A November 2020 trip to Mexico

By Carole Shereda
This item appears on page 10 of the February 2021 issue.

To escape the winters in Michigan, my travel companion and I, now in our mid 70s, have been going to Europe and Southeast Asia each year for five to six months at a time. However, since none of the countries that we normally visit have been accepting US passports during the COVID-19 pandemic, on Nov. 3, 2020, we returned to Mexico, one of the few countries that will let us in and one that is familiar to us.

It was our ninth visit to the city of Oaxaca, in the state of Oaxaca.

As for the flight down, there were a few changes from previous trips. While we were boarding the Delta Boeing 757 in Detroit, a flight attendant was waiting with a squirt bottle of sanitizer.

Once seated, we noticed that Delta’s free Sky Magazine was gone, as was a catered hot meal with coffee and tea on this international flight. Instead, we were handed a small zip-lock bag containing a small water bottle, a small bag of Cheez-Its, a sanitizer wipe, a paper napkin and a small sesame bar.

Our 4½-hour flight to Mexico City was uneventful. Once inside the huge Mexico City International Airport, we noticed it was business as usual, with the airport just as crowded as we remembered from previous years, only now everyone was wearing a mask.

Our next flight, from Mexico City to Oaxaca, lasted only 32 minutes. This Aeroméxico commuter flight was much different from our first flight, since it was nearly full, with only a few vacant seats. No social distancing on this plane! Again, passengers wore masks.

When we landed, the flight attendant announced that we would exit several rows at a time. Passengers remained seated until they were called to exit.

We went down the portable staircase onto the tarmac. At the terminal door, we each were asked to turn in our completed health form, which required a local address (our hotel) and answers to several health questions. After our temperatures were taken, we were free to enter Oaxaca’s small terminal. It was 6 p.m.

By the time we retrieved our luggage and used the restroom, the terminal had emptied, but, heading to our hotel, we were able to negotiate a shared taxi with another woman.

We had reserved a B&B in order to minimize grocery shopping. This would be our second stay at Hotel con Corazón (www.hotelconcorazon.com/oaxaca) in Oaxaca.

We also decided to split our stay between two different neighborhoods and were looking forward to the NaNa Vida Hotel Boutique (nanavida.com/en/oaxaca-city) later.

The small, 14-room Hotel con Corazón was occupied mostly by local tourists. We were the only ones there on one of the nights, but on Nov. 20 several people checked in for the Revolution Day holiday.

We had sunny skies and 77-degree temperatures. An added bonus — being able to keep our door open without having to worry about mosquitoes. The one downside — at an elevation of 5,102 feet, by the afternoon of our second day, we felt tired. It took us a few days to acclimate to the altitude.

The hotel served a scrumptious breakfast, with bread and jelly, fruit, yogurt, granola and a different Mexican entrée each morning, along with coffee or tea. This lasted us until mid-afternoon, when we were able to take advantage of the menú del día available in many restaurants around town. It seemed as though most cafés and restaurants were open.

From our hotel, we walked to the huge Soriana supermarket nearby, and it was quite busy. Upon entering the store, we had to walk through a tray that contained some type of sanitizer, then onto a towel to dry our shoes. Everyone was wearing a mask. Our temperatures were checked, our hands were sprayed with sanitizer, and checkout aisles were marked for social distancing.

When I went to the bank a few days later, someone at the door took my temperature and sprayed my whole body, which I didn’t like, since I thought the spray might stain my clothes.

In general, Oaxaca didn’t seem as pristine as it did when we first visited in 2008. Many of the buildings, even lovely old Spanish-colonial buildings, have been marked with graffiti. Many old places have been boarded up and now look shabby.

The Zócalo (main plaza) looked better than it did a few years ago, but there were no concerts as in the past, nor any street entertainment. Also, none of the impromptu street parades, processions and concerts that we’d enjoyed in the past were taking place.

As far as what we did all day, it was pretty much the same as what we’d been doing at home during the pandemic. We didn’t have family to visit, but we did see a few friends. One friend invited us over for a meal, so we took a bus to his place and shared a delightful afternoon.

As on previous trips, we visited a family-owned place that does medicinal pedicures (not the type that use nail polish). Our feet thanked us! We also visited two salons, where we each had a deep-tissue massage.

With our Kindles, we were able to borrow all the books we wanted from our library in Plymouth, Michigan. We decided against getting a library card at the Oaxaca Lending Library, since browsing wasn’t allowed, nor was their little café open.

It sometimes seems like life is passing us by, but we’re trying to make the best of this difficult situation.

Plymouth, MI