolers that counted - SHRIMP!  To put this into perspective most of the time I have been living in Loreto shrimp has been a staple/delicacy usually easily available from vendors with the ubiquitous coolers, selling out of the back of a pick-up or parked car, often at the side of the road or outside some of the bigger grocery stores.  However this Season shrimp has been very hard to find, with even restaurants having trouble finding enough to keep it on their menu.

So when I saw the sign for "Cameron" I joined several other customers and waited my turn, while watching the lady behind the coolers scooping a dwindling supply of large, fresh, shrimp in the shell out of the ice and water.  Fortunately, when it was my turn there were still some left and I was able to buy a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of 6" shrimp for 300 pesos (less than $25 US) before she ran out.  To put that into perspective, that was expensive based on past year's prices, but given the scarcity so far this season, I was happy to pay the price and add Coconut Shrimp (one of my "house specialties") to the menu before my Guests finished their visit.

And so as we begin another New Year, and conclude another Holiday Season, it is a time for reflections about the year past and the year to come.  For me, enjoying sharing my Home and Community with first time Visitors from Canada, has given me a gift I resolve to appreciate and remember.  That is the gift of seeing and experiencing again the many things that attracted me to this special place - and that sometimes I can take for granted.  Receiving the gift of seeing again, through other's eyes, reminds me why I love "Living Loreto"!