Tuesday, April 14, 2009

FAQ: How to get from MEX Airport To Patzcuaro

Over the last few years, I've received more than a few emails asking me how to best get from the Mexico City Airport by bus to Pátzcuaro. While I recognize that there are several ways to accomplish this, with the help of our friend, Big Tex, I have distilled the vital information down to to give the simplest, most hassle free way possible. This applies to travel in the daytime and early nighttime hours. We try not to take buses at night; it's just our personal preference, unrelated to any other issues.

This is a Public Service Announcement, brought to you by Don Cuevas, so don't give me any static. Like, you've heard that the Metro is cheap and fast. So? Go to some other website if you want to get fxxxed up in the Metro, not here.

At the Mexico City Airport, after passing Aduana and Migracíon, be sure to buy your taxi ticket at the official taquilla, or sales window, for example, Sitio 300, not from some tout. This is very important! The fares are calculated by zones. There are regular taxis, which are fine for most people's needs, and they are much cheaper than the large expensive Suburbans. Pay attention to which service you are buying. Once you pay for your taxi ticket at the window, you do not pay the taxi driver anything more, except for a very optional tip, if you had a lot of luggage, or his conversation was especial cool, whatever.

Once at Terminal Poniente, also called Terminal Observatorio, go to the AutoVias ticket counter. There are at least 3 desks, close by each other. It may take a moment to figure out which is the one needed. read the "Salidas" or Departures board. Credit cards are accepted for payment. If paying with cash, check your change. Get a bus direct (Sin Escalas) to Patzcuaro. While it does stop 15 minutes in Morelia, you stay on and do not change buses. Escalas are changes from one bus to anoher. No need, if you follow the easy directions here.

(Certainly, it's easier than taking ETN to Morelia, changing to a Patzcuaro bus once at Morelia for which a change of building is probably necessary as well.) It has to be faster to get an AutoVias bus, with more frequent departures, than the ETN. Though the AutoVias buses are one level down in luxury than ETN, they are quite comfortable. AutoVias has a separate waiting room, with free restrooms and free coffee. They will also check in your larger luggage while you are still at or near the ticket counter. The buses are equipped with passable restrooms. The movies are generally awful.

You get a crappy "ham" and cheese sandwich and a soft drink when boarding. I recommend Boing! a natural fruit drink. You can also buy decent baguette, croissant, or torta sandwiches or pan dulce at Terminal Poniente's restaurant or snack bar, inside. I avoid the outside stands and the inside carnitas places. The main restaurant does a decent breakfast. There's an internet place or two, which are sometimes open and sometimes functioning.

One drawback of AutoVias is that you can't yet book on line.
WAIT! You can now book on line, as long as your trip isn't very far in the future. Go to Grupo HP-Occidente , and fill out the forms and press the digital buttons, as requested. But it should be no problem getting a seat during normal, daytime non-holiday conditions, walking up to the counter and paying for the next available departure.

By the way, anyone who willingly books a seat at the rear of the bus, near the toilets, deserves the experience.

The trip takes 5 hours, more or less. If you follow my directions, hard-earned through personal experience, you will be all right. Once arrived at the Central de Autobuses de Pátzcuaro, you can get a cab, take a combi van if you know what you're doing, or even walk to Centro, if your luggage is light and it's still daylight. But I don't want to explain the last one. My work here is done.
¡Adios, muchachos!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Piso Superior

We are always looking for a better baño when out and about. It used to be that a well maintained sanitario was often hard to find. In that situation, it was often a matter of "breathe through your mouth and squint your eyes." Now, after many years, things have improved.

Click photo to enlarge.

Quiroga was thronged with Easter Saturday visitors, we among them.
We'd been rooting through a medio kilo of well-salted carnitas and washing them down with muchos refrescos and bottled water at the Plaza. The moment came soon enough when we needed a baño pronto. It was best to seek relief there in thoroughly modern Quiroga before setting out for Tzintzuntzan, where the options might be somewhat marginal.

We finished up our nieves at La Michoacana, and walked back a half block to a set of sanitarios set behind a serious double revolving cage door. There was a coin slot for a 2 peso fee and a young woman handing out carefully folded papel higíenico. At that point, our roads forked according to sex. Women to the left, entering on the ground floor. Men had to achieve relief by first ascending a hallway with a steep, concrete paved ramp, inclined at about 30º, to the mingatorías* and excusados* some 10 or more meters up to the piso superior. Handrails and treads cut into the concrete ramp were provided for our safety.

The upper deck was highly functional, (except for the first 3 booths, which were afuera de servicio), attractive and well maintained. At the street side were stained glass windows. I didn't take time to explore in detail, but did my business and then, oh-so-discreetly, took a picture of the ramp.

This was indeed a superior pipí experience up on the piso superior.
I recommend it to visitors. Men should have strong legs.

*Basic bathroom terminology. Another free, educational feature of my blog.

"Sanitario" is a nice term, "excusado" is the porcelain throne itself. "Mingatoria" is a less-seen term for a urinal. Not so polite.

"No pise al pasto", on the other hand, is a sign to "keep off the

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What goes around, comes around

Morelia's eastern and northeastern areas are less familiar to us than the southern and southwestern areas where we normally shop.
"The city is the biggest in the state, and the population of the conurbated area was 642,319 people (608,049 in the city of Morelia), according to the census of 2005..."

We know how to get to the Airport by the western peripheral highway, past the Bus Station, or up the more direct but often traffic clogged Calzada La Huerta-Héroes de Nocupetaro-Avenida Morelos Norte.

We left the MLM Airport yesterday morning, and with hopes for a simpler route, took the new toll road "Short cut" east of the city. It which turned out to be not so short. It debouched (no, not debauched) us into a major construction zone, where a huge trench, The Excavation From Hell, lay at the key city street intersection to where we'd really wanted to go. At that point my mental GPS crashed, and after at least one fruitless loop, we ended up taking an unplanned serial circuit back around the north side of the city. Fortunately, the traffic wasn't too bad once we emerged from the construction zone.
(General Confusion Fault Zone on this zoomable, draggable map.)

This meant that we had to skip the breakfast at Bisquets Obregón (not a major disappointment), and at it also seemed our shopping at Costco was doomed.

(enter sheepish pun area)
But what goes around, comes around, and nowhere does it apply better than to peripheral highways. We completed about two-thirds of the giant loop of the north side, and eventually found a parking spot near "Barbacoa de Borrego José Luis", about a 1/2 mile from Costco. The specialty there (and not much more than this) is pit-steamed mutton, wrapped in pencas de maguey (leaves of the agave plant), cooked for hours, until the meat is fork-less tender and a delicious consomé is produced. You can make your own tacos with the fresh, hot tortillas they bring you, or put the meat in the bowl of consomé, or order "montalayo", which we didn't, a sort of Mexican "haggis" of spiced, chopped sheeps's innards, usually eaten as tacos. All parts of the sheep are put to ewes. It's really delicious, if you're innardly oriented.
(exit sheepish
pun area)

From Costco, well-known territory for us, it was no big deal to get home. Our route had been lengthy, but at least we hadn't looped back to the Airport.

I posted our plight on the Michoacan_Net Yahoo Group, and got advice from a poster who often uses the short cut road. But I've yet to unravel his advice, because he knows where he's coming from and where he's going, so his easy reference to places unfamiliar to me does. not. compute.