Recent trip observations 17 Dec-20 Jan

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Escrito por Anita Cowan desde ( el día miércoles, 28 de enero, 2009 a las 20:52:27 horas :

We drove to Zih from North Texas, a trip we have made many times. Straight down I-35 with the first night in Dilley, TX where I'll recommend the slightly shabby Village Inn for its good mattresses, cleanliness, flat-screen tvs, and no road noise. The Country Cafe around the corner serves honest grub to a mix of local families and deer hunters in camouflage by Cabela. Crossed at the Colombia Bridge-take the bridge exit before Laredo and zoom west on Hwy 255. If you have your copies of documents ready, it'll take no more than 10 minutes. Two employees of Mexican immigration were at the door, shivering in the cold, and saying "Bienvenido a Mexico". A quarter mile after pulling away, there will be an OXXO store. Can there be more packaged snacks in the world than in an OXXO? The Col. bridge bypass feeds back into Hwy 85 far enough south of Laredo that you will not even see a building of that city. (Sorry, Laredo Chamber of Commerce, but the news has not been good of late). Pressed on via those great toll roads (with exception of that 30-minute gauntlet between Monterey and Saltillo). Lunch was at the famous El Chivero just outside the north end of Matehuala (big grey restaurant on right before exit Matehuala-SLP bypass). Best cabrito in the world and one order is enough for two. We like Country Inn and Suites in San Luis Potosi, along hotel row. Secure parking, good quiet rooms and comp. breakfast. Ask for the corporate rate. Straight shot from the hotel south toward Queretaro.

Upon driving through northern Mexico, I had never seen that country look more beautiful. They had had lots of rain this year. The mountains around Monterrey were emerald green all the way to their peaks. Even the desert looked refreshed. People extended every courtesy. There were two rolling stops with the federales peering at us, but they waved us on. It was noticeable that none had on dark glasses. Not a pair of Ray-Bans in sight and thus,they appeared less menacing.

Just as the outermost signs of Queretaro appeared, we took the first big right-hand exit sign (and it is big) for Celaya in order to get on the Queretaro-Salamanca toll road that bypasses Celaya (stay with me here). First, the sign says Celaya, and then very soon there is one more right-hand exit that says Irapuato. So taking that, once again, we were in toll-road heaven, heading due west.

About four kms before Salamanca, you see an exit sign for (a drum roll, please) Ixtapa-Morelia and you swing off there and onto 15D heading due south for Morelia. (The toll booth there just gives out a ticket. Pay when the cuota ends.) And it does end at Lake Cuitzeo, so press on straight into Morelia and follow those signs for Patzcuaro through the traffic. You're almost at the Patz exit when you see the signs for the zoologico and the planetarium.

If you get an early start, as we always do, you have plenty of time to roll on to Zih in daylight. We stopped at Casa Encantada in Patz to break the trip and walked over to the Hotel Iturbe for a late lunch. In sum, for highway travel in these times we avoided Laredo, we traveled only in daylight, starting early and stopping just before 5 p.m. We did not bring the new pick-up, but traveled in the older 4-door Chevy (no desire to tempt the young bloods). We speak Spanish and maintain a serious demeanor when going through a check-point. We keep an eye on the rear-view mirror to see who is back there. We don't stop on the roadside for photo-ops or do seredipitous exploration. We keep the car in good working order and with all necessary tools. You might find this a little macabre, but in the glove box we keep a statement in Spanish to the effect that if we are unconscious or unable to provide info, to call the following people... yaddah, yaddah, blood types, yaddah, etc. This derives from the old days of two-lane highways and you'd look ahead and here would come a double-trailer passing a bus and that chofer had pulled that big rig into your lane and was barreling toward you. Made for a real big adrenaline rush, for sure. We don't take too many two-lane highways with lots of big trucks on them today. And thus, ends the tale of driving through a thousand miles of Mexico to Zih.

The Zih experience: I maintain a vacation home in Colonia El Hujal and a great surprise was in store for us. A new park was being completed just across the street. The colonia President, in searching the internet, had found a program called Rescue of Public Spaces, had submitted a grant proposal, and had scored matching funding from the mayor's office. If ever there was a public space that needed rescuing, it was that dusty, weed-choked, trashy square block. The transformation has been completed and there was an inauguration in the waning days of the last mayor's term where local politicos, colonia leaders past and present, and ordinary residents mingled. In listening to the speeches, with the usual info on cubic yards of cement used, pesos invested, etc., I was sorry that there was no charge given to the neighborhood to enjoy and to help keep clean this wonderful new gathering place. What a missed opportunity. Indeed, many are enjoying the park... the children in the swings, the soccer players, the people playing checkers and dominoes, and those who come for exercise. Even though garbage cans are installed in permanent holders, they are not near the path of the city garbage truck and so far, are being ignored. I began to combine my early-morning walks with park garbage patrol and with a little help from friends and neighbors, filled a good-sized garbage sack every morning... mostly the plastic wrappings of snacks and drinks, but featuring the ever-present Maruchan noodle container. Come see the El Hujal park just behind the Social Security hospital and walk some of the trash to the garbage can! And Thanks!

A few notes on restaurants from our experience: Doņa Licha's never disappoints for lunch or dinner; Doņa Carol's down a few blocks on Cuauhtemoc is also good. Hong Kong served us a very tasty curry; tried the new El Perla Negra (the El for el barco, according to our host) on Calle Adelita and liked it; food was good one evening at La Perla on La Ropa but what's with the no-eye-contact-with-customers-who-might-need-service-thingy? OK breakfast at La Condesa in Barra; always wonderful sopes, guacamole, red snapper and limonada at Quelite's Vista de Los Morros on Playa Blanca (turn right just before pulling into the airport and go to end of this road for Quelite's family); pozole at El Profe's in Coacoyul and if you don't want the mediana bowl (which is big) ask for tamano pitufo. Just right. Fans of pigs' feet swear by El Profe's manitas, served with a halo of marinated veggies; went twice to Neto's in El Limon for wonderful ceviche and tiritas and then there's always the incredible camote or calabaza cooked in piloncillo with milk; the four-peso tacos al pastor at Los Braseros and my favorite special dinner place, the Kau Kan. Saw that full moon from there on Jan 11 and it was spectacular.

In the once-was-enough category, it was Ofo's and probably Vivan Los Pizzas. The latter is a nice, attractive restaurant up in Dario Galeana, and good waiter, but the pizza was overwhelmed by the thick cheese topping and slices of ham, weiners, etc. I need to look at that menu again. The french fries being served at the next table looked a whole lot better than Mickey D's.

A few random comments: Pancho Brothers has an excellent fish stall in the central market. He's the gringo-looking guy on the back wall of the fish section. When his parents were alive, they taught English in their home on Madera and I believe were the first to offer English classes. Veggies in the small stalls behind the market are quite inexpensive. Banking at BanNorte was not a problem and if you maintain a small account there, every courtesy is extended. Homeowners, don't forget the discount you receive on your predial payment if you pay it in January at the muni offices. Fideicomiso-payers through Bancomer is so much easier now that there is efficient communication via email with the central Bancomer fideicomiso office. Confirm your payment amount and go straight in to the last teller on your left (with the small Cliente Preferido sign). Postal rates seem to keep increasing. This year, I sent out a few Christmas cards (to those not having email) back to the U.S. and a simple folded card took at 13-peso stamp.

There was a military presence in Zih due to a nasty murder of 8 off-duty soldiers in the state's capital and then a follow-up rumble between soldiers and a group of Zihua police. A police sub-commandante of Zih was hauled off to the slammer in DF. At one point, I was watching a couple of soldiers with guns and masks on patrol in the new park in El Hujal and just ten feet away, two little boys were unperturbed and swinging away on the new playground equipment. There were just about a dozen years' difference in their ages. Some are angered by the presence of soldiers, others feel safer.

The new mayor, Alejando Bravo, who represents the PRI party, is in place. I think people like him and are hopeful. He took the doors off of his office as a symbolic gesture of access and transparency. He has walked some of the downtown streets with his aides. He has many expectations riding on his shoulders and must present a new image for PRI.. which is particularly challenging on the Costa Grande.

This has been too long and more than you want to know about some things, but there are many like me who represent a certain kind of tourist. Like others on this board, I am aghast at the negative consequences of development and population growth. Nevertheless, I will always consider Zih a special place and one which I invite you to share.

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