Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Driving the Jeep to Mexico - Part 14

Walking into the town center, we passed through the small pedestrian street and found ourselves in the plaza central. The main feature was a huge circular stage in the center. I don’t recall if there was a roof on it or not. There were rows of chairs set up on one side and it was evident that something was going to be happening later. We passed this and on the other side was a street lined with restaurants. Each had an outdoor area and one blended into the next. The only way to tell the difference was by the tables and the way they were dressed. Each one also had some sort of band or musical group set up in front of the tables. What a cacophony of sound! Each competing to be heard above the one next to them. I do not know how anybody could eat, let alone have an enjoyable time, amidst all this noise. We continued down the row until we found two restaurants in a row without any bands! We chose the Italian one. I was in the mood for pasta, which I consider a comfort food. We sat at a pleasant table outside, under the canopy than ran the entire distance of the street. Before we could order, or even get a menu, up comes a band and starts setting up! We just looked at other, and with no discussion, got up and moved way inside. Actually from inside, the band was very good. The main instrument was the marimba and there was a guitar and enthusiastic drummer to accompany it. Since I was paying all expenses. Jaimie ordered his customary steak, while I opted for spaghetti Bolognese style with tomato and meat sauce. Neither meal was breathtaking but filled us up. I paid the bill and we returned to the plaza.

The show had started at the town square. It was a troupe of six couples all dressed in the typical clothing of Veracruz state. Men in white pants and shirts and white Panama hats. The women were in fancy white lace dresses with voluminous skirts. They danced and pounded their feet and twirled like dervishes at times. The women grabbed the edges of their skirts, making huge lace circles as they spun. It was really quite fascinating and entertaining to watch. Jaimie quickly became bored, he was not as impressed with Mexican culture as was I, and wanted to find someplace to have an after dinner beer.

We found a quiet little café just off the side of the plaza and I was more than delighted to discover that they had dark Sol beer! Sol is my favorite Mexican beer and I whine like a baby if I have to drink something different. Neither one of us even knew that they made a dark variety. It was a medium amber color and went down quite smoothly. So smoothly that we ended up stumbling out of the café two hours later, firm in our conviction that we were going to find a store and stock up on some to take back to the island. Which, of course, we foolishly never did.
Two slightly tipsy tourists found their way back to the souvenir sellers and had a great time looking at all the junk. Most of the stuff that Jaimie picked up and thought was wonderful I found just to be cheap, tacky tourist crap. It was his money to spend and I kept my opinions to myself. I ended up buying a red T-shirt that says Tiburones Roho on it (red sharks), which is the name of the Veracruz soccer team. I also bought a bag of Veracruzean coffee. Jaimie went into each of the shops, of which there were a formidable number. He was looking for the perfect gift for his kids, family and friends. He had told me at the outset that he was not buying anything for his wife. This rather shocked me and I told him he would probably live to regret that decision. He just rolled his eyes, like I would never understand the dynamics of his marriage. He explained that his wife had expressly told him before he left that she wanted any money that he had left when he got home. She was planning a shopping trip of her own to Cancun when he got back. I did notice that he was being very careful that he had some left! Along the way he found some really nice baseball caps which he wanted to buy for the guys helping him to build his house. They had various Mexican sport teams logos on them. I thought they were great but he again decided to pass them up and wait until the next stop to get some. He found a few trinkets and toys for his boys and we headed back to the hotel. By this time, much more sober!

I was very impressed by what little I saw of Veracruz. The architecture was amazing. It was full of huge old colonial buildings sitting on cobblestone streets. I fully intend to go back when I can spend more time.* They have tours of both the harbor area and the old district or you can simply explore by yourself. One of these days I am going to grab B and off we will go.

* since then, I have been back to Veracruz four times. I think I have seen it now. You’ll read about it in an upcoming story about my first driving trip in Mexico.

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