Sunday, August 18, 2019

Dia de los Muertos in Sayulita

Trip date: October 2018

My friend Gail and I had such a great time in Sayulita the year before, we decided to go again! This time we also invited our friend Angela and booked the trip over Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The festive Mexican holiday celebrates and honors the dead and is something I had wanted to witness for a long time. I was excited!

The first day of the celebration, October 31st, is also called All Hallows Eve. During the day we walked through the main square and saw all of the preparations going on. Families were building incredible alters, using dried beans, flowers, grains, etc to create intricate murals on the ground which reminded me of rangoli and are called tapete de arena. The square and surrounding streets had been decorated with hanging fiesta flags (called papel picado), fish caricature cutouts, and all sorts of sea creatures were fashioned out of plastic waste. Brilliant and a not so vague nod to the problems of plastic in our oceans!

That evening there was a parade through the streets. All Hallows Eve is a celebration for the spirits of dead children, or Angelitos. There was a large stage set up in front of the main square and song and dance performances went on late in the night. The spirits are believed to arrive at midnight so this was all to invite and welcome them.

It's not a mournful or scary event. It's quite upbeat, and a time for families to be together. Young and old had their faces painted, there were street food vendors, and constant music.

November 1st is All Saint's Day, when families invite the spirits of deceased adults to come visit. The main square was busy with families putting the finishing touches on their alters, or ofrendas. Children were painting and decorating pictures of the traditional skull, and the scent of marigolds was everywhere.
That night's festivities were on a much larger scale than the night before. As we walked from our Airbnb to the town center we noticed decorations on the beach, where the fishing boats are, completed tapete de arenas and ofrendas. There are a number of items that are considered to be required elements on the altars, so we were now seeing the full displays of photos of the deceased, candles, sugar skulls, marigolds, crosses, and offerings of bread, water, fruit, and salt.
There were a lot more people in costume (not to be confused with Halloween costumes), and the stage entertainment had more professional dancers, singers, and musicians. It seemed like the entire town was out!
At about 12:30am everyone formed a procession and a mariachi band led us through the streets of town. Many people held lit candles and sang along. Some people had torches to light the way and there were large paper maché puppets that were carried thru the streets (seemed dangerous!). As we walked more and more people joined.

At the beach where the fishing boats were, the progression stopped. The band kept playing and people danced and sang. It was quite a sight! After a bit we resumed along the path that leads to the cemetery and entered under the arch.
Inside, families had decorated the gravestones and tombs of their relatives and loved ones. Candles flickered from every grave. People had set up music, food, and drink and were celebrating with each other, and with the soul's of the departed as the belief is. It was an incredible sight and as one of the very few tourists witnessing it, I felt very lucky to be there.
The parties went on all night, literally until dawn!

The final day is All Souls Day and the celebration repeats itself. Back in the main square it was amazing to see all the altars completely undisturbed! Everything was still in place, although most of the sugar skulls were covered with bees!

We walked through the cemetery early to get a closer look at some of the decorated grave sites. Families were setting up for the last night of visiting with their deceased and each other. It was all very beautiful. We didn't attend the festivities and procession that night, but we could hear it all going on until dawn again!

Experiencing Dia de los Muertos in a small (but growing) fishing village was fantastic! It was awesome to witness such a traditional and local celebration without feeling like I was intruding. I highly recommend it!

All photos from Sayulita here.



Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Palm Springs Living

Trip date: February 2019

It's a story on repeat, each winter I look to get some pool and sun time in Palm Springs. This year my friend Gail and I rented a really cute little house in the Racquet Club Estates area from Vacation Palm Springs. They even gave me a repeat customer discount since a group I use to go down with had rented from them repeatedly.

We used a companion fare discount on Alaska Air and were upgraded to Premium. Gotta love a couple free mimosa's on the flight down. We picked up our rental car from Hertz where there was zero line. Everyone was in the Avis/Dollar line and it was crazy long! Note to self.

First stop was lunch at Wexler's Deli at the Arrive Hotel. OMG. Sooooo good. The potato salad is amazing! And my sandwich was big enough that I had the other 1/2 the next day!
On to grocery and wine shopping. We used my membership at World Market and saved $80 on our wine! And that included 3 magnums of rosé! Free to sign up and we noticed that they were carrying some good stuff now!

That evening we had a great time at Counter Reformation at The Parker. This cool speakeasy is focused on pouring wine from around the world. And the small bites like caviar and quail egg in a toast round, were delicious! The tin ceiling is low, the room is dimly lit, and the place was packed. Good thing I had made reservations!

On the way out we stopped for a nightcap at the super cute and super tiny Mini Bar located in the lobby. It's adorable but my martini was shaken within an inch of its life and they were using pretty subpar gin.
Gail is just like me in that she loves to go for a morning walk, so we headed out the next day to explore our neighborhood. I've seen this mountain range so many times over the years, but this was the first time I saw so much snow on it!

We stopped in a few open houses, checked out the cute homes of Racquet Club Estates, and I even saw my first roadrunner!

Back home we opened some rosé and hit the sun loungers and pool. Gail's friend Robin drove up from San Diego and we had a great afternoon. That night we made a huge tray of nachos and watched the Oscars. Our house had a cute outdoor living room with a fireplace so we moved out there when the awards were over.
The next day was Monday and a work day for both Gail and me. Unfortunately I realized as I went to set up my laptop that I had forgotten my charger! So a pleasant drive to the Apple store in Palm Desert, and $80 later, I was back in action. I did notice how cute the El Paseo shopping street was, so I've added that to my list of things to check out. And I stopped at In-N-Out burger for lunch which is always a win for me!
Finally, back home it was time to get some work done before my friend Aaron drove up for the night from Los Angeles!

The 3 of us went to the newly opened Del Rey bar at the Villa Palm Springs Hotel for drinks and dinner. The hotel and the bar are super cool. Dinner and drinks were just ok. But I'd go again for the vibe (and would order something basic).
We dropped a sleepy Gail off at home and headed to another new spot, Paul Bar. I had passed the strip mall this place is located in earlier in the day and thought it looked sketchy. Then Aaron mentioned there was a bar and he'd like to check it out! Well the parking lot is a bit sketch but the bar inside is lovely! As were the drinks. I'm definitely going here again!

The next morning Gail, Aaron, and I headed out to check out one of the exhibits for Desert X. The huge fluorescent box by Sterling Ruby was startling sitting in the middle of the beige-toned desert. And the color felt like it was soaking right into us. Very cool!
We then continued on to Joshua Tree. I was super excited as I had never been and this was my 7th time down to the area! We entered through the main entrance in Twentynine Palms and drove through the cool and eerie landscape.
We were headed to the Barker Dam Trail for a short hike, but made a few stops to scramble around on the boulders, including Skull Rock.

The hike on the Barker loop is mainly flat and quite easy. We checked out the petroglyphs, read some of the markers which describe the resident plants, and made our way to the dam. Pictures really don't do this area justice. It was stunning!
We stopped at Wexler's Deli again on the way home, because it is just that good!

Aaron headed back to LA that night while Gail and I checked out the new restaurant 4 Saints in the Kimpton. It's an absolutely beautiful resto and bar on the rooftop of the new hotel (which also looks beautiful). Our food was all great but it was also expensive AF. Bread will set you back $10!

The next morning we went for a walk around Deepwell Estates where we went into another open house, saw another road runner, and went past the house that William Holden use to own. Do you know that Holden died from falling on a side table while drunk and cracking his head open? Gail does!
The rest of the day was spent working, swimming, drinking rosé, and hanging in the hot tub. Glorious!

Our friend Nathan happened to arrive in town for a job interview so the 3 of us had an early dinner at Birba. The entire restaurant is pretty much outside and the pizzas were delicious! Another place I can't wait to go back to!
The next morning's walk was thru the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood. So many cool old houses which once belonged to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Katherine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracey. That is one hell of a block party!
Work, work, work. Pool, pool, pool.

Nathan came over after his interviews and we tried to go to Rooster & the Pig for dinner but the wait was crazy. Next time. Nathan took us to his favorite place, The Tropicale. It's kitschy, festive, and very gay. Super fun! Food was fine.

Our last morning we worked and packed before heading to the offices of Vacation Palm Springs. Although we really liked our house, they had not turned our pool heat on for the first 2 days and had not returned any of my calls or emails requesting to be refunded for that. When I showed up at the office and spoke to the manager he apologized profusely and refunded us $600 for our troubles! $$$

My uncle John drove up from the LA area to have lunch with Gail and I at Fisherman's Market.  That was super nice, and our fish tacos were great!

Gail and I sent him off with a ton of groceries from our house. We tend to over shop!

One last walk, this time thru the Twin Palms neighborhood where we saw this incredible cloud formation!

We were upgraded to First Class on Alaska on our way home which was just the cherry on top of this great week in the desert!


All photos from Palm Springs here.

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