Ah, the opportunity to get way off the beaten track, hang out in a Mexican village with enough American and Canadian ex-pats to have the comforts we like, enjoy year-round pleasant temperatures, and do pretty much … nothing. Sometimes it sounds better than it ends up.Here we are in Ajijic (Ah-hee-heek).” It’s a cute, colorful cobblestone town of some 15,000 nestled between the Sierra Madres and the shores of Lake Chalapa. At 5,000 feet above sea level the climate draws vacationers and retirees trying to escape both heat and cold. We found a beautiful little boutique hotel in an old hacienda and settled in to be charmed over a couple days before continuing on to Guadalajara.
What we didn’t realize is that Ajijic is apparently Spanish for “downscale, somewhat trashy ex-pats.” And not even cheap. We stopped by an Open House while wandering through town on Sunday. It was in a nice neighborhood, but a tiny place, two bedrooms that couldn’t have been more than 1,100 square feet total, and it had been marked down to $240,000. I thought the whole point of buying in a town like that was that you could live like a king. Maybe not.At any rate, we didn’t prepare for having our first full day on Sunday. Now I understand people need a day off every so often. But does it have to happen every week? And all on the same day? So most everything was closed our first full day here. The really strange thing is that the few restaurants that were open close awfully early, typically around 7:00 PM. Really? Apparently Ajijicans eat their main Sunday meal by mid-afternoon and then everything just shuts up. Ultimately we found a bar for a couple drinks to watch the end of the Super Bowl – Go Pats! – and a place that made reasonably decent hamburgers. But this is one dead town on Sundays. And then we were completely unprepared for what was to follow. Monday is some sort of big holiday, Constitution Day. Everything shut down again. At least this time we found one nice restaurant open into the evening. You’d think that after 21 months on the road – 21 months ago we left Cambridge – we’d know that Sundays aren’t great days to be tourists and that holidays are usually terrible days to be tourists. Someday we’ll remember it before it’s too late.
As if that weren’t enough, the weather has been terrible – cold, overcast, and occasionally rainy. This is the dry season and everyone keeps telling us it never rains in January or February. Never except this weekend.
The highlight of our long weekend here was Cameleon, the bar that makes you feel like you just walked onto a Jerry Springer set. Carla the bartender was fun and entertaining. I was sitting next to a youngish platinum blond who was complaining about the small-town aspect of Ajijic. “Right after I got here they started calling me the White Whore of Ajijic – and I hadn’t even done anything yet!” Her boyfriend, sitting next to her, was falling-down drunk, but not – as the night progressed – too drunk to start a fist fight with a Mexican guy who he thought was being too friendly with his girlfriend.
Can life get much better than that? Today we move on to Guadalajara where it’ll probably be dull by comparison.