27 August 2007

Aug 25 - Touchdown in Guadalajara

Alan picked me up and we dropped the dog at the boarder. It took a little longer at the boarder because it was a place I’d not booked before so there was paperwork. But we got her handed over and headed to the airport.

Check in was a piece of cake and there were no lines or delays anywhere.

The flights were uneventful and the connection in Dallas was unremarkable. The only slight hiccup was that when I checked the board in Dallas, there were 2 American flights to Guadalajara listed…both leaving at 12:40, my departure time…different gates. I didn’t have my ticket at hand (or I could have saved myself some extra running around) but they were both departing from the D terminal and I had to take the tram to get there so I figured I’d go to D and sort it out later.

The hiccup part was that one flight was at D6 and the other at D37 and they were two different tram stops. I couldn’t check the flight number without getting off the tram at one or the other so I just metaphorically threw a dart and got off at one. The wrong one, naturally.

I had time; it’s not like I was in danger of missing the flight or anything. It was just a slight detour.

At the gate, there was a display with the flight information…duration, aircraft, etc. From that I learned that while the business class travelers would be served lunch, the economy travelers had the option to purchase snacks. So I figured I’d better find something for lunch before I got on the plane.

The only food place in the vicinity was an Auntie Anne’s pretzel place so I got a pretzel dog. Woo-hoo.

On the plane, my seat was almost all the way to the back but there was hardly anyone else…every row had empty seats. It was a quiet, uneventful flight and I mostly just read. Oh, and those snacks for purchase…Snickers bar, bag of trail mix or something else about like that for $3 each. Luckily I had some soynuts and dried apricots I brought from home.

When we arrived at Guadalajara (the locals are referred to as Tapatíos…dunno why), we go off the plane onto a people-mover sort of thing. It was kind of like a self-powered, enclosed flatbed with seats. I did a rough-n-dirty estimate of how many people had been on the plane, now that everyone was collected in a smaller space, and I figured it at no more than 50.

Inside the airport we queued up at immigration….residents to the right, foreigners to the left. The residents’ line had 3 agents. The foreigner line had one, and it moved very slowly. There were a number of family groups with small children and it took a while to process them. 20 minutes later and about 4 people before I got to the front of the line, another agent opened up. She was just zipping through people and I’m sure it didn’t take much longer to clear everyone left to check.

Once through immigration, I headed to baggage claim and customs. ‘Course, I didn’t have any checked bags so all I had to do was find the customs line and leave. That took me a minute because I couldn’t find the line at first. That’s because there was no line. I don’t think I’ve EVER been through customs where there was no line at all. The agent took my paperwork, I pushed the button (got a green light) and I was out the door to find my contact.

I found him and we headed out to the parking lot. He didn’t speak English so we didn’t have involved conversations. He asked me if I came from Phoenix and I said, “No, Dallas.” He’d apparently had some worry because when he arrived to pick me up, according to the flight boards, there was no flight from Dallas. There was one from Phoenix and one from LA, but no Dallas. He said he’d called the office and a bunch of people to try to confirm that I was coming from Dallas and that he had the right day/time/etc.

I was sorry he’d worried but I have no clue why the flight wasn’t on the board…especially since there should have been 2 of them arriving from Dallas at about the same time.

The ride to the hotel was smooth. I spend most of it trying to read the billboards and signs, to try to refamiliarize myself with Spanish. Some things I could figure out…some were impenetrable.

The streets were amazingly clean, though. I was sort of mentally comparing them with San Salvador…the other large Central American city I’ve been in…and it was night and day. In San Salvador, there is trash and dirt everywhere and the air has a dark, thick quality to it from all the diesel engines. Here, the streets were clean and the air looked (and smelled) fresh.

I got checked into the hotel (3rd floor room) and unpacked, called and left a message for Alan to let him know I’d arrived, then rested/read for a bit. I decided to go check out the pool before going to the restaurant for supper so I put on my swimming suit and headed for the 5th floor, where the hotel guide said the pool was. Except that according to the elevator, there was no 5th floor. The pool and jogging track are on the roof. You have to get off the elevator on the 4th floor then take the stairs up to the roof. It’s a nice space…all tiled and appointed. However, it was just too cool for me to want to swim outdoors so I decided to exercise in my room, then go to supper.

I’d just walked into the room when the phone rang. It was Alan returning my call. We got caught up with each other and by the time we hung up, I’d decided to skip the workout and go straight to supper. A really poor decision when traveling…as there tends to be way too much eating and way too little physicality on the road. But there you have it.

I went down to the bellboy stand and got some information on tours and suchlike, then crossed the way to the restaurant. The restaurant was well lit but I didn’t see a soul there. I walked in and found someone in uniform and asked if they were open. He said, “Yes, sit anywhere.” So I picked a smaller table by a window.

I looked at the menu and decided on shrimp cocktail (Puerto Vallarta style) and fish filet (Aztec style) along with a margarita (after all, this is Jose Cuervo country). The shrimp was…a little different. The shrimp were cooked and peeled and floating in a malted-milk type glass of water and some sort of green leafy stuff at the bottom with a green orange slice parked on the rim. They were tepid, instead of chilled. They came with half a dozen packets of ketchup and a small bowl of diced onions, chilies, tomatoes and pieces of avocado and lime. I fished them out of the glass with the spoon that came with it and put them on a plate then squeezed lime on them and mixed the other components (except the ketchup….that just seemed sacrilege) into an almost-salad sort of thing. I would have preferred they be cold, but other than that, they were tasty.

The fish was a large, boneless filet of some sort of mild, white fish, fried crispy without any batter. It was topped with a pile of squash blossoms, onion, chilies and a little cheese in some sort of green sauce…I’m not sure if the sauce was made from chilies or a leafy something like was in the bottom of the shrimp cocktail glass. There was a side of rice and a mixed veggie relleno sort of thing to accompany the fish. It was tasty, too, but a lot of food.

After supper, I returned to the room and got a call from Cesar. We’re set to meet at 12:30 tomorrow for lunch and touring a nearby city.