Finally - trip report 6/10 - 6/17

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Escrito por Ms. Miltown desde ( el día martes, 20 de junio, 2006 a las 23:54:24 horas :

Well, let's just make that 6/11 since Continental stole a day of my vacation. But the Houston Hampton Inn was just lovely - nice employees, the airport shuttle driver even took me to the gas station down the street for beer since their restaurant was closed, and the front desk employee swapped me three beers for three bottles of water and a bottle opener.

So I finally arrived in Zihua around 12:30, and go figure, got the red light! The lady barely looked in my bags however, so no big deal. Found the ATM, got my pesos, found the taxi window, got my fare, and then was escorted outside to a beat up old four door Buick that had the hood up and was still being worked on! Ha ha. I didn't think we were going to make it to Zihua, and I'm pretty sure the tires were bald. After a near miss of a random three cow-crossing, and made it into Zihua and down to Playa la Ropa with no other incidents, other than a tough time getting that car up the hill. The weather was gorgeous and I was so excited to finally meet up with my friend who had made it just fine the day before.

I found the Villas los Arcos no problem, rang the bell, and was greeted by Nancy Lewis, the owner. Once I walked through the door, it was like stepping into another world, a much better one than the one I had just come from. My friend was waiting in the pool, along with another young couple from Texas who we befriended and spent much time with that week. My friend explained that Nancy and David had taken them all out for a breakfast of chicken mole (?????), which they called their Sunday ritual of Holy Mole, followed by a stop at the Commercial so they could load up on supplies. My friend bought enough food and drinks to last us a week.

The building and grounds are absolutely stunning! So peaceful and beautiful and convenient to Playa la Ropa and town. The pool was immaculate and a welcome relief after a day of sun, sea and salt. Toni, the daytime staff, is the cutest thing - such a great smile and so friendly. At nighttime, the gal who had been bitten by the croc a few weeks earlier works there - she showed one of our travel pals her bite! I missed it. Nancy and David are such great hosts and so funny - we just had a ball with them, and it wouldn't have been the same if they hadn't been there. Of course, the local burro made things extra fun. Has anyone heard this fellow? He lives very near the road leading to Hotel Rossey - and he "brays" all day long, on the hour, or at mealtime and happy hours or something. He gives you a warning shot first, then brays away.... we had such good laughs about him, and told Nancy and David they should rename their property Villa del Burro.

After I cooled off and had a chance to slip into my new reality, we headed to Paty's for some guacamole and happy hour. It was amazing, and a welcome relief, to see how slow the area was this time of year. They even "extended" happy hour for us a few times. There is simply nothing better than sitting at a table with your feet in the sand, drinking cold cervezas served out of an ice bucket, listening to the pounding surf, licking salt off your lips, and simply "being". Playa la Ropa was very clean, and the water seemed fine when I was there, much to my relief due to the rains earlier in the week. There weren't a lot of activities being offered while we were there though, so no parasailing or banana boating to be found. That night we headed to the Zocalo for the Sunday night event, but as was our custome for the rest of the week, we were late for everything we did. At least we got the Mexican time thing down.... We still made it in time for tacos and empanadas and horchata and platanos....

A little about our group - Dusty and Nikki were the couple we met from Texas - it was their second time to Zihua, and they were celebrating his bday and their anniversary. He works for a tv station in Texas, and had happened to bring along his own video camera. He asked if he could bring it, and while I didn't want to stand out as complete tourists all week (hard to not look like tourists when there are two blondes in the group), we were so glad he did. This is no video camera, this is like tv quality stuff. He showed us some of his work and it was like watching the travel channel. He documented so much of what we did that week, and I can't wait to see the finished product. It makes standing out like a stupid Americana worth it in the end. My travel partner MC is from Denver, and we met in Spain 11 years ago. She is an ESL teacher in Denver and very fluent in Spanish. Me, I'm only about 1/4 of the way there, but I love practicing my Spanish in Mexico.

We headed to the upstairs bar across the street and watched the goings on. Later we wandered down to Bandidos as it was one of the few hopping places we saw, and they had live music. At one point, a local asked me if I wanted to dance and so I said sure. Little did I know this would be the hardest Mexican line dance I would ever do. Too much work!!! I thought I was in an aerobics class. Leaving there we ended up in smokey, crowded Tequila Town, where I decided I was too old for this nonsense, and went and sat in the fresh air. I had been up since 5:30 a.m., and it was now 2:30 a.m. Monday. I told the kids I was ready to go home and that I was taking a taxi. I'm famous for doing this in Mexico, leaving in taxis by myself. Probably not a wise idea, but I've always felt safe and ended up at home safe.

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is experience the culture through food. I had spent so much time preparing notes from this board on restaurants to try out and places to visit, and I'm sad to report I ony got to one of the restaurants I really wanted to try. My travel partner just likes to sleep in and we were always late for things. Oh well - next time!

Monday found us all with crudas and so we spent most of the day lounging by the pool with the three canines in residence. Nancy steered us towards Puntarenas that night for dinner, which I hadn't heard about at all on this board, but we found it locked upon arrival. It was the one night I didn't bring my map into town, and we wandered around forever looking for La Gula. We asked three different people and got sent in three different directions before deciding we were on Mexican candid camera. So we plopped it down at Margaritas around 9:00 p.m. Cute place, nice staff, decent food, but the food took a long time to come. I hear this is the place for desayuno. I had chile relleno, which wasn't the best I've ever had.

Tuesday I had wanted to sail the Picante, as it ony goes Tues and Fri in the summer months, but Nancy suggested we head down to La Barra de Potosi. So after a breakfast at Rossey (small menu, but decent food and great coffee), we took the micro (best bargain, fast, and great air conditioning) to el centro, and wandered aimlessly looking for the bus to Petatlan. We walked clockwise around the market and somehow found the guy hanging out the window yelling "PETATLAN". The people on the bus were super friendly and told us when to get off and pointed out the pasajera. We waited about fifteen minutes before departing on the bumpy and BEAUTIFUL ride to the coast. The views reminded me of Costa Rica. I was so excited to ride in the back of a pickup truck in Mexico, something I've always wanted to do. It just seems like something one should do while in Mexico. We parked it Nayitos - excellent food, staff, clean bathrooms and outdoor showers! This day was by far my favorite day. Again, very slow at this beach - we were one of only two groups of Americans we could see, which made it even better. The water and beach here are gorgeous, with the view of the lagoon and "bald hill" to your left, and Playa Larga to your right. The sand in the water almost appears like gold flecks when the sun hits it right. Well, the fabulous swimming only lasted so long before suddenly, the entire beach cleared out of the water. I had been in the banos, and went down to find out que paso. A little old lady covered in sand hollered and screamed with fear and amusement at the same time "COCODRILO! COCODRILO!". "DONDE!?!?" I hollered back. The next five minutes were both frightening and hysterical at the same time, watching this mass of fifty people all run down the beach together, looking for the croc in the surf, and when spotting him - and he was a big sucker, all hollering, screaming, and laughing at the same time, while backing up a few more yards. Great fun. While it ruined my swimming in paradise, how many people can say they had to cut their swim short due to a croc visit? I couldn't believe I had just been swimming in that water!!! We decided we would watch what the Mexicans did, and if they went back in, then we would. Well it was some hours before this happened, and then it was wearily. A little while later some musicians came by, and we requested a few songs. It was the mutual assumption of all of us that these strolling musicians performed for propinas. So after about five songs, and offers of beer or water, we were preparing to tip them 100 pesos. One of the gentleman looked at Dusty and said "No, 350 pesos". We were like "excuse me???". A bit of an argument ensued, where we stated we all thought musicians played for propinas and they said heck no - and finally the older gentleman accepted our offer of 200 pesos. Nancy later told us that yes, musicians charge about 50 pesos per song. I had never experienced that, so it was a little embarassing, the whole scenario. Oh well, it's just money. Nancy and David drove us back to Zihua long the dirt road, with a stop at some restaurant on the beach that I couldn't tell you the name of - tiny place, but we had wonderful octocpus sopes and breaded camarones. We played on the beach with the dogs and watched a gorgeous sunset.

Wednesday we were going to go to Las Gatas, but after failing to negotiate a deal from Playa la Ropa (he wanted 250 pesos to take us over to Las Gatas. We should have taken our rubber swim rafts there....), we decided it was too late in the afternoon and parked it at La Ropa, where we DID see the sea snakes, and a waiter claimed it was a snake. Maybe. But it was beautiful to watch the way it hopped in the air and then dug it's head down into the sand with it's tail flapping in the wind. Ladies, have no fear. I'm not a fan of snakes, but managed to handle it in stride. OH! We also made it to Tamales y Atoles Any that a.m. for breakfast, which was wonderful, huge menu, great service, and cute place. Huge chiliquiles and great chorizo and huevos. HOWEVER, I would recommend going for lunch or dinner, and not breakfast, since those menus look amazing. We also had to wait for the morning street cleaning event before we could cross the street. After our day on the beach we hiked to the north end of La Ropa, up the hill (is there no shortcut), back down a hill, and onto Madera to MJ and Ritches which was closing early, but we had a drink and some platanos in "acid cream" (love that translation). We walked the rest of the way into town to buy a bottle of Tequila at a great little liquor store I think near Ejido??? Our happy hour on the second floor of Rossey's turned into happy hours - while we played Cincos Locos with Job the waiter. The rooftop of Rossey is really cute, and a great place for sunsets, but note that they don't have happy hour specials if you're looking to save money. Gotta go to Paty's for that. So once again, late for dinner, and Job recommended Garrobo's. We did have an excellent meal here and wonderful service; fresh tuna of the day, and huachinango (huge one at that) Veracruzano.

Thursday found us on our Ixtapa Island adventure. Note that you have to go to what appears to be an actual bus stop at the end of Benito Juarez (there are two Elektra stores, so don't wait in front of the first one you see by Benito Juarez as we did) and wait a while for the bus marked Playa Linda in the window. This bus gets REALLY crowded with workers going to Ixtapa, so if you don't like squishy sweaty and not being able to sightsee out the window, get yourself a $10.00 cab ride instead. On arriving at the island, we headed over to Coral right away to snorkel, this was about 11:00. The beach was already filled up with snorkel tours. I'm not an experienced snorkeler, but strong swimmer, and have my own gear. I thought this spot was pretty tough for entering and exiting the water. Saw a lot of bloody knees and lost gear, and IMO, the snorkeling not that great. Cloudy visibility and not that many fish, and I swam way the heck out there. Guess I have to try the tortilla trick. Lots of little crabs along the rock formation and tide pools though. While sitting there, suddenly a deer bounded out from the woods and literally hopped right over children and families before disappearing into the woods at the other end of the beach. We packed up and flipped sides over to Playa Veredero - which was just WONDERFUL! Great swimming, not crowded at all. Go see Pepe at Paraiso Escondido (thanks Rob for the recommendation - I gave him the printout from this website). This beach was just beautiful - clean, wonderful swimming, great food. The one funny thing we noticed: in Mexico they always give you an English menu and we always request the Spanish one, because sometimes translations don't work, and HEY, we're learning. The prices here were the same on both menus for everything, except BEER! It was 15 pesos on the Spanish menu and 20 on the English. Too funny. We did get our 15 peso beer however. Lots of lizards in the woods behind the restaurant. Ask for the fish a la braso or something like that - we didn't get it but the table next to us did, and it looked amazing. We took the taxi back into town. Dinner was pollo feliz, or pollo infeliz as our taxi driver called it, and we stayed in and made mango margaritas in our suite, playing dominoes and listening to our donkey.

Friday was meant to be our Picante day to Manzanillo, but they had a private tour. We tried to hunt down Hector Olea but couldn't find him. We got a decent rate from some guy at the pier as well as Ed Garvis at Whiskey Water World, but ended up taking Friday off to shop. I'm sad about missing Manzanillo (a?) however.

For shopping, my two favorite places were: in the Market, about halfway down, on a corner behind a Pepsi stand is Pedro Marcos (not sure on the last name). IMO, he has the most beautiful stuff, wood bowls and ceramic suns and plates, etc., and he signs the back of everything and writes Zihuatanejo on it. He is a little pricier (and I'm a great haggler) but he's worth it. It's so great to watch them paint stuff and then come back and see the finished produt. I also LOVED the Arte Mexican Nopal (am I botching the name) and got a great Dia de Los Muertos piece there to add to my collection. A few other great stores we found closed most of the week, as was Cafe Marina all week. By the way, we did find Hector on Friday and he was wearing a shirt from a tavern in my home town.

Friday night found us having a late dinner at Il Mare - a gift to my friend who is getting married in October, so this trip was kinda her bachelorette party. While I cringe at the idea of eating Italian in Mexico, the food, service, and view were outstanding. And where else can you find folk art bathrooms on a cliff? If you go here, have the scallop appetizer. We then wandered downtown looking for our friends, and ended up in what we thought was Barracruda, but was in fact right next door. It was more of an Americanized bar, and we couldn't get the bartender to speak Spanish to us. Well as it turned out, Javier, the bartender, was really striving to learn English. He was so cute and such a great host and such an airhead. Please pay him a visit and buy a few drinks. He makes a great Michelada and only charges 25 pesos for mixed drinks. If you go with teen/twenty-ish kids - this is probably the place for them - if you're facing Barracruda, it's to the right. We also made it into Coconuts - what atmosphere! But again, a little to trendy for me. Arriving back at the Villa very late/early (3:00 a.m.), we found a fiesta to end all fiestas going on up the hill somewhere. I swung myself to sleep in the balcony hammock, listening to the singing and laughter coming down the hill, accompanied by some sort of Mexican accordian music. When I awoke at 5:20 to a burro bray - I could still hear laughter. The perfect ending to a perfect trip.

Two other crazy animal encounters - fishing little crabs out of our pool, and an chance meeting with a baby boa constrictor on Saturday. Toni thought it was a piece of garbage and tried to pick it up! Imagine her surprise. I also had a strange feeling I would encounter a scorpion on this trip, but thankfully did not. If anyone has any scorpion pointers - send them my way!

Sorry for the long report with not much useful info. Overall, we had a great time. The area is beautiful, we felt safe, there is tons to do and plenty of beaches to visit (go to Barra and Veredero), shopping to be done, and a plethora of restaurants I never tried. Everyone was super friendly and I would have no qualms about going back. So many places seemed so slow while we were there, and I know our waiters needed the tips.

OH - last tip - if you're a yoga person, 9:00 a.m everyday at El Manglar restaurant, next to the crocs.

Thanks everyone on this board for posting their useful info, and to Rob for putting together such a GREAT site. Zihua is gorgeous. I'll post photos when I get my act together.

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