Thursday/ souvenirs and coins

I had no problem getting an Uber driver at 3 am this morning. There is a new, designated spot in the Seattle airport’s parking garage, and Abdulqadir (my driver) showed up in his Toyota Prius in 7 minutes.   As always, it was nice to unpack my little souvenirs from Mexico, from my bags today!

I bought the little Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) beaded skull at the Plaza Machado (Mazatlán town square), and the porcelain mini-birds at Micheal’s gift shop.
The front and back of a ten pesos coin. The front of the coin has the national shield and says ‘Estados Unidos Mexicanos’: the United States of Mexico. Mexico has 31 states, and then there is Mexico City which is in a special district or state – much like Washington DC in the United States. The back of the coin shows the sun stone from Aztec mythology, with the sun god Tonatiuh.

Wednesday/ halfway there

This charming little guy at the airport shop, is hugging Orendain tequila, made in Jalisco state. Orendain’s reposado is 100% agave and aged for up to a year in oak.

My wonderful time in Mazatlán came to an end today – alas!  Off to the aeropuerto it was, at noon.

My layover is again at Los Angeles (LAX), and I will catch a red-eye flight out to Seattle in another 3 hours or so.

I will try to summon an Uber car in the wee hours of Thursday morning, to take me home.   If I don’t succeed, I can always stay over in a cheapie Seattle airport hotel until later in the morning.

My boarding shot of the Alaska bird (Boeing 737-700) on the tarmac at Mazatlán airport, that took us to Los Angeles.


Tuesday/ Estero del Yugo

Estero del Yugo is an estuary in the far northern outskirts of the city of Mazatlán.  There is a trail around it that we traversed today. The foliage around the estuary is dry this time of year, and the water level was low.

Even so, we spotted herons, ibises, pelicans and a beautiful pileated woodpecker with its red-crested head.  A single deer across the water made an appearance as well, but we did not see it again, even after we had made it to the other side.

This is a green heron that we spotted today at the estuary – a small heron found in North America and Central America.
This is an American white ibis, found from Virginia via the Gulf Coast of the United States south through most of the coastal New World tropics. Behind the ibis is a black-necked stilt.
Here’s what a large part of the trail around the estuary looks like. That’s a young Mexican giant cardon (elephant cactus) on the right.
A beautiful tree flower that we found on the ground. It may be a from a tree called ‘palo cruz’, but I’m not sure.

Monday/ taking the Mazatlán bus

We took the bus today to Juarez in the north of the city of Mazatlan. It’s complicated for a visitor, since the bus stops are not marked with route numbers.

One has to look for the destination that’s written onto the bus (and even then the bus does not always go to the same place in that destination).  A good thing I had a little help from my friends here!

I took this picture a few days ago. This bus goes between Plaza Sendero and Central Mercado (the central market) and the ferry terminal.
Inside our bus today.  The fare is 8.5 pesos (46 cents US). Some buses are fancier with airconditioning and nicer seating, and then the fare is 11 pesos (60 cents US).
This church is in Juarez where the bus dropped us off. The giant head and face is that of Miguel Hidalgo (1753-1811), a Mexican Roman Catholic priest and a leader of the Mexican War of Independence (1810 -1821).

Sunday/ El Recodo, Villa Unión

The drive to El Recodo is to the northwest is under two hours. Villa Union is just off Highway 15 on the way back.

On Sunday, we drove out to the town of El Recodo and made a stop at Villa Unión for lunch at a famous seafood restaurant.

We were very lucky to run into a tour guide in El Recodo to show us around.  He also phoned ahead to the very popular restaurant in Villa Unión, which allowed us to get in almost right away.

The church off the main street in El Recodo was built in 1855. The bell was made of all kinds of metal that were collected from residents. That’s Samuel, our impromptu tour guide of the church and the town at large. He seems to know everyone there!
This is a beautiful Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, native to the area.
This picture is from inside a little museum dedicated to the famous ‘Banda El Recodo’ band and its founder Cruz Lizarraga (now deceased). It’s the centenary of Cruz’s birthday in 1918.
Just an old building with Spanish roof tiles that I liked very much -on a side street in El Recodo.
Here’s the Parroquia San Juan Bautista (Parish of San Juan Bautista) in Villa Unión, located on the main town square.

Saturday/ Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra)

We went out to the beach at Stone Island today (look for Isla de la Piedra on Friday’s map). From where we are, we needed to cross the waterway north of the harbor to get there.

The boat ride across the waterway just north of the harbor to Stone Island takes just 5 minutes. 30 pesos ($1.62) are good for a trip there and back.
Main picture: Stone Island is technically not an island. It has a beautiful, tranquil beach that offers a lot of activities. Left to right: We had frozen cocos (‘Cocos Helados’) at Lety’s. These drinks are served in coconuts. Lots of vendors sell food and souvenirs on the beach. Don’t step on the pufferfish! (Not sure how it got on the beach. It might have been caught by a fisherman and thrown back). Horses and all-terrain vehicles are also available for rides right there on the beach.

Friday/ El Mirador, Mazatlán

We walked up the hill to the observation deck called El Mirador (‘The Lookout’) tonight for a beer at the new restaurant there, and for the great views of the harbor and the lighthouse called El Faro.

Clockwise from top left: El Mirador overlooks the Mazatlán harbor towards the south-west | artwork from a neighborhood wall nearby | one of three British cannons used to defend Mazatlán against invaders at Fort 31 in the late 1800s| the Baja Ferry on the left runs overnight across the Gulf of California to La Paz; deep sea fishing boats in the harbor; the hill with El Faro (‘The Lighthouse’) on top, is on the right

Wednesday/ Mazatlán Malecón

The Mazatlán Malecón is a 13-mi. (20 km) promenade that is lined with street vendors, shops and restaurants, and Pacific ocean views.

Viva Mexico! This enormous flagpole and Mexican flag is just south of the central Mazatlán district. It makes the humans down below look like ants. (The flag is not always up; today was President Benito Juárez’s birthday). The green umbrella below is part of a coconut stand. The Malecón was quiet today, but will fill up with people as soon as the weekend starts.
This is the view of the Malecón from the rooftop of the Hotel Posada Freeman where we had a beer at sunset, looking towards the north. The gray paving is brand new.  The hill up ahead with the radio towers, is Icebox Hill, home to limestone caves once used to store ice imported from San Francisco during the mid-1800s. Mazatlán families used this ice to preserve their seafood and other perishables before the days of household refrigerators.
Here’s a view of Icebox Hill looking east from the Malecón. Inset:  An entrance to the old limestone caves, now off limits to the public. ‘Cueva del Diablo’, Cave of the Devil, says the lettering.

Monday/ arrival in Mazatlán

I made it into Mazatlán on Monday.  My Uber driver showed up in just a few minutes after I had summoned him, even though this was 3 am in the morning!  (to make my frightfully early departure out of Seattle airport at 5 am).
I arrived in Mazatlán on a national holiday, Benito Juarez’s Birthday. Juárez was a national hero and president of Mexico (1858-1872).

Top: Alaska Airlines, at the gate at LAX after our arrival at 7.30 am. Bottom: Shortly after our arrival at Mazatlan airport. The airport is really small – only one other jet was there at our arrival. There may be only as many as 4 or 5 jets on the gates at the airport at any one time.

This is near the beach, on the edge of the historic old town center.  The beautiful mosaic of the Mazatlán municipality is in the foreground. Mazatlán’s population is a little over 400,000 people.
The beachfront across from the old town center.  It has a beautiful new promenade and street. Late afternoon it fills up with joggers, tourists, and families hanging out, waiting for sunset to come before they disperse. This is a rocky stretch of beach, but there are plenty of sandy areas as well.

Sunday/ going to Mazatlán

My bags are packed .. for a trip to Mazatlán, Mexico, to visit my friends Bryan and Dale there. I will take Alaska Air: two 2 ½ -hr flights, with a stop at LAX.  I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta, to Nogales (border city south of Tucson, Arizona), and to Cancun, but not to Mazatlan.

Mazatlan is on the Pacific just across the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, and in Sinaloa province.

Wednesday/ no, Dexter cannot fly

Dexter at Newark Liberty Intnl Airport. Step 1: Tag your bag – after you have ditched your emotional support peacock.

Dexter the ’emotional support’ peacock was denied access on a United flight from New York to Los Angeles on Saturday, even though his owner paid for an extra seat for him.  (I am sure everyone on the plane would have needed emotional support, with a screaming peacock in the cabin).

Maybe all of this was simply a ploy to entertain Dexter’s 5,000 followers on Instagram.

Tuesday/ Rovaniemi, Lapland

Rovaniemi (pop. 62,000) in Lapland is just south of the Arctic Circle.

Last night I watched ‘Lapland Odyssey (2010)‘ (Finnish, subtitled in English).  It reminded me a little of The Hangover (2009): three buddies on a mission to help the one who’s in trouble with his girlfriend.

I was intrigued by the movie’s snowy landscapes, and the flashes of Northern lights in the sky.  Some scenes feature Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland.

The town was virtually destroyed during World War II, but today it’s a modern little city billing itself as the ‘official’ home town of Santa Claus (it has a Hotel Santa Claus), and for viewing the Northern Lights.

Some screen stills from ‘Lapland Odyssey (2010)’. The three friends set out on a road trip to Rovaniemi, and run into Russians that ran into a reindeer. The snowman is safe from melting (avg. daytime winter temps -8 °C/ 17 °F), and in the final picture Janne makes up with girlfriend Inari.


Tuesday/ 52 places to go, 2018

Hey! Seattle is featured on the New York Times list of 52 places to go for 2018.  It’s quite a spectacle, the set of pictures that the New York Times compiled, some of them animated.

The familiar (to me) sight of the Amazon biospheres in downtown Seattle. [Picture: New York Times]
I go ga-ga over geometrical structures, and stylish, steely buildings, such as these in Oslo, Norway. [Picture: New York Times]
Is it a truck? Is it a train? It’s the Stoosbahnen funicular, near Lucerne, Switzerland. [Picture: New York Times]

Friday/ unpacking

I unpacked my bags today, and started going through my mountain of junk mail.

It’s bitterly cold on the East Coast (Boston at -6 °F/ -21°C), and frozen iguanas are falling out of the trees in Florida.  Zoologists say they will ‘thaw’ again and come back to life.  Here is Seattle it was a balmy 49°F/ 9°C today, with rain.

Top: My porcelain mugs and creamer survived in my luggage without breaking.  It’s for my coffee in the morning, and from porcelain manufacturer Rosenthal’s factory in Selb in Bavaria, that dates back to 1879.  I love the colors and the simple design.  Bottom: I took advantage of my stop at Heathrow to get my grubby hands on the shiny new 12-sided one-pound coin, as well as the new £10 polymer note with its cool holographs. The first note printed was reportedly given to the Queen, the second note to Prince Philip, the third to Theresa May (Prime Minister), and the fourth to Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer).

Thursday/ east, west – home best

From the toy store at Heathrow airport: a cute little ‘Celebration’ teddy bear.


I’m home from my world travels, east and west, north and south.

Our flight to Seattle today went without incident. My checked bags that British Airways had held overnight, had made it onto my new flight as well.


The flight path shows us about 7 hours into the 10 hr flight, crossing over Iceland, Greenland and Canada. I sat on the wing of the Boeing 777, and snapped the sky outside every few hours.


Wednesday night/ adventures in Terminal 5

I missed my connection to Seattle. We left Frankfurt way too late. High gusting winds (across Europe today), delayed our departure by 50 minutes.  Then upon arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, we spent another 20 agonizing minutes on the tarmac, waiting for a gate to open.

As soon as I got off the plane, I made a run for it.  There was still 10 minutes to spare to the Seattle departure time, but no-no-NO! – not enough time, they said at the security check point, stopping me.  (Why is there another security checkpoint for connecting passengers? Maybe it’s a United States destination thing only.)

So now I stood in line at the British Airways counter for 40 minutes. Re-booked my ticket to Thursday.  Exiting through passport control took even longer. One ‘crosses’ the UK Border into the UK (big bold letters at passport control).  By the time I made it to the airport hotel it was four hours later.  But hey! Today is done, tomorrow is another day, and I will have another shot at making it home.

Clockwise from top left: boarding the British Airways Airbus A320 at Frankfurt airport | Approaching Heathrow airport; that is the city of London and the Thames river below | Baggage claim but no bags for me: they hold it and will put it on the Thursday flight. Luckily I have a change of underwear and socks in my backpack! And I wear the British Airways emergency pack XL t-shirt as a night gown :) | Our ‘HotelHoppa’ shuttle bus at Terminal 5.

Wednesday morning/ home-ward bound

7:00 am My bags are packed!  I am taking the train back to Frankfurt this morning. 

Shortly after twelve noon I will board British Airways to London, and then on to Seattle from there. 

11:00 am I made it to Frankfurt Airport .. but Deutsche Bahn made me sweat a little.  My original train was delayed by more than an hour, and then the rebooked train was late as well.  Then my phone’s British Airways app said ‘Sorry, missed connection’ and I thought Oh no! the flight to London must be completely delayed. But no, there was on problem – it was just that the app could not find a network to connect to.

Here’s the ICE train at Cologne main train station. It came from Hannover, and was heading to Basel. Luckily it made stops in Cologne and at Frankfurt airport, and I could hop on.

Tuesday/ two museums

Today was my last day in Cologne.  The museums and shops were finally open again after being closed Sunday & Monday.   I only made it to two museums, though: the Museum Ludwig and the Chocolate Museum.

Museum Ludwig was established in 1976. This building near the Cologne Cathedral opened in 1986. The museum has artwork from the collections of lawyer Josef Haubrich (born 1889, died 1961) and of chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig (1925- 1996). It has one of the largest collection of Picasso’s artwork in Europe. The ‘Rosenquist’ sign on the left refers to a current exhibit of art of the American James Rosenquist, a pop-artist and contemporary of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who passed away in March 2017.
One of Rosenquist’s best-known pieces from the early 1960s. It is called ‘President Elect’ and is a billboard-style painting, depicting John F Kennedy’s face alongside a rainbow, a yellow Chevrolet and a piece of cake.
This is ‘inside’ a Rosenquist work called ‘Horizon Home Sweet Home’ (1970). It is a series of colored canvas panels on a room’s four walls.  Some panels have aluminized mylar (plastic) stretched onto a frame, that creates distorted reflections of the other colored panels.


This is upstairs, and I thought the giant mural on the right is a Picasso, but it is not. The artist is Fernand Léger, a contemporary of Picasso, and the painting is called ‘Les Plongeurs'(The Divers), 1942.
Here’s the Chocolate Museum. It is on the Rhine, and it looks like a river ship. It’s only 4.30 pm, but the sun is already setting.
Sights inside the Chocolate Museum, clockwise from the left: giant cocoabean chocolate fountain | Molten chocolate with roller-stirrer driven by a simple motor, from Lindt | Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in chocolate | A little souvenir handed to one at the exit (entrance fee is €11/ US$13) | one of a large collection of charming old chocolate bar wrappers.

Monday/ Rheinauhafen, Cologne

I spent some time in Rheinauhafen (‘Rhine old port’) today. It is a former port facility on the Rhine*, now rebuilt into modern condominiums, offices and commercial buildings.  A Microsoft office building was completed in 2008, the main condominium building in 2009, and most of the other buildings a few years before that, or a few years later.

*Cologne is the largest city on the Rhine.  Here in Cologne it is the Nieder-Rhein (the lower Rhine).

I did the best I could do with my photo of the three dramatic Kranhäuser (‘harbor crane’) buildings, shot into the sun. They each have two-part outrigger sections that rest only on a slender, fully glazed staircase tower. These are just below the Severin Bridge (yellow on the map), and on the little peninsula in the Rhine. The Microsoft office (picture bottom middle) is across the canal, on the true riverbank.
A close-up of the residential building. The green triangular column and spans in the background are of the Severin Bridge. A realtor’s office advertised a few of the units that are for sale. Sample numbers: 2 bedroom, 130m2 (1,400 sqft) unit goes for €1.1 million (US$ 1.3 million). A 3-bedroom was for rent for €3,650 pm (US$ 4,400).
These buildings are a little further down south from the Kranhäuser buildings. The ones on the left have an old or classic architecture, but they are almost brand new, from what I can tell. The modern brick and glass building on the right is a high-school. MY high school did not look like that! (I wish it did).
I love this old sepia picture, printed onto the glass enclosure of a kiosk, with the – port worker? who was he? – resting his arms on the fence.  A great way to acknowledge the rich history of the port.

Sunday/ more of Cologne

I spent much more time walking today than I did on the trains on the U-bahn. It was good for sight-seeing, but I feel it in my legs and feet tonight.

Here is a map of the Cologne altstadt (old city). Pictures clockwise from top left: St. Gereon’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic church. Rebuilt and added onto, its origins date back all the way to 612 A.D. | Gereons wall with gate: part of the medieval old city wall of Cologne | Cologne cathedral today. It is very large inside with beautiful stained class windows. | St. Aposteln is another one of 12 major Romanesque churches in the city of Cologne.
Here is the Cologne Tower, a 44-storey office skyscraper in the Neustadt-Nord district. It opened in 2002. The image of Cologne Cathedral on the window panes is not a reflection, but artwork. On the left, in the distance, is the old Colonius telecommunications tower. It opened in 1981, but the restaurant and viewing area were closed in 1992, with no prospect of reopening. (Aw).
This is one of the city’s many Merzenich bakeries (it’s a franchise), near Ebertsplatz. Check out the giant ‘plunderbrezels’ (‘plunder’ pretzels) in the window.  They go for €10.95 ($13.14) each – but hey, enough to feed a family!
It’s Germany, and so one sees BMWs everywhere, of course. This is under a bridge by the hauptbahnhof (main train station) with the old steel beams lit up in bluegreen.
Here’s a ‘Find the Willem’ picture, a reflection in the window on Christophstreet. ‘Room Free’, says the sign. The Cologne cathedral is a picture inside, and the square windowed apartments is the reflection.