Trip Report 8/20-8/27 part 7


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Posted by scott from 68.7.100.95 (ip68-7-100-95.sd.sd.cox.net) on sŠbado, septiembre 07, 2002 at 14:18:05 :

It's Monday morning and our last full day at the hotel. I walk to the balcony, pull back the blinds and find yet another beautiful day. But wait, something isn't quite right here. I see sand, waves, people, palm trees, an empty pool, and yellow tape. Is the pool supposed to be without water? And what's with all of that yellow tape strung out like some kind of giant mass murder scene? I shake the cobwebs out of my head, get a cup of coffee and return to the balcony. Yes, the pool is still empty and the yellow tape is still there. M finds the answer lying on the floor next to the door. Overnight, the hotel slipped a note under our door explaining that "in order to serve you better, we've taken the pool out of service." Well, something like that. It turns out that our main source of hotel-bound recreation, and a big reason why we stay at the Dorado Pacifico, has now been closed for major maintenance. Oops.

I have visions of Chevy Chase punching Marty Moose when he finds Wally World closed, but all I can really do is laugh. Because although it's disappointing, it's also a bit of a relief to know that this didn't happen last Monday immediately before our arrival. That would have been tragic to find that we wouldn't have a hotel pool for the entire stay. Instead, we'll just have to deal with the situation for a day and a half. And the note from management goes on to say that we're welcome to use the pool next door at the Hotel Riviera. We understand the need for maintenance and this is the low season. We'll deal with it as we always keep options open. For J, he's so fascinated with the empty pool he's oblivious to the fact that he can't swim in it. I do feel sorry for anybody arriving today though.

But this also teaches us an important lesson about booking travel. Remember that I booked this online as a package from Alaska Airlines. I found no information about maintenance when I made the reservations, reservations that include surcharges for cancellation or changing dates. Now consider this. If you plan a vacation to Disneyland you can find on Disney's web site a list of attractions closed for refurbishment. If you really want to ride Splash Mountain during your vacation in June, and you learn that it's supposed to be closed, you can opt not to visit until July when it is expected to be open. But here, with Alaska's offering, no such ability to note planned disruption of service is included. What to do? Well, for me, if I was going to book online, I now know to call the hotel ahead of time to confirm everything is (planned to be) open before I commit that credit card number to Alaska Airlines. The other alternative is to eschew the online booking altogether and go with a travel agent that can do the necessary questioning for you. For all of the talk about travel agents losing work to online booking, this is a big reason why that personal touch is valuable. I'm sure that this is no big revelation to agents.

Our decision is to taxi into Zih. Weíll walk downtown, stop by the atm, visit the indoor market, window shop, have a leisurely lunch, and eventually end up at the artisiansí market to shop for gifts. This plan will give us time for J to have a nice nap since he probably wonít get one tomorrow and still allow for swim time next door. As we snack on breakfast and prepare for the day Iím continually drawn to the balcony where I spend long periods of time staring at the empty pool and the various workers. I canít help but wonder aloud how long the pool will be out of commission and what exactly will be done.

We have our taxi driver take us to a bank. This is our first use of an atm and it doesnít go exactly as planned. My card wonít work. However, Mís card, on a different account from the same credit union, works fine. An explanation escapes me for this but itís of little matter because we did get money and we carry travelerís checks for emergencies anyway. Always keep your options open. We walk to the indoor market and stroll through the isles. This market is bigger and cleaner than Petatlanís. Stalls of house wares and hardware accompany the many food vendors. Several people are selling molcajetes, and although Iíve been meaning to buy one, the weight is just too great to consider packing this stone monster in the luggage. Besides, living in San Diego, and having family in Tijuana means we can get one there. All I have to do is remember. The produce sellers are the biggest surprise for us due to the wide variety and high quality of the fruits and vegetables. We see items that are nicer looking than what we buy back home. And of course, there are things here that we just donít find in San Diego. As we walk out the back of the market, past the meat vendors, the usual smell of freshly cut meat is a bit much for J.

We walk slowly through the streets, stopping here and there. Close to the market is a man preparing to make a batch of tortillas from a machine that looks suspiciously like Jís Mouse Trap game. We watch for a good ten minutes while he loads masa into the hopper and adjusts the mechanism that deposits flat rounds of dough on the moving conveyor belt that will take the dough through a gas oven in one direction and then the other until the cooked tortillas finally slide off the belt into one of two collector bins. Itís hot and damp work but the man goes about his business without the slightest hint of discomfort. While we watch, several women arrive carrying containers of prepared food for which they want tortillas, but they must wait until the man has just the correct thickness dialed into the machine. The aroma of just-made tortillas is heavenly. I laugh to myself that in Disneyís latest theme park built next door to Disneyland, a park that celebrates Californiaís history, heritage, and attractions, a company called Mission has a much newer, shinier contraption on display that makes fresh tortillas that are given away to park visitors. And theyíre not nearly as good.

As we walk towards the artisiansí market, weíre looking for a place to eat lunch. Iím thinking Los Braseros, but as we turn one corner, thereís Tamales Y Atoles Any. No question about it, we enter immediately. A couple of tables are occupied and we choose one that takes advantage of a large fan. We enjoy cold horchata as we make the difficult decision of choosing from the many items. I ask for a tamale containing poblano chiles, cheese, and epazote, and a quesadilla with pork rind and green sauce. M chooses a beef taco and tamale with pork and green sauce. J gets his usual cheese quesadilla. Everything is delicious as expected. The quesadillas are a surprise as they arenít just made by slapping a tortilla or two together, but are instead appear to be hand made and formed. The result is something that looks very much like an empanada. Golden brown and crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Just thinking about them as I write this makes me hungry. The tamales are also extremely well made with a generous portion of filling surrounded by thick and moist corn. Frijoles fill out each plate and three wonderful sauces are on the table for accompaniment. As J has a Popsicle for dessert, we place a call home on the cel phone to speak with my parents.

Satisfied and a bit overfed, we leave the restaurant and walk the couple of block to the artisiansí market. We stop briefly at a nearby store where we buy a hammock and a girlís blouse. Then on to the market where we make a long slow examination of the ceramics, silver, clothes, toys, and nicknacks. A man who sells leather cracks me up when he suggests that I buy a bullwhip for the wife. Iím specifically looking for a wooden plate where the grain of the wood shows behind the painted design, but the only one I find is much bigger than I want and much more expensive that I want to pay, and so I reluctantly pass. But we do walk away with a nice assortment of plates, vases and ceramic turtles. There are more of those wiggley-headed animals for Jís collection, including a chicken, an armadillo, and a bull. Some inexpensive jewelry for children of Mís friends. Mís best find is a brightly painted crocodile-like animal roughly cut from wood. He stands about a foot long and grins wildly with ragged white teeth. My find comes at the very end where a man named Pedro M is painting plates. On the shelf of his stall are several beautiful round wooden boxes painted by this gentleman. Since Iím shopping for gifts and I need several more less expensive items, the boxes are not really what Iím looking for. But they are extremely well done with intricate line work and I keep returning my attention to them. I choose to buy three vases for friends at work and after he wraps them in paper and takes my money, Pedro M makes me an offer for a box that I just cannot refuse. Itís clear that the amount is lower than heíd like to take and Iím somewhat reluctant to accept because it seems to me to be too low for such nice work. But if thereís one thing that 14 years of marriage has taught me itís that you just canít have enough gifts for your spouse, and so I accept Pedroís offer but tell him that his work is too fine for that small amount. We split the difference between the first and final prices and I walk away feeling great for having bought a work of art that exemplifies true talent.

When I walk out back to the curb, the refreshment vendor is chipping off a big hunk of ice for a jamaica drink that M has bought. Iím so broke she not only has to pay for that, but the taxi ride as well. Many bags get put into the trunk and we ride in air-conditioned comfort back to the hotel. In a cool dark room, J takes his nap while M and I do a little reading, a little comparing of purchases, and have a couple drinks made from Brandy we bought at the supermercado earlier in the week. M loves the wooden box.

After nap time, we get towels from the towel desk and go swimming at the Riveria. Passing by the Doradoís pool, we find that several workers are now chipping away at the paint along the poolís border, several more are working on tile around the various drains and filters, and another is pouring large amounts of acid over the bottom of the pool and scrubbing with a broom. In other words, thereís a big effort going on here. Later weíll ask how long the pool is expected to be closed and the answer will be ďat least several weeks.Ē At the Riveria, we find a smaller pool, with very little shade. In one corner, thereís a shallow area for children, with that giant mutant fiberglass frog sitting in the middle. A small swim up bar and a volleyball net round out the offerings. We much prefer Doradoís pool. We order a couple of drinks and move between chairs and water with one of us always close to J. Soon, it becomes apparent that weíre being watched. A security guard seems unusually interested in M, and we expect that it has something to do with the fact that weíre not staying at the hotel. In fact, it turns out that theyíre concerned about the shirt that sheís wearing. Weíre told that T-shirts are not allowed in the pool, but when M says that itís not a T-shirt but instead a swim shirt (as she points to the surf logo and assumes they understand what that means), they accept that explanation and let us be. At this point weíre guessing that weíre violating some kind of fashion no-no, or perhaps theyíve had immodest gringas wear nothing but a wet T-shirt. Upon asking we learn that they donít want shirts because they can get caught in drains or filters or something and that people have drowned during such an occurrence. It all sounds a bit silly to us, and M continues to wear her shirt unhindered but looking carefully at drains nonetheless.

After a couple of hours of swimming, we return to the room, change into suitable dining clothes, and visit Juany for one last happy hour before dinner. At this point, things become a bit sad because the realization has set in that vacation is just about over and it will be many months before we return. Jauny, who has been making woman noises about the fact that we only have one child, says goodbye by placing her hand on M's tummy and saying that perhaps when we return, M will be carrying another baby. It's an attitude that reinforces a sincere importance placed upon family in Mexico. No matter where we've gone, children are treasured and family is placed above all else. Right now, however, the talk of another child makes me consider sitting back down and to have a few more tequila shooters.

Our final dinner is taken where we had our first of the trip: Lobster House. After deciding on items, M and J run back to the hotel room to retrieve toys that have been forgotten, as we always have a few diversions handy for the 5 year old. Makes for a more peaceful dinner for the parents. I settle back with a cold Negra Modelo and stare out across the street. When M and J return, dinner starts off with a good onion soup. The entrťe roles are reversed from the usual with M having fish while I have langostinos. J has his quesadillas with fruit. Of course, we share plates, so both adults get lots of moist seafood surrounded by buttery garlic. Add a couple of cold cervezas, plenty of lime, and a pinch of salt and it's heaven on earth. Whoever has to sit close to us on the trip back better like garlic, quickly learn to like garlic, or be able to move to another seat, but that's the price you pay for loving mojo de ajo. Sitting back on the second story patio, watching the people walk by, or drive by in taxis, or pass by in a horse-drawn carriage, sipping cold beer in the humid 80 degree salt air, it's all going to be hard to miss. And even though we're full to the gills, we walk the block back to our favorite ice cream stand for dessert. Hey, we're on vacation, no?



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