Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mexican Cruise (Entry #4)

October 19, 2006: Last Entry

My last message only covered through dinner the night we left for Puerto Vallarta, so I’ll pick things up the next morning. Puerto Vallarta was where Jess and I had our only organized shore excursion. We read about everything that was being offered and we chose the Mexican Fiesta, Shopping, and Lunch (PVR129). It sounded like a nice day trip without all of the rigorous activity that so many of the young people like these days. At least, that must have been the prevailing attitude of the 79 octogenarians that comprised the rest of our group. Actually, the average age was probably about 50 thanks to one other young couple and a Mexican family with three small children. We also had an extremely happy pair of African-American ladies from Chicago in front of us on the bus who were having the time of their lives, so that brought the energy level up to a comfortable buzz.

First we stopped to see a church—Our Lady of Something Or Other of Guadalupe or Someplace That Sounds Like Guadalupe. Of course, the brochure made it sound like a cathedral worthy of Vatican City, but it was just a nice little church about 75% as big as Saint John the Evangelist in Clinton. Granted, it was really old, but after seeing the cathedral in Exeter I can’t say I was that impressed.

After the church, we reboarded the air conditioned bus and went to a little shopping plaza to look for some gifts and things. We almost bought a silver bracelet for Jess after some haggling, but she remembered at the last minute that she doesn’t wear jewelry. We decided instead to spend the money on more practical things we don’t use—like shot glasses—that were way less expensive. The shot glasses were $3 each or two for $5. Jess couldn’t bring herself to pay so little, so she smashed one on the floor and insisted we buy one for $5. Actually she bumped into the shelf with all of the shot glasses on it and one fell to the ground and broke, so we paid for it. Isn’t that sweet of her? I suggested that if she broke some more stuff, maybe we’d infuse enough cash into the local economy to solve the immigration issues plaguing our own nation. She didn’t find that as amusing as I did. At the last minute I decided to buy a handmade wooden inlaid Mayan calendar. I can’t describe it, but it was really pretty and I know I got screwed on the price. We were in a hurry to get back to the bus, though, and I didn’t have time to deal properly. I probably overpaid by enough for the guy to buy a new car, but I don’t really mind. I like my calendar, even if I can't read it.

After shopping we headed out of town for the meat of our excursion. We went to a “hacienda” for a “fiesta” featuring “tequila” sampling and “culture”, finishing off with some famous “dancing whores.” We watched a dance troupe perform the dances from three different Mexican states. Intermingled with the dancing was a tequila drinking contest for the guys and a tortilla making contest for the girls. I got to be a judge for the tortilla contest, thinking it was a great way to stand out before they brought out the dancing whores. Unfortunately, after the last state’s dancers left the floor, the MC announced that the show was over because he just found out that the “whores broke his leg yesterday and cannot dance today.” This prompted to me to smack my forehead and exclaim a little too loudly, “Ohhh! He said HORSE!” I secretly think Jess found that hilarious, but she didn’t let it show.

After the show we toured the tequila factory and saw how they make that vile liquor. Then it was into the happy room to get our samples. We tasted 7 kinds of tequila. The first was regular silver tequila used for mixing. It hurt. The second was tequila aged in oak barrels for 3-11 months. It was a little smoother, but still kind of harsh. The third, and last unblended, tequila we tasted was anejo, which means it was kept in oak barrels for 1-5 years. That was very smooth! The next four were all flavored tequila blends. These were only about 18% alcohol (36 proof), but they were delicious. We sampled almond, blackberry, peach, and coffee tequila. They were so good that I bought bottles of all four and envision using them to make some special ice cream or pouring them into my coffee a la my dear departed Grandma.

Once we were nice and toasted, we got back on the bus and headed back to the ship. All in all, I would say Puerto Vallarta was WAY nicer than Acapulco. I would even consider going back there for a longer stay since they had a lot of American stores and restaurants. After all, why travel if it means leaving the things I like most about America behind?

Yesterday night we had a lovely dinner at the Chinese restaurant on board and then went to the Reading Room so I could write about the Great Lobster Battle. Then it was off to bed.

This morning we decided to sleep in and poked around for a bit until we made a spur of the moment decision to go ashore. We took another tender (i.e., vomitorium) over to the Marina in Cabo San Lucas and walked completely around the harbor. We were rewarded at the end of our journey with a modern, air conditioned shopping mall. I almost knelt and said a prayer when we walked in. If there was holy water at the door, I would have crossed myself—such was the experience. We didn’t buy much, but we did both use what I believe must be the nicest public restrooms in all of Mexico. We also went into a jewelry store/art gallery that had some really intriguing work by a Guatemalan artist named Omar Cedeno. Jess and I really liked his work. They also gave us each a shot of tequila while we looked around. (I don't know why we don't do that here in the States.) When we get home we are going to research him some more and maybe buy a piece or two. On our way out of the mall, we stopped at Haagen Dazs and got some ice cream (or “helado” as it’s know here).

The walk back was uneventful except for two amazing moments. First, we passed a monument to Sir Lobster outside a maritime museum. I am attaching a picture (see right). It’s nice to see the noble creature honored in such a way. I only wish he had lived to see it. The second moment came when we realized we had 113 pesos (about $11) and we had to spend it before we reached the ship. After some negotiations, we settled on a colorful, hand-painted plate. We weren’t sure which one, but we figured if we kept walking, the right one would appear. About five minutes later we saw it. We asked how much and the guys said 180 pesos. I told him we had 113 pesos and that’s all we were going to offer. I even told him that if he didn’t get our money someone else would because we weren’t going to get on the ship with it. He shook his head no and we walked off. We must have gone a good quarter of a mile before a young boy comes running up with the plate saying he’d take the 113 pesos. We couldn’t have been more delighted! It meant that we actually WON a negotiation! That was our first successful bargain! I was high for hours! On top of that, just about everyone who saw the plate said, “What a lovely plate!” When I told them how much I paid, even the crew members told me it was a good deal. I couldn’t have been more proud. It really ended my Mexican experience on a high note!

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