Saturday, June 24, 2017

Newbies Do Uber in México

UBER LOGO

We just returned from a week's vacation to celebrate our 49th wedding Anniversary. All enjoyable, other than when our first bus, an AutoVias from Morelia, broke down soon after departure, with a two hour delay, then arriving in Toluca in the hellish rush hour traffic. But we survived.

We stayed our first night at the Fiesta Inn Toluca Tollocan. It was our pick up location for our first Uber ride the next morning.

We were to use Uber a lot in the following days. Our first experiences were very good, although not perfect. The convenience, peace of mind and safety were the outstanding features. Plus most of the 4 or 5 drivers we had were personable and liked to converse. Our first Uber driver was Arturo, who drove us from our Toluca hotel to Casa Navacoyan near Malinalco. It’s a long, 1 hour plus drive through scenic countryside, and we had enjoyable conversations along the way.

It was so enjoyable, that I arranged with Arturo to drive us to Mexico City from Casa Navacoyan (an idyllic B&B) three days later. It was relatively expensive compared to taking buses, combis and taxis, (although I have not done the math), but it made for a smooth, seamless and enjoyable ride, door-to-door, just under two hours. That was arranged “privately”.

Our other Uber rides were shorter, all within the CDMX, and, the cars arrived almost instantly. I need to play more with the Uber app to make pickup times more precise. The app is very cool, and the feedback is notably complete and good. I won’t go into the technical details.

The cars varied in newness and cleanliness. That aspect didn't concern me greatly. Almost every driver had a smartphone mounted above the dashhbord and running Waze or Google Maps.

There was only one glitch, when I requested a ride to O-Mart, a Korean grocery on Calle Londres in the Zona Rosa, and our driver took us by mistake to an other Asian supermarket, Super Mikasa, on Calle San Luis Potosí, in Roma Norte. But he graciously corrected it and we soon arrived at the correct destination. Kind of funny, because we’d already Uber’d to Mikasa that morning.

We did have to wait over 20 minutes for an Uber pickup from O-Mart to the Hotel Stanza because the Zona Rosa and other parts of the city were in the throes of near gridlock at that hour. But it all worked out before too long.

I was getting a couple of free rides (the shorter ones) or substantial promotional discounts. Why, I have no idea, but I didn’t complain. Maybe the long trip from Toluca to Casa Navacoyan generated some bonus credits.

We always tipped our drivers. Kind of funny, as we rarely tip cab drivers. We’ll be refining this in future use. We are now big fans of Uber.

Our final Uber ride of the week was from the Stanza to Terminal Poniente Observatorio, Our driver was not allowed to drop us off any closer to the terminal building other than at some grubby looking food stands on the outer road. But it wasn’t really a big problem, though we were carrying our moderately heavy bags. We entered the upper level of Metro Observatorio station, crossed over the tracks, then descended again to street level and across the street at the traffic light crossing to the terminal building explanada, where a porter took charge of our baggage. We were soon inside, at the ETN waiting room.

(If you are looking to find this post on Surviving La Vida Buena, forget it. I have retired that blog. I admit that I can't even find the Dashboard for it. So, adios, amigo.)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Another Roadside Attraction

La Estancia Camelinas
Sometimes I get fixated on trying a certain restaurant, but it seems as though an opportunity rarely arises. So it was with the apparently popular roadside restaurant at La Estancia, Michoacán, just south of Santiago Undameo. It's close to the Corona soap factory. By sheer coincidence, it is also known as Las Camelinas, but in no way could it ever be confused with Las Camelinas in the Hotel Plaza in Uruapan. Nor can it be compared fairly with the well organized and attractively presented buffet at El Mandil, Pátzcuaro.

In fact, we had breakfasted twice the year before at the outdoor, neighboring annex, Los Equipales. The food and setting were simple and rustic, and I enjoyed it. It has unfortunately closed since then.

But what was it about  the adjoining restaurant that so often attracted so many parked vehicles? We decided to take a Sunday drive, have comida at the mystery restaurant, and after, stop at the berry store. That store was another roadside attraction which we'd often passed but never shopped.

When we drove up to La Estancia Camelinas, it was obvious that Sunday afternoon drew a big crowd. The parking lot was almost full.

Welcome sign
Once inside, we found a table to the rear of one of the several rambling dining spaces. The overall decor was "eclectic". The floor was irregular, and I became somewhat alarmed when I realized that our table, at the base of steep stairs, was the outlet for kitchen staff carrying heavy, hot clay pots from an unseen, upstairs kitchen.

 A waitress told us that the comida was served buffet style. I made a recon of the main hot table. It appeared to be a jumble of hot, cold and should have been hot dishes. A few feet away, a window ledge bore several braziers with more dishes, both hot and cold.

A ledge end in its time

I selected a few of the more appealing items. Bisteces en Salsa Negra was outstanding; tender slices of beef in a zesty sauce. The arroz was o.k. but as a self service customer, I risked wrist burns in reaching the hot cazuela. Frijoles de la olla were unusually silky and rich.

Frijoles, chorizo, arroz and a mystery taco
Doña Cuevas got an entire tender chuleta de cerdo en salsa verde. I thought it was pretty good. There were so many dishes and tidbits that I have no way of recounting all. Some were less visually appealing, so we didn't try them.

Chuleta de Cerdo, salsa verde; cebolla y nopal asados: GOOD!

Our meals came with glasses of  refreshing agua de pepino al limón.

Our cuenta was $180 pesos, plus $20 more for a couple of not bad cafés de olla.

It's a bargain, but not a place for those of delicate sensibilities. I'm glad we tried it. My curiosity is satisfied.

I'm wondering what it's like for breakfast ...

RATINGS

Food: 7

Service: 7

Ambience: informal, self-service buffet. Seating not too comfortable.

Rest rooms: clean and functional.

Cost: BARGAIN! $90 pp

Location

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Up Ramp in Uruapan at the Restaurante Las Camelinas

We’d long had glowing, enthusiastic reports from friends about the Restaurante Las Camelinas, in Uruapan’s Hotel Plaza. Last Saturday, we went in a group, headed up by Georgia, plus Mark and Nancy and Shirley.

Now, normally I would not be drawn to restaurants of this style and class. But I put my peculiar preferences aside and determined to enjoy it.

I rode with Mark and Nancy and our conversation was enjoyable and interesting. Among various topics, we discussed the road navigation app, “WAZE”, which was running on Mark’s phone. I turned mine on and we had some laughs at the two, overlapping  female Spanish WAZE voices.

We arrived at the hotel parking lot entrance after a Waze-guided tour of some of Uruapan’s older, quainter neighborhoods. The dominant feature of the internal parking  at the hotel is the imposing entrance ramp, which ascends maybe 2 stories into the interior.

Elevators or stairs descend  from the parking floor to the restaurant level. The ample foyer is enhanced by very nicely displayed Michoacán artesanías.

Thank you, TripAdvisor (They owe me a few favors)
The dining room lies at right angles to the foyer, with large windows overlooking some picturesque buildings.

This photo brought to you by the wonders of the Internet
We had a large, round table in a corner. The seats were comfortable, but conversation was somewhat difficult over the expanse of the table.

A table very much like ours. It IS ours.
Service was very attentive and professional but not intrusive. In fact, the service ranks among the best I’ve had in Mexico. Some specialties are enhanced with tableside preparation. Caesar Salad, for example. It looked good, if somewhat heavy on the oil, and Georgia made sure that they wouldn’t use any yellow “ballpark” mustard in its preparation. Also Plátanos Flambé, which may not actually be on the menu, but we saw it prepared twice while we were there. The service staff and kitchen seem very open to special and off menu requests.

Plátanos flambé table side
There were two table salsas, a green and a red, apparently made in a licuadora, O.k. but nothing special. There was also a small bowl of what looked like 1000 Islands Dressing, but I didn’t try it. We were also given a dish of Ensaladilla Rusa Cooked: cubed potatoes and carrots in mayonnaise, which was better than I expected but will never become a favorite of mine.

Sra. Cuevas and I both had a mezcal de Etúcaro for openers. Then we both ordered a warm salad of calabacitas plus a little nopal. This was a nice, subtly dressed dish and the pyramid of calabacitas slices were cooked al dente. I had chosen it in anticipation of richly sauced main dishes to follow.

It was challenging to select from the extensive menu, but both Sra. Cuevas and I decided on fish. She had a simple fillet of salmon with an attractive side of ratatouille; I chose the new-to-me “Posta de Robalo de las Hierbas Antiguas.” That was accompanied by a pair of tasty breaded fried “sandwiches” of tomato and cheese. My fish seemed odd to me. Not spoiled, but somewhat odd in taste, and parts had a cartilaginous texture. I didn't finish it. As it turned out, neither had rich sauces.

Robalo con hierbas

Shirley and Georgia both enjoyed a chicken fillet dish in a rich mushroom gravy.


 Others had dishes I couldn’t identify, due to the difficulty of talking across the table.

Unidentified dish.
  But I did get pictures. For example, Mark’s Atún en Salsa de Mango, with its frilly expanded cellophane noodle headpiece.



I had tiramisú for dessert, which was o.k. and small enough not to be excessive. The café Americano was average.

Here are a couple of desserts.

White and dark chocolate on mint sauce

Tiramisú on cappuccino sauce.

In conclusion, I would go there again, and probably would have a beef dish. But I’m in no hurry. It’s kind of far to go for a meal, no matter how good.

La cuenta for just the two of us was $980 pesos, which I thought reasonable. We had two mezcals and a glass of white wine to enhance our meal.

RATINGS

Food: 7

Service: 9

Ambience: Post-Purhépecha decor; somewhat stately style

Cost: (per person, in pesos) -$500

Web site: hotelplazauruapan.com.mx
From the website:

RESTAURANT "LAS CAMELINAS"

Al interior del Edificio en el 1er piso encontrará el Restaurante de Especialidades Las Camelinas con una alta Cocina Mexicana e Internacional, ideal para los amantes de la Comida Gourmet, además la dulce vibración que emite el piano y violín algunas noches. Rodeados de un ambiente romántico y familiar de martes a sábado de 1:00pm a 11:00pm y los domingos de 1:00pm a 5:00pm. Con los más altos estándares de calidad, Certificados con el Distintivo H (manipulación higiénica de los alimentos)
Tel: +52 452 523 3488

Location

Friday, April 07, 2017

Zoned Out


We, like numerous other expats, believe in supporting small, local businesses. For example, we love the Tienda Don Chucho, of which I've written and photographed before. But sometimes it's to our advantage to patronize large, chain businesses. For example, we've nearly stopped going to Pátzcuaro's fabulous but difficult to traverse Mercado Municipal. Instead, we shop in the more convenient and comfortable Bodega Aurrerá and less often at the Mercado Soriana supermarket. We still are loyal to roadside fruit stands often operated by a husband and wife team. In other words, we are not dogmatic.

Our car mechanic is a personable, wiry hombre who works curbside and charges very little. His curbside workspace is near the end of Calle Ibarra, where it meets Libramento. However, his capacity as a one man shop limits the workload. Sometimes we have to wait for an appointment.

(What's the food connection? His shop is about 100 feet from our favorite taquería, El Venadito.)

Pátzcuaro's Libramento is the locale of nearly countless auto service shops and parts stores. But recently we have patronized Pátzcuaro's only AutoZone store.
(There are several in our state capital city of Morelia.)

 It's like an island of American-style business management and organization, here in the heart of Mexico. The interior of the AutoZone store is clean and orderly, with products neatly and logically arranged on the shelves.

If you need a special part, a staff member can look it up on their computer system. More recently, we were pleasantly amazed to find that they had a crucial part for our van's power steering.  On top of everything, there are two clean restrooms at the back of the store.

The employees at the Pátzcuaro AutoZone are especially friendly and helpful. Recently we bought windshield wipers, which they installed for free. They also installed new bulbs in our turn signals.
They are, in fact, outstandingly helpful.

AutoZone Pátzcuaro is located at Libramiento Ignacio Zaragoza 89, Independencia, 61607 Pátzcuaro, Mich., Mexico

Web site: http://www.autozone.com.mx/