PVR 8.0

My post about the last day and trip home is overdue. Some highlights: Caroline had not booked a cabana for our last morning, but she was able to snag one of the two giant wicker couches at the poolside. Usually competition for these is at pretty much the level of Hunger Games, but it was cloudy and spitting the odd raindrop, so perhaps someone chickened out.

Comedy of elevator errors when I got back from my walk and Caroline was not at the terrace table where I left her. She had taken my hoodie and coffee mug to our room, but had not lingered there. As usual after one of my beach walks, I was wet and covered in sand. Really? I used to be on the beach patrol in Australia; I should be able to wade in the surf without getting drenched! After I showered and dressed in my fly-home-to-the-cold clothes, I tried the restaurant again, but could not find her. Returned to the room, assuming we had played hide and seek with the two elevators, only to find that I had neglected to put my keycard in my pants pocket. Locked out. Back to the pool, and found her on aforementioned sofa.

Things went really well after that. The Hilton PVR is only minutes from the airport, and we had a taxi to ourselves. No line-up for check in, and no line-up for security (I mean it: load the bins and walk on through) Our WestJet flight crew was motivated to get back to Winnipeg, and the plane was only two thirds full, so they had no trouble making a quick turnaround. Not only did we score a vacant seat in our row of three, we were the only people in the six front-row seats. This row is not everyone’s favourite, as the TVs are far away and you may get drafted for exit-row obligations, but the leg-room is extravagant.

As usual, the flight crew were unknown to me. Despite having more than a dozen former colleagues at WestJet, I never seem to fly with one of my old friends. Next best thing, though, we got a thumping tailwind and shaved half an hour off the return trip, landing in Winnipeg at 1600. It wasn’t even dark yet!

Breezed through immigration, despite having an uneaten Mexican pear in my carry-on. I declared it, in case it needed to be properly disposed of, but they let me keep it. Baggage took a few minutes, but Caroline’s “international orange” suitcase is easy to spot, and mine is also moderately distinctive. No line at customs, so we zipped through that, too. Claimed car, grabbed a Timmies dark, and hit the road home. This would have been great, except for two things: the temperature had dropped into the minus twenties, causing frost to form on the travel mug I left in the car, cooling my coffee instantly to barely warm, and we had to drive home without tunes because the valet had killed the car’s battery. A clue to how this happened was that the hatchback glass was not secure. I suspect that the valet had hit the wrong button on the key, causing the cargo light to stay on all week.They had boosted it, but the GPS was offline, the trip meter had reset to zero and the window wouldn’t auto-open. More first-world problems. How much can one man take?

Took a minute to gas up in Winnipeg and clean last week’s coating of frozen road-spray off the windows and headlights. I always think this is time well-spent for a night drive, but it sure was refreshing; Winnipeggers need to have a word with someone- the heat’s not working!

Easy drive home to Kenora. Stopped at Keewatin Place for bread, milk and orange juice, then went out for dinner with a friend.

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Heading South for Christmas

For a while there, it looked as if our flight might be delayed or cancelled for weather. Freezing rain warnings prompted us to make an early start on the drive to Winnipeg, even though we were already set up to go the day before our flight. Roads were damp, the air misty, but we did not see any real freezing precipitation until we neared the city. Aside from going through a lot of windshield-washer fluid, it wasn’t too bad.

Our first stop in the city was a shoe-repair place, to arrange for crepe outsoles to be bonded to Caroline’s mukluks. I bought them for her in Kingfisher last year, and they’re amazing. Far more brightly coloured than the mass-produced ones that have suddenly become popular, they attract attention everywhere she wears them. But the deerskin soles took a beating on concrete sidewalks last winter, and we actually ended up sending them all the way to Fort Severn for repairs. I know that’s crazy, but she met some people from there at work, and it turned out one of them did beadwork. So the deerskin got patched with caribou hide, which is tougher, but they recommended Caroline do what the jingle-dancers do to protect their nice moccasins: crepe-rubber soles. Asked about them at the shoe-repair place, and not only did the guy know what we meant, he had a pair of mukluks waiting for pickup that he had just done. Caroline’s will be ready in early January.

Popped in at Polo Park to pick up a couple of things we needed for the trip, and had one of those moments when you realize what you forgot to bring. As I slipped off my shoes in a change-room, it hit me that the last-minute decision to wear jeans and boots because of the sloppy weather meant that I should have packed my athletic shoes. In Plan A, they were on my feet. They were essential for walking in Mexico. So there I was in Winnipeg’s largest mall, days before Christmas, buying a pair of Skechers.

Checked in at the Best Western near the airport, and had a little rest before heading out to meet our friend Donna for dinner. We chose Teo’s Mano a Mano for this – it’s reasonably close to our hotel, and Donna can walk there from her Osborne Village condo.

Mano a Mano has changed their menu, and we were disappointed. Both our favourite pizzas are gone. We ordered others, but neither of us enjoyed them nearly as much. The tomato sauce on my Pugliese was too salty, and applied with a heavy hand. Caroline liked the toppings on her Stagioni, but not the way they were separated into quadrants. The oven-fired crust is still awesome, and the Insalata Misto is still one of the best salads out there, but there is no longer a pizza to bring me back.

Up at 0300 to get ready for our flight. Yes, Virginia, there is a three in the morning. It just feels unreal. Muzzy and unfocused – no wait, that’s the freezing fog and drizzle. It’s lifted a bit since last night, when two departing flights from Winnipeg were cancelled, but it’s not great.

Easy check-in at WestJet, then stumbled over to Stella’s for breakfast in the terminal. They have real food, and they open early. I managed to enjoy a mushroom and Swiss omelette at four in the morning, but Caroline’s stomach requires more advance notice.

While we were eating, the line-up for security grew much longer. It didn’t really matter, we had plenty of time, but ugh. Caroline wore the wrong thing. Her top has a neckline bordered with flat white beads that look exactly like chiclets. Apparently they do not X-ray well, so she had to have a pat-down. She won’t be wearing that top to travel by air again.

I expected our flight to be delayed by the need for de-icing, but it was delayed by a panic attack. A nervous flyer refused to get on, and they had to extract her bags. She will miss her vacation with her husband and son. She did take a calming medication (perhaps Atavan, the stuff they give you if you are too claustrophobic for an MRI scan) but she left it too late. The stuff takes an hour or more to fully kick in. I hope she had someone in Winnipeg to give her a ride, because after the flight left and the stress vanished, she probably couldn’t keep her eyes open.

The flight was uneventful, and our row had one of the very few empty spots, so we spread out and used the center seat for a coffee table.

The terminal in Puerto Vallarta was practically deserted. Apart from the unusual sight of a dog taking a crap in the concourse, things went very smoothly. Yes, the owners of the dog cleaned it up. Good thing the terminal here runs to polished stone floors, not carpet. Immigration lady pleasant, and she actually smiled when I wished her a Feliz Navidad. Our bags came through quickly and we scored a green light at customs, so we were out in the sunshine in record time.

One of the nice things about the Hilton in PVR is that it’s quite close to the airport, so no prolonged taxi ride. I fully expected to be told it would be two or three hours before our room was available, but they checked us straight in at noon. Sweet!

We are on the eighth floor, so the we will spend a lot of time waiting for elevators. This is a great way to meet people. Yes, I start conversations with strangers, it’s one of my flaws. “Partial Ocean View” means about what I thought it did. If you stand at one end of the balcony, you can see a bit of the beach between the buildings. Also, there is a rhythmic rumbling noise from the ventilation duct in the bathroom, so at night it sounds like the monster in the closet is purring, loudly. But the bed is comfy and the desk is huge, and those are the things we value most in a hotel room.

Internet is free in the lobby and so on, but there is a fee if you wish to go online in your room. Last year we scored a room directly over the lobby, and had free wifi on the balcony. (WOOT!) No such luck from the top floor, but I found out that if you book a whole week of wifi, it’s only about six bucks a day. At home, that would get you a coffee, but not a glass of wine. Here, the coffee and wine are free, and I don’t mind paying for an internet connection. Makes it way easier to blog if you don’t have to guess the URLs of the restaurants. Also, I will need my email, as I have homework coming. I’m taking an online writing course from Odyssey in January, and our first reading assignment is supposed to show up any day now.

Spent the afternoon poking around the hotel and walking on the beach. Ate supper in the Seafire, the hotel’s buffet restaurant. I actually prefer it to the a la carte restaurants on the property. Some guests complain that the buffet is too limited, but it depends on what kind of food you expect. If you came to Mexico but wanted to eat the same as if you were in America, you might be disappointed. Saturday night’s buffet is Mexican themed, and the hot line had tortilla soup, Mexican rice, puntas de res (tenderloin tips in a sauce), fish Veracruz style (olives and veggies on top), Pollo en mole (chicken in spicy brown sauce), nopales crema (cactus and corn in a cream sauce), and so on. We thought it was great, and lingered over soup, salad, entree and dessert courses.

Early to bed, on account of three in the morning hasn’t forgiven us yet.