Wednesday, 25 June 2014

More details and where I stayed in Calgary, Vancouver, Houston, and Durango.

I used Airbnb properties a lot on the May trip and only had one slightly bad experience - in Calgary.  I won't even post the link to that property because I can't recommend it.

The owner seemed to think that an open cat litter box just inside the front door where people came and went was just fine.  What?  Do you have a problem with animals in the house, she asked?  It states right in the profile that there are animals, she said.   No, I said, I love animals,  but an open litter box in that location is just unpleasant, not to mention something of a health hazard.  I wouldn't subject my own friends and family to that, let alone paying guests.  She didn't get it, and claimed that there was no other spot to put it. C'est la vie.

In Vancouver, I stayed for two nights at an older, 1930's row house in the Mount Pleasant section of Vancouver, and area that was great for walking and stopping at interesting shops and cafes/restaurants. Hosts were a younger couple who were very nice.

In Calgary, for one of the other nights, I stayed at a good, comfortable house that we had stayed in before.

In Houston, I stayed with an older, single retired man, a long time resident of Houston, and his dog Duke in gorgeous area of Houston called The Heights - leafy, green and very interesting architecture in that area.  It was very comfortable and I had my own ensuite bathroom which is always nice.

Gwen and I stayed at a Wyndham hotel in San Antonio using my time-share points.  It was fine, but nothing special and I am always annoyed by the salespeople there trying to get me to go to a breakfast presentation when I am only there for 2 days!

We stayed in Durango at Hostal de la Monja, a hotel housed in a beautiful 200-year-old building across from one of the Cathedrals and right on a walking street, closed to traffic.  It used to house nuns at one time. The rooms were very spacious with 20 foot ceilings, two double beds, and air-conditioning. It was a treat to be there for two nights. There is a lobby bar and restaurant - breakfast was included.  The staff were wonderful and there was parking behind the hotel in a secured lot.

We absolutely loved Durango, a colonial city dating from the 1500's.  It has recently become a tourist destination for those who live in Mazatlan due to the opening of a new toll highway and the second largest suspension bridge in the world between Durango and Mazatlan.  It cuts the time of the journey from the border of Texas to Mazatlan by about 4 hours I am told.  We found it to be well-maintained with actual clean, modern bathroom buildings and SOS phones placed frequently along the way.  Not to mention incredibly scenic.

Durango was VERY clean and orderly.  Everyone we met was so pleasant and helpful, and happy to see tourists from north of the border in their city - something they are not used to yet but they seem to love the fact that we want to visit the city - they are very proud of it.  The architecture, museums, walking streets and parks are all so worth going for.  We had dinner at two different restaurants that we just have to go back to. One called El Esquilon and the other La Fonda de la Tia Chona.  Unique interiors and ambiance and excellent food for such reasonable prices, especially when compared to prices north of the border.

I tried a dark, rich mole sauce that had the taste of a hint of dark chocolate and cinnamon, on chicken in Tia Chona, and a lighter-flavored yellow mole at El Esquillon.  Both were delicious.

Have to go back!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Catch-up long overdue

My friend, Gwen, and I had an road-trip adventure together in May.  The '98 Jeep parked in Houston since Mike left there in April needed to be driven down to Mazatlan.  I asked Gwen to meet me in Texas and play co-pilot and navigator.

Since it was to be my first time driving through Mexico, I wanted company.  And since she said enthusiastically agreed, we decided to add a few days to the trip and explored San Antonio, Texas first for a couple of days, then made stops in Eagle Pass on the border (for the night), Torreon, Mexico the second day (for the night), and then Durango, Mexico for two days.

We reached Mazatlan on June 1st, after getting a flat tire about 40 kilometers out.  It was fixed by a very nice Federal policeman (see picture) soon after it happened in 104 degree heat (phew).  We were slightly panicked by that time and yet, afterwards, we congratulated ourselves on our "most excellent adventure" that will be told and re-told to our (eventual, hopefully) grand-children. 

We rested up for a night then flew to Mexico City for two days.

This was all after nearly a month in Calgary and Vancouver, BC, catching up on business and personal stuff, and visiting my two sons, Tim and Simon.

It was a VERY busy month.

My house-sitters have gone on to the rest of their adventure, after admitting they had been bitten by the Mazatlan bug and had loved it here, even in the extreme heat.  They are somewhere in Europe now.  I am getting occasional emails.  They did a great job, and many people here have told me they spent time with them and found them to be a wonderful couple.

So, I've been back since June 4th and Mike will be here on June 28th for two weeks in between contracts.  The new contract is in Calgary!  No more Kuwait (or will there be?)

We may have some very big news on that front - coming soon!

I am flying up to Calgary on July 18th for two months.  No house-sitters this time - the girls are going to stay at their beach vacation home with my dog-sitter and their canine boyfriends.

Here are a few pictures from Gwen and Susan's Excellent Adventure:

New Durango Highway Bridge
Fellow travelers on the road.
Cathedral in Durango at night.
New Durango highway between Durango and Mazatlan