The Rental Car- United States
Our first day of travel was in the United States and it would’ve been stress free except that we had to finish winterizing the school (we live in an old, renovated public school building) and then drive an hour to Sterling, Colorado to pick up a rental car from Hertz and then drive back home and THEN continue on to Denver. When we arrived in Denver, we still had things we needed to buy and then pack up for the trip. Lydian was moody. John was disorganized. I was in good humor and glad to be moving forward toward Guanajuato, but concerned about being tethered tightly to the combination behaviors of the other two people in my family for the next two days.
Flight #1 out of Denver
We spent the night in a hotel and got up early to catch our United flight which was at 10:10 AM. John was in state of utter breakdown. He was
concerned about our connecting flight in San Francisco. This second flight took off only one hour after we landed and he just knew we wouldn’t make it on board. Sure enough, he worried and worried until his nightmare came true. Our first flight was delayed 50 minutes by fog. I thought John was gonna implode.
He went to customer service to talk to someone about changing our flight. I stayed behind with the bags and Lydian. I stared off into space for about 2 minutes after I saw him disappear. Lydian asked me what the delayed flight would mean in terms of our plans. I didn’t answer her. I continued to meditate on John’s ability to “take care of the situation”. I imagined the chaos at customer service and told Lydian to watch our bags closely as I started walking toward customer service.
When I arrived, John was speaking with a nice woman named Shelly who had given him a series of options. He told me that our only option was to fly to San Francisco and then sit from 1:00 PM until 11:00 PM when another plane took off for Mexico City. We’d arrive at 4:00 AM. Shelly tried to interrupt him to tell me about yet another option, but then John interrupted her to try to tell me what she was trying to say. I stopped for a moment, put my hand on John’s arm and told him that I didn’t need him to translate for me because this nice lady already spoke English. At this, he decided his services weren’t needed and stormed off in a fury. Shelly and I continued to talk over the options.
Flight #2 from Los Angeles to Mexico City
In the end, we took a 2:30 PM flight that went through Los Angeles. For whatever reason, they didn’t call our 2 hours in L.A. a “layover”, but whatever. We sat on the tile floor near a power outlet at LAX so John could continue working and recharging his laptop. We’d never been to L.A. before, but I didn’t care for it. The airport wasn’t hospitable. The Internet service didn’t work (you could pay for an upgrade). There were no healthy foods except for a few wilting bananas, and the people just weren’t especially friendly. But then again, by that time, I wasn’t in the greatest mood either. As we were boarding our first flight, a woman from our bank called to inform me that the Holiday Inn Express in Mexico City had tried to charge our card for that night, but the bank had expertly denied the charge in a valiant attempt to prevent fraud. “Oh God.” I said. “Can you fix that?” I said to Patty. “We need to have a room booked when we get there.” I had only a few minutes left before I would have to shut off my cell phone. “I don’t know. Let me see what I can do.”
This was the last I heard from Patty before our first plane took off. It wouldn’t land until after our bank had closed for the night. We wouldn’t be getting in to Mexico City until 11:30 PM and we wouldn’t get through customs and immigration for 30 minutes, or maybe an hour after that? I imagined the taxi taking us to our hotel and not having a room booked. Then, we would be at the whim of the taxi drivers or whoever would offer us a room.
I assumed everything would work out, but the unknown ate at me on our first flight, as I sat sandwiched in between two other strangers (we didn’t get to choose our seats because we had booked this flight last minute).
Taxis from the Mexico City Airport
We arrived on time in Mexico City and around 12:00 AM we got through all the airport chores. There was an “Authorized Taxi” stand within
plain view just beyond customs and we ordered a taxi from there (which was the recommended method according to Lonely Planet). We used the “Excelencia” taxi service, which was just a random choice (there were several different taxi services available in the same booth). They collect people to and from the airport 24 hours a day (5562-8054 or 5562-8047, Nextel: 72*12*40941 or firstname.lastname@example.org ). We got a ticket stub from the guy behind the counter and took it with us outside. A fellow outside, looked at our ticket stub and told us where to go (“al fondo” –to the end of the block). The taxis was white with a little purple airplane on the side of it and the word “excelencia”. They brought over a 12-15 passenger van so that the three of us and our luggage could all fit in the same vehicle.
Holiday Inn Express to Hotel Imperial in Mexico City
When we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Mexico City, sure enough, our room was gone and the place was completely booked. I was so angry about this I thought I was gonna lose it. We were tired. We hadn’t eaten much and I had worked so hard to make sure that we had a safe place to stay when we got to Mexico City. I had spent at least an hour and a half just trying to book a hotel in Mexico City before our trip. The man behind the counter told me that he had found another room at a “comparable hotel” nearby. It was a hotel I had never heard of and knew nothing about.
The taxi driver, named “Hugo”, pronounced Oo-go waited for us and took us there. On the way, I asked him if this new hotel was still near the Centro del Norte bus station. We had tickets to Guanajuato the next day. He said, “No…the hotel we were just at was close. This hotel is not really close, no.”
We arrived at the Hotel Imperial around 1:00 AM. There was a band playing in the bar downstairs. Everything had the hue of negativity because I was still fuming about my card not working to book our first hotel. A man met us at the door as we drug our heavy luggage inside. He asked Lydi and I if we needed help. I said, “No” and then tried to carry our stuff up the stairs ourselves. Apparently, we looked clumsy and awkward and he immediately took our bags from us anyway. I thanked him, realized that I was over-reacting to the situation and set about trying to calm myself down about the stupid debit card.
The Hotel Imperial Reforma was about 1/3 cheaper than the Holiday Inn Express. It was a nice hotel. It had much more character than the Holiday Inn Express, I’m sure. There were a few minor imperfections, namely that the only rooms available either had two twin beds or one king size bed (there were three of us). Luckily, I’d brought along an inflatable camping mattress so we were able to take the king bed room and John slept on that by the door.
The band played until 3:30 in the morning, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t sleep well anyway. We woke up around 9:00 AM and got ready to go to the bus station. Again, we called the Excelencia taxi service and again, Hugo arrived to take us to our destination. He took us right to the check in area for Primera Plus, the bus service we would use to get to Guanajuato. I took a picture of him because he was so friendly and easy to talk to even though John and I have limited Spanish skills. I told him that I wanted to recommend his taxi service to others coming in to Mexico City.
Centro del Norte Bus Station
The bus station was easy to navigate. I had already booked our trip online with Primera Plus and printed out our tickets at home. I went to the counter and showed the lady there my tickets and she told me to go to Sala Uno (Gate 1). We found the Primera Plus check-in area and waited until 12:15 PM when they would board our bus which would depart at 12:30 PM.
They didn’t make us put our luggage through the scanner for some reason, but they did pat us down. Then, we took our luggage to the attendants. Each piece of luggage was tagged and we were given a ticket to show ownership of the bag. They were very thorough about this process, which was impressive. I had worried about it before the trip, recollecting our experiences with a bus in Morocco from the ferry station to Tangiers. Primera Plus bus lines were very clean, very comfortable, and seemingly very safe.
We booked our seats at the front of the bus. The seats were comfortable and roomy. It was a four hour ride and we all slept on and off in the bus. They gave us little welcome bags when we boarded complete with sandwiches and a granola bar neither of which we could eat due to gluten sensitivities, but it was still a nice gesture. The bus wasn’t too cold. A lot of Mexican buses are like refrigerators on wheels. And
the TV played movies, but you could plug in headphones if you wanted to listen. When I saw the Three Stooges come on, I was really worried that we would be all be forced to listen to the movie in Spanish the entire trip, but it was actually so quiet in the bus that I felt like I was being disruptive when I opened a bag of corn chips. I crunched as quietly as I could. Within two minutes of listening to me loudly devouring my chips, everyone opened their own bags of goodies and started eating.
We arrived in Guanajuato and hailed a taxi outside the station. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the stairs leading to our vacation rental. Leonor, the property manager helped us carry one of our bags up the winding hills and stairs. The altitude, stairs, and heavy luggage, combined with lack of sleep and lack of food just about killed us, but we did finally make it. In a friendly gesture, Leonor (who only speaks Spanish) offered to take us to the grocery store and to see a bit of city. It was about 5:00 PM and we were very tired, but we went for a nice long walk up and down the stairs and hills again.
That night, we crashed hard. Our journey to Guanajuato was finally over.