Sunday, March 1, 2020

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.

Most recent 2018 & 2019 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'll try to make time to update the pic links 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 Hemingway next to me, at the Floridita Bar in Havana).

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Index:
February 2020 - Oaxaca and Huatulco
November 2019 - Portugal
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

Oaxaca 2020




2/14/20 Oaxaca-Huatulco Blog, Feb 2020

Friday night, Oaxaca.  Our Wed flights were all-in-all smooth.  Concerned about only a 45-minute layover in LAX, I asked for assistance deplaning & a wheel chair was waiting for me.  It was not that far between Delta gates.  I  joined up with Mary and Deanna for the flights to MEX and on to Oaxaca.  My roller bag barely fit in the smaller overhead on the flight to Oaxaca, but it did, so while Mary & Deanna were waiting for their checked bags, I bought collectivo tickets & we were on on our way in to downtown Oaxaca and CasAntica, converted 15th century monastery where we have stayed before.  Grand suite on the 3rd floor.  Mary & Deanna’s king bed was super hard.  Other than that, lovely location.  Staff seemed less with it than in the past.

We briefly freshened up Wed night and went across the street to El Catedral for a wonderful dinner.  Guitarist was great, as was his voice.  Food was excellent, staff attentive.




Thursday morning, we asked for a taxi, made a deal with Pepe to accompany us through the market at Zaachila, about half an hour south of the city.  He was perfect—accommodating, pleasant.  We began by visiting the cemetery & the street with Day of the Dead murals.  Then through the market, Mary & Deanna buying some things, catching pics of vendors, stopping for helados (ice cream).  Regrettably, we failed to get Pepe’s phone #--to call for future trips in Oaxaca.



Thursday eve we went to a small pizza place around the corner from the hotel, remembering it favorably from prior stays at CasAntica.  It was OK, but we were less impressed than in the past.

Friday morning, we took the 2-decker sight-seeing bus that left a block from CasAntica.  Tour guide was Spanish-speaking.  Tour went north—Reforma neighborhood.  We had expected to see more churches.  ‘Nice morning.  We had some close calls dodging overhanging branches.


We checked with El Catedral about Valentine’s Day eve reservations.  Already all taken, we went there for a late lunch instead.  Again, very happy with our meals & the service.   

After lunch, we moved to Hotel Casona de Oaxaca, a few blocks from CasAntica, as when we reserved a few weeks ago, CasAntica didn’t have a room that worked for the 3 of us.   A block west of the zocalo, we did some people watching along the zocalo & bought some clothing from street vendors.


Our room at La Casona was less suite-like than the layout at CasAntica—one room.  But high ceiling.  Mary & Deanna’s beds more comfortable that the rock-hard king bed at CasAntica.  My pullout had inners-spring mattress.  Not that uncomfortable, but the gals heard me tossing & turning the first night.

Saturday morning we had breakfast with Ann, sister of Julie, my dear co-worker of many years at the state hospital.  Some year ago, Julie & Steve began wintering here in Oaxaca.  They loved it so much Ann & her partner, Bob, Seattleites, began wintering here too.  3 years ago, Julie began having health issues that have prevented her from coming to Mexico.   Ann & Bob continue to come here for a few winter months—a fine snowbird option to wintering in Seattle. 

Ann mentioned numerous things to do here.  Given we are leaving in the morning, we weren’t able to follow up on many this time.  We did follow her suggestion for lunch at Marco Polo, along El Llano, where the shrimp are more than plentiful.  After cabbing to the restaurant, we walked back, by way of Santo Domingo church & neighborhood.  Unable to eat her 3rd shrimp taco, Mary found an old man carrying a load, to give it to.  He clearly was most appreciative.

Sunday ride in Andres’ taxi went smoothly, but was long—7 to 8 hours.  ‘Makes the 1-hour plane flight look like the better option, even with rides to & from airports.  We got 5 kilos of Finca El Pacifico organic green coffee beans, as we descended toward the coast.  While Mary has closed her Saturday market booth, she continues to roast for her regulars—including our Pop’s Cottage vacation rental. We got to Huatulco about 5 pm.  At Holiday Inn, we joined up with Sevenia & her friend, Trina.  Sevenia is a former housemate of Deanna’s.  Trina is her friend of many years.

I have a king bed room to myself, main floor, 2 doors from the pool, Marina view—I awake daily to sunrise over the harbor.  Mary & Deanna also have Marina view, 2nd floor, above me.  Sevenia & Trina have another 2nd floor room.  All beds are super, AC works well—nice digs.


First night meal at Juanita’s, at Chahue Beach.  We were greeted by Juanita, a Canadian who relocated here 23 years ago.  Delicious shrimp tacos.

Monday, we taxied to Playa La Entrega.  Sat under umbrellas, had guacamole & drinks.  Snorkeled. Never a strong swimmer, I used to be at ease, venturing out with mask & fins, in search of coral & colorful fish.  I’m not as comfortable now, even though my rotator cuff tear isn’t noticeably painful.


For dinner, we went in to Crucecita, to Alfredo’s for dinner.   A couple years ago, Mary took a cooking class from Alfredo.  He joined our table for awhile.  Live music provided by a young gal from Portland, lovely voice.  She asked for suggestions from the audience.  Alas, didn’t know my request—“Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather”.




Slow day Tuesday.  Buffet breakfast here at the Holiday Inn, pool time.  Early dinner at highly-rated Mercader, small restaurant just through the zocalo.  I enjoyed my  Pad Thai.  ‘Small place, reservation recommended.

Wed am, Mary & I went to Niko’s Organic Coffee for breakfast.  ‘Chatted with a retired gal from Vancouver Island.  She spends 4-5 winter months here with her Peruvian husband.  She was enjoying her coffee after a morning bike ride.

I then went next door to G&A Image Care, for a pedicure and haircut.  The shop owner remembered me—from my haircut a couple of years ago.

Deanna had reserved a sunset sailing from marina nest door, for 3:15 pm.  By 3:45, we began to wonder.  We then realized the reservation was for Thursday, NOT Wednesday!  Back to the pool.  If we’d been on schedule, we would have been treated to an amazing sunset, as we caught glimpses of it as we arrived at Mama Elza's, near Chahue Beach, for burgers, fries & carrot cake for dinner.  Mama Elza’s is a glorified food cart with tasteful outdoor seating.  Elza’s friendly, English-speaking son again served us, claimed he remembered us from past visits.

Thursday, Mary, Deanna & Trina took a road trip along the coast, with Andres, visiting Zipolite, Mazunte, stopping to snorkel at our off the beaten path beach just east of Puerto Angel.

Friday morning, we boarded Johan’s outboard, for a trip along the coast.  ‘No luck finding por-uses, whales or big sea turtles.  We stopped to snorkel at Playa La India.  Then beached at Playa Maguey.  Mary’s tummy was rumbling, so she and I caught a cab from there, while the other gals boated back to Santa Cruz with Johan, reporting afternoon wind picking up, making the ride rougher—Mary was happy she jumped ship!


We had been looking forward to Friday Tacos at Juanita’s, Chahue Marina—which we’d heard of our first night in Huatulco.  Arriving just before 5 pm Happy Hour, we were informed taco special ended at 4.  Oh, well.  We stayed for happy hour & sunset.

Mary & I then proceeded to Las Brisas, Tongolunda Bay, our fancier lodging for our final 4 nights.  Huge resort built in to the hillside.  Most guests are all-inclusive.  We have just breakfast included.  While described as “garden-view”, we do have ocean views, through big trees.

The breakfast buffet is huge.  I can’t imagine going all-inclusive.  I wasn’t remotely ready for eating again mid-day.  Deanna joined us for the evening.  We were all disappointed with our fish dinners at one of the Las Brisa restaurants.  Mary’s fish tacos were the worst.  We bid Deanna farewell, as she cabbed back to Holiday Inn for a last night sharing the room with Sevenia & Trian.  They flew home Sunday.

Sunday, Mary & I had ocean front seating for breakfast buffet at El Mexicano Restaurant.  We staked out our beach chairs, proceeded to snorkel around the reef in the bay, then moved on to the adult-only pool, for more swimming & reclining in the shaded lounge chairs, before requesting a little car to bring us back to our room, to rest during the heat of mid-day.

Each place we’ve stayed Internet has been readily available.  I am learning that some emails aren’t reaching me.  Others get stuck in my outbox.  Despite those glitches, I’ve taken care of Lowry Rentals business—filled 3 vacancies with what look like excellent new tenants.  It came down to the wire, but with a single day to spare, I got takers for 2 Whistler Westin stays, Feb 22-25 & 25-29. Several months ago, when I found last week of Feb available, I grabbed it, confident that I could flip it.  3 important Vancouver Habitat volunteers are going to take all nights.

Sunday afternoon, Mary & I took a taxi in to Hotel Villa Blanca for an early dinner.  Mary’s favorite place to stay in Huatulco, but no luck getting a room in the winter there—Canadian regulars tie up the whole place.  Mary came in late September, with her friend Katie.  when Villablanca had rooms—and at a discounted rate—because it was much hotter & more humid that time of year—no wonder rooms are available then—definitely low season. 

Andres joined us at Villablanca, for a drink, bringing along his wife & lovely 3-yo daughter.


Monday, after breakfast buffet, we taxied in to town for last-minute shopping.  Mary found a leather belt for Paul, I got shirts for the grandkids.  Back to the beach in the afternoon, after the heat of the day, for one more snorkel & reclining in the shade.

We caught a ride up to the orange tower neighborhood of the huge Las Brisas resort, to capture the sunset.  




Andres took us to the airport at 8 am Tuesday.  He took pics of Mary & me in front of the HUATULCO sign near the entrance to Las Brisas.  

Deanna warned us that the LAX customs + change of planes would be an ordeal.  Departing Huatulco, we asked for wheelchairs for both Mary & me.  They were waiting in MEX and allowed us to bypass some long lines.  And, 2 more wheel chairs for us in LAX, where they were a huge help!  I intend to play the frail elder card with future air travel!



Friday, December 27, 2019

Portugal, November 2019


Blog, Portugal, Nov 1 – 13, 2019
Danielle took us to Sea Tac, plenty of time to catch our first leg—To Chicago.  Next, redeye to Heathrow.  I watched a couple of movies, including The Art of Racing in the Rain—tears welded up a couple of times, knowing that  CoCo does not have much more time…
We kept waiting for our gate to be announced for our next flight—to Madrid.  After more than hour of delay, it was clear we wouldn’t make our connection in Madrid, for Porto (AKA Oporto).  We got to the Iberia desk in time to get on an earlier plane, that got us to Madrid in time to make our flight to Porto.  But our luggage didn’t come on that flight.  The process for applying for lost luggage was relatively painless & Iberia Airlines brought our bags to the hotel the next day.
Lucy has gone on several Knitting with Nicky tours.  Kate has gone on a couple (South of France, Florence & Venice), Nate on the one to Prague, Vienna & Budapest.  Providing I can add my own thing afterwards (4 nights in Barcelona), I agreed to come along.  A group of almost 30, there are 5 of us husbands, one making an effort to knit. 
In writing this blog, I am borrowing extensively from the itinerary Nicky sent.  Gate1 is our tour company. Ercillia (Celia) is our excellent Portuguese guide & keeps us moving.  I can’t remember getting up by alarm clock day after day since retiring 17 years ago!
We arrived a day early, as Lucy likes to do on these tours.  We visited the train station in Porto’s historic downtown, famous for its murals with Nicky, her husband Howie & Emily.



We then hiked up the street, bought our tickets & got in line to visit the bookstore made famous by Harry Potter movies.  Emily, with a career in publishing, found the bookstore over-rated.  They have certainly figured out how to cash in on tourism!


After greeting dinner in Porto Sunday eve, we toured Porto Monday, visiting a port winery, taking a cruise on the Douro River, got caught in a rain squall.







After cloudy & rainy weather, we were greeted with blue skies Tuesday as we bused north, to birthplace of nation of Portugal—towns of Guimaraes & Braga, visiting historic castles & churches.











Wednesday, after saying goodbye to the Crown Plaza Hotel in Porto, we bused though Buçaco National Park to Coimbra, the third-largest city in Portugal, to visit the University of Coimbra, among the oldest universities in Europe with more than 700 years of history. In the afternoon, on to Fatima, one of the most important Catholic shrines in the world, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its Sanctuary welcomes millions of pilgrims each year, from all over the world. Fatima's fame is due to the Apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary that appeared to three shepherd children in 1917. 




On to Tomar, staying at Hotel Dos Templarios.
Thursday, 11/7, after a nice breakfast buffet, we visited hilltop Convento de Christo, Celia giving us the history of the castle.  After first few days of intermittent rain & only brief periods of sun, a beautiful, sunny morning.  I took so many pics my camera battery died, so I had to return to the hotel room to charge it, before visiting historic center of Tomar in the afternoon.  'Spent a 2nd night in Tomar.











Friday, continuing on our Mercedes Benz bus, we stopped at Castelo de Vide.







On to the cork factory.  Celia talked up the great buys to be had there.  My wallet, purchased in Istanbul almost 5 years ago, is beginning to age.  The cork ones at the factory were not designed to securely hold credit cards.  Lucy was excited about making a deal--having cork fabric shipped to her. 

Night in Evora.  As we entered our “non-smoking” room in the hotel, it had a noticeable smell of stale cigarette smoke.  Fortunately, we got a differed room, which is fine—big, nice view toward historic town on the hill.  Celia took us on a walking tour the next morning, starting with the castle, then along cobblestone streets with shops.  We got Rowan a cow bell.


Saturday we got to know Evora, it’s walls, cathedral, cobbled streets.
Sunday we arrived in Lisbon.  We began with a view of the16th century Belem Tower, a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery.  Next, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery, an impressive symbol of the country's power and wealth and resting place of explorer Vasco de Gama. We then walked through the winding cobblestone streets of Alfama, the old Fisherman's Quarter.









Monday we bused to the countryside near Lisbon. ‘Was raining on arrival in medieval Obidos, with its walls, labyrinth of cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and beautiful vistas.




The bus continued on to Alcobaça, to visit the Church of Santa Maria. It was the first building in Portugal to adopt the Gothic style and is the largest church in the country. We viewed the decorated tombs of King Pedro I and his lover Inês de Castro.



 Lastly, we stopped for lunch at the charming fishing harbor of Nazaré before heading back to Lisbon.
Tuesday, after knitting class & shopping at yarn shop, we bused to quaint Sintra, the “Glorious Eden” of Lord Byron, and ancient summer retreat of the royal court, highlighted by lavish romantic castles and stunning monuments. 'Visited 15th century Sintra Royal Palace, containing one of the largest tile collections in Portugal. 





Lunch in the Village Historical Center.  I enjoyed the house pizza.  During a visit to the bathroom, I felt a slight brush, as a guy passed by, while I was old man taking extra time to fully finish voiding.  On return to our table, I discovered that my wallet, that should have been in my zippered pocket, was not there!  I didn’t immediately recall the close encounter in the bathroom, hoping I had left the wallet in the hotel room.  But, on return, it was not there.  Contacting Chase bank about the Visa & debit cards that were in the wallet, I was informed the thief had already tried to go wild with it.  Attempts for larger purchases, including a 4500 Euro purchase at a jewelry store, were denied.  Fortunately, the bank readily held me harmless.  I should learn—I had my wallet lifted while getting on a train in Naples a few years ago, as well as separated from my wallet & camera on a crowded bus in Mexico City years ago.  Third time's the charm, right--I declare I'm now immune to future pickpocketing!
Farewell dinner Tuesday night was delicious.  I was sad I didn’t have a better appetite.  This trip has involved lots of big meals, beginning each morning with breakfast buffets.
Before leaving home, 12 & ½ year old CoCo was ailing.  A few weeks ago, her left eye socket suddently began receding.   She began losing her appetite. After the vet prescribed steroids, her appetite came back gangbusters.  But she began panting a lot & having problems with control.  Christina, our apartment manager, has always been fond of CoCo & is one of the most devoted dog owners I’ve ever met. If her Lab, Louie, hasn’t had at least an hour’s exercise for the day, she feels totally neglectful.  As our trip progressed, Christina reported CoCo became increasingly weak, in spite of being in good spirits.
With CoCo failing fast, we decided on Tuesday to cancel the 4 days in Barcelona that I had planned.  Both of us were also suffering from colds.  We were able to get flights home, overnighting near Heathrow.   We didn’t make it home it time to say our goodbyes to CoCo.  Dustin was there, with the gentle assistance of pet hospice.  CoCo now rests on the Chrisella hillside, with our pets spanning 4 decades.
While I looked forward to our 4 days in Barcelona, it’s fortunate that we didn’t extend our Iberian stay.  My research is a foundation for another trip.