Sunday, February 16, 2003
Beep, beep, beep, beep... 5:00 a.m. already? All right! Time to go. Tom's dad, Jack, will be picking us up in 30 minutes. I grab a cup of coffee, and then I hear "Oh, no" coming from downstairs. After four days and four nights of torrential downpour, our basement has flooded. That's never happened before. What great timing. This vacation is off to an inauspicious start. Thank goodness for family nearby though. When Jack arrives, he graciously offers to handle the flood, and we get to the airport only 20 minutes later than planned. We arrive at Knoxville's airport at 6:20 for our 7:30 flight. No worries.
We flew through Atlanta and then on to Mexico City, where we are to catch the final leg of our flight. The Carpenters are playing over the sound system, and not just one song, but a medly. Nothing says Mexico like the Carpenters!
¡Bienvenidos a México!
Gee, the Mexico City airport is disorganized. In our quest for the immigration counter, we accidentally took a wrong turn, wound up outside, and had to re-enter the airport. Nice security. It would be a big problem trying to leave the country later if we didn't get our passports stamped and receive a Mexican tourist card upon entry. So we continued to search for immigration, and finally found it mysteriously labeled as "Gate 18."
That hurdle crossed, we next checked the departures screen to find our gate. The screen had our flight listed as leaving from "Gate B." In all our wandering so far, we had only seen gates with numbers. We soon found signs leading to Gate B though, but when we followed them, they led to (drumrole, please) the food court! We found a help desk and were told they usually don't post the gate number until 30 minutes before flight time. I guess "B" stands not just for "food court," but also for "to B announced."
The flight into Villahermosa is very pretty. The land is a deep, lush green of rivers, swamps, pastures, and palm trees. It's not at all as we pictured it. We'd read the state of Tabasco is 90-percent deforested and largely in the business of oil exploration, and we pictured a Mexican Houston. We were pleasantly surprised.
The taxi ride into the city was a ridiculously inflated jab price of 150 pesos. The exchange rate is about 11 pesos per dollar, so that's almost $14. A ride of that length not involving the airport would probably be about five bucks.
Winding down from the flights
We checked into the Howard Johnson's, located in the heart of Villahermosa, the Zona Luz, and after dinner we went out to explore and experience. The Zona Luz, or Zona Remodelada, is a section of pedestrianized streets with a little square, the Parque Juarez, at one end. It was Sunday night, and the place was alive, full of people and movement and music and street life. There were marimba bands and taco stands and singing and selling. The volume of activity was exciting. We were out for two hours and didn't see another gringo.
The view from HoJo