My Trip to Manzanillo – December 20-25, 2013

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On Thursday after we had finished packing for our trip, Pat and I went out for dinner. We walked to Yves’ while the sun was setting. We were seated at a nice table near a water fountain and enjoyed our drinks, a couple of strong margaritas for me. The service was slow but we didn’t mind because we were in no hurry. Usually the service in restaurants in Mexico is too quick. It was very dark by the time we walked home and we needed the flashlights we had brought with us.

We struggled to stay awake to watch the finale of X Factor on TV. At the end of the day I felt relaxed and excited about our trip. We had planned this trip to celebrate our special wedding anniversary. We also were looking forward to a change of scenery and some new dining experiences.

On Friday morning I was up at 6:30 as usual. I surveyed the various articles fed to me by News360 on my iPad. I also read the Calgary Herald, which has a great iPad app. I was pleased to see the headline and to read that the Northern Gateway pipeline had received conditional approval from the National Energy Board. There were several articles about the unresolved issues with First Nations, including opposition to the pipeline. The appalling condition of First Nations in Canada is a topic I hope to write about sometime in the future.

Shortly after 10:00 we were ready to hit the road. Pat chose to drive because she prefers not to navigate. I had printed some maps and I was also tracking our route using GPS on Google Maps on my smart phone.

We suddenly came upon a choice of routes and I had to make an instant decision. The route numbers were the same but one was libre (free) and the other cuota (toll). I told Pat to go right which she did, but almost immediately we realized that I had made the wrong decision. Take the next Retorno (U-turn), I advised Pat. Opportunities to turn around are common in Mexico but there was none on this road. It had been our intention to take toll roads because they are much better and provide emergency services. But now Pat had to drive on a rough road with no shoulders and no way to get on the toll road.

I was determined not to become anxious. But of course there is already a difference between trying not to be anxious and succeeding and not feeling any anxiety without even trying.

After quite a while we were able to get on the toll road which was much better. We arrived in the Manzanillo area and now the task of finding our hotel began. However, Google Maps on the smart phone proved useless because it disconnected at critical times and the scale of the map did not become detailed enough. I could not locate us on the printed maps. It seemed that we were driving out of the city so we decided to turn around. I was beginning to lose the struggle to not become frustrated and anxious. We stopped to ask a Mexican for directions and learned that our resort was only a couple of kilometers ahead. Not long afterwards we found our hotel more by luck than good navigating.

I was disappointed in my inability to remain calm. Pat had picked up on my anxiety and had become somewhat anxious herself. We rarely help each other maintain positive emotions. Instead we amplify each others’ negative emotions in a cycle as we feed off each other.

The lobby of the Barceló Karmina Palace

The lobby of the Barceló Karmina Palace

Arriving at the Barceló Karmina Palace gave us a real lift. To get to the entrance we drove through a gorgeous golf course. The hotel staff greeted us very pleasantly. The hotel lobby was magnificent. Our room was spacious and located on the top floor, floor 7, with an ocean view. The initial impression exceeded our expectations.

After some unpacking we went for a snack at a restaurant by the pool surrounded by palm trees. We leisurely walked around the grounds to get our bearings. This is always necessary for me to become emotionally settled as at first I am always over-stimulated in any new environment.

Pat and I learned many years ago during our travels that I have difficulty relaxing when I first arrive somewhere new. It is still that way. Even though I have gained a lot of insight into my own emotional reactions, I have not gained much ability to control those unwelcome feelings.

We did some reading and later went for some dinner at the buffet. It was disappointing, not up to the standard expected at such a magnificent resort. However, all the visits to buffets on subsequent days were fine.

After dinner Pat unsuccessfully looked for something to watch on TV because the service was Mexican cable with little of interest to us. But we were getting sleepy anyway. It was time for lights out.

After waking up on Saturday morning, my first thoughts were on finding somewhere to get a cup of coffee. When I had finished shaving, Pat was up. “What’s the plan?” she asks. I tell her that I am going to look for coffee. “Well I want to come too,” she says in a tone of voice that is critical of me not including her. This irritates me because I often go for coffee alone early in the morning and I had no way of knowing that this time she wanted to come along. Why ask me what my plan is and then tell me it is not right, I wonder to myself. I quickly realize that my irritation is disproportional to this very small matter. I am much too aware that I am not nearly as relaxed as I would like to be.

We were pleased to find a coffee station in the lobby. We both brought our iPads and easily connected to the open Wi-Fi network. We checked our email and I began to surf the stories on News360.

We had some breakfast poolside at the Grill. It is pleasantly warm and we were comfortable in shorts and T-shirts. We enjoyed the lush tropical vegetation but it is a bit more humid than I like.

Pat wanted to suntan in the morning and she found a nice spot by the adults’ only pool. But at first she was not able to get beach towels because we didn’t have the required vouchers with us. She did manage to get towels but the vouchers would be needed in order to get her room key back which they were holding in exchange for the towels. I went to our room to get the vouchers but there were none in our welcome package. I went to the front desk and explained the problem. The clerk replied that they had run out of vouchers but someone was bringing them in about ten minutes. I found this annoying but I used the time to stand in the line at the concierge desk in order to make a reservation for dinner.

I went back to the front desk and again explained that there were no vouchers for towels in our welcome package. The clerk replied that they had run out of vouchers but someone was bringing them

in about ten minutes. I had heard this before and I knew that ten minutes in Mexico usually does not mean ten minutes. I decided not to wait.

I went down to the pool to explain the situation to Pat. She picked up on my irritation and also became irritated (with me). I felt irritated with myself for feeling irritated and I felt irritated with Pat for feeling irritated with my irritation. All this irritation over something so inconsequential was not good.

20131222_090749I went for a long, brisk walk up hills and down hills. It was warm and humid and I sweated profusely but it felt good. After an hour and a half of walking, I returned to our room and began writing (this). The walk and the writing were therapeutic and I began to feel myself relax.

Pat returned from sun tanning and when she was ready we went for lunch. We again went to the Grill and had drinks and snacks. Our hotel was an all-inclusive and there were no restrictions on what we could order. Over lunch I suggested to Pat that we extend our stay by a couple of days and she immediately supported the idea. I explained to Pat that when I booked our accommodations in September I was trying to control our expenditures. But since then the stock markets had risen significantly and our RRSPs were up in value. I now felt more comfortable spending a bit more generously on ourselves.

We then spent more time on our iPads in the lobby. I took care of extending our stay. We were also delighted by a warm and encouraging email received from friends in Ajijic.

And I also received an email from the leader of the Ajijic Freethinkers. He confirmed acceptance of my offer to make a presentation to the group at the February 2014 meeting. I immediately felt excited and mentally stimulated by this opportunity.

Later we dressed up for dinner at Agave, the resort’s Mexican restaurant. We arrived at 6:30 just as it opened for the evening. We typically are early diners and Pat and I both like the quiet time before later diners arrive. We also enjoyed the twilight. Dinner was excellent. There was also some live entertainment which included a tableside offering. I requested “Somewhere My Love” which had been played at our wedding and was our special song. I was quite talkative during dinner, a sure sign that I am becoming more relaxed and something much appreciated by Pat who is a good listener.

On Sunday I woke up feeling refreshed. I was immediately aware that this was the date of my wedding. I felt considerable gratitude for the opportunity to experience marriage. I felt appreciation for having a wife with whom to share life. I felt fortunate to have a wife who was able to put up with my moodiness, never an easy task. I was happy to be at a beautiful resort. All the irritation of the previous day was gone. I now had only warm thoughts towards Pat and I was enjoying our trip together. I was glad that we had decided to lengthen our time here.

We again went to the lobby for coffee. I wanted something different to read that morning so I purchased the December 21st, 2013 issue of The Economist via zinio, an iPad app. I marveled at the technology which enabled me to quickly download the content I wanted. I read several articles – a summary of the big news stories of 2013, why Uruguay was chosen country of the year for 2013 and about the Federal Reserve Bank at age 100.

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Pat reading by the pool

After a quick breakfast at the buffet we headed to the pool area to lie in the sun. I took my smart phone with me and listened to my music which I had stored on it. This morning I chose Kenny G. I tanned and walked on our little beach but an hour was enough for me. Pat planned to stay for three hours as she has an amazing capacity to soak up the sun. She was enjoying reading a John Grisham novel.

I booked our dinner reservation for the next day. I was also informed of a special Christmas Eve dinner, now available to us because we had extended our stay. Although the resort is all-inclusive, premium tables were available as an upgrade. I took the upgrade, the cost of which was the purchase of a bottle of wine, to ensure a prime location for the show after the dinner. And I reflected on how a good trip was becoming even better. I was feeling very good indeed.

While Pat tanned, I tried to buy The Economist The World in 2014. But the download failed even though I tried several times. I assumed the failure was probably due to a slow Wi-Fi network.

The afternoon started with a quick trip to the buffet. We then walked to Plaza Manzanillo, a shopping area within walking distance of the resort. Pat picked out a couple of T-shirts for me including a bright orange one. After shopping, we walked further along the street to get some additional exercise.

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At El Fogón Restuarant

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Pat’s friend for the evening

Someone in Ajijic had recommended the best restaurant in Manzanillo, El Fogón, to us. We decided to go there to celebrate our wedding anniversary and our long marriage to each other. The restaurant was a short cab ride from the resort. Expecting fine dining, Pat had put on a dress. But when we arrived it was very rustic and casual and Pat felt overdressed. The food was excellent but the service was too fast, typical in Mexico. There was again tableside entertainment and this time I requested “Blue Spanish Eyes”. A cat roamed the tables and since the portions were large, Pat fed it some of her food. We did not want our evening to end too soon so we both had a couple of after dinner drinks. We felt like we truly celebrated – four drinks for Pat and five for me, two Ruso Blancos, a glass of white wine and two Grand Marniers. The irritation of a couple of days ago had by now receded into the distant background.

Before going to sleep I enjoyed some Sunday Night Football and did not mind the Spanish commentary.

I awoke on Monday with pleasant memories of Sunday evening. And by now there was no doubt whatsoever about the decision to stay until Wednesday. We eased into the day with our normal routine, coffee in the lobby with iPads.

I checked the NFL Week 16 results and reviewed the playoff picture. Football becomes very interesting at this time of year but this is not an interest that Pat shares with me. I was also able to successfully download The Economist The World in 2014. I browsed the publication for a while and then we went to the spa to book two massages for 4:00 pm. After breakfast we went for a long walk. Away from the resort, much of the area looked old and poor.

I went to get a tank of gas for the trip home. I do not like leaving this to the last minute because I know if for any reason it does not go smoothly I will become anxious. I often plan my activities in such a way to minimize circumstances that could trigger anxiety. The day before during our walk and during our cab ride we had noticed an unfamiliar traffic pattern for left hand turns. I was grateful that I had not encountered this for the first time while driving myself. The mission was accomplished without any great difficulties.

The afternoon consisted of lunch, reading and our massages which included a trip to the steam room. Pat and I often enjoy spa experiences and we both enjoy massages. It was relaxing but only 25 minutes, back and arms rather than full body, and I wished that I had purchased an upgrade.

After dinner, I watched Monday Night Football while Pat read.

On Tuesday morning we continued our well-established routine. I read an interesting article on POLITICO, another iPad app that I like, about under-reported stories for 2013. I also used Google to do research for the speech I will be giving in February. I emailed links to myself when I found content of interest and saved them in a folder. I greatly enjoy this type of intellectual challenge.

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Manzanillo – The sailfish capital of the world

After breakfast we again went to the pool for the morning. In the afternoon we took a cab to the shopping area in downtown Manzanillo near where the cruise ships dock. Downtown looked old and poor. It seemed to me that all the shops were the same, full of T-shirts, coffee mugs and trinkets. I people watched while Pat checked out many stories which all seemed the same to me. It was busy and we wondered if the locals were doing their last minute Christmas shopping as many were carrying lots of stuff. The taxi fare to downtown was 120 pesos but only 75 pesos for the way back, something strange about that.

The Christmas Eve dinner was set up on the lawn adjacent to a stage. Tables of ten were attractively decorated in the spirit of the season. We exchanged our voucher for a bottle of red wine which we both liked and had no difficulty finishing. A family of five Mexicans was also seated at our table and they looked very serious most of the evening. We enjoyed our meals and we appreciated the fact that all the dishes were labeled in both Spanish and English. A band played during dinner but it was too loud and, as Pat observed, at times the music even sounded angry.

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El Cascanueces

Pat was expecting a choir singing Christmas carols for the entertainment after dinner. The first surprise was that the entertainment started exactly on time. Then instead of a choir we got some classy ballet – El Cascanueces – The Nutcracker. The performance lasted about an hour after which the band returned playing dance music. The Mexicans from our table immediately headed for the dance floor and were obviously now enjoying themselves. Pat and I called it an evening as I am completely uninterested in dancing.

On Christmas morning we packed and then went to the buffet for our last meal at the resort. We were on the road by 11:30 and had no difficulties with either driving or navigating. But around 1:00 we were stopped by a police roadblock which was turning all traffic back. We knew that our only option was to find a way onto the libre road in the direction we needed to go. We wondered why the roadblock had not been set up much earlier where it would have been easier to divert traffic onto the libre route. After backtracking for over twenty minutes we found the route we wanted.

It was a scenic route. We drove on crooked roads through multiple canyons with switchbacks down one side and up the other. The traffic was heavy because of the diversion from the libre and progress was slow. Pat had to concentrate on driving and we were too tense to enjoy the landscape. My map indicated points where the libre and cuota routes converged and we hoped for access. But we were at the bottom of the canyon and the libre was on a bridge high above us. This  continued for quite a while but we were eventually able to get on the cuota. Its was smooth sailing the rest of the way home.

Pat noted that our drive home was fifteen minutes shorter than our drive to Manzanillo but only because we didn’t get lost at the end because we know where we live. A trip which should take about three and a half hours had taken us four hours and forty-five minutes. But it was so worth it. One bad day of mood problems was long forgotten by both of us and it was a small price to pay for all the good times.

We are already beginning to think about a trip to Puerto Vallarta in February.

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