Thursday, April 30, 2015

Overnight In Laredo

We took off around 2:30 this afternoon.   Not in a big hurry as we decided to stay in Laredo for the night.   We found a great deal at what used to be Holiday Inn and is now the Ramada.   Same everything but a different name.  

The trip was tough getting through Monterrey.   Traffic was heavy as everyone is on the move to go somewhere for the four-day weekend.  Once through town I stopped for a coffee and a pee break.   From there we hopped on the libre and went through several small towns.  The libre is in very good condition and once we reached the end where it hooks up with the toll road traffic stopped.  A very long line up to go through a military checkpoint.   Didn't take us long though, they were waving most people through.   The soldier was actually waving me over when I remembered I had my sunglasses on.  I pulled them off and he then changed his mind and he waved us through.   Off we went.  

Sorry no pictures.  I couldn't get to my cell phone.  Juan was asleep and to get the phone meant waking him up.   No way.   As we got closer to Nuevo Laredo we decided to go through town and take the old bridge through el centro.   As you head north you can take the route to bridge II or take the fork in the avenue to the left and take bridge I.   We went left which takes you by the old train station.  The train station has been remodeled and turned into a literature center.   Beautiful restoration.  

Once to the bridge, we found no cars.   I was almost hesitant to make the left hand turn but did anyway.   Crossing the bridge we were number 3 in line.  What???  This is a major holiday weekend.  They waved us through and told us to park downtown and walk back for the visa permit.   Took all of 10 minutes and off we went to the hotel.  On the five block ride to the I-35, we passed bridge II.   Nightmare in progress.  It was packed.   

Picked up a veggie burger and salad and we are checked in, cocktail in hand, and great internet access.  Up and off early to San Antono.  It's only 2.5 hours away.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wow, We're Actually Going Somewhere

With the sun shining the last couple of days, I've got grass growing under my feet.  Time to get out of here.  As I said the other day, we are headed to San Antonio.  It's car trip but hey, that's on the road.  We are making a leisurely trip out of it.   We plan to take off tomorrow around noon.  With a four-day weekend, the border bridges are going to be packed.  People will pull their kids out early tomorrow from school to try and beat the crowd.  Come Tuesday and classes, they will not be returning either because they got home late Monday night or decided to stay another day.  

We will spend tomorrow night at the Ramada (used to be the Holiday Inn) in Laredo.  Getting there a bit early we will do a little shopping and sit around the pool.  Hey, I'm on vacation.  That way, Friday isn't a wasted day sitting at the border.  We need permits so the lines will be long.   Better to do it Thursday and get it out of the way.

I got a call today for an invitation.   I've been asked to speak again at the national convention.  This year though, all expenses paid, airfare, hotel, membership, meals, and best of all it's in Cancun!  So we will probably make it a week at the beach for two.

Not much else to report.  Anxious about seeing what is happening with the house in San Antonio and meeting with the accountant.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Taking A Short Trip

I probably mentioned it in the last post that we are going to San Antonio this weekend.  We have a four-day mega weekend celebrating Cinco de Mayo.   It was going to be a three-day weekend with school on Monday and then Tuesday off.   I went to the committee last month and recommended we add a day to the school calendar or trade a day for another so it would be a five-day weekend.  If they didn't do that, based on personal experience, 40% of the students wouldn't show up on Monday.   Finally, last week, the education department changed the holiday to a Monday so that we have Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday off.

We won't be taking the trailer as we can't get it out of the driveway with the road work going on.  How is that going?  Slow.  We have had constant rains since January.  Saturday the sun shone and it will do the same for the next week.  Work has begun again.  They have spent past rain free days pumping water out of the trenches.   Today  they made some progress.

I took advantage of the sun too.  I am rewiring the 12V system adding new terminals, cleaning things up and installing the new inverter I had bought.   The solar is working but now I have no 12V.  I'll figure it out I'm sure, it's not rocket science.   I took a break from that today to power wash the roof and the sides as well.   I am caulking tomorrow and wanted a clean surface.   

We're still a bit somber around here.  Little Bit seems to be on a decline.  He's very lonely with Missy around.  At 15 I've seen what can happen.  We try to involve him when we are at home but he likes to sit out on the patio.   He still looks around when he hears something.   I guess I might do the same in the future if I'm in the same position.  Who knows.

Let's hope the sun continues to shine.   We will drive through Laredo taking the libre from home.  It's fast and in good condition not to mention much better scenery than the toll road. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Architectural Tour of Monterrey Centro

Friends of ours are architects that teach at the state university.   They posted on FB that they were giving a walking tour class to their students and it was open to the public.   We decided it would be a good thing to get out of the house and clear our heads.   We stopped for tacos first and then went to the Colegio Civil which is now the University Autonomo de Nuevo Leon.  The original building dates back to the 1850s and was remodeled again in 1933.   

The pictures are not in order, not sure what Blogger did to them but I'll leave them this way.  Our friend Elisa and her husband Carlos worked on the restoration of the building since 2008.  They traveled to Mexico City to find the original plans for the building, spoke with experts familiar with this period of architecture and learned the ways of doing the work and having other famous people who did nothing be recognized.  

This is the theater built in the middle of the school.   Colegio Civil was originally a fortress during the American and French invasions, then it was converted into a hospital and finally a university where Spaniards and high level indigenous leaders studied here in the north.

That's Elisa in the middle with the pink top and black tights explaining how the theater was restored to its orginal condition.  It took someone famous, Dolores Del Rio a Mexican actress very famous in the 40s and 50s in Hollywood, to come for a theatrical presentation to make changes to the original structure. 

Parque Alameda, where I have never taken any visitors and shame on me for not doing it.  It was designated a park by Bernardo Reyes governor of Nuevo Leon in 1885.  His idea was to create an open area where residences would be built.  The idea didn't catch on until he waved property taxes for home builders for a 10 year period.   It worked and families came to live.  One of the first urban planning schemes in Mexico.   This park is famous for indigenous Mexicans who come to Monterrey to work in houses as maids and gardners.   They come on Sunday, their day off, and the girls walk in one direction and the boys in the other.  It is not uncommon hear many different languages or dialects on a typical stroll.  Two of the guys who worked for us in Monterrey came from indigenous parts of Mexico and they too spent their Sundays here.

Again, these pictures aren't in order but this is a famous landmark.  It is Clinic 6, the IMSS hospital or universal healthcare hospital located in downtown Monterrey.  Of course we have many IMSS hospitals for transplants, newborns, cancer care, etc.   This hospital is from the Streamline period built in 1950 and is very well-maintained.  I recently joined the universal or social healthcare system here.

Where we had tacos in the morning.  Get this, most of you travel in the south so you understand prices.   We had tacos here.  134 pesos!  Yikes!   That's why we don't eat out often in Monterrey as some of you have witnessed on our tours.

Okay, so this is where our tour started.  The windows were reduced in size in 1933.  Our friend Elisa and her staff had them returned to their original size and returned the balconies that were removed.

Interesting staircase.  It was not like this until the restoration was completed.  Under all the plaster and cement they found the original stonework.  There is no metal support of any kind in the stair case.  All the blocks are placed strategically to support the stairwell.  Also, as they removed the 30s floor tile known as piso de pasta, and many of you are familiar with it which looks like creamy swirls in the floor, the orginal was solid three inch black marble.  The wood handrail and the ironwork is original.

As I said earlier, Colegio Civil is a school today.  Since the thirties many of the arches were used to divide the building into classrooms.  A debate with officials and restorers took place as the school didn't want to lose their classrooms.   So they found a solution.  The removed the 30s walls, returned the blocked archways to their original openings but covered the works with heavy industrial glass allowing division when desired but returning the building to its original condition.

And this is a picture of one lonely cat not to mention his owners.   Little Bit sits in the living room and perks up everytime he hears a noise.   He's waiting for Missy to come home.  I told him but I don't know if he understands.  He won't leave me alone and follows me everywhere.  Poor boy, he doesn't have his pal anymore.   And neither do I.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Somewhere . . . Over The Rainbow

The day she came to stay.  Bye sweetie pie!

I haven't posted as there was not much to say other than Missy was in decline.   She's on the other side of the rainbow bridge along with Friend, Gum, Tasha, Gingi and Maggie.  They're together and waiting for my arrival.  I'm sure it will be a happy reunion.  Tails a waggin' that's for sure.   I miss them all so much, too many good memories.

A bit sad about the whole thing but not much else we could do but provide lots of love, care and tenderness.  She/he will not be forgotten and we have many pictures of them all.  

Just like me, I don't want to suffer much.  I'd prefer to hang around to say my goodbyes and then let me drift off into a deep sleep with good music and a video screen in front of me flashing all of my pictures.   

Thank you Missy for being a part of our lives.   We miss you already and we hope to see you in the future.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trip To McAllen And Back - Missy the Cat

I drove up early Monday morning to McAllen for a course I taught at a local high school.   Monday was the return to classes in Mexico after Spring break so I took off at 6:30 a.m. to beat the traffic.  Made it through town and to the toll highway in an hour, that means past the international airport and beyond to Cadereyta.   Smooth sailing all the way.  At the border there was a 30 minute wait and I was waved right through.  

Did my school visit to set things up and deliver materials.   After, I checked into my hotel and did some shopping that was on the list.   Off to bed early and up just the same.   The students were the best and the reviews were excellent.   Work has been slow because of some corruption that has taken place.  That's corruption in Texas not Mexico.  Turns out that a state official was able to convince school districts to adopt a certain school that has never taught a prep course.   We were left by the curb but it is being exposed in the news.   Interesting. 

Came home late last night arriving about 8 p.m.   Faster going home for some reason than going there.   

As for Missy the cat, he is failing fast and it looks like the end is near.  Not much else we can do at this point but continue the treatment and follow the vets orders.   Sad, but Missy was a feral cat and got into a lot of stuff over the years.   I'm hoping we are doing all we can at this point and it has turned into a waiting game.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sick Cat Update

Headed out early this morning for Monterrey.   The SUV was still in the shop getting the bumper replaced.   Nightmare trying to get it fixed.  Good thing it wasn't severe body work repair, it would have been there for months.   It's still missing the bumper filler or impact absorbing material.  We picked it up anyway and for the meantime it has the original filler.   The part is on order and should be in by Tuesday.

I took the VW to get two new tires.   We replaced one pair six months ago and this is the other.  We ordered the tires from the warehouse in the car in the morning so two hours later they were waiting.  Thirty minutes and ready to roll.  I wanted to get this done because I noticed a bubble in the rear tire yesterday.   I'm off to McAllen on Monday for an event at a high school on Tuesday.

While we were waiting I found this vegan taco stand around the corner.  They are only open weekdays.  I'll have to try it sometime.

On the way home I stopped by the vet to check on Missy's progress.   She was in a room with an IV feeding her electrolytes.   She is eating baby food and when we walked in she heard us talking and began crying, very loudly.   The vet told us the fever is down some, she is re-hydrating and eating.  All good signs.   We are bringing her home tomorrow to start a regimen of antibiotics and vitamin C.  That's pretty much all that can be done at this point. 

There is no cure and the idea is to manage her immune system.  She stopped eating because she had an enlarged lymph gland in her neck which kept her from swallowing and then the lack of food caused her system to collapse.   The doctor (and my research) says she could come back to normal but we need to be vigilant with her future treatment.   So far the total bill is 1100 pesos so we are happy with that.  

The facilities are new.  Looks like any doctor's office and the equipment is all new.  Climate controlled and smells nice.  Some vets are stinky.    

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sick Kitty - Leukemia

Looks like she's been where she shouldn't have been.  We came home from Mexico City and Missy just wasn't looking right.  She was way to close to us as she never has been before.  She was thin and the food bin was nearly full.  She got better the last two days because we were feeding her the special meal they get at night.  I checked the playback on the cameras and it appears she didn't come in to eat the week we were gone.  Unfortunately, we had problems connecting remotely to the cameras from Mexico City because our configuration was not set correctly.   

Last night she had a relapse and this morning we took her to the vet.  Diagnosis is Feline Leukemia.  Treated with antibiotics she should recover.  I had checked her a couple of weeks ago and felt like she had swollen glands but Juan didn't seem to think so.  

He just left to the vet.  She called and said Missy is reacting to the IV and the antibiotics and wanted someone to come by and call Missy down.   I made a list of questions to ask.   Money isn't an issue but the blood tests so far were 1400 pesos.  We opted for just the Leukemia test which was 500 pesos and it was the sure bet based on the doctor's initial diagnosis.

So now it is wait, wait and wait some more to see how she reacts.   She's a feral cat and roams a lot at night.  Although we don't see cats around here she must of come in contact with urine or maybe bitten.  She eats mice sometimes so who knows.  Update later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted . . .

Vacation's all I ever wanted . . .  That was a song by the Go-Gos.   Back home now and after seeing Contessa and Colin sitting in the desert with their motorhome makes me ready to head out again.  I just might.  I have an event in McAllen next week and I would like to go to San Antonio to check on the house.  Sounds like a plan.

So we got up with the alarm this morning.   I could have sworn I felt a slight tremor last night when I got up to go to the bathroom but it could just be an old man shaking.  Shaking what I'm not sure :)

Yesterday was our bon voyage to Mexico City.   We headed downtown and went to take some pictures.   I wanted to go to the Sears building and get a shot of the Bellas Artes from the top.  It was fantastic.  We spent 45 pesos on a cafe Americano and an expresso.   You tell me if the view is genial.

It goes to show you that Mexico City isn't all about the rat race, danger, or air pollution.  It turned out to be a great day.  First we went to Reforma to do a little shopping.  I didn't find what I wanted in a black dress pull over.  I lose patience easily so I said I had had enough of that.  I'm sure I can find it on line somewhere.

Took the Metro underground from there.  What an interesting world.  You can't get lost, it is 100% safe, and everyone is willing to help.  Let's say you don't speak any Spanish but you have a Metro map.  Point and smile.  Even the police will help you and then tell you to have a great day.

The Metro has been around now for almost 50 years and it is still growing strong moving over 8 million people everyday.  Amazing how well-maintained and organized the system is.  Cheap too.

No doubt it gets crowded, but that's what mass transit is all about.

Get this, free internet stations underground.  Where else in America does this exist?

And to boot, bam, all of a sudden you see a ruin right there in the station as you get off the train. How cool is that?

We found a good Chinese restaurant, 48 pesos for the buffet.  As we always say, go where there's a crowd.  We found one.  The place was packed and when we left there were 42 people in line.

We're big recyclers too!  On a refuse collection route you have a paid driver and two workers who share the proceeds from whatever they collect.  They may not belong to a union or receive high wages, but they get what they work for.   It's all theirs and they are very happy to have their jobs.  They never go on strike.

We headed home after a long day of walking, picture taking and just enjoying the day.  We said goodbye to the Zocalo and most of what we had seen.  We had our happy hour last night, wrote our FB comments and hit the sheets.  This morning we had an unusual experience.  We headed down for breakfast and began having our coffee.  The more people showed up and Juan said that someone had a badge on from MacMillan, our old publisher.  Then more came, then it was hellos, hugs and laughs.   All of a sudden here come people we know from Cambridge Press, they too are having a training in Mexico City and of course, all of us have worked with or for each other at one time or another over the last 25 years.   Had it been evening, we would have drank ourselves into a stuper and had a blast recalling old times.

At the airport checking our mail before take off.   Goodbye D.F., you really are . . . .


Monday, April 6, 2015

Sunday In El Centro - Mexico City

After Saturday night's dinner with a bottle of wine and martinis, Sunday was a sleeper.  We went down for a late breakfast and then back to bed for a spell.  In the afternoon we met our friend Heriberto who lives in D.F.   He invited us to a well-known restaurant that has been in the same location for over 90 years.  They now have several other restaurants be Heri chose the original.  A short note on how we know Heriberto.   When I first started working for a publishing house back in 1994 our boss at the time, Michelle, hired us.   She was Heri's roommate for a couple of years.  We spent time together over the couple of years Michelle worked in Mexico.  You may remember we visited Michelle and her family in Phoenix last year.  Heriberto is another Mexican success story similar to Juan's.  Anyway, we had lunch at this old dumpy looking place that turned out to be a real jewel and another recommendation.

Here we are waiting for our service.

The place was packed but the wait well worth it.

Afterwards we returned to the Zocalo and a tour behind the scenes.

A great idea.  We decided to head to Garibaldi square where all the mariachis hang out.  Not what I had expected but it was still a good time and I wouldn't have passed it up.  Below is the tequila store that has hundreds of labels of tequila.

We went to the third story of the tequila museum which has a bar on the first floor as well as the third floor.  There was a mariachi singing on the third floor who asked us where we were from.  We told him Monterrey and he said, "oh, ustedes son codos".  Codo means elbow, but when you tap your elbow with the palm of your hand it means you or someone is cheap.  We take a bit of offense to that and Juan told him, "we very organized and good with our money".  We in the north think that the Chilangos or Capitalinos are spend thrifts and are more interested in appearances.  An age-old fight which continues today.  

Another piece of history is the Tenampa bar.  We had a drink and listened to the mariachis.  We saw lots of gringos in the square here which was really the time all week.  

Took the Metrobus home.   We walked by the famous Bellas Artes theater on our way.   Tomorrow I will show you some interesting things about the underground Metro.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Next Stop - Xochimilco

A day late in posting the blog but we have been on the go all week.  Yesterday we headed out on the metro and went to the Xola station.   From there we took a pesera all the way to Xochimilco which was about 40 minutes.  Not the most comfortable ride but it was good sightseeing.   There are other modes of transport as well but this one worked great.

We've been to Xochimilco before so we didn't ride the lanchas.  Instead watched other people haggle over prices, board the boats and take off down through the canals.

The rest of the time we toured the town square, the cathedral and the market where we stopped for a quick lunch.

This picture was taken from inside the rickshaw we took while Xochimilco.  It is aluminum framing with thick clear plastic on three sides and a solid reflective white top.  There is room for four inside and the guy pedals the bike.   After the 15 minute ride I thought the guy would be out of breath so I asked him about the bike.  He said it is built with the center of gravity in mind and it is really easy with just two passengers.   

He charged us 10 pesos for the ride.   Going to the canals and back was a total of 11.50 per person.   It was a good 25 kms from the hotel to Xochimilco or more.  I need to check.  I made a mistake on the Metrobus price.  When we transfer, the tap card stores the information and know when we make a same day transfer at no charge.  So to go from the hotel downtown for example, taking two Metrobus lines, costs 6 pesos.   Monterrey is 10 pesos and most don't have transfers.

Last night we went to our favorite restaurant for a special celebration.  La Strega is located on Insurgentes just two blocks from our hotel.  We made reservations for 8:30.   Like always, the food, drink and service were excellent.   Because it was Easter weekend though, the violinists had the time off.   However they played their recorded music which was just as good.  You have to go to this restaurant if you are ever in Mexico City.

This is the capitan.  He mixes a mean martini.   He knows what we like and he served it well.

These pictures were all taken with my cell phone.  It doesn't have a zoom or flash so the night pics aren't so clear.  There are options though that I haven't used or discovered yet.  Still learning.  Love the phone though and it is a marvelous tool.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Zocalo - 3000 Years of History

Days are long on this trip because there is so much to see and do.   We took a break yesterday and didn't go out until the afternoon but we came home late last night.  Again we took the Metrobus and transferred to the Metro (underground).  Both rides were 5 pesos and the transfer was no charge.  It seemed there were less people until we arrived to the Zocalo (main plaza).   We arrived in time to see the military guard bring down the flag in the center of the plaza.  Wonderful ceremony and thousands circled around the square.

We did a walk around after that just looking at the buildings, the presidential palace, shops, and most of all, the people.   Many are tourists from out of town but lots of locals too.

First stop was the cathedral.  Dating back to the 16th century it is truly a sight to see.   The interior sides are filled with smaller altars or niches (vicarias).   They are covered in gold, statues, relics of saints and important Mexican heroes as well as paintings.   To think so much has been preserved and maintained over the years of invasions by the French, Spanish, Americans, Mexican Independence and the Revolution.

The newer side of the cathedral.

Some of the many vicarias and their paintings.

Two urns in this vicaria hold the remains of Iturbide and the heart of Bustamante.  Both Mexican Independence heroes. 

The giant pipe organ room that sits in the middle of the cathedral is three stories high.

After the cathedral we headed across the street to the presidential palace which has stood in this square and in this building since the XVI century when Hernan Cortez commissioned his son to begin the construction.

Crossing the street from the presidential palace is the actual main square where the ruins of the Templo Mayor is located.   Built by the Aztecs and dates back almost 3000 years.  It was then known as Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. 

Getting tired here, we stopped for a rest and then walked the 10 blocks to Bellas Artes, the theater or palace as it is referred to.  You could study the history of this building and its construction.  We were fortunate enough to see a play here years ago.  As we walked down Madero/ Juarez we could see it in the distance.  Throngs of families enjoying the weather, clear skies and little to no pollution.  So many people of all walks of life sharing the same spot.  I can't describe the numbers of people.  Everyone is kind and polite, willing to take your picture or share a moment.

I had to throw this picture in.  As we went back towards Bellas Artes we passed the Sears department store.  It's not offices, but an actual 12 story department store.   Amazing the size of things.  I guess when we go to China this will look demure. 

Mugging for the camera! (Looking a bit thinner)

I couldn't imagine leaving downtown Mexico City without having a stroll through Chinatown.  This located behind Bellas Artes.  We found a few restaurants still open as it was getting late and we had a chow mein and white rice dish.  It was zhong wen!
I think because of the way we dress, act and our accent in Spanish, people spot where we're from right away!  Even a gringo can have a regional accent in Spanish!