The first destination on our itinerary was Morelia (elevation 6,399 feet), a colonial city of almost a million people that is a UNESCO World Heritage Artistic site. The city was founded in 1541 by Antonio de Mendoza and its original name was Valladolid. The name was changed after Mexico's War of Independence, in honor of one of its heroes, Jose Maria Morelos de Pavon, who was born in the city in 1765.
With our good friends Marcia and Noble Dunson, we explored the city, marveled at the beautiful colonial architecture and browsed the many markets. We savored some of the regional offerings: Sopa Talasca, a bean/tomato soup with bits of tortilla, garnished with cotija cheese and crema; Enchiladas Moreliana, chicken enchiladas in a red sauce, garnished with diced carrots and potatoes; and huechepos, a sweet tamale-like masa dish, shaped into tiny loaves and garnished with queso fresca and crema (for breakfast - yum!).
We walked for miles through the city, finding friendly people and lots of good coffee. The elevation didn't bother us a bit, but our feet got tired. We slept like rocks in our comfortable hotel. Because of recent unusual storms in the higher mountains, we were unable to take our anticipated side trip into the Monarch butterfly reserves, where ALL the monarch butterflies in North America spend the winter. There were mudslides and floods and closed highways in the butterfly reserve areas, and many many hundreds of people displaced from their homes. In spite of the local needs, we encountered an organized effort in the city zocalo (plaza), raising funds for Haiti.
After three days in the city, we boarded the bus again and made our way to some smaller towns, on our way to Patzcuaro, one of the jewels of Mexico. (To be continued)