notes to self

If wishes were pennies and I could fly, I'd be very rich I'd be very high

Feb 12, 2010

Punta Mita, Mexico = Rip off

Recently, beautiful Erin and I escaped for 5 short nights and 4 days to Punta Mita, north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have to say it was one of the worst trips of my lifetime, and I am not likely to return to Mexico any time soon.

Erin wanted to stay in a fancier hotel, so I let her choose. Luckily, I was able to talk her out of the $1,000/night Four Seasons. She chose instead the Hotel des Artistes. I immediately distrusted it, with that French name.

We rented a car at Dollar/Thrifty outside the Puerta Vallarta airport, and on our USAA insurance recommendation, we did not take the extra insurance because we have comprehensive here at home. The drive from there to Punta Mita was not bad. We stopped at the Mega for supplies, which included several gallons of water to drink and brush our teeth. I had heard rumors not to drink the water in that area.

The Hotel des Artistes was nice, two pools and a nice restaurant attached. (Oddly, the pool on the roof was heated.) Our suite was very comfortable, with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a couple bathrooms, and a deck over looking the waves, and we settled in. The ocean, sadly, was impossible to swim in, much less snorkel. Too rough and rocky, and trash floating in it.

We found one beach we could swim in, in a really depressing area up the road.

Then we found another beach, Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead, turn right after the iguana tree) in Sayulita, several kilometers from Artistes, that I could maybe have returned to for snorkeling if I hadn't gotten food poisoning.

To make a long story short, day three of 4, after swimming and lunching in Sayulita, I spent the evening barfing my guts out, and then exhausted. We think it may have been the lemonade at lunch (ice cubes) or maybe the coffee popsicle (made with water.) Next day, I felt better, but weakened, and could not eat. That night the diarrhea started in the most disgusting way, I won't go into it further than that. Next day, we checked out of our room, and I waited in the hotel "spa" until time to drive to the airport, in case of emergency.

Returning the rental car, they said we had damaged the underneath of the vehicle. I have never looked under a car, so I can't tell if this is damaged or not, but we didn't hit anything or scrape on anything, so if this is damage, it must've happened before we picked the car up. $1,000.

At home, Erin got the bill for the Hotel des Artistes. They charged an extra $100, per day, for tips. !!!! No talking them out of it. Of course, we'd been tipping all along anyway, but not nearly that much.

I have never, ever, been ripped off in Mexico before, and I am very disappointed. It will certainly be a long time before I return. For my next tropical adventure, I will look for an ocean where I can swim and hopefully snorkel, and where I can feel safe from human predators.

Erin loved our trip to Punta Mita, so I will have to find her a place with a nice restaurant, and a pool where she can lay out all day and read. She got so relaxed.

Oct 30, 2009

Rachel Maddow

Recently some friends on facebook reminded me of a photo I took long ago (sometime in the 1990s)

Oct 20, 2009

Rome, 9/24 - 9/28

When we got to Rome, we were both pretty well exhausted, and there was a lot to do and see.

Mixed in with contemporary culture there is so much fabulous art and history everywhere I could not possibly absorb it all.

Of course while we were there we had to visit the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter's Basilica.

Michelangelo's Pieta is there. Breathtaking!

We were walking along in a cute smallish foreign neighborhood, and suddenly came upon the Roman Forum, built over 2000 years ago. They are still excavating parts of it.

This beautifully carved pillar tells the stories of many conquests. I didn't take the time to examine it carefully.

Another beautiful pillar I wish I could examine carefully, experience closely, live with.

I wonder if the Oakland Coliseum shares anything besides the name?

This is one famous Roman fountain designed and built by Bernini. I was able to look closely at it, and it is incredibly beautiful. The figures are larger than life, and so graceful, carved of stone.

We stayed near Santa Maria Trastevere piazza. Every evening all the people would come hang out and stroll around. It was quite charming and far better than television.

This was our host in Rome, David, our neighbor's cousin. He let us stay in his apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood. A wonderful man, he is very enthusiastic about his chosen home, and knows a lot of details about the history and culture. Unfortunately, though, he could only be there with us the last night we were there. If I ever return to Rome, I would love to spend a few days with him, to see the city through his eyes.

One thing David hates about his city is the graffiti everywhere. I liked this little pig with wings across from his front door. It was a comfort to know I was not still really lost (as I often felt while I was there).

Oct 19, 2009


We visited Florence from September 20th to 24th.

Brian had rented an apartment.

On September 21st I posted to my blog, "
In an apartment in Florence, Brian's making espressos, the washer is spinning outside the door, and we're playing a song game. We're all singing songs featuring one word. It's so casual and comfortable. Vacation has kicked in, about a week ago.

We toasted his mother, Gail's, 70th birthday, and I emailed her this photo from my iPhone.

Florence overwhelmed me at first. I had never experienced anything that compares with the convergence of history, art and architecture, and contemporary culture, not even in Paris.

The Duomo from the top of the Campanile.

The Pieta on a wall.

Ancient Gold Doors

Piccolo Gay Bar

One night we came upon a rock concert/Mafia protest.

I was awed by this Midici Ceiling.

It was almost too much.
By the time we left for Rome, Erin and I were exhausted!

Oct 18, 2009

The Cinque Terre

We stayed in Montoroso al Mare on the Cinque Terre September 16th to the 20th. The above photo shows the view from our balcony of Hotel Porto Roca.

The Cinque Terre is a lovely area on the dramatic west coast of Italy, comprised of 5 small charming villages.

Brian and Jack joined us there.

We hiked between several of the villages.

And we enjoyed swimming in the salty sea.

Santa Margherita Ligure

From September 12 - 16 we were in Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera.
It was very relaxing.

Oct 12, 2009

Venice, Italy

From September 8 - 12 Erin and I visited fantastic Venice Italy. We took the water taxi from the airport to the hotel, and the only word for that experience: EXHILIRATING!

Venice is indeed fantastic, as if created for a fairy tale a long time ago, made into a movie set, and then here we are, in it! Absolutely beautiful.

Our friend hooked us up with her friends, Cathie and Diego, who is a gondolier.