My trip report edited for Zihua'-phones. Only 3500 words now!


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Posted by Peter on March 26, 2001 at 12:48:44:

The first seventeen days of this holiday were spent touring by regular buses through the colonial towns of Queretaro, Guanajuato, San Miguels de Allende, Morelia and Patzcuaro northeast of Mexico City. My account of those days can be read on Mexico Connects. Click the link below:
MexConnect Trip Report


Playa Azul, Michoacan, February 14.
Up fairly early this morning. Breakfast of coffee and buns; stuff our things back in the bag and off. Caught the Collectivo back to Lazaras Cardinas at the front door of the hotel and then found the right bus station for Estrella Del Oro. After a short wait for the bus to Zihuatanejo we were on our way. Took a taxi to La Ropa and as often happens I had to tell the driver how to get to Hotel Paraiso Real. (How do first time visitors manage?)

ARRIVING IN PARADISE, Playa la Ropa.
We booked in and found that room #3 was still occupied and Mago did not know where the people were. So leaving our bag we went to a palapa and relaxed. Why worry when you’re in such a lovely place. By four o’clock we did start to be concerned. Our room still had not been vacated. A little pushing and at 4:30 Mago put us into room 4 for the night. This was the room we had last year and we said we would be happy to stay there for our whole 16 days.
We took the bus into town in the evening for Hora Feliz at Tata’s. Nobody we knew was there in fact the place was almost deserted. Found they have new rules for happy hour. Beer is two for one only between 5 and 7 but national; drinks are a special price all day and night being two for N$33. Regular price N$24 each. How can they have a regular price when they only sell at the special rate?
The bus service from La Ropa to town has improved. There are now four buses running so that at busy times there is a bus every fifteen minutes. The last bus now is at 7:30 each evening and a couple of the buses are in better shape. The fare is still N$3.00.
It was so nice to be sitting out on the beach under the stars at Tata’s we stayed for dinner. I had a superb pork chop while Mary enjoyed a fantastic avocado and tomato salad. After eating we strolled along Pescadora passed the basketball court where we found all the Valentine’s Day crowds celebrating at Daniels and Casa Elvira but still could not see anybody we knew.
Walking back and up through town we arrived at Oscar’s. It is not Oscar’s any longer. It is now run by a young Mexican who has “renovated” by moving the counters around, reducing the working area, thus increasing the customer’s standing area and has even installed a uni-sex toilet. It is not the same. The customers seem to be rowdy young Mexicans and the beach bum variety of tourists. Even though the draught beer is still N$10 for ½L it was not as comfortably friendly as when Oscar and his family were there.
Thursday February 15.
Went into the market in the morning and had a walk around town. Very little has changed. I looked for the shop where we had seen the bathroom sinks last year but the only stock was six or seven in a very simple blue and white pattern.
I returned to the hotel to find we had moved into room #3. It is not as nice as room #4. The room is dark and cramped. The bed is almost in an alcove with very little room on one side for getting in or out. The built in furniture (closet space) is old and in poor condition with the top being so low you need to almost crouch to hang your clothes. Mary requested room #4 back but that was not to be, but Mago said we could move into room #5 on Saturday.
Claude and Joan came by and we asked about Anne Sayre, as we had not seen her. They said she was in town staying in her usual room at Tres Maria’s and would be around on Monday, if not before, when she holds her art class at the hotel.
I asked Brian (the maintenance man) about sinks wondering if there was another shop or a plumbing supply centre, which carried them. He said you have to go to Dolores Hidalgo for sinks because that is where they are made.
We had dinner at La Gaviota what a change from last year. It is no longer an empty barn some redecoration and new furniture has done wonders. It was very busy with all tables close to he beach being full. We both had Mahi Mahi and the food was excellent together with several drinks the bill N$200. We finished the evening with a stroll along the beach to La Perla for nightcaps of Margaritas and Ron Añjelo. (Why do our drinks always total more than the food?)
Friday February 16.
We follow the same pattern each day. Working hard under the palapa and deciding where to eat dinner. It’s tiresome but great for people watching. Many familiar faces walking along the beach. I’m sure that many of the people who walk the length of Playa la Ropa and back each day will, when at home, complain if there is not a parking space within 100 ft. of the store they are going to.
This night we walked down to Paty y Mar for dinner. Still a great place with an excellent menu, the food is always cooked well and served hot to the tables. The tables are nicely spaced to avoid any feeling of being cramped yet close enough that you can interact with other customers and compare experiences and pass on or glean information. Happily (pun inteneded) Hora Feliz is still in vogue at this end of the beach. Draught beer, clara or obscura (light or dark), is served in iced mugs which can be too cold.
Paty has her daughter working with her now; they both are hot on PR — touring all the tables to check on satisfaction. We enjoyed a complementary Khalua con Leche after a delicious dinner.

Saturday February 17
Today we moved into room #5, the centre one upstairs and the one with the kitchen. What a large and well-equipped kitchen it is.
The atmosphere around the hotel changed today. Mago and Juan seem to be getting greedy. They imposed as N$60 PER PERSON minimum an any non-registered guest using the restaurant or palapas and beach facilities. The menu prices also have jumped with beer now being N$18.00. Most places are N$10 to 15 max. with the majority charging N$12. (Beer from the hole in the wall by the bus stop is still N$6.00 plus a 4 peso refundable deposit on the bottle.)
Had happy hour drinks in town, (No place at the south end of Playa la Ropa has a happy hour any more!) and dined at La Brasaras. (The “Chop-chop” place.) La Brasaras has almost 100 varieties of tacos on its menu. Service is fast and efficient. Drinks are priced on the low end of the scale. The only disadvantage is that being inside with the ‘kitchen’ at the street front, the place always being busy it can get very hot during the evening.
Sunday February 18
To celebrate having a kitchen in our room at the hotel, when I went into the market, I bought fish. I couldn't recognize what kind but it was called chiracho, I can’t find a translation. However whatever it is called, fried whole with a little butter it was delicious.
I can’t understand why when you are in the market in Zihuatanejo you can buy so many different kinds of delicious fish (including mackerel, sea bass, haddock and many more) but the restaurants still only serve huachinango, mahi-mahi or tuna. It certainly is not a matter of price. The cost of fresh caught fish is extremely low. Shrimp, lobster or crayfish cost about the same as at home.
One drawback at the Hotel Paraiso Real is the lack of a lounge for a relaxing evening ‘at home’. The restaurant and bar close at 6:00 p.m. each evening. The ‘lobby’ does have a few comfortable chairs and a setee but you share the space with the either security guard or Majo and staff doing the day’s accounting. It is really a sterile room at night.
Late in the evening there was a firework display across the bay from Peurto Mio. Somebody must have had a party.

Monday February 19.
Another busy day spent in the “office”. People have started to reserve the palapas with the room numbers posted on the poles.
Anne Sayre held her art class in the morning and we had a good chat afterwards. She passed on some items of gossip.
—Kathe is closing the gift shop at Hotel Paraiso because Mago and Juan want the space to use as their Dive Shop office. The office in town was closed earlier this year and they have been using that shack out back, which was used by the massage and yoga people last year. (They, the masseurs, now ply their trade in two tents at the front of the hotel.)
— Tata’s has changed hands and the reason the old crowd shuns the place for happy hour now is the new people do not open on Sunday. Sounds like a very poor excuse.
Anne did not say if there is a new place in style.
Mary had also been talking with Jean Woody from Springfield Missouri. Jean remembers us for previous years although we had not spoken with her before. She is very gregarious and friendly with Mago. We heard lots of gossip about the hotel from her,
—The reason Ed Clarke went to jail was because when confronted by Juan and Mago
about the money situation he pulled a gun on them.
—Juan and Mago are months behind in paying their rent. The landowner is the ex-mayor of Zihua’ who lives above the house at the front. He is agitating to take over the operation.
We shall have to wait to see what happens. I hope they get things worked out.

We treated ourselves to a dinner at Casa Elvira this night and shared a Filet Mignon. This restaurant lived up to its reputation and the meal was excellent. Half a bacon-wrapped filet mignon with vegetables and a large baked potato was plenty. The kitchen divided the meal and served it an two plates which was an unexpected service. Saw Anne using a computer terminal for her e-mail. She dropped by our table when she was finished.
Tuesday, February 20.
Audrey and Bruce (Long time friends from Massachusettes on their first ever trip to Mexico.) arrived today. They had to make three flight connections starting from Boston and flying Delta. I went to meet them at the airport. Taking the bus into town and then the collectivo to the airport the total fare was N$7.50. About every third or fourth collectivo, the brown ones from the corner of Ujito, now goes to the airport and drops you off at the entrance to the parking lot. Before you had to walk in from the highway. It is now just a short walk across the parking lot to the terminal.
Not knowing how much luggage the two would have I bought a taxi ticket N$170.00. That’s a monopoly for you. But the cars are air-conditioned and larger than the regular Toyota cabs. When their plane arrived they were traveling very light and had only two small bags. I thought we should get the collectivo back to town and then a taxi to the hotel to avoid walking along the beach with luggage. But the line up at the ticket counter was long and to have argued for a refund would have wasted too much time plus they were tired after the long trip. So we went back by taxi.
We knew from time of booking that Audrey and Bruce would have to take a substitute room for their first night and so they settled into room #14 for the one night before moving into room #1 for the rest of their week.
For their first night we decided to eat on the beach instead of in town and chose Rossy’s. A big mistake. Maybe it was an off night but we don’t think so.
First, the menu was not the dinner menu we expected. It was the same as they have for lunch with mostly beach-snack types of dishes.
Second the service was poor and terribly slow. After ordering we sat and waited a long time until the food finally came. The meals came first followed by the soup?
In past years we have always enjoyed our evenings dining on Rossy’s balcony. This night was the first and only time on this trip that our stomachs reacted. I lost everything I had eaten shortly after going to bed. So was very hungry by breakfast time. Mary’s tummy was upset also.
Wednesday February 21.
Bruce came to the market with me in the morning and he was very intrigued and fascinated by it all. We found the man who sells churros (those delicious doughnut sticks). He had not been on his corner earlier.
I gave Bruce a short tour of the town including a visit to the wine and liquor store. Wanted to get some more Khalua but they were sold out. Apart from wines, which are expensive, and much tequila the stock in this store seems to be depleted. Walking down Cuahtemoc (the pedestrian street) we found a shop with a great selection of sinks.
For dinner this evening we went to La Mordida on La Boquita for what must be the very best pizzas in Zihua’. Judging by the frequency that the motorcycle delivery boy leaves with orders many people in town agree with me. What ever you do at this restaurant do not order a double cheese pizza — there would not be enough room on the crust.
Picked up superb pastries for breakfast at the bakery on La Boquita and Khalua, gin and tonics in town and then back for Khalua con Leche and Christmas cake on the veranda. And, so to bed.
( Christmas cake is a tradition of ours. We always take a large piece the rich fruit cake made by Mary’s sister on holidays with us.)
Thursday, February 22
We did nothing special today just lazed on the beach until it was time to go to La Perla for dinner. Anything you wish to say about La Perla has been said many times before. It is not the best restaurant in Zihua’ but it ranks high. It gains a lot of its customers from being a well-run establishment on the beach with direct access to taxis from town. (One point of note, Paul has two bars, one near the beach at the south side, the other newer one is inside, beer at the out side baar is N$12 while in the new bar it is N$20.)
Friday February 23
All up fairly early and had breakfast in our room. Then bus into town and caught the bus to Petatlan. This was to give Audrey and Bruce a look at rural Mexico. Petatlan is noted for its gold market although we were not interested in buying gold jewelry.
Walking into the town of Petatlan from the highway where the bus stops we came to the church, a very modern building. But, before we could explore it we heard trumpets and bugles coming from further into town and went to explore.
At the main square there were lined up a platoon of soldiers, the army band and several groups of school children. There also was another military looking group that although not in army dress were dressed in a uniform of red berets, white t-shirts and black pants.
As the bugles and drums played, the giant flag was lowered from atop the flagpole and formally marched into the city hall. After a short break during which a couple of officers conferred and referred to their notes on clipboards. The flag was ceremonially marched out again and raised as the drums and bugles played. Then it came down again and there were several rehearsals on the folding procedure. Then it was raised again. The raising and lowering procedure was repeated a few more times.
From what we could figure out this all was a rehearsal for a future event when some dignitary would be coming and swearing in the men in the red berets as new recruits.
We did a little window shopping and then stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant on the adge of the plaza. Before walking back to the highway and catching the bus back to Zihua’.
For dinner we wwere goig to meet up with Anne Sayre and company at La Mango on Nicolas Bravo as Clade and Joan would be leaving the next day. Howveer when we arrived at the resturant is was deserted and we were not late. Settled for dinner at the Pollo Loco. The place was quite busy and yet for some unexplainable reason the chicken was over cooked. Maybe they fire was too fierce?
Saturday February 24.
Scrambled over the rocks to Las Gatos. Being Saturday it was quite crowded especially near the landing area. We walked along to find a less crowded restaurant for lunch and resisted most of the waiters please for our custom. Finally we came to one, which was not crowded and were persuaded to sit. We ordered beers but he was determined to get a food order. He came back with the menu and we waited for our beer. He returned and said his beer selection was limited, only Corona or Indio. Finally we got our beers and then tried to order food. We asked for tortas. Away he ran and returned to say he had no bread but he could serve tortillas. We ordered quesodillas. Mary asked for one with chicken, he said he thought he had some chicken. When Mary’s arrived it contained one very thin strip of chicken. This was a restaurant bar without beer and without food. Why he was so anxious for trade we could not imagine.
Anyway it was nice to sit beside the lagoon and sip cool beers before clambering back over the rocks to La Ropa.
I did not go to Las Gatas last year but in previous years the walk from La Ropa was along a rough path through the edge of forested hillside. And except for a large rock which had to scaled, was relatively easy. What seems to have happened, by looking at the rubble along the shore, is that tons of demolition rubble and rock has been dumped over the cliff top and this has broken down the old pathway.
In the evening we went to town for happy hour drinks at Tata’s, a walk to the sink shop to allow Mary to choose a sink and then dinner at La Taboga restaurant. Great food and more than we could eat. Mary and Audrey enjoyed the salad bar and both declared it excellent with a good selection and a choice of three tasty and distinctive dressings. Four stars.
Sunday, February 25.
After a busy, busy day sunbathing etc. we took Bruce and Audrey to La Mirador on the cliffside for dinner just before sunset. It was empty so we had the full attention of the kitchen and enjoyed a good meal.
After we walked down past the Hotel Irma and bought pastries for breakfast at the bakery then strolled along to the basketball court to let Audrey and Bruce see the paseo but it was too late when we got there and most of the people had gone home.
Monday, February 26
Today being Audrey and Bruce’s last full day we planned to go to La Peunta Arenas for Dinner and had invited Anne to join us. But she had gone off on Thursday for a few days in Acapulco. She said she would be back by Monday but when she did not hold her art class in the morning we knew she had stayed over. We went anyway.
Arriving at the restaurant we first thought it was closed — just a glimmer of light coming from inside. Then we realized that the whole area on that side of the bridge was darker than usual. It was a power failure and there were candles on all the tables. Very romantic. Even in the kitchen they were cooking by candlelight.
The fish was superb as usual but a little difficult to get off the bones in the dark. Bruce had the most trouble and we later thought we should have ordered a filete for him.
On the way back to the hotel we made a deal with the taxi driver to pick Audrey and Bruce for the trip to the airport and agreed on a bargain fare.
Tuesday, February 27.
The taxi did not turn up so we had to call one. And so Audrey and Bruce left. We are sure they enjoyed themselves. We were quite worried they would not like the lazy beach life that we lead when we are in Zihua’. But the totally turn off must have suited them.
Mary and I returned to La Taboga for dinner and once again rated it four star. I was served two of the thickest and most perfectly cooked pork chops. I should have asked for a doggie bag.
In the middle of the night I was awoken at 3:00 a.m. by lights flashing and got up to watch a spectacular electric storm way out over the Pacific. It lasted for nearly an hour.
Wednesday, February 28
This morning I went into Zihua’ to buy the sink. He was asking N$750.00. So I settled in to bargain. I mentioned that they were N$300 in Dolores Hildago and offered him N$400. Of course he laughed. I waited, he counter-offered 700 — I laughed. Back and forth for a while and he came down to 600 I came up to 500. And then I went across the street a sat where he could see me and enjoyed a beer. A short wait, he still had no other customers. So I crossed the road again and both of us sat on the front step. It took a little longer but finally we settled on N$525.
Its gorgeous, you’ll see it when you visit. I should have the bathroom done by then.
I bought some sea bass at the market for dinner together with small new potatoes. The ladies at the market fileted the bass with their machetes and we did not find a single bone in any of the fish. These ladies filet the fish in such a casual manner with their razor sharp knives, while all the time carring on a conversation with the other vendors, you wonder how they do not filet their own fingers. Two medium sized seas bass skinned and filited into four good portions N$22.00 about $3.50 Canadian.
After a marvelous meal of the sea bass we went into town and found Anne Sayre at Tata’s sharing a table with four younger people. These were people who had moved into Tres Marias that morning. Two were Dutch students travelling through while the other two, Isabel and Andrew were from Switzerland. Isabel and Andrew were enrolled in a hospitality and hotel management course in Switzerland and had come to Mexico for an immersion course in Spanish and if possible some work experience.
Their Swiss University had arranged for them to live with a Mexican family in Cuernavaca and they had been there for a month and had improved their Spanish to the point where they thought they could work. They already were fluent in French, Italian and English in addition to their native German. They had been to Acapulco but not liked it, too much English spoken in the hotels, and came on to Zihua’. They asked about hotels in Zihua’ where they might be able to find work and we mentioned the Sotavento/Catalina and Villa del Sol.
Thursday, March 1.
Our last full day. Made the most of the sunshine. Isabel and Andrew came by the beach. They both were very excited. They had made a call into the Villa del Sol and had been invited to return on Friday for a second interview.
In the evening we went to Restaurant Puesta del Sol. It’s on the cliff top opposite the Bay Club. It is very nicely decorated in a simple way — lots of wood. The tables were all laid with brown tablecloths, candles and nice comfortable chairs. Prices are not high and the service was good. Food also was excellent. The menu offers several dishes “flambe” and the waiter made a great show sending flames to the ceiling. I give this place five stars and for a restaurant on the cliff from where you can watch the sunset it knocks La Mirador right out of the market.
Friday March 2.
The lightning and thunder returned in the early hours. Another brilliant display over the ocean but it did not stay out to sea and surprise, surprise it RAINED. We had to scramble a little to move furniture and our things away from the front windows as it blew in and soaked the floor.
Isabel and Andrew came to tell us they have been hired by the Villa del Sol and would be starting work as soon as their work permits were processed. I hope it all comes true for them. They are a delightful couple.
All good things unfortunately have to end and so did our holiday.
The flight home was uneventful. And carrying the sink as hand luggage meant it suffered no damage. Before leaving the hotel we penciled in our names for room #5 next February. Lets hope it’s all still there.

END



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