Turning 50 in Z

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Posted by Pedro in PDX from (?) on sábado, diciembre 20, 2003 at 14:46:44 :

Not unlike the film, Pay it Forward, where the little boy develops this unique plan to help those that need assistance and get them to, in turn, help others, this site and its many authors have played that role for my wife and I - in return, it's our turn

This was our first trip to Z (Dec 2 to Dec 10, 2003) and we enjoyed our time and the people of Z immensely - the occasion was my 50th birthday

As many before us have done on this site, we will try and add to the library of info so that other 'first timers' feel more comfortable when that plane touches the ground

In advance, though, everyone (and their life experience) comes from a different perspective, and I think it's only fair to probably outline ours, so you can compare and decide if what we describe is valid for you - my wife (American) and I (Canadian) are both 50, live in PDX, have been extremely fortunate over the years in our business and personal lives', love to read, wouldn't know 11 p.m. if it came and went, and for the first time in many, many years, going on holiday,left our kids back home (the oldest out of university working in PDX, the 2nd out of university & working in BC and the youngest a senior in university in WA.)

Excuse me the opportunity within my 'trip report' to assemble 50 years of 'aged' wisdom, layman's 'philosophy', firsthand Z experience and a little Frommer's travel info to add my 'mark' to Rob's invaluable site

With my carry on backpack full of an eclectic CD mix of BTO, Guess Who, Andreas Bocchelli and the Romeros,(at 50 I think for a short period, it has become a tug of war between youthful memory and the present reality), we landed at Z airport to a 90 degree day

For first timers, the Z airport is beautiful, single level and air conditioned - because we had a few pesos in our pocket prior to arrival, we headed right for the taxi stand just on the other side of the red light/green light counter - for $200 pesos, we got a cab ride into La Ropa where we stayed at the Villa Carolina (I'd opt for the cabs with the little green palm trees on the windshield....)

The Villa Carolina 7 room facility,its beautiful rooms, gardens, architecture, millwork and pool, may be one of the most beautiful we have stayed at, but more important, I would say that it was the most gracious staff of people we have ever met while traveling - Miguel, Tim and their 5 person staff took excellent care of us and we especially enjoyed our daily language interaction with them (for the moment,just imagine an English/French speaking 50 year old 'kid' who grew up on the west island of Montreal, just 'hammering' the Spanish language - So, each day, while my wife got ready, and while doing their daily work duties, my new friends (amigos) at V.C. taught me Spanish 'words' and 'phrases' that got me through the day and week - what an experience and fun time -

Located about 3 minutes off La Ropa Beach (Playa), V.C. is well worth investigating (the taxi cab stand is less than a minute away down the back stairs of V.C., an excellent feature for mobility in the area)- if staying on the lower floor, villas 2 and 3 are in the centre... Next time we're here, we're staying upstairs

Which brings me to the cabs - 'take 'em' - with the exception of 1 guy(and we took a lot of cabs),these guys were great - it cost 25 pesos from La Ropa to Z area,and each trip we expanded our Spanish word list, and got the opportunity to sit back and just watch the organized chaos of people movement, business transactions,and the operatic movement of cars in tight spaces no Toyota 4 Runner should ever attempt...

I will tell you that if you have the good fortune to ever get 'Ricardo' in Cab 63, dig down, get out some pesos, and take his 2 hour cab tour from La Ropa thru Ixtapa to Playa Linda back to La Ropa - this guy was great - from teaching us spanish words, and phrases, seeing iguanas running across the roadway (and his story about a Sunday BBQ of iguana and armadillo), the crocodillos at Playa Linda, and a local lesson on history and places to go, Ricardo was definitely an ambassador of Z

This time of year in Z was not so busy (we liked this fact)- there were no bugs, the temp was a comfortable 90 degrees with a slight periodic breeze, and as a big 'benefit' we got to see on our 2nd day, the circus come to town -

Unbelievable, seeing the entire circus entourage 'cruising the streets' (elephants, bands et al) promoting the Big Top Show on the other side of the Artisan Market -

And, aside from each evening's Navidad women's colourful, peaceful, singing, candlelight 'Guadalupe' walk thru Z streets to the iglesia (this was really an unanticipated and pretty moving treat), watching the people of Z welcome the circus was one of the most awesome displays of local folks coming out to 'congregate' - kids were jumping up and down, and their parents were doing all they could to keep their little ones 'from joining the circus'


1) The Fish Market at the downtown mercado - this is an unorchestrated and chaotic scene and a challenge to your traditional North American sense of direction, smell and vision - everything that takes place behind the sterile walls of your local North American Safeway store, takes place right in front of your eyes in the central mercado
2) Fishing: I had the good fortune of fishing 2x while in Z (my wife 'passed' both times)- thru my new taxi amigo, Ricardo, we drove up to meet Miguel Hernandez who,in a broker's role this time (his boat was under repair) hooked me up (figuratively) with 2 very, young, and fun Captains - Gabriel first and then Francisco, the 2nd time, on the Zapato Gordita - fishing light tackle for bonito and Spanish mackeral, I had the time of my life for 4 hours each time, catching fish, learning Spanish/English words, sharing food and picking on Gabriel who is getting married next month ('Fish On') - Although I told each they could keep what fish they wanted (each Capt. only kept 2 fish, and we caught plenty), I was impressed with these young captains who appreciated my desire for Catch and Release, and the way they each 'talked' to the fish & lightly tapped them with a blessing of sorts as they released them from the hook and back to the water
During my 2 trips, I saw (at a distance) a marlin come out of the water, and up close, boiling oceans of bait fish and their 'pursuers', 3 big tortugas (off Sacramento Rock), a greeting entourage of porpoise off the bow as we invaded their home area, and maybe a dozen or so small manta rays off in the distance leaping and fanning themselves out of the water as the sun rose out of Z Bay
Priceless opportunity!
3) Meet Franco at Ottilva's on Playa Las Gatas - if you go to Las Gatas, even if you don't 'plant yourself' (like we did) at his enramada, meet him - this guy rivals Ricardo for Z area ambassador
4) Elvira's on La Ropa - Make a point and meet Guerrovo (evenings)and Jose (mornings) -
these guys had a lot of fun teasing my '1 glass of wine maximum' wife and her'Mescal' tasting story (have you seen the TV ad where the guy has the bad beer 'face'- same thing with my wife and a shot of complimentary Mescal..)
5)Casa Lupita Gallery in town just off Cinco de Mayo at either Nicolas Bravo or Ejidio (can't recall)- what a gentleman (name escapes me) - while my wife looked around at his varied jewellery and art (yeah, she bought some for the kids and art for me), I enjoyed talking to him about local events, the people of Z, Frita (what a story - we bought a book on our return), Z politics, fishing, families, work, kids - frankly, the 60 minutes or so of general conversation was a treat I would not have anticipated
6) the Zihuatanejo sense of industry, entrepenurial orientation and 'good old fashioned salesmanship' - I am in business and I admire those that find their niche and do their best to excel (yeah, capitalism) Like most guys, I am not a big shopper, but in tow of my wife, I enjoyed the Z experience because 90% of the time, I found we eventually bought something from folks we interacted with, and liked, and who made the 'buying' experience fun - I run a business at home, and wanted, for a week, to avoid the haggling environment (besides, I have good folks do that for me at home) and when the one cruise ship came in that week, I was a little 'embarassed' to hear folks just hammering away at the market vendors, so thereafter,I made it a point, to have some fun and told my wife that if we bought something, we'd make the best deal that all parties felt good about(my youngest daughter would have been especially proud of her Pa that I opted to support the small entrepenurial business man rather than another Nordstrom.... - (I have an Artisan's Market 'new wallet buying story' I'll remember for some time to come)
7)Best Food: Elvira (La Ropa), Tamales Y Atoles Any (plantain leaves over chicken) and Casa Bahia (unbelievable, moon rising the night we were there, bringing back 30 years of memories of John Fogarety - remember, I'm still adapting to 50)
8) In addition to some wonderful and helpful locals (who always graciously took the 'French-ness' and Inglais out of my Spanish), we had the opportunity to meet great couples from the Twin Cities area, Santa Fe, and a very special retired English couple who now reside in Costa del Sol, Spain
9) I wore shorts, tee shirt and flip flops for a week - hey, for a guy that still periodically 'hangs himself' with a tie, this is momentous -

Travel Tips

1) Take a cab and shop at the Commerical Mexicana (the big store)- great yogurt and pastries - you gotta check out the meat case..
2)Always be aware of your surroundings, but don't decide to not visit Z for concern about security - the plentiful volume of police travel around town on foot and in pick up trucks and greet/acknowledge you readily - we had absolutely no trouble
3) At the least, check out Playa Linda (for us, we passed on Ixtapa only cuz 'that's not us') and see the crocodillos
4) Bring at least one book, and plant yourself for a day at Las Gatas (I would suggest you consider reading 'The Luck Factor' to remind you, as a North American, how truly blessed we all are)
5) There's a swipe bank card machine at Serfin on the right hand side of Benito Juarez, right before Nicolas Bravo - no worries of the old bankcard getting swallowed
6)'Make a deal'for something but do so leaving both parties laughing, profitable and feeling good about the transaction
7) Learn some fundamental Spanish before you go even if you 'hammer' the words, and screw up the conjugation - and when you're there, ask the waiters, the cab drivers, the gardener, the post office employee (another funny and touching story) to help you - to be honest, they all did to us, and did so most graciously......
7) Bring small chocolates as gifts for those ladies that take care of you, in the place you stay - And, if you fish, I brought protein bars and both my 'Captains' loved them (I left them the 3 remaining each time)
8) Tip the cab drivers - unless they are just the worst at helping you, don't be cheap - treat 'em right - they're pretty darn funny, helpful but you will need to draw some of them out (my cab driver recited a 'good luck' Spanish fisherman's poem he madfe up prior to dropping me off at the muelle)
9) Make a point of communicating - we learned the locals don't bite, they do laugh at how you hammer their words, but frankly, they are waiting to see if you initiate the conversation, and many, in turn, want to practice their English - I did my fair share of sharing English 'slang' (not profanity) to the gratitude of a couple of young Captains
10) Bring a few pesos on arrival into Z so you don't 'stress' the cash situation, when the plane lands
11)And always, if you're in the position, try to Pay it Forward - at some point, it does come back to you

I am back at work now and although I have had to necessarily re-assume my business 'game face' (and my thanks to the many employees who took care of the business in our absence), little do each of them know, there's just a little piece of Z still tied up in that 50 year old 'game face' - as soon as I sense that Z feeling subsiding, we're headed back to 're-load'

Feliz Navidad

Pedro y Marie - Portland Oregon

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