Monday, May 31, 2010

Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala’s manmade port along its 132 mile coast line.  The port has a new tourist facility, not open, and a dirt parking lot.  It looks like it was built the night before we arrived.  The Quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird.  You find it on all of their currency, their currency is the quetzal.  The quetzal is a large beautifully colored bird from western Mexico and Quatemala.  We decided to take a day trip to Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 5000 feet up in the mountains.  Antigua lies between two active volcanoes.  The active Volcan Fuego, at 13,000 feet, and the nearby Volcan Pocaya, may be seen at night spewing smoke and molten lava. As I write this they are having to evacuate several towns in the area due to lava flows.  The tour bus dropped us off at a place called Jade City.  A real nice store that is owned by a lady who is  a cousin of James Baker, the former Secretary of State.  Antigua is a beautiful city that you would want to see.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Near the border of Guatemala on Mexico’s Pacific coast is Puerto Chiapas.  Puerto Chiapas is the port for the city of Tapachula.  Tapachula is a city of 200,000 people and the port built in 1975 handles industrial cargo and the tourist trade.  The tourist facility is nice with a great restaurant overlooking the port.  We took a tour to the ancient ruins of Izapa.  From its beginnings as a small village sometime around 1500 BCE, Izapa grew into the region’s most influential cultural and commercial center with a population of possibly up to 10,000 people. After Izapa we went to the Chocolate City, I don’t think that’s the name of the city but that’s what the tour wanted you to believe.  But we did see the cocoa beans made into chocolate.  It was an amazing process that the ladies perform in the home.  I have trouble with fudge!!  The local girls did a few native dances for us before we headed back to the port.  Tapachula is very hot and humid so we had to sample some of the local beer at the port side café before getting back on the ship.  Next stop Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Bahias de Huatulco, are actually made up of a series of nine bays and numerous small coves stretching along a jagged coastline.. The most centrally located bay is Bahía de Santa Cruz, which is just south of the town of La Crucecita. This is where the cruise ships dock. This is mountainous dessert country.  In the dry season the hillsides are mostly brown with light green dessert cactus right down to the coast line.  The coastline turns green with coconut palms, white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water.  Mexico has developed the port as a tourist destination with shops, bars and cafes as you step off the ship.  There is also a beautiful outdoor church on the beach where wedding take place.  In talking with our expatriate American tour guide the cost of his living down here was very low.  Our tour was by boat that took us to one of the nine bays.  Jump off the boat, swim to shore, have a cold beer and enjoy the day on the beach.  Don’t do this without sun screen or the sun will fry you crisp.  Take my word for it.  Huatulco is one of the sites of the old Club Med, it is wonderful and I will come back.  But after the day on the beach it’s off to Puerto Chiapas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ship board life

As we spent the day cruising from Puerto Vallarta to Hautulco, I’ll talk about shipboard life.  Years ago, I thought it would not be fun to be trapped on a ship for a number of days.  After my first cruise, I was hooked.  For the amount of fun and the low cost it is a great experience.  Holland America and the QM2 attract an older traveler but the fun is still there.  It just doesn’t extend much past midnight.  On most cruises there are formal nights in the main dining room.  It’s a great chance to pull out your fine duds. On our eighteen day cruise we had five formal nights.  This is a little more than normal but you know the old folks life to dress up.  The Statendam has three pools, six plus bars, a casino, a spa, a great library, food service at any time of the day or night and a string quartet to entertain a few of us after dinner.  I mostly missed the evening stage shows, too much to do in other areas.  The one time I looked in on a show there was a Canadian comedian explaining that Canadians were just like Americans, except unarmed and with health care..  Sandy loved to sit around after dinner and listen to the Adagio Strings and sip Spanish Coffee.  Spanish coffee starts with a little flamed Sanbuco, then  Kahlua, congac, coffee and whipped cream.

Friday, May 21, 2010

From San Diego it takes two days to Puerto Vallarta.   Two very leisurely days spend reading on the balcony and watching for the occasional whale.  Actually unwinding from the work day world.  Puerto Vallarta is a city of 200,000 people and considered the nightlife capital of Mexico.  Fortunately our ship was only there for the day,  we’re not really capable of nightlife any more.  All life for us usually stops before midnight.  The ship docked before I stumbled to the balcony and looked to the sparkling blue Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Flags) on my left and then the Sam’s Club on my right.  What did I say about capitalism conquering the world!  It was a good opportunity to stock up on wine and Paxil.  Interestingly Paxil doesn’t require a prescription in Mexico.  I could learn to love this country.  The picture of Cassandra, the seal, and myself was taken in Puerto Vallarta.  Our short time here was taken up with a tour to swim with the seals  and shopping along the beach front.  Ship left at 5:30 for Huatulco, Mexico so it was  back on board for happy hour.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Statendam was built in the Netherlands in 1993.  It is 719 feet long and 101 feet wide.  It’s gross tonnage is 55,819.  It carries 1,20 passengers and a crew of 580.  It has a maximum speed of 22 knots.  It is not the biggest class of cruise ship but it can pass through the Panama Canal, whose width is 106 feet.  Staterooms are nice size and the balconies are spacious. The ship is designed for an older group of travelers with few children.  I counted six bars and a coffee bar.  The library was the best I’ve seen on any cruise ship. 
Note on Life;  It looks like my grandson is joining the Navy.  We wanted either the Navy or Coast Guard.  He’s been living with us for the pass two years and high school graduation is coming up.  He does not  want to go to college at this time so the service looks like a great opportunity.  My main concern, like any other parent, I did not want him out trying to be a policeman of the world.  The world will take care of its self.  Democracy and capitalism will eventually spread through out the world, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.  If I were evangelical, it sounds like I would be a postmillennial believer.  But anyway, wish my grandson the best.
Leaving San Diego harbor we passed the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.  We all assume it was being painted because of all the tarps over the ship.  I later found out that the tarps were there while the ship is in port to cover up the top secret equipment. So, out of San Diego harbor headed for our first stop:  Puerto Vallarta

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It’s so pathetic to comment on Politics and  world affairs.  Family value politco’s having affairs and liberals wallowing in greed.  I feel more comfortable talking about the trip we just finished through the Panama Canal.  No it wasn’t the trip of a  lifetime, but it was interesting in the sights and people we met.  I really don’t know what a trip of a lifetime would be.  I’ve had several things on my loosely defined bucket list for years and like the trip across the North Atlantic by ocean liner, transit of the PanaCanal was another.  The trip was the idea of college friends from the class of 1958.  No, not my class, but my wife and myself serve as honorary members.  Our starting point for the eighteen day cruise was San Diego.  Not being familiar with the geography of San Diego, I let our friends choose the location for the nights lay over.  The Bay Harbor Yacht Club was located so all views covered parts of the San Diego bay.  It was wonderful and the restaurants in the area were numerous and excellent.
Sailing was at four in the afternoon so that left time for the pedal cab driver to take us for a beer in San Diego’s Gas light district.  This is the 0ld historic part of town that has become the night spot for revelers.   After cold beers we headed back to the Holland America Statendam to begin  settling in for the trip.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This the common air that bathes the globe. - Walt Whitman“Song of Myself”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”  John 1:1

Where Streets Of The World Meet Avenues Of The Mind