Home Again

Number of days on the road: 38
Number of miles traveled in the car: 8,565
Items lost on the trip: 2 (the US folding map and my neti pot – not bad!)

Movies that we saw: WADJDA (wonderful Saudi Arabian film; see previous entry); THE BUTLER (hotel purchase – powerful and timely); NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (TV flick – a classic I remember from college that Arturo had never seen; I looked up all the characters on the internet as they appeared; for most, it was the role they were always remembered for…); DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (AMC theatre – excellent film about treatment in the early days of AIDS; Matthew McConaughey lost 45 pounds to play the part.)

TV shows that made us laugh: The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men (both broadcast in English in Mexico, but we continued to watch in the US).

In Texas, we got to visit Arturo’s son again, who shared his head cold with me.  I treated it with Colloidal Silver (throat spray) and Oregonal; what could have been a wicked cold came and went in about 24 hours, I’m pleased to say.

We also visited some old friends of mine, Dexter and Jenny Sternberg, who treated us to a delicious breakfast last Sunday in their home near Waco, Texas. It was fun sharing the trip photos on my iPad, which I got totally addicted to on the trip (camera, emails, GPS, reading the NY Times, looking everything up online, etc.)

That day we drove out of Texas, through Louisiana, and into Mississippi.

And the next day from Mississippi through Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia.

Our ridiculous arguments continued, followed by The Silent Treatment (my favorite – NOT). Now that we were back on home territory, the option to just head the hell home – and fast – became a reality.  So instead of visiting my dear friends Mary and Tony again in NC and going to Washington DC as planned, we got in the car at 4 AM in Atlanta (it wasn’t that hard to leave; the drain in the sink did not work at all, which is one of my worst pet (gonna barf in my mouth if I think about it more) peeves.  Got to see my first sunrise in awhile THAT day.

But as the miles flew by, and a certain person came out of his cave, we made a last minute decision to go to Washington DC after all.  It is such a wonderful place full of free things to do, and it being the capital of our nation, always seemed like a fitting last stop on a southern road trip before Home. (I remember doing this with a van full of Purnellies in 1981 after the inaugural Cross Cultural Express.)

Turned out to be the perfect stop.  We stayed at a really nice hotel in Arlington, VA, which, for $139 included a lovely breakfast AND dinner, a spacious room with a full kitchen (think microwave AND dishwasher), sitting area, really nice bathroom (with drains that ran free and clear) and a king size bed 😉 The next day, which was yesterday actually, we visited the Lincoln Memorial (which Arturo had never seen), the Viet Nam Memorial (which he had never seen), the Korean Memorial (which neither of us had ever seen, and here was a case for the iPad — why WAS the Korean war fought anyway?  Now I know!)

Another great leader we paid homage to

A great leader we paid homage to

But the best stop was at the new (2010) Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which I didn’t even know existed.  In the distance, we could see a light-colored, mountain like form, and from the map we could see it was for MLK, Jr.  It was a beautiful blue-sky day and we walked over, entering into a space that overlooks the water, with a gargantuan sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. emerging from the mountain of rock. There were about ten eloquent quotes by him carved into granite walls; here are some:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation: and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

“It is not enough to say ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all preached LOVE. It is easy, really, to talk about love and peace in the Big Picture, but living it inside myself, living it in an intimate relationship, well, that is where the intention and daily work come in. And that’s pretty much what Arturo and I talked about, as we made a recommitment to our relationship, to staying current with communication, to recognizing that it takes two to get into an argument, but only one to help the other one out. We promised we would remind each other to REMEMBER what we were feeling at that moment in the sunshine.

Sorry about the bad top crop, but you can see the scale of this monument to a great man.

Sorry about the bad top crop, but you can see the scale of this monument to a great man.

So we ended on a beautiful high note, had a spicy hot dog on the mall, and spent a couple of hours in the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden before heading home. I dropped Arturo off at his place around 8:30 last night with his share of the dirty clothes, and continued to fully unload the car here, smiling as I unwrapped the souvenirs from the Mexican newspapers, discovering a couple of pesos on the backseat that we had meant to trade in in Laredo.

My dear Avery stopped over for awhile and I got to tell him some of the funnier stories — and I can see already that the trip is going to take on a sheen that will only improve with time.

I said to Avery, “I would never go on that trip again, but I am very, very glad that I did.  I guess that’s why they call it a Once in a Lifetime Experience, right?”

Robert Indiana's French version of LOVE, at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in DC

Robert Indiana’s French version of LOVE, at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in DC

The downstairs exhibit a the Hirschhorn was by NJ artist Barbara Kruger; very cool use of words/questions on walls and floors in the whole space.

The downstairs exhibit a the Hirschhorn was by NJ artist Barbara Kruger; very cool use of words/questions on walls and floors in the whole space.

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Last Days in Mexico

As we head to the same Texas border we crossed 24 days ago, our trip mileage is coming up on 6,300! I am trusting our reentry will be uneventful, and we can get pretty far up into Texas by the day’s end.***

We both feel a little sad about leaving Mexico, especially the warmth of a few days ago, but frankly, we are happy to be coming back into the US, where things are just plain EASIER. Where and when Arturo (and me?) would live in Mexico, is still anybody’s guess.

Arturo has mastered the art of packing the car, especially as our belongings have expanded on the trip.

Arturo has mastered the art of packing the car, especially as our belongings have expanded on the trip.

Today is a nice, sunshiny day, but the last couple of driving days were rainy and overcast. What better way to spend the hours than in highway driving! Two nights ago we stayed in a motel-type place in Matehuala, and visited the “super-Walmart” (Not) up the road, buying yogurt and breads and fruit so we wouldn’t have to stop for breakfast. I took some photos, and then thought about some others I wished I had taken. That time, I guess Store Security was alerted; I was stopped at the exit and made to delete my photos, even though I explained I was just an American fascinated by the differences between Walmarts north and south of the border. I mean, have you ever seen a table full of whole, plucked chickens, UNWRAPPED, on ice? As it turned out, I still had these pix before I re-entered the store, twicky girl. 😉

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There was this amazing panderia section, just like the panaderias that are in every town and city, where you select the breads and sweets and put them on a tray to be paid for. This woman had just placed ours in the bag, which we paid for at the front of the store.

There was this amazing bread and bakery section, just like the panaderias that are in every town and city, where you select the breads and sweets and put them on a tray to be paid for. This woman had just placed ours in the bag, which we paid for at the front of the store.

Cactus fruit (tunas) and sugar cane in the produce section

Cactus fruit (tunas) and sugar cane in the produce section

Lots of different types of bananas to choose from

Lots of different types of bananas to choose from

The whole rest of the day was spent dealing with getting to our Monterrey destination. You may recall Monterrey, the sprawling, polluted city whose unmarked, twisted roadways had Arturo and I at each others’ throats the first time we were there — well, we certainly remembered it, and planned the trip so that we’d arrive with hours to spare to get lost.  Well, the hours got used!  Not because of being lost, though. The GPS led us directly to the address of our booking.com hotel. Except the hotel did not exist. We called the number listed for the establishment, and the guy told us he would call us back in two minutes. Huh.

So we ended up going to another Ibis hotel by the airport, and writing booking.com of what appeared to be a Scam. I am happy to report that booking.com got back to me right away and will be reimbursing me for the difference of the more costly hotel we stayed in. Ah, travel.

*** So now we are traveling through San Antonio, where the roads are smooth and clearly numbered, and the numbers even match the numbers on the GPS map! Relatively speaking, our passage through the border WAS uneventful though time consuming. We wasted about an hour getting lost multiple times in Nueva Loredo, Mexico, trying to get back to the vehicle registration place, and then waited in traffic with hundreds of other cars going through the Mexican and US checkpoints. After changing our pesos back to dollars and, yes, a late lunch at Burger King in Laredo, Texas, it felt great to receive a “we’ve been through a lot together” kiss from Arturo 😉

Would I ever take another driving trip to Mexico? Short answer: No.

BTW, the movie we saw in San Migel was not the comedy I thought we were headed to (it seems there are two little movie theaters in the back of two bars on the same street in San Miguel). What we saw was a really good indie film called WADJDA. It is about a ballsy little girl in modern day Saudi Arabia, who refuses to be confined by the very circumscribed rules for women in that society. We highly recommend it. It is directed by a WOMAN and I learned that it is the official submission, the first submission, that Saudi Arabia is making to the Oscars this year. // So I kind of had a culture-within-a-culture experience Wednesday night. 😉

Friday afternoon at the Mexico to US border.

Friday afternoon at the Mexico to US border.

The almost-last border crossing, US side. We made it past the dogs and passport check, and then about another 40 miles outside of Laredo, there is another inspection point.

The almost-last border crossing, US side. We made it past the dogs and passport check, and then about another 40 miles outside of Laredo, there is another inspection point.

Mexican money is user friendly.  The higher the denomination the larger in size is the bill (they are all the same width, just different lengths, which must be useful for blind people.) And they are different colors.  What a concept.  Same thing for change, unlike our pennies, which are larger than dimes. We liked that the artist Diego Rivera's face is on the 500 peso bill.  The others have religious, historic, and political leaders.  Also, they are RIP PROOF.  All in all, I'd say the US mint has some lessons to learn.

Mexican money is user friendly. The higher the denomination the larger in size is the bill (they are all the same width, just different lengths, which must be useful for blind people.) And they are different colors. What a concept. Same thing for change, unlike our pennies, which are larger than dimes. We liked that the artist Diego Rivera’s face is on the 500 peso bill. The others have religious, historic, and political leaders. Also, they are RIP PROOF. All in all, I’d say the US mint has some lessons to learn.

San Miguel de Allende and Photogravure

It’s been a few days since I wrote last. A sleep-replenishment day at the heavenly Hilton in Villahermosa, and then on to Puebla, where we had spent Halloween. Ten days later and all the stores and streets were decorated for Christmas!

We have gone from the tropics to the hill towns of central Mexico, traveling through the mountains, and the climate has changed commensurately.  We had to rearrange the car, burying the suntan lotion, and unearthing the sweaters. I will include a lot of photos and captions in this entry, but it reflects only the tiniest slice of all we have seen and experienced.

Mexico has such a variety of old and new, and of people — poor and wealthy, very Mayan or Indian looking brown to Conquistador white.  I commented to Arturo the other day that the cities are absolutely overwhelming.  Compared to NYC, where buildings are more or less of the same modern construction of the last 100 years and sidewalks can be negotiated by a blind person, here you have crumbled walls of stone, modern brick, beautiful tile facings from centuries past, and metal hovels, all on a mishmash of four-lane boulevards and very narrow cobblestone streets. In some cities, pedestrians (mothers with children!) are honked at crossing the streets, and if you are a driver, god forbid you should wait a divi-second to accelerate after the light turns green.

Arturo has been a fantastic driver in all this. I mean I could handle the highway driving — and actually got behind the wheel for like an hour the other day when Arturo pulled over and asked me to (I knew he must have really been exhausted to relinquish his role!) — but in the cities, forget it!

Anyway… After a revisit to Arturo’s nephew Fernando and Patricia in Queretaro last night, we are now in San Miguel de Allende, a very well-signed, hilly, small city where many American ex-pats, especially retirees and artists, live.  I’ve heard more American accents today than in the last three weeks, and saw license plates from California and Michigan. The city is really nice; there must be some kind of Sherwood Williams color code in effect: all the buildings are painted gold, brown, or a rusty pink. Seriously!

We are having a great time these days 😉 I will upload a bunch of pictures when we return from going to a little indie movie theatre in town. (We are staying in a hotel that advertised in hotels.com as being “in the heart of San Miguel.”  More like “in the ankles,” as we are at least a mile from the center of things.)

I finally got to swim a half a mile at the Villahermosa Hilton. I don't think itve gained weight as I can still zip up my pants, but I miss my daily exercise of yoga or swimming. I've been good for about one Sun Salutation daily (if that), though we have done a fair amount of city walking at times. The Subaru is incredibly comfortable and we have not been stiff or sore at all.

I finally got to swim a half a mile at the Villahermosa Hilton. I don’t think I’ve gained weight as I can still zip up my pants, but I miss my daily exercise of yoga or swimming. I’ve been good for about one Sun Salutation daily (if that), though we have done a fair amount of city walking at times. The Subaru is incredibly comfortable and we have not been stiff or sore at all.

Unbelievable FOG as we drove on the windy mountain road from Villahermosa to Puebla. And on top of it, the two lane road became a single lane because of construction.

Unbelievable FOG as we drove on the windy mountain road from Villahermosa to Puebla. And on top of it, the two lane road became a single lane because of construction.

After a stand still wait in a single line for a half hour on the foggy mountain road, we were allowed into the construction lane, and this was what the holdup had been.  Can you imagine a semitrailer holding up a line of traffic, with the driver underneath the hood trying to figure things out, in the USA?

After a stand still wait in a single line for a half hour on the foggy mountain road, we were allowed into the construction lane, and this was what the holdup had been. Can you imagine a semitrailer holding up a line of traffic, with the driver underneath the hood trying to figure things out, in the USA?

The second time we were in Puebla we stayed in the beautiful Casareyna Hotel.  There was art everywhere, even the bathroom. The first time we walked into our room. Arturo spotted a book on a Mexican sculptor he admired, and I lost him to that for about 45 minutes ;-)

The second time we were in Puebla we stayed in the beautiful Casareyna Hotel. There was art everywhere, even the bathroom. The first time we walked into our room. Arturo spotted a book on a Mexican sculptor he admired, and I lost him to that for about 45 minutes 😉

At Casareyna in Puebla, our $65 rate included a beautiful Continental breakfast.

At Casareyna in Puebla, our $65 rate included a beautiful Continental breakfast.

Tons of modern art in Casareyna Hotel and restaurants. Everything about this hotel was well appointed.

Tons of modern art in Casareyna Hotel and restaurants. Everything about this hotel was well appointed.

Casareyna Hotel was also a sales point for the beautiful (expensive) Talavera ceramics.

Casareyna Hotel was also a sales point for the beautiful (expensive) Talavera ceramics.

Notice the combination of old and new architecture, even on one building!

Notice the combination of old and new architecture, even on one building!

An artisans market in Puebla, about a half mile from...

An artisans market in Puebla, about a half mile from…

Mega store, kinda like Walmart, except you can buy a motorbike and groceries all under one roof.

Mega store, kinda like Walmart, except you can buy a motorbike and groceries all under one roof.

And inside...

And inside…

Here we have the Italian Coffee Company (a popular chain) drive through and a little shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Here we have the Italian Coffee Company (a popular chain) driv-thru and a little shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Finally had some mole (mole-lay) the last day we were in the state of Puebla. It is a combination of many ingredients, including chiles, nuts, and chocolate! I ordered pollo (chicken) and rice and mole; Arturo got pollo enchiladas with mole.

Finally had some mole (mole-lay) the last day we were in the state of Puebla, which is famous for it. Mole is a sauce of many ingredients, including chiles, nuts, and chocolate! I ordered pollo (chicken) and rice and mole; Arturo got pollo enchiladas with mole.

Lots of road construction -- repair, rebuilding, and new roadways.  I love this; it's about a 10" drop off with a cone placed every 20 feet or so...

Lots of road construction — repair, rebuilding, and new roadways. I love this; it’s about a 10″ drop off with a cone placed every 20 feet or so…

Note the double yellow line on this two land (two way) major highway. Note that a semi-trailer is passing another semi-trailer! Traffic signs and lines on the road seem to be mere suggestions ;-)

Note the double yellow line on this two land (two way) major highway. Note that a semi-trailer is passing another semi-trailer! Traffic signs and lines on the road seem to be mere suggestions 😉

On the major toll roads, we stop every hour or so, with the amount varying from 20 to 220 pesos ($1.50 to $16.50). These are modern, Garden State Parkway type of tollbooths, but twice we have encountered unusual situations.  On one, we were trying to enter a toll highway and there was a one-man toll booth (with digital display of amount due) and NO one in it, with a gate across the road!  After a minute or two  Arturo started beeping the horn, and a guy jogs over and into the booth.  I thought maybe he had been taking a pee, but no, he was operating BOTH sides of the road! both the entering and exiting sides of the major highway!  In this photo, the toll keeper had to get out of her booth to unchain the blockade for us, by hand!

On the major toll roads, we stop every hour or so, with the amount varying from 20 to 220 pesos ($1.50 to $16.50). These are modern, Garden State Parkway type of tollbooths, but twice we have encountered unusual situations. // On one, we were trying to enter a toll highway and there was a one-man toll booth (with digital display of amount due) and NO one in it, with a gate across the road! After a minute or two Arturo started beeping the horn, and a guy jogs over and into the booth. I thought maybe he had been taking a pee, but no, he was operating BOTH sides of the road! both the entering and exiting sides of the major highway! // In this photo, the toll keeper had to get out of her booth to unchain the blockade for us, by hand!

Changing, dryer landscape, and still those beautiful Mexican clouds, on the road to Queretaro.

Changing, dryer landscape, and still those beautiful Mexican clouds, on the road to Queretaro.

Potato chips in an appealing package.

Potato chips in an appealing package.

We have been in several churches and cathedrals -- to rest, to get warm, to look at the lifelike, full color statuary of saints, Jesus, and Mother Mary, and sometimes even to pray ;-) Note the giant Mexican flag at the front of this cathedral in Queretaro.

We have been in several churches and cathedrals — to rest, to get warm, to look at the lifelike, full color statuary of saints, Jesus, and Mother Mary, and sometimes even to pray 😉 Note the giant Mexican flag at the front of this cathedral in Queretaro.

Coming in from Queretaro, a roadside stop overlooking San Miguel de Allende. The main cathedral (I sort of appear to be holding) is the center of every Mexican city, though there may be several other churches.

Coming in from Queretaro, a roadside stop overlooking San Miguel de Allende. The main cathedral (I sort of appear to be holding) is the center of every Mexican city, though there may be several other churches.

Driving into San Miguel de Allende. You can see the cobbled streets and steep hills, the cathedral spires in the distance.

Driving into San Miguel de Allende. You can see the cobbled streets and steep hills, the cathedral spires in the distance.

Touristos.  We were talking to a New Yorker today about our 5000+ mile trip and she said, "...and you're STILL married!"  We just smiled ;-)

Touristos. We were talking to a New Yorker today about our 5000+ mile trip and she said, “…and you’re STILL married!” We just smiled 😉

Around 4:30, we stopped for a bite to eat (mainly to use the bathroom!), but it had gotten a little chilly, so the restaurant loaned us nice wraps to wear while we ate ;-)

Around 4:30, we stopped for a bite to eat (mainly to use the bathroom!), but it had gotten a little chilly, so the restaurant loaned us nice wraps to wear while we ate 😉

And now for some more observations before I say Buenos Noches.

The first toilet I encountered in Mexico.  About 25% of them do not have seats on them the way we do in the US. Also, it is usually or sometimes expected that you put ALL toilet paper into a wastebasket, not into the toilet.

The first toilet I encountered in Mexico. About 25% of them do not have seats on them the way we do in the US. Also, it is usually or sometimes expected that you put ALL toilet paper into a wastebasket, not into the toilet. // In public bathrooms (usually not restaurants), sometimes there is an attendant who gives you a few squares of toilet paper, for which you leave a tip. Sometimes there are regular rolls available in the stall. My advice is to travel with little packs of Kleenex!

This is the toilet in the nice hotel we are in tonight. Nicely appointed, but still with the request to throw away -- not flush -- toilet paper. As long as we're on the topic, I am amazed at the dozens of ways there are to flush a toilet! Buttons on the top (sometimes two part, one for a simple #1 flush, or double for a #2); foot pedals on the side; handles on the right, the left, etc.   Or sometimes an automatic sensor flush.  And NEVER an explanatory sign, in any language!

This is the toilet in the nice hotel we are in tonight. Nicely appointed, but still with the request to throw away — not flush — toilet paper. As long as we’re on the topic, I am amazed at the dozens of ways there are to flush a toilet! Buttons on the top (sometimes two part, one for a simple #1 flush, or double for a #2); foot pedals on the side; handles on the right, the left, etc.
Or sometimes an automatic sensor flush. And NEVER an explanatory sign, in any language!

Like, for instance, here is the toilet in our Ibis hotel room, our last nights in Mexico.  That large unit on the wall is the two-part flush, depending on what your business is.

Like, for instance, here is the toilet in our Ibis hotel room, our last night in Mexico. That large unit on the wall is the two-part flush, depending on what your business is.

Who remembers their Spanish? C for caliente and F for frio! Arturo and I have been scrupulous about washing our hands, about ten times a day!

Who remembers their Spanish? C for caliente and F for frio! Arturo and I have been scrupulous about washing our hands, about ten times a day!

4,500 miles, Day 27

Progreso. Isn't that a cute shirt? I got it for 60 pesos ($4.50) at a mercado in Playa del Carmen.  Never mind that it is made in China ;-)

Progreso. Isn’t that a cute shirt? I got it for 60 pesos ($4.50) at a mercado in Playa del Carmen. Never mind that it is made in China 😉

Still life, Progreso Beach. (Kind of funny how the seagull looks like he's on my beer bottle, huh?)

Still life, Progreso Beach. (Kind of funny how the seagull looks like he’s on my beer bottle, huh?)

Our hotel room in Progreso.

Our hotel room in Progreso.

We are in the raunchiest hotel tonight!!  (not the one above in Progreso, although now that I think about it, we did have to move from that room cuz the hot water never got past tepid…)

Where we are now the air conditioning is freezing, but there are no dials to turn on the ancient window unit; there is a crack in the toilet which is dripping into a wastebasket (and will need emptying into the shower at least twice in the night, I estimate, so as not to overflow); the poor reception TV has no remote; and  the beds have three different patterns of sheets on them.  But it cost 350 peso ($23), has free internet, has a secure parking lot, and is the only place with a room for us in the sad, crossroads town of Escarcega.

We had intended to drive 7+ hours today, from the little fishing town Progreso (pictured above) to revisit the Hilton in Villahermosa with the nice swimming pools, but when we stopped for a late breakfast on the Gulf bay in Campeche, Campeche, (like New York, New York), we got enthralled — by the walled fortification around the central historical area, the park (where a group of adorable 11-year-olds “interviewed” us for a class project), a display  of 13  bronze sculptures by the famous Mexican artist Juan Soriano, and an offer to wash the car by hand for 40 pesos ($3) in a free parking lot — and before we knew it, it was 3 PM, with five hours left to drive.

Breakfast on the Gulf Coast, Campeche. There was a really nice running and bike path that ran all along the waterfront. It is a preserved area (no swimming), home to lots of birds, octopuses, etc.

Breakfast on the Gulf Coast, Campeche. There was a really nice running and bike path that ran all along the waterfront. It is a preserved area (no swimming), home to lots of birds, octopuses, etc.

We were approached by these cute students wanting to tell us the history of Campeche, which was marauded by pirates until they built a wall around the city in the 1600s.

We were approached by these cute students wanting to tell us the history of Campeche, which was marauded by pirates until they built a wall around the city in the 1600s.

Can you fine me?

Can you find me?

Me and one of the pirates ;-)

Me and one of the pirates 😉

Arturo and one of the abstract bird sculptures by Soriano on display in the streets of Campeche.

Arturo and one of the abstract bird sculptures by Soriano on display in the streets of Campeche.

As I’ve said before, we have been told not to drive at night.  Barring federales (by whom we were stopped TWICE today in/around Campeche), it’s good advice because there is virtually NO lighting on the highways, and every so often there will be these speedbumps that come out of nowhere that can shake the shit out of your car if you’re not paying attention. Arturo has been doing an excellent job of driving, but this was a mutual decision to stop. We just had a decent dinner at a restaurant and are trying to get tired enough to sleep a few hours before moving out of this Bates Motel.  Really, it is pretty bad, but the personnel have been extremely nice, like 99% of the Mexicans we encounter. (Arturo is completely grossed out by the whole scene and is lying catatonic on the next bed watching whatever comes his way on the Discovery channel.)

The clouds in Mexico are truly amazing. Here we are on the road to Tulum, our most distant destination (about an hour south of Playa del Carmen), and we went to the Mayan ruins and swam on a cool little beach, but I can't figure out how to get the pics I took on my cell phone into this blog.  Maybe another time...

The clouds in Mexico are truly amazing. Here we are on the road to Tulum, our most distant destination (about an hour south of Playa del Carmen), and we went to the Mayan ruins and swam on a cool little beach, but I can’t figure out how to get the pics I took on my cell phone into this blog. Maybe another time…

We stayed in a little "green" place in Tulum, kind of in a rainforest. It was so damp that the dry clothes we hung up in the cabana were wet in the morning. Slick cement floors. Cute first impression, but Get Me Out of There!

We stayed in a little “green” place in Tulum, kind of in a rainforest. It was so damp that the dry clothes we hung up in the cabana were wet in the morning. Slick cement floors. Cute first impression, but Get Me Out of There!

Look at the size of these papayas!  Arturo bought several pieces of fruit that we don't have in the US for me to taste (all peeled, of course). I can't remember the names of them now ;-)

Look at the size of these papayas! Arturo bought several pieces of fruit that we don’t have in the US for me to taste (all peeled, of course). I can’t remember the names of them now 😉

BEING AWAY – First, congratulations to all those who won their elections. I can only blame myself as I neglected to get an absentee ballot before our departure. I usually read the NYTimes headlines and some full stories to Arturo as we drive, and it was a complete surprise to me to read about election day results. We have to make a concerted effort to figure out what day and date every day is (i.e look at my cell phone), that’s how out of Normal Life we feel! We are in a land of warmth, of summer, so when the sun goes down, we think it is about 8 PM or later, the way it is when the sun sets in the  summertime at home. We have dinner, we hang out, and we figure it is about 10 or 11 PM, and laugh to learn it is 7:30 or so!

GASOLINE – If our pesos to dollars, and liters to gallons conversions are semi-accurate, gas is about $2.50 /gallon.  Everywhere. There is only one kind of gas station here, called PeMex (Mexican Petroleum) controlled by the Mexican government. Luckily, they all take credit cards, except a couple, where the machine wasn’t working.

That’s it for now. Let the morning come soon.

EPILOGUE: When I finally turned off the iPad and snuggled up next to fully-street-clothed Arturo, I got the “church giggles,” thinking about the disgusting ridiculousness of the situation  Sometimes, all you can do is laugh! But, as gross as it was (and Arturo confessed to me this morning he saw “a little crawling thing” when he went in the bathroom last night), and able to sleep only about three hours because of all the street noise, we definitely made the right choice to spend the night there. We got on the road this morning by 6 AM, and the highways we are encountering are particularly bad, lots of construction, lots of potholes, etc. Also it must have really rained a lot because we are seeing lots of flooding in the fields and rivers we drive by. (Please forgive all the “lots” — my junior high English teachers would be aghast, but I am very tired!)

We are on our way to the heavenly Hilton in Villahermosa to catch up on sleep, swim, etc. Tomorrow, Veracruz.

Playa del Carmen

A lot has happened since we left Cuernavaca. Without going into the ever shifting sands of this relationship, the Mexican adventure has continued as we drive through the states of Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, and  Quintana Roo, which is home to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Hotel review: Gorgeous pools at the Hilton in Villahermosa, including a lap pool I didn't even see until we were leaving. The food, though beautiful, was absolutely tasteless, and very expensive.

Hotel review: Gorgeous pools at the Hilton in Villahermosa, including a lap pool I didn’t even see until we were leaving. The food, though beautiful, was absolutely tasteless, and very expensive.

A Dia de Los Muertos display at the Hilton in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, this one dedicated to famous dead singers. Can you see Michael Jackson's lower left photo.

A Dia de Los Muertos display at the Hilton in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, this one dedicated to famous dead singers. Can you see Michael Jackson’s lower left photo?

On the road to Carmen del Playa, the views are changing. Top left is the official sticker on the windshield which has been examined at several federales checkpoints

On the road to Carmen del Playa, the views are changing. Top left is the official sticker on the windshield which has been examined at several federales checkpoints

Sunshine and a pit stop & lunch on a beach on the drive from Merida to Playa del Carmen

Sunshine and a pit stop & lunch on a beach on the drive from Merida to Playa del Carmen.

Once we got into tropical Mexico, there were pineapple and coconut sellers under many of the highway overpasses. Here we bought delicious, cold, fresh pineapple chunks which we enjoyed on the road.

Once we got into tropical Mexico, there were pineapple and coconut sellers under many of the highway overpasses. Here we bought delicious, cold, fresh pineapple chunks which we enjoyed on the road.

Rain, rain, go away... We saw these cryptic billboards from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.  Huh?

Rain, rain, go away… We saw these cryptic billboards from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Huh?

We had dreamed of a couple of real “vacation days” in Playa del Carmen, but the weather has not been cooperating, alternating between pouring rain and clear skies. We stayed the first night in a fairly shitty hotel.  We arrived after dark and had to grope our way to the right room, as the door numbers on the doors were all painted the same dark brown. It had a full size refrigerator (nice for beer and “Lancers for the ladies” to drown our sorrows) but the fridg decided to die around midnight. We had left the screen door to the patio open and it poured and when we awoke in the night, the tile floor was all wet, which we mopped up with the bed ruffle. It seemed we might get a good beach day, so I asked for a new room with a working refrigerator, but they didn’t have another.  Which was fine, because we went to another hotel called Plaza Playa — only 33$ US.  You don’t always get what you pay for, because this one is beautiful, spacious, squeaky clean, and right next door to a lavenderia, where we got two weeks worth of clothes washed, folded/ironed for $18 US.

Lovely little touches at our second hotel, which cost all of 33$ US

Lovely little touches at our second hotel, which cost all of 33$ US

Muy romantica

Muy romantica

Sand sculpture on the beach

Sand sculpture on the beach

One night at the main beach plaza, there was a group of pre-Hispanic dancers and musicians performing.  After calling in the spirits from 6 directions ;-) and performing a bit, they posed for pictures ;-). Arturo was super inspired by the troupe.

One night at the main beach plaza, there was a group of pre-Hispanic dancers and musicians performing. After calling in the spirits from 6 directions 😉 and performing a bit, they posed for pictures ;-). Arturo was super inspired by the troupe.

Playa del Carmen is about an hour south of Cancun. We stopped at the Cancun airport to exchange money — TRAVEL TIP: DO NOT CHANGE MONEY AT THE CANCUN AIRPORT!! The exchange rate is terrible, about 10 pesos to the dollar when you can get 12 or more at a million exchange places in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Anyway, after a comedy of errors at the rainy airport, we have been in Playa del Carmen for three days in two different hotels, and leaving tomorrow.  It is a big tourist trap, but pleasant enough. The sand and water are beautiful (though way rougher than usual because of the storm, I think they are calling Sonja?)

Flooding in Playa del Carmen in front of our second hotel, but within a few hours, only a few places had puddles left of unknown depth

Flooding in Playa del Carmen in front of our second hotel, but within a few hours, only a few places had puddles left of unknown depth

Even though Arturo is the Mexican and I am the American, he got Montezuma’s Revenge, and with his recent history of diverticulitis, he decided to see a doctor, which turned out to be brilliant because he was really getting sick. Today el doctor came TO THE HOTEL, examined Arturo, gave him a painful antibiotic shot, and gave him an antibiotic prescription. The whole bill was $178 US. Luckily, I enjoy playing the role of nurse/wife when Arturito is infermo.

Tonight I had the pleasure of going to a yoga class in a studio by the sea. Felt like myself 😉

Halloween, 3500 miles later

Do you know the story of Don Juan Tenorio? That is the production we saw the other night, but the poor actors could hardly be heard at times because of the pouring rain ;-(  The performance space was an interior courtyard, originally open to the sky, that had been covered over with a sort of mesh roof. Two photographers took our picture beforehand for the social pages of the local papers, so if any of you subscribe to the Cuernavacan Newspapers, let me know 😉

I caught this great photo of one of the older chapels on the Cuernavaca cathedral grounds. We stopped in to hear part of a mass.

I caught this great photo of one of the older chapels on the Cuernavaca cathedral grounds. We stopped in to hear part of a mass.

Nadie  a visto anunca a Dio, pero, si nos amamos unos a otros Dios permanece entre nosotros. TRANSLATION: Nobody has seen God, but, if we love each other, God stays inside of us.

“Nadie a visto anunca a Dio, pero, si nos amamos unos a otros Dios permanece entre nosotros. “TRANSLATION: “Nobody has seen God, but, if we love each other, God stays inside of us.” This was taken through a gated entrance in a convent. Arturo said, “Abraham would say that.” He said he was kidding (he is not a big Abraham fan), but he was absolutely right.

Something I've come across in several restaurants, a little stand they move to your table where you can hang your purse up. Good idea!

Something I’ve come across in several restaurants, a little stand they move to your table where you can hang your purse up. Good idea!

At the Borda Gardens, this young man was applying thousands of paper flowers to the walls in honor of Dia de Los Muertos

At the Borda Gardens, this young man was applying thousands of paper flowers to the walls in honor of Dia de Los Muertos

Arturo y yo en frente de muro de flores de papel. Notice the skull design.

Arturo y yo en frente de muro de flores de papel. Notice the skull design.

One of the artists selling his art at the Borda Gardens festival was Julio de la Rosa, whose father had taught art at Cuauhnahuac language school when I had been there! So Julio knew some of the same people Knew 30 years ago!

One of the artists selling his art at the Borda Gardens festival was Julio de la Rosa, whose father had taught art at Cuauhnahuac language school when I had been there! So Julio, as a young boy, knew some of the same people I knew 30 years ago!

Arturo had to lend me money because when I went to the ATM to get money to buy a cool pair of cowboy boots (botas), I discovered I had brought the bank card for ARTsee, the artists network I co-founded, rather than my own bank card! Whoops – looks like I fled to Mexico with absconded funds.  I cleared it up with the ARTsee treasurer (who said he had already notified the Mexican Federales 😉 ), but it has put a crimp in the spending money. Luckily, I remembered a secret  stash of pesos we had hidden in the car in Laredo.

We drove to Puebla yesterday, the fourth largest city in Mexico (Pop. 1.5 million), where we made our way via GPS, people we stopped to ask, and good ol common sense to a cool, old style city hotel, and enjoyed the wonderful festivities of Halloweven happening around the big cathedral at the center of the city. See pictures.

Coming into Puebla.  The architecture in the larger Mexican cities is so creative.

Coming into Puebla. The architecture in the larger Mexican cities is so creative.

The main cathedral in Puebla at night, tonight the background for zombies and witches!

The main cathedral in Puebla at night, tonight the background for zombies and witches!

The littlest Dracula.  I gave away about 40 pesos to 40 little kids, most dressed up, but there were hundreds!

The littlest Dracula. I gave away about 40 pesos to 40 little kids, most dressed up, but there were hundreds!

A strolling family. I got braver about asking to take a fotographia as the night went on.

A strolling family. I got braver about asking to take a fotographia as the night went on.

Loved these little ones!  Kids carried little plastic jack-o-lanterns.  Some adults came prepared with baskets of candies to give to the Halloweeners.  This s NOT the same thing as anything you know about Dio de Los muertos.

Loved these little ones! Kids carried little plastic jack-o-lanterns. Some adults came prepared with baskets of candies to give to the Halloweeners. This s NOT the same thing as anything you know about Dia de Los Muertos.

New friends...

New friends…

Arturo found a buddy to hang out with ;-)

Arturo found a buddy to hang out with 😉

And now we have agreed to drive 15 hours over the next two days to get to Merida, Yucatan (a place my sister and others have told me about and where I never dreamed we would be going on this trip) en route to our destination of Playa del Carmen.  We have travelled over big green mountains today on mostly very good roads, and the first time we got out of the car I couldn’t believe how the climate had changed!

Hot! Muggy! 94 degrees! Fields of pineapple, sugar cane, banana trees.

Almost to Villahermosa (city), Tabasco (state), Mexico (country)!  We drove another hour and a half after this to get to a gorgeous Hilton -- only $63 via hotels.com!

Almost to Villahermosa (city), Tabasco (state), Mexico (country)! We drove another hour and a half after this picture was taken to get to a gorgeous Hilton — only $63 via hotels.com! Can’t wait to go for a swim in the pool in the morning!

Day 17, Cuernavaca, where there are no coincidences

Now we are on to Plan C.

The main reason we are on this trip is so that Arturo, now retired and living on a low fixed income, could find a place to live more comfortably, financially speaking. He originally intended to go to Puerta Vallarta, on the west coast, find a place to rent, and move there. Once I got in the picture about ten months ago, we started thinking about this being more a a joint adventure, so many of the places we are/were stopping to see were MY add-ons to the trip, but still, the ultimate purpose is to find a place to live, at least six months of the year.

After time in Mexico City, where Arturo is from, we were going to head south to Alcapulco, then up the coast through Puerta Vallarta and Matzatlan (three coastal cities that Jack Kerouac had written about in the 50s). Then we would head straight north and reenter the US via El Paso, Texas. A number of people who live in Mexico said that was dangerous territory, so for about a day we had a Plan B going — which was to take a ferry from Matzatlan to the Baja of Mexico and then north and come up through Tijuana into California…

I felt happier with that plan because I had seen and read about the beautiful Baja before we left, and it is very safe there. A lot of people camp and surf the Baja.

But — remember the main purpose of this trip is to find an inexpensive place to live, close to a tourist area where people want to Buy Art! So when Arturo’s nephew Fernando offered that he could live in a little casita they own in Playa del Carmen, on the EAST coast of Mexico, about 20 minutes south of Cancun, our whole plan changed again. stay tuned for further adventures….

But here we are in CUERNAVACA, where I have spent two months before in My life: once for a month in 1983 with my husband Rob, little O’Nell, and about 15 (?) Purnell students, and then again in 1986 for a month with two other Purnell teachers and a bunch more Purnellies. There were many things I thought I remembered about the city, which is quite huge (a big tourist destination for Mexicans from Mexico City, a little more than an hour north, and also the home of many many language schools.)

Rather than drive from Queretaro through the ENORMOUS city of Mexico, we came a more beautiful, less travelled route through pine covered mountains and little villages. On the way I booked a hotel online, one that was close to the center of town and only about $45 with free WiFi and a swimming pool.

On the mountain road between Toluca and Cuernavaca.  Looks more like Pennsylvania than what I think of as Mexico!

On the mountain road between Toluca and Cuernavaca. Looks more like Pennsylvania than what I think of as Mexico!

Sweet little Hotel Ilabel in Cuernavaca, which I picked "randomly" from hotels.com, which "happens" to be right around the corner from the dental lab that Arturo worked in when he lived here in the early 2000s

Sweet little Hotel Ilabel in Cuernavaca, which I picked “randomly” from hotels.com, which “happens” to be right around the corner from the dental lab that Arturo worked in when he lived here in the early 2000s

Now comes the interesting part, where I know the Universe is having such fun with us…

<< Although things between Arturo and me have not always been easy, there have been enough SIGNS that make me know that he has entered my life — that we have entered each other’s lives at this exact time in our lives — for some divinely orchestrated reasonS. The kind of reasons that were confirmed when I recently had readings done for myself and for Arturo and for our relationship, by my trusted, brilliant astrologer, Melissa Stratton.  (MelIssa, please comment and give your website!). The first words out of her mouth were, “You are two peas in a friggin’ pod.” >>

So, anyway, there were a few places in Cuernavaca that Arturo and I wanted to look up.  I wanted to see the language school, Cuauhnahuac, where I and the Purnellies had studied.  I remembered it was on Avenida Morelos and I remembered the names of some of the streets in the neighborhood across the way, where Rob, toddler O’Nell, and I had lived for that month 30 years ago. I thought perhaps I could find the house that we lived in in that neighborhood.

Arturo wanted to see if he could find the little house he had rented when he moved from the US back down here in 2000. His mother had had a stroke in her house in Mexico City, so Arturo moved her to less polluted Cuernavaca, where he nursed her for 2-3 years until she passed.

Okay, so first, yesterday, as we are driving the last couple of windy blocks to the hotel I had “randomly” booked online, Arturo says he recognizes the area; it turns out we are about two blocks from the dental lab he worked in during his years here caring for his mother more than a dozen years ago!

This morning, after a sumptuous breakfast at Sanborns, a really nice chain of restaurant-stores in Mexico (see pix below) we go driving around looking for the school and the houses. I find out via the internet, and confirmed on the Facebook page where I recognized the logo, that Cuauhnahuac is at 123 Avenida Morelos.

We drive back and forth up and down the crowded, bus-filled avenue, looking for 123. I thought I would recognize the beautiful palm-lined entrance of the school. No luck. Finally we pull into the highrise Holiday Inn and inquire of the young man attending the gate, where is 123 Avenida Morelos? “THIS is 123,” he says, explaining that after 6 months of construction the hotel had only opened 2 months ago. Guess Cuauhnahuac sold out and needs to update their Facebook page!

123 Avenida Morelos, now site of a big hotel, formerly the language school Cuauhnahuac

123 Avenida Morelos, now site of a big hotel, formerly the language school Cuauhnahuac

Then we go looking for 1) the house my little familia had stayed in in 1983 and 2) the house that Arturo and his mother had stayed in before she died.  You guessed it.  Both places were in the same neighborhood about 12 houses apart from each other!

As people at my spiritual center like to say, “You can’t make this shit up!”

I'm 99% sure this is the house we lived in on Avenido Cancun. The next house to the right was where the nice family lived who owned the property. They had two chicas, and I fave a photo of little O'Nell eating ice cream cones with them ;-)

I’m 99% sure this is the house we lived in on Avenido Cancun. The next house to the right was where the nice family lived who owned the property. They had two chicas, and I have a photo of little O’Nell eating ice cream cones with them 😉

The house that arturo and his mother lived in, just around the corner from "my" house

The house that Arturo and his mother lived in, just around the corner from “my” house

So then the car CD player, which hadn’t been working in days, starts to work again, and when I go to buy two tickets to a play tonight, selecting the more inexpensive (150 peso) seats, they give me two reserved seats right in the middle close to the stage. 😉

There is always so much to be grateful for, I am constantly remembering. There is also so much more to comment on — food, little funny incidences while driving, etc. — but this blog entry is already too long, so…

Dining on the terrace at Sanborns

Dining on the terrace at Sanborns

All Sanborns also have high end department stores attached to them, where you can buy electronics, clothing, and  hemorrhoid cream ;-)

All Sanborns also have high end department stores attached to them, where you can buy electronics, clothing, and hemorrhoid cream 😉

Yummy Mexican breakfast!

Yummy Mexican breakfast!

Adios, amigos!