Trip Report I, Feb 20 -29th 2004

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Escrito por Cindy from Portland desde ( el día jueves, 04 de marzo, 2004 a las 16:50:59 horas :

Trip Report 2/20/04 -2/29/04
I should never pack a book when I travel to Mexico. No reading takes place. Too many sights, too many sounds and not enough time to take it all in.
And this trip once again my book lay untouched in the suitcase. The book had no chance, Zihua was the kind of Mexico I had always searched for. Like they say, It had me at 'hello" (or "hola" in this case). Zihua charmed and seduced me like no other Mexican city had..I was completely and utterly taken in. But enough of my musings - On to the report.

Our base..
We stayed at Bungalows Ley, Club Madera Suite. My husband and I were on a budget this year so along with our good friend Daniel we rented a two bedroom on Playa Madera with the expectation that we would be "sacrificing". But we found, like others before us, clean, comfortable accomodations with what has to be the
largest private terrace on the Playa. The view was magnificent and the staff of Carlos and Elizabeth were always helpful and cheery. We woke every morning to the sound of Elizabeth's beautiful, lilting spanish in the office below (she has the most unusual, musical quality to her voice) and fell asleep to the sound of crashing, hissing waves. I felt as if I had come home.
An added plus was the happy hour that began every afternoon around 4PM in the terrace above ours at Hotel Brisa del Mar. Great Mexican music drifted down to us and Frederico the bartender, from his perch above, always waved and greeted us like long lost cousins. (and, yes, the music was off by 7 PM every night)
For those of you who want the details, the rooms both have double beds and private baths. There is a couch in one of the bedrooms that could be used as another bed if you have a child or small adult along. A large couch is in the living room that could also be used for sleeping. The kitchen is equipped with tons of storage, plates, pans etc., a dining nook, frig and a stove. (no oven.. but who cares??)
The terrace is the highlight of the suite. It is gigantic and is third from the top in the complex so catches the sea breeze quite nicely. (we never used AC) It comes with lounge chairs, dining table set, hammock and a million dollar view. They have tastefully decorated it with potted plants and a few art objects.
We spent most of our time (when we were home) living on the terrace. Bungalows Ley also has a beach area equipped with a few lounge chairs and palapas. It is close to Brisa del Mar's bar and a bit further away is MJ and Ritchies. We made friends with the bartenders at the Brisa bar and before the trip was over were included on their drink order rounds.. (a hint.. we tipped well)
And yes.. I have already made our reservations at Bungalows Ley for next year.

Morning Routines..
Breakfast was usually Casa Cafe run by a gregarious American from Oregon named Pedro. He probably wins the award for the most enthusiastic American in Zihua. He greeted everyone who wandered down the street with a boisterous "WELCOME TO PARADISE!". This energetic guy puts out a decent consistent breafast menu that is served up by his adult children, wife and friends. Located at the foot of Cerro Madera, we ate there often. We also ate at Brisa's beach side restaurant. (good chilequiles) and Bananas.

Next stop money. ATMs are everywhere. There is a convenient one downtown at the Bancomex on Juarez. Even with the policia and others cutting in line it was still easier than the teller windows. Next time I wont bother with travelers checks. Spent over an hour in line at the bank to cash mine... never again.

Internet. Checking my email was sometimes on the agenda. I didnt check it every day but because of our business we needed to stay in touch at least every other day. A good internet access office is at the end of Nicholas Bravo close to the Artisan's Market. (my husband has the name if you need it) They have terminals available but we were allowed to plug our laptop into their network. Unlike other internet cafes, they are on satelite so the connection was quick and reliable. The charge was about a buck an hour.

Groceries and shopping... We bought supplies at both the Mercado and the big modern Commercial Mexicana. The Mercado is worth experiencing but confusing while the Commercial Mexicana carries groceries, has a pharmacia and other items ( clothes etc.) It is comparable in price to other stores. If you go, take a cab - it isnt near town. We bought souvenier items at both the Artisan Market stalls and private stores. Mario's Leather (Next to Mexicana Airlines on Vincent Guerrero) has very high quality leather goods. He carries purses, belts and other items.
We bought cigars and wine at a number of places including Acuariano on Nicholas Bravo. One day we were lucky enough to buy direct from a master cigar roller from the Veracruz region who had set up a table and was rolling to order. The cigars were so fresh and damp they advised us to wait a day to smoke them. I bought silver bracelets at many different stores. The only advice I would give is to window shop for a day or two before you buy. The first day there I impulsively bought a bracelet and regretted it after seeing the large selection elsewhere.

Afternoon Adventures..
Mexico is the only place I have visited that I allow myself to have cervesas at noon. Somehow it feels ok.. not too decadent and helps set the stage for the next few hours. We would spend lazy afternoons at the beach and tried out quite a few of the playas.

La Ropa.. ok.. it IS pretty (palm trees and nice sand) but it seems very slick and over concious of itself. I had a vaguely uneasy sense the entire afternoon that La Ropa was not Zih. Maybe it was the surly bar help or the hordes of Americanos preening and prancing up and down the beach. To me it was too much hoopla and not enough Mexico. Perhaps Ill give it another try next year.

Las Gatas.. The boat ride over was a true highlight of the trip. We were accompanied by a school of jumping dolphins that were so perfectly beautiful that it made my eyes tear up. Las Gatas beach itself is a long expanse of water side restaurants and baking bodies. Be sure to wander down the sand before choosing where you will 'park' for the afternoon. The cervesa and food pricing is extremely competitive with the better values being found away from the dock area. It is also much more pleasant to be away from 'snorkeling central' located near the pier.

Playa Larga.. We caught a combi downtown across from the Mercado and for about 8 pesos each got a ride south to Playa Larga. You yell to the driver when you want to stop (there is a large sign on the main hwy near the turnoff to Playa Larga) After you get off you will find another combi parked in a turnoff on the road to the beach. He will shuttle you down past old Coconut groves to this stretch of pristine white sand. It is dotted with a few beachside restaurants and has a long shoreline of incredible, wild waves. We decided on the second restaurant to the south of the parking lot. The afternoon was quite wonderful.. great food, attentive service and a terrific keyboard player that inspired us to dance on the sand.

And finally.. Playa Madera.. This beach seems to be one of great debate on the boards. Yes, it has darker sand and isnt as gorgeous as La Ropa. But the water was pretty and clean (good boogie boarding), the people watching was a constant fascinating parade of activity and we met many wonderful, 'real' people there (both Americanos and Mexican). This beach is smaller than the others and has an intimacy that I think you wont find elsewhere in Zih. The best example of this stemmed from our experience when my husband suffered a boogie boarding accident. While being tossed by an especially wild wave Gerry's head scraped on a rock. He emerged from the ocean bleeding profusely and stumbled up to the palapas.
Within seconds the entire beach flew into action. The bartenders at Brisa came running with ice and limes (eeeek!), the vendors dropped their goods and ran over to offer advice and sympathy, and while I ran to our room to retrieve gauze and neosporin the 'Braid Lady' took over. She cleaned the wound and while I stood sheepishly by, barked orders like a surgeon to his scrub nurse. She ended up spending a great deal of time cleaning, medicating and dressing Gerry's wound. The waiters all stood by anxiously urging him to go to the hospital or a doctor. After she was satisfied with her work the Braid lady gave Gerry firm and specific instructions to stay out of the sun and take it easy, warning that she would be by the next day to check on him. She spent the rest of the afternoon a few palapas over and never took her eyes from him - a watchful and concerned sentinal.The rest of our stay everyone that worked on the beach came by daily to check on Gerry's recovery. It was both touching and inspiring to have such concern shown. Fortunately, Gerry's wound wasn't serious and he was ready to roll within a few hours. But that is Report II... which will follow soon.


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