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Mariposa, Mariposa, Will You Marry Me?

Monarch Butterfly in Valle de Bravo

Our next morning was Valentine’s Day and we were headed to the butterfly sanctuary. 

When my children were little and taking Music Together classes and watching “Dora the Explorer”, I heard this folk tale about a butterfly, “La Mariposa”, in which animals enamored by the butterfly would say “Mariposa, Mariposa, will you marry me?” (There’s a bilingual children’s book you can check out that tells the story HERE if you’re interested). That sing-songy phrase was in my mind as we headed to see the butterflies.

We got up at 7:00 and then were out in the patio area of the restaurant by 8:00a.m. for a buffet breakfast of fruit, granola, fresh squeezed juices, fresh hot coffee, and waffles.  By 9:00, we were boarded in the bus and on our way to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve.

The path to the monarchs
My guide on this journey, Francisco

It took about an hour and a half to reach the reserve.  Once there, we paid to pee and then were assigned our horses.  My horse for the day was named “Rosito” and his handler was Francisco.  The handlers lead the horses up a two mile trail (going up a few hundred metres) to a clearing where we saw thousands of monarch butterflies fluttering around.  Trotting along the rocky, dirt path, we were in a flow of orange and black flitting. 

Monarchs enjoying the sun rays

Our guides said they had never seen so many just flying around like that.  After a lovely, long rest enjoying the Monarchs, we remounted our horses and continued up the mountain to a trail where we dismounted our horses and hiked down and over to a most amazing viewing spot.

Taking a Mindful Moment with the Monarchs

The butterflies, clinging like barnacles on the tall, old growth forest trees blended in in perfect camouflage, while others fluttered around, some seeking water in the river below and some seeking nectar in the salvia.

Monarchs clinging like barnacles to an old growth tree

We can help the monarchs with their survival, growth, migration and breeding by planting milkweed, tithonia, salvia, rabbit brush.  Here are 10 suggestions of flora to plant to help and attract butterflies:

http://www.costafarms.com/get-growing/slideshow/top-plants-to-attract-butterflies-to-your-garden

Planting butterfly-beneficial plants will help these Monarchs survive and thrive

That evening, we enjoyed watching the locals mingling in the town square of Valle de Bravo.  It was great to see the lively town pulsing like a Saturday night with love on this Valentine’s Day.

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Making our way to the Monarchs

The journey to the Vanilla plantation was about a five hour drive, so the return was about the same.  We drove back to Veracruz and stayed in the Hotel Deligencias again.  Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and we all enjoyed recapping our time with Jorge, Mike and Jesus and sipping margaritas.  Then it was off to bed as early as we could stand it because the alarm was going off at 4:00a.m.

At the Veracruz Airport saying “Adios” to our guide, Jorge.

Packed up and ready to leave the hotel by 5:15a.m. (not morning, btw), the eleven of us were driven by Jesus to Veracruz airport and then escorted in by Jorge.  We checked our bags and then settled in to have some breakfast (and coffee!!) at a restaurant in the airport since we had two plus hours until our flight departed.

Waste sorting in the Veracruz Airport – in my experience, it’s confusing everywhere…

When I booked my AeroMexico flight, I chose the Carbon Offset option, especially since Mexico City’s air quality is, albeit better than it used to be, still is not particularly good. They have committed to reducing their carbon footprint by participating in the MexicO2 program, whose goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050.

To improve air quality, Mexico City instituted “No Drive Days” where people can’t drive on different days based on the color of their license plate. People got around it by buying a second car….

But then they added the last number of your license plates. Anyone can drive on Sundays. Bus transportation is pretty decent and there is a subway that is the most used public transportation system. For safety, the first two cars are for women, children, disabled and elderly (Because there used to be a lot of muggings). Also, electric taxis and bicycle taxis
Speed cameras – hidden so everyone drives carefully. 🙂

We boarded the plane to Mexico City at 7:55a.m. and, after a smooth and very quick flight, during which we saw the (active) Popocatepetl volcano (see cover photo), we landed around 9:00a.m.  In Mexico City, we were greeted by our new guides, Reuben Encalada (Dopamina Travel) and Carlos Solis.  They took us to get cash (pesos) and use the banos and then to our new transportation for the next few days – another 18-passenger van.

Landing in Mexico City, I couldn’t help but notice the smog.  I had heard that the air pollution in Mexico City was bad, but I had no idea – it’s like Denver on it’s worst high ozone day – times 10.  Many of us started coughing upon arrival and the lack of air quality was noticeable right away.

Thankfully, we didn’t linger and, once packed up, we drove out to a town called Metepec for lunch and a bit of sight-seeing.  Part of our lunch break was exploring an artisan village of sorts (Centro de Exposicion y Venta Artesanal) where many artisans made pieces of art – many themed with the Tree of Life or Dia de Los Muertos.

Before departing, we walked around Metepec and checked out the Capilla del Calvario chapel.  It had a bit of the feel of Paris from Sacre Couer.

Then, we were off again and drove a couple more hours to Valle de Bravo – a lovely Mediterranean town (that had more the feel of Urbino in Italy – or maybe Como).  It’s a great escape for residents of Mexico City. We checked into our boutique-y hotel, Meson de Leyends – our home for the next two nights.  We had some time to walk around town before dinner.

Dinner was at a lovely restaurant down the street and then we were off to bed.

Next we see the butterflies! Stay tuned….

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