Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An overview of blogging ...

Yes, once again I will attempt a start at blogging.  Somehow it seems like an awful lot of work to keep up a blogging site and the question inevitably comes around to, “why am I doing this? I am not trying to make a living through it ”. It all comes down to the fact that I enjoy writing and would somehow like to keep a written record of exploits and interests.

I currently have 2 separate blogs, one for my crafting and one for our travels and experiences and yes, neither is up to date. The platform used for these is “blogspot”; very easy to set up and to use. A second platform for a totally different blog is my own domain. That said, I then have 3 separate entities that perhaps need to be combined into one, to attempt to make it an easier endeavor.

I would have to say that I have used the most, both frequently and comprehensively, since going over to “blogspot”. Through this platform I have attempted, and this being the operative word here, to write about our experiences both traveling and everyday. Accompanied by select photos, I have acquired many an armchair traveler. Today however, this platform has been somewhat supplanted by “Instagram” while traveling, by offering a literal snapshot into our exploits and experiences.

The second ‘blogspot” is what I originally started for my crafts; needlework and quilting.  It too has been only sporadically updated. The original thought was a platform for the sharing of my crafty activities and perhaps even the sharing of an idea, technique or how I handled a technique. In the end it became a repository for projects, along with photos. 

The more comprehensive overall blog of course, is my personal domain
This one can be permutated outwards a multitude of directions and interests but badly needs to be overhauled and made much less bulky. With the ability to link into however many subdirectories desired, it can the “one stop shop” of blogging. The main menu page has many various links and these are what need to be overhauled. The main one, of course, is the “Where? (blogs)” from “Currently”, which will subsequently link you back to the travelinduo blogspot listed above. As I said, overhaul is much needed on this one. Perhaps this main menu page will be the first to be addressed with a link to a "currently under construction” pop up in places that are being redone.

I have yet made an attempt to store and organize my many, many photos. This however, will be an exploit for a rainy, bedridden day.

To emphasize the ultimate in laziness, traveling to any of the blog links in this entry will result in reading the same one at this time. This will definitely change as time and writing progress.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A new type of adventure, well maybe even two ...

As we were headed south we continued on the toll roads. The mountains roads can be steep and long, both up and down. And still people travel at high speeds. The Mexican drivers have their own norms and we were quickly learning all about them. A stop sign doesn't mean stop - you had better slow down at intersections and watch for oncoming traffic. A red stop light means stop and if there is no oncoming traffic either way, then you can go. A double yellow line on the highway doesn't mean "Do not pass" it means you pull over and straddle the outside shoulder line and the drivers behind pass you. The drivers on the oncoming side of the road also straddle the shoulder line and people will pass on both sides of the road at the same time. Trucks automatically drive on the far outside of the pavement to allow for vehicles to pass them. And .... as in the US, a driver will pass at a high speed and then immediately pull over to the side and stop or turn, sometimes cutting across two lanes of traffic. A definite learning curve for driving down here.

Leaving Dolores Hidalgo we realized when it was Danny's turn to do some driving that we couldn't find his keys. Surely they were in the car somewhere because we had both double checked and checked again the house for anything left behind. We are always leaving something behind, or so it seems. We stop, can't find them. We stop for the night in Puebla (and that is another story) and can't find them. The next day we end up heading over to the Honda dealer to get a new key. Nope, no can do. Will take 4 business days to get one in (this being a Sat), but you could always go to a locksmith and have them do one. Too hard to find one. But, as we are going in circles trying to get back to the road that will take us to the toll road, we pass a locksmith and whip in. Yes, they can make one, no problem. But wait, we have to call the technician in to do it. Wait and hurry up and wait. Finally he arrives and after lots of electronically fiddling and connecting wires and reading readouts, and redoing, we have a new electronic key. And it is already 3:30 pm.

But to get back to the Puebla story ... Puebla has a wonderful new bridge and overhead toll road. You pay your toll before you get into town and you are driving along nicely over all the traffic below you. But wait, there is our hotel and the GPS says to turn into the ramp on the right. No ramp. On we drive. GPS says turn onto ramp. No ramp. Passing many many streets below us filled with traffic, we wonder if we are ever going to get off. Finally on the other side of town, a ramp is seen so off we get. But this takes us onto another road that has no exits. Drive and drive and finally a turn off. We turn off and find ourselves heading into dusk and the resulting traffic jams of people heading out on a Friday night. Darkness descends and the traffic gets worse. The GPS can not find the hotel - it is a new one. We know approximately where it is so start off that way. One way streets! find our way through the throngs of people and cars. Wait this road is closed for repairs. Was there a sign? NO. Turn here. Wait, those are pretty huge pot holes and washed out areas. Drive carefully and bump and bounce our way to the other road. This one too is closed for repairs. Back up and turn around. The road we want is just over there. Why can't we find a road that will take us to it. Oh here is an open road. Turn onto it - why are the cars coming towards us on a narrow road. Pull over and let them pass. Oops think we are on a one way road going the wrong way. Keep going, there is our exit to cross over to the road we need. But how do we get in? The traffic is backed up for miles or so it seems. Inch by inch we get into the flow of traffic - 5 lanes of traffic on a 2 lane road. Horns blaring. Tempers flaring. People actually running up and onto the sidewalks trying to get one more car length ahead. After what seems like forever, the traffic starts to move a bit fast and hey, we are actually near our hotel. But wait, how do we cross over the freeway to the other side? There is no cross road. So on we go, mile after mile, looking for a way to get across or rather under the toll road. Finally a turn off - and the sign says FINSA which is where the hotel is. Sorry, no turn to the left, only to the right. So right we go, for miles and miles to where we finally can make a U turn and head back the way we came. This takes us over the toll road, YEAH!! and on and on then a quick left U from the far outside right lane. Yup I did that too. And miles and mile along the access road. hey we are here!!!!!! and only 2 1/2hrs after passing the hotel on the toll road. No more driving for me tonight. I don't care if you are hungry, NO MORE driving.

There is a reason that people say to NOT drive in Mexico after dark. Remember that little saying.

Puebla is a quasi-modern city that is in the turmoil of modernizing their rapid transit system. Every other street it seems, is being torn up or having overhead rails put in. Once they get it finished it will be quite something. But for now, it is nothing short of a disaster to drive in for someone who does not know the city. One's GPS is unable to keep up with the traffic issues, especially when in another country. The city is simply not geared to the sudden influx of vehicles that accompanies the rapid growth that they are experiencing. The parking is about non-existent,  which results in people parking anyways, resulting in a narrowing of the actual drivable road. The roads are sadly in major disrepair, probably because the powers to be know that they are going to be torn up soon so why bother and any and all roads are at the mercy of the heavy trucks which will tear up a road as fast as it is repaired. IMHO

After getting the new key, we decide to head out of town and get a hotel towards dusk away from the big city of Puebla. Yup and headed right into rush hour traffic jams. The toll road access is but a mere 2 driving miles a way, which takes us 2 hours to transverse. Then we have to inch our way onto the toll road which is just as congested. 3 lanes of traffic down to one in order to go through the toll booth. Glad that I don't have to do this every day!
 The overhead road is the toll road
We finally get out of the city and the flow of traffic is smooth (well as smooth as the road is smooth) and fast. Once again we are headed into the mountains. Can't find a motel anywhere either. As dusk descends up us we are heading up and up along switch backs but really good paved switchbacks. Off to the left is a fabulous vista of a solitary mountain with snow on the top. As the sun sets, and we hit the top of the pass, this snow is turned to gold with the setting sun's rays.   Beautiful and peaceful. Unbeknownst to use, we have yet another adventure coming our way.

As we start our descent down the other side of the pass, we encounter signs alluding to fog. And sure enough, we run into fog. Remember what I said about driving at night? Well could we find a hotel to stop in? NOT. Down, down we go: switch backs and poor visibility due to fog. Trucks inching their way down and traffic passing us on the left on double solid lines and in the middle of a curve. Oh boy! White knuckles for sure. What seems like forever but actually is probably only 2 hours in the dark, we inch into a small town in the valley at the bottom and find - what is this? A Holiday Inn? Take it! Take it! I do NOT care what it costs. Luckily it wasn't too high either.

And so did we learn about the NOT driving at night? I certainly hope so. And tomorrow will be another day and another adventure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dolores Hidalgo

Our next stop, Dolores Hidalgo, the seat of the start of the Mexican Independence movement, but more importantly the place where you can buy any flavor imaginable of ice cream in the central plaza. The lofty to the bazaar - that is what our travels are all about. Danny has been here before but for, this was a first for me.1 I have heard the many stories about the ice cream - shrimp ice cream, avocado ice cream to name but a couple of the many many flavours.

As we drove first the toll road and then the secondary highway to get to Dolores, we passed and stopped at visible churches.  Not only was it interesting to compare and contrast these various churches but it also gave us a respite from all the driving. Oh the colors ...

Before we even checked in to our scheduled AirBnB we had to make a stop for ice cream - "maybe they are only open on Sundays and will be gone tomorrow!" says he.
 Well, he got his first of I am sure, many.

 These are just some of the flavors found.

The apartment was a lovely 3 bedroom place with a full kitchen, dining room, living room, 1 1/2 baths, patio, and hot water and a washing machine.  What more could one ask for? Once the evening rolled around however, we were trying to find some sort of heating unit. Not to be found. Let me tell you, it gets cold in a cinderblock/cement home without rugs on the floor and no heating unit. Next time we do this, we are bringing our little coleman heater for sure. We loved the warmth of the bed once we rolled in.

A day for sewing for me! Yes, I really did bring along a sewing machine and all the necessary items to work on a project.  Sewing and washing clothes made the day pass quickly and Danny went touristing , well at least to a museum or two. 
A break for lunch at a local kiosk just down the street from us. Tortas to die for and as they had no water other than what came in in pails and bottles, they covered the plates in a heavy saran wrap taking away the need to wash the dishes. Guess they took the pots and such home at night to wash. 

At the end of the day I had 5 blocks finished for the UFO that I need to complete. Now on to the rest of the quilt top.

A walk in the main plaza saw the Christmas decorations still up and the ultimate in topiary presentations.   The speakers were camoflaged to look like trees. 
Even the cathedral was decked out with decorations. and the town hall  
Stepping inside the cathedral we discovered, once again, that we were about to gatecrash a wedding. Seems like we do that a lot.  They certainly go all out in the decorations for a wedding. The same bouquets that were on each pew were also on the hood and truck areas of the bridal car  (just bigger) and small bouquets were tucked into the door handles, tied with matching ribbons that trailed along as driving.

Walking towards town for lunch we came across more of the Moorish influence in the architecture - this being a garage door 
 Lunch at a restaurant tucked away in a courtyard behind a storefront gave way to a fabulous coffee experience for Danny and a fun time watching a couple of women jumping around and screaming when one of them went to put her jacket on and found a gecko in her sleeve. LOL

Throughout the whole experience of Mexico to day everywhere we go always has a mass of flowering and non-flowering plants in pots. The pot can be quite plain or very ornate. This jade plant was the first time I have ever see one with flowers on the growing stalks that grow around the bottom of the plant.

There are many things to see that one would not ordinarily see back home. This is what travel is all about: visualizing and experiences things that are out of our comfort zone. This Sr is the local mailman in the downtown area around the plaza. His mode of transport is his bicycle and the mail is all simply sitting in his basket, waiting to be delivered. No fears of the mail being robber here from what I could see. He was more than friendly and allowed me to take his photo. In fact, when I asked, he posed for me.

As always happens it came time to pack up the car and head on down the road to the south. Our ultimate destination for this trip? Chiapas, one place at a time. ....

Monday, January 9, 2017

San Luis Potosi

Our trip down to the south was uneventful, even if we were subconsciously asked if we knew what we were doing. In San Luis Potosi we arrived to a wonderful AirBnB apartment that welcomed us with Christmas decorations and wonderful treats for celebrating the Day of the Magi (actually the day that the WiseMen left Bethlehem to return to their homes).   The hosts were very nice and even allowed us to park our car in the very small courtyard, with barely enough room to spare in order to open the gate to the outside. Still we were pleased to have it under lock and key.

We spent the next few days wandering around the area, taking in the sights. Of course, this included a "double decker" city tour - well not really, it was a converted old bus into a trolley thing that did have an upper floor viewing area, but none the less, a tour of the old historical town. Very interesting to see and required much concentration to understand the Spanish. The street venders were out in force, including the traditionally dressed mamas with their babies strapped to their bodies. The historic streets were very narrow and filled with the milling generational families  and with the usual money making entrepreneurs. 

We of course, visited the traditional churches which, although colored and adorned differently inside and out all were of the same general Spanish architecture of the time.  We did come across a pleasantly different church in looks, design and feel: Very modern in fact. 

One of he plazas had been turned into a skating rink (had to wait in line and then pay to get in, even to just take a photo) while outside was the usual fun Christmas tree. This one was put up by Coca Cola with the usual adornments from the soda pop culture.

Once more we packed up and headed out. This time we headed to Dolores Hidalgo. See you there ...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Real de Catorce, MX

Danny has been talking about Real de Catorce since we first started talking about Mexico - hmmm about 16 years now I guess.  :) Today we finally made it. The skies offered a brilliant blue although a yellowish haze hung over the landscape as far as one could see. Are we seeing the pollution from  Monterrey? Who knows what lies between there and here in the way of industrial factories.

Turning from the highway we started up the cobblestone road.

 I believe 17 mi of cobblestones to be exact, taking one up to approx 9000ft. Bumpy, you can't even begin to imagine. Is this a new road? Can't find the answer to that question but I did find that it is designated one of the most spectacular roads in the world. (  )

This road lead us past a small  town off to the right called Potrero which turns out to be the name of the man who cleaned up the town (law enforcement term). Visiting and driving around was like stepping back into the 18th century (except for the coca cola sign on the whitewashed building in the middle of town).     You can even see the Moorish influence all the way into the middle of Mexico.  The church is a magnificent on the inside and with it's rendition of St Francis of Assisi, has become a pilgrimage destination.   
Continuing up the road, we go through another small town La Luz and then on to the top,   where we encounter the Ogarrio Tunnel.   This is a dimly lit, very dusty, very narrow (one car width only),1.5 miles long tunnel that is rumored to have been made from an old mine tunnel.   Up until it was built in 1902 más o menos, the road to the town was a horrific road in from the backside (I do believe that this is the road we tried to take yesterday) that is steep and narrow with one of the caveats being that you must like to back up while taking that road and have nerves of steel.  But for us today, it was an easy drive.

Arriving on the other side of the tunnel I was shocked to see what I saw. I was expecting this cutesy, artsy hole in the wall old mining town with a fantastic grouping of old architecture. Instead I was treated to some beautiful old architecture, a parking lot full of cars and rows upon rows of tacky vendor stalls.   The food stalls however, smelled ravenously inviting. If you had a hotel room, I have no idea how one would get to it as there was no room for a car to drive through. I have to be honest however, we are at the tail end of the Christmas holiday and 99% of the visitors were Mexican. Still, I can't help but wonder what it would be like midweek when school is back in and people are back at work.

The town actually flows up both sides of the canton where it is located.   
New buildings built to  meld in with the old,  the old somewhat dilapidated as they were made out of stone and adobe,   and amazing colonial architecture found in the building high upon the one side. The walking was incredible: cobblestones  and at the same time, up and down steep inclines and at 9000 ft. No wonder we were huffing and puffing, coming from just slightly above sea-level.

 the old mint where they minted silver coins

 the church. Much more magnificent than any we viewed in Uruguay.  

And what would be without a trip to Starbucks? Well maybe a slight exaggeration .... 

So until the next real adventure: