As we drove along the divided highway and then normal city streets again, we anxiously scanned cars around us for license plate numbers. We still didn't believe that thief in a police uniform wasn't lying to us. We were almost like ecstatic little boys when we finally started to see plates again that ended in the number 1. We continued on our way and really did not breathe a sigh of relief until we saw the sign that said we were leaving the state of Mexico and entering the state of Hidalgo. Only then did we really feel safe again.
Soon after crossing the border, we spied a PEMEX gas station. These are government owned and run and the only ones in Mexico for that matter. This one had a plaza of sorts attached with restrooms and a small convenience store. We did not need gas but we certainly needed a pee and a rest!
We visited the store and purchased several drinks and snacks and merrily consumed them while leaning against the car in the hot sun. There was now much discussion of what had just happened to us. The whole thing felt like it had been a bad dream. We each had our own version of it and how we felt during it. I wish I could get B and L to write something just about that experience, but I doubt that they ever will. It would be interesting to read what they have to say after this much time has passed. I do know that when we got home, we each privately wrote down what our top ten experiences were on the trip. We actually, without conferring, agreed on 8 out of 10! Of course, this experience was included on everyone’s list!
The three disgruntled and yet happy travelers were back on track. Next stop, Puebla! We were to finally reach it after having driven seven hours out of our way!
I knew we were getting close to Puebla when I started seeing one roadside stand after the other selling Talavera ware. (www.talaveraemporium.com or www.mexicanceramic.com/talavera/talavera1.html) Or at least the knockoff Talavera ware.** I wanted to pull over at all of them but I was met with a series of boos every time I said, "Here’s a good one! Let’s stop and shop!" B and L just wanted to get into town and find a hotel. I just wanted to add to my growing collection of Talavera and Talavera type pots! We were also passing many factories that specialized in tile production. This area is truly the tile producing capital of Mexico!
At long last, we entered Puebla proper. It was hard for me to drive. I was trying to follow L’s directions, watch traffic and gawk at all of the buildings covered in tiles! It was breathtaking.
Puebla proper has a population of 1.3 million people but you would never guess it. I suppose from high on some hill it may look big and sprawled out, but from ground level it was enchanting. The streets were orderly and very well laid out. A welcome change from the crazy quilt streets of Guanajuato! The street sign names all had the logo for VW on them. It seems that they paid for all of the street signs in Puebla and thus got to advertise for free.
L had been to Puebla many times before as a tour leader for various groups so he knew his way around fairly well. He directed me down one particular street and we found a place to park. "From here we will walk and find a hotel," he announced. "They are everywhere around here but there is one in particular we should go look at." It was a hotel that was not really expensive but that was out of the price range of the backpackers he usually led. He had always wanted to check it out. Of course, it was full, so back out to the hot street to regroup. It was now after 6:00 PM, hotter than blazes still and we needed to find a place to stay.
Puebla has a law, and a good one, that every hotel must display a sign out front, visible from any direction, that is white with a big red H on it. All we had to do was stop at a corner and look down the street to see if there were any hotels there! Easy peasy. We looked at a lot of them. Everyone that was in our now $380 less budget was not to our liking. One, that we almost stayed at, trapped us in the elevator during a brief power outage. They did not realize that the elevator had been affected and did not come to our rescue to open the doors until some passerby heard our screams and whimpers coming from within. The stupid elevator had probably been built for only two people and there were four of us crowded into it. Shudder. We looked at the room and, even though it was nice, the elevator experience was just too much for us and we declined. We had had enough bad experiences for one day and did not want to risk another at this hotel.
We walked and we looked. We walked and we looked some more. It took longer than it should have because I kept dawdling behind to take a picture of this beautiful tile building or that storefront or some other tiled thing. Wonderful wrought iron balconies and gates everywhere. L was getting quite dismayed and finally chastised me that we would be sleeping in the car if I did not start to pay attention to the task at hand! With my lower lip almost touching the ground, I dutifully fell in line and looked at an endless array of hotel rooms. There seemed to something wrong with almost everyone of them. It was very strange. First I wouldn’t like something. Then it was B’s turn. Then L’s. I don’t know what was the matter with us. We had never had this kind of a problem locating a room before. And here in Puebla there were just so many to choose from. Maybe that was the problem.
We finally rounded a corner and I spotted a familiar sign on a beautiful old colonial building right in the heart of downtown. Holiday Inn! "Oooh", I said, "Let’s look at a room here!" B and L were dead set against it. This was approaching luxury class, hardly typical Mexican, and we were still very much aware of having just thrown that $380 at those bandits. I insisted that we could at least look so in we went.
Talk about fancy! It was pure opulent luxury everywhere. There was a huge round marble table just as one entered the lobby. On it was a huge glass vase containing at least 100 calla lilies. Impressive in and of itself. We approached the front desk, just a little bit hesitantly. The staff were dressed nicer than we were and I am sure that they smelled better too! But we asked and they showed us a room on the fourth floor. The balcony overlooked the third floor roof pool and garden. Plus there was a great view of Puebla, the magnificent tiled church spires and the hills in the distance. It only had two double beds but one could tell they were going to be comfortable. It was one of those rooms that the toilet was in a separate room from the shower, separated by the sink in between. Heaven. I wanted this room! And I was tired of looking.
The clerk quoted us the price (in very good English) and all hope of staying here was dashed. But then L said something to him in Spanish. I didn’t catch what he said. I was too busy looking around and feeling sorry for myself! Then I heard the clerk quote a price that I thought we could afford. L frowned and said something along the lines that we were just three honest, tired travelers who were in great need right now of something nice in our lives. The clerk grinned, said seeing as how it was low season, he could offer us a special, special rate. He quoted a new price and we took it! I was ecstatic, as I am sure B and L were. Ok, I wasn’t going to tell you, but we ended up paying $80 a night and stayed there for two glorious nights! It was about $30 a night over budget, but well worth it and we needed something like that about then in our lives!
By this time, I had no idea of where we had left the car and was just about to panic. L said, "Just follow me." With that off he headed down the street, took a couple of turns and voila! there was the Pointer right where we had left it! We piled in and drove back to the Holiday Inn, unloaded our backpacks and handed the keys over to the valet parking attendant. I was going to love Puebla!
** for more information on Talavera, see my post today on my other blog. Just click on the link that says Isla Mujeres: Gringo in Paradise