Getting Across London

From Gatwick Airport, I had to not only get to London, but also cross it to reach my Airbnb in the northwest part of the city. I got a lot of mixed information online about the best way to achieve it because being able to use the Oyster card (prepaid public transportation card) at Gatwick is fairly new. I couldn’t muddle through the steps through my research, so I decided to wait until I was on site to figure it out.

I did know that I had to use a train to get to London and those leave from the south terminal while I landed at the north. So I had to take a free tram (trolley? forget what they call it) there (two minutes). I wandered there for a bit looking at signage and finally figured out where I could get an Oyster card (next to the Costa Coffee). There, I learned that the card is £5, which I can get refunded when I leave by turning in my card. I was advised to start with putting £30 on it and see where that got me. If you use an Oyster card, you get a daily cap that’s based on which zones you’re traveling through and the time of day. In theory, sticking to zones 1 (Central London) and 2 (where I’m staying) and only traveling during non-peak hours, my daily cap would be just under £7, but I think I paid way more than that today (Sunday). I will do a separate Oyster post once I understand the caps better.


But from Gatwick, using the Oyster card to ride the train is the best value. Off peak on most trains is just £8 to Central London, while taking the “Gatwick Express” train is nearly £20! My total cost to get to my Airbnb was £10.20.

My first step was to take a “Southern” train to the London Victoria train station.


First glimpse of London.

At London Victoria, I had to transfer to the Tube. I quickly ascertained that the London Underground is just like the Montreal Metro, only much larger. Use colours to identify your line and the station at the end of the line to know which direction to go. I wanted to end up at Kensal Green, on the Bakerloo line. From Victoria London, I had to take the Victoria Line to Oxford Circle, where I transferred to the Bakerloo Line to Queen’s Park. At Victoria London, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people and the speed at which they were moving, but once I knew where to go, I just went with the flow and it was fine, no worse than a busy day at the Mercado in Maz!

At Queen’s Park, I switched to the London Overground for one more station to Kensal Green.

BBC - London - Travel - London Underground Map copy

I couldn’t check in until 1PM and arrived at Kensal Green around 11:30. I spent the time walking up and down the High Street until I found a bench where I could doze in the sun. It might seem like a waste of time, but my luggage was heavy and so I really wasn’t up to sightseeing. I was just glad to be there and certain that I would make the 1PM to 2PM very short window of time to check in. I hadn’t found a Barclay’s ATM in all my travels, so I decided to just pay the fees to use a different ATM so I could get some cash.

At 1PM, I finished the walk to my Airbnb. It’s a quintessential Victorian row house and absolutely no frills (you don’t even get a towel!). But the bed is comfy, the bathroom is clean, and for 50CAD a  night and so conveniently located to Central London, it’s a steal. I did really well finding this one!

I had a wash and changed, which renewed me. I was 24 hours without sleep by this point and knew that I had to last until at least 7PM if I wanted to walk up on local time Sunday. So I packed my day bag and set off to find the nearest chippy. There, I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich, which came with chips and a drink, and set off to find a place to eat my meal. I found a low wall by the Kensal Rise station that was perfect for people watching. The food was good. I like British chips a lot, especially since you get malt vinegar on them! The food really hit the spot and I felt much better after eating. I should have had lunch while waiting to check in, but with the luggage, there was too much to manage.

Then, I walked around the borough of Brent for a bit, eventually, to my immense surprise, circling right back to my Airbnb!

It's called Holanda in Mexico, but it's the exact same ice cream!

It’s called Holanda in Mexico, but it’s the exact same ice cream!

Just in case there's any doubt I'm in London.

Just in case there’s any doubt I’m in London.

Still don't believe me?

Still don’t believe me?

Is that a palm tree?!

Is that a palm tree?!

Am I seeing things?

Am I seeing things?

Approaching this roundabout, I decided that I was done and wanted to go home, but was hopelessly lost. So I was about to ask for help when I realised that it's the roundabout just before my street!

Approaching this roundabout, I decided that I was done and wanted to go home, but was hopelessly lost. So I was about to ask for help when I realised that it’s the roundabout just before my street!

It was not even 4:00 by this point and I was fading really fast. I decided that I wouldn’t risk going anywhere near my bed, so I decided to go back to Central London!

Last Day at Home and Off to London

My last day at home wasn’t the flurry of activity one would think. I’m absurdly organised and good at managing my time. I methodically ploughed through my to-do list, including getting three loads of laundry done by noon. I was so on top of things that when Charles came to ask me to run an errand with him in the late afternoon, it didn’t throw a wrench in my plans at all.

When we came home from that, with me taking a good long last view of my beloved valley as we came down the hill into the hamlet, it was time to shut down the internet and power and do one final sweep. I almost forgot my toothbrush and… computer charger!

I trundled down the street with my two travel bags as well as a bag filled with what I needed to get me through the night at C&C’s. I’d brought a few things over earlier in the day, including a tote of things I didn’t want to freeze, and would stow the bag in that tote.

Caroline made me an extra special going away dinner. We started with Greek salad, then had roast pork tenderloin, beets, yellow beans, and rice. They bought a whole live pig last year and butchered it themselves, and boy was it delicious! There was a maple syrup glaze on it that was succulent! The beans were home grown, of course, as were the beets that Caroline canned last year. So good! The extra special part of dinner was that she’d made dessert, a strawberry rhubarb pie (with vanilla ice cream). I’m so spoiled!

Needless to say, the food and wine put me into a coma and I slept pretty well from 10:30 to 3, then, thankfully, I managed to fall asleep for nearly another three hours.

It was pouring rain when I stumbled downstairs, enjoying coffee on the porch with Caroline as we looked at our damp green hills. I forced myself to have a bit of breakfast, just some toast with peanut butter and honey, and then got ready, changing into my airplane outfit, closing up my bags, and stowing what wasn’t coming with me.

The plan had been to leave at 7:00 and we pulled out at 7:15. The drive to the airport in Regina took almost 2.5 hours, but they flew by! As we approached the exit for the airport, I once again expressed how grateful I was for the lift and Caroline replied, “We just wanted to get rid of you and the surest way to do that was to make sure you got to the airport all right!” Bwa ha ha ha. I love her and Charles so much.

We only had a few minutes at the unloading point at the airport to say goodbye and then off I went. I’d checked in the day before and had my boarding passes on my phone, so I went straight to security. There was a bit of a lineup, but it went quickly. It was rather a pain to get my electronics out of my computer bag since it was packed so tightly, but I got it done by the time it was my turn to put stuff in bins.

I got through the scanner without it beeping and then came what felt like an interminable wait for my stuff to get through the X-ray machine. But everything scanned okay and they didn’t make me open my bags or take off my shoes.

Then, came a wait. There’s not much at the Regina airport terminal. I got a second breakfast and a really good coffee and spent some time doing online stuff before calling SaskTel to cancel my service. That was painless and the reps I spoke to were very excited about my trip.

We boarded on time. It was very quick flight to Toronto and I bought a sandwich on board to eat. The airplane sandwiches are always good and fresh and no more expensive than what you get on the ground, so I don’t see the point of trying to juggle a bag of food onto the plane with my gear. Speaking of which, my gear was perfectly sized. My computer bag was really at the limit for under the seat stowage, but I could actually have expanded my suitcase if I wanted to.

My layover in Toronto was really short. We landed at about 5:10 and my next flight was departing at 6:00, which meant I really only had at most 40 minutes to get to the gate. It took forever to deplane and no one else appeared to be in a hurry. I was way at the back of the plane and pleaded to folks to let me through, but no one cared. By the time I got into the terminal, it was 5:30. There was no signage, no departures board, no one to give directions, nothing. I had no idea where I was supposed to catch my flight to St. John’s and didn’t want to risk going too far in the wrong direction looking for assistance. I finally spotted a WestJet agent who was in no hurry to help me. She was chatting with someone else about her plans for the weekend and gave me a dirty look when I said, “Excuse me…”  If there was a time for rudeness, this was it and I firmly said that I needed my gate info. She finally brought it up and the gate was pretty much clear across the terminal. OMG. I raced off and with Pearson being under renovations, there were detours. It took forever to reach the gate, where they were at final boarding call! According to the agent who checked me in, I was literally two minutes from missing my connection. PHEW.

Having made my flight to St. John’s, I could finally relax since I had a longer layover there and now knew that I would very likely get to London on schedule.

There was frost on the window near the end of that leg of my journey:


Here’s how my two bags stack for easy transport through the airport. I do have to say that this got really heavy by the the time I got through Gatwick and I was happy to have a backpack.


My layover in St. John’s felt like it took no time at all. I was disappointed that there was no food to be bought that late at the terminal. I knew I could get a sandwich on the plane, but had hoped for a “real” meal.

I was a little freaked out when I got paged, but it was because they wanted to make sure I was there since I hadn’t checked any luggage!

Before I knew it, it was time to board for the last leg of my journey. I’d hoped to sleep, but the 5-hour flight wasn’t conducive to that. There was a lot of turbulence, so there were constant announcements, plus I was famished and it took almost two hours to get our first beverage service, when I could get a sandwich. But like with my previous two flights, I did nothing on the plane, but close my eyes and at least attempt to doze.

The clouds were thick like snow as we pushed east:


For the second time in my life, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic.


Sometimes, there was enough break in the clouds to see the ocean:




We flew over what felt like the whole of the south of England, coming up the North Sea coast. I was struck by how rural the country appeared, with so much farmland and only small clusters of cities. Gatwick Airport is well outside of London, so I didn’t get a first glimpse of the city from the air. We landed right on schedule at 8:20am local time.

All I wanted after we landed was to wash my face and brush  my teeth. The first bathroom I encountered was over crowded, but the second was empty. Feeling a little more human, I was ready to face passport control. The long lineup moved quickly. I’d already filled in my tourist card on the plane, so there wasn’t much to do when I got to an agent. I just confirmed how long I was staying and why and that was it, and got my first stamp in a passport since the last time I got to the UK!

Next was customs, but I had nothing to declare, so I just breezed through that. And then, I was in the main part of Gatwick airport and it was time to figure out how to get to London, then across London! Yes, I’d done my research, but it was contradictory and I’d made the decision to figure it out on the spot. To be continued!

Landed in London

I have been up for just over 24 hours straight now, so this is just a brief check-in. I don’t think I’ll blog much while I’m here, to be honest. But I will take lots of pictures and notes and blog when I have the time and energy!

It’s been quite a journey to get here:

Car to Regina

Planes to Gatwick

Train to London

Underground to Queen’s Park

My last connection on the Tube! Was I glad to see it! Gatwick to London Victoria on the train, London Victoria to Oxford Circus on the Tube Victoria line, Oxford Circus to Queen's Park on the Bakerloo line, then switch to the overground part of the Bakerloo line.

My last connection on the Tube! Was I glad to see it! Gatwick to London Victoria on the train, London Victoria to Oxford Circus on the Tube Victoria line, Oxford Circus to Queen’s Park on the Bakerloo line, then switch to the overground part of the Bakerloo line.

Overground to Kensal Green

My own two feet to the Airbnb!

I caught glimpse of the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye, bought an Oyster card, and mastered the Tube. Not a bad day considering I feel like a zombie!

I’m off to find food and to get very far away from my bed!

Uneventful Trip to Mazatlán From Mérida

My flight was scheduled for 8:25 this morning, so I wanted to be at the airport by 6:15. I woke up without an alarm at just past 5:00 and it took me about 20 minutes to finalise my packing (almost had to sit on my suitcase for it to close, even though I didn’t have anything extra!). I didn’t bother with coffee since I could surely get some at the airport. Once packed, I made certain I got everything and that the apartment was tidy. There is a cleaning fee included in Airbnb bookings, so I don’t go overboard, but I make sure the trash is out, dishes are done, the bathroom counter is wiped off, the floor is swept, etc.

When I booked the apartment, I was disappointed that my Mérida home base was going to be such a bland space, based on the pictures. Funny how the walled courtyard, spiral staircase, and balcony made it into a very special home, and one I will miss! I intend to rent there for a full month when I return to Mérida for good to give me ample time to house hunt.

It was a quick and easy walk to Paseo de Montejo, even with my luggage. I really need a better second bag for flying than my tote so that I can hang it from my wheeled suitcase because the tote is very heavy to hang from the shoulder. Well, I do have such a bag, but a laptop doesn’t fit in it. My luggage suited the purpose for which it was bought originally, but now needs to be reconsidered. But I digress.

There was a taxi waiting at the Conquistador Hotel, just as my host had told me there would be. $180 to the airport, versus the $270 to get from there! This was expected, actually. There is a special contract to go from the airport, but not to. A tip is to actually walk out of the airport to a city street and grab a cab from there. I will do that if I land in daylight next time. I was at the airport in record time, just past 6:00 a.m., and no one was working the InterJet desk… I ended up waiting until almost 6:30 to check in. Well, better early than late!

I suspected, correctly might I add, that I would not be able to get a decent coffee after security, so I did that first. A decent coffee was a reasonable airport price of $40. But I was so shocked by the price of $55 for some coffee cake that I didn’t have the wherewithal to tell them to forget it! I thought Canadian airport prices were insane!

Security was a joke, I’m sorry to say. I didn’t speak to anyone other than to be told to go back through the metal detector after I made it beep the first time. No one even checked my paperwork.

The only thing open on the other side was a kiosk that tried to sell me 200mL of water for $38. I declined. Sometime later, another kiosk opened and I got 1L for $35. Still highway robbery, but I had water for the day (in fact, I just finished it). I think TelCel has upped their prices because I have been burning through pesos this week and I ran out of money on my account again while waiting for my flight. I didn’t trust the kiosk to not have a markup on adding TelCel time, so I didn’t buy any (I’ve only so far encountered one place with a commission, in Mérida, and it was $1, which wasn’t worth complaining about).

My wait in Mérida went by quickly and we boarded on time. The flight to Mexico City was uneventful and I think we even landed early. Beverage service was a cereal bar (yuck) and an apple juice (very yum — I haven’t had it in ages and forgot how much I love it!). Deplaning took forever, though. I had a window seat in the very last row with two people between me and the aisle, so I knew I wasn’t getting off that plane anytime soon even when the line got moving. I finally had to give in to my bladder and ask the other two ladies to move so I could use the on board washroom. They were very put upon and I heard someone across the aisle whisper to them to be kinder as I must have been desperate to put on such a show. Indeed! It’s amazing how much more easily one can deal with being stuck on the tarmac for an extra 10 minutes with an empty bladder. 😀

We finally deplaned and I headed straight for the food court area to get a coffee, pausing only at a TelCel kiosk to add $100 to my account. It was too early to get my gate info for the next leg of my trip anyway since I had a nearly 3.5-hour layover. Starbucks was the coffee place with the shortest lineup and a short was a reasonable (by airport standards) $29. I even interrupted the barista to ask for milk since there was none at the condiment bar and specified skim. I’m getting more comfortable with some uncomfortable aspects of Mexican culture, like elbowing your way to what you want!

I did a bit of work while enjoying my coffee, but it was awkward without a mouse, so I gave up and went off to hunt for some lunch. Food prices were outrageous, of course, so I decided against a sit down meal and instead had a slice of pizza. Still pricy, but the slices were large. It and a tiny bag of Frito-type things with the plane beverage service got me through the next eight hours, so it was actually pretty good value. I declined the ketchup I was offered to go with it, but accepted the Valentina “hot” sauce to dip my crusts into!

Lunch done, I plonked myself down and watch an episode of Defiance on my iPad (how did I ever travel pre-iPad — so much entertainment in the profile and weight of a thick magazine or slim paperback!). By the time that was done, it was past 1:00 and we were supposed to board around 1:30, so I went off in search of gate info. My flight was marked as on time, but with no gate number, same as my delayed flight to Mérida had been, so I had a bad feeling. I went to the info kiosk to ask and was told gate two and that the flight was on time. Yay!

The flight was almost empty, so it boarded and took off very quickly. I’m not a nervous flier, but the airplane shook and rattled so much as we took off that it actually made me nervous. The flight was a bit bumpy and the landing rather rattly. Some folks actually clapped when we came to a stop in Maz! Too funny since I have been on rougher flights than this one. It was nice to have the aisle to myself. I can’t believe it costs me twice as much to fly across Canada in a sardine can as it costs to fly across Mexico with elbow and knee room!

It’s quite a distance from the terminal to the exit at the Maz airport, so I got a workout, avoiding everyone offering me hotel transport. I went to the taxi desk (similar setup to Mérida where you pay a set price) and forked over $550 to get home straight to Isla. The alternative was $380 to go to the embarcadero, $8 to get on the lancha, and $30 for a taxi on this side. When you consider that it’s about $400 to go to Centro from the airport, $550 to Isla really isn’t that terrible considering the odds of getting a passenger back is unlikely. This is a new service now that the road is mostly paved and what isn’t is well graded. I much preferred to spend that money and get home in 20 minutes or so than to save a few bucks and take over an hour to get home.

The driver asked me what hotel I’m at on the beach. I said that I’m not at a hotel, but my house is near the beach. His eyes went round and he gasped out, “I hope you know where you’re going because I won’t be able to find it!” I laughed and reassured him that I was going “home” and knew where we were headed!

Ah, loco Mazatlán drivers… We almost hit I don’t know how many obstacles between the airport and home, including what I think was a very sickly dog, a guy on a bicycle, a few topes, two coconuts, a bus, and a couple on a motorcycle. But soon, I could see Icebox Hill. Home, home at last!

I have directions pretty well down pat, left here, right there, a bit further, etc. so we made the few turns to my house without any issues. My driver was surprised by how big and nice my house is. I made sure he knew how to get back to the main road (it’s easier to go around a different way than get the car turned around and go back the way he came) and then headed in.

Phew, the house smelled musty! I immediately threw open the windows and turned the fans on high, then Febreezed the hell out of all the fabric! I then impressed myself by unpacking everything, but didn’t put on laundry since it wouldn’t have time to dry. I went out some time later to watch the sunset on the beach (which I missed more than I thought I would!) and was struck again by how noisy Isla is. I don’t know how many people have told me that “Mexico is noisy.” Horse hockey. Some parts of it are noisy, yes, but I’ve been to two cities now that aren’t and one that is so it seems that that generalisation is false.

My cupboards were barer than Mother Hubbard’s, so I went to Miguel’s for dinner. I’m pretty much “meated out” after all the rich greasy Yucatán food, so shrimp burritos were very appealing and hit the spot. I don’t see myself having any pork or beef for quite a bit! Miguel overheard me saying how light Yucatán cuisine is on produce and gave me extra salad and roasted onions, bless him. Angela was interested in how much shopping I did. Luis (their school-age server) was mostly interested in the contrasts been Maz and Mérida and why I’d rather be there than here on a more permanent basis.

Among my reasons, I gave language immersion and he said that my Spanish is “sufficient.” I argued that sufficient isn’t enough for me, I want fluency, and for that, I need to get away from ex-pats and really immerse myself. I think the only day last week where I actually spoke any amount of English was Tuesday on my ruins tour, as well as speaking French that evening. Like Durango, it was a very intensive immersion experience and I know I came out of it with more vocabulary and capacity for understanding oral Spanish.

I can get by on sufficient in Maz, but I’m not sure it will be enough for living in Mérida unless I stick to the expat zone, which goes against the point of why I want to live in Mexico in the first place. I am not delusional enough to think that my language skills are enough to actually thrive in a Spanish-speaking community yet. I haven’t had to deal with a real emergency, like a car or medical accident, nor have I had to negotiate and sign a legally-binding rental agreement, figure out vehicle licensing requirements, make an insurance claim, open utility accounts and dispute charges, etc. I still can’t enjoy a Spanish movie or TV show without Spanish subtitles and the radio is still pretty much bla bla bla. I’m lazy and I won’t make the effort to get past sufficient if my very survival doesn’t depend on it. Maz just isn’t big enough for me to get away from English.

So after talking about my scouting trip to Mérida for some time, it has come to an end. Now, the grunt work begins. And this is where I announce that I am more likely than not postponing my move to Mérida to next spring, maybe even the summer. I intend to go to Eastern Europe for the summer and what’s expensive is getting there, not being there. It makes no sense to pay all that money to go for just three months. I’m thinking of doing my allowed three months in Bulgaria, then perhaps three months in Greece (which I’m told is cheap…) after a few weeks in Turkey, and then flying back to North America from North Africa…

Moreover, my passport expires in March of 2017 and most places require your passport to be valid at least six months beyond the end of your trip. This means that I would have to be back to Canada by the middle of September. So it makes sense to get home and deal with my passport renewal before I do anything else. Then, I can take time to really think through what I need to do to get myself set for Mérida (like consult that tax accountant I still haven’t found), including whether or not I should be selling Haven, before jetting off to Europe.

Coming back to Canada next spring would mean I’d be packing up and closing Haven in warmer weather, even if it means landing in Mérida at the peak of the hot season. I just don’t see myself packing up Haven in November or even as late as December, as I had planned to do. Haven just isn’t set up for winter living, and I don’t think I want it to be!

The move to Mérida is a huge deal and not something I’m willing to do on a whim. I want to do this right and will take the time it takes. Knowing where I’m going and that I have a good home base waiting for me when I’m ready for it takes off a lot of pressure. Mérida is concrete to me now and therefore one less thing I need to think about. Onward!

Landed in Mérida!

Oy, it’s been a very long day, but I’m here!

maz to mer

I made the mistake of going to bed at my usual time yesterday and so I was up at 6AM, not good when you know bedtime won’t be till 11PM your time/midnight local time.

I had 5.5 hours to kill till departure for the airport so I had a lie in, then made breakfast and finished packing and cleaning the house (I always give the floors a final pass at the last minute). My ride showed up 10 minutes early, but I was very nearly ready. Better early than late when you’re on your way to the airport!

The road out is just about all paved!!! It’s unbelievable. I heard that there is talk of paving more of the main street on Isla, too. The times, they are a changing! Needless to say, we were at the airport in record time.

Since I wasn’t sure that my luggage was under the weight limit for carry on, I elected to check in at a desk, something I haven’t done in a long time. To give me less to handle, I only had my small suitcase and my tote bag, which was full to bursting with my electronics, documents, liquids, and more. It was heavy, but I made the right call. Check-in, done in Spanish, went smoothly and I was given tags for my bags confirming they had been weighed and were to good to go. I was warned that there would be a 10-minute delay for my flight, but assured that I had plenty of time to make my connection…

I’ve spent a lot of time on the main level of the Mazatlán airport, but had never been upstairs. All there was up there was a couple of restaurants and shops, plus a Carl Jr’s hamburger stand. I was pretty sure there was nothing beyond security for food and, being a full three hours early for my flight, I’d decided to have lunch at the airport. The two restaurants were ridiculously expensive, even for an airport, and not appealing, so I caved and got a fast food cheeseburger. Should have brought my own lunch!

I then went through security and, wow, that went very quickly! I didn’t get a pat down (it helped that I remembered not to wear a bra with underwire!) and I didn’t have to take my shoes off. My liquids were packed correctly (which the lady at check-in had confirmed anyway) and I didn’t have to turn on my electronic devices. My suitcase did raise a flag and they asked for permission to open it. What was I going to say, no?! As I expected, they were curious about my stainless steel French press, but accepted my explanation without even touching it. I did get a laugh for having marked my bag of white powder as “leche con polvo” (powdered milk)!

There was just about nothing on the other side, just a jewelry stand and a small bar/cafe where I could have gotten an even more expensive lunch than on the other side. I did spend a whopping $15 on a bottle of water and also $40 for a coffee. My first thought was that was a crazy price, but it was an Americano, so espresso from fresh ground beans with hot water. It was so smooth I was able to enjoy it black. Totally worth the money!

It was a long wait. I really could have left home later, but I’d rather the wait than to be rushed. I watched an ep of the show I’m currently enjoying (Defiance) on my iPad and that helped 45 minutes go by quickly! I also finished a funny book about the career of a customs inspector in the UK, rather à propos reading for my location.

We finally boarded, 10 minutes late, but we were off very quickly. I’ve only ever before flown Air Canada, West Jet and one of the U.S. airlines. InterJet had something none of those airlines have: leg and elbow room.

It was interesting to see Maz and Isla from the air as we took off. The airport is so close that I could spot my house as we were taking off. I am not joking/exaggerating! It was a case that I had to know exactly where to look as we made our ascent, and I did!

We only had about a 1.5 hour flight, but still had a snack and beverage service. I accepted a small bag of rather yummy Frito/Dorito-style chip things with a bit of kick, but was at a loss as to what to ask for a beverage other than water. When flying in Canada, I always get ginger ale and it’s a huge treat, but I knew they wouldn’t have that in Mexico. I asked if they had a soda with lime hoping to get something like a 7-Up or Sprite. The flight attendant pondered my question for a couple of seconds and said, “7-Up?” Yup, that worked. 🙂 I only have soda on airplanes because the carbonation helps me clear my ears.

I read through my flight and we were in Mexico City in no time! It’s huge! I thought Chicagoland (where I’ve landed several times) was big, but this was civilisation as far as the eye could see! Traffic was bad! As we landed, I could see many roads were backed up.

By the time I’d deplaned, I only had about an hour until my next flight was supposed to board, so my first priority was to find my new gate. It wasn’t on the boards, so I asked at an Interjet information kiosk and was told to come back at 7:00, about 45 minutes later. So I went off in search of food and found a rather uninspiring food court with Subways, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wings, and a few other stands. I picked Sbarro’s, which I think is a U.S. pizza chain (I only know the name from the movie The Terminal), just because pizza sounded good and their pizza looked decent enough, even if a slice with toppings was $72! I went with just plain cheese for $51 and had to grudgingly admit that it was pretty good, especially for airport pizza. 🙂 I then popped into a 7-Eleven to buy a litre bottle of water so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding some when I got to Mérida. That would give me enough to get me through the morning, including making coffee. $11. Even Mexico airports gouge you on everything!

It was 7:00 by that point, so I went back to the information kiosk, where I was told to come back at 7:30. What? That’s when we were supposed to leave! They said a word I did not recognise. I know “delayed” as “con retrazo” (very close to the French “en retard). They used a word that started with d and it took me a second to process that this is what they were saying. Delayed?! OMG. I asked how long and they said about 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes was fine. I’d told my host I would be there between 10:00 and 11:00 and a half-hour delay put me at the apartment around 10:15, 10:30. Absolutely no reason to panic. I still had no idea where my gate was going to be and found a seat within sight of the information desk. Minutes after I sat down, a man in a bright orange security vest came up to me and said “You’re going to Mérida?” I replied in the affirmative and he told me to go to gate three and that we’d be boarding around 7:45. Talk about service!

This was my first time traveling through a country where I can barely understand the language when spoken and I’m glad I made it through as well as I did. There were some English announcements, but the accent was so strong it wasn’t really not much clearer than the Spanish.

Our plane finally arrived and the passengers on it deplaned in record time. I was one of the last ones to be allowed to board. Air Canada will board rows such and such, then such and such and Interjet has a similar zone system. I understood this on my first leg of the trip, but couldn’t find my zone on my ticket. This time around, I had plenty of time to locate it way at the bottom. Zone one, since I was in row six. Great, I’d be one of the first to deplane!

We boarded with great efficiency and were taking off in no time at all. I was very impressed! It was another very short journey, just enough time for a snack and a few chapters of a book before Mérida was sprawled below me.

I’d texted my “greeter” in MC and hadn’t received a reply, so I decided to call him before getting in a taxi. Always risky. I don’t do well on the phone at all. I thought we agreed that he would be waiting for me when I arrived, but had a feeling I’d be left waiting on a curb…

Like Maz’s airport, Mérida’s airport has official taxis with set rates. I’d been told it would be $200 to go to my apartment, but they insisted on $270. Fiiiine.

I knew I wasn’t in the proverbial Kansas anymore when my taxi driver actually buckled up… and didn’t drive like a maniac… and obeyed all red lights and stop signs. What I could see of Mérida was very clean and tidy, with clear road signs. All a sharp contrast to Mazatlán. I told the driver this and we started chatting. He says that April and May are the worst months here weather-wise.

He found the apartment without any trouble and I knew I was at the right place because a) the street had a sign that matched the street name I’d been given; b) the building had a number that matched the address I’d been given; and c) the building looked like the picture from the Airbnb site. 🙂

So there I was on the curb. The door into the apartment complex was locked. I was a bit earlier than I thought I’d be, the journey from the airport having been super quick, so I figured the guy was going to be along shortly. But after a good 20 minutes, I was beyond ready to be settled for the night (and grateful to be in a neighbourhood that felt safe!) and used the last 4% of my battery on the phone to try my “greeter” again. Augh, he’d been inside one of the apartments the whole time waiting for me to call!

He rushed out to show me to my place, in the back of the complex and up… a spiral staircase. Be still my beating heart! The only way I would be more excited about my apartment was if it also had a turret. I’ve always dreamed of living somewhere with a spiral staircase!

The apartment is large and seems clean. I got a whirlwind tour and discovered that I have a balcony! What a bonus! I am a tad disappointed by the kitchen, though. I don’t even have a decent pot in which to boil water tomorrow. So I have some shopping to do. I’m going to be here for eight days and it’ll totally be worth it to get some cheap things to be comfortable. Just from tonight, I know I need:

– a pot and a frying pan;
– a new sponge for the kitchen;
– wash cloths for the bathroom (I knew I should have packed some — even my hotel in Durango didn’t have any);
– trash bags (although shopping should will take care of that);
– toilet paper

No big deal at all. It’ll give me a chance to figure out where I’ll be buying home goods when I move to this neighbourhood! 🙂

I had a shower and then crashed in bed with my computer, where I am writing this post. I am very grateful that the bed is super comfortable, a huge improvement over my bed on Isla, even with a topper!

I think I will be happy here for the next eight days. Let’s see what the morning brings.

I apologise for any typos in this post. I’m starting to see double. 🙂