A free morning, the winds were calmer, and we headed off for Wal-Mart to stock up on a few things.
Following our tour briefing for tomorrow's drive, we boarded our bus for the tour of the city. Veracruz is a large port city and handles many exports from Mexico. Tourism really peaks during Carnaval although it didn't seem all that crowded. Parades, floats, music and food abound. We're lucky Carnaval is going on at the moment and it's a very festive time for the city.
On our way from the RV Park, we saw several parade floats being staged along the roadways. Our first stop was a visit to Fuerte de San Juan de Ulua. This fort played a major role in Mexican history - starting with the 16th-century Spanish Conquest of Veracruz - and ending with its surrender in 1825 as the last Spanish stockade. Today the fort is an empty ruin of passageways, battlements, bridges and stairways. The fort withstood many attacks from such forces as Sir Francis Drake, Dutch pirates, and the Navies of France, England and the United States. This fort was a notorious, high-security prison, used especially for political prisoners, during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. We were able to go into the damp musty cells and could only imagine how formidable and confining they might have been in their time of use. I can't imagine being confined in total darkness and our guide told us many of the prisoners went blind as a result of that confinement.
Another interesting custom we've experienced in Mexico is paying to go to a public toilet. For about 2 pesos, or $0.20, you get 3 sheets of toilet paper and a sheet of paper towel. Then you're ready to use the public toilets!! So far, facilities have been clean and readily available.
Next on our tour was the Zocalo, or Plaza de Armas. This is a 'happening' place where the atmosphere, effervescence, music and gaiety all come together; it's the social center. Restaurants and cafes are plentiful but we all headed to La Parroquia. This unpretentious café is a national institution and is situated right on the malecon or promenade. Coffee is brewed in beautiful Italian coffee machines and we ordered a brew called Lechero; this consists of a small amount of very strong coffee in a tall glass. The glass is clicked with a spoon; this summons a waiter, who holds the milk kettle high above the glass and pours the steaming milk flawlessly and very dramatically into the coffee....quite a production. We also had fried bananas and sweet rolls for a different local flavor.
We walked back to the Zocalo to see the 17th century Palacio Municipal and the 18th century Cathedral of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. We browsed the vendor stalls and, by then, it was time to return to the park for our dinner.
Dinner was served at the restaurant near the parking area. Food was good. I love the dessert flan and we had grilled shrimp shaped into a round ball and wrapped in bacon.