Sunday, April 14, 2019

Index


Welcome to my travel blog. To access specific entries listed in the Index below, go to Blog Archives to the right--Click on the year, then the month to access the blog entry of interest.

2018 Oaxaca and 2019 Mexico blogs have pics embedded.  For prior entries, some photo albums now start with "http://photos.google..." Copy the entire link embedded in the narrative and paste it in to your browser. To return to the blog, rather than close, hit the "Back" arrow, upper left on your screen.  If the pic link starts "http:picasa..." I haven't yet updated it, so it's not going to work--let me know what trip you are reading about & I can update the link to that album.

I love feedback/dialogue. If you comment at the end of the blog, I don't get alerted. So, while I welcome your comments here on the blog, please email me with your observations, pertinent information and/or questions.

John Lowry
wrinkles45@comcast.net
253-841-4948

BTW, my middle name is Ernest (That's Hemmingway next to me, at the Floridita Bar in Havana).

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Index:
March 2019 - Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato & Puerto Vallarta
February 2018 - Oaxaca and Huatulco
February 2017 - Oaxaca and Huatulco
January 2016 - Nicaragua
December 2014 - Italy, Greece, Turkey
November 2013 - Costa Rica, Nicaragua & Honduras
November 2012 - Cuba and Playa del Carmen
July 2011 - Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastian del Oeste
November 2010 - Thanksgiving Road Trip
November 2010 - Kaua'i
May 2010 - Teton Village - My Gemini 65th BD Party
April & May 2010 - Dispatches from Zihuatanejo to Oaxaca
October 2009 - Big Retirment Trip, N Italy, Posts 1 and 2
June 2009 - Ecuador in Ellensburg
November 2008 - Yucatan 2008
November 2008 - Cuba 2008
June 2008 - Remembering Harold
April 2008 - Sanny's Union
March 2008 - Hawaii, second and first
February 2008 - Blog creation day
November 2006 – Oaxaca
November 2005 – Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta
June 2005 – Cabo
November 2004 - Oaxaca
September 2004 – China and Tibet
November 2003 – Cuba and Mexico
November 2002 – New Zealand and Australia

Mexico 2019


March 19, 2019. (Mom is still praying for me daily—While she'll miss Mary, she did give us her blessing for this trip!)

Seat 7C—Alaska Flt 226, San Jose – Guadalajara (GDL). And , I didn't have to pay for the upgrade from Basic Coach! The extra space from the seat in front of me makes laptop on seat tray much more comfortable. I love getting deals! Lucy dropped me at SeaTac, at 8 am. I got to the American Air counter after a short wait, only to be informed the plane for DFW was undergoing maintenance. Anticipated arrival in Dallas was not enough to make my connecting flight to GDL. Fortunately, Alaska, by way of San Jose, turned out to be an excellent alternative—getting me to GDL 2+ hours sooner. And I'm on the same flight with Ann & Jerry, so we'll be picked up together at the airport by a hotel transport. I was able to call Mary & let her know I won't be joining her and Gary in Dallas.

We've been talking about this trip since our Oaxaca trip 13 months ago. Mary has been a daily companion with Mom at The Woods care center and dearly deserves this vacation. Ann & Jerry, Mary's friends, went to Central America with us in 2016. Gary worked with Mary years ago. They have talked about Gary joining us on an adventure for years. Last year Gary got his passport, first ever—his statement of readiness to leave the US of A for the first time!

Mom turned 103 on March 8. We celebrated with her at The Woods the next day. Mary has been lining up support for Mom while we are in Mexico for 15 days. When Mary & I were in Mexico last winter, Donna came & saw Mom daily. But, a few months ago Doyal, her husband, had a serious stroke. He is still in assisted living, unable to speak, has limited use of his left side. He did do a harmonica Happy Birthday duet for Mom with Daughter Darlene.  Donna doesn't want to be away from Doyal for long, thus the recruitment of other companions.

We will stay 2 nights in Guadalajara, 3 nights in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), 3 nights in Guanajuato (Gto) & 7 nights in Puerto Vallarta (PV) to finish the fortnight. Daughter Kate joins us in PV.

'Seems like a long flight. Through the transparent curtain separating 1st Class from the rest of us plebs, big chocolate chip cookies are being passed out. But—no milk. That's no bueno!

March 20, eve, Hotel Morales, Guadalajara
Mary made a great find in this historic hotel in the center of Guadalajara. Lovely arches, courtyards, spacious rooms, firm beds. Mary & I both slept fairly well last night. 
One of Mary's friends knows Herbert, an expat who has lived here for 12 years, He's a writer. Years ago he had a greenhouse and was a florist in Salem.  He took us on a walking tour of the historic center today. 'Very informative.  Churches, Orozco murals, etc.


Lunch at La Chaca. 


After a dip in the swimming pool & a short rest, we caught the 2-decker bus to Tlaquepaque, did some shopping, had some delicious margaritas, took pics of art & churches, gave children light sticks, caught a taxi back to the hotel 'Full day. Gary has a fit bit. We walked 16,000 steps today!

March 22, eve, San Miguel de Allende (SMA)

The van we hired to bring us & our luggage to SMA was smaller than we expected, Fortunately the roof rack was a good one. It was tight for the 2 sitting in the back seat. And the road was long. No one commented on my choice over 1st Class bus. While it was more expensive, by the time we hired 2 taxis to get us to the bus station in GDL, paid bus fare for 5 ,then caught 2 taxis from the SMA bus depot to our lodging here, I decided that hiring the van door-to-door was the better way to go.

Oscar, our driver, was pleasant. We stopped at Lagos de Moreno, a Pueblo Magico (Magical Town—Tourism Mexico pays the town to keep its historic character), for lunch and to check out the church there.  While it broke up the trip, the lunchtime stop at Lagos de Moreno also added time. Besides paying about $55/person for the van, we went thru 4 toll booths that each cost several $. I figures, as much as we were paying, Oscar should have paid the tolls. I took that in to account & gave him a smaller tip,

We are staying at Posada de la Luna, a B&B in SMA. Mary found it on line. While she booked a room with king + queen for Gary, her & me, that room only has 2 queens. I volunteered to sleep on a single mattress they brought in. I did OK last night. Hopefully again tonight.

We are about 4 blocks from the zocalo, “El Jardin”, across from the amazing Parroquia. It looks like it's out of a fairy tale. Dramatically lit at night. First night here, we enjoyed dinner and musica at Los Milagros Restaurant, half a block from the Jardin. My 5-star TripAdvsior rating: Truely feels like fairyland. Night lighting is exquisite. In front of the zocalo (El Jardin), that is always bustling--wedding processions, outstanding mariaches. 

We took a bus tour around SMA yesterday morning.  My TripAdvisor review: The next bus with English-speaking guide was already fully booked, so we took the Spanish-speaking one. The guide was a character--'had us dancing & clapping. A nice bilingual passenger tried to interpret for us, but the guide was really boisterous. 'Spent a lot of the trip in the hills south of central SMA, with nice view of the historic center.
We had a nice lunch at Hotel Loreto, just a block away from Posada de la Luna.  We noticed lots of single, older gringas.  We chatted with one--she came to visit 12 years ago, loved it so much she returned to the States, sold her home & has been happily living in SMA ever since. 

For dinner, we found a roof-top restaurant just west of the Parroquia. Amazing sunset. On our way back through the Jardin, toward our to hotel, we enjoyed a large Mariachi band, maybe a dozen strong. 'Great singers & instrument players.


Very nice weather here. Cool at night & in the morning. Sun gets strong early afternoon.

March 23, eve, San Miguel de Allende (SMA)

I did about the same on the mattress on the floor last night—some tossing & turning, but I felt rested come morning.

After breakfast today, we went to La Gruta hot springs in Atotonilco. Very nice. Pool with warm water had a powerful waterfall—great for neck & back massage. A warmer pool had a tunnel in to an unlit cave. Pretty grounds, lots of trees & lawn, nicely maintained.


From the hot springs we went to the Sanctuario of Atotonilco—a church built allegedly on the site where a priest had a vision of Jesus carrying the cross—so over decades, he built this church, adorned with murals that are called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico.  Along with the historic center of SMA, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


We again visited El Jarlin this evening, more pics of the spellbinding Parroquia, gave light-stick bracelet to kids—and grownups too! After searching for a last supper restaurant in SMA (busy Saturday night, one recommended place had a waiting line), we settled on Milagros again—more nice music & good food.

Sunday night, March 24, Hotel La Casona de Don Lucas, Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato (Gto)

After breakfast this morning, we did some shopping at the artesan market very near Posada la Luna. We caught a couple of taxis to the bus station & found the seats I purchased on line were indeed waiting for us, first 3 rows of the Prima Plus 1st class bus. Pleasant trip, good driver. We readily hailed 2 taxis at the Gto bus station, to bring us to the hotel. We found the Taberna de Diego & Frida close by, shared a plate of paella. Prices were rather high. Back to the hotel to rest.

Ann & Jerry have a very large room, with a spacious entry. Mary, Gary & I have a king down and 2 full beds in the loft. A balcony, with a splendid view of Iglesia Nuestra Senora. 'Great location, about 2 blocks to the zocalo.

After resting, we visited the church & another nearby, then followed meandering streets to the zocalo, El Jardin. It was packed with people, vendors, mariachis, estudiantes (students) drumming up people for walks while they perform & involve the participants. We wandered for a while, then happened on to Truco 7. Our agua frescas of various fruit flavors were delicious. 'Prices very reasonable.
Tuesday morning, March 26, Gto.
After breakfast buffet here in the hotel yesterday, we walked to the Jardin & base of the funicular—a tram that climbs up to the panorama of the city & statute of Pipila, famous fighter in the Independencia. There we ran in Mark & Julie Vida. Mary and I first met Mark & Julie in Oaxaca in 2005. They responded to a Lonely Planet Thorntree offer I sent out when we had a vacant room at Casa San Felipe. We have had email contact over the years, Julie sharing some of her amazing photography and reports of her travels (Ecuador, SE Asia...). Mary learned Julie has spent time in Guanajuato & Julie mentioned coming here now to celebrate their wedding anniversary (they "eloped" here, per Julie) & we coordinated our plans to celebrate with them.



Last night we had dinner with them at Metate & Salmiada, a rooftop restaurant owned by a Canadian. Great views of the sunset, superb drinks & entrees. 


We made our way to the Jardin, where, sure enough, we encountered the poncho vendor Mark has promised to buy from--for years.  Mark's promise to buy was finally fulfilled. 

Late morning, Tues, 3/26
Museum of Diego Rivera childhood home & art is only a couple of blocks from our hotel. It doesn't have any of his murals. They are in a museum in Mexico City—and adorning places of historic importance in various locations in the country--Guadalajara for one. While not far away, the University is up a hill.  Late morning, I elected to retreat back to our room, while Mary & Gary went to visit it. My stamina hasn't adjusted to the altitude. As always, I perspire at first exertion, in spite of dressing in tankie—only guy on the streets so-clothed. I usually carry a collared shirt, slip in on when entering churches or nicer restaurants.

Tuesday eve, 3/26

Midday, we hailed taxis for the Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera, a few minutes out of town, which included fast driving through tunnels that are the aftermath of silver mining. Lovely grounds.

Returning to town, while bushed, we briefly visited the Don Quixote Museum. So much art has been inspired by the Cervantes' idealist. The museum was the creation of Eulalio Ferrer. As a 20-year old Republican captain in the Spanish Civil War, Eulalio Ferrer, his parents were missing, he had seen enough of the horrors of war. In a refugee camp in, France, all he had in his pockets was a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Starving, having witnessed war, death, and unspeakable atrocities, Ferrer was on the brink of madness. “Tobacco for a book”, – Ferrer suddenly heard a voice of an old French guard, looking to exchange a pocket tome for a pack of cigarettes. The book on offer was very small. Ferrer hesitated; the book could serve as a pillow, he decided finally, and gave the soldier his pack of smokes. But instead of putting the little volume under his head, the young captain opened it and began reading.  He devoured the book from end to end. Then again. And again. And again. It was “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes – and for Ferrer, it became a light in the darkness. As the darkness of the Second World War descended on Europe, he fled to Mexico. He began working as a reporter in Mexico City soon creating his own media and public relations company that prospered. Ferrer became wealthy, influential and powerful. But he never forgot the years in the French refugee camp – or Cervantes. Books became Ferrer’s life mission. He established scholarships and generously funded literature courses in universities across Mexico; “the most precious gift for a poor man is a library, and the most powerful magic is books”, – he used to say. In 1987, Ferrer opened the doors of the Don Quixote Museum in Guanajuato. He knew he had to share the Sad Knight with the world.
We just returned from anniversary celebration with Julie & Mark at Casa Rector rooftop bar. Wonderful view of Gto at sunset. We were seated next to a couple celebrating their birthdays today. An 8-person mariachi band serenaded them. What a fortunate seating arrangement. The band was magnifico! 


Early to bed—we have a ride to Leon Airport at 5 am! - Flying first to Mexico City, then on to Pto Vallarta!

Saturday morning, March 30, Puerto Vallarta (PV)

We had plenty of time to make both flights Wednesday—from Leon to Mexico City & on to PV. Good leg room in the Interjet planes. The fares were so low I feared they were a mistake—about
$80/person. Prices for each leg of the trip cost more than both combined!

Our ride I set up with the resort, Club Regina (CR), was waiting for us, as we departed the terminal--for the short ride to Marina Vallarta. Eduardo, at reception, did a great job of locating our 3 suites next to each other. 9th floor. The Club Suite, Ann & Jerry on one side, me on the other, faces Banderas Bay. Kate's king/Jacuzzi is the next unit, facing the marina, with Mary & Gary's 2 bed/kitchenette suite the next one.  All have reported fairly good nightly rest. The single roll-a-way cot has worked for me. 'Glad I didn't try to tolerate the uncomfortable pullout “sleeper”!

Beautiful sunset Wednesday night—we watched it from the beach.

Thursday Mary, Kate & I took the Vallarta by Road Food Tour, visiting 8 restaurants around historic downtown. Shawnie, our guide, an ex-pat, was entertaining. All food tastings were sabrosas.

Pool and beach time in the afternoon.

Friday we took a boat ride with Vallarta Adventures—to the Marietta Islands. 2-tiered boat, maybe 100 passengers. The lead staff member was a bit much at first—ordering us to be enthused, but as the day went along I found him more tolerable.  Circumvention of the islands wasn't as intimate as the fishing boat Mary & I rented last trip from the nearby town.  That smaller boat got closer, we saw more bird-life, including many Blue-footed Boobies. The snorkeling was bad. Only Kate snorkeled, It was a lengthy swim to where snorkeling was suppose to be good, but the water was murky. On the way back to PV, the boat crew put on an entertaining show, including lip-cinking and break dancing. As I wrote on the evaluation—food was OK, crew were pleasant, but such group “adventures” aren't my kind of thing. Next PV stay, I'll be inclined to go with friend Jane's #1 recommendation while in PV - ADA Sailing, a more intimate yacht outing on Bay of Banderas - adasailing.com/index.php/tours/ 

We've taken to 10-peso buses to & from historic center several times. Beginning of the “Marina” route is about a block from CR. They leave every few minutes. Saturday morning we began to call ubers. 6 of us comfortably fill up 2 small ubers. We went to Saturday organic market. Lots of English spoken. Small stage with live music. From there we walked to the flea market along the Cuale River, shopped for gifts, ate at the loncheria on the west side of the market. 



Bused to Walmart for grocery shopping. My pants with zipper pocket are tight, so I've been having Kate carry my money for me the last couple of days. 'Been wanting a haircut, I saw my chance—I grabbed 200 pesos from Kate and I thought I said "see you back at CR". 'Found a hair salon next door, got my haircut, caught a bus home, thinking I might even beat the food shoppers. Which I did. And then some—because they were all waiting for me at Walmart, thinking I only had money for the haircut & none to get home! 1st uber home & a phone call to the others resolved the missing “Guia Juan” episode. As compensation for their waiting for me, groceries purchased, tired from day of shopping, I took everyone to a wonderful Japanese dinner down the road. Without a reservation, we ate at the sushi bar, but we all loved our food choices.

Sunday we got massages by the pool. For dinner we ubered to Abulon (a place we were introduced to on the Thursday food tour), for shrimp tacos, then to the Malecon--walk along water's edge for sunset. The others are getting soft on me, preferring 30 pesos each to return home via ubers, rather than 10 pesos on the bus—Marina route bus was only a block from where we got ubers!

Monday breakfast back to Callejon, about a block away. A couple more blocks away, in the marina, I found a pedicure—at ELBA. Quoted price 250 pesos (~ $13.40). The gal slapped her hand a couple times, when I winched. She took over an hour on my ugly nails. I tipped her 100%, but then asked her earn her tip—by trimming my ear hair that the barber failed to get the other day.

In the Marina, along with the beauty shop where I got the pedicure, there are a variety of shops & restaurants. Some of the group checked it out while I hid out from the afternoon sun. We gathered at El Callejon for dinner.

While we've talked of breaking out the deck of cards for a game of hearts, by early eve we are feeling weary and ready for bed. While I have had some periods laying awake, given that at home I'm unaccustomed to early bedtime, I have slept really well throughout the trip.

Mary, Kate & I took an uber to San Pancho yesterday. Lovely beach, 'tho a bid steep with strong waves (up the coast from Bay of Banderas)--maybe risky for swimming. We had comfortable lounge chairs on the beach, for drinks & lunch. A sweet young gal from Poland came along, gave Mary & Kate henna tattoos. 'Nice work, but they are fading quickly.  'Shopped for shirts for the grand kids.  'Got a kilo of organic green coffee beans for Mary to roast after return  home.



Ubered back in plenty of time for pretty sunset on beach & dinner at CR's restaurant.
Flying home tomorrow...



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Oaxaca & Huatulco, February 2018

My flights to Oaxaca were rather uneventful. Even tho' my main bag can (barely) fit in to the overhead, since it didn't cost to check it, I did. At LAX, the long walk from the Alaska terminal to the
American was helped by an entertaining shuttle driver. She warned of upcoming bumps & turns, stopped to chat with Gloria Allred (dressed in all red!), who was walking the other way in the tunnel. With almost 6 hours of lay over in Mexico City, it was nice to get bennies like 1st class at the Aeromar lounge.


My flight landing in Oaxaca was preceded by a bigger one. While no customs to pass through, the line to buy a ticket for the collectivo to downtown was long & hardly moving. Fortunately, Deanna spied me & plucked me out of line--the 4 gals had anticipated my arrival & bought a collectivo ticket for me.


The 4 gals: Sister Mary, Niece Deanna, Gayle, Mary's friend of ~ 40 years ago in Lincoln City (joined us in Huatulco last Feb) & Savenia, Deanna's roommate.


The gals, with a significant layover in Mexico City, made it memorable. Gayle left her phone on the plane from Portland. Lost & found FOUND it for her—with still sufficient time to catch their Oaxaca flight, BUT, they were waiting at the wrong gate--realized just in time to make a sprint to the far side of the terminal to catch their flight, which then sat on the tarmac for about an hour, waiting for clearance to take off.


We got in to our 2 rooms at CasAntica after brief delays. Mary, Gayle & I have the spacious Presidential suite, including Jacuzzi tub, facing the street, church & sunrise. Deanna & Savenia have a Jr suite on the main level of this lovely converted nunnery. Mary & I stayed here with Peace Corps friends Jim & Lynn & Lynn's sister, Margie, last year.

None of us slept much on our red-eyes. Not the most conventional sleepers, we all slept well our first night in Oaxaca.

We found Eugenio last year (Tel 52-195-1112-3207)—a veteran tour guide with van that comfortably seats the 5 of us. On short-notice, he was available to take us to Monte Alban mountaintop pre-Colombian (Olmec, then Zapotec) ruins.  While I had visited Monte Alban several times in past years, it was never with a guide. Eugenio's explanations, including the geographic genius of the builders, were very informative.  
 



After Monte Alban, we visited Arrazola, village of carvers of wooden animals—alebrijes. .Endless choices in the many workshops alongside each other.  We did end up making some exciting purchases. First time out of the States (not counting cruising along BC to Alaska), Savenia has been awestruck so far.

We went to the little Argentine pizzeria around the corner from CasAntica for a light dinner—yummy thin-crust pizzas. Mary & I found it last February & were happy to find it's still doing business in this city famous for great eats.

Saturday, Feb 10, we made it an in-city day. After the breakfast provided at CasAntica,.we walked to the markets south of the zocalo, Benito Juarez & 20 De Noviembre, bought bags and ear rings, had chocolate, Then on to the artisan market, where I got an embroidered blouse for Juliet & a shirt for Rowan.


Next we visited Felix shoe store on Independencia, that Julie had turned us on to last year. I need frequent flyer miles, so we put all ELEVEN pairs on my American Airlines MasterCard. Most pairs were 280 pesos—only $14.87 US!

We came back to CasAntica for a swim & rest, followed by a visit to Santo Domingo Church, where a wedding limited our gawking at the elaborate interior. After Mezcal margaritas at Danzantes, we watched a parade go by, then dined at Catedral Restaurant across from our hotel. All of us were delighted with our meals, accompanied by a guitarist.






Sunday we went to the Tlacolula weekly market, with Eugenio. Large area of vendors of most everything, with an old church in the center. I found a beautifully painted gourd that I'm sure Juliet will like. 







We visited Teotitlan del Valle on our return toward Oaxaca. Mary & I weren't certain of entrance to home of weavers we have visited in previous trips—we originally met them in the cemetery, shared shots of mezcal in memory of their deceased one, then went to their home, where they had large looms & weavings in process. A few years later we returned, with pics of children now years older, from our first visit, which were a hit. 'Good chance they were at Tlacolula, selling their weavings. We did some shopping in street shops in Teotiltlan, then returned to Oaxaca, with agreement that Eugenio would take us to the airport in the morning.


We walked to the zocalo for dinner. The gals bought several shawls from girls selling in the square. To pay for dinner, I looked for my MasterCard, only to find it missing from my wallet! Last place I remembered using it was at nearby Catedral Restaurant. Sure enough—they had it for me there! If I'd waited until I got to Huatulco, it'd be hassle of cancel time.


We didn't sleep as well Saturday night, knowing we had a 9 am Aerotucan flight to catch. CasAntica had early breakfast for us, our luggage filled up Eugenio's van. We were first in line at the airport. Extra luggage cost us 780 pesos, but the plane was up to it. We 5 made up almost half of the 12 passengers. As we passed through clouds at the Sierra Madre del Sur summit, we had several seconds of exciting flutter, but it didn't last long—we were through the clouds & back into sunshine soon, 'Smooth landing at Huatulco Airport.



Planning for the trip, I found car rental rates that were almost free. While I could have paid a lot more, I reserved an intermediate car for a week for about $6/day! I knew that required insurance was going to be steep. The Alamo agent first quoted liability insurance that seemed reasonable, He then told me that comprehensive was gong to be about twice the liability amount, brings insurance to about $100/day. 'Made it easy to decide to give Andres a call--52-958-107-3380. He was our regular taxi guy last February, pleasant, speaks good English. Sure enough—he has a friend with a van & within half an hour they picked us up & brought us to the Holiday Inn, our lodging for our 6 nights in Huatulco.

We have 3 rooms here. Only a couple of years old, all quarters are bright & comfortable. I have the harbor-view room, with understanding this will be gathering place when we party at home.

For dinner, we walked to Mama Elsa's—a burger food cart across the street from Hotel Villablanca, where we stayed last year. When Mary was making reservations for this trip, she couldn't find availability at Villablanca—because those Canadians had beat us to it--for being a country of sparse population, it's amazing to find so many here, even tho' they also readily go to Cuba to get away from their savage winters. From last year, we found several of them at their usual table next to the pool, chatted for a while before gong to dinner.

As has been the case most nights, I slept well again—like my sleeping style of napping in the recliner, getting up to check email & watch late-night TV--is eradicated.

Tuesday after breakfast we caught a couple of cabs to Playa Entrega—5 to 10 minutes from our hotel in Santa Cruz. We camped at a table in the shade of almond trees, took turns snorkeling, walking the beach, taking pics of cute kids, buying from local vendors, drinking Victorias (good Mexican beer), having shrimp/avocado empanados.






One of Mary's past coffee customers in Salem, Tom, has retired in Puerto Escondido, about a 90-minute drive from Huatulco. He asked Mary to bring him some things from the States, that he can't get here. He came to pick up the items, say hi & spend the night here. He picked Pto, Escondido as a location near the beach, but more affordable that touristy spots. He pays $350 a month for his 2-bed/2-bath place there. His efforts to pick up Gayle didn't come close.

Mary & Gayle signed up for a seafood cooking class Wednesday. Haircut time for me, as Deanna & Sevenia get familiar with Huatulco afoot. Following the advice of hotel front desk staff, I went looking for a peluqueria—barbershop. The gal in front of the massage place said I'd have to go to town (Crucecita), but I decided to ask others & was told it was up ahead. Geraldine was pleasant & did a fine job on my hair. Asked 145 pesos (~ $8), I gave her 200.

On the way back to the hotel I found a white Huatulco 2X tanque (tank top). Asking price 120 pesos, I settled for 110.

Wednesday afternoon Andres & a taxista friend took us to Playa San Agustine. The 13 km dirt road seems to get longer each time it has to be endured. 



Repeat of last year, we timed it to visit nearby Playa Coyote for sunset.  How was I to know the red flag fluttering above the beach was a message for me?  I was wandering along, when I noticed Andres running pell-mell toward me--if a sneaker wave came in, the steepness of the beach would likely have swept me out, with slim chance of swimming my way out!







Thursday morning, Mary & I were chauffeured by Andres.  A little over an hour's drive up in to the Sierra Madre del Sur, we snaked our way up in to the ridge-top town of Pluma Hidalgo. We scored 6 kilos of good-looking green coffee beans. Friend Julie, who usually winters in Oaxaca, told me last year about San Pedro Cafetitlan, east of Pluma, a coffee town. It was sleepy on our mid-day arrival. We didn't connect with a coffee person.  With a grand panorama toward the ocean to the south & to the west, I suggested to Mary & Andres that we stay until sunset--I expect we missed a fabulous one.  Driving that (hard to believe only) 8 km road back to Pluma Hidalgo after sundown wouldn't be fun. 

On arrival back in Huatulco, we ran in to Deanna & Savenia, just back from Hotel Villablanca—our hotel last Feb. They had gone there for breakfast, stayed to visit with Canadian guests & take advantage of the big pool, knowing that all the poolside chairs at our small pool at the Holiday Inn get claimed by regular users early in the day. After a couple of hours, hotel staff figured out they weren't Villablanca guests & ushered them out.

While at the Villablanca, the gals had read the announced evening dinner specials (Mahi Mahi or lobster). 'Sounded good, so we caught 2 cabs back there, only to discover the specials on the board were for the night before & we arrived to an arranged evening meal that we couldn't crash (unlike the pool earlier in the day!). Two more cabs got us to Alfredo's, in Crucecita. He was chef for Mary & Gayle yesterday—for their cooking class. He greeted them warmly. When Mary & I first stayed in Crucecita in 2006 (http://john-at-large.blogspot.mx/2006/), I recall it as much quieter, less touristy.

Friday morning we boarded Johan's small boat. We headed out to sea, in search of dolphins & turtles. Found & followed a school of dolphins for a while. Heading back toward shore, we came upon 4 solo turtles. Each got shy & dove as we approached. We jumped off the boat at Maguey Bay, had food & drinks. I bought strings of pearls from a vendor coming by our table. We snorkeled briefly on our way back to Sana Cruz.









Getting ready to go to Chahue Beach for sunset, we were asked to exit the hotel—earthquake! 'Don't know why I didn't feel the initial quake, as we all felt the aftershock while dining an hour later at Hotel Villablanca. De ja vous for Gayle, Mary & me—we were at Hotel Villablanca last Feb during earthquake & aftershocks. I'm surprised we didn't feel the initial 7.2 quake, with an epicenter only about 50 miles west of here—near Puerto Escondido.

Friday night, my balcony was ideal for watching fireworks. Santa Cruz park, next to the marina, is site of the Festival de Cuaresma. Strange, that Huatulco has a “Lent Festival” the first Friday of Lent, when at its core, Lent is to be a lack of indulgence! We could see a big explosion near the site of launching the fireworks & feared there had been a serious accident, but a few minutes later there was a very impressive series of fireworks above the harbor.

Saturday we returned to Playa la Entrega. 'Got our spot again, in the shade of the almond trees. Venito waited on us again. I gave him my 3rd & final baseball that I brought. I snorkeled around the corner to a small beach Mary & Deanna had visited Tuesday. Some of the fish with blue spots are so bright it seems they have an internal source of light.

'Bought a colorful straw basket--an outstanding lunchbox for Juliet. The gals, as usual, seriously out-shopped me, with vendors coming by our table, weighted down with jewelry, clothing, you name-it. I thought about a parrot wind “chime” (moves in the wind, but no sound), but decided it might break in luggage.


Sunday, February 18—Return home travel day.

All 4 gals booked return flights with less than an hour layover in Mexico City. Mary got a text to check with Orbitz. Deanna didn't get a similar notice from Expedia. Gayle, concerned about missing the connecting flight & wanting to make sure she'd get back to work as planned, got an earlier flight from Huatulco to Mexico City. The other 3 decided to take their chances. With little to spare, they made their flight from Mexico City to Portland.

When booking return months ago, I couldn't find a good fare to Seattle. I did find a great Interjet deal to Vancouver, BC (YVR), so I grabbed it, thinking I'd take Amtrak to Tacoma. The connection time was iffy—due to arrive YVR at 4:50 am, Amtrak Cascades departing from station in downtown Vancouver at 6:35 am. So, I got a flight from YVR to SEA. 'Good thing—even prior to 6 am, lines were long to get through Customs at YVR. When will I learn?! By the time I paid for the flight back to SEA from YVR, I spent about as much as the pricey fare directly to SEA..

Lucy & CoCo were waiting for me in near-freezing weather at Sea-Tac. It's nice to be home...