Saturday, January 22, 2011


This weekend we took a big group trip out to Toluca, the monarch butterfly sanctuary at Piedra Herrada, and finished up the day at Valle de Bravo with people from work.

After leaving at the crack of dawn, we arrived in our first stop of the day, Toluca, a town just about an hour outside of Mexico City, known for it's amazing stained glass. First we visited the Cosmo Vitral Botanical Garden which was converted from the town's main market. The early morning sun shining through the stained glass windows was spectacular, and I dare say it...magical! ;)

Well we could only stand the magicalness for about 20 minutes before we got bored, so we spent the rest of our time walking around the zocalo / main square and checking out the old Spanish churches, etc. Then it was time to load back into the buses for the next segment of our trip...BUTTERFLIES!

Welcome to Toluca!
Entrance to the Botanical Garden
So magical!
Stained glass AND plants! In one location! Amazing!
Of course, Autumn immediately found the one cactus!
So pretty!
Technicolor Oakleys!

Ok, ready to go!

Church 1...check!

I love gold!
Church 2...check!
Main Cathedral of Toluca.

Piedra Herrada: Monarch Butterflies


40 million butterflies!

Piedra Herrada: Monarch Butterflies

The second magical stop of our whirlwind tour of Estado de Mexico was at the Butterfly Sanctuary in Pieda Herrada. We arrived around noon and were given a brief lecture on the monarch butterflies before hiking up the mountain. It turns out that most butterflies live for only about one month, but the generation of monarch butterflies born in the fall each year in the US and Canada live for about six months! This enables them to make the 4,000+ mile flight to Mexico to hibernate each winter. They are attracted by the alkaline nature of the Oyamel forests here (some kind of fir / pine tree native to Mexico) that makes the butterflies poisonous to predators during hibernation.

Anyway, we opted not to ride the weird "caballitos" aka little horses that looked like they were half donkey, and take a slow hike up to the top. It was a really nice day, and the terrain and vegetation reminded us a lot of eastern Washington. The only drawback was the thick DUST when the "horses" went by. The long walk was worth it once we got to the top and saw the, literally, millions of butterflies. It was pretty amazing.
 Entrance to the sanctuary...I resisted the urge to yell "SANCTUARY" in a Quasimodo impression...but it was hard!
 Lupine wildflowers...just like in Washington!
 Our first butter-friend!
For being bright orange, the butterflies were surprisingly camouflaged in this forest.
 Wait a minute...those aren't leaves...
 Every inch of the trees at the top of our climb were just coated in a thick layer of monarchs
 Hola butterfly king!
 This almost reminded me of a scene from Hitchcock's "The Birds"!
 More clusters of monarchs on the Oyamel trees
 To quote Johnathan, "Re-donk-u-lous!"
 Someone was excited!
 The "caballitos"
There were so many flying down to the nearby river for a drink, that the police were out to direct traffic. We had to drive about 10 MPH to avoid mass murder!

Valle de Bravo

The last stop of the day was at the lake-side town of Valle de Bravo for lunch and a boat ride. By this time, everyone was filthy, tired and hungry from the dusty hike, so I'm not too sure that we made a great impression on the locals.

Lunch buffet on a "boat"
I wanted to ride el Vikingo, but that "yacht" wasn't for us...
Our three hour tour was on the Fiesta Valle!
Apparently, Valle de Bravo host annual hang-gliding competitions and people come here to practice all year round.
I'm on a boat!
It was very picturesque, and a great place to unwind away from smoggy Mexico City.
View of the town clustered along the lake shore.
Good night Estado de Mexico. Time to head home!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Home Improvement

So, we have a leaky sink. Sounds simple enough right?

First of all, I just want to say how much I appreciate the free repairs included in our housing.
Second of all, I just wish it didn't take 13+ emails and 3-4 visits to the house to get anything done.

Ok, so I reported the leaky sink, which has already been "fixed" before. Last Tuesday, the repairmen came, and they left a note saying, "Sink leak is OK." I responded that it was not "OK" since it was causing water damage in the cabinet below. They said they'd come back on Friday to look at it again, but when they got here, they didn't have the "right tools"...hmmm. Therefore, they had to come back again later. We were fine with that since we were in Cancun anyway...more on that later!

Today, I came home to meet the stove repairman and to my surprise the handles were taken off the faucet and half the grout was peeled off and left on the counter. No note. No guys...

They did however put a clean paper towel in the cabinet, so at least there was that.

Anyway, I continued with my visit with the stove repairman who confirmed that, yes, it's not working. Did he bring parts or tools with him? That's a big NO. Luckily I had my own tools to lend him, and after a bit of poking and prodding and commenting that it was an Italian though that explained the whole problem...he said that he needed to consult with someone else, get some parts, etc. and come back later. At this point, I should mention that when I asked to have the stove fixed 6 months ago, I had basically the same conversation, and the guy never came back.

Back to the faucet. I asked the stove repairman's supervisor (there are always at least 2-3 people to fix any problem) if he knew where the sink people were. He looked at the situation and said, "Well since they took off the handles and you can't turn on the water, I guess they thought the leak was taken care of!"....I hope he was joking....

He tried to call them, but...drum roll please....they didn't answer their phone!

So currently, we have 3 of 5 burners working on the stove and no water in the kitchen, but plenty of loose grout and clean paper towels in the cabinet!

Our new and improved non-leaking sink!

Ok, to be fair, they sink guys showed up again while I was writing this blog post...but still!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cancun 3

Last day in Cancun, but we made the most of it. After another delicious breakfast on our oceanfront patio, we headed over to El Rey, the local Mayan ruins, conveniently located next door to our hotel. There were a ridiculous number of iguanas there that were actually a bit more impressive than the ruins. Afterward we hopped on the quick flight home to get ready for the week.
El Rey - Mayan Ruins
View of the main plaza - WARNING: Iguana Crossing!!
More piles of rocks!
The Hilt-a-mid!!
Senor Iguana
Senorita Iguana
Now it's time to play Where's Waldo!
How many iguanas can YOU find?
Scroll to the end for the answer...
More ruins!
Answer: 10!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cancun 2

Day 2 of our beach vacation was pretty much the same as day one with the exception of a little rain. Which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise since it scared away most of the other beach/pool crowd including the incredible number of pot-bellied men in Speedos! FYI for any of you future or current parents out there: While I'm all for dressing up the whole family in matching outfits to thoroughly embarrass your teenage children...matching Speedos for grandpa, dad and son is just taking it way to far!!

Good morning Cancun!

Bundled up for the rain...

Happy about the Caribbean lobster tacos for lunch!

We were tempted by the free "bloom" onion at Outback, but restrained ourselves.

Red flag for the super "dangerous" waves!

Luckily no riptides got me!

Autumn stayed safe and dry on the beach.