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Escrito por Bob in Eugene desde 18.104.22.168 (?) el día lunes, 05 de abril, 2004 a las 17:35:04 horas :
Reflections and Observations, Zihua 2004
22 years ago, a Spanish teacher gave me book to read which has led to an enrichment of our family’s life. That book was “Wash Gently, Dry Slowly” by Grover Ted Tate. I know several folks on the board have recently read this book as well. Based on our reading of this book, my wife, Sue, and I, accompanied by Ted Tate’s other book, a guidebook to Zihuatanejo, made a trip to that area in 1982. It was to be the first of 15 or so trips down there over the last 20 plus years. We took a few years off after the birth of our daughters, Meghan and Anya. After the many years we’ve been visiting that wonderful area, I offer up the following comments. It may sound like I’m pushing the Zihua area, but it’s just an indication of how much we’ve enjoyed our ongoing relationship with the area. We have some photos from this trip, and, when I figure out how to make it work, we’ll post some.
The people: We’ve met so many wonderful people in our travels to Zihua, both locals and folks like us who come down for their week or two in paradise each year. We’ve befriended hotel employees, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, ex-pats, sailboat cruisers, and other folks from all over who have had their chance in paradise. Rarely have we met someone who just wanted to take advantage of us, although it’s clear that making friends with “regulars” can be a real benefit for local entrepreneurs. This year, we joined Don Otto, the enigmatic Dutchman, for a margarita at his “officina”, a table by the beach at La Condessa in La Barra, and had a very enjoyable conversation. Thanks for the drink, amigo!
In La Barra de Potosi, we also met Laura from Casa del Encanto, who is doing so much to help the people of that little community to help themselves, and Maria (not Marina, who was out of town) from the Netza school, plus many teachers there who are enriching the lives of indigenous children. We renewed our friendship with Raul and Irma, who have put four sons through college on a taxi driver’s income. And we were welcomed with open arms by Celso, Javier, and Señora Eva from the Catalina, who make staying there a family experience.
The weather: In all the years we’ve gone to Zihua in the Spring, we’ve gotten rained on a total of, maybe, one hour. Once we had a thundershower roll into the bay and it poured for about 30 minutes. It was very beautiful and refreshing. By contrast, friends who go to Hawaii in the spring almost always report some days of rain on their trips. The coolest year ever was last year, when we actually felt the need for a light jacket some evenings. This year was much more typical, with very warm days and comfortable evenings, and the need to run the ceiling fan at night to make it pleasant for sleeping. I know that some times of the year it’s hotter, and some times it’s rainier, but in March we’ve had great weather.
The beaches: We love La Ropa beach. We certainly have sampled other beaches in the area, Las Gatas, Ixtapa Island, La Barra, Madera, Troncones, and all have their special charm. Whichever beach works for you, great. For our money, however, for general lolling around and swimming, we prefer the safety and convenience of La Ropa beach. Of course, we’re just down for 10 days or so most years, and it’s our preference to stay in a hotel on the beach, where we can hear the surf at night, and enjoy walking home from dinner on the sand. We like the assortment of restaurants on La Ropa, and many times will go multiple days without a journey into town.
This year’s special “beach surprise” was the presence of the “snake eels”, which certainly looked creepy, writhing around in the surf and digging into the sand. They really seemed to be harmless, though, and quite content to stay away from people. Also, in the past, we’ve seen the “blue waves”, a phenomenon caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton. Didn’t see them this year, although we found several little glowing clusters of them in the sand on a moonless night.
The restaurants: Where does one start? Over the years we’ve seen some restaurants come and go, but many are the same, operated by the same owners, and in business because they work so hard and do such a great job. We like, of course, many of the La Ropa establishments. Our first restaurant experience on La Ropa, lo those many years ago, was La Perla. It was very much smaller then, with a burro wandering around the parking lot and a single palapa-like structure that was about one fourth the size of the current place. We ate there this year a couple of times. We had a little trepidation because of some recent negative reports on message boards, but I’m happy to report that the food was good, the service excellent, and Francisco was working very hard to make sure that everyone’s experience was a good one. I think they have taken to heart some comments from people and have made an effort to redouble their efforts. We were there when a wedding and reception were being staged, and a good time seemed to be had by all. My hat is off to Francisco for staying up and open so late on the night that the Ducks beat George Mason in the NIT. We Duck fans appreciated that a lot.
As for other La Ropa establishments, we also enjoyed Elvira’s (grilled tuna and great guacamole), Paty’s (the best ceviche), and Rossy’s (terrific seafood), and ate twice at the new place on the block, El Manglar. They have great food, the best prices on the beach, and Victor, the waiter, who is a lot of fun. The problem for El Manglar is that it’s hard to find, being sandwiched between the crocodile lagoon and the new house with the Astroturf lawn at the end of the beach. There’s not much of a sign, and, if the tide is in, their path past the crocodile lagoon is almost gone. You can reach the place through their parking lot in the back by taking the alley after the Astroturf house and walking around to their rear entrance. We had to leave that way one night, because a rather large croc was guarding what little was left of their path, and discretion being the better part of valor….
In town, there are the mainstays, of course, like Casa Elvira, Sirena Gorda, and La Bocana. This year we also ate at Caprichio, which has very good grilled meats, especially their arruchera (skirt) steak. Had great pizza, as usual, at Café Marina, with liberal doses of that great chipotle sauce they feature. We actually missed some of our mainstays, like Tamales Any and Los Braceros, because we were trying hard to hit new spots. Wanted to try El Pueblito and Sanka Grill (now in a new downtown locat1on near Los Braceros), but we ran out of meals. The kids wanted to go to Carlos and Charlie’s, so we made a rare trip to Ixtapa, and the food was pretty good.
All in all, if you like to eat, it’s hard to imagine a better place to go, with restaurants to match any budget or taste.
Shopping: I’m not sure I’m the best one in my family to address this, but we do always do some shopping, both in town and, occasionally, from beach vendors. Mostly we buy from vendors when at La Barra, because we have a lazy day in a cool spot where this works out well. We often pick up gifts for family birthdays and future holidays that are small and pack well. We do a cursory look around the artisans’ market at the marina to see what’s new this year, and maybe pick up a couple of things. One of the shops has an excellent supply of Oaxacan wooden art items. There are a couple of stores in town where my wife Sue likes to look for clothing. We’ve developed a friendly shopping relationship with Abel y Julia, who have an air-conditioned silver shop on Nicolas Bravo near Vincente Guerrero, and an open stall at where Nicolas Bravo runs into the artisan’s market. They have excellent quality, decent prices, and are very low key. Abel is an excellent jeweler, as well, and can make or modify just about anything. Sue like to buy coconut masks from the shop just to the right of Café Marina Pizza, as well. Little bottles of vanilla are always a hit with friends, as well, as are the small, brightly painted pottery items so prevalent down there. Also, the little onyx “familias” of animals are always popular, and usually cost under $5.
The ambiance: I know that there are many threats from over development, pollution, political corruption, price inflation, etc., and I know those have to be taken very seriously, and that there are some trends toward exploitive tourism practices that we should not support. That said, it is amazing that this town, which has grown from 20,000 to almost 100,000 residents in the past 20 years still maintains a friendly, small-town feeling that will captivate you if you give it half a chance. If a person spends most of their time on La Ropa beach, swimming and lounging, or wandering around down by the basketball courts at night, they might not see a lot of difference over the past several years. I continue to enjoy the mix of U.S., Canadian, European, and local tourists attracted by Zihua. I can’t speak for Ixtapa, per se, because we don’t spend much time there, and are kind of overwhelmed by the growth when we do, but that’s OK, that is the reason that Fonatur built that resort in the first place. I do know that, as a place to retire, Zihua has become too expensive, as evidenced by several folks with whom I’ve spoken who are looking at other, less pricey spots to spend extended time.
Bottom line: We’re booked back for the Catalina next year. Every year, I tell myself that we should be looking around at alternatives, and every year there’s enough to bring us back. We’d love to try to come in November one year, but since we’re locked in for Spring Break, due to the kids being in school, there’s really no way we can do that now.
So, the love affair continues with a little town that we read about in a little book so many years ago. I hope that your special place, wherever it might be, is as good to you.