26 August 2014

Proyectos pequeños

Wow! (or as spelled out in spanish “¡Guau!”), how time flies (como vuela el tiempo)! It's been almost two months since we last posted here. No problems or issues, or too much of note, we're just enjoying life, reading, jigsaw-puzzling, some TV most nights, and keeping up with the flowers in the yard. It's typical summer weather here, with warm days and very frequent evening showers, that rainfall taking care of a lot of keeping the plants in the yard irrigated, except for those on the porch and under the roof overhangs.

One monday in mid-July, taking advantage of the timing of a 4pm IMSS appointment in Veracruz, we arranged to drive down early in the morning, taking our neighbor Carolyn along with us. She had been wanting to show us one of her favorite beaches there. Our previous trips to the big port city had us in the downtown area, so some time on the beach sounded great. We managed a good part of the day on Playa Mocambo, in the adjacent city of Boca del Rio, south of the port, From our shaded spot on the shore (we're not looking to burn) one can see far around south, past the river mouth, to the point where the navy school is located. The port area is not visible from here, as that vista is only available from around the point to the north. Carmen had packed a light lunch of sandwiches, so we didn't even have to wander off the playa for snacks or partake of fare from the occasional vendors trudging by. Keep in mind this was a non-weekend day, before school was let out for the month long summer vacation, so parking was no problem (in the lot of the waterpark just up the strand), and the beach was not crowded. The water temp was great, with minimal wave action just right for floating on one's back—a relaxing time.

We left Carolyn under a rented-for-the-day (MX$30) umbrella station (table, chairs) on the beach, got to the clinic in time for the cita, and afterwards had time for a great Carl Jr's burger next to where we parked. Then back to the Plaza America mall (across the coastal highway from Mocambo) where we connected with Carolyn in the food court. She just loves to mall browse. Aside from a few routing mistakes, caused by not having a detailed city map and street construction changing things up a bit, it was a good day. We got back home just after dark, the last few miles on the new lanes of the autopista in the rain (no visible lane edge markings yet, and a steep drop where the shoulder had not yet been graded) causing just a bit of white-knuckling. Dan hates driving at night, so we make every effort to plan our trips to avoid it—if we had avoided the transit misdirects in Veracruz we could have been home an hour earlier.

We celebrated Dan's birthday with a restaurant outing in Córdoba. A few days before we took the time to do a walking tour of the area we think of as the restaurant area of the city. We dropped into six or seven eating establishments serving a variety of cuisines (italian, argentine, brazilian,japanese, etc), viewed menus, prices and ambiance, and decided for this occasion we'd visit the Villa Franca, a new restaurant specializing in “Mediterranean” meals. It was a good choice, after we moved our party (the two of us plus Ania & Frank) from the open area in front (too much street noise) to farther back but next to an inner courtyard window.

A couple of proyectos pequeños (small projects) in the house occupied us a bit. The open shelves in the bathroom got fitted with cantina-style doors (two pairs, the lower ones hung upside down). We bought these unfinished at Home Depot, and stained, varnished, hinged and hung them to create the look of a floor to ceiling cabinet. Now all the bottles and boxes of meds and body care stuff are out of sight.

Items in open hanging areas and on shelves tends to get dusty, but one has to be careful if closing-in spaces or covering them, because mildew is always lurking. So the new bath cabinet has louvered doors. The shelves and unenclosed “closet” spaces where our clothes live have been great for reducing chances for mildew on the fabrics, but even so Carmen hangs them all out in the sunshine every so often to keep them fresh. Closing off that end of the bedroom with louvered doors was considered, but that would have been a big, pricey, job and the doors would always be in the way. So for the master bedroom we found some pull-up “cortinas romanas” made of bamboo slats at Walmart, a type of shade normally used outdoors on a porch. Even this much of enclosure will keep the air a bit stagnant around the clothes, so we will only use these shades some of the time. Pulled up, they are completely out of the way.

Of course they didn't exactly fit the spaces, so both sides had
to be trimmed off with shears and hacksaw, and the bracket slots recreated in the new ends. That got the widths correct, without having to change the cording mechanisms. We elected to hang these so that there was about 8” of space above the shade (where air can easily exit, yet above the sight-line so the hanging clothes aren't visible), and a similar amount at the floor, where our shoes get stashed (again, this is good for keeping them dry and mildew-free).

We have had building-related activity on all three sides of us. Actually, as I write this, there is a crew cleaning out the undergrowth and pulling down bedraggled and brown leaves from the banana field to the north, so some activity interesting to us has taken place in all four directions. After Valentin, in the single-story house to the west, moved away, the landlord came by with a crew to touch up all the exterior painting, reseal most of the roof, and put it new rain scuppers there. So far, no new tenants into this small house, and the landlord comes by de vez en cuando to keep the garden looking nice. Beyond that house, there is a vacant lot, overgrown and rampantly green for all the
while we have been here, that has now be cleaned out, possibly to be sold?

To the east, the corner double-wide lot across the street has been rising fast. The regular crew seems to consist of six or seven happy guys. After the concrete walls went up, about a week of work erecting temporary posts and plywood floor forms, topped with a maze of rebar (varilla) and lastly a bunch of orange flexible electrical conduit and junction boxes tacked to the forms. We expected a pumper and concrete truck (from Veracruz port, the closest ready-mix plant) would be the next step.

Not so. This past saturday trucks delivered huge piles of sand, gravel and then a hundred or so bags of cement, these last stacked against the walls of the church to the north. A crew of 35 men swarmed over the area, making concrete in two large towable mixers, with others carrying it in partly-filled 5-gal buckets (cubetas) to the wall, others standing on a mid-wall height scaffold and hoisting the buckets to the floor level where others would run it over the rebar-covered floor to dump it for the guys placing and vibrating the mix into place. There were enough guys on the crew that a couple would be free to rest for brief periods. By the end of the afternoon all the work was done. Amazing!

Next door to the south, the house (used to be an office for a social-services organization, empty since the end of the year) has been sold to a local newly-married couple, Jorge & Carla. This is Jorge's second marriage, as also living with them is his daughter and his granddaughter (nieta). We have only met Jorge so far. This building, as an office, was only finished on the ground floor, with open-to-sky partial brick walls on the unfinished second story. There is now a crew of three albañiles working to complete the construction (with also some paint and finish work downstairs), which will consist of pouring posts between the old freestanding brick upper walls, then beams and eventually a sloping slab concrete roof. It will be good to have this building made weather-proof, as the rain-soaked brickwork has been wicking moisture into our contiguous wall.

A couple of new blooms have pleased us. First, our night-blooming cereus had three buds that we had thought were new branching stems, but as they developed we discovered they would be flowers. Unfortunately they got to just that point where we were checking every night to see if they had opened when they suddenly died back. Turns out we had let the pot get too dry. We are now taking more care and we have gotten another burst of seven flower buds. Since this plant blooms earlier in the year, perhaps this is because the first flowers failed to mature. How far will these get, and will any of them then form into pitahaya (“dragon fruit”). (Dan bought a huge pitahaya at the grocery store and enjoyed it's succulence. Carmen used a bit of it as a garnish on a melon-jicama pineaple-yogurt-dressed salad one day that Frank & Ania visited us for lunch.). The Stapelia gigantea (carrion plant) just keeps pushing out huge blooms that the house flies just love to visit.

The Stanhopea occulata (Torito, Two-Eyes Stanhopea) we have had for the longest time in a coir lined wire-basket hanging near the from gate, pushed out a bloom stalk thru the bottom of the basket. The large native orchids didn;t last very long but were beautiful, with a fragrance of mint-chocolate. We took the time one day when the car was out to visit the floricultura center north of town and but several plants we have been wanting. This include a Cycas revoluta (sago palm), a native Zamia furfuracea (cardboard palm) and an Adenium obesum (desert/karoo rose), plus another hibiscus to replace the one we lost.

Currently, the open storage wall in the mid-sized front guest room also is getting an enclosing “treatment,” vertical curtains. The fabric Carmen is using is actually plant shading cloth, so it is very strong, weatherproof and yet allows air to pass thru it. Aside from some problems with the sewing machine, which have been resolved, this project is almost done.


05 July 2014

El juego hermoso

Sábado 05 Julio 2014   Why it is called “the beautiful game” always was a mystery. No longer. Futbol (you might know it as soccer) mania cannot be escaped in whatever corner of the world you might find yourself, outside of the USA. It's the most popular sport played across the planet. Over the last half of June and the first couple of weeks of July, the elimination tournament known as the FIFA World Cup (Copa Mundial) is played out, this year in Brasil. More people watch these broadcasts than any other event. We are now veterans of this here in Fortin, as we were first here thinking about finding a retirement home, four years ago during a similar time. Still can remember the flat screens TV's playing to load and attentive aficionados at every possible open-to-the-street venue we passed.

It's a beautiful game because it can be played on almost any flat field, little team & personal equipment is required, the ball is always highly visible, anybody can score, scoring is rare enough that each point made is memorable, the rules are very simple, collaborative skill and intelligence is needed to score, a team doesn't have to win to leave the field satisfied (hard-fought ties are sometimes the most talked about games), and except for rare overtimes, the game never consumes more than two hours. It doesn't hurt that, at a national level, a lot of very smart, very fit and arguably very attractive players fill out the teams.

Contrast this with the paint-dryingly boring games that populate the NoB networks: baseball, basketball, golf and “American” football (and that, a real misnomer).

Why is the USA the only country where soccer has been almost a second place sport? Perhaps because there the crowds can't chant with any conviction “We're Number One!” Perhaps because the media can't get behind a sport where there are rare time-outs and the halftime cannot be longer than 15 minutes, therefore not allowing enough time for lots of commercials? Perhaps because the American public has been now well trained to demand spectator sports broadcasts long enough and slow enough to allow for frequent and extended beer and snack breaks?

The scoop is that this tournament has actually amped up US public interest in the game, so things perhaps are looking up. Both the Mexico and US teams made it to the octavo eliminations, succumbing to Holland and Belgium, respectively. It was great while it lasted. That last four minutes of the Mexico-Netherlands game was so disheartening—“we was robbed!” Please tune in and enjoy the rest of the tourney—personally, we're hoping that tiny Costa Rica triumphs.

There was a field-of-vision eye exam scheduled in Veracruz city, so we decided to go down a day early to see if we could catch some of the port's festivities surrounding the presence of the Tall Ships, which were due to sail out the same Monday as the eye exam. We found accommodations at the Hotel Posada del Carmen, one block from the pier. Our room, on the sixth floor, gave us a view of four of the ships, and later the Sunday parade that came down the Boulevard Avila Camacho that evening. This was the last port of call for the Velas Sudamerica 2014 Regatta that left from Rio de Janeiro in early February. The extremely long, slow-moving lines formed up for people to board and visit the ships this last day convinced us our time was better spent on land. We've been on large sailing ships before.

We walked around the downtown area, visiting a few of the sights including the city museo and the Baluarte de Santiago, a fortified cannon battery that used to sit on the coast here to protect this city. It is now inland about four blocks from the water, and city maps showed how, over the years, the city configuration of today was built up on reclaimed land around the present day port basin. We arrived just before closing for the famous naval museum, so we'll visit there another day.

The next morning we visited the mooring area for the other three veleros altos, including Mexico's Cuauhtemoc training vessel.  Ships were also there (in homage to the 100th anniversary of the brave who died in defense of the port from the invading US yanquis) from other countries: Brasil (Cisne Branco), Colombia (Gloria), Venezuela (Simon Bolivar), Chile (Esmeralda), Argentina (Libertad) and the Peru (Villavicencio).

The Mexican vessel was moored just in front of the Pemex tower at the foot of the malecon. Off to the northeast, across the basin, one can see the cranes above the working port facilities. The city buildings in this downtown area were all spruced up, sporting fresh paint, for the centennial observances held here earlier in the year. Unfortunately, the eye exam took place over in the other end of the city, so we had to leave before the zarpa (setting sail) of any of the ships. On the way home we stopped a couple of times at mini-fruit stands to check on buying a box a mangos, but the peak of the season seems to have passed, and they didn't look good enough to chance it. We got back home in time to see Mexico beat Croatia in game #34 of the FIFA Cup. We reflected on how our friends back home in Anacortes, a town with a large expat Croatian population, were probably rooting for the other side this day.

We have been jumping thru hoops for more than a month now, dealing with the fallout from BanamexUSA's abrupt action to close our accounts in Los Angeles. No great problem making wire transfers to other US institutions (at least while we still own a bit of property there, with an address of record), and redirecting social security payments was a snap. But, we have been fighting with BmxUSA for over two weeks trying to wire funds to a recently opened Banamex account here in Fortín, still not accomplished.

Interestingly, opening the Banamex peso account was no problem, but part of the process was completion of a W-9 form, in English, and an agreement (again in English) stating: "The undersigned hereby authorizes [Banamex] to report, on (an) annual basis, the account holder information and any interest earned to the US Internal Revenue Service and to withhold any US tax on such interest, if withholding is required, at the current applicable rate." We are attempting to maintain Mexican joint bank accounts well below the US$10,000 amount to avoid annual FBAR reporting, and to be able to maintain FDIC and SIPC protections on our assets NoB. This may be impossible depending on how other US financial institutions react.

It is incomprehensible to us how rejecting investments from persons outside the US (ie, stopping money flow into the US), coupled with requiring that US citizens living abroad remove their funds from the US (ie, making money flow out of the US), can make any kind of economic sense to the US economy in the long run. Seems that paranoia in the US congress (source of these xenophobic new laws), on both sides of the aisle, is moving that once-great country nearer to a fiscal meltdown. I guess we will have to do some investigation with a goal of discovering some Mexican financial instruments that we feel good about--where it seems like where we will ultimately have to place our assets.

On the home front, seems like every several days there is a new orchid, bromeliad or heliconia to amaze us, as plants we purchased along the way open their blooms for the first time. Our vanilla orchid continues to grow taller, and its now above the tree planted to support it, surging up along the tall bamboo pole erected on the south wall of the front garden. Summer rains have lessened the need to get out the hose to irrigate by hand, and we have had more time for reading and jigsaw puzzling.

06 June 2014

Dia mundial del medio ambiente

Turns out yesterday was World Environment Day.  We learned this after the fact, but as it turns out we had put out for the regular solid waste collection, a large container of clean plastic containers and tin cans we had been accumulating, and Carmen had also policed around the house and up & down the streets a bit, disposing of the scraps of paper and plastic trash blown out of passing vehicles or was discarded by sloppy passers-by.  Here, separation of waste materials takes place right beside the garbage compactor truck, which has bags and boxes strapped or tied to it for plastic, steel, newspapers and the like.  When a container is completely filled with a recyclable material, someone lifts it to the top of the truck where it is tied on.  At the end of the run the truck is quite a sight, covered as it is with bags and stacks of flattened cardboard. Only true mixed garbage goes into the maw of the compactor.  This seems so much more sensible than compacting everything and then picking thru the mess in some centralized recycling facility.

A hard rain again last night and steady all last sunday. However at this time of year the temperature only drops into the high 60s F with the nighttime tormentas. so we leave the windows open except if there are gusts blowing the raindrops thru the screens. Around here, when we get rain it's often accompanied by a bit of (usually distant, 9 seconds away or so) trueno y relampago (thunder and lightning, donner und blitzen).  This kind of sound and light show was very rare in Anacortes, WA, so we're kind of in awe of the spectacle here and beginning to like the dramatic, usually brief, tropical downpours.  At night we often smell the fragrance of whatever orchid is currently flowering.  We've heard that flowers which smell strongest at night are normally fertilized by moths.

We are reminded occasionally that we still live on the Pacific ring of fire.  Every so often we feel the ground tremble.  Not long ago we awoke one morning about 5am with our bed jiggling.  There was a tremor down on the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. No damage to speak of, but it's always unsettling when what is presumed to be solid underfoot, isn't. (It seems that most of the faults that are subject to underground movement are on the Pacific side of the country, most often in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.)  Then that same morning at 8am there was a tremendous boom, as a power transformer down the street blew up!   We expected a long period without electricity, but CFE had it replaced in about four hours. 

We finally put a bar along the bottom of our car gate where we saw the gray cat belly-squiggling under. Then a week later we found her sitting just inside our back door discussing who knows what with our own cats – very quietly. Shooed her out and discovered another place that she could squeeze thru. She surely is slender, and gets along well with the other two. We just do not need or can afford another animal, so we blocked that access point off as well.  The animals will just have to visit nose-to-nose thru the gate.

Seems that the zafra (cane harvest) is finished for this season, which means the air is cleaner. We have worked hard getting the black soot off from everything. We are busy “working” on jigsaw puzzles and reading, including the Harry Potter series, borrowed electronically from the Anacortes library, which we have not read before. Our bleeding heart Clerodendrum thomsoniae (flor de bandera) is blossoming beautifully this year.

Things are happening! First and most interesting – Gardi cat found us a salamander. Are they not just the cutest creatures? Long slender bodies with a bulbus roundish head and tiny short stick like legs with toes. This one was medium brown and in our back yard. Actually in a large empty flower pot which Gardi tipped over with a small crash of the ceramic pot. Carmen rescued it and hopefully saved it in some thick plantings.  She notes that american robins are out and about singing the songs we grew up with.  Since Mexico is as far as they migrate south for the winters, the ones we have seen must be stoking up getting ready to wing their way north!

The house construction across the street to the east of our house has been restarted after a five month break of no action. The work and daily progress keeps us entertained. One of the fellows working has a great voice and spends much time singing at the top of his lungs.

From our rooftop we saw some construction happening at the other end of the banana field to our east – well behind the house being built, just about a block away.  When it first started we assumed (as indicated by the city building permit nailed to the wall), that is was a large residence.  To our disconcertion it is actually a storage yard and bodega (warehouse) for storing chicken crates, usually loaded high on parked semi-trailers. No live chickens, but some of the odor is still there! So far we have seldom smelled anything at our house, but there are occasional hints or whiffs of "fragrance" on the breeze.

Our good quiet neighbor, Valentin, to our west has moved out. Bummer. The house is a rental and is now being spruced up. We hope the next tenant speaks English and is quiet, and perhaps this time with no barking dogs. Time will tell.  Also the house to our immediate south (actually used as an office), with which we share a wall, has had no visible activity in it since before Xmas.

Thanks to Homeland Security and Bernie Madoff, BanamexUSA has canceled all of the bank accounts it holds with folks living in Mexico, giving only a month's notice, so we have been scrambling to find the best new arrangement for our banking needs. BanamexUSA was so convenient, providing peso withdrawals by local ATM from our accounts held in California, and charging no international funds access fees. This also means that we must have our social security sent to a different location. Talk about frustrating!!!!

On the way home from our walk into town today, we purchased 17 manila mangoes for US$0.78. The time before we bought a bunch of fresh litchis.  We love the availability of fresh, inexpensive tropical fruit.  When visiting the bank, we walked past a nearby house in downtown Fortín, where we heard and saw two men yesterday sitting on the front porch and speaking english. We were in a hurry at the time so did not stop then, and they were gone later. Will introduce ourselves eventually.

We went to bed one night recently and discovered that part of our upstairs is now lit with a bright new halogen light. We could probably read by this light in the one bedroom. The new light is aimed down Avenida 21, but canted in such a way to illuminate our north wall from the power pole across the street. It will certainly give us more security, and at no cost to us except for a bit of glare! The bedroom we sleep in has curtains heavy enough that the extra light does not bother us, plus it is easier to see when we go to the potty in the night. So, what we first considered to be a bad thing, is actually all good!

We discovered the hugest paper wasp nest (about the size of a soccer ball) we have ever seen near our chimney high up on the north wall outside! We are getting up early in the mornings when the air is as cool as it gets, and spraying with a long jet of insecticide. We now see little wasp activity, and need to eventually get brave enough to knock it down, hoping that the wasps have all departed.

We are getting back into fix-up mode again. Dan put up the toilet paper roller and towel rods in our new bathroom, and also hung a full length mirror and installed a door stop in the tiled floor. Next we sanded off the deteriorating finish on our cedar chest. We have two power sanders, so we could both work at the same time. Had to mix a bit of special stain for some trim strips. Carmen gave the whole chest three coats of new nitrocellulose lacquer.  We also sanded some rough spots on the bed frame we had made for the guestroom, and restained and sealed that too. While we had the lacquer out, we disassembled our queen-sized storage bed John Janda had built for us, and attached padded galvanized steel channel stock on the bottom, to raise the structure about 3/4" off the floor.  When we reassembled things we touched up the surfaces where the shallow flooding coming inside from the terrace had damaged the finish.  The bed is now high enough that it stands completely off the the floor--so no more worries about damaging things from stormwater emergencies or wet-mopping the tiled floor.

We still have many small projects. Dan was going to paint a sealer on a bit of our wall that faces the house to west (where Valentin lived). There are some fellows working there getting ready to repaint that house, so Dan asked if he could go over with our ladder to work on that face of our wall while they were there. The fellow showed up this morning and suggested he could do the application of the impermeabilizante for us.  Dan was happy to pay him, and mark that job off our to-do list.

01 May 2014

El Fortíncito

During Semana Santa (the holy week leading up to Easter) Dan heard news on the local radio station that the city of Fortín would be running a special tour bus visiting some interesting sites around the area.  The three hour tours would take place thursday thru sunday, with three departures each day.  Kathy Perez, the morning news host, talked the trip up after she took one of the first ones.  The new mayor is very much into promoting the delights of his fair city for visitors and tourists, and these new bus tours are an early result of his efforts. The weather during mid-week was pretty iffy but by saturday things had improved so much that we decided to indulge our curiosity the next morning.

Easter sunday we were up early, well-breakfasted, shod with good walking shoes and armed with a bit of bug repellent to ward off any chiggers that might be lurking in the grassy areas we would be visiting.  We walked into the center of town, arriving in front of city hall about 8:15am.  Sure enough there was a booth set up, and the young ladies in attendence said the lady with the tickets would be there soon.  We took a turn around the park and by the time we got back to the booth there were quite a few people standing around to buy tickets. We wondered if we would get seats, but apparently some of the folks were there to buy passage on the later noon and 3pm tours. The short street directly in front of the munipcal building where we were waiting is closed off on weekends and hoildays, and it is here where the bouncy inflatables are set up for the little kids, and from where the mini-"train" circulates.  We saw that there was a new, larger train parked here, perhaps also thru the efforts of the new mayor.  About quarter to nine a gayly painted Metro bus pulled up and we we able to board, sitting well up front.  By nine the 40-passenger El Fortíncito bus was full and off we went.

Ana, our guide started off welcoming us, explaining that this little tour would take us around the city and as far north as Monte Blanco.  She asked those in the group to raise their hands when she called out their home locations, and it turned out that qute a few folks were from other states in Mexico.  Everyone clapped for each group so identified.  She also asked how many were from the US, and the two of us raised hands, to a huge applause from all.  She proudly told us we were the first "international" visitors to take this tour.  Later we explained to her that we were also "locals."  Throughout the trip she threw in a few english ín words here and there to help explain things for Carmen.  The bus headed out thru Fortín Viejo, the old part of the  town, passing outside of a gate behind which Ana told us was the site and ruins of the old fort that gave the name to the city.  The mayor is trying to negotiate the ability to include visits to this interesting site, now on the grounds of a private home, in future city tours.  Our current tour, consisting of six brief stops, was just a sampling of several future itineraries in the planning stages, which would specialize in specific areas or subjects of interest, like the history, culture and economy of the community.  Just below the location of the fort on the old steep road down into the Metlac canyon to the west of town, we stopped a El Mirador (recently opened, cleaned up an painted.  A few picnic tables here overlook the Metlac river far below.

Next stop was the Museo Tatsu Goro, the famous national bonsai museum about four blocks south of the center of town in the attractive residential area where we had looked to buy a home a few years ago.  The museum, created by Don Miguel Ros, houses a collection of over 500 specimens in over 100 species, accumulated over more than 30 years.  The museum is open to the public, free of charge, and also offers inexpenive classes in bonsai creation and care.  Staff gave our group a brief overview, and we wandered around admiring the various types of bonsai.

From downtown Fortín we headed north on the highway that goes to Coscomatepec and Huatusco, to the town of Monte Blanco, and actually a bit further west into the adjacent pueblo of Santa Lucía Potrerillo. Here we visited the site of the ex-hacienda Monte Blanco.  It lies at the foot of the dominating crest of that name, which was topped in the past by a small fortification.  This old estate was occupied by a family up to the time of the revolution.   The walls and remaining ruins give some idea of the kind of life that was possible on a country quinta controlling a large part of the surrounding area.  There are hopes of creating a small museum here, with photos form that era illustrating how things looked back when it was a functioning enterprise.

Next a rest and refreshment stop at Chula Vista, a restaurant and outdoor recreation center in Monte Blanco on the rim of the Metlac green and forested canyon.  Some of the folks on the bus elected to stay here and return on a later bus, as this is a good departure point for a hike down into the natural area below.  The final stop on the tour was the Parque de Floricultura just north of Fortin.  We wondered why there was no sign of preparations for the upcoming annual Feria de la Flor, always held at the end of April  -- we later learned that this year's festival will be held  during the first ten days of august, in conjunction with the town's celebration of it's founding on 03 August 1930.  We spent maybe 15 minutes al the floral center, and got back downtown just about noon, where a busload of folks where waiting for seats on the next departure.