Carl's Notebooks

  For those of you who might be new to this website, and unfamiliar with our "People's Guide" style of travel and writing, be warned that there is no particular order here. The material that follows is right off the top of my desk, out of my notebooks and sometimes off-the-wall. Lorena eventually reorganizes these entries and links them to the central People's Guide archives, located deep within an abandoned silver mine somewhere in the state of Chihuahua.

Carl's Mexico Notebook: Constantly Updated

After months of frustrating computer problems, Carl’s Mexico Notebook is not only back again, but offers frequent updates on a variety of subjects.

Thanks to the brilliant minds at, I now have the means to add instant updates to my Notebooks (without having to plead for Lorena’s time and assistance). Anything and everything that crosses my desk can appear on Carl’s Mexico Notebook --interesting emails and reports from our readers, travel tips, Mexico retirement suggestions, recipes, book reviews -- in other words, the usual curious, ever changing collection of People’s Guide To Mexico facts, trivia and personal advice.

Bookmark Carl’s Mexico Notebook and check it frequently for updates!

¡Saludos! Carl and Lorena

Index to Carl's Later Notebooks

Earlier Notebooks

Notebook #9

On January 01, Lorena and I emerged safely from our Y2K bunker, saw our shadows, and like good ground hogs immediately returned to our work. Taking a cue from anxious survivalists, we’d laid in quite a supply of emergency rations: 2 liters of extra virgin olive oil, 8 pounds of popcorn, several mystery novels (in Spanish of course) and a box of instant flan. This surplus won’t see us through the millenium, but at least we’re off to a good start.....

Carl's Mexico Notebook #8

•Parrot Fever

It was seven a.m. and Steve was in the kitchen, blearily preparing atole* for his newest baby. The latest arrival in our growing family was perched on the back of a wooden chair across the table from me, teetering dangerously as it screamed its fool head off for breakfast.

•Recipes: Oaxaca Cooking Video

Seasons of The Heart" featuring Susana Trilling -- a fine video cooking series on the foods of Oaxaca produced for PBS.

•Recipes: I’d pick chile rellenos as the all-around favorite dish of visitors to Mexico

Making chile rellenos at home that taste like the real thing takes a certain sazon (cook’s touch), so we’ve also added Steve’s Chiles Rellenos to our Recipe section.

You’ll also find Amber Zavada’s excellent “Vegetarian Fusion” recipes for enchiladas, bean soups, and flan.

•Health: The perfect bug dope

In her never-ending quest for the perfect bug dope, Lorena finds a human volunteer for a frightening “nosee’um” experiment on the coast of Nayarit.

•Health: Can prescription medicines be mailed to the US?

•Mexico Book Reviews


Carl's Notebook #7

¡¡Last Minute BULLETIN!!

Mexico SUSPENDS Implements New Vehicle Bonding Regulations on Wednesday, 1 December 1999

THANKS TO A LAST MINUTE REPRIEVE the Mexican government has backed off on new car bonding regulations for tourists and foreign residents. Nonetheless, If you plan to drive to Mexico, be sure to read our reports on this confusing redtape situation.

Let’s talk about prices. Lorena and I finally gave in and went shopping in Guadalajara.... Here some food prices....

Mexico on 5 Tamales A Day: Can I really live like a bachelor king on $500 a month? How about $900? Is $2,000 okay for a family? Did I hear somebody say $4,000? Help!.

80 Million Monarchs Visit Mexico

Thanks largely to La Red (the Web), Mexico is no longer the tierra incognita it used to be. ...

Did You Feel Anything? A site with earthquake reports...

A funny menu misprint that my friend and I found on a menu in a cafe in Tuxtla Gutierrez last winter”

“I air raced for years to and from Mexico and learned to love all the little towns we landed in, and of course the people asked us to please come back....”

“Call Mexico for only .20 a minute...”

“I was surprised to find out you are at Lake Chapala, it always sounded so "middle-class". :-)....”

Safety: Be honest, doesn’t the thought of going to Mexico raise a few nervous butterflies in your stomach? Mexico: Safe or Sorry? An excerpt from the 25th Anniversary Edition of The People’s Guide To Mexico.

We’ve waffled back and forth for months about creating our own discussion forums or interactive bulletin board on this website...Our final decision is a compromise, the People’s Guide discussion will take place on's forum.

Carl's Notebook #6

November 15, 1999

My gloating summary of
last week’s weather.

Overheard while eavesdropping....

Be the first in your forum to have a revolutionary mousepad.

Believe it or not: decent $10 hotel rooms in Mexico City.

Huehuecoyotl: an alternative community established in 1981 is alive and well, and "delightfully imperfect".

Frustrated by

Mexico's bureaucratic bungles: $400 - $800 car fees spark Paisano revolt.

Look at what the mailman brought:

they sure have stirred up a hornet's nest w/ this one.....
your beginning notes on Lake Chapala are helping with our decision to chuck the land of wetness....
•...he is suffering from
little, irritating bites of some kind of parasite that I brought back from Honduras....
• your book available in England? ..
.Can we buy a VW van in Mexico?
•...I'm traveling by myself and
will be taking a motorcycle.
a single woman prepares to drive alone to Mexico.


Carl's Notebook #5

November 1, 1999

Day of the Dead:
The tremendous popularity of Mexico's 5 de Mayo fiesta in the U.S. is now spreading to the "Days of the Dead". Will the macabre "Los Muertos" of November 2 eventually give even Halloween a fright? Links to scores of interesting Día de los Muertos websites in both English and Spanish.


Letters and Emails: We've having a difficult time keeping up with all the wonderful letters, emails and information you send us.

*What's this rumor about a
People's Guide eTravel Letter?

*Reminder: we've added a few new email addresses. Here's how to find us.

Updated your bookmarks as we've
move the People’s Guide website to a larger and much more flexible server.

Important changes to Mexico's Tourist Card: Visitors to the interior of Mexico must have a valid FMT -- better known as a "tourist card" (for extensive details, see The People's Guide To Mexico ). In July of this year, Mexico replaced the previous free-of-charge version with a new and improved 150 peso tourist card. But is it working?

If you’ll be driving to Mexico, read this! Mexico Proposes -- Then Delays -- New Redtape For Tourists With Vehicles

Job Opening in Mexico: "we are looking to hire a couple to manage the tourism side of the Rancho Esmeralda."

Auto insurance: Like many other veteran travelers, Lorena and I buy auto insurance for Mexico before we even leave home.

Hot off the press: Recent excerpts and headlines from the Mexican press.


Carl's Notebook #4"

October 10, 1999:
Lake Chapala,
Jalisco, Mexico

Important changes to email and bookmarks: Lorena and I have new addresses and The People’s Guide has a new website server... please read!

Mexico Journal update: Carl describes the route from Nogales to Lake Chapala, with some thoughts on living and retiring in Mexico.

Writer’s Write! In March of 2000 Carl and Lorena will conduct a week-long workshop on the craft of writing. To inspire greater creativity, it’s at the beach.

Best Travel Book of 1999”: The People’s Guide To Mexico 25th Anniversary Edition wins a prestigious prize!

Pulling the plug: The People’s Guide Travel Letter has regretfully suspended publication.

Remembering Steve: your letters continue to console and encourage us.

Last but not least: smuggling spiders, for fun or profit?


Carl's Notebook #3

May 20, 1999:
San Miguel de Allende
Guanajuato, Mexico

I won't waste your time with apologies; Lorena and I have been on the road in Mexico for over three months, and this is my first update to The People's Guide To Mexico website. Rather than wring my hands and bore you with the technical challenges we've finally overcome, let's dive right in and clear out some of the backlog from my overflowing notebooks and clippings, ¿qué no? .....

In this Notebook:


Carl's Notebook #2

Having launched this rather aimless ramble through my chaotic files and over-stuffed archives in issue #6 of this Travel Letter, I’d like to jump right in by thanking S. Guzmán-C. (who signs himself “Rio”) for sending me the 3rd edition of his book, A Vagabond In Mexico

Returning from plugging the 25th anniversary edition of The People’s Guide To Mexico in the Bay Area last week, I snatched up a first edition of Bordering On Chaos by Andres Oppenheimer ....

From The People's Guide To Mexico Travel Letter #7
Fall 98


Carl's Notebook #1

Get-togethers with our friends often turn into a frantic swap meet of travel tips, favorite books and magazine articles, newly discovered music and "you gotta try this!" recipes. As Lorena extols the virtues of lime juice on mosquito bites, Linda describes an avant-garde Mexican movie and Hank paws through overflowing bookshelves, hoping to trade Gringo by Charles Portis for my mint copy of Lost World of Quintana Roo. Jack suddenly asks about travel-related resources on the Internet, but before I can answer, Steve drips huitlacoche sauce over the Momostenago blanket that Tina has accidently spread out over Churpa's drawing of a Mexican olive factory. Before the confusion clears the phone starts to ring: Mike is leaving for Guatemala in the morning and desperately needs last minute advice and suggestions. Our old cabin erupts into bedlam.

As you can tell, Lorena and I are blessed with interesting lives. The question is, how can we possibly sort all this stuff out and get things reasonably well organized and under control? After decades of futile attempts, the answer is now obvious: we can't. In fact, we officially give up. Our new motto: when in doubt, meditate..... (more)

From The People's Guide To Mexico Travel Letter #6
Winter 97-98

How Carl's Notebook got started.....

From the People's Guide Travel Letter #5
Winter 96-97

Dear Friends,

I sit at my laptop computer, flipping through a stack of travel worn pocket-sized spiral-bound notebooks. This is the record of my last winter’s journey, five months spent vagabonding through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. Catalogued now with boldly printed labels: “SeaTac to Chihuahua, Fall 95”, “Mexico 95/Guate 96”, “Honduras to Panama 1996”, “Misc Costa Rica”, “Panama Contacts & Recipes”, the entries evoke everything from smiles, “Consider eco-tourism in the light of Xavier’s observation that 'parrots are meat, too'," to mere puzzlement “81 Chev van 944307 Mexico/Guate”."

Hundreds of seemingly unconnected thoughts spill out of the pages: addresses and book titles, itemized expenses, hotel names, reminders, snatches of conversation and overheard remarks, insights and middle-of-the-night observations. One carefully penciled notation after another — “Breakfast Izucar de Matamoros 22.5 pesos” “Singapore Airlines or Cathay via Hong Kong. Take a tent.”

A long-forgotten encounter with another computer user yields the suggestion,“Use unscented Aqua Net hairspray as a cheap fixative for ink jet print-outs" while the next entry evokes vivid memories of a long night in an especially grim Guatemalan pension : "For reasons I prefer not to explore, there’s something about the electric water heater attached to the shower head in this room that reminds me of my opposition to capital punishment.”

Carl's Journals
©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens