Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday Night in Veracruz

Now in the States, Sunday night is pretty slow, regardless of where you are.
But down on the zocolo, things were hopping last nigth! The town had sponsored a houseplant fair; and vendors had set up stalls. One whole side of the zocolo was lined with, maybe, 40 different plant sellers. And whole families were "window shopping" the pretty potted plants and buying a few. This is at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night. One interesting note--the stalls themselves weren't framed by dividers made of metal tubing. Instead, they were all made of bamboo rods. Makes perfect sense. It's super strong, flexible, 100% natural and recyclable.

Over on the other side of the zocolo, open-air cafes line the entire length. And little impromptu 3-piece Marimba bands were playing. Sometimes two or three at once. What was especially charming were the couples, mostly middle aged, who jumped and starting dancing to the music. Nothing fast or rock 'n roll. Just smooth, practiced steps. This is, I understand, a Veracruz custom.

Part Two
Looking from my bed into my bathroom, it strikes me that most of the hotels I've stayed in in the last many towns have had what I'll call "The Uni-Bath." Not the uni-bomber, but a Uni-Bath. What's that? One room, tiled on all sides, including floor and usually ceiling. The shower head extends out a foot or so from the wall, pointing straight DOWN. And....the shower curtain. So the toilet bowl gets splashed, the sink, whatever. At first I thought it was quite strange. But now it makes sense. In a climate with high moisture and warmth, mold grows like crazy. And shower curtains are the perfect breeding ground. Some hotel owner along the way probably said, "to heck with it" and stopped replacing his moldy shower curtains. It's a heck of a lot easier for the maid to clean, too. Just a little bleach water, and she mops down the whole room.
Part Three
Computers. It's astounding to me how much technology has changed the way one travels. Remember, I've been doing some serious traveling since 1973. In 35 years, the world has changed. Even these cheap Mexican hotels I've been staying in have free WI-FI (wireless Internet access) in every room. That means, like tonight, I can be sitting in bed, connected to the world via the Internet, from wherever I happen to be.
I can: watch NBC Nightly News...the actual TV broadcast with Brian Williams on MSNBC, right here on my laptop screen. I can: check the latest news up to the minute with Google News. I can: check the Peso-Dollar exchange rate daily, or hourly from the comfort of my bed.

Things you used to need an experienced travel agent for, well now we have Mr. Computer. Before going to a new town, I do these steps: I go to "Thorntree," a Lonely Planet Guidebook website. There, thousands of travels from all over the world have traveled to just about every place you can name. I just enter a search for the next town on my list. Up comes travelers' impressions, hotel recommendations, things to watch for and watch out for. Then I click on over to which has actual users' reviews of hotels. How the world has changed for hotel owners. If a guest is treated rudely or has a dirty bathroom, it gets posted to a site like TripAdvisor....and (literally) the whole world learns about it instantly. For hotels, I go to a site called All Mexico There they have practically every hotel in any given city, with star (category) ratings, current prices, and phone numbers.
I can then call my selected hotel via this same laptop.

It's just amazing what information is available online as travel resources.

And last but not least-- I have a flight out of Veracruz at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. I fly to Mexico City, then connect on to Tuxtla Gutierrez, from where I'll take a bus up the mountain to San Cristobal de las Casas. How do I awake early enough for my flight (I've been sleeping in soundly). The computer! I downloaded an "alarm clock" software that allows me to set the time I want to be awakened, let the computer run overnight, and it will ring in the morning. It least that's the plan. I've tested it twice and it works just fine. So, nightie night and "hasta maƱana."