Queretaro, Mexico

Okay, for those of you that have visions of me basking in the sun, with a cerveza in one hand and sangria in the other, while you shiver amid the snow flakes, let me disabuse you of that notion. This morning started on the nippy side—39 degrees, according to Weatherbug.

I hit the street early, looking for an ATM. The good news–people on the street understood my Spanish. The bad news? They thought I could actually speak the language, so they went into “rapid” mode for giving directions, but quite fortunately accompanied it with LOTS of pointing.

Those green spots on the map in the last post? They are indeed lovely squares.
Near the hotel

Check out what the locals are wearing. See, I wasn’t kidding about the temperature.

On the taxi ride from the airport, I got the night view of the bustling city of Queretaro, as we roared along the six lane highway.  From what little I could see, it appears to be quite large and modern.

Our hotel is in el centro, the historic district. No cars are allowed on the street in front of the hotel, so the taxi driver very kindly walked me the half block to my destination.
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That yellow building is where I’ll be hanging my hat for the next 17 days.

My room is on the second floor, 31 steps up. There is no elevator, so I was grateful that I had taken Pam’s advice and packed light. And I’m happy to have this built in opportunity for exercise.

My room is small, but very clean, and the bed is extra firm, which is my preference. The best part–the wi-fi seems to be working really well from my room.
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Okay, so after looking at those photos, wouldn’t you think that my room is windowless? Well, that’s what I thought too, till I stepped into the shower this morning, and found one hiding in there. Not only do I have a window, but it was open all last night!
However, between the blankie on my bed, and el Diablo, I managed to stay quite warm.
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Off to explore the old town!

Why Blog?

Three and a half years ago, I discovered blogging can be a really great alternative to sending postcards.  No need to have the correct currency for purchasing stamps, no  searching for mail boxes in unfamiliar places, plus the images you share are what you have actually seen while traveling.

Blogging is far easier than emailing, especially if you are sending photographs.  I learned the hard way that if you send a photo in ONE email to multiple recipients, your usage is calculated by multiplying the size of that attachment times the number of recipients.  When you blog, you only burn through the MBs it takes to upload and post the attachments. BIG difference, especially if you are blogging from someplace without free internet or with a very SLOW connection.

My blog has become a way to stay in touch with my family and friends while traveling–to share the excitement I feel when discovering new places, people and cultures with those who, for whatever reason, don’t wander as much as I do.

I will confess to being concerned that my blog might appear to be too “look at me, look at ME and what I’m doing”.  I also recognize that my life might not be so fascinating to others.  Sometimes it isn’t all that fascinating to ME, if the truth be told.

Then I discovered other bloggers.  It took a little effort to slog through all those financial blogs to find the retirement ones focused on making the most of this wonderful and exciting stage of life!  And I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed how my new virtual buddies shared their thoughts, experiences, travels, photos.  I’m following a diverse group of essayists, humorists, travelers and photographers. That made me think that maybe, just maybe, others would enjoy my contributions as much as I enjoy theirs, and helped me get over my New England reticence.

An unexpected blogging bonus was meeting one of my favorite bloggers face to face when we both happened to be in San Francisco at the same time.  (If you ever wondered why any one would want to visit Antarctica, just spend a little time perusing her posts on Travelpod. )  One of these days, with a little luck and a lot of planning, Nancy and I will share an adventure that won’t be virtual.

Next week I’m off to Mexico for another Global Volunteers adventure.  I hope you’ll come along!

 

Kiwi Hospitality

Lonely Planet has proclaimed that Auckland is one of the ten best places in the world to visit in 2014. Although I concur with their choice, I would have moved Auckland to the number one spot. But then, Mike and I had something Lonely Planet didn’t– New Zealand’s best tour guides, Norman and Davina, which definitely influenced my rating.

Let the tour begin!
Let the tour begin!

It’s hard to believe that we spent only four days with these very gracious hosts, because we saw and did so much. It was all wonderful: breathtaking scenery, with beautiful beaches, but what made it extra special was the time we spent with their wonderful family, which gave us the opportunity to experience Kiwi culture and daily life.

This post is my way of saying thank you to Davina and Norman for a fantastic visit. I can’t capture ALL of the high points of our time together–there were just too many, so I’m limiting myself to 10 memories. Here they are, not in any particular order.

1. One Tree Hill

Auckland, Viewed from One Tree Hill
Auckland, Viewed from One Tree Hill

The Auckland area has more than 50 extinct volcanoes. This is a relatively young crater, a mere 500 years old.

You can go into this Volcanic Crater
You can go into this Volcanic Crater

2. The “Bach”
According to Wikipedia, the term originated from “bachelor pad”, but it has now come to mean a New Zealand summer home for family vacations. We stayed at our hosts’ family bach.

The bach
The bach

New Zealanders welcome drop ins, (or at least Davina, Norman and their friends do. I really shouldn’t generalize that ALL New Zealanders are like them, because they are rather special). Anyway, we got to see yet another bach, in Whitianga, right on the beach, when we popped in to visit their friends.

The view from the Bach living room
The view from the Bach living room

3. Whangamata
No only did we visit this lovely seaside resort, we also leaner how to pronounce its name. The Maori way sounds like this: Fong-ahh-mat-AHHH.

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Strolling along the beach
Strolling along the beach

I’ve never used a public toilet that had piped in music and recorded instructions for locking the door, including a warning that you had best be done within 10 minutes. I thought it might be a New Zealand thing, but no–so far, it has only been a Whangamata experience.

4. Farmers’ Markets
Had I known that I could get a haircut by the side of the road, I wouldn’t have been in such a rush to get a trim before we left.

Farmer's market,on the way to Whangamata
Farmer’s market,on the way to Whangamata

5. New Chums Beach
I don’t know if this is the most beautiful beach in New Zealand, because EVERY beach I’ve seen so far has been rather wonderful. I think we just TOLD ourselves that it was the most beautiful because we had to walk over rocks and through rain forest growth for about 30 minutes to get to it.

How much further????
How much further????

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It DID have a rather nice swinging rope, though.
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6. Saturday Night at “The Club”
In the USA, we don’t have anything quite like a New Zealand club. Take a casino, a restaurant, a pool hall, a sports bar, a cocktail lounge, a dance hall– mix it all together, but make it family friendly and voila, you’ve got yourself a New Zealand club. Best of all, members of one club can use any other club. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The club in Whangamata
The club in Whangamata

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7. Lost Spring Thermal Pools, Whitianga
No photos for this one. We sat in a natural hot spring surrounded by lush foliage and beautiful flowers. You’ll just have to take my word that it was quite glorious.

8. Waihi Picnic
We were only in Waihi a short time. Just long enough for us to have a great picnic lunch atop a hill, check out the gold mining operation, and for me to buy a Kiwi cap.

Trucks appeal to boys of all ages
Trucks appeal to boys of all ages

9. Karangahake Gorge
A bike path runs through this area. Biker chicks, take note!

Gorgeous Gorge
Gorgeous Gorge
New Zealand - Clean and green
New Zealand – Clean and green

10. Family, Friendship, Fun
Spending time with Norman and Davina’s family made our time before the start of our Road Scholar trip extra special.
I had a chance to see how “socialized medicine” works, when I accompanied Davina to Taylor’s visit to the dentist. The offices are located on school property, and there is no charge for the visit. Brig, clean offices, a short wait, at no cost. What’s not to like.

Davina and Taylor
Davina and Taylor
Pippa, explaining the rules of the game
Pippa, explaining the rules of the game
This is one creative little girl
This is one creative little girl
This is the "walking school bus"
This is the “walking school bus”

So what do you think…Auckland #1 spot?