Hard Rock Resort in Puerto Vallarta. I was one of seven writers chosen to experience some VIP treatment, eat amazing food, and even receive a free full-body massage (my travel feature for Instinct Magazine comes out later this summer). The following is the first installment of my personal chronicles in Mexico.
WRITER'S NOTE: All water consumed during this trip was from bottled sources. (I mean, haven't we all seen the Sex and the City movie?)
February 7 - LAX
The pumpkin scone I picked up at a Starbucks in Culver City at 6 in the morning leaves an odd aftertaste in my mouth as I sit at the gate. Since this is my first trip to Mexico (and my first time outside U.S. borders in eight years) I go over a mental checklist of all the advice and warnings people have given me throughout the past week: Never go exploring alone. U.S. currency is accepted in most places. And again, don't drink water from the tap.
After boarding the Delta plane that's supposed to fly me to my connecting flight in San Francisco and situating myself in a row I have all to myself, the captain tells us the flight has been delayed an extra hour due to heavy fog in the Bay Area. Apparently this is common with SFO, and it has earned them the title Second Worst Airport when it comes to delayed flights.
We're allowed to walk off the plane and wait at the gate -- again.
I've been spoiled with the luck I've had with traveling, so any road bumps or detours tend to make me anxious. So imagine my anxiety when I learned that my flight was being delayed another hour, guaranteeing a missed connection in San Francisco. I call the publicist who booked my flight; she's out of the office. I get transfered to someone else; they'll have to contact their travel agent. In the meantime, I befriend the agent at the gate, and by "befriend," I mean bat my eyelashes and pretend to be sympathetic to his just-turned-shitty workday. He looks up alternative flight options for me. My best bet is a flight that leaves 14 hours from now and connects in Mexico City at 4am local time. It's safe to say this crappy development calls for a #FML.
Lesson learned: Never book (or have someone book for you) a connecting flight in San Francisco. Ever.
I am flying the friendly Mexican skies on my Aeromexico red-eye to Mexico City, sitting next to a young woman who's taking Italian lessons on her iPad. Across the aisle is an elderly woman who has neglected to turn off her overhead light. While the rest of the plane is muted in darkness and resting peacefully, I get the annoying glow of her spotlight. Needless to say, I get little sleep.
An indeterminate number of hours later, I find myself in the giant, concrete-and-steel halls of Mexico City's international airport. I go through customs and utter my first "Buenos dias" to the stone-faced man who stamps my passport (more of those to come). I then walk off in search of my next gate. I consult my second boarding pass and discover something to my dismay: I've been issued the wrong pass back in Los Angeles. Last time I checked, my name isn't Antonio Malvaes (you can see the misprint on the bottom pass in the above picture).
I let out an appropriate-for-this-moment "Oh shit" and try not to panic. Another small bump in the road to Puerto Vallarta.
I immediately get it straightened out at the Aeromexico ticket counter. I say "Buenos dias" several more times to smiling airport employees who walk by. When they attempt to prolong the conversation, I'm all like, "Oh, sorry. No habla espanol. Where's Gate 60?" My history with the Spanish language involves three years of lessons in high school back in the late 90s.
When I finally reach the gate for my connecting flight, I realize I'm surrounded by couples. Makes sense: tropical getaway, etc. And me? Romantic destination, party of one.
I strike up a conversation with a lovely couple from Salt Lake City (yes, you read my mind: probably Mormons). They're the only fair-haired white people within a 50-foot radius. While the wife runs to the restroom, I chat with the husband and ask him if he's on his way to Puerto Vallarta for a vacation. I ask because I know he'll return the question and ask me. I think about telling him I'm traveling for business, writing a travel story on a new resort, which is true -- and sounds more impressive. And he is impressed. Turns out he and his wife, Mrs. Mormon, are seasoned travelers of Mexico. They're meeting up with other middle-aged friends of theirs in PV.
Finally, the plane is ready to board and I am ready to reach my destination.
There's a complimentary breakfast and a glass of champagne waiting for me...
NEXT UP - Day 2 in Mexico: A little road trip to the beach town of Sayulita, I face my fear of farting during a "relaxation massage" at a spa, and I witness one hell of a sunset.