Tag Archives: travel

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.

Bilbao, Spain: The Guggenheim Museum and More

Jump to now, North Carolina, USA, where I am this weekend for Becky and Al’s wedding. She is a Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat friend. (Registrations for 2016 are coming in. If you want to attend, make your reservation soon.)

BilbaoGehry28-5

And, now I’m going backward in time: To choose and edit more Spain photographs from the recent trip. My sister and I made it a point to go to Bilbao to see the spectacular Guggenheim Museum designed by architect Frank Gehry, opened in 1997. It was well worth the three-night stay on many levels.

BilbaoGehry28-9

The New York Times thinks so, too. They just published 36 Hours in Bilbao, Spain. They have covered Bilbao and surrounding Basque country in several travel publications. Bilbao is in the fold of a river valley ringed by mountains.

BilbaoGehry28-26

The Guggenheim Bilbao is a radical departure from its backdrop, a medieval city near the Atlantic, once a manufacturing powerhouse going through a reinvention of identity. The region is Basque. They speak Basque. Their soul is ancient, deep. Gernika (Guernica), where Franco and Hitler bombed the living daylights out of the town. Pablo Picasso captured the horror in his famously stark painting, which I saw last year in Madrid. The town is only 25 kilometers north of the Basque capital of Bilbao.

BilbaoGehry28-21 BilbaoGehry28-24 BilbaoGehry28-27

In Bilbao, stay in the medieval old quarter along the picturesque Nervion River. You might choose, as we did, the wonderful, clean, comfortable airbnb apartment owned by charming Luisma aka Bidebarietasiete Bilbao. He provided coffee, French press, a bottle of wine and fantastic hospitality.

BilbaoGehry28-19 BilbaoGehry28-18 BilbaoGehry28-16

This was a block away from the picturesque river, walking distance to the Guggenheim (or take a nearby tram) and just steps from incredible gourmet cheese and wine shops, and great tapas bars. Try the yogurt with sweetened carrot puree. I loved it.

BilbaoGehry28-28

Our intention was to do a day trip up the north coast of the Bay of Biscay along the Atlantic to the coastal town of San Sebastian. But, there wasn’t enough time. So, we are saving this for another trip. Throughout the region are Michelin star restaurants worthy of attention, small villages tucked into mountain valleys unchanged by centuries, narrow, cobbled walking streets flanked by tall, colorful stucco buildings adorned with wrought iron curlicue balconies trimmed in flower baskets.

BilbaoGehry28-20

At the Guggenheim we were mesmerized by the architecture, which many consider to be THE attraction.  We were permitted to take as many photographs as we wanted of the building. No photos of the art installations were allowed.

search search-1 search-2 imgres-1

The special treat was a temporary exhibit of Nikki de Saint Phalle‘s Nanas and other works, there until June 7, 2015. What do these images of women represent? Find out by clicking on her name.

NikkiSkull

It’s not just about being black, white, fat or thin. It’s about how we think of self and our role in the world.

BilbaoGehry28-3 Out on the street (I walked 16,000 steps this day), you come across pastry shops like this one with lines out the door. I wanted to … indeed … indulge, but the line was too long.

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo Mania: See Her in the USA

Our iconic Frida Kahlo, her life, art, clothing, jewelry, pain, sorrow, tragedies, affairs and everything else worth examining about her is featured in 2015 exhibitions around the United States of America.

Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life is an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden featuring the plants that Frida loved to wear and had in her Mexico City gardens.

p0080 self-portrait-with-necklace-of-thorns

Several famous paintings shown include one of Luther Burbank who she and Rivera admired, and “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” (1940), a parting gift to Nicholas Muray, Hungarian photographer and lover.

The Burbank portrait, which I have seen many times as part of our Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City: Art History Tour, is on loan from the Dolores Olmedo Museum.

The blockbuster Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition featuring Kahlo and Rivera will run until July 12, 2015. I know many who have bought plane tickets to go see it.

The New Yorker magazine says, “The exhibition is nothing if not an event, which is fitting, given how much of a moment Kahlo is having this year (see The Striking Absence in the Detroit Intitute of Arts’s Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Blockbuster and Frida Kahlo Love Letters Sell For $137,000—That’s Over $1,000 Per Page!).

For about the same price to travel to Detroit or New York, why not come to Mexico City for our art history tour that will take you to Frida’s paintings, Diego’s murals, Casa Azul and the Dolores Olmedo Museum where you can see it all (except those pieces out on loan!)

We have offered Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera in Mexico City: Art History Tour multiple times a year since early 2014 to rave reviews.

Plus, you will see the amazing gardens and the endangered xoloitzcuintle, too.

 

Iconic Frida Kahlo: A Look Inside Her Closet

Frida Kahlo is iconic. I have described her as the 20th century’s Virgin of Guadalupe. Her legend endures. The Huffington Post has just published a photographic essay by Ishiuchi Miyako of her personal belongings, along with letters and photographs, first revealed decades after her death.

These clothes and other life’s artifacts — letters, corsets, altered shoes to correct the leg length difference of childhood polio, family photographs — are part of a temporary show at Casa Azul where Frida and Diego shared a life together.  So popular, it will continue and you will see it as part of our fall 2015 educational arts programming.

Diego_Frida_July2014-101 Diego_Frida_July2014-107 Diego_Frida_July2014-103

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera in Mexico City: 3-Day Art History Tour. Click this link for complete program itinerary. This weekend walking tour also includes visits to Casa Azul and Museo Dolores Olmedo with transportation.

Choose Your Dates:

  1. September 24-27, 2015.
  2. October 22-25, 2015.
  3. November 12-15, 2015.
  4. December 3-6, 2015.

Come solo, with a partner or friend. Norma Hawthorne Shafer accompanies all programs.

Visit for the weekend. Make it a getaway. Make this trip part of your Mexico City travel plans. Stop here with us and then go on to other parts of Mexico or wrap up your Mexico trip and explore Mexico City with us before returning home. This is a great orientation to Mexico’s art, history and culture, and to become more familiar with Mexico City .

Diego_Frida_July2014-99 DiegoFrida4Group2-35 Diego_Frida_July2014-100

2015 Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City: 3-Day Art History Tour

New dates, October through December 2015. Come to Mexico City for an art history tour to explore the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera through their art. This is in-depth art education at its best! Come solo, with a partner or friend. Norma Hawthorne Shafer participates in all programs.

DiegoFrida4Group2-11 copy

2015 Schedule

  • September 25-27, 2015
  • October 23-25, 2015
  • November 13-15, 2015
  • December 3-6, 2015

Meet for a group dinner on Thursday at 7 p.m. We will have a long weekend — three full days —  to learn about Diego Rivera‘s stunning Mexico City murals, visit Casa Azul where Diego and Frida Kahlo lived, and see the largest private collection of their work at the Dolores Olmedo Museum.  Through their eyes, you will better understand Mexico’s political, cultural and social history, and their personal lives together. Theirs is a story of Mexico.

If you want to register, send me an email. Tell me the dates you prefer!

2FridasDetail

Our guide is a noted art historian who holds a master’s degree in art history and is about to embark on a doctoral program. She shares her passion for the Mexican Muralists, narrates the expedition, and leads us through these spaces to give you the most meaningful educational experience:

  • Palacio Nacional
  • Palacio Bellas Artes
  • Museo de Mural de Diego Rivera
  • Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP)
  • San Ildefonso National Preparatory School and Abelardo Rodriguez market
  • Casa Azul — the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
  • Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño

We offer you a rich, rewarding and educational experience to give you an in-depth understanding of Mexico and her cultural history. We work with local experts to take you deeper while giving you a broader perspective. We don’t just visit places to give you a cursory overview — we explore and digest them!

DiegoFrida4Group-7 copy BestDiegoRivera-24

Casa Azul  — Museo Frida Kahlo is a tribute to the life of both artists. Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño has the largest private collection of Frida and Diego paintings in the world. She was a benefactor and life-long personal friend of Rivera who became executor of his estate.

DiegoFrida4Group2-18 copy CasaAzul72013-7 DiegoFrida4Group2-32 copy

Plus, have lots of options for independent exploration: shop for outstanding folk art, and eat at local markets, historic and fine contemporary and traditional restaurants!

Looking4Diego-19  Diego_Frida_July2014-103

Base Trip Includes:

  • welcome dinner at renown restaurant Azul Historico
  • guided discussions by an accomplished art historian educated at UNAM and Southern Methodist University
  • introduction to Norma’s favorite restaurants (meals not included) and folk art galleries
  • transportation to Casa Azul and Dolores Olmedo Museum
  • complete travel packet and readings sent in advance via email

DiegoFrida4Group2-5 copy DiegoFrida4Group2-39 copy

Preliminary Itinerary

  • Day 1, Thursday:  Meet for group dinner at 7 p.m. at Restaurant Azul Historico near the Zocalo.
  • Day 2, Friday: guided visit to SEP, San Idlefonso, and the Abelardo Rodriguez market where Rivera’s students painted. Lunch and dinner on your own.
  • Day 3, Saturday: guided visit to Palacio Bellas Artes and Museo Mural de Diego Rivera. Optional folk art shopping or visit to Anthropology Museum. Lunch and dinner on your own.
  • Day 4, Sunday:  guided visit to Casa Azul and Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño. Includes transportation. Lunch on your own.
  • Program ends late Sunday afternoon, Day 4. You have the option to add-on nights if you wish.

Be ready to WALK and then, walk some more!  Don’t forget to bring an extra suitcase to pack treasures you pick up along the way.

  • Base Cost:  $595 USD per person without lodging.
  • Upgrade: $895 per person, includes 3-nights lodging.

Choose the upgrade and stay with us at a lovely, mid-range hotel in the historic center of Mexico City with breakfast included.

Rivera2

What the base trip does not  include:

  • lodging — we recommend wonderful hotels in the historic center of Mexico City where you can make and pay for your own lodging arrangements directly, such as Chill Out Flat B&B, Hotel Catedral or Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico.
  • meals except noted in itinerary, alcoholic beverages
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • museum admission fees
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services

Base Cost:  $595. USD per person. Small group experience. Maximum: 6 people.

Upgrade: $895 USD per person includes mid-range lodging and breakfast for three nights, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  Otherwise, all exceptions noted above apply.

Optional: Arrive early and/or stay later to discover Mexico City and her incredible museums and restaurants. We will give you a list  of recommendations to explore on your own.

Diego_Frida_July2014-139 Diego_Frida_July2014-59 Diego_Frida_July2014-101

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The last payment for the balance is due 45 days before the program start date.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will send you an itemized PayPal invoice.

Please understand that we make arrangements months in advance of the program. Deposits or payments in full are often required.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email. After 45 days before the program starts, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before the 45 day date, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

DiegoFrida4Group2-7 copy

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a signed and witnessed waiver of liability, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne Shafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Diego_Frida_July2014-107 Diego_Frida_July2014-72

To register, email us at  normahawthorne@mac.com. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

DiegoFrida4Group-77 copy

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary and substitute leaders without notice.