Mexican Riviera - 2005
We decided to reach out a little and
try a little longer duration cruise, and it happens that Princess is now
running a few cruises out of San Francisco. This is good because we don't
have the time, trouble, and expense of a flight to the port. Just a ride
into San Francisco. Ed and Andi Myers, Rosalee's niece and her husband were
cruise mates in 2000 when we went to Alaska, and they were interested in
doing this cruise as well.
A glance up at our ship's masthead showed our American flag, as expected, but since the ship is not registered in the US, the primary flag was the red one. The ship is of Bermudan registry, but I'm puzzled... I thought the Bermuda flag was a red field with the British Union Jack in the corner and a medallion/herald in the center of the right half. This has nothing at all there. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can clear that up for me? The other flag is the familiar Sea Witch which is the Princess Cruise Line's 'mascot' and Logo. Either way, what with a few other signal flags, they all looked mighty impressive up there flying proudly in the breeze. Sail Away should be around 1600 hours, but with the late arrival this morning we may be a little later departing through the 'Gate'.
It is delightfully clear and sunny during 'sail away', and that is not at all the norm. We are, after all in San Francisco. And it is late afternoon. We are blessed indeed. If you don't recognize this view of it, you are looking at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge... as well as Fort Point.
During the early days of San Francisco, when wind-driven sailing ships often came into the huge San Francisco Bay, there was concern that pirates and ships from war-inclined countries might come into the bay and wreak havoc, so they built the massive brick structure you see here. It looks small, but it is a large, three-story tall open-topped fort with three levels of gun turrets. The land it sits on is the narrowest part of the gate or opening to the bay. The building became known as Fort Point. There was never an angry shot fired from this monument which is open to tours today. Behind the fort and all up over the hill is the area known as The Presidio which was for a long time military. To the right of the fort are Marshall Beach and then Baker Beach. We were outside the bay when this photo was taken. You can see that the Golden Gate Bridge, which was built in the thirties, was designed to 'step over' the fort to preserve it. You can see the two suspension cables coming in at an angle from the left to the right at the top of the large columns and continuing on down into that large block of concrete at the right of the image. That is a solid, monstrous block of concrete making the anchor point of those two cables. They suspend more than, feet of bridge that carries six lanes of traffic and are built strong enough to hold a second layer of traffic should they ever decide to add it. In case you wondered... the color of the paint is specially formulated and is named "Golden Gate Orange", and is sand-blasted off, re-primed, and re-applied every year. When they get to the other end (it takes all year), they come back and start it all over again. They are always paint the old girl. Neither the North Tower or the South Tower are in this photo... they are to the left.
The only town on Santa Catalina Island is Avalon, and it is not allowed to be any larger than one square mile in area. The buildings you see above are outside that area so not sure how much more it will grow. It is all condominiums. The main bay and town are to the left in this image.
I have always had a bit of interest in that home in the center of the image. This is located at the southern side of Avalon. It is all wood and was built back early in the beginning of the twentieth century. The story goes that the man carried every board of that house up a little trail he had constructed for that purpose.
Santa Catalina Island has an intriguing history with William Wrigley, of baseball team and Wrigley Field and chewing gum fame playing a large part of it. He owned the whole island, buying it early in the century and it is now 'owned' by a consortium dedicated to its preservation. It was a playground for the rich and famous from about the twenties, and used for filming several movies. It is after all only... "Twenty Six Miles Across The Sea... Santa Catalina Is The Place For Me." This was the first place we visited on our very first cruise.
Avalon Bay... where boats are anchored to moorings and cables laid out into the water, and you shuttle yourself to shore with small skiffs or rowboats that you carry on your boat. Of course, we anchor in the channel beyond the bay. If you can look far enough past the big white boat you should be able to see Newport Beach or Huntington Beach or Long Beach California.
On the north side of Avalon is a large building that is the Casino. It is not nor was it ever a gamboling facility. casino is the term for a circular theater. On the lower portion (below the balconies) is one large circular theater with a domed ceiling. It is for stage shows and movies. It has a large pipe organ that still plays and was used to provide the music in the movies before they had 'talkies'. The upper section with the columnaded walkway surrounding it is a huge round dance floor. The ceramic tiles you see on the street fixtures are from the large tile industry that used to flourish in the area, and the tiles can be seen everywhere.
This is a quiet, peaceful side street. There is little traffic from cars, and a bit more scooters, golf carts, and similar transportation devices. Most streets are treated as mall walkways most of the time.
A lot of the historical past is seen in the character of the architecture and the signage. It is a Sea Town. A very masculine and quaint area. This sign suggests that in that a pretty woman always draws males in advertising (since the 1880's at least) and the mermaid version of a woman always has lured the sailors since sailors in Assyria, ca. 1000 BC. They are seen throughout the city.
A serene look back at Avalon from our ship, just before we weighed anchor and headed on a southern course toward Mexico.
As is the fashion, when we found
our stateroom (B531 on Baja (deck 11), Starboard (Right) side) and got
moved in, our room steward made himself known to us right away. His name
and phone number was posted on our writing desk and we constantly see
him in the hallways. He actually works for the "hotel" staff, as opposed
to the "ship" staff. The staff do not cross between that line so far as
we can tell. You don't really feel the presence of two separate
companies but that is the way the ship functions. He told us that his
name was "Wee", but it was spelled a little differently than that. He
was very nice and quite responsive to us. We always treat our room
stewards like friends, because if you want or need something, THEY are
the real power. Like nurses and secretaries and maintenance staff.
Rosalee mentioned that she was disappointed on our previous cruise
because some nights we did not get our chocolate on our pillow. Well,
Wee more than made it up. He did these towel creations on the beds which
we would find when we returned from dinner. This was our first formal
dining night. We had to take a picture, of course.
I'm sorry if this sounds
negative, but we have gone on multiple excursions or visitations in
Mexico that were set up for "El Touristas", and while it is
interesting to visit places different from what we are used to
seeing, I'm a bit discouraged that they make a "show" but don't
really show you where it is done. They don't say it is so but they
tend to show how it is done in a primitive fashion, without saying
it is such. When they said they were going to show us how they make
tequila... and then show us a couple of vats and equipment for
crushing the cactus, they have not been used in many decades. Then
they show us new, modern, labeled, cased bottles for tasting and
purchase. Any experience is interesting but it is a bit
They were looking for 'volunteers' to make tortillas and we volunteered Andi. :-) She did pretty well. She held her own for a Gringa. LOL. I looked around for Ed and I caught him just as he was coming out of some kind of gyration or other. Perhaps he sampled too many different types of tequila? Or did he just get a glimpse of the dancing girls that were coming up?
And here came the dancing girls... and boys. They did a nice job of showing a couple of traditional dances. Their gowns were very gorgeous. Things are looking up. I'd better check back with Ed to see how he is doing. LOL.
We had an opportunity to step inside a local church. They definitely do a beautiful job of building churches. Of course, some they have been working on for centuries, they are that old, but they certainly cherish them and their church is very important to them.
So ok... excursions of the
tourist type are not set up to educate... they are set up for you to
experience two things... maybe three. First, you experience the
surroundings. You get away from the ship. You are still in "tourist
town" but you see things on the way there and back. You get to see more
of the real culture. That is good. Second, you get to see real
people in the area... the ones that are 'behind the scenes' at the
locations where you go. The people cooking the food and serving it and
seating you and may be working on something that needs repair. That is
also good. And thirdly, you get a change to meet and know more of the
people that are riding on the Big White Boat with you. There is
something about people that are on cruises... the majority of them are
really good people. Perhaps it may be the cruise company we have chosen.
Princess is not the cheaper cruises so we get people that are more
concerned about quality than just getting drunk on board and have fun.
And it is not the more expensive ones where people may be less inclined
to open up and speak about themselves... people that have attained their
status in business or society due to their privacy. We definitely are
enjoying our Princess cruises. And I did enjoy this excursion, mostly
because of E&A being with us and good people around us.
We had a chance to walk down through one of the towns along the sea wall and we found this church. It was a bit unique. Notice that the steeple top is made of wrought iron, which is plentiful in Mexico and used everywhere, but different for a church. Inside the alter was very ornate. They all seem to have either some gold gilding or paint... not sure which it is. It would stand to reason as people have always held gold to the highest standard and offered their best to their Gods. The front entrance was very fine. Pictured below, you can see that each piece of the delicate creation is attached to some other part so it is held in place. I do not recall if I could see glass filling this opening or not, but I cannot imagine it being totally open. High above the alter you can see a small sample of the stained glass that they have used. It was all beautiful.
This is the 'flea market' where we did a little bit of shopping. Lots of colors. Someone was off to the left playing a marimba and selling his CDs.
We are in Mazatlan where we have another excursion planned. It is an 8-hour excursion on a bus into the Sierra Madre Mountains. We will visit two small towns. They put us onto a beautiful, very comfortable touring bus, and it was a very nice ride. On the way we had to stop to see how they make adobe bricks. The bus pulls over, we walk to the river bank, a guy picks up some mud... nice mud though... and he lays down a wood frame that has five square spaces inside. He fills them full of mud, scrapes them off smooth, lifts the frame, and ... bada bang... five adobe bricks. LOL. He explains that they dry in the sun several days, then get stacked into a dome with a wood fire under the dome and they are 'fired' and ready to use. OK...
We travel half an hour and pull over at a building along the main road where they have a bunch of woodworking machines. These machines have not turned over in decades. The motor belts would fly apart if they were turned. Some motors are not even hooked to electricity. We are told they make the furniture there that they have for sale. LOL. Sorry. Not on these machines. Not even on these TYPE of machines. It was fun seeing the old machines, and wondering how well they could ever have done the work. Maybe that is why much of the foreign articles that come home with tourists are so crudely made?
I have no idea of what this
building was designed to do or what it is currently used for, but the
brickwork is gorgeous. Sadly some of it is starting to pull apart, but
perhaps that is part of its beauty? There is something about an old
relic that shows beauty from long ago that has passed it by.
We again boarded the bus and traveled a little further into a place where the bus barely would fit on the road. It was the town of Copala, an even smaller town than the last one. And I think that it was even cleaner, and even less 'tourist'. It was beautiful!
Move that car at the end of the street and you would think the automobile had not ever found this street yet. The buildings were obviously laid out before larger vehicles ever came here. Our bus was parked at the edge of town and we walked the entire town, which was not difficult at all. It was very small.
An intriguing image... "What's up that hill?" It looks well traveled. And in the other image... are the rocks in the middle of that road supposed to be the equivalent of the white line? LOL
A 'side' road. This is how
'deep' the city is. One street with side streets maybe one store or a
second tiny one and you are out of town. I'm wondering if the richest
man in town is the one that sells paint. I don't think I can explain any
thoughts behind the color selections. They seem to be whatever they have
enough of to cover the area, use it.
Talk about Two Worlds Colliding... that ancient road and brick buildings and that nice shiny new pickup truck... beautiful. The road behind the truck is the extension of the main road through town, and it goes up the hill to the town square and the church.
Same corner, same hill, same street... a guide for a small group that was visiting at the time.
Again, lots of gold on the alter piece. Surely that is painted. Otherwise this whole settlement could be living in Guadalajara in a town house and driving a new Benz. I'm sure that what we see on that wall is a type of a story. I'm sure each figure and each design had a reason to be there.
Mark 10:25 " It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. " I have always had some difficulty 'accepting' verses from the Bible when I could not completely understand what it meant. I understood that the text in red meant that it was indeed difficult to get into Heaven, and being rich would certainly not do it for you. But putting a camel through the eye of a needle? I believe in miracles, but isn't that rather absurd? What bothers me mostly is that it is the type of thing that can cause a person to doubt the Word completely. I would much rather know that what the Good Book says is something that is more realistic.
The image on the right, above, is the large door on the side of this church. You can see the smaller door that is open.... what today we would call a 'man-door'. You can see clear through the church because there is another large door like it on the other side, and it is open also. The large door allows large animals through while pulling a cart, but when only a man needs to go through, the small door is opened to conserve the heat inside the church. My brother Cody informed me, upon seeing this image, that the small door was called... "The Eye Of The Needle". If a camel were to come through, it needed the large door to be open. It would be very difficult for a camel to pass through... the eye of the needle. Camels cannot crawl it appears.
back to the verse... we ASSUME the bible speaks of a steel or iron
needle with a hole like we use today, but the Bible verse is
referring to a door... something quite a bit larger than a needle
eye. We read the Bible literally and to understand it we have to
know the terms used when the Bible was translated into English...
some four hundred years ago. You know... back when "Gay" meant being
happy, and not what it has come to mean in the last forty years.
The city square and chapel are elevated, sort of the top of the hill. Looking south we can see the beautiful greenery that is indigenous to the area. Those are private homes back there. Talk about an idyllic location. What writer would not want to spend a couple of years here?
A Rose ...and a Rose... you say? Not quite. The one on the right is a lovely example of Hawai'i's State Flower. It is also very popular in middle and southern California. That is an Hibiscus... granted it is a different variety than we are more used to. But the Hibiscus came from Mexico originally. The one on the left? That is a lovely example of another type of Rose. :-)
We are back from the trip into the mountains. It was a lovely trip. We got a chance to meet more people that are our 'neighbors'. One thing about cruising out of San Francisco, there are so few ships that leave from there, people in the area are quick to sign on, because there is not air travel to a remote sea port. Consequently, you have a high incidence of 'locals' on the cruise with you. Nearly each evening at dinner, someone will know someone we know.
We noticed these gentlemen carrying their ...um ...weapons when we got off the ship. They are smiling at least. LOL. Are they to protect us or protect the city FROM us? LOL
From our balcony on the ship we can see two large churches within blocks of each other. We can see that the townspeople pour much money and time into their churches. Sometimes we wonder if they are competing, or what drives some of their decisions when erecting these monuments.
It is known as El Faro de Mazatla'n. It is a radio tower and a beacon. Looking with Google Maps you can see that to access it you drive part way up after entering a locked gate, then you get out and walk up a stepped sidewalk, with more than 400 steps to the building. I like the strata that makes up the mountain. A very obvious example of 'faulting' or 'folding' in the geology book.
Land's End. There is a way to walk to this outcropping of volcanic rock, but it is not easy. To the right of this archway is a reasonably large beach that has access to both the bay as well as the ocean, and there are usually people enjoying it. It is rather 'exclusive' however, so there is plenty of room for everyone interested in making the effort to get there.
I don't remember who took this image or where we were when they did. The one below I took as we were on deck during the Sail Away in San Francisco. That would be the suspension half of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge behind Ed.
Our Cruise Mates: Andi & Ed Myers
~ Back Home Again ~