Lulu decided today was the day to tear the v-berth apart and wash all the bedding, air out everything else, empty and clean the under-bunk storage lockers, and scrub and re-oil the wood along the sides of the bed (the "ceiling"). Needless to say, I'd just be in the way so, like a good little helper, I stayed the hell out of the way.
I took the shuttle into town with a couple goals in mind: write down the actual locations of some of the places we like so we can find them easier, scout out some new places, and buy a few groceries. Oh, yeah, and get a new cell phone.
The cell phones we bought in Ensenada were the cheapest ones they had and they were worth almost every peso we spent. The screens are so dark and so small that they are totally unreadable in anything less than near pitch-darkness. Totally useless in the daytime. But that doesn't really matter so much because we ran out of the included minutes really quickly. The pre-paid plan was completely undecipherable to me (of course, the fact that it was all in Spanish certainly didn't help). It was always unclear how many minutes we got for a peso, what roaming cost, what calls to Los Estados Unidos cost, etc. We'd just about decided to throw in the towel and just not have any phone besides Skype.
Last night we had beers with friends from Ensenada, Byron & Jessica on s/v Sterling. When we got our Telcel phone they opted instead for a Movistar phone because there were no roaming charges. So, over cervezas, I asked how they liked it so far. They had nothing but praise. The cost is low, the charges easy to understand, and the service is good. So, I looked into Movistar's plans on the internet this morning and then headed to town to get a phone.
What took 40-50 minutes at Telcel took only about 10 minutes at Movistar. The girl who waited on me spoke not one word of English but we managed to get through the transaction successfully anyway. I came away with a low-end Nokia phone for about $30 which included $450 pesos of call credit. How much does $450 pesos buy? Well, here's the plan as I remember it:
$1.18/minute for the first 2 minutes (in Mexico)
$3.48/5-minute block thereafter
$2.48/minute for calls to the States.
No Roaming Charges.
Those prices are pesos, not dollars, and since a peso is currently equal to a little over 8¢, the costs run from 9.4¢/minute for the first 2 minutes to 5.5¢/minute thereafter if you use the full 5-minute blocks. Calls to the States will run about 20¢/minute. Now those are terms that I can understand. So, we'll still use Skype for most of our Estados Unidos calls but we now can be reached by cell phone as well.
So, phone in hand, I headed out in search of Allende Books. This is a tiny little bookstore that caters to the gringo crowd. And, judging by the titles, they really cater to the cruisers. I didn't buy anything today but we'll return to get some fish, fowl, and flora guides for Baja.
From there, looking sort of like I knew what I was doing, I headed south-ish on Avenida G. Prieto to find the Mercado Bravo. When Jim and the bunch were here, they found Mercado Madero and showed us where it was. These are large farmer's market type places except that all the stalls are under a roof. There are stalls selling fresh meat, fresh fish, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, shoes, all kinds of miscellaneous stuff and usually a snack bar or two as well. This is where the locals are shopping when they aren't at the supermercados.
Mercado Bravo is smaller than Mercado Madero but not by much. They only have one fish peddler compared to 3 or 4 at MM but they also don't have as many miscellaneous booths. The produce vendors have their wares all laid out nicely. If you want something, they hand you a big plastic dishpan. You pile everything you want in it and hand it back. After working over the scales, calculator in hand, the proprietress tells you what you owe. Prices are usually posted as well. As an example, today I bought 4 fat, medium-length carrots, 3 nice ripe tomatoes, 4 small zucchini, 4 ripe Haas avocados, and 2 large mandarin oranges, all of which came to $52 ($4.16 USD). Next time, Lulu will be with me and we'll try some other stuff (chayote? nopali? guyabera? maybe some plantains?). Also, located just outside the mercado was a tortilleria. They make and sell fresh tortillas and there was a line waiting to buy them. Guess we'd better get in line, too.
Lulu's been thinking about getting some huarache sandals. She used to have a pair and loved them. They have them at Mercado Madero but, I also spied a little shop called Huaracheria Guadalajara which looked promising.
From the mercado, I traveled mostly familiar streets on my way to Chedraui (the former CCC supermercado). This is a large supermarket that also carries some clothing, consumer electronics, toys, etc. Sort of like a Fred Meyer store (for those of you who are familiar with Freddy's). I got some meat. some more vegetables (Mercado Bravo didn't have ginger or broccoli), and some cereal for Lulu. On the long walk back to the bust station to catch the shuttle, I bought a liter bottle of fresh orange juice for $25 (about two bucks). It was ice cold and tasted like it had been squeezed that morning. And, of course I had to stop at La Fuente for some ice cream (Hey, shopping and scouting is hot work). My new favorite combination is a scoop of lime frozen yogurt topped by a scoop of coconut ice cream. Oh Man!
By the time I got back to the boat, Lulu was about finished with her purge and was just putting things back together. Tonight for dinner, she put some of those fresh vegetables to good use in a chicken stir-fry over Jasmine rice. Oh, Baby, Baby...