Trip Report - Last Installment

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Posted by The Other Mike from Minnesota from ( on martes, febrero 03, 2004 at 07:40:01 :

One day, I spotted a crowd on the beach. A couple of young ladies had corralled a sea snake, and were flipping it onto the sand with their sandals. They had taken off their sandals and had them in their hands, so they weren’t kicking it. My understanding of sea snakes is that, left alone, they are rather benign. Once while fishing in Mazatlan, I caught a sea snake and innocently reached to grab it to take it off the hook. The boat captain urgently stopped me from doing so, saying, “Cobra, cobra!” He beheaded the snake and waited for all movement to stop before he disengaged the head from the hook. I don’t know it these kinds of sea snakes are poisonous. I am not sure if there are different species, but the one the two young ladies had captured sure looked like a twin to the one I caught in Mazatlan! A waiter from one of the beachfront restaurants came running out with a stick. He tried to explain to the crowd gathered about sea snakes. He shooed the crowd away, took the stick and nudged the sea snake back into the sea, where it blissfully swam back from whence it came. I have never heard of anyone in Mazatlan or in Ixtapa/Zihua ever getting a bite from a sea snake. This sea snake may have been some sort of eel, but it looked like a snake to me. It wasn’t an air breather. Addendum: I ran into a young lady who informed me she had been stung by a jellyfish. She advised me to watch out for them. I never did see any jellyfish, and I haven’t yet seen one in my Mexican travels.

Yes, Virginia, they are still doing the hotel construction. There is noise, at varying levels of intensity, six days a week. The Villa Mexicana is far enough away so that we couldn’t hear anything. They didn’t work at night. Kayleen and I walked by the site on the front road and observed the construction workers going off duty. There were guards who carried side arms searching each worker as they left the site at quitting time. There is a huge crane that was hoisting heavy object to various locat1ons. The height of the structure is staggering. It appears that on the very top, there will be a large pavilion, probably a restaurant. The thatched roof, palapa style, is already in place. The construction site is an awesome undertaking. I can’t help but wonder what the market analysis says about filling that place up when it is completed. I noticed that the VM was pretty full during the time I was there. I also noticed that the other hotels on Playa La Ropa seemed to have plenty of vacancies. The bungalows and hotels in Zihua likewise had lots of vacancies as well. I hardly spent any time in Ixtapa this year, but it certainly wasn’t very crowded. It appears the new facility will be on the pricey side – are they going to cater to the well to do or to lower middle-class people like myself who might want to indulge ourselves by enjoying a luxury-type vacation? Or are they perhaps speculating an increase in tourism, putting more pressure on existing facilities in the future? I wonder.

I went to the Commercial Mexicana. I found things there that weren’t generally or easily available elsewhere. They had a reasonably priced deli section, where you could get a wonderful meal. They had an ATM that was fast and convenient. Their liquor was priced at the rates I could get downtown only if I bargained hard. They did not have Kahlua (or else I just couldn’t find it). They had all the stuff you’d find at Walmart, K-Mart, Target or whatever big retail store you can think of. I saw some older Mexican couples, dressed in their Sunday best, walking up and down the aisles, gawking like tourists. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact I could hear some people speaking Spanish, I would swear I was in some shopping mall back home. I found some good cigars reasonably priced. Their meat and seafood and cheese were shrink-wrapped with bar codes on each package. They even had Frosted Flakes! It was apparent to me that the center was doing well financially.
I am puzzled by the business practices of the shopkeepers in the tourist areas in Zihua, the “flea market” or artisan’s area and those in Ixtapa. They maintain very large inventories yet have low turnover of goods. My basic training in business says that is NOT a formula for making money. One has too much capital tied up in inventory and it the slow turnover yields poor dividends. One could be better off, it would seem, to put one’s capital in the bank and let it draw interest. What I see happening is that folks with better business practices will make more “Commercial Mexicana” areas and eventually drive the small shopkeepers out of business. If this happens, the market culture in Mexico will change. I am not sure I’d like that. Is it ethnocentric and arrogant of me to wish for Mexico to keep its current market culture? Do modern Mexicans see dinosaurs like myself as reactionary throwbacks that want to stifle the growth and development of the Mexican people? I thought life was complicated back in the late 40’s and 50’s when I was growing up. I know change is inevitable, but I still long for ways to simplify my life.

During the first week, we saw huge ocean liners docking in Zihua bay. These massive mini-cities would come in and anchor. Frankly, they wrecked the view. They would anchor, and slowly rotate on their axis in a big circle. They had special boats that came from the ships that would ferry people back and forth to shore. I saw some local pangas going out to the ship, but I couldn’t tell if they were transporting people or not. I walked over to the pier to check out the tourists from the ships. I saw lots of tour buses lined up, waiting for passengers. The passengers themselves seemed to be mostly English speaking people, but I did hear some French spoken. I may have heard some German as well, but I was too far away from that group to be sure. Many of the people were older couples (to me, older is older than me, which means people who are in their 60’s and 70’s, you know, middle age kinds of people). They most often were dressed up, dresses for the women, sports coats for the men. They walked around fisherman’s walk some, stopped at the shop on the beach side. I didn’t observe a lot of purchasing going on. I didn’t see anyone stopping at any of the restaurants. I suppose they have their meals pre-paid while visiting shore, or perhaps they are taken to a specific restaurant. I checked in with Travel Judy and she showed me a schedule of ships – they were busy that first week, but I didn’t see any scheduled for our second week, in fact nothing until 29 Enero. I found observation to be interesting. I don’t have anything against cruise ships, as long as they take precautions about their waste disposal. I suppose it would be nice if they would just turn the visitors loose and let them wander around and spread their tourist money over a wider area – but I can see that one wouldn’t want to be leaving any folks behind, so it would be better to keep them herded together (oops, I think I may have used pejorative language just now, sorry!).

I passed over the drainage canal at least once a day. I know there has been a lot of commentary about sewage disposal and possible pollution. During the three days of rain, I saw families with children playing in the stream coming from the canal. I saw a lot of people swimming in the bay during my whole stay there. I did notice that awful sewer smell coming from the canal from time to time. We went to a restaurant that was adjacent to the canal, and while the meal and the service was wonderful, we did experience some unpleasantness from the odors that rose from the canal. These are the things I observed.

Note: We were totally satisfied with ALL the restaurants we tried. We had exceptional meals at the Sanka Grill and the Puerto (or Puesto) Del Sol, so much so that we ate at those places twice. I gained eight pounds, my wife three. Below, you will see why. We ate at the following places:

Patys Mar Y Mar – on Playa La Ropa next to Villa Mexicana
We took our first meal on Saturday the 10th at this restaurant. It is located on Playa Del Sol right next to the Villa Mexicana. We had drinks (they had Indios beer) and Kayleen had the tuna steak (this is a great dish!) and I had the shrimp. The prices were on the lower end, the meal on the upper end, the service and ambience also on the upper end. It was great. We also had lunch here on the 20th, Kayleen had the tortilla soup and I had a cheeseburger in paradise. It was great!

Capri – located across the street from the Radisson in Ixtapa
The Christian Fellowship meets there at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Last year, we ate most of our breakfasts there and enjoyed several lunches and dinners as well. This year, we went upstairs for dinner after the church service on the 11th. We were warmly greeted by name by Lourdes, the wife of the owner. The owner (and head chef) waved at us and the waiter, “Willie”, came over and gave us a hug! We had spent a lot of time there last year and got to know them pretty well. What a pleasant surprise! For those staying in Ixtapa, it is located right across from the Radisson. Their prices are on the moderate side and their breakfast is second to none. The owner is an Italian, and they have the best pizza and pasta I’ve had in the area. If you attend church there, try their dinner upstairs after the service. They have wonderful food! Kayleen had the rib eye and I ordered the shish-kabob with a side of spaghetti. I was very happy with the meal. I enjoyed a couple of Dos Equis and we split a nice bottle of Mexican red wine. Prices were moderate.

La Perla – on Playa La Ropa
What can I say about this place? Don Francisco operates one of the finest restaurants on Playa La Ropa. We ate there on the 12th. We had shots of the most marvelous tequila – sipping tequila! We had soup for an appetizer. Kayleen had baked fish and I enjoyed stuffed shrimp rellenos. Service is friendly and laid back. Note: if you are in Mexico, please relax and get used to the notion of “laid back”. We Norte Americanos tend to be in a hurry, anxious to get to the next place on our checklists. If you are at a restaurant, relax! Enjoy yourself and realize that you are on vacation – you don’t have to hurry anywhere! In addition – they have the best cigars in a gigantic walk-in humidor. It is really an amazing sight.

Elvira’s – on Playa La Ropa next to Patys Y Mar
We ate here, near the VM, on the 13th. We had the chateaubriand for two. We had a couple of margaritas grande (very potent) and enjoyed the food and atmosphere. The restaurant is located right on the beach and the tables are on the sand. They had candles on all the tables. We had a nice bottle of Mexican red wine with the meal. The prices were reasonable, and the service was terrific. We enjoyed this place very much. Prices moderate.

Tamales y Atole Any – located downtown Zihua near the Brassero and the Sanka Grill
We ate there on Wednesday the 14th. They had their floorshow on Wednesday that week instead of Thursday. It was wonderful! They had a marvelous tenor who sang wonderfully, they had a troop of young dancers who did typical dances from each of the Mexican states. We enjoyed the floorshow. We both ordered pozole, I started to order some appetizer, and the waitress suggested that we should just stick to the pozole, that we would both have enough to eat. She was right. We enjoy pozole, and we have to rate this as one of the better pozole meals we have had. We had several shots of mescal during the performance and during the meal. It was very nice. This restaurant features totally authentic Mexican cuisine and the prices are low to moderate. We only ate there together once, Kayleen had a lunch there the day I went fishing. Next year we intend to eat there more often.

Puerto Del Sol (Puesto Del Sol) – located on Playa La Ropa
I called for reservations Thursday the 15th. We asked for a table on the balcony for six o’clock for two people. We walked up the hill and arrived at 5:45. We were warmly greeted and led to our table. We both had a straight shot of very nice tequila. I enjoyed a cervesa (Dos Equis) as I chased my tequila. The owner of the place came over and told me he had acquired some fresh lobster that morning. So I ordered some. Kayleen ordered the Roquefort medallion beef flambé. I ordered a nice bottle of wine ($190 pesos) – I was okay with having a red wine even though I was having lobster. The wine was Mexican and marvelous. The owner came out, showed me the bottle and awaited my approval. He removed the cork and handed it to me after he sniffed it. I sniffed it again to make sure the wine hadn’t spoiled in the bottle, and nodded my assent. He poured a dash of wine into my wineglass and I took a little sip, swirled it around in my mouth and told him he could serve the wine. It is so cool to have that kind of elegant service at a restaurant! I love it! We started out with soup, Kayleen had avocado soup and I enjoyed the tortillas soup. He prepared the beef flambé right at the table, fire shooting around all over! My lobster came right at the time Kayleen’s beef was completed. The meal was wonderful! Plus, we got to enjoy the panoramic view of the bay and the beautiful sunset. We received a free shot of a liquor “from the house” that tasted like Amaretto. It was a nice finale to a wonderful meal! The bill was $630 pesos. The lobster tends to be a bit spendy. That means without the wine, we had drinks, lobster and beef flambé for a mere $440 pesos! Plus, it was one of the best meals we had! Needless to say, we came back for another meal on Thursday the 22nd. Again, we called for reservations and asked for a table on the balcony. We arrived a few minutes early, and we were greeted by name! Smiles and handshakes and an even better meal! We ordered the Chef’s Mixed Grill. It included shish kabob, chicken wings, beef, pork and chicken. It was wonderful. Total bill, included the red wine, was $420 pesos. We highly recommend this restaurant. The reason for the dichotomy of names is that both names are used. One name appears on the menu, another appears on the outside of the restaurant. I think the proper name now is the Puerto Del Sol, but I may be mistaken.

Rick’s Bar – downtown Zihua
We ate there on Friday the 16th. It had been raining all day so we ate downstairs. There were interesting people there, including Linda Fox! A young lady sang and played guitar. Kayleen ordered the filet mignon and I had the rib eye. Frankly, we could have just ordered the filet mignon and there would have been plenty of meat for both of us! The steaks were huge! Of course, the meal was absolutely marvelous, and the beer was cold. We couldn’t have asked for better cuts of meat. Kayleen was feeling a little under the weather that particular day (nothing to do with Rick’s) so we left a little early. I noticed that there were laundry facilities there, as well as Internet access. There was a shower there as well. The folks who ran the place, Canadians, were extremely hospitable and pleasant. We met a couple who were staying at Owens Beach Club at the end of Playa Las Gatas. They were very nice, and they talked about the hardships they found – Owens is not a five star hotel. They were really enjoying themselves, but found the isolation to be tiresome. They also commented on the dogs barking. I walked over to Owens myself once, and checked it out. I think it would be fun to stay there – I don’t think it would be right for everybody, but if you like “roughing it”, it would be worth a try.

Daniels – located on fisherman’s walk next to the basketball court in Zihua
I had a couple of breakfasts at Daniels, and I met Daniel, the owner. He greeted me and promised me a bottle of wine on the house the next time I would eat there. Kayleen and I made it for dinner on the 17th. We had a wonderful time. There are a couple of guys playing music – they started out with Blue Dolphin Street and just rocked! The played stuff by Antonio Carlos Jobim – mostly from the movie “Black Orpheus” and other great Latin jazz. They were awesome! We had our white wine from Daniel, a nice touch. Kayleen had the chicken cordon bleu and I had shrimp rellenos. Total bill was $402 pesos. We always get great service there – last year we came there on one of our first days, I asked the Highlander (one of the waiters there) where I could get a good cigar – he ran out of there and came back with a fantastic cigar! He got some money from me and actually had run over a couple of blocks to get me one! Great food, prices were a bit toward the upper end of the moderate scale, great place to sit and watch people! We also had lunch there on the 12th. We split a shrimp cocktail, Kayleen had baked fish and I had garlic shrimp. It was the usual, good food, great service, pleasant environment.

La Casa Café – next to the canal on the Playa Madera side, up a couple of blocks
We had a wonderful breakfast here! A quaint, small, out-of the-way café. Great coffee – we had a wonderful breakfast there on the 18th! The owners are a couple of former social workers – they traded in their high-stress life for a busy life in a laid-back community. They are interesting to talk to! We spotted a hummingbird in their garden! They said it was a bit on the rare side, I’d never seen one quite like it. I’ll have to get out my bird book and look it up. They have a couple of kids working there – the kids seem to have adjusted quite nicely to life in Mexico! I suppose one could say they are living out their dreams – they certainly seemed to be happy!

Dona Prudencia – Playa La Ropa
This is the restaurant at the Villa Mexicana Hotel. Kayleen and I had breakfast there almost every day. We fell in love with the sincronizadas. We finally made it there for dinner on the 18th. They kept our coffee cups full. We had lunches on the beach and snacks on the beach as well. Of course, their cheeseburgers were wonderful. What is a vacation if you don’t have some cheeseburgers while in paradise? They had a seafood cocktail that was great. Their soups were wonderful. I especially enjoyed their black bean soup. We ate there for dinner one time, I had shrimp and Kayleen had baked fish. They feature a full menu and their service is prompt and attentive. Their prices are pretty much standard for Zihua restaurants. We recommend this restaurant, it is not well publicized but it rocks. The atmosphere is quiet and offers a nice view of Playa La Ropa.

Otilio’s – On Las Gatas beach, second from the far end, close to Owen’s beach club.
We spent the 19th on Las Gatas beach and ate at Otilio’s. Kayleen had the mahi-mahi and I had the garlic shrimp. It was a wonderful meal, and we enjoyed the attentive service and the quality of the food. Total bill for five Indios, one diet Coke and the meal was $300 pesos.

Los Braseros – downtown Zihua near Tamales y Atole Any and the Sanka Grill
This is a must-visit restaurant. They sell great food for low prices. They have pork tacos pastor for 3.5 pesos – yes, that’s right, three and one-half pesos! They are delicious two-small-bite-sized tacos – order several of them for appetizers! Their food is great – they have great breakfasts and a great lunch/dinner menu. You can get take-out tacos there as well. Quick, friendly service – we both enjoyed it a lot!

The Sanka Grill – downtown Zihua (near Los Braseros and Tamales y Atole Any)
We had been planning on coming to the Sanka grill for a while. We’d read so many nice things about it. We didn’t get there until Wednesday the 21st. What a shame! I wish we would have taken half our meals there – it was awesome! This had to have been the best meal we have ever had in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo! We started out with a straight shot of their house tequila – I followed it with a Dos Equis and later had a margarita. We had a bottle of white Chilean wine for $190 pesos. Kayleen ordered the pork chop with mushroom sauce ($80 pesos) and I had the garlic shrimp. The pork chops were to die for – fantastic! Kayleen gave me a bite of her pork chop in exchange for a half of one of the large butter flied shrimp. It was outstanding! And the shrimp was awesome as well! Kayleen is fairly new at Spanish, in fact this is her first year she has used the language on a regular basis. The waiter enthusiastically listened to her Spanish and gave us both some free lessons! He explained some pronunciation things that helped us both and gave us some phrases that we found useful! There was interesting music playing in the background, so we found a clear area and got some dancing in! We did a swing and a cha-cha-cha and totally enjoyed ourselves! The restaurant was surprisingly empty that night. We walked back to the Villa Mexicana. We started telling other people at the hotel about the Sanka Grill – we usually don’t do the promotion sort of thing, but in this case we did! We took our own advice and came back for our last meal on Friday the 23rd. Again, we started with a straight shot of the house tequila ($25 pesos each) and I added a Dos Equis for a chaser. Kayleen enjoyed a sangria. We both had the pork chops. I ordered a very fine Mexican red wine for our meal – I can’t get over the wonderful quality of the Mexican wines I have had everywhere! They are wonderful! Our waiter greeted us by name and was delighted to see us. He gave us the same table we had two nights ago. There were a lot more people in the restaurant that night – we both were happy to see that. I talked to some other people there and learned they come to the restaurant every year and order the tuna steaks. They raved about them. We received more Spanish lessons and learned about the days of the week being named after the planets – we also think he explained to us about a lunar eclipse that was to occur that night. Did Mexico have an eclipse that night, or did I just misunderstand him? It was a wonderful meal, awesome. The bill was $380 pesos.


There was only one other couple from Minnesota scheduled to come back on Saturday the 24th. They told us their experiences – they had a great time as well! We left by taxi at about noon, arrived at the airport, waited in line, went through customs, got our return seats and went through security. We waited about an hour – our plane came, we got on, flew back on time, a couple of hits of minor turbulence, landed, went through customs, got our baggage, went through security, called the motel we had stayed at prior to our trip and got a ride back and viola! Back in Minnesota! And it hit –40 F last night! New countdown: 340 days left before returning!

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