Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hey, Big Spender

Being on the road with a very limited wardrobe and no ready access to a washing machine, it's easy to run out of undies.

In general, laundromats are not self-service, but rather full-service laundries where you drop off you clothes and they wash, dry, and fold for you. I could get used to that. They charge by the kilo.

This week, I didn't judge so well and ran out of socks and shorts. Jeans, you know, you can wear forever, or at least until they stand up on their own. So, I thought, until I get somewhere I can find a laundry; I need to buy some wardrobe basics.

To the resuce, Woolworth's in Toluca. And you thought they were dead. Nope, alive and well in Mexico. Just like me. A taste of the 1950's. It's a familiar--if retro--face. And, yes, prices are still dirt cheap, just like the olden days.

In Toluca, in the evenings it's chilly. This is one of the highest spots in Mexico. I'd guess in the 40's. But, for the Tolucans, it's a different definition of cold. They walk around with face masks, scarves wrapped around their necks, and gloves. Oh honey, I can't WAIT for you to see Chicago. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

From Toluca, I went to Valle de Bravo. This is a spectacularly situated lake resort on a big, deep manmade lake. The dam holds much of the drinking water for Mexico City. Valle is a cute little town, on a lake, surrounded by pine trees. It's a lot more like Colorado or Wyoming or Montana than your typical mental picture of Mexico. There is sailing, and motorboats, diving, skiing, and para-sailing. I thought I was back in the hills of Lake of the Ozarks! But I didn't like the place. Too touristy, congested, dirty. It just didn't feel right. And on Thursday evening, the town square was swarming with military in full fatigues and machine guns. I felt a lot safer sleeping. But not an environment to live in.

So, on Friday, I went back to Toluca and transferred to a bus down to Ixtapan de la Sal. I like the place. It is a spa town with municipal hot water springs. They have a big downtown "balneario," and this morning I had a massage, jacuzzi, and a good soak in warm mineral waters....all for around $20. My hotel is a super bargain, too. About $25 per night with cable TV.....and 3 meals included. The climate is spring-like and they have a pretty little town square. I'll keep this one on the list. I'm here until Monday, when I head on to Cuernavaca and then Puebla/Cholula.

Smells: Those are different in Mexico, too. As I checked into my little hotel, in the lobby, there was a vase with 15 stems of a fresh lilly flower. The smell was intoxicating, like someone had spilled a (large) bottle of perfume. But it was pretty. And then, I went walking around town before breakfast at about 7:30. I passed a little mom & pop storefront restaurant, just setting up for the day. The owner lady had just chopped ingredients for the salsa she had put on the tables. So the pungent smell of fresh cilantro and 7:30 a.m.