Tag Archives: tickets

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.

Inside the Nasrid Palace: The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

GranadaDay3_29-7  Carved wood, intricate plaster arches and decorative columns,  outstanding 13th century mosaics, and water, water everywhere define the palaces of the Nasrid kings at the Alhambra, Granada, Spain. The best description I have found is this one from Islamic Arts that offers you a virtual walking tour.


How to Buy Tickets

It is not easy to gain entry. One must buy tickets online a month in advance of your visit. They are not available any earlier. My sister did this by staying up all night the day the tickets went on sale for the dates we wanted. There is a nine hour time difference between Spain and San Francisco.


Tour groups seem to get priority, so within the hour of opening sales, the only tickets remaining were those in the afternoon time slot. That turned out to be a good thing for us since we still hadn’t adjusted to the time difference, we were moving slowly and we were inside the shade of the gardens and palace during the hottest part of the day!


Tips for Visiting the Alhambra

  • Buy tickets for two days. One day is not enough. It takes one day to cover the Alhambra. There are two palaces — The Nasrid Palace and The Generalife, known as the summer palace. The territory is vast. There is a lot of walking and stair climbing.


  • Rent the audio guide. It’s a must and definitely worth the extra euros. There are two stations: one at the entry by the ticket office and another inside by the Charles (Carlos) V Palace. You must return the guide to whichever place you picked it up because you have to leave an ID card as security.


  • Eat lunch or dinner on the patio of the beautiful Parador Granada hotel. The cost is comparable to other venues, the views glorious, the gardens enchanting and the history is deep. It was the Franciscan monastery here where Isabella of Castile was first buried. Her remains were later removed to the Granada Cathedral by grandson Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

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  • Take your time in the Nasrid Palace. Once you enter at your appointed time there is no limit to how long you can be there. We had the afternoon time slot that allowed us to enter the grounds at 2 p.m. with an 8 p.m. exit. Our ticket gave us access to the palace at 3 p.m. We lingered and let all the rushing tour groups pass us by. We were inside for over two hours just savoring the experience.


  • Sit wherever you can and listen to the water. Fountains and running water were part of Moslem art and an integral function for living a prayerful life. It is meditative and tranquil.


  • Look up. The ceilings are filled with surprises. Honeycomb domes have been able to withstand centuries of earthquakes with little or no damage.

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  • Step into archways and niches. Even the backs of the openings are filled with messages and prayers, inscriptions in Arabic, remains of polychrome frescoes.

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It’s hot in Granada in April. Walking shoes, lightweight clothing, sun protection (cream and hat) are musts. The locals say in summer it can get close to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. So, please plan your packing accordingly. Early mornings and night were chilly for us so we had shawls and jackets along, too.


And, we were constantly thirsty. Water, water everywhere also means slurping down Gatorade to stay hydrated! Of course, the locals prefer to drink beer the beverage of choice beginning as early as 10 a.m.

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One afternoon we decided to walk down to the Darro River from the Alhambra to return to our hotel Casa Morisca. It’s a steep slope and in the descent you can understand how the Moors were able to rule the Iberian Peninsula from here for seven hundred years from this strategic mountain top.


In 1492, at the beginning of the Inquisition, when Spain unified under the Catholic kings, Moors and Jews were required to convert to Catholicism or leave. Those who converted were always suspect of practicing their religion in hiding and were often brought before the Inquisition to test their faith.



There were no surviving Jewish communities in Spain after 1492 and mosques are forbidden here. Many conversos moved to New Spain where they practiced Catholicism embedded with ancient Jewish rituals. We are in Girona now, north of Barcelona, where we are visiting the best surviving medieval Jewish neighborhood in Spain under the shadow of the most amazing Cathedral that was started in 1038 A.D. atop a Roman forum.


Tlacolula Meanderings: Play, Parking Tickets and No Where In Particular

One of my favorite past-times is the Sunday Tlacolula market.  I never tire of it. There is always something new, different, another point-of-view. This week there were strange flowers that looked like lollipops, plus fuzzy rambutans for eating.


Last Sunday, I parked on the street not attending to the “no parking” sign, which I didn’t think included the spot where I had stationed La Tuga.  Afterall, it was exactly where I parked the week before! Then, Carol and I set out to cover the market from one end to the other.  It was early and for the first block, we trailed a duo carrying guacalotes intended for sale.

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Then, there were the petate basket weavers from San Juan Guelavia who make traditional mats that gringos use for floor coverings who vend in the church courtyard along with the sellers of sal de gusano.

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The Tlacolula market is a food, flower and people fest. There’s no telling what you will find. Including a flower vendor with a floral skirt.

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After returning to find a parking ticket the size of a legal sheet of paper, I hailed a huge pick-up truck with flashing lights, two official policemen in the front seat, to ask where to go to pay it and how much it would cost, only to be greeted by the driver with, Do you speak English?” in perfect English.  I would follow this civil servant anywhere.

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And I did, winding around the streets of Tlacolula to get to the first hidden-away office, where several officials inspected me, ushered me into the inner sanctum, where the chief, a woman, stamped the ticket and told me to go to the regional finance office to pay. They are closed on Sunday, so I had to return during the week.

I did. The line was short. The ticket cost 255 pesos, about $21 USD, and I learned my lesson. Park in an official parking garage!


On the day I paid the ticket, these guys were still cruising the street. Guess what? They waived. Me, too.

Oaxaca Guelaguetza: 2013 Folkloric Festival


They call it Mondays on the Hill.  The original Zapotec meaning of Guelaguetza is transformed into a folkloric dance festival held in the auditorium on the Cerro del Fortin on the last two Mondays in July each year (except when the date falls on Benito Juarez’ birthday).  There are two performances today, Monday, July 22, 2013 — one at 10 a.m. (as we speak) and another this afternoon at 5 p.m.  The schedule repeats next Monday, July 29.

 All You Want to Know: Oaxaca Guelaguetza on Oaxaca Wiki

Tickets are not cheap!  They cost 1,250 pesos per person which translates to $97.62 USD in today’s exchange rate.  Pay a premium if you buy on Ticketmaster.   Another option is to go to the Llano Park tourism office and buy your ticket(s) there.  I’m still debating about whether to go next Monday for the second week live performance.

Computer Ringside Seats!  Live Streaming from Oaxaca! at

10 a.m. and 5 p.m. today — Central Daylight Time.

Disfruta bien! Enjoy!

A few years ago, I wrote about the history of Guelaguetza here.  What I wrote then is still true today.  And, you can read more about Guelaguetza meanings and celebrations held in California.

From Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: Preview

Palenque, photo by Roberta Christie

On Tuesday night January 31, I will be on the ADO-GL overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, set to arrive mid-morning on Wednesday, February 1.  This is at least a 12-hour bus trip, and I’ll be traveling with Fay, a Canadian woman from an island off the coast of Vancouver.  Since this is my first trip to Chiapas, my friend Roberta shared her photos of what I might expect.

I also rely on recommendations from friend Sheri Brautigam and her terrific website Living Textiles of Mexico for advice.  Sheri is passionate about the huipiles and other textiles of Chiapas and I want to experience some of what she has discovered there.  I’ve spent some time in Guatemala, have a few pieces I’ve collected, and attended related exhibitions at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, I’m familiar with the type of brocade weaving on back strap looms that brings Chiapas recognition as one of the great textile centers of the world.

First, some bus ticket buying advice for foreigners (that’s people like me who don’t have a Mexican bank-issued credit card).  1)  Find a Mexican friend with a credit card to buy your ticket online and then pay him/her back.  2) Go in advance, in-person to the bus station (4-7 days before you want to go) and buy your ticket with a U.S. bank-issued credit card or cash.

From Oaxaca to SCDLC you have three options for class of service.

1) OCC (452 pesos one-way) leaves daily, is a first class bus with one toilet and can accommodate 44 passengers.  Seats do not fully recline.

2) ADO-GL (542 pesos, one-way) leaves several times a week, has 40 seats and two toilets, for women and men.

3) ADO Platino (726 pesos) is the highest level of service with 25 seats that fully recline, internet service, electrical outlets for PDAs/computers at each seat, and two toilets. According to the schedule, it gets there faster, too. ADO Platino is only in service Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Oaxaca city to San Cristobal de las Casas.

In my “freedom” mode, I bought a one-way ticket.  My plan is to also see two major Mayan archeological sites: first, Palenque and then Bonampak, where there are incredible murals, located near the Guatemala border.  I don’t really need to get back to Oaxaca until mid-February.  So, stay tuned for the next adventures!

Bonampak mural, courtesy of Roberta Christie

I traveled to the Yucatan to visit Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the early 1970’s along rough, pot-holed dirt roads.  The sites were spectacular.  It was a real treat to climb to the top of the pyramids and look out across the jungle.  My son, who recently went to Chichen Itza, says this is no longer possible.  Then, my dream was to get to all the major sites:  Tikal, Palenque and Copan. In the 90’s I climbed to the top of the highest Tikal temple on a hand-over-hand ladder attached vertically to the side of the building — two days in a row!  I loved it there.  Now, I’m getting closer to the early dream.