[Note: I started this post in October but it has taken me until now to finish it with how busy I am. I am leaving it in place back in October so that when I print another volume of my blog books, it will make more sense. And also, this might be the longest post of all time. I don't expect that many people will actually read the whole thing but I wanted it recorded for me.]
I want to blog about Mexico before I forget the details. On the other hand, a lot of it was really awful, so that might not be such a bad thing. I am going to break this up by days and just give a brief overview, lest I bore you all.
"The day we should be in Mexcio but aren't" is what I wrote in my journaling notes.
*We arrived at the airport at 6:30 for our 8:15 flight.
*First problem...my passport has my maiden name on it but my ticket was booked under my married name. It took a while, but the attendant finally agreed to change it for me (after scolding me, which I guess was well deserved. I just didn't even think about it. Clearly I haven't done much international traveling since my mission).
*Second problem...we booked our ticket back in April with Expedia. Three months later, U.S. Airways changed schedules. This new schedule put our flight into Denver after our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. So, to avoid this mess, we requested our flight be changed to Sunday, rather than Saturday, with a layover in San Francisco (so we could visit our friends on our way home). Expedia agreed and everything was good...we thought. When the attendant pulled up our tickets, she said there was a $350 charge that was showing up and we couldn't get on the plane until we cleared it up with Expedia. By the time it got worked out (and Expedia admitted it was, in fact, their fault), we missed our flight.
*So that meant we got to spend the next four hours at the SeaTac Airport. We got on the next flight to Phoenix at 12:25.
*It all would have been great at that point but someone noticed their oxygen mask wasn't working while going through the presentation with the stewardess. For the next hour and a half, we sat on the plane while maintenance people fixed the mask (and btw, U.S. Airways now charges for snacks and even bottled water, and they refused to give us even a bottle of water for free during the wait, even though the delay was their fault. Lame).
*We got to PHX but by this time we had missed our connecting flight to Puerto Vallarta.
*We checked into our complimentary hotel room (at least U.S. Airways did that right). Of course, we did not have access to our luggage, other than our carry on stuff, so my make-up, pjs, toothbrush...yeah, all that was left on the plane. Nice. (Wendel didn't really care about missing his stuff but I was annoyed enough for both of us.) To look at the positive, at least we are from Phoenix and have friends and family there. We called our friends Brian and Lori, got take out at this amazing Cuban place, Havana Cafe (I got Cho Cho, which is fresh Chayote squash stuffed with lentils, corn, carrots and onions and topped with a Jamaican Curry cream sauce. It is served with white rice and a spicy green tomato chutney. Heaven.), and ate at their house. It was fun to see them, even though it was a very brief visit.
*We headed back to our hotel room and my brother came over to visit for about an hour before we pretty much fell asleep talking to him (we were beyond tired from our day at the airport). We took some funny pictures first though. They crack me up just looking at them.
We got to bed at 12:00 and we were up at 6:15 to go back to the airport. Good times.
*This time we didn't have problems with our flight. Yay! We got into Puerto Vallarta at 1:00.
*If you have ever been to PV, you know that you are accosted at the airport by people selling time shares. We had no idea what was about to happen to us. After we got our luggage (in an unusually small and quiet airport...our flight was the only flight of people there), we walked through the doors and were greeted by people asking what hotel we were staying at. We told them and they led us to a counter to talk with a woman. She was really friendly and helpful, pointing out fun things to do in PV. This was the time share preparation scphiel. We ended up getting sucked in because they offered to pay for half of our excursions (as many as we want to go on) if we listen to their presentation for a couple of hours. Okay. Whatever. They also gave us a ride to our hotel for free, which was nice.
*We checked in, relaxed a bit, hung out at the pool, and then showered and got ready to go out. That picture at the top of this post is taken from our hotel. Isn't it gorgeous? (We took pictures of the inside of our hotel but those were on my other computer and got corrupted. Sad.) More pictures of the view from our balcony:
*We realized that Wendel's prescription sunglasses, which he got specifically for this trip, were missing. They had been in my purse, which fell over on the plane. We think the glasses ended up there and we realized it too late. Sad.
*We went for a quick swim in the pool.
*We then walked on the beach a little and took a bunch of pictures.
[This one was taken in an ally we walked down as we made our way to the beach. There was no one else around. We set up our tripod for this shot. Right after we took this, our favorite lens (50 mm) stopped working. We had one other lens with us, but it started producing black spots shortly after this, which was pretty disappointing. Luckily, we bought a little point and shoot the night before our trip and had that with us.]
[Some boys playing on the beach. There was no one else on the beach other than them and an old man who tried to sell us sea shells.]
(Yes, it is true that I do not tan, even when I am in Mexico.)
[I am guessing these are hotels and/or time shares on the beach. Our time share was a bit further away than this.]
*We then ate dinner at a place called El Set. It was open (no closed walls) so we could see the ocean in front of us. It was right on the beach. Gorgeous.
We had lobster, jumbo shrimp, and sea bass. I loved the lobster. Wendel loved the lemonade here. It has carbonation in it (like the "lemonade" they have in Australia). I am not a fan. I really liked the soup though.
*Got up early and went to the time share presentation. Such a gorgeous hotel. They fed us an amazing breakfast. As you can see, the resort is right on the beach. It was gorgeous.
The taxi then dropped us off downtown. It rained the whole time we were at the time share. Look at how flooded the street was.
*We spent the afternoon walking around downtown PV in the rain (and had the hardest time finding a place to buy an umbrella. Crazy).
*We went to the flea market, old town PV, and ate lunch at Pipi's (which our friends Jon and Christa recommended from their visit to PV).
See that OXXO sign in the picture below? There are so many of those in PV (they are basically like 7-11s). I'm glad I got one in a picture. When I think of PV, I will think OXXO as part of the experience.
They made complimentary guacamole at our table at Pipi's. It was delicious. We were serenaded by a mariachi band while we ate.
*We walked along the beach (right at the city's edge) and saw the coolest sand (sculptures? art? creatures?) I have ever seen. Check them out:
I think it is so cool how detailed these are. And how they color the sand. Awesome!
*We finally found two really flimsy umbrellas to purchase, paid to use a really scary "bano" in a parking garage, and bought some groceries to keep at our hotel for the week.
[Pictures taken around PV as we searched for an umbrella. I really love those colorful paper cutouts that were hanging in the street. I also think that purse is pretty cool.] Oh, and one more of W on this cool bridge in the Romantic Zone:
*We went back to our place and watched Bones (we purchased season 1 to watch on this trip in our down time).
*We then went back downtown to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day. It was quite the celebration. There were a couple of concerts, the president of PV spoke, there were fireworks, food, music, dancing, and "free tequila for everyone!" People were really surprised that we don't drink. It was funny to watch their reactions.
[Some really bad pictures but they show the crowd of people that were there.]
*Our taxi driver who took us home was actually totally wasted. He was driving so crazy. I literally had to close my eyes because I was so nervous. It was a wild ride.
*Wendel made us pancakes while I got ready.
*Our taxi driver, White Horse, stood us up (we had met him the day before and he promised to pick us up at 9:00 am to tour around PV and see an Indian village).
*Instead, we took a bus into town and went to the beach ("The Beach of the Dead.")
(What you don't see pictured here are about 30 mosquito bites all over my pale white legs. Those things were vicious!)
The beach was pretty but not very enjoyable. 1. I lost my shoes within minutes. I set them down, walked away for a minute, came back, and they were gone. Luckily I had my flip flops with me. 2. They charge $20/day to rent a lawn chair to use on the beach, so we opted out of that one. 3. I was trying to read my book while Wendel was in the water, but every thirty seconds or so (seriously), someone would come up to me and ask me if I wanted to buy something they were selling. It got to be really annoying. I think I stayed on the same page in my book the whole time we were there. 4. Minutes after I took the pictures above, it started pouring, and it didn't stop the rest of the day. We ran to take cover. We had only been on the beach for about 1/2 hour, so this was kind of a bummer.
*We went to Oscar's to get out of the rain. It was on a river by the Ocean in the Romantic Zone of Old Town PV.
[The above picture of the restaurant is one I found online, not one I took.]
The food was really good. I had a vegetarian crepe with goat cheese. Wendel had fajitas. [Note: I had been very careful thus far not to drink the water or eat anything that could have been washed in the water, but for some reason it did not occur to me that, at this nice restaurant, the beautiful garnish to the side of my yummy crepes could cause me such misery for the rest of my vacation. I'm not positive, but I really think it was this garnish that made me very ill because Wendel and I ate pretty much everything the same to this point other than this meal. Ugh.]
*After lunch, we walked around town. I bought a pair of ugly tennis shoes for $35 (because I needed them for the Canopy Tours we were going on the next day) and W searched for a cheap sombrero. Most were around $45-50 or more, but he finally talked a guy down to $10.
*The rain had stopped so we went back to the beach but just as we laid out our towels, it started to rain again.
*We took a bus back to our room. We were completely soaked.
*I haven't yet mentioned the hill of death. (No pictures of the hill because they were ruined when our hard drive crashed, but the one below is of W after climbing it. Have I mentioned how humid it is in PV? You can get a feel for how far up our place was from the street by looking at the pictures from day 2 that we took of the view from our balcony. The hike to our room was from that street at the very bottom.) The bus stop is at the bottom of said hill, and our time share was at the top (about a 15 minute "hike"). I put on my new shoes for the journey (and was glad I didn't have to climb the steep and slippery hill in my flip-flops that have absolutely no traction).
*We got back to our room and took a nap (the best part of the day).
*We woke up and had burritos for dinner and took a couple of pictures on our balcony with Wendel's new sombrerro.
*We watched Garden State (which we both really liked) before going back to bed.
*I woke up in the night feeling really sick. Not just "I think I ate something bad" but "Oh my gosh, I want to die" kind of sick. I had to run to the bathroom several times throughout the night. It turns out that I had a bad case of Montezuma's Revenge. It was so much worse than what you're imagining, though. It was like having the flu with nausea and aches, plus running to the bathroom every 1/2 hour (or less) and being in extreme pain.
*We had Canopy Tours scheduled for this day and it's something we were both looking forward to (and the reason I had bought tennis to replace my stolen shoes rather than make do with my flip flops). I still felt 100% awful but didn't want to miss this. I thought that if I got up and going, maybe I would feel a little better. This was a mistake.
*We had to wait for what seemed like forever in the tour office before loading the bus. I just sat there with my head in my hands and wanted to die.
*We finally boarded the bus and I prayed that I wouldn't get sick while on the bus.
*The bus ride was horrific to me. It was so bumpy! I felt like we were going to tip over. We were out in the middle of who-knows-where on bumpy dirt roads and I just wanted to die. I literally started to cry.
*We finally got to our destination and sat through an orientation. The whole time, everything was almost surreal to me. I felt like I wasn't really there. I was that out of it. It was like I couldn't feel anything. I just started crying. Everyone was looking at me, they stopped the presentation, had to help me walk (because I couldn't walk on my own at this point) and asked me a bunch of questions in front of the whole group. I knew I should have felt embarrassed but I really couldn't feel anything.
*Some of the staff took us down the the restaurant area and gave me a drink - lemonade made with salt instead of sugar. Since being sick, nothing had tasted as good to me as this did. W said he saw color start to come back into my face.
*I asked W to give me a blessing because I honestly didn't know how I could make it through this otherwise. We found a private and secluded place to do this along side a river. It was very peaceful and beautiful.
*We lost our money and didn't get to experience the canopy tours. I told W he should do it without me but he wouldn't hear of it. Sad (but sweet of him).
*I almost threw up on the bus ride back. It dropped us off at the bottom of the dreaded hill and I knew I couldn't make the hike. There was just no way. We asked taxi driver how much to take us to the top and he wanted to charge an insane amount of money. Finally one taxi driver had compassion on me when I started to cry as I explained that I was sick. He gave us a decent deal to take us up the huge hill.
*I fell into bed and stayed there until the next morning.
*We were scheduled to go on a Waterfall / Snorkeling Tour at Quimixto but I was so sick, I really couldn't even get out of bed except when I was forced to in an unpleasant manner. It was awful. We lost our money. W spent the day in the pool by himself, checking on me and playing games on his laptop. I had no sense of time and only wanted to sleep to escape the misery I was experiencing. I finally got up at some point late at night and we watched a few episodes of Bones. We kept having to pause it though, as I had to run to the bathroom about every 10 minutes.
I woke up and actually felt like I could eat something very light. Only fruit sounded good to me. I was so excited to eat one of the mangoes we had bought a few days prior. I cut into it and, as luck would have it, found a worm inside. I couldn't believe it. I love mangoes and have never had that happen to me. It was not the best timing, as my stomach was still pretty weak. I find it kind of laughable now. (Don't worry, the one pictured is the second one I cut open. No worm.)
*We had "Swimming with Dolphins" scheduled for this day and I was determined not to miss it. Out of the three "excursions," this is the one I was most looking forward to. I was so grateful that I was feeling at least a little bit better.
*If you ever have the chance to swim with dolphins, take it. I loved it! It was so cool to see how well-trained they were. They clapped their fins for us and gave us kisses. They took each of us on a little swim around the pool - we just grabbed onto their fins and away we went. We had a baby dolphin and he was so cute. I was crazy about him.
*We had a taxi drop us off in a little outside of PV and had lunch at a Chinese place (of all places to eat in Mexico). I was beyond nervous to eat but managed okay. I only had a few bites though, and I was done.
*We walked into town so we could take some pictures along the way (which no longer exist).
*We hit the shops for the last time. We picked up some cool salsa bowels, a t-shirt for me and some bead ornaments for my family and for us (because my family has a tradition of getting a new ornament every year).
*We ordered pizza that night and watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Here are a few sunset pictures Wendel took from our balcony during our stay in PV:
*We got up, packed and took a taxi to the airport. We had an uneventful flight to California. Our friends Dave and Stacey picked us up and we went out to eat. We hadn't seen them since we moved to Washington and it was so fun to hang out with them again. We just wished it could have been longer. (We all lived in AZ at the same time). We stayed the night with them (and got some pictures, which were also ruined - sad). Dave took us to the airport bright and early the next morning.
So to sum it up, Mexico was awesome and awful at the same time. It was nice to get away but horrible to be so sick. I came back about 10 pounds lighter with an appreciation for food that I am not afraid to eat.