Trip Report, Part 3: Fiestas y Centro

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Posted by Candice from ( on Monday, April 01, 2002 at 14:35:55 :

Here’s the real finale, finally. I think I didn’t want to finish it because it would mean our trip was really over! Silly I guess, but a lot of you will understand…

Part 3, Fiestas y Centro

Friday morning, Dick heads out early to the Marina course. I enjoy another early morning at Paty’s, reading and drinking a pot of tea, watching the beach joggers, thinking maybe next time I’ll try that, but not now. Later, into Centro to poke around. At 2:00, I meet Catherine Krantz, publisher/editor of Another Day in Paradise, for lunch at Arcadia. Although we’ve been communicating via email, and I have been writing articles for her, this is our first face-to-face meeting. She, a regular at Arcadia, orders the filete con ajo, I order filete con ajillo. We eat, drink, and talk until 4:30, when I’ve arranged to meet Dick at Rick’s Bar. By this time Catherine and I are inseparable. We meet Dick, who tries to catch up with us cerveza-wise, then off to Daniel’s for the Message Board party. I finally get to meet Judy and give her a real hug, also Marty and Betty, Bret the Clown and his wife and parents, Tess, and two long tables-ful of other MB posters. Afterward, Dick and Catherine and I close up Rick’s Bar. More about Rick’s later.
Saturday a fine, lazy day. Highlights are lunch at La Sirena Gorda where we finally get to try the roasted fish tacos. They’re so good. And dinner at Kau Kan, where we totally confuse the waiter by eating an array of appetizers and salad and never getting around to an entrée. I dream about their ceviche…and the tuna roll with sea bass was so good we ordered it twice. I still think they have the best mango margs in town.
Sunday is beach day. The local families are comfortably settled up and down La Ropa and we do the same. Wander down to La Gaviota for an excellent guacamole & fresh fish lunch. We’re just finishing up when a tiny old man hobbles by, saying something in a soft sing-songy Spanish that I don’t understand at all. “What’s he saying?” I ask the waiter. Oh joy, it turns out this is Don Simón, the man with the magic hands, offering massages. I move to a chair in a quiet section of the restaurant. Don Simón takes a jar of Vick’s Vaporub out of his shirt pocket and tries to explain something to me. Hmmm…I don’t know what he means, but I know I don’t want to smell like Vick’s in paradise, which I manage to explain. I don’t even know if he wanted to put it on me just then, because later he will tell me to use it or a similar balm on my neck muscles for three nights. His hands are rough as beach sand and uncanny in the way they seek out and soothe the buried knots. The massage lasts about 15 minutes, after which the waiter seeks out some change for me to pay him and tells me that Don Simón is the grandfather of the owners of La Gaviota. We saw him again later at La Perla. He works on knees, too. Look for him—he could become nearly as famous on this board as the Gunnysack Man. I have no doubt that he is a healer…although I admit the only thing I put on my back afterwards was sun.

Monday, another golf day for Dick because of the free round they gave him last time when the caddy put his clubs in the wrong taxi! Not to worry, it had all worked out: after a moment or two of panic (Dick’s fond of those clubs…) the club manager was able to call the taxi service, determine which cab, recall it to the course, and send Dick off in the same taxi with profuse apologies, a complimentary round, and his own clubs (I picture him hugging them all the way back to Zihua, but don’t tell him I said that). The whole situation was handled gracefully and efficiently.
Our taxi drops me in Centro where I enjoy another delicious morning wandering the markets and just being there. Have I mentioned breakfasts at Nueva Zelanda? Also at La Sirena Gorda. And the pink bakery. Irresistible. And here are some magic words to learn: “Solo mirando, gracias.” They mean “I’m only looking, thanks” and really seem to be heard and respected by the market vendors. I say them a lot because I love to browse, taking in the smells and sounds and sights of the markets without being pressured to buy. Eventually I buy, of course, but I like to take my time.
A few favorite places to mention one more time: Tamales y Atoles Any, for tamales, pozole, and other Mexican delights; Los Braseros, which we tried for the first time, for cheap and yummy taco/fajita dishes; La Gaviota on La Ropa for food, atmosphere, and cold mini-Coronas; Bandido’s, for music, drinks, and great atmosphere. Also Rick’s bar for friendly, sometimes rowdy folks, great drinks, an internet connection that’s reasonably cheap, and music surprises (we heard some fine guitar/piano/vocals from visiting musicians). Rick’s is the headquarters for a lot of cruisers, campers, and North American locals and visitors (short and long-term). It’s a homey place, where you can buy American stamps from the bartender, put your letters in a bin, and trust the next people heading home to mail them for you in the States. There’s a lending library with some good books, and a place to stash your packages while in town. Ask Pat the bartender about B.B. King’s birthday song to her, and about her time with Stevie Ray Vaughn. She’s terrific. The bar “closes” at 10, but (another secret…) if you’re inside already when they shut the gate you can stay for another couple of hours for impromptu karaoke, dancing, and carousing. We had some fine times in there, I must say.
Challenges: Bugs and Small Change. Bugs first: some people get bit, some don’t. I do. I suspect it’s the no-see-ums, ‘cuz I never see ‘em. I’m sorry to say the local Autan doesn’t help me much, and the herbal repellant I used last year didn’t either. I’m apparently in the Heavy Duty category. While in Troncones, I used a spray that Ellen had in a community basket. I think it was Off Skintastic, which smelled pleasant, went on fast, and worked, which is important in Troncones. I’m taking some with me next year. I don’t even want to know what’s in it… I’m also taking some sort of antihistamine for post-bite relief. Although mezcal and tequila seem to take the sting out initially and are usually available!, I want something that works overnight to make me all happy in the morning. Sorry, Gretchen, but lime doesn’t reach the itch for me.
As for small change, I find it difficult to keep enough with me! Those 5, 10, and 20 peso pieces go so fast. Here’s a story: Wandering through the tourist market one morning, thinking about buying some silver earrings, I get to Stall 187. My memory these days is like a cell phone conversation in a remote locat1on (it fades in and out), but the woman looks familiar. While we’re chatting, her daughter arrives, and with her fresh young brain cells recognizes me immediately from last year. She even remembers what I bought! She’s about 11 this year, and sews tiny felt bags for the jewelry they sell…she had given me one the year before for a lucky charm I’d bought for my son, with 187 embroidered on it. I bought a pair of gorgeous earrings for about $20 US. Mama and daughter proceeded to give me half a dozen of their little bags in different colors. Anyway, neither of us had change, so the muchacha went out searching for it. Eventually she got it from a taxi driver passing by! Same thing happened at La Gaviota later, when I needed smaller money for Don Simón. The cooperation is remarkable among vendors and cabbies. And it was a joy to reconnect with my new amigas. Sexist or not, I buy from the women in the markets whenever possible…I find them more patient, less concerned with making the sale than with helping me find what I really want.

One last comment regarding the language: My Spanish is elementary at best. I listened to Spanish tapes in my car (again) for several months before our trip, trying to learn a few more verbs, practicing some relevant vocabulary. My intention is to continue learning, because I’d love to know more tenses and conjugations. In the meantime, I use what I know at every opportunity. The taxi drivers and waiters are the best teachers. With my limited knowledge, I have managed lengthy conversations during taxi rides filled with laughter and corrections and “¿come se dice?” even with people who speak no English! Do try it. There’s no reason to be shy among people with hearts as big as these.

Okay, that’s it for this year. Thanks to each and every one of you who have contributed so much to this board, and made Zihua even more accessible, pleasant, and rich with delights.

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