Mexico: Check the Friend in Your Hotel Room

In Mexico on another trip, when we checked in to a famous hotel where the pool is covered with a floating garden of white flowers—gardenias I think—the children and I were looking forward to a peaceful evening.  Tired when we reached our room, I didn’t at first notice the truly huge black thing with 100 (okay, maybe six or eight) legs that hung on the wall.  I knew this didn’t bode well for a peaceful night, as I’d valiantly defend my children from this awful thing.

Frantically, I called the office—which must have been a fun conversation in my poor Spanish and the clerk’s poor English—which took time.  Finally, a consoling voice in response to my rambling said, “Ah, yes, tarantula—no problema, Señora.”

No problema, my foot!  Even my bad Spanish recognized the name—tarantula is exactly how it sounds, even if one changes the stress on the word.  The voice finally agreed to send someone to take care of the little (“little”—ha!) bug.  The thing on the wall grew larger each time I looked at it. Within a few minutes, a semi-sympathetic man appeared with a large broom that he used to sweep the wall, attacking and killing our threat.

I didn’t sleep too well that night, perhaps waiting for angry relatives of Big T to avenge his death. Instead, I looked at the pool below, where the lights still showed the lovely flowers, and thought about Cortez, the conqueror from Spain, who traveled this way from Veracruz hundreds of years before.  I wondered if he’d run into tarantulas, too.  (The fourth novel in my Briana Fraser series, which won’t be out for months, is titled Mexican Marimbas. We’re working on book three, China Caper, now! )

London, London, That’s My Town

When the noticeable bomb went off in the London hotel next door, I decided to move from my upscale digs to find something less grand—and maybe safer.  So I checked with friends, who suggested several, but I decided to take a walk and find a place where I’d feel comfortable…and safe.  (Good shoes make walking in London comfortable. One can pass the statue of Churchill smoking his famous cigar; one can pass the Franklin Roosevelt statue and tip one’s hat his way; and cross a bridge made famous because of a famous woman leader of a rebel group­—oh, then eventually find just the right hotel.)

It was the County Hotel, where “local” visitors stay.  Clean rooms, three meals a day, a lobby pay telephone about which I never learned how to use, showers, a friendly staff, and a small bar adjoining where one might find a sandwich in the afternoon.  I’ve stayed there during several visits to England, using the laundry machines down the street, past the park with several interesting figures encouraging a visit within the park.

After 9/11, my granddaughter and I stayed at the hotel, walked the street to then nearby tube station/train station, pausing for a moment to see where a bus had been blown up by the same bunch who hit New York.  The hotel restaurant had a rather limited menu: beans, eggs, soup, did I mention beans?, and sometimes may try to appeal to French guests more than U.S. guests, who often prefer staying in hotels with recognizable names…..their loss.  That’s okay, part of the fun of travel. Beans?

London is an easy city through which to walk, always being aware of one’s surroundings, checking into church gardenA London street sales, then finding lunch at the numerous outlets offering reasonable and delicious food. One place, I overheard (I eavesdropped a great deal everywhere I went) three college age fellows talking about the University of Oregon, a play directed by a world famous  man, and getting great reviews. Yes, of course, I struck up a conversation. And it was fun!  (My granddaughter rolled her eyes!)  It turned out these were Oregon chaps enjoying working in the play.

Plan at least a week in London; take in the plays (I think Wednesday is dark, but check), go out to nearby towns famous for flowers or some historic event—the tube is simply a great, fast, clean way to travel…and not expensive. And Londoners almost speak English—although it often seemed like a foreign language to me.London