Monday, June 18, 2012

images all together

Here are all the photos from the trip in one slideshow, and a couple of videos below that:

This was the marimba band we heard the first night in the restaurant. The sound on my phone isn't that great, because this was a much richer sound, but it was kind of jalopy-ish:

And this was the wonderful mariachi band at our hotel. They were standing underneath the overhang, so all you can see is the main singer, but there were trumpet players (you'll hear them!) and guitars and an accordion:

Despite the very end of the trip for me, this was a wonderful, fabulous, refreshing and restorative trip. We had a great time together, ate some very good food, enjoyed the sun and the beautiful people of Oaxaca and Mazunte, and want to go back next year. Viva Mexico, seriously y'all.

it all came tumblin' down (for me anyway)

Saturday morning was sunny, and the rain clouds were lingering on the edge of town so we got everything done as quickly as possible, in case it rained. Marc wanted to go to the mercado and I didn't, so I sat in a cafe (the one we'd frequented during our stay in Oaxaca) and got an iced cappucino. Big deal. We'd been drinking giant pitchers of limonade in Mazunte, filled -- surely -- with bad water from the back yard. In all our travels, neither of us has ever gotten sick. We always take pepto bismol and levaquin daily, for the whole trip. By the time we get home, the contents of our intestines look like tar, but that's a small price to pay, right?

Until this trip. When Marc finished with the mercado, we decided to head back to the room to put away our purchases and decide where we'd have dinner. By the time we got there, a 4 or 5 minute walk, I was feeling bad, man. Really bad. By mid-afternoon, I was in full-fledged badness. I'll use an old euphemism: two exits, no waiting.

I kept the laptop (which gets very hot) against my stomach like a heating pad and stayed curled up in bed the rest of the day and night, except for quick runs to the bathroom. I was sure that I'd be feeling better by the next day, travel day, except it turned out that I didn't feel better. I just didn't have anything left in my guts, but I still felt like I was hit by a freight train, and my stomach was in constant cramp. Standing up was hard, sitting was hard, being was hard. We left our hotel at 5:30,am and got home around 7pm, maybe? The airline lost our luggage. The bridges and tunnels were all backed up when we were trying to get home. It was all very miserable for me, anyway.

Even though we'd chosen not to have our luggage delivered at night, since we'd been told it could be at 3am, the delivery guy's idea of "tomorrow morning" must have been 4:30am, because that's when we got it. The end of the trip was as miserable as the rest was great, but it didn't balance it, at least. It was still a wonderful, wonderful trip despite the very end.

When I'm up to it, I'll upload a slideshow of all the photos, and add the two videos I took (one of the marimba band, and one of the mariachi band). For now, though, it's slow moving for me.

Adios, Mexico. It was wonderful...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday in Oaxaca

On July 1, Mexico elects a new president -- bet you didn't know that. Americans just don't know the details of other countries' political systems, a bit of arrogance there. But others know of ours; when we were here a few days ago, while Marc was off looking for something I stood listening to the symphony in the zocalo, and a young man walked up to talk to me. His name was Magdaleno and he was very kind and spoke English much more clearly than I spoke Spanish. He told me about their upcoming elections and said he was hoping we would re-elect Obama, who is kinder to other countries. He said with a question mark in his voice "Republicans? Tea parties? They are mean." And I agreed, yes they are very mean. We talked a while longer, and then he drifted away to listen to the music.

So, since the election is coming very soon, Oaxaquenos are participating in political stuff today in the zocalo. There seem to be a number of parties (see how ignorant I am.....) and they take turns on the stage, and each has a big loud band. But let me back up a little bit.

We obviously got out of Mazunte to Puerto Escondido, and then the uneventful plane ride delivered us to Oaxaca by 9am yesterday. But neither of us had slept at all the night before, so we dropped off our bags at the hotel, walked to the zocalo and ate breakfast, then came back to the room and crashed for a few hours. I'm not a napper, so sleeping hard for a few hours in the day left me feeling dazed and strange. It was very rainy yesterday, so we walked around a bit, piddled around in cafes, and went to dinner at La Olla. We were drenched by the time we got there, and ate dinner with wet feet and pants, then came back to the hotel and crashed.

This morning we walked back to La Olla for a lovely breakfast, and our day's goal was to do some shopping. I always buy a pair of earrings everywhere we go, but Oaxaca isn't known for earrings or silver; the specialties here are weaving, black pottery, and tin work. The clouds are black and heavy so we hoped to get everything done pretty quickly. Finally, we found a women's cooperative where all the work is high quality and handmade, and scored a little top for my granddaughter (!), a bit of tin work for Katie & Trey's home, a bit of tin work for Marnie & Tom's home, and a Frida Kahlo bag for Marnie....and finally finally, a pair of earrings for me. Marc went to the market to poke around and I sat on the zocalo and had an iced coffee and watched the crowds:

a bit of Benito Juarez graffiti
a casual mariachi band -- the guy with the giant guitar is hanging behind
a bit of political graffiti pasted on a wall
the giant stage, with musicians -- stretching out in front are the crowds
the crowds in front -- different groups with different colored flags
shopping day
this guy must have come down from the mountains -- i saw a lot of people like him
saturday crowds -- the yellow COS banners were for the socialist party
who DOESN'T bring a tuba to a party??
always balloons. always.
shopping day
tubas and drums are always fun
this teeny tiny little old woman wanted to sell me pepitos. she was so sweet.
I am a giant here; the people are generally quite small, all roughly the same height. And then there's me, giant white me. But they don't stare, even though we have seen very few American-looking people (or Europeans, for that matter).

We leave very early in the morning, back to NYC. This was a wonderful vacation, even with the rain. We had plenty of time in the sun, we saw beautifully dressed dancers and musicians, ate some great food, and enjoyed ourselves. What more can you ask of a vacation....

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Well, all you schadenfreude sufferers, we've got a stormy scoop for you. There's a (depending on who says it) tropical storm or hurricane bearing down on us, and for the rest of our time here in Mexico there's a 100% chance of thunderstorms. Here at the hotel on the coast, they've taped up the windows with giant duct tape Xs and we were given a small battery-operated light, just in case. A cab is picking us up at 5:30 in the morning and the current word is that the airport will be operating until 11am tomorrow; our flight is scheduled to leave at 8:30, so perhaps we'll get out of here. In a tiny little tin can of an airplane, flying over treacherous mountains. In a hurricane. Stay tuned!

Assuming -- as I certainly do -- that we get to Oaxaca, there will be nonstop thunderstorms until we fly home on Sunday morning (assuming we can). It's a good thing we already had so much sunny beautiful weather and saw so much, because from now on it's only going to be relaxing and eating. Boo hoo. :)

las moscas!

If you're like me and know very little Spanish beyond cerveza, tacos, and enchiladas, maybe you don't know that "las moscas" means "the flies." And boy have we had a lot of encounters con las moscas. At our hotel, breakfast is served on the largest palapa, right by the pool and overlooking the ocean. Up in the peak of the palapa is a ceiling fan, and the ocean breezes flow through the palapa -- maybe this is why we didn't encounter them at breakfast on our first morning. Also: it's very clean.

But yesterday we ate breakfast and dinner in town, and for both meals (and at dinner the night before) we were swarmed with flies -- from the moment we sat down, but especially once our food arrived at the table. Last night was the worst, by far; there were looming storm clouds out over the ocean, scattered raindrops, and lightning in the clouds with occasional booms of thunder, so we were a little worried about going into town for dinner. If we were going to have dinner, though, we'd have to walk into town, so off we went, umbrellas in hand. The place we wanted to go wasn't open for an hour, and we didn't feel comfortable waiting since the storm was just looming right over there, so we picked a little place that looked ok. Marc ordered garlic octopus, and I ordered shrimp ceviche, and we got guacamole. (Sidebar comment here: that was the best guacamole I've ever had in my entire life. It was exactly the way I prefer it, slightly chunky with avocado, and filled with chopped tomatoes and onion and lots of cilantro, and squirted with fresh lime juice. I don't like the pureed stuff.)

Anyway. We sat waiting, waving off flies, and then our food came and we were swarmed. I think I have a reputation for exaggeration, but there's no way to exaggerate the swarming. The owner brought an electric fan to the table to try to blow the flies away but it didn't work. I felt like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, and like I was racing to see who would eat more of my ceviche -- me, or the flies. I'm a fast eater, but I ate in record time. It was maddening, and I felt like I had to keep my mind straight or I could've become overwhelmed and gone crazy. Our main courses weren't as good as the guacamole, but they were good enough.

No post yesterday because we were just too busy doing nothing but swimming (ocean and pool), napping (Marc) and reading (me), walking, relaxing, talking. And it was the same as the day before. The ocean was too rough for me, and in fact I hated it (and was still digging sand out of random places a few hours later), but Marc had a blast and I enjoyed watching him. I enjoy walking at the edge of the surf, and watching the ocean from a distance, but the force is too overwhelming for me. Today the sky is dark off to the left, but lighter to the right so who knows what the weather will hold. Whatever happens, we'll relax one more day here in this paradise, and then be up and at 'em very early in the morning for our flight back to Oaxaca. We've decided to come back here next spring, for a week, it's really so wonderful. Casa Pan de Miel, if you're interested.....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Aerotucan to Puerto Escondido to Mazunte

We got up reluctantly at 5:20 this morning because the collectivo was picking us up at 5:45 to take us to the airport. When we got there, we learned that no, Aerotucan doesn't leave from the main airport, there's a tiny little building and runway over there, to the right. We'd packed a few things in backpacks and left our suitcases behind in Oaxaca, so we walked over to the small building and eventually boarded the tiny little plane. We had to crouch low inside the plane and duckwalk to our seats; the plane could hold 11 passengers and the lone pilot (no co-pilot in this operation), and it was a nearly full flight, us and 7 others.

we've been in smaller planes, but not very often.

mountains along the runway, blanketed with morning clouds
we flew pretty low over the crumpled mountains

When we got to Puerto Escondido, we still had a one-hour taxi ride to Mazunte, where we have a room for three nights at Casa Pan de Miel (Gingerbread House, I think, though there's nothing fluffy Victorian about it, at all). It's stunning, and we'll be coming back next year for sure. We have full access to the kitchen and the fridge ("you Americans love ice"), and our room overlooks the ocean, with a big terrace out front complete with a hammock and two lounge chairs. I keep thinking I'm in Night of the Iguana (except for the drunk ex-pastor, the dead grandfather, and the rum cocos....but there are iguanas, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Ava Gardner dancing with young men and maracas down on the beach).

that's the pool in the foreground with a bird on the edge, and the Pacific
the view off to the left
Since we got up so early and didn't have coffee or breakfast, we started our time here with a wonderful meal -- Marc had huevos rancheros and I had fruit and yogurt with homemade granola (complete with pepitos and lots of other seeds, in addition to normal granola stuff. YUM.)

huevos rancheros on handmade corn tortillas.
and this is our cabana, awfully shady in this picture because the sun was overhead.
We spent a long time in the pool, and then lounging in the sun -- we're both a little burned but it feels so good after our sequestered, hard winter. There's a lot to do here: hike down to the beach, walk into town, swim, relax, eat, repeat. That's more than enough for me. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monte Alban and the rest

We keep thinking of Ricardo Montalban whenever we talk about this place, which is one of the largest archeological ruins in Oaxaca state. When we get home, I'll dig up some of the information from Lonely Planet and fill out the post -- for now, some pictures!

cute hat, right? And some cool ruins behind.
beautiful foliage -- the  light was just so nice on this
carvings -- the originals were in the on-site museum, for protection
this little guy was trying to sell us a "real authentic" thing from the site. sweet little guy,
pretty cool looking joint
this was the center of the site
one of the bigger temple sites
the playing field -- they used rubber balls, not human bodies like at Chichen Itza
the largest stele on the site -- used to mark the astronomical year
When we got back to our hotel, there was a wonderful mariachi band serenading a large birthday party. I have a video too, I'll upload it when we get home and put it here. The music was amazing.

nothing like a good mariachi band!
We ate dinner at a wonderful little restaurant called La Olla. It was sweet, the service was sweet, and the food was magnificent. We'll go back, when we return to Oaxaca.

it was a sunny, beautiful space -- these are candles hanging against the green wall
we started with guacamole -- the way I like it, limey and chunky. those dark bits? We think they're fried grasshopper. It was with all the appetizers.

camarones al diablo -- YES. HOT. DEVIL HOT. Delicious.

Then we went to the zocalo, where we listened to a wonderful marimba band. Even better, though, were the people who came to dance.

the saxophonist was full of heart
the band was GREAT. Seriously.
This couple was very formal with each other, but gorgeous dancers.
these were just so lovely -- light and loving each other while dancing.
the cathedral at night -- stunning!
Tomorrow we fly to the coast, in a little plane that seats 11 people. Over the mountains (kinda low, we hear, so we hope it's nice weather so (a) we can see, and (b) it's not scary!), to the Pacific coast. The place we're going, Mazunte, is a charming little beach town, and the place we're staying looks amazing. More tomorrow!

trip interruption

Interrupting the regular "yay vacation!" moment to say that my first grandchild, due in October, is a girl!
my little grandbaby girl
Katie was afraid for a bit so of course I was afraid too, that something had gone wrong. All day, while we were at Monte Alban (details on that to come) all I could think about was how much I needed to hear the news from Katie's OB appointment this morning. I raced back to the room, tore open the safe and turned on the computer, fingers shaking. There's a wonderful and very loud mariachi band in the courtyard, and I was praying that would be the soundtrack to good news....and it was.

Hallelujah. More on today's adventures later, after I process the news (and the photos). Whew. Nothing else matters but that all is well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunny Sunday

Sundays in Oaxaca are great; everyone comes out to the zocalo, there's always lots of live music (symphonic, marimba, guitar, guitar and pan flute, accordion, harmonica, various combinations), people buy balloons and toys, and they dance. I'd love to live here.

We walked away from the zocalo after breakfast and found a really beautiful, large church with giant tamarind trees shading the sidewalks. It was getting hot and my white legs were starting to burn, so we decided to stop and people-watch for a while. Well! Up came this enormous parade of people in traditional dress, heading for the church. We have no idea what was going on, but it was beautiful to see:

at first we just thought it was a small parade

the women had shiny ribbon woven through their braids, and their dresses were beautiful
so much color!
the all gathered in front of the church for a big photograph
they were so patient, posing and smiling in the sun
here's a close-up of the women, really wonderful-looking
after the photo, they lined up and started dancing. there wasn't actually any music playing!
It was such a great treat, getting to see this, because they weren't doing it for tourists. We don't know exactly what it was for, but it wasn't for a spectacle. We just had wonderful timing.

Then, we went back to the zocalo and had appetizers for lunch, and happened onto more dancing.

a little Aztec dancin
full-on symphony orchestra, every Sunday!
and then a little more skirt twirlin

The internet connection is so slow it's taken way too long to get these photos uploaded so I'm cutting this short. It rained a good bit this afternoon, and unfortunately we decided to walk a ways to a restaurant for dinner, in the rain, and got there only to find it wasn't open on Sunday so we turned around and ate at our hotel. Marc got a three-mole tasting sampler, and the negro mole sauce was amazing -- rich with chocolate and spices and heat and layers of flavor. The other two were good too, but the negro was amazing.

Our goal tomorrow is to head out to the ruins, so that'll be a fun day. And then Tuesday we're flying to the coast. I hope to have a better internet connection so I can get some photos up. It's really wonderful here, sweet people, good food, lovely life filled with music and walking around the zocalo. Lots of live music everywhere, my kind of place. Buenos noches, y'all.