Sunday, November 23, 2008


This photo is of my bus ticket from Xalapa down to the coast at Veracruz. You can see I've "Spanglicized" my name. Roderick translates directly to Rodrigo. I actually like the name Rodrigo a lot. And Karl translates to Carlos. Hence, Rodrigo Carlos. So far, so good. But then when I stick that last name on there, and local folks are like "what the heck?" But I have fun with it.

Writers have always said port cities are different. There is a completely different energy about them that even the most un-attuned to such things pick up on it. As my friend Barbara in Chicago likes to say, "it feels LOOSE." Loose, indeed. People walk slower. I knew I was in for a change when the cab driver who picked me up from the bus station to take me downtown to my hotel had on a Hawaiian shirt. That would never happen in Xalapa or Mexico City. Too starchy there. "Veracruz" in Spanish translates "true (vera)" "cross (cruz)." However, I can find nothing particularly holy about this joint. Loose women. Loose men.

Like most port towns, Veracruz has a "malecon" or waterfront road or walkway. And hundreds of people take advantage of it at any one time, strolling hand-in-hand, stopping to rest on one of the park benches lining the walk, buying souvenirs or a bite to eat. Veracruz isn't a pretty beachfront town. It's not Cancun, not Puerto Vallarta, although it is on the water (Gulf of Mexico). Thing Long Beach, CA or Newark, NJ. This is a working port, a ship yard. Big rusting tankers. Sailors from the Mexican navy walking around in their crisp dress whites.

Thank goodness this is the end of November instead of August. You'll recall that as I began my wanderings I found La Paz over in Baja California hotter 'n hell at the end of October. Veracruz is just as muggy for much of the year. Luckily, things have cooled off. Today, there was a pleasant breeze coming off the water as I sat outdoors at a waterfront cafe for lunch. My hotel room has no air conditioning, just a ceiling fan. Wouldn't want to try that mid-summer, though. I'm embarrassed to say that this is a $14 a night room! It's recommended by my guidebook, "Let's Go Mexico." And it's sparkling clean, private bath. Color cable TV, and free wireless WI-FI internet in the rooms. And I'm 4 blocks from the waterfront. Can't beat that. So, I've decided to stay one more day, if for no other reason than to eat lots of fish. Every restaurant has lots of seafood on the menu, and I want to try it all. A special weakness of mine is "mojo de ajo," or garlic butter sauce. A grilled red snapper with a little bit of that over, um, heaven.

And, also, it's time to do laundry. If I wait until Monday, I'll find a local laundry place open. And it's always done the same day. After Veracruz, I think I'll get on a plane and fly down to San Cristobal de las Casas. That's up in the mountains in the southernmost state of Chiapas. Or I could backtrack and see Cordoba. I know that I'm very spoiled having the luxury of wandering around Mexico like this. As I was packing up, once again, this morning, I was excited to be on the road again and to add another notch to my travel belt.