My Trip to Venezuela --- December 23-January 6, 2001-02
I went with my
girlfriend, Goldy, to visit her home
country, Venezuela, and spend quality time with her and her family. This
diary is a brief documentation of our epic trip.
All prices have been
translated to US ($) dollars. During this trip, the dollar was worth
approximately 750 Venezuelan
Bolivares (in 2005 it is
worth closer to 2000 Bolivares).
As usual, I have included links that
take you to further information about many of the places I have visited. I have also included some pop-ups
to describe some of the Spanish words I have learned.
Bottom line is that I had a terrific time, and I enjoy discussing it, so if you have any
questions/comments, please leave them here.
NEW! Photos of my trip are ready! The list is at the bottom of
the page, or here.
We flew to Dallas, where we met Goldy's youngest brother, Rafael. Then we flew into
Caracas, the capital of Venezuela! We were greeted at the airport by
Goldy's mom, Bella, her stepfather, Boris, and her oldest brother,
Andres. We drove the 40 minute trip back to their place.
Bella and Boris live (and have lived, since 1983) in a
four-bedroom condo overlooking the mountains. I was immediately intrigued
by all of the photos of her family, photos of people whom I had seen
previously in photos, and was about to meet. The have two televisions,
one of which has cable (over 40 channels, many in Ingles!) and the other
doesn't (3-5 channels, depending on time of day). Goldy stayed in her
old bedroom, Rafael stayed in his old br, and I was in sister Mery's
Went to visit Andres's casa. They also live in an apartment.
Intriguing note: The elevator goes right into the front door!
Naturally, all kinds of keys are required to get in.
Greeted Andres again, his wife Tamara, and their two ninos, Samuel, 6, and
Mariana, almost 3. I had met them all before, and warm greetings were
exchanged. Also met Goldy's sister Mery, her husband Ariel, and their
son, Issac (Isaquito!).
We drove around. Saw the Las Mercedes neighborhood. Saw
the ranchos/ranchitos (the poor people's homes, look terrible from
the outside, but supposably look better inside. They even have
satellite dishes!) Saw two malls. Supposably the two biggest in SA.
Pretty normal, refreshing that I did not know most of the tiendas.
Ate parilla for dinner. Was good, better than I expected.
Consisted of tenderloin cooked on a grill (the parilla). Unfortunately,
no bbq sauce. Played with kids in back of restaurant.
Next we went to Mery's casa. Elevator also opened into their
apartment. All families that I encountered so far had live in
maids, with their own living quarters, to help out. They were
referred to by the endearing term shiksas. That evening we hung
out, as nothing was open.
Drove to the playa, the mar de caribe! Took 80 minutes.
the way, I was told the story of the
Great Flood of Venezuela. I saw the tragic results of that event.
The most memorable were a truck stuck and buried in a mountain of mud, and
names and numbers of families scribbled on damaged walls as contact
On the beach, we went to a beach club called Puerto Azul. Goldy's family
have been members for decades. But this was the first time Goldy and
Rafael saw it after the disaster. We all marveled at the damage. A movie
theater and bowling alley were ripped apart. Buildings were knocked over.
Beautiful beach property was now mud. And the most amazing is that I was
told the location of the actual shore is now several hundred feet further
out. But we enjoyed the day at the beach, with the beautiful weather, the
large waves, and the scarcity of crowds.
The most notable food item here was the fruit juice. Venezuela makes
natural juices that actually are. I ordered a watermelon juice, and it
tasted like I was really sucking a watermelon! In the future I would also
partake in similar beverages involving canteloupe, orange, guava, coconut,
and passion fruit.
Came back around 9. Viewed some more family pix.
Went to have Venezuelan foods cachapas (folded pancakes with cheese) and
empanadas. Went to the Avila, which is the north mountain that surrounds Caracas.
It is a forest in the city! We walked up a path for almost a half
hour, and found the waterfall (called Quebrada
Quintero!) Hung out there for a while. Walked back down.
Went to fruit market, had more fruit jugo.
Went to Andres' oficina (he is a dentist). Rafa, Goldy, and I all got a
dental cleaning! It was exciting going to the dentist en espanol!
Learned a lot, about both dentistry and Venezuelan industry.
At home that night, Bella made potato
knishes, with sesame seeds
(best EVER), more hallacas, lomo (the tenderloin), and arroz blanco. Then we had
gelado, cafe and vanilla!
Then we hung out. I fulfilled an alleged Goldy family tradition by
singing to all. I chose Tainted Love ('82). Everyone
was impressed (it seemed). But that was enough. We looked at more fotos.
I got bored occassionally because most conversations were in espanol.
Then I showed the kids some of the games I brought.
Today I showed Blocks, Same, and Ski. Then we helped Bella with her new computer.
Had breakfast at a local joint by Goldy's casa. Had a
chocolate pastry, with canteloupe jugo! Si, more delicious natural
juices! Then went for a haircut. Place: The Moustache. Cutter:
Lourdes. Price: $8.60, gave $10.15. Came back, then I (yes, GC let
me drive! One must be aggressive, and red lights are not as
authoritative as we are used to.) drove to an 'artsy' neighborhood
called Hatillo. Looked around, then met the gang there. We had pizza.
Delicious, with spinaca, peperoni, and corn (nutritious too!)
Then looked around more. Saw many shops. Bought nada at this time.
Rafa's friend from Cleveland, Bill, came to visit and hang with us for the rest of
the trip. Young, single, and brash, he was fun to hang out with.
This evening, we went to Universitario Estadio (University Stadium) to see
the La Guaira Tiburones take on
Los Llanos in a baseball game!
Ticket: $17.30; 20 oz (600 ml)
soft drink: .66; Arepa con carne mechada,
pollo, & 2 types of queso: $2.40! Needless to say, I was impressed with the
La Guaira won, 8-2. Only one level of seating. Played 7 innings
(probably because it was a doubleheader). Used Designated hitter. Passionate fans!
Supposedly scary neighborhood (I guess, but I was not allowed out too
Left for Margarita
The security to travel within Ven. was the most lax I have seen. I
set off the beep of the metal detector, but then they said I look ok, go ahead. No
IDs were even checked. The plane ride took 35 minutes.
Margarita is a large
island in the Carribean Sea. It has mountains, roads, and plenty of greenery. We
stayed at a resort called Lagunamar. We
were 8 couples, staying in 4 rooms. Initially, they tried to say they were full and cram
us into two suites, but we said we don't think so. They actually did not
understand the concept of good customer relations, not even offering to compensate
us for their mistake. So, Boris pulled a few strings by calling a friend in the
Tourism Department, and we got what we wanted.
That evening, we went out for Italian food. The chef/owner greeted us,
took our order (prohibiting any variations), cooked our food, and served us desert.
It was in the top 5 of all the Italian food I have ever had. All that, plus
wine and tip, for around $15/person. Even I appreciated that bargain.
For our first full day, we fully checked out the resort. Hung out at the beach, the
pools, etc. Had our first experience windsurfing. Took a lesson, Goldy helped to
translate the instructor's directions (mostly 'hold on!', 'bend your knees!', 'turn
>This afternoon, more friends of
Rafa came to join us. Sameer, who lives in San Francisco, flew in, and he
brought his friends (we affectionately referred to them as Los Gringos), who were from
Arizona: Kat, the flirty single blond, and the engaged couple, Alec and Laura.
This evening we went to the resort's Mexican restaurant. Food was
slightly better than average. After, Rafa, Bill, Goldy, and myself went into
'town.' We checked out Senor Frog's. $12 cover, included two drinks. Most music was
en espaņol. I didn't understand it, but we had fun dancing to it. We didn't stay
long, it was too crowded.
Checked out the resort's casino tonight. Rather small, it boasted blackjack,
poker, and roulette tables. The roulette was supposed to be American style, but it wasn't. And that is
good, as American style means both a single and double green zero as choices. Here there was only a
single zero, which meant less choices, which meant (barely) better odds. The casino had a house band.
They played mostly Spanish music that I didn't understand, but most memorable was that (and of course
Goldy tipped me off to this) they played Gaita music, which is Venezuelan style, and played only for the
holidays. We danced.
Today we tried a different beach. It was called Playa Agua.
It was much bigger, longer, and more crowded than the one at the resort. It was a nice change, with
the seafood restaurant (even though I had chicken, no bones), and the many shops
along the road/beach.
The highlight of today was seeing the resort's production of "Grease!"
The company performed and lip-synched to the film's soundtrack! But one
can forgive that, after all, most of the lip-synching was way off (in a
later interview, it was revealed that most of the performers were not
familiar with the English lyrics. And that no rights fees were paid to
Paramount!). However, the costumes and the dances were superb, and
closely matched with the film (apparently at least the choreographer was a
After, we tried out Lagunamar's own disco! It was decent.
All ages were allowed until midnight. Most music was en espanol. But we danced to it all!
Also today, I asked the maid again to leave the master switch
alone. All of the rooms have a master switch that controls the electricity.
Since we also have a clock radio, I prefer that the master switch is always left
in the up position. Unfortunately, the maids did not always comprehend
that. We got several laughs out of the situation.
On New Year's Eve, I went to see what the deal was with the tennis academy. The tennis pro was very
charismatic, and said he would play against me for $11. I just wanted a good match, so i
accepted. We played for a few hours. It was cloudy, so it wasn't that hot. He
brought his game down a level (or so) and we had a very competitive match,
culminating with a deciding tiebreak that he won 19-17! However, I must say,
the highlight of the afternoon was when Goldy showed up, and watched.
In the evening, we went to the resort's Mexican restaurant, where they had a delicious buffet, that
was only partly Mexican. We then saw the show, which consisted of several
audience-participation games, most of which I did not understand.
Following, we were treated to an appearance by Miss Venezuela! She said
everything twice, translating herself to English, bless her heart.
Finally, the family gathered at a table near a pool, with some wine,
cheese, etc., listened to a radio, and counted down to 2002!
After all the hoopla/shenanigans from yesterday, today we relaxed, hung at the beach/pools, and
basked in the definition of a beach vacation. We had a late lunch today at Salvatore, an excuse for a
restaurant that served bar food.
After showering/changing, we drove out to a fortress called Juan Griego. It is
on a mountain, and it has a very colorful history. But the only way to learn the
history was to pay and listen to one of the local kids tell it. So we did, and Rafa
helped to translate. A cute feature was that you were not supposed to interrupt
them. The kids have the stories memorized, so if they are interrupted, they have to
start over. Their ages ranged from 4-12. They would tell the story to a crowd,
then go through asking for tips. They would also perform individually. Then we saw
what the fortess is renowned for: the beautiful sunset. This occassion was even
more beautiful because I saw it with Goldy, and it was our first sunset that we
stopped to watch together.
Since we had such a late lunch today, we
were hungry after 9ish, and we were able to get into the resort's Italian
restaurant. But, due to the holiday, it was buffet style, and only slightly
better than decent.
Time for another beach trip. This one was called Playa Caribe. Much smaller than the other, and slightly
prettier. Performed the usual beach activities, swam, tanned (burned), played, read, and had boneless
chicken for lunch. 1-3
Indulged in a Spanish restaurant for dinner, which, as with most restaurants in
Margarita, was delicious and inexpensive.
The evening brought our final forays to the disco and the
casino. As with most other evenings, nothing very memorable happened.
Wanted to pack in as much as possible into our last day in Margaritaville!
Goldy & I borrowed bicicletas, rode around for 20 min. Then we borrowed a kayak,
and we paddled for 20 min. Due to the rain, that was all we could do. We finished
packing our maleta, and boarded the plane. As with the to trip, the return
trip also had lax seguridad. No IDs were checked.
Arrived in Caracas. Went to
Campanero for dinner. Had lomo parrilla style (grilled). Also served were queso,
fried yuca, and guasacaca. Had profiteroles and banana/caramel pancake for desert.
Almost everyone but me was tired. Said goodbye to the gringos.
Took a cab to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Exciting, post-modern,
creative works of art were observed. Then we walked across to the National Gallery
of Art Museum. Then we took the train (train prices depend on length of trip.
I think we paid around 1.10 for the two trips.) to downtown, saw Plaza Bolivar, the
capital, mucho tiendas,
and the area where I supposably was when I was here 10 years ago. But very little
looked familiar (just the statue!). Then we took the train again all the way across
town to Casa Andres. Hung there for the rest of the day/noche. In the middle, we
visited the (another!) mall. Apparently Andres also owns a tienda! He sells kids'
(Barbie) products. I enjoyed hearing behind the scenes stories about the mall.
Went with GC to the AutoMercado (a local supermarket). Bought some products (guava newtons, choc
drink, pirolines, coffee, etc.) Then Rafa came by and we went to ANOTHER
mall. Shopped in the artesenia tienda. Bought
casitas (for Grandma and myself),
doble diablo maraca. Spent total of
Went next to the Petting Zoo. Saw exotic exciting animals! Included were
Cangarus, flamencos, ostriches, dromerderias, llamas, bo constrictors, y mas! Next
went to cena @ Campanero (again!). They tried to make bbq sauce, but i
think they just mixed mayonesa con ketchup. Then went with GC to finally
meet her amigas!
Debbie lives with her architect esposo David in a brand new modern
mansion! Met and chatted with them along with Ines and Kyria, and their respective
husbands and kids. Picked up a prescription for Cipro next. Then
went to Casa Andres and said final goodbyes! Mucho crying!
Woke up at 7am. Left casa for last time at 8. Arrived at airport at
8:40. Flight was scheduled to leave at 10:49. Plenty of time? In
reality, yes. But not today. We waited in line for over 3 hours. We
were to take solace in the fact that we wouldn't have made it onto our
oversold flight anyway. We were placed onto a 5:30 to Miami, without an
apology (I learned later that she did apologize, but I didn't catch it in
her espanol). Hung out at the airport, ate, wandered, talked, and had an
especially moving, long-overdue, quality conversation with Bella. Caught
the Miami flight. No meal, just mix bag. Movie was "Curse of the Jade
Scorpion" Arrived at 8:30. Got out hotel/meal vouchers, went to
the Radisson to eat/sleep.
Got up before the ass-crack of dawn (4:30). Caught the 7 flight, made it
to Chgo at 9, home by 11.
Here are some photos from the trip! Click on one to view it!
|Goldy, David, Mery, Rafa, Bella, Boris
|Ariel, Rafa, Mery, Bill, Goldy, David, Bella,
David enjoying relaxing times