Bully Pulpit: Why Not Fly Aeromexico to Oaxaca?

Aeromexico, are you listening? Why is it so hard to have a decent customer service experience with your airline company? I’ve been debating whether to publish this and decided to go ahead. Maybe it will get a decision maker’s attention. There is no customer service feedback link on your website!

I arrived in Mexico City from the U.S. on June 4 from San Francisco on United Airlines, in time to get from Terminal One to Terminal Two and the Aeromexico counter. I wanted to buy a ticket to arrive in Oaxaca on the same day, despite the one-way ticket cost of $217 USD.  I rationalized that the cost was worth the wear and tear to avoid the overnight bus.

At the Aeromexico counter,  I pulled out my passport and credit card and gave it to the agent to buy the ticket. I signed the voucher and put my bags on the scale to weigh.  She said, I need your credit card back to charge you $50 USD for the second bag. (She was holding my ticket and my passport behind the counter.)

I said, you still have my card. She said, No, I gave it back to you.  I said, No you didn’t, and searched my wallet and handbag six times. We went back and forth: I gave it back to you. No, you didn’t.

A supervisor ( whose name is Mr. Cisneros, I was told) came out and watched as she rifled through papers and searched the counter. He did not help in the search for my missing card. In frustration, I pulled out another credit card to pay for the second bag and pushed my luggage around the side of the counter.

No, he said, blocking the way, you have to put it on the scale. I said, I already did that. She knows how much it weighs. I was traveling with my cane because of my recent knee replacement surgery, but that didn’t seem to matter either.

By now 30 minutes had passed and the window was closing on when I could board the plane. The scale was blocked by another customer.

I said, please hurry. Is there enough time for me to get through security and get on the plane? I heard him mutter under his breath, I don’t care.  

I was startled. What did you say? Did you say you don’t care if I make the plane or not?  He stared at me. I said, As a courtesy you should put my second bag through at no extra cost. You lost my credit card, I’m going to have to call the company to cancel it, it’s a huge inconvenience and I’m going to have to run to make this flight.

Mr. Cisneros was steadfast. Crossed his arms. Glared, then said, I don’t believe you. You hid the card in your purse so you could ask us to send your bag through free. Then he turned on his heels and walked away to the back.  I asked the agent to cancel the ticket and give me his name.

When I got to TAPO regional bus station and after I bought my bus ticket. I called Chase and cancelled the card. The card never turned up in my bags or luggage when I unpacked. Chase sent a new card via UPS Express to Oaxaca and I received it within three days!

What to do? Fly Volaris or Interjet to/from Oaxaca and Mexico City? Take the ADO GL or Platino bus (a six-and-a-half hour ride when there are no roadblocks)? Fly directly to Oaxaca from Houston on United Airlines? Avoid Aeromexico at all costs?

I did not buy an advance ticket on Aeromexico because if you don’t check in two hours before scheduled flight departure, they have the right to bump you. That’s happened to me before and I lost the value of the ticket. Planes are delayed. Lines at immigration and customs can be long. Odds are not good you will make a connection if you are not flying on a Delta codeshare with Aeromexico.

My friend Lee Ann who lives part of the year in Puerto Escondido, says, When you cross the border, never ask why and always look down? In many places in the world there is an attitude of why try, it is impossible to change the system.

We always look down here to avoid the potholes and pitfalls on the sidewalks so as not to stumble and fall. The subtle connotation is to look down to avoid confrontation. One becomes acculturated not to challenge authority based on upbringing and country of origin. Never asking why means accepting things as they are, of knowing that it’s not your right as a visitor to effect change. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

Too Much Fun and Where to Eat in the Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain, is a food and wine lover’s paradise. It is one of the best tourist attractions in the city. Here, your eyes can be bigger than your stomach. So, watch out!  Most dishes are huge enough to share by two people.

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Remember you can always order more. Unless you take a grazing route through the market nibbling on cheese, red wine, raw oysters, crusty bread, Spanish ham, olives and the most divine desserts I’ve ever seen.

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On our first full day in Barcelona, we roamed the market in search of El Quim tapas bar (recommended by friends) and never found it until after lunch.

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The allure of plates of fresh cooked shellfish was too compelling to dismiss. We scouted the restaurants to determine which one was the most packed with locals and settled on El Cochinillo Loco (The Crazy Pig), which we walked by thrice before deciding.

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The fresh shrimp, langostinos, clams, oysters, mussels, octopus, squid, sea bass and other unidentifiable frutos del mar were piled high and our eyes got bigger just looking.  So, we waited for two seats to open up and sat between two local couples immersed in platter sharing. It was 2:00 p.m. Boqueria_49 Best-11By 4:00 p.m. we had finished our sangrias, had too many leftovers, and become best friends with our lunch neighbors.  We were happy to divide the remains with them since we couldn’t carry out to our hotel!

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Then, one couple ordered a bottle of Spanish cava (sparkling wine) while the other bought a basket of fresh organic strawberries. The strawberries landed in the sparkling wine. Of course! I have many more photos of all of us hugging, laughing and giggling, too many to publish here.

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I can’t imagine a better way to get a cultural immersion and practice Spanish than to share lunch and a bottle of wine with Ines Natera, who works at the Universidad Politecnica Catalunya and her husband.

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Then, my sister reminded me we had a dinner reservation three hours later at the Michelin 1-star restaurant Alkimia. How were we ever going to get our appetite back? Since dinner doesn’t really start until 9:00 p.m. we were hopeful.

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So we said goodbye to our friends and set out for a market walkabout. By now, our eyes could not deceive us and it was easy to pass by the chocolate covered berries, the nougat, the dark chocolate coated orange rinds, and the custard tarts… (well, not really)

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the freshest fruit, bottles of sweet red vermouth, mounds of crustaceans, farm vegetables, sardines, anchovies, and every imaginable food gift perfect for a special friend (or yourself).

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To walk it off, we took a circuitous route back to our hotel through the medieval old quarter of Barcelona bordering La Rambla, and then into the narrow streets where locals were celebrating Sant Jordi Day with gifts of flower bouquets for sweethearts and books for beaus.

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We didn’t take home the emu eggs or crustaceans or pintxos or tapas. We did bring home Catalunya olives, vermouth, Iberian ham, super ripe stinky goat cheese, and lots of chocolate.

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And, what did we do on our last day in Barcelona. Stock up with a final visit to the Boqueria market, of course, followed by a run through the basement food section of El Cortes de Ingles at Placa Catalunya. Can you tell? I’m in love with Spain (second to Mexico, of course).

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Boqueria Market Eateries

  1. El Quim (Located mid-section of the market on one of the center aisles. It’s a very small bar. You could miss it. Great tapas.)
  2. Bar Central. There are two locations in the market. I like the one with long bar in the back.
  3. El Cochinillo Loco, Portico Sant Josep 6-8, Tel. 93 119 19 54

Footnote: Since returning to Oaxaca earlier this week, I haven’t done much except sleep, eat, visit with a few friends and venture out for a few afternoons in search of wifi service. I have none at the casita, so my communication is limited. I’m sitting in the wonderful fresh breeze at Tierra Antigua Restaurante in Teotitlan del Valle, with a delicious lunch and internet. Hallelujah. In celebration of small wonders.

 

Travel Day (and Night) to Oaxaca, Mexico

You might think that a short post about taking an airplane to Oaxaca belongs in a Tweet or Facebook post. Federal elections will be held this Sunday, June 7, and this is wrecking havoc in Oaxaca. The Oaxaca airport was closed yesterday and news from friends there on the ground is that it is closed today, too.  The CNTE teachers union Section 22 has shut down the airport and Pemex gasoline stations in and around Oaxaca. Access is limited.

This is a way of life in Oaxaca. We are never surprised, only discouraged that we have to find alternate routes, interrupt plans, do a work-around and accept. What I have learned from living in Mexico is patience and acceptance. As a visitor, that’s all I can do.

I arrive in Mexico City this evening. My plan is to take an overnight ADO bus to Oaxaca arriving tomorrow morning. This way, I’ll avoid the Oaxaca airport. I hope there is a taxi driver and enough gasoline to get me home and no delays along the way.

Friends from Oaxaca and Philadelphia are also scheduled to arrive into Oaxaca this evening by air from Houston. I hope it will be an easy day for them, too.

Hasta pronto from SFO, Norma

 

 

Brigitte Huet, Kandart Sterling Silver Jewelry Sale

This is a show and sale for 10 pieces of Kandart sterling silver jewelry made in Oaxaca, Mexico, by French silversmith Brigitte Huet and her husband Ivan Campant.

Bracelet, slide clasp, 7" long x 2" wide. $665 USD plus shipping + insurance

Bracelet, slide clasp, 7″ long x 2″ wide. $665 USD plus shipping + insurance

The one-of-a-kind pieces are the last remaining for sale from the Oaxaca collection.

26" pendant, $595 USD plus shipping + insurance

26″ pendant, $595 USD plus shipping + insurance

Many of them were made 15 and 20 years ago and put away as keepsakes that Brigitte and Ivan have now decided to sell. This may be your last opportunity to buy these unique collector pieces.

If you want something, please choose quickly, then contact me by email and include your mailing address with ZIP Code. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the piece plus shipping and insurance at the sale value.

Brigitte and Ivan thank you and send best wishes.

They left Oaxaca in early 2014 to return to southern France. They are living in a small village near Toulouse, creating new wax carved designs that will be made in limited editions with silver casting as soon as they are able to move to a house that will accommodate a working studio. Meanwhile, Brigitte continues to develop new ideas, most recently implemented in wood sculpture, too.

Eagle bracelet, small is 6-1/2" x 2", $550. Longer is 7-5/8" x 2", $600.

Eagle bracelet, small is 6-1/2″ x 2″, $550. Longer is 7-5/8″ x 2″, $600.

Bracelet, 6-7/8" long x 1" wide, $445.

Bracelet, 6-7/8″ long x 1″ wide, $445.

17" long necklace, 1/4-1/2" wide, $295 USD

17″ long necklace, 1/4-1/2″ wide, $295 USD16" necklace, $335  necklace, $335, 16″ long

Eagle pendant, 3-1/2"long x 1-5/8" wide, $245.

Eagle pendant, 3-1/2″long x 1-5/8″ wide, $245.

Pendant, 2-3/4" long x 1-5/8" wide, $250.

Pendant, 2-3/4″ long x 1-5/8″ wide, $275.

Lady Pendant, 3-1/4" long x 2-1/4" wide, $275.

Lady Pendant, 3-1/4″ long x 2-1/4″ wide, $300.

How to order: First send me an email.

  1. Tell me which piece you want.
  2. Tell me your mailing address with ZIP Code
  3. Tell me if you want insurance for the full value of your purchase.
  4. Order and pay by Monday, June 2: I will ship from California.
  5. Order and pay after June 2: I will ship from California after July 9.
  6. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the amount of the piece(s) and add shipping and insurance to the total.
  7. Upon payment, I will ship within one day if order received by June 2, 2015.

P.S. I have no earrings or rings from Brigitte to offer for sale at this time.

Bilbao Reunion with Brigitte Huet, Silversmith and Jeweler

Our reunion with artist, jeweler, silversmith and dear friend Brigitte S. Huet has been in the making for over a year when Barbara and I first planned to visit Spain. Brigitte and her husband Ivan returned to France in early 2014 after making Oaxaca their home and creative inspiration for over 20 years. We miss them.

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So, we made a meet-up plan for Bilbao, which is about four hours by car from the Toulouse area where they now live, to visit the Guggenheim Museum together.

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Barbara asked Brigitte to bring a trunk show of collector pieces she had created in the early years. We spent time looking at designs we had never seen before that had been tucked away in Brigitte’s treasure chest in France. They included belt buckles, deeply carved silver beads, pendents, rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

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Some of these, mostly necklaces and bracelets, are now available for sale. I have them with me and I will be posting photos and prices soon.

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We reminisced, drank good red wine, ate stinky unpasteurized cheese, walked and giggled. It was wonderful to be with Brigitte again. They have not produced jewelry since returning to France.

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There is no place where they live now to set up a casting studio. But, Brigitte has carved wax designs in preparation for what comes next and she has been carving wood, too. The creative life continues.

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Enviando besos y abrazos de Brigitte y Ivan de Francia.  Sending kisses and hugs from Brigitte and Ivan from France.

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