Sunday Morning 3/13/2022: Down Mexico Way

Colorful skies appeared out our front door once again this past week!

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

As if things weren’t already complicated enough, our flight to Paris changed once again this past week, this time to an absolute nightmare of a schedule. What had started as a simple flight from Baltimore to Montreal and then on to Paris when we bought the tickets last October had now morphed into impossibility: fly to Toronto from Baltimore, then take another flight to Montreal to catch a flight to Paris . . . except the Paris flight departs 15 minutes before the flight from Toronto lands in Montreal! The notice from the airline added a sentence at the bottom saying there might be problems with our schedule and we were welcome to choose another from four schedule options located further down the page. Each of those options were just as awful: all included 12-14 hour layovers in both Toronto and Montreal before finally departing for France nearly two days later than originally scheduled. Insanity! Ticket prices seemed to have gone mad as well as we noticed our affordable seats were now priced at over $3990 per person!

San Miguel de Allende (photo credit: Miranda Garside/Unsplash)

We took this as a sign we maybe shouldn’t go to France at this time. We’d been feeling somewhat uncomfortable about it as it were, and Tuesday we made a decision to go to Mexico instead. We changed our flight destination to Mexico City at no cost, and I cancelled our Strasbourg Airbnb reservation and booked a place in San Miguel de Allende. If all goes according to plan we’ll fly to Toronto, spend the night at a hotel near the airport, then depart the next morning for Mexico City where we’ll catch a bus for San Miguel de Allende after arriving around noon. What we’d paid for tickets to Paris covered business class seats (!!) on our flights to Mexico (two days later prices for the seats had increased to where this wouldn’t have been possible), and we’ll also receive a gift card from the airline for $290, the refund of taxes we paid from the Paris flight. Heaven knows what we’ll do if this new flight gets changed, but I guess we’ll just cross that bridge if and when we get to it.

Our lodgings in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

We’re going to come out ahead by going to Mexico. The cost of living is much, much, much less than Strasbourg (especially with costs expected to rise on everything, everywhere in Europe this summer). Our flight to London from Mexico City in August will be more than it would be from Strasbourg, but we won’t be paying for two expensive train tickets (another surprise) to get to Strasbourg from Paris, so the difference hopefully won’t be too horrible. We’re feeling sad about not going to France but think for now it’s best to wait and try again later. We’re quite excited that we’ll finally get to experience Mexico and spend time in San Miguel de Allende.

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Thinking of what we accomplished: 1) I had to wait on hold for over 45 minutes to talk with an airline representative (in the middle of their night), but the ticket change was accomplished easily once we finally connected. Likewise, it was easy to make the lodging change with Airbnb, and a hotel reservation in Toronto for the night. 2) Seven more packages were mailed back to Massachusetts and we have just seven left to go. Eleven of the original fourteen sent have been received and put away. The remaining three are larger boxes and aren’t expected to arrive until the end of the month. 3) I listed our TV, sake jug lamp, and hibachi table on Buy & Sell last Sunday afternoon. The lamp and TV sold in less then two hours, and when the couple came to pick up the lamp, they also bought the hibachi table on the spot! I was so worried it wouldn’t get sold, but they were thrilled to get it and we were thrilled to get what we wanted for it. We got a good feeling from them as well, that the hibachi and lamp will be appreciated and with them for a very long time. Everything now has pretty much been sold except for the car and smaller things that will go out at the yard sale next month. 4) Brett and I switched our language study to Spanish last Thursday.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) The airline representative I spoke with was extremely patient and helpful. Her reaction to our last flight schedule was priceless: “What? You mean you can’t transcend time and space?” She was actually horrified we had been sent that schedule and was very apologetic. 2) Wednesday’s weather was predicted to be somewhat gloomy, but we woke to beautiful blue skies so we headed out for a perfect afternoon at the beach. Thursday was almost as nice so back we went for another lovely afternoon of sunshine and relaxation. 3) The woman who has been staying in the apartment above us while our neighbor’s been away has very curly hair like mine, and she gave me the name of the woman on the island who cuts her hair. I am so happy that I can get my hair cut by someone who knows curly hair before we leave the island rather than have to find a stylist back in Pennsylvania.
$13.17 for blueberries and bananas was the extent of our spending last week.
  • Thinking of ways we saved: 1) We bought a bag of frozen blueberries and organic bananas at Costco on Monday; otherwise we had a no-spend week (postage was again paid from our travel account). 2) We had to forfeit what we’d paid for the first 30 days of our Strasbourg rental and the accompanying Airbnb service fee (ouch!), but the apartment we’ve reserved in Mexico costs so much less that including the forfeiture we’ll still end up paying $1500+ less than we would have for the same time period in Strasbourg.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again there’s nothing scheduled on the calendar for next week. We plan to mail six more packages to Massachusetts, and do a Not-So-Big Shop on Tuesday, but otherwise the week is ours to do as we please (fingers crossed there will be good beach weather!).

Our upstairs neighbor, J, returned this past week after a long absence and once again he’s noisily thumping around his apartment. We had almost forgotten how much noise he makes, but it’s possible K, who’s been staying in the apartment while he was away, may have spoken to him because for the past few days he’s been much quieter up there, at least when she’s there (we had mentioned to her how quiet she was and how clumpy he was). If it’s just J though he makes a lot of noise. K will apparently be staying with him for a little while longer while she looks for a more permanent place to live. We believe she’d love to move into our apartment after we leave but isn’t sure she can wait that long living with J. Brett has been put in charge of collecting what J owes us for his share of the Internet because it’s always an effort to collect from him (he’s a check’s in the mail kind of guy).

We had a delightful week here, busy but not too busy. Books were read, tasks completed, hikes were taken and the beach was visited. Time is moving along at a nice pace: quickly, but not too quickly, giving us time to enjoy our remaining days on Kaua’i and reflect on our time here. I hope everyone is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!

32 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 3/13/2022: Down Mexico Way

  1. That airline schedule is nuts, and I had to sit online while in the UK last time for hours to get my return changed to something bearable. I can’t figure out how their algorithm works when they change flights, but it’s nothing a human would do if they were paying attention. I’m sure it’s driven by profit margin.

    Probably a good thing to go to Mexico at this point…Europe is looking really stressful. But I continue to hold out hope that things will resolve in some way before WWIII erupts. It’s SO upsetting.

    We are spending a lot of time with our new doggie, but she seems to be really, really well behaved and sweet. She was surrendered by a breeder who went to prison/jail for domestic violence (yikes) but the dogs seemed to be really well cared for and healthy. What a find! I’ve been putting off getting another dog after losing our last one. But one day I saw a lab rescue and the rest is history. 😊

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    1. I felt very sorry for the host of the Airbnb we cancelled in France: “you should know France is safe!” I think I would have felt fine about it if we were only going for a week or two, but nearly three months? We had become very uncomfortable with that. And getting there had turned into a nightmare. There still are no flights there from BWI that don’t take nearly two days, or stops in foreign airports where we would have had to get our bags and recheck them with a different airline.

      Your new baby is a keeper! So happy for you and her to be united. We are already talking about what kind of dog we’ll get whenever we settle down.

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  2. Hey, I don’t normally comment, but Mexico (where we live for 6 months of the year) is an area I know a bit about. When you fill out your tourist visa immigration form (you can do it and also do your customs form online), you need to check carefully that the dates you put in match the number of days that the immigration agent gives you when you arrive in Mexico.

    They never used to care and you could get 180 days with no problem, but especially in the Mexico City airport, they can give you as few days as they feel like and if you don’t get it fixed right then and there (and they can still refuse to change it and that means you will need to leave before the number of days they gave you), you can end up in a whole lot of trouble, including jail.

    Mexico used to be pretty loose with its requirements, but they have tightened things up dramatically (which they have a right to do….imagine if people from Mexico came to the USA and didn’t leave until after their time was up) and that means you need to check and check carefully.

    Here is the link to the Customs form: https://siat.sat.gob.mx/PTSC/DPE/

    And here’s the Immigration form link: https://www.inm.gob.mx/fmme/publico/en/solicitud.html

    If you want to read more about the issues, this website is a decent one for information: https://www.mexperience.com/changes-to-time-allowed-in-mexico-using-a-visitor-permit/

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    1. Thanks for all the information – good to know! We will be in Mexico for less than 90 days total, so don’t need a travel visa from what we can tell (I think we are given one when we arrive). However, if things get nuts in Europe we may end up being there longer than originally planned so all the links you sent are timely.

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      1. You have to have a tourist visa to enter Mexico. Everyone who isn’t a resident has to have that form to enter the country along with a separate customs form. Ninety days doesn’t really matter as you can only stay as long as immigration puts on the immigration form no matter what you put down.

        Usually, but not always the airline will hand them out on the plane and you can fill them out then. Also, do not lose the part of the form that they hand back to you as you will need it to leave Mexico. It used to be quite easy to stay as up to 180 days without any issue, but things have changed and that is no longer guaranteed..

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      2. According to the government of Mexico, what we have to get is a FMM or “visa card,” not an actual visa. The FMM is good for 180 days in Mexico. The form can be filled out and fees paid online, printed off, and presented at border control when we arrive, and we may also have to present our rental agreement to show the dates we’ll be there. The form has already been added to our To-Do list!

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  3. Hi Laura and Brett! I have been following your blog, travel and adventures for quite some time! It is unfortunate that your plans have changed but SMA looks glorious and seems like the best Plan B or is it Plan C? I have been researching Air BnB’s in SMA as I am considering a month or so there. Could you share which listing this is? On another note, My Niece and her wife are living on Kauai now for 6 months and are just loving it! They are young and are hiking and surfing when they aren’t working!

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    1. Thanks for the information on your Air BnB! It’s lovely! I can’t wait to follow your adventures there! All the best to you and Brett!

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  4. Yay on Mexico! You have never been there before… right? I want to get your take on the trip there! I am somewhat relieved you will not be in Europe at the moment because it looks stressful to get there. Also, Putin is a narcissistic jerk.

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    1. We’ve never been to SMA, and Brett’s never been to Mexico, but I grew up in Southern California so have been to Mexico several times (and took three years of Spanish in HS).

      Getting to Europe these days appears to becoming more and more of a hassle every day. We are both glad we changed our destination to Mexico. Now we hope we can get to England in August!

      And yes, Putin is a narcissistic jerk, among many other things.

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  5. I’m glad you changed your plans. It seems the universe was sending you a strong signal! That’s really the best decision based on what is going on in the world right now. Hopefully things will improve so you can try again in August, but the area in Mexico you’re going to looks lovely. I will miss your photos of Kauai, but I am looking forward to see more of what San Miguel de Allende looks like.

    It’s great you found a hairdresser before you leave. I just found out my longtime hairdresser has retired so I’m on the hunt to find a new one. I went to him for 10 years and he’ll be tough to replace.

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    1. Just as soon as we had digested the awfulness of that flight schedule (and the options) we felt that we were being told, as you say, by the universe to change our destination. So we did and we’re happy about it. We’ve heard so many good things about SMA and we’re eager to explore and get to know it (as well as eat some fabulous Mexican food).

      The hardest part for me whenever we moved during our years in the navy was finding a good stylist at our new location. After a few bad haircuts I would finally find a good stylist and then poof! we were being transferred again. Your stylist will be hard to replace – can he recommend anyone?

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  6. It sounds like you are settled with your decision. That is always a good thing! I am hoping to go to France next summer (2023) as my brother’s fiance is from France. They are doing one wedding in Ottawa (where they live) this fall and then another one in Normandy next summer. Fingers crossed we will be able to go. We will fly out of Montreal (even though I am closer to Toronto) as if you fly from Toronto you have to change plans there anyway. My Dad lives in Montreal so it should all work out.

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    1. We’re thinking that 2023 may be a better year to visit France than this year. I hope you’re able to fulfill your plans and get to Normandy for the ceremony there.

      We originally were scheduled to fly to Montreal and on to Paris, but AC decided to add Toronto to the mix at some point. Currently they have no direct flights from Montreal, at least not if you’re coming from Baltimore – you have to transit through Toronto first.

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  7. Hi! SMA is a wonderful town! We were there quite few years ago; lots of Expats there. We were on a small tour which included few cooking (and eating!) afternoons. I can look that info up if you’re interested. Also took day trips to a few surrounding towns which was fun. The only neg thing I remember is that the bus didn’t go all the way to SMA; we had to catch a car service in Queretero, but sounds like that’s changed. An artist friend spent several weeks in Mexico City last summer, that looked amazing! You’ll have a great time!

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    1. We have been hearing other travelers sing the praises of SMA for many years, so we’re excited to be going. We’re currently looking into day trips, and there are apparently wineries in the area that we can check out.

      We will be taking a taxi from the Mexico City Airport to the main bus terminal where we can catch a bus directly to SMA. Otherwise yes, you have to change at Queretero. We’re going to add a few days in Mexico City on at the end of our time in SMA – excited by that as well!

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  8. Forgot to mention, the terrain (sidewalks)there is very rocky and bumpy. They sell sandals with extra thick “workboot” soles for walking. You might look into it; our place had some we could borrow. Sounds crazy I know; but several people we met who had fallen and broken bones weren’t humored😬

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    1. I have heard much about the bumpy streets in SMA, but this is the first I’ve heard about the sandals with special soles. I am very careful when I walk on cobblestones and place my feet carefully, and Brett always walks just behind me to catch me if I look like I’m going to fall. We’ll be extra careful in SMA.

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      1. Trip Advisor has a forum on the best shoes for SMA. Seems like the big issue is good ankle support. A lot depends on where you’re walking; some places aren’t bad. But I know that you like to walk and explore!

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      2. Thanks for the tip! I saw that slip-on sneakers are recommended – I’m going with two pairs of Skechers (which were recommended by a couple of people). Brett’s also wearing Skechers slip-ons. We also have our Duckfeet boots so I think we’re ready. It will be an adventure!

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  9. Hi Laura and Brett, SMA in Mexico is beautiful with many expats living there. While you stay overnight in Toronto, I’d love to meet up and if you’re interested, I can give you a quick tour around downtown Toronto. There is a direct union-pearson express train that takes 25 minutes to arrive in downtown Toronto. It runs almost 24/7. I have a Contact form on the top menu on my blog if you’d like to send me a message.

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    1. Oh Natalie, thank you for the lovely offer. We will be arriving in Toronto in the evening, after 6:00 p.m. and have to be up before 6:00 in the morning to catch our flight to Mexico City, so not sure we can fit in a tour of Toronto. I hope we can still arrange to meet though and trade travel notes.

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  10. Yay for Mexico! I think you’ll enjoy your stay in SMA. I heard that there are a lot of Americans living there and it’s a beautiful place.

    I admire you for being so brave and willing to get in airplanes and have connections and all that. I can’t steel my nerves to get on a flight to San Diego which is 1.5 hrs long. The flights schedule is rogue these days and just the thought of missing a connection or being stuck mid-way to a destination is putting me off. Not talking about the price, which seems to skyrocket from one day to another. Good thing you were able to work out with the airline and get a decent deal.

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    1. Yay for Mexico is right! We’re very excited about going and experiencing SMA.

      We don’t have much choice about getting on a plane, especially living in Hawaii. I keep checking our flights and so far our flight back to mainland in May is holding steady, and the one to Mexico City is holding steady as well. Mexico appears to be a very popular destination for Canadians, so fingers crossed the schedule holds. We were so excited (and lucky) that our Paris tickets covered business class on our Mexico flights. Prices right now are crazy though – ones from Toronto/Montreal to Paris are anywhere between $3900 to over $5000 per person for extra comfort.

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  11. My cousin booked a flight from North Carolina to Florida and price had quadrupled in the two weeks before he actually completed his purchase so he changed the dates and is paying double the original quote. Gas is $4.30 a gallon here. I think Mexico is a very good choice right now.

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    1. Fares are crazy right now. We just got a notice that the cost of flights from Mexico to the UK is the lowest it will probably be until we go, so we bought those. Still expensive, but not as bad as we imagined.

      Gas is over $5/gallon here now.

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  12. Your France flight changes nightmare reinforced our prior decision to pay a bit more for our nonstop flight to Munich in June, where our daughter and her family will pick us up. We’ll happily reimburse them for the cost of gas it took them to get to us, vs the challenge of dealing with a transfer flight into the airport that is closer to them.

    We’ve given thought to the situation in Ukraine, of course, but if the war spills over into any NATO countries, well, the harsh reality is that nowhere on the globe would then be safe from the ramifications of a potential WWWIII, and we would far prefer to be with our beloved granddaughters and their family should that occur. Besides which, our SIL works with NATO currently, and we trust our daughter and granddaughters would be told to depart in advance of any pending, detrimental situation, and thus we’re really not concerned.

    We’ve traveled to Mexico many times, and we find the people to be as warm and gracious as anywhere else we’ve traveled. Travel is so often what you bring to it, and I know you two to always bring your best, and so I have no doubts that your time there will be everything you hope. I’m only sorry we’ll miss meeting up with you in Strasbourg!

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    1. You are fortunate to have a nonstop flight to Germany; and nothing affordable from Philadelphia to Paris. The repeated changes to our Paris flight were all manageable until the last one, and there was no way to substitute anything. But, we were feeling uncomfortable about going anyway, so it’s all turned out well and we’re looking forward to our time in Mexico. We were able to reserve a non-stop flight from Mexico City to the UK so that one should (hopefully) be OK.

      We just went through hell with Delta when they up and changed our flight schedule to Baltimore. I had just checked it two days ago and nothing had changed . . . and then BOOM! The schedule changes had us arriving over eight hours later than originally planned which was not going to work. And, although we had paid for Comfort+, they had changed our seats on the new flights to economy! We were able to change our flight online though, and kept getting offers to upgrade our sets to first class . . . but when we tried it turned out first class was sold out! We got the last two Comfort+ seats on our flight otherwise would have been placed in economy again (and not seated together). What a mess!

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