Vamos a Mexico!

LOCATION:  Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 80

We are taking care of our neighbors’ dog, Bella, all week.  This means we walk around the neighborhood with her at least twice a day.  Almost everyone else  has a dog, so people stop and talk to us about her.  We certainly don’t get a lot of exercise this way! 

I did get some exercise line-dancing for two hours.  The instructor is traveling this week, and asked me to sub for her.  I was a little nervous, but it went well. 

Today, we were off to Mexico.  The closest safe border crossing is about an hour from our house.  Whenever we say that we are going, neighbors ask us to pick things up for them.  Today, we were picking up some medicine for a friend, and other friends asked if they could accompany us to buy meds for their dog.  George was going to get a tooth fixed.

Crossing the border into Mexico is a breeze.  Pay a dollar and you are whisked through – no passport or anything.  We always park on the US side and walk across the bridge.  After the bridge, you are assailed by hawkers shouting…..”Lady….Manicure/Pedicure”!  “Viagra, opiates, morphine”!  “Cheapest pharmacy in the world!”  and on and on.  You just have to plow your way through the narrow path with stalls on either side selling hammocks, belts, souvenirs, t-shirts, you-name-it. 

George likes going to the dentist in Mexico.  He LOVES the cheap price and feels that he is getting quality service.  I will stick with my dentist in Minnesota.  The lobby was overflowing, and they told him to return in 2 hours.  So, we went medicine shopping, and then found a restaurant for lunch.  Our friends shared a seafood platter while George and I split the “Deluxe Mexican Platter” which was 2 tacos, a tamale, an enchilada, a big pile of beans and rice, guacamole, and chips/salsa.  All for $7.95.  Of course, we had to have their 2-for-1 margaritas. 

While George went to his appointment, we shopped and browsed.  I bought a Mexican flower pot.  I love the talavera pottery. 

We got home late, so I wasn’t able to do any of my planned chores.  No worries….I have plenty of time to do things. 

DINNER:  Whole trout on the grill.  While I was in Puerto Rico, George went fishing on South Padre Island.  Dinner was one of the fish he caught.  He split it down the middle, and grilled it with salt, pepper, and squeezed lime.  Very tasty!  Sides were steamed rice, and a salad. 

Back to tiny house living

LOCATION:  Mission, Texas – in our tiny house in our Retama Village community
WEATHER:  Cool (70) in AM, warming to 85

Poor George – he had to pick me up at the airport at 12:30 early this AM, and then take our neighbors to the airport at 4:00 AM!  I blissfully slept through that.  My body is still on Puerto Rico time.

We are pet-sitting for those same neighbors for a week.  We are caring for their blind poodle that they adopted recently from a pet shelter.  The dog, Bella, is really cute.  When walking her, I have to pay attention so that she doesn’t run in to things.  ;-(

Whenever we pet-sit, George grumbles about the pets, but they gravitate toward him.  As with Bella, they end up in his lap…

After a nice walk, she was quite tuckered out and rested…

Meanwhile, I created to-do lists, menus, and grocery lists, and started populating a 2022 calendar.    Lots to do this week, but I keep reminding myself that there is no urgency (other than groceries) for all the things I need/want to do.

While I am in Retama, I attend line-dancing classes quite faithfully.  They are a good exercise – for the body and brain.  The teacher will be gone for a week, and asked me to substitute teach for her.  So, today we got together to train me.  I am quite nervous as I am rusty, having not danced in about a year. 

DINNER:  While I was gone, George  had gone fishing in South Padre Island nearby.  While he was there, he bought some really nice shrimp from one of shrimp distributors there.  He said he was in the mood for pasta, so I sauteed up some shrimp with onions and garlic, made a cream sauce with some leftover blue cheese, and served it over thin spaghetti.  Side was steamed peas. 

Adios, Puerto Rico!

LOCATION:  Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot during the day;  Pleasant (65) at night

Alexis and I enjoyed the remaining hours of our mother/daughter holiday in Puerto Rico.  We lounged on the hammock at our AirB&B.

We went in search of brunch and ended up in a little restaurant frequented by locals.  Alexis had a Puerto Rican sweet bread…like a flat brioche with powdered sugar…

We split another local favorite – a beans and rice mix.  It reminds me of what we call Spanish rice.

We said good-bye to our nice AirB&B

Then off to the airport.  It is a good thing we arrived with plenty of time as there were long lines at Security.  Once through Security, Alexis put on her winter clothes and we relaxed with a final Puerto Rican cocktail..

Our flights took off within 20 minutes of each other – 4:50 and 5:10.  My flight to Houston was a long one – 4.5 hours.  She flew direct on Sun Country back to Minneapolis.

They announced that my flight from Houston to McAllen was overbooked and asked for a volunteer to be bumped.  I raised my hand – I would get an overnight stay with food vouchers and $500.  It would work out well, as George would not have to drive to McAllen airport so late.  Long story short – they ended up not needing me to be bumped, so I got on the flight.

As we were getting ready to taxi, the plane stopped and they announced that there was a medical emergency onboard.  We returned to the gate to offload the ill passenger and her family.   It took some time for the airline to retrieve their bags.  The other passengers were not happy!  We ended up in McAllen about 12:30 AM.  (2:30 AM my body time).  Long day!

BOOK:  “Sunday Philosophy Club” by Alistar McCall Smith.  I started and finished this book while traveling today.  It is part of the series about a philosopher from Edinburg, Scotland.  I just love this author, and it is great for light reading, which I needed on the plane.  5 stars out of 5

To the beach!

LOCATION:  San Jua, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  High 88.  They say that the weather here is almost the same every day of the year!

We started the day with a great breakfast – avocado toast for Alexis and salmon/goat cheese toast for me.  I want to make this one day.

We discovered a “secret” walkway from our apartment to the beach.  We hadn’t realized how close we are.  We walked along the beach, and had it mostly to ourselves.

This graffiti is cute, but we are not homesick!  (Especially Alexis is not missing the Minnesota cold and snow!)

The “national” beer of Puerto Rico is Medalla – similar to BudLite. Not to my liking! We were happy to find a store with some great local craft beers…

Later in the day, we decided to finish off our week here by watching the sun set over the city at a posh rooftop bar.  It was a 2-mile walk.  By the time we walked back, we had accumulated 21,000+ steps for the day!

We finished off the evening with a light dinner at a seafood restaurant we like near our place.  Alexis had arepas made with grilled shrimp.  Being a Friday night, the place was packed. 

The streets were overflowing with people having a good start of the weekend. 

BOOK:  “Last Garden in England” by Julia Kelly.  This is a delightful book centered around a garden during 3 different time periods – the original creation in early 1900s, during WWII, and now.  5 stars out of 5

Snorkeling excursion!

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Spotty rain.  High 84

Today was a big splurge day – snorkeling on an island from a catamaran boat.  I was on my own for the day.

After catching the shuttle service at a nearby hotel pick-up, we drove about an hour to the NE corner of the island, near Fajardo.  The marina is huge.  About 30 of us hopped on to the catamaran, where we would spend the day.

The young crew was so friendly and fun.  Normally the trip is to the island of Culebra, but since it has been windy, it was too choppy (and dangerous) to travel that far over open waters.  So, we went to a different island where it was more protected.  We all jumped off and swam to the tropical island.

I was a bit surprised that several of the people could not swim…..why go on a snorkeling trip if one cannot swim???  In those cases, the crew helped folks get ashore.  I took off on my own, with my snorkeling gear, looking for fish. 

At our second stop, in deeper water, not too many people jumped in.  The current was fairly strong.  I was the first one out of the gate!  This location was around a reef and we swam around the coral.  I spotted lots of pretty fish, a stingray, and wispy fan coral.  Another snorkeler reported seeing a blowfish and a baracuda.  I swam for about 4 hours, never tiring.  I could do this all day!!!  I wore a long-sleeved shirt over my swimsuit so I would get sunburned on my back….(the voice of experience from previous long snorkeling days). 

The crew provided an open bar, sack lunches, and an afternoon fruit bar.  All very nice.  On the way home, the bus was strangely quiet….I think everyone was sleeping!

After a refreshing shower, Alexis and I walked to our favorite nearby pizza place for a platter of bruschetta.  Yummy!

Then, we went to her favorite bar/restaurant where she had the bartender make her whatever drink  he recommended.  I don’t know what this was, but it included a tasty mescal.  They use a lot of dehydrated fruit slices in their cocktails here.  This one was quite tasty and very pretty.

We shared a platter of gnocchi and chatted with the darling bartender.  An early night for me!

Enjoying more of Puerto Rico

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Another warm one.  High 85

We went in search of a beach bar for lunch.  The one we found (that looked good online) required a minimum of $30 per person!  I think it was a way to reserve a place on the beach for a stay.  Kite-surfing was popular there.  Needless to say, we didn’t stay there.  Instead, we found a great local seafood restaurant and shared an order of grouper ceviche. Instead of crackers, it was served with baked plantain slices. Yes!

I found some random photos of us goofing around San Juan….

In the evening, we went to a great Argentine restaurant just a block from our AirB&B.  We shared an order of caprese salad – just yummy!

Then, to the sister restaurant which is more Puerto Rican.  We sat at the bar and the bartender made us some interesting drinks.  This has been one of the fun things in Puerto Rico – trying very unique cocktails.  For our main course, we had a veggie empanada and a salad. 

I couldn’t sleep at all – these tiny frogs kept me up all night with their songs.  Must be mating season!

Puerto Rico experiences – garita, iguana, empanadas, and more!

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Hot and humid.  High 85

Melissa took off for a day at the beach and hiking while Alexis and I slept in.  We walked around the Old City looking for a good coffee shop.  The one we found wasn’t particularly good, but later we found a really good empanada place.  Alexis had their homemade broccoli empanada.

Covid precautions are very strong here, and people seem to embrace it.  Masks are required everywhere, including outside.  Most restaurants and bars have ropes at their entrances, only allowing a certain number of people in, and checking vaccination card before entering.  I think it is because tourism is so important for them, and they don’t want Covid to shut them down. 

We found “umbrella street”.  They swap the umbrellas out for different occassions.  This one was to mark Diabetes Week.

These guys were delivering fresh plantains to a little restaurant.

We decided to take one of the free golf-carts around the city.  While we were waiting for one to come by, we spotted this large iguana running from tree to tree.

The lady in the golf cart (garita) gave us a great tour of the city, narrating the entire time.  Sitting in the back (backwards), we had to hang on for dear life, especially when we went uphill on the bumpy cobblestone streets.  We jumped off at a place where she said has the best seafood in town.

We had their mussels, and drinks (of course)

Back to the AirB&B, we rushed a bit to pack up as the cleaning people were coming.  Then, we found our new AirB&B.  It is an entire apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, and living area.   AND – two balconies with hammocks.  We will be able to spread out more here. 

We found an excellent sushi place for dinner. 

When we arrived back at the AirB&B, we chatted with our downstairs neighbors who were putting up their Christmas lights.  This is our AirB&B…

BOOK:  “Friends, Lovers, and Chocolate” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is a series I keep coming back to.  He is the author of the female South African detective series.  This series is about a woman in Edinburgh,  Scotland.  He writes really well.  5 stars out of 5

Road trip to the beach

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  A bit hotter.  High 88.  Humid

We got up early to see the sunrise and took a stroll on the waterfront, before it got too hot.   There is a big cruise ship docked in the harbor.

Then, off to brunch/breakfast in a very nice, European-looking restaurant.  It advertised Puerto Rican and international cuisine.  The girls tried mofongo, a typical Puerto Rico dish.  It is made with plantains and yucca.

Then – road trip!  Melissa drove us to a beach in the northeast part of the island,  I’m glad she, and not I, was driving!

For some reason, there was a fence to get onto the beach.  We found a hole, and climbed through!

Being near the rain forest, it rained on and off while we were at the beach.  Who cares?

After swimming, we had another Puerto Rican specialty at a beach bar.  It is a kind of combined beans and rice.  It reminds me of a vegetarian paella

Back to our AirB&B to get cleaned up – You can see our steep, cobble-stoned lane

We went to check out a few more bars here in Old Town.  This first one was full of character and seemed ancient.  It was called El Cubanito and had a Cuban flare.  The tattoo-covered bartender made us some very interesting drinks. 

We stumbled upon an elegant piano bar/restaurant.  We sat at the bar and watched the pet parrot entertain the customers. The parrot likes his owner, the guitar player.

I called it a night and came back to the room to watch Rick Steves Monday Night Travel.  The topic was traveling in Europe during the pandemic. Europe seems similar to Puerto Rico – we had to enter our data and upload copies of our Covid vaccine record before entering the country.  Many bars/restaurants here require proof of vaccine before entering.  Rick says that it is required everywhere in Europe. 

While I was watching Rick, the girls hung out at a bar around the corner where they have made friends with the wait-staff. 

Day 2 in Puerto Rico

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Warm – 86.  Humid, but nice breeze

We explored more of Old San Juan, admiring the colorful houses and interesting architecture.

There are free golfcart-like taxis that you can hop on/off to get you around Old Town.  We took one to La Perla neighborhood.  We had lunch at a roof-top bar.

La Perla neighborhood, right on the water, used to be a bit sketchy but is now being cleaned up and is popular among artists.

We walked around the waterfront, and Melissa toured one of the old forts.  We cooled down with a snow cone – called Piragua here.  Alexis had one made from guavana – soursop in English,

More walking, sightseeing, then back to the AirB&B to clean up.  We drove to Catalina, a beach community about 30 minutes from Old San Juan.  The vibe is totally different here.  We were the only gringas.  It was crazy.  Loud music blaring everywhere, people dancing, families celebrating birthday parties.  We tried mojitos at a beach bar

We watched the sun set with a beautiful rainbow.

Then, back to Old Town where we went for dinner – pizza.  A really nice day.  It feels like we have done a lot here already! 

Off to Puerto Rico!

LOCATION:  San Juan, Puerto Rico
WEATHER:  Warm and humid.  High 80

We got up very early in Rochester, MN and walked to St. Marys Hospital to pick up the airport shuttle (5:00 AM).  Actually, we RAN to the shuttle, since we were not dressed warmly.

All went well – shuttle to airport, on-time flight departure, 4-hour direct flight, and on-time arrival.  Alexis’s friend Melissa arrived about an hour before we did, and picked up a rental car while she was waiting.  So, we hopped in the car and drove in to Old San Juan, where we will be the first 3 nights.

Our AirB&B is part of an old house. It has really interesting architecture – beautiful tiles, interesting doors, and exposed beams.

It is located on a steep one-way cobblestone street, right in the middle of Old Town.

After getting settled, we were off, in search of a drink.  We found a roof-top bar, and practiced our Spanish ordering.  Most people seem bilingual. 

From there, we went looking for a dinner spot. Being a Saturday night, everything was quite busy.  The first place we went was full, so we just sat at the bar and watched the bartender make interesting drinks.  Mine was with mezcal and cucumber.

We kept on strolling the neighborhood looking for something with an opening.  We put our name in at one place, with a 45-minute wait, assuming we would find something else sooner.  Nope.  So, we went back there and had good Mexican food.

Back to our AirB&B for a fairly early night (11:30 San Juan time; 9:30 Central Time) We were pooped from the flight and the last few days without much sleep. Our AirB&B has a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom Alexis and I are sharing.  Melissa is on the pull-out couch downstairs.  We have a small kitchen and a nice bathroom.  You can’t beat the location here.