We have been living at Lake Chapala for four months now and I thought it would be a good time to check in and report on how things are going.
We love the weather here. We arrived in the middle of June, having left hot and humid Mazatlán. We immediately started enjoying the cool nights and mornings, and now as fall is here we actually put a blanket on the bed! We hadn’t slept with a blanket in so many years that it is a cozy and pleasant experience we’d almost forgotten. Most days are warm and sunny, too! I like to walk a few miles daily and I can head out at any time without any risk of heat stroke or the need to mop my forehead. I am looking forward to wearing a cute pair of boots and even a muffler now and then during the winter and also making use of our fireplace. People complain online about the mosquitoes Lakeside but we haven’t been bothered much except right around dusk. I would say the weather here is A+.
The Gringo Community
There has been a large expat community here for many, many years. There is also a lot of movement in the community as people come and go every year. I believe it makes old timers somewhat wary to invest much time in new friendships until they see if you are really going to last, but I find that very understandable. There are lots of established social and charitable groups that do a lot of good in the community so finding things to do and getting to know people is easy enough to do. I do see that I got a bit lazy socially in Mazatlán as all we needed to do if we wanted to have a social evening was head to the Machado or Olas Altas and we would enjoy visiting with lots of people we knew without planning ahead. Here things do need a bit more planning but we do bump into people we know pretty much every time we are out and about.
The Mexican Community
Obviously we haven’t been here that long but already we are starting to feel like we belong here and are recognized neighbors in San Antonio Tlayacapan. Everyone here greets each other as we walk about and I am developing those friendly neighborhood relationships that are so important to me. Walking as much as I do and chatting with people whenever possible is a really big part of feeling a part of a place. I love it.
Since there have been expats here for such a long time, locals have made it a priority to learn English. So even if you go into a tiny tienda you might encounter someone who speaks English. At first that just felt strange to me but now I just go ahead and speak Spanish. I have even been thanked for speaking Spanish, too. As we observe others we do notice that many people don’t even use the most basic Spanish, which does seem strange. We have seen online how some totally fluent expats are very generous helping those who don’t manage so well.
One thing I love here is that except for a few items we really don’t need to go to big stores like Walmart or Soriana. For the most part we shop locally – on Mondays I go to the San Antonio farmer’s market. Tuesday is the farmer’s market in West Ajijic and Wednesday is the tianguis on Calle Revolución in Ajijic. We haven’t gone to the Chapala tianguis yet as we haven’t needed anything more. Oh, and Fridays there is a small tianguis right in the San Antonio plaza. We have noticed that our cupboards and fridge are less full as we buy smaller amounts more often. Oh, and for those of you who know how much I like my health nut goodies I buy all kinds of great stuff like water and milk kefir, naturally fermented pickles and veg, organic beet kvass, ginger juice, kombucha etc. There are a number of very good organic stores and on my regular route I can pick up vegan bacon and sausages along with a bamboo toothbrush and much more.
Because of the transient nature of the expats here – plus houses are often sold furnished – there are a lot of resale shops Lakeside. Some are better than others but we have been astounded at the great resale shopping. There are also some really decent furniture stores, too. Shopping for clothes is not the greatest unless you are into resale shops – if you want a pair of new Levis you will want to go to Guadalajara. The trick for me is remembering where a place is as most are dotted along the highway between Ajijic and Chapala and diving off and on while watching traffic and searching for a place can be a bit crazy. Costco is an hour away and we are looking forward to Ikea opening next year in Guadalajara.
There are a lot of charitable animal groups here doing a lot of good work. There are also a lot of doggy play/boarding places for your animal friends as well as a variety of places to buy high quality animal food.
We have enjoyed some very good meals here Lakeside but often the food is almost there but not quite. So far the best meals we’ve had have been at Tabarka, Tremezzo, Go Bistro, Xolo, La Pacena and Huerto Cafe. One thing I’ve noticed is that because of the very active vegan community here (more on that below) many restaurants have been encouraged to put vegetarian and vegan items on their menus. This means I have had more choice here than I had expected.
There is an active vegan community here and a number of vegan restaurants, too. A couple of weeks ago there was a very well attended and fun Vegan Fest as well. So if you are vegan you will find plenty of awareness locally, lots of products available to buy and a group that regularly meets for meals and chatting.
One of the things I am enjoying after so many years in the city is living in such a peaceful, beautiful spot so full of birds. Horses and cows pass by on the little lane near us and we are constantly seeing new birds. This week huge quantities of white pelicans have returned from the North and we saw a large red bird on the fountain. Hopefully he’ll come back so we can identify him! At night the only things we hear are frogs or crickets.
We’re looking forward to another visitor coming later this month and then not long after, El Dia de los Muertos! It’ll be fun to experience the holiday here… and it’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since our Day of the Dead in Tepoztlán!