Somewhere in northeastern Romania. Photo taken November 30, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Not sure. We're staying in Chisinau for a week or so.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Nice town, except for the gringos...

Two weeks from today we meet up with the Mexico RV Caravan that we will be leading for a month from Guanajuato to Melaque on the Pacific coast. We're excited about this new opportunity and looking forward to sharing our knowledge of RVing in Mexico with a group of new people.

Right now, we are staying on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato. This is our third time visiting this area. It's a nice little city (pop 140,000) with a beautiful central plaza and one of the most photographed churches in all of Mexico.

The only problem we have with the city is the number of expats.

Various articles state that the expat population of San Miguel ranges somewhere between 6% to 20% of the total population.

Yesterday, we walked down the hill and to a house that friends Peter and Shelagh have rented for a three month period.

Some expensive homes overlooking San Miguel de Allende.

Apparently there has been an influx of property buyers from Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Queretaro in the last few years. But we still saw a lot of licence plates from Texas and other parts of the U.S.. Strangely, we didn't see any Canadian licence plates although we know that there are a lot of Canadian expats and visitors here as well.

Courtyard and fountain.

Looking towards the central area.

The house that Peter and Shelagh are renting is right beside a school, and when we got there we noticed that the school was closed for the day. Hmm. We met up with them and continued walking towards downtown. As we got closer, we heard music and drums and realized that there was a parade going on.

This is why there are no children in school. They're all in the parade!

Can't have a parade without a parade princess.

Even an aerial fly by.

It turns out that Ignacio Allende was born in San Miguel on January 21, 1769, so the city was celebrating his birthday yesterday. And the city was later named after him with the addition of "de Allende" ...hence the current name of San Miguel de Allende.

Dedication to Ignacio Allende.

The steeple of the San Miguel Parroquia, one of the most photographed churches in Mexico.

Oh, there they go again.

We walked up to the old bull ring. There hasn't been any bull fighting here since 2013, and now the ring is used for concerts and festivals etc.

The old San Miguel bullring, built around 1856.

There they go again!

Peter, Ruth, and Shelagh.

We stopped for lunch, but Shelagh wasn't feeling well and took a taxi home to have a nap. 

There wasn't a single Mexican being served in this restaurant. All gringos. The waiter came by and gave us menus...totally in English.

One of the things we don't like about expat areas is that there is too much use of the English language. We find that you will learn more when you're forced to use Spanish.

So I asked him (in Spanish) for a menu in Spanish. He laughed, and went and got one, but even that menu was partially bilingual. 

The food was good, although not enough of it, and not very good service. Ruth and I split a plate of fajitas and I had a couple of beer and Ruth had a glass of jamaica. The bill for the two of us was 150 pesos ($12.45 CAD) and we didn't leave a tip.

(Edit: We've learned with fajitas that one order has always been too much for one person to eat. We've ordered this meal many times in many different restaurants in Mexico over the past eight years. So we've learned to split an order and that's enough for the two of us. This particular time, the plate of food arrived and I could have *easily* eaten it on my own. So when splitting it between two of us, it wasn't enough food and that made it overpriced compared to similar establishments that we've been in.)

We then walked over to the San Miguel RV Park and Tennis Courts. We thought that this was where friends Paula and Jerry from Nova Scotia were staying, but when we got there they were nowhere to be seen. There were six or so rigs there, all small ones because they say you can only get in there if you're under 26 ft. It would be very tight for Sherman to get in there, and the place doesn't interest us anyhow.

I sent Paula a note and it turns out they're at the San Ramon hotel and balneario (swimming pools) on the outskirts of town. We were headed there with Sherman next anyhow, so we'll see them this afternoon!

Wandering downtown, we were called over by a couple "Oh look, it's Ruth and Kevin". Turns out that Trish and her husband John have been reading this blog since they researched their South Africa trip and had come across some info here from when we did our trip there. They were busy doing a food tour of San Miguel, so perhaps we'll get together with them another day.

Went to the market and picked up some veggies on our way back to Peter and Shelagh's. Sat and chatted for the rest of the afternoon and had a glass or three of wine. They made chicken breast and ceasar salad, and we had a nice dinner together.

Peter, Shelagh, Kevin, and Ruth.

Most people seem to love San Miguel, but it's not our thing and so we're heading out to the hotel and balneario for a day or two to visit with Paula and Jerry. Might come back into town one more day to spend some time with Trish and John, but then it's time to move on.

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Local Saskatchewan author (and an avid traveler and reader of this blog) Ryshia Kenney has had a new book published by Harlequin Intrigue...you can buy it here...


And in Canada (release date Feb 1)...





67 comments:

  1. That's how I feel about New York! Nice town except for all the gringos (foreigners).

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    1. Yep, and San Miguel is a beautiful town, no doubt about it!

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  2. We have been to San Miguel twice and love the place. We camped on the edge of town because we had a 32 ft 5 th wheel so there was no way I was going any further into town. We also like Deloris Hidalgo for the pottery. Good Luck with your Caravan.

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    1. We think it is a beautiful town as well and the architecture is amazing. We are planning on making it to Dolores Hidalgo. We were there once before a few years ago but never went to the centro area, this time we will. When we were there before we checked out one of the pottery places where we were able to go behind the scenes and got to see them making the pottery from start to finish and really enjoyed it.

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  3. I love and miss San Miguel. I wish I can make it there one day again.

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    1. I know you love it here Renate, I hope that you will make it back one day soon.

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  4. Norma is much more enthusiastic about SMA than I. I have reservations for the same reasons as you. Too much English, too many gringos and too high prices because of this. Several years ago we strolled past a open house in a small house downtown. It was nice but the price was $1.2 million US dollars! Norma had a haircut there and in the seat next to her was Toller Cranston, the Canadian skater. She talked me into getting a haircut there and, foolishly, I did without asking the cost. I was charged $250 pesos when the average cost for men's haircuts in Mexico is $30 - $40 pesos.

    I do however enjoy the photo opportunities and the great light in the side streets.

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    1. I remember you telling us that story Croft. Norma must have been in her glory being able to talk to him about skating. Too bad you never got to make it to his house, it was totally amazing.

      Yes, it is a gorgeous place to visit for the photo opportunities, and we do love wandering around the all the different streets, there is lots of history here.

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  5. I guess mentioning that they have an awesome (from what I've heard) yearly international writers conference won't up your rating of San Miguel? :) Mega thanks for the shout out!

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    1. I hope one day Ryshia that you can make it the international writers conference, but no it doesn't change how we think about it.

      You are welcome, hope it will help you out. :-)

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  6. hello friends , enjoy these beautiful villages steeped in history and independence of mexico , greetings

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    1. Gracias Paco y Oty! Nos encanta la historia y los edificios aquí, pero creo que nos gusta Valle mejor! Los extraño a ambos.

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  7. I enjoyed SMA but found it overrun by Americans as well-- likely, those who just get their itinerary ideas from upscale travel magazines that say it's an absolute "must do" location to see and be seen. Thankfully, I had visited Guanajuato just before SMA and absolutely fell in love with that town even more. Yes, GTO is upscale touristy too, but seemed to have more of a mix of Mexican, Canadian, and European tourists. Neither SMA or GTO seem particularly "typical" for a Mexican town, but they sure are gorgeous.

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  8. Can I subscribe to this blog so I will be alerted when you post?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just enter your email address up near the top just above the Archives in the right hand column where is says "Follow us by email".

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  9. I live here in SMA full time and I see in your that did not leave a TIP. People like yourself that refuse to leave even a minimum tip of 10% are a disgrace to expats the world over. Please do not return, we do not need your kind here.

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    1. Tips aren't mandatory. If the service isn't good - and I am speaking as a former waiter and bartender - then the lack of tips will hopefully encourage the server to seek employment elsewhere. To simply add 10% out of pity is simply ridiculous.

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    2. That's a pretty high horse that you're on there Charles. Be careful that you don't hurt yourself if you fall off.

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    3. Tips are for service rendered, not a must. I tip a lot but if I get poor service I do not. a year ago last fall, our craavn had a meal at an expensive restaurant in Tlaquepaque. A small one only 3 couples. we sat there as they served 4 tables before us where those people had been seated well after us. We left a 1 Peso tip. Ther are times when tips are just that, tips, not added on charges.

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    4. I've lived in Mexico for over 30 years. I earn pesos. I won't tip if not deserved or tip big if I didn't receive good service. If you wouldn't do it in your home country why would you do it somewhere else?

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  10. I think you have to expect a small serving if you split a plate of food.

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    1. Anywhere else that we have had fajitas in Mexico we have always had a huge helping that has been too much for just one of us, we thought this would have been similar but obviously we were wrong.

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  11. This had to be the most self serving piece I have read about travel, anywhere. SMA is loved by many and that's why there are so many gringos there. Get over it. About the tip thing, don't be so tight, it is not pity but if you look around and the place is full of gringos...I suggest a tip is a good thing. I doubt you will go back there and if you do they won't serve you. Split a meal, don't leave a tip.....sounds selfish to me.

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    1. We never said we didn't like San Miguel, just the fact that we found it to have way to many gringos for us and that it tends to change the flavor of the town. We know that many foreigners love it here and as longer as they are happy that is great. This was only our opinion of San Miguel.

      As for tipping we tip when we get good service which is about 99% of the time and more often than not it is more than the 10% but if the service isn't up to par, which it wasn't in this case we don't tip.

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    2. Q. Whats the difference between a Canadian and a Canoe?
      A. A canoe tips

      It wasnt the waiter's fault that the serving was small...

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  12. Replies
    1. I also agree with Elaine and Elspeth - and MexicoRuss! Kevin and Ruth you can do better than this....

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    2. As I mentioned in my reply to Elaine be have had fajitas a number of different times in various places in Mexico and one plate has been too much food for just one of us. We assumed that would be the case here as well but we were wrong.

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  13. I find it curious when people will be angry at a stranger for not liking something they like, or to try and guilt them into doing what they do (always tipping a min 10%).
    I'm more embarrassed for people who do not use their minds and realize this writing is a blog, if you don't like it take a chill pill and close the tab on your computer. I love locations that others dislike, doesn't make me want to berate them.
    Then again, any comment is really a success for a blogger - either negative or positive ;)
    Cheers, and if you ever take a trip to the city I love, Merida, Yucatan - make sure to post it "on the road in Mexico" so I can read it. I'm curious now, if you would hate this location too ;) I might have a change of mind, end up angry and berating you myself!
    Signed, a friendly Canadian

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    1. Thank you Darci for your honest opinion and that if people don't like what they read then they can just close the post and never look at our blog again. These are just our opinions and views and we understand that not everyone will agree with them. We stated that we love the town itself, it is a beautiful place with lots of history and beautiful buildings and the majority of people that come here love it and we are happy for them but to us we prefer many other places more but always tell people that they should visit here at least once.

      We have been to Merida back in 2008, I believe. We liked the town but have to admit we liked Campeche more. One day we will make it back there and give it our second opinion now that we have done so much more traveling through Mexico. I know that if we had a choice to live in San Miguel or Merida, it would be Merida, hands down. :-)

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  14. I had thought about reading your blog before, but won't be back. Definitely not my cup of tea, and I won't be leaving a tip. You visit San Miguel at the height of snowbird season when the town has its highest population of gringos, while you yourself are leading a tour group of gringos, and you don't like it because of the gringos!!!! hahahaha And you demand a menu in Spanish because "that's how you learn Spanish better".... come on. I'm sure you were in Hecho en Mexico, one of my very favorite San Miguel restaurants... and you demand a menu in Spanish to "learn Spanish better"? What a pompous jerk. And THEN, you split a portion of fajitas and it was too small? And you don't leave a tip???? Jeebus. What an embarrassment you are to other gringos. Good riddance. I don't live there anymore, but the waiter definitely deserved to be treated better. ps... I am not an apologist for San Miguel. The town was not for me to live in either after several years there, not for the reasons you cite tho. But I certainly would not treat wait staff this way and when you visit in the height of expat season, what are you to expect? You come across as very ignorant and arrogant to boot, a really bad combo.

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    1. No one is making you read the post, so no worries. We understand that not everyone agrees with our opinions and we are fine with that.

      No, we don't have a problem with gringos just when the workings of a town is changed because of the abundance of them. We know that we too are gingros but we like to visit more out of the way places and for the majority of the time we are with the caravan, that is exactly what we will be doing. This will be their first time here and we are always trying to promote Mexico and encourage people to come down here and visit, this is a good first step for them.

      No, we weren't in Hehco en Mexico, so please don't just assume! We actually were in a small Mexican type of establishment and because we are in Mexico we think that menus should be handed to you in Spanish. You don't go to a restaurant in the U.S. and get handed a menu in a different language so why should it be different here. We make every attempt that we can to learn Spanish and speak Spanish and we don't expect the Mexicans to cater to our way of things. As for the tip, we always leave a tip unless the service is poor which in this case it was. We had to ask several times to get our tortillas for our fajitas by the time we did get them most of our meal had been eaten and what wasn't was cold. If name calling makes you feel better, than I hope it worked. :-)

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    2. It seems ludicrous to me that you would reward bad service under ANY condition. In the hospitality industry you reward good service with a tip.

      If you are sincerely concerned about the server's financial status, then these people that have taken K & R to task should instead address this 'issue' by walking in and donating cash.... No need to stop and eat. Perhaps that will make you feel better? It is NOT K&R'ss job to make you feel good about your stay in San Miguel.

      It seems that some people find K&Rs dislike for San Miguel makes them nervous. The vitriol suggests that to me. It is their new corner of their world and K&R are suggesting that for them, that corner has warts that are not to their liking. I though I may or may not agree with their take, I RESPECT that.

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  15. Trish and John should definitely come to see you, then. :-) Bring wine....

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    1. We will be seeing Trish and John this evening! :-)

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  16. You may want to learn Spanish, but they went through the trouble to translate it into English! The Mexicans want to learn English! You are fortunate that they allowed you share! Try that in the States or Canada!
    And do you realize how little these waiters make per day? Note per day not per hour! I live in Puerto Vallarta, and the wage is 40 pesos a day! Cannot buy much with that! No wonder there are so many children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school! Did you bring any school supplies? Or does the world only revolve around "Oh look, it's Ruth and Kevin"! You sound extremely selfish and if you have any problems along the way, the help you get will only be as much as you have given! People can feel what a persons vibes send out!
    Please DO NOT come to Puerto Vallarta or any of the surrounding areas!
    Go to Durango and stay there!

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    1. They make the menu in English because they cater to the expat and tourist community. Rather then have them cater to English we should be making the move to assimilate to their culture. It's that what the U.S. do with new immigrants and foreigners, they don't cater to them so why should be expect the Mexicans to cater to us in our language. Anytime we speak in Spanish to the Mexicans we can see that they appreciate the effort that we try to make.

      We have done lots of traveling including living with a Mexican family in their home and spending lots of time in many Mexican communities and not once have we met a Mexican that has made 40 pesos a day. The minimum that we have seen is $200 pesos and that is a Mexican paying a Mexican, often they have made more than that and I am talking about a typical Mexican. And, yes we have helped many Mexicans either monetarily or by helping physically. Perhaps rather than just reading one post and assume that you know the type of people we are you should try reading many more.

      Hope you have a marvelous day! :-)

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    2. 200 PESOS A DAY IS NOT THE NORM. MY MEXICAN NEIGHBOUR PAYS 50P FOR 8 HOURS OF CLEANING...

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  17. totally agree..pompous cheap jerk!

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  18. Ouch, This is a personal blog and the opinions are those of Kevin and Ruth, if you don't like what they write go to another blog! If you have followed them for years, like I have done, you would have found out that they are nice people and they have taught me a lot by following their travel's! Keep on Kevin and Ruth, I love reading your blog!!!

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    1. Thank you very much for your support! It is funny how someone can read one post and then assume they know the type of people that we are, it shows how swallow some of them can be. Too bad they couldn't have read the posts where we helped to raise money for our Mexican friends when their little baby boy had to have brain surgery in Oaxaca City or how much we try to promote Mexico to others and show them what a beautiful country this is and all the wonder people have met or the little out of the way places that are so magical. Oh well, that is their loss.

      Thanks you so much for following along with us!

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  19. You say 'tomato'.... Heaven knows I do not always agree with Kevin and I always leave a tip. But... Some might consider it just a little selfish for a group of foreigners to take over a quaint little Mexican town and create a USA derived socio-economic situation in which the original residents of the town cannot survive. Remember, SMA is in Mexico but a Mexican cannot get a job there unless he learns a foreign language because the occupying foreigners refuse to learn the local language or in many cases, use the local currency. The workers who serve these foreigners cannot afford to live in their own town because even with tips, they cannot afford a $ million USA house or afford many $25 USA haircuts or even buy a meal for their families in the very restaurants they serve us in. They have been driven out of their homes and into into slums to make room for more rich people from NOB. Please think about what 'selfish' really means in this situation.

    Personally, I would rather sit in the jardine of a small town at night being the only non Mexican and watch families stroll around, interacting with each other and buying their family an affordable meal from a food cart. I can even carry on simple conversations with them, something we both enjoy. To me, THIS is the Mexico I want to be part of.

    If I wanted to spend US dollars, read and speak nothing but English and buy million dollar houses, there is a place where I can do all of that without disrupting the economy and thousands of people's lives like what has been done in SMA.

    Just another point of view.

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    1. Croft, this is going to shock you but I totally agree with everything you wrote! :-). Well said.

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    2. Croft thank you so much for this perspective, I think you have said that very well!

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  20. We rented a house from a blogger for three months, with the US dollar it is a bit expensive. We live in a super mexican neighbourhood and love it. Close to markets and butchers. I like the mix here. Nearer the Jardin the more expensive, further out and along certain streets the better and cheaper local food. The best part of my day is greeting and being responded to with a big smile by the locales.
    Life here has been great, met lots of very nice people and yes on certain days the new influx of gringos do arrive and have to find their footing here. Haha, I met how they fit into this town.
    San Miguel has been a wonderful place for us and we love it immensely and we are doing on a budget.
    No regrets at all here.
    We have also had a lot of fun with Kevin and Ruth but people can and will travel in different ways. It afterall makes the world go round.
    www.peterandshelagh.blogspot.com

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    1. Shelagh, I know how much you and Peter are enjoying your time here and I love the fact that you got out and walk all over the place even to places where other gringo don't seem to venture, this is the way to explore the area. I think this has been a great place to start your time in Mexico and we look forward to seeing where this will take you next year.

      We have enjoyed our time with you and hope we can see you one more time before we leave the area.

      You are very right, that everyone likes different things and different ways of travel otherwise some places could get even more crowded.

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  21. I love your blog. The stories of you travels have been so interesting and informative for me. One thing I don't do, if the service is very lousy when there is no reason for it, I don't tip either.
    I feel the same way you do about some Mexican towns. Just got back from Ajijic Mexico and I Didn't see many Mexicans mainly US and Canadians.
    Might as well have been to a small town in the US. Many people think it is a great place to retire, but I I didnt see the charm. Kind of an ugly, dead lake . Not a true Mexican town.

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    1. Thank you Jan! If you tip for bad service how is the person suppose to better themselves for the next time. A tip is a reward for good service and not meant to help boost their pay. We are more than happy to tip for good service and always do.

      We agree with you on Ajijic and Chapala, they too aren't for us but we did like the little town of Jocotepec at the end of the lake, it is a nice little Mexican town that has lots of charm.

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  22. What's the diffenence between a canoe and a Canadian?
    A canoe tips.

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    1. We always tip for good service but not for poor service and that rarely happens. A tip is a reward for good service.

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  23. Whew pretty heated comments there. It was great bumping into you on the street. If it works for you to come back it will be great to see you. Trishdewit@gmail.com

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    1. Yes, there are a few but we understand that not everyone will agree with us. Looking forward to seeing you this evening.

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  24. I stopped reading at the bill was $12.45 and you didn't leave a tip. What a jerk!

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  25. Life is full of mandatory obligations---but tipping is definitely not one of them. C'mon, sheeple.

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  26. I have to say that I love your blog. I read it every day. One small comment about tipping does not cover or represent your life's in Mexico. Having read your blog for years I appreciate all that you share on a daily basis.

    We lead a different lifestyle in our Mexico half of the year. It would be unusual if we all liked and did the same things. One of the great things about living in Mexico is the laid back attitude of the people here. We are grateful that it is not like home in the US.

    To those that are upset here is my advise, chill out and be happy like the Mexicans.

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    1. We think it is funny that the people have jumped all over us for this ONE time for not tipping and how they can judge us so quickly. You can tell that some haven't even read the whole blog post or any of the other blog posts to get to know us better instead they jump on the bandwagon with everyone else and try to make us feel guilty because we didn't leave a tip for poor service. It doesn't matter what we say it won't change their minds we are condemned to death before the trial even started.

      Thank you for your support and I love your advise at the end, some people really need to chill out and be happy.

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  27. I'm a retired restaurateur (among other things). Thus, I tip in absurd amounts because I know first hand what servers deal with. 20% at least, if not 25%. If you haven't worked in a restaurant, please observe carefully before deciding who to blame. If the server is chatting up their friends or on a cell phone, then that is grounds for a meager/no tip. If the food is served slow or not to your liking, that is not the server's fault. The server can't deliver it if it hasn't been cooked. The server is not responsible for the quality/quantity of the food...that needs to be handled by asking to see the manager. The manager makes the extra $ to deal with the issues like this.

    There are interesting dynamics between the "front of the house" and the "back". The Front have to deal with the customer face to face...the back doesn't...unless us customers call in the management. As a former owner, I wanted the clients to ask for me so I could make things right. BTW, on a couple of occasions, I showed obnoxious clients the door...to the applause (literally) of fellow dinners who were tired of listening to their unfounded gripes. JMHO.

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    1. I have worked in the service industry for many years and our daughter is a chef and before that was a server, so we are quite familiar with the restaurant industry and how it works. The food was good were weren't complaining about that. As for splitting the dish which Kevin didn't explain in the blog and perhaps should have was that from past experience here in Mexico whenever we have had fajitas there has always been way too much food for one person especially for a lunch time meal. We don't like walking away stuffed and we don't like to leave food on our plates so when it comes to fajitas we have just learned to split the meal and it has always been enough. In this case we assumed wrong, again we do not blame the server. When you order fajitas they come with tortillas which were not served to us, we had to ask twice to have them and by the time we did get them most of the meal was finished and what we hadn't eaten by that time was cold. He knew he had messed up and forgotten them, we could understand this if the restaurant was busy but it wasn't.

      I know it doesn't make a difference to most people that have commented negatively on this post, no matter what I say they won't change their minds. It doesn't matter that all the other times we eaten out we tip but we will not tip for poor service and we stand by that.

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  28. At the same time, a waiter has a choice of where they work. If you work in a sh%@@y restaurant where the management doesn't care, the food is bad, and it's out of the waiters hands, change jobs.

    As for SMA, there are two groups there. Those with their noses in the air thinking they own the city. Their attitude is that if it weren't for them, the Mexicans would starve. San Miguel de Allende survived for hundreds of years with out the gringos and should they leave they will survive again. Mexicans are a very hardy group of people.

    I could go on but I won't. If you want to know these people, check out the snivel list on Yahoo groups, you'll get a good taste of them. Although we spend a fair amount of time there over a year off and on, we find we never need to mix with any one group. If we meet someone we like and we hit it off, so be it, Mexican or foreigner.

    Kevin and Ruth have done a good job of blogging their travels in Mexico and beyond. Do I agree 100% with everything they say and do? Of course not, but I wouldn't want them as friends if we were mirror images.

    Keep doing what you do, express your opinion and let people say what they will. That's how we learn from each other.

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    1. Thank you Chris! What bugs us the most is that these people have all judged us on one single blog post, actually it wasn't even the whole blog post it was one single comment and then they feel they know exactly the type of people we are. No matter what we say they won't change their minds and that is fine with us, they aren't the type of people that we want to know anyway.

      We will continued to love Mexico and show the world what a beautiful and wonderful place it is.

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