Caution: longwinded trip report!

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Escrito por frostbite desde ( el día sábado, 31 de enero, 2009 a las 22:20:56 horas :

We left Anchorage on 1/4 where the temperature was -13F and arrived in Zihua to a toasty +87F about 12 hours later. The flight down on Alaska was largely uneventful. Using mileage, we treated ourselves to First Class. When it was time to board Flt. # 254 in LAX, we were met with an icy stare and informed that: "I am only boarding First Class". After telling the agent that, even though we didn't appear sufficiently first-classy-looking to her liking, we were, nonetheless, riding in First, whether she liked it or not. She harumphed and grudgingly let us board. We were the first ones off the aircraft in Zihua and after negotiating the zig-zag course in the arrival hall, arrived slightly dizzy and somewhat nervous at the Migracion booth, since my FM3 had expired. Fortunately, all went smoothly and no fine was assessed, as the Migracion office in town was closed for vacation. On Monday I would scurry to the lawyer's office with all the paperwork, so that he could arrange for the renewal. We got the green light and were pleased to see Carol waiting for us to give us a ride to the house. After quickly changing clothes, we wandered over to Lety's for dinner. Belenda ordered the coconut shrimp and I had the seafood-filled chile relleno. Both were excellent, as usual. Too tired to hang around the Zocalo for the Sunday night activities, we crawled into bed early.
Back in the days when we were renting, we'd spend very little time at our digs. We were either at Otilia's at Las Gatas, fishing, snorkeling or spending the day at La Barra De Potosi. Aside from having to attend to matters at the house, we find the place so incredibly comfortable, that we tend to hang out there, rather than heading out. During our 2 weeks in Zihua, we only went to Las Gatas once and took one drive down to Barra to visit with Laura, drop off a computer for the kids' library, buy some coffee from Mune and eat lunch at La Condesa.
Monday: breakfast at Bananas, a trip to the Comercial for groceries and beer, drop off paperwork at the lawyer's and back home. About 36 years ago, while living in San Francisco, I bought a very nice Yucatan hammock which hung in my living room there. Upon out move to Alaska in '79, I couldn't part with it, so it spent the next 27 years in a box in the shed in the back yard. Now, none the worse for wear, it has a great spot at Casa Amarilla, where I spend an inordinate amount of time swinging in it with a book in one hand and a beer in the other. But I digress. For dinner we went to El Perla Negra, just down the hill from us on Calle Adelita, where we enjoyed coconut shrimp served with mango sauce and seafood-stuffed fish filet (Sierra). Mighty tasty!
Tuesday: Breakfast at La Casa Cafe, picked up 2 large containers of orange and grapefruit juice from Dona Isabel on the way back to the house for a meeting with our manager and the plumber about some repairs. Having nothing better to do, I counted 17 sailboats and 4 power boats anchored in the bay. Far fewer than usual at this time of year. Dinner at Daniel's: chile relleno with shrimp and cheese for me and a shrimp and avocado salad for Belenda. Great as usual.
Wednesday: Breakfast at home, then a water taxi ride to Las Gatas to spend the day at Otilia's. Good to see Franco again and I was impressed with the new toilets they had built. I did my usual leisurely snorkel trip around the reef and then had guacamole and shrimp tacos for lunch. Left there at about 15:00 to beat the rush, met with the contractor's assistant and a mason about some work to be done, ate dinner at home, watched a DVD and hit the sack.
Thursday: Breakfast at home. The plumber came by to do a couple of things, followed by Luz Galindo, who came to measure for shades in the bedrooms, necessitated by new construction in the neighborhood. More goofing off, followed by dinner at Casa Vieja. We shared a Paisana salad, followed by BBQ ribs, which are served with a baked potato and little bundles of vegetables. First rate! Along with the drinks, they serve chips and beans, which JR, the waiter, calls Mexican caviar.
Friday: breakfast at home and lounging around, followed by lunch at MJ and Richies on the beach below the house. We had fried calamari and fried abalone, Both were very good.
Dinner at El Perla Negra. The garlic shrimp was excellent.
Saturday: breakfast at home and then a drive to Barra. We picked up 6 kilos of coffee for various friends in Anchorage and ate lunch at La Condesa: abulon empanizado and pulpo al ajillo. First rate, as usual.
Sunday: More of what the Italians call "Dolce Far Niente". Lest you get the idea that we do nothing but read and drink beer, I do take a brisk walk in the mornings followed by watering the garden. Belenda runs up and down "Heart Attack Hill" a dozen times each day, as she's in training for the Mount Marathon race in Seward on the 4th of July. Dinner at home.
Monday: Breakfast at home. Phonecall to Jane in Oaxaca to confirm our reservation at her place: Casa Colonial, followed by more swinging in the hammock and reading. Dinner at La Gula: bacon-wrapped shrimp for Belenda and seafood in scallop shells for me. Just great! Business seems uncommonly slow in most restaurants.
Tuesday: more hanging out and packing for our road trip. Dinner at Piazza d'Angelo: salad and baked rabbit, accompanied by an excellent Mexican red wine which the "Noodle Nazi" apparently didn't approve of. When I commented how much we liked it, his response was: "well, if you like that kind of thing". Makes you wonder why he serves it, in the first place. He did tell us where we could buy it locally: at Vinoteca, just down the alley on Vicente Guerrero.
Wednesday: Another day of reading and watching my wife knit me a sweater, which seemed a little odd as the temps were in the mid eighties. Also watched the contractor replace the railing on our bedroom balcony, which had rotted and was growing mushrooms. In that hot and humid climate you either build with concrete for durability or, if you want the aesthetic touches of wood, you need to be prepared to spend a fair amount of time and money on maintenance. It's been quite a learning experience. Neighbors came over for dinner.
Thursday: Carol picked us up bright and early at 07:00 for our road trip. We stopped at a roadside enramada outside of Coyuca for breakfast: barbacoa de puerco; inexpensive and delicious. We stopped for lunch at El Pescador De Los 7 Mares in Pinotepa Nacional. I ordered shrimp which came with heads on and unpeeled. The heads came off easily enough, but the shells were a different matter. The plate was sent back to the kitchen, where they also had a hard time peeling them, judging by what came back. Another lesson learned: make sure the shrimp are "pelado" - peeled when you order. We spent the night at Hotel Rocamar in Puerto Escondido. Clean and reasonably priced. Breakfast at Baguetteria Vivaldi. Leaving the Pemex station on the way out of town, a pleasant, English-speaking Highway cop advised us that striking teachers were blocking the bridge over the Rio Colotepec, so we decided to spend the day and another night in Puerto Escondido, this time at Bungalows Zicatela, pleasant accomodations across from the beach. We spent the day at an enramada on the beach, where we met a gentleman who has a gardening business in New York. He was a former Zihua regular who now spends his winters in PE. He introduced us to an elderly fellow who carves gourds. Beautiful work; quite a contrast to the mostly touristy junk for sale along the beach. We bought several pieces. Dinner on the beach at El Jardin.
Saturday: Departed for Oaxaca via what Guia Roji calls highway 135, but the roadside markers call highway 131. The road was quite windey and badly potholed in some areas, but offered some stunning views. Oddly, the few places where one might have been able to pull off the road, rows of white-painted rocks blocked the way. Another Mexican mystery! There was some kind of pilgrimage happening in the area, as there was a fair amount of opposite-direction traffic, adorned with religious pictures and flowers. Lunch in Juchatengo, where we saw numerous mini-cabs. Some were the rickshaw-type, pulled by motorcycles, others were 3-wheelers. We wondered why these weren't in use in Zihua, since they're much more maneuverable than taxis, and undoubtedly more economical to operate. After some zigging and zagging through Oaxaca, we finally found our lodgings. Casa Colonial is a lovely B&B, centrally located, within easy walking distance of the Zocalo. It is owned by an old friend from my San Francisco days. Several buildings surround a lovely garden. There are some newer ones, but we prefer to stay in the older house, in part for its quirky touches: shower knobs, for example, are located above oneanother, rather than side by side, and turn in the opposite direction of what we're used to. You can Google their website if interested and we highly recommend it. For dinner we went to Biznaga, one of Jane's favorites. I ordered Pollo en Mole, sublime!
Sunday: After breakfast the four of us headed to Ocotlan, to the home and workshop of Josefina Aguilar, a local clay artist. We really like her work. When I designed our house in Zihua, I planned a nicho at the head of the stairs, with the intention of placing a sculptural work by Josefina in it. I had requested that she make me one of her signature pieces, a Frida Kahlo, but quite large: at least 36 inches tall. Wow! She is spectacular. 44 inches in height and incredibly detailed. We wrapped her in miles of newsprint and a huge sheet of bubblewrap and wedged her in the back of Carol's vehicle. She arrived in Zihua with only very minor damage, which will be easy to fix. Our next stop was Arrazola, at the home and workshop of Arsenio Morales, who carves alebrijes out of local, aromatic copal wood. These pieces are then painted in an almost "psychedelic" fashion. Among other things, he makes these wonderful rabbits with really long ears. We bought 2; one for our place in Anchorage and the other for the house in Zihua. One of them wasn't quite finished, but we paid for both and he delivered the remaining one while we were out for dinner that night. Our last stop was the Zapotec indian weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. If you're interested in their beautiful work, it's carried in Zihua by La Zapoteca. We were there once before and visited "the bug in the rug". Their demonstrations were interesting and the work lovely, but we thought their prices quite high. So we pulled up to another place at random: El Tono De La Cochinilla. we were welcomed by one of the owners, the charming Rosario Martinez Vasquez, who surprised us by speaking excellent English. The shop is named after the cochinilla bug, which produces a bright red dye. The tone of the dye can be altered by adding lime juice or soda ash. When I inquired about her exceptional English, she explained that when her 15th birthday - a big deal in Mexico - was approaching, she told her father that, rather than throwing a big party, she wanted to travel. She ended up in Colorado for 7 months with the family of an acquaintance of her dad's. Quite amazing, I thought. On the way back to Oaxaca we stopped for carnitas at La Ballena Azul, a roadside restaurant. In the afternoon Carol and Belenda went trolling for chocolate, while I stayed at the casa to listen to a jazz concert being presented in the garden. The horn, guitar and bass players were from Mexico City, the drummer a Gringo, who had played with one of the rockbands at the Matrix in San Francisco, where I was the manager oh so many years ago. Small world! For dinner, we went to El Catedral, another one of Jane's favorites, where we feasted on a number of local apetizers.
Monday: Breakfast at the Casa and then back on the road to Puerto Angel via highway 175. This route is even more spectacular than the one we drove in on. Much less traffic, fewer potholes and phenomenal vistas as we drove up towards the clouds. We took rooms at Hotel Soraya in Puerto Angel, a fairly picturesque little town on a small bay. Dinner on the beach - not particularly memorable.
Tuesday: Back on the road by 08:00. We stopped for breakfast at El Jardin in Puerto Escondido. Driving through Acapulco was interesting, to say the least: glitzy high-rise hotels on the left of the highway, abject squalor on the right. We stopped at Costco in Acapulco. A huge store with very few customers while we were there. We purchased a cart for out BBQ and 2 big bags of Pina Enchilada, small cubes of pineapple, rolled in chili powder, something I've become hopelessly addicted to. We spent the last night of our trip in Pie De La Cuesta at Casa Bonita, a small inn owned by a couple from Houston. It's a very pleasant place to stay - right on the beach. For dinner we walked up the road a piece to Tres Marias restaurant on the beach side of the road. I ordered Camarones Embarazadas, which I thought meant embarassed - the sauce was red, after all. I later learned that it meant pregnant. Who knows why, they weren't filled with anything.
Wednesday: Breakfast across the street on the lagoon side at a place also called Tres Marias. A nice looking restaurant, but the orders were quite skimpy, we thought and overpriced. The view across the lagoon, on the other hand, was quite beautiful. The drive back to Zihua from there was mostly through an agricultural landscape. Two things stood out: a pond with egrets, herons and ibises feeding and a large rock face, painted white, with large black letters saying: "Greengo's(sic) f**k you!". Probably not a message from the greater Acapulco Chamber of Commerce... We arrived in Zihua around noon, wrestled Frida up the stairs into her nicho, said our thanks and goodbyes to Carol and climbed into the hammock.
Thursday: Breakfast at Casa Cafe and a trip to the attorney's to pick up my FM3. Dinner: hamburgers at Capricho.
Friday: Checked out the new railing on our balcony, the bench by the entrance gate, the new flower bed and the steel posts I had installed in the driveway to keep people from bumping into the gate when turning around. We had friends over for dinner, watched a DVD and crawled into bed.
Saturday: Breakfast at Casa Cafe and packed our bags in preparation for our return to the real world the next day. What a bummer! Dinner at Il Mare. Excellent pasta with a seafood sauce.
Sunday: departed Zihua, barely made the connection in LAX and spent the night on a bench in the kids' play room at SEA. Arrived in Anchorage at 08:40 the following morning. As I write this, I'm looking at 10 inches of new snow on the deck, where it's 1 degree F. The thought of 2 hours of shoveling is made more bearable by the prospect of a return trip to Zihua at the end of next month.

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