Friday, December 21, 2012

Around Town

Monday, December 17

Today, we ventured into the “old” downtown, which differs from the Golden Zone in many ways.  The Golden Zone consists mainly of hotels, shops, and restaurants and caters almost entirely to the tourist crowd.  The old downtown area, while it still has many shops and restaurants, also appears to more residential, with more locals going about their daily lives.  There are historic buildings in this area and, walking the streets, one can see many examples of the local architecture. 

We got off the bus at the city market, which was overflowing with people, locals and tourists alike.  This market reminded me, somewhat of, Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, because of the wide variety of items offered.  Everything from fresh, local produce, to handcrafted items.  There were also many meat vendors displaying freshly butchered meat, including pigs heads, hooves and skin.  That was a site I could have lived without seeing!

From the market, we moved on to exploring some of the shops nearby.  The sidewalks were very narrow and most had big, vinyl signs hanging down on the curb side in an effort to provide some shade for those walking as well as for the street vendors that spilled out onto the sidewalks.  With the crowds this made a leisurely shopping experience difficult.  We did step into a few stores and we found the combination shoe store/music store to be a bit comical.                            

The cathedral is mentioned often in anything one reads about old Mazatlan so we found our way to it and stepped inside.  There was a mass going on, so we couldn’t wander around and explore too much.  We did snap a couple of photos before seeing the sign asking that no cameras be used in the sanctuary.  It truly is a beautiful building.


We realized that we were all hungry so we headed in the direction of the ocean, where we knew we would find a place to eat as well as cool breezes.  We landed at the Shrimp Bucket, where Megan and I each got salads, Joe got shrimp prepared in a butter, garlic sauce and Tom ordered up shrimp tacos, which he declared his best meal so far since we got here.


 While eating we were serenaded by a gentleman walking around the streets stopping to sing to those seated outside.  This is one of the experiences that you so often see depicted in movies, but you seldomly see happen in reality.  After singing us his version of Feliz Navidad, we handed him a tip and he went on his way.

There is a waterfront promenade in old town that stretches along 4 miles of the ocean and features statues depicting some of the history of the area.  There is also a tower in the stretch from which cliff divers will dive many feet into the water below.  We were approached by one of these divers as we drew close to the tower from which they dive.  For some reason, I actually thought that the cliff divers were like surfers, in that they came out a dove off the cliffs purely for the joy and the sport of it, so I was a bit taken aback when the diver came to us and said he would dive for us, for a charge. 
It just never occurred to me that this is probably what puts meals on the table for this guy and his family.  We declined his offer, but looking back on it now, I regret that decision and wish that we would have paid him.

The walk along the promenade provided many photo opportunities which we took advantage of on our way to the nearest bus stop.  We were all feeling pretty full, hot and a bit tired and were ready to go back to go back to the condo and rest and do a little water time (Joe and Meg in the ocean, and Tom and I poolside.)

                                                                                                                                                        Another beautiful sunset and another peaceful, relaxing evening listening to the ocean from our windows.

Until, tomorrow......adios.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Waking up in Mazatlan

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waking up to the sound of the ocean and cool ocean breezes blowing in through the open window.  Not a bad way to start the day.  Apparently, one not only gets lovely sunsets here in Mazatlan, but sunrises are a beautiful gift, too.

Tom was the first one up and took this photo from our deck, then went for a walk on the beach.  I got up shortly after he left and watched him down on the beach as well as some locals doing some fishing.  Not sure what they were fishing for but I did notice that the fisherman grouped together on shore to throw out a line parallel to where the pelicans had chosen to land out in the water.  Makes sense because I am sure that the pelicans are gathering wherever the fish are.

Tom was kind enough to bring me a coffee from the little coffee stand down by the pool to help me get going while I browsed the internet.  Once Joe and Megan got up and we all got showered we walked out to the bus stop that is right in front of the resort on the main road that goes into town.  We decided to start with the "Golden Zone" on our first adventure out to take a look at the local shops.
waiting at the bus stop

We didn't have to wait too long for the bus and it was only about a 15 minute ride to the "Golden Zone".  The Golden Zone is the newer downtown Mazatlan where there are many hotels, restaurants and shops. We walked around for about an hour or so and wandered in and out of many shops.  We quickly learned that the favorite phrase of those working in the shops is:  "it's almost free today".  I have to say that the shopping experience in Mexico is not at all like shopping back home in the States.  These people are ALL hard core salespeople and they are relentless in their pursuit of a sale.  They follow you and chatter to you about price and size and quality and whatever else they can think of in an effort to get you to part with your money.  If you touch something or pick something up to take a closer look at it, they act as if they have a definite impending sale.  It makes me quite uncomfortable and, for me, at least, takes all the pleasure out of shopping.  While there were some pretty items that I liked, some jewelry, some pottery, there was nothing I felt that I just HAD to go home with and I found the whole shopping experience kind of exhausting and, I have to admit, a bit disappointing.  Most of the shops were full of cheesy, crummy, cheap touristy items and not worth the experience of feeling pressured to buy.  We decided to head back to the condo for some beach/pool/hot tub time as well as having thoughts about eating.

Before catching the bus, however, Tom was drawn to Rico's cafe thinking that a coffee sounded good and we all agreed.  I ordered my favorite drink, a peppermint-laced soy mocha and I must say it was far tastier and smoother than the Starbuck's version.

Back on the bus we went and home to the condo.  Joe and Megan went down to the beach and played in the water for a bit.

Once they came back in and changed clothes we walked down the beach a little way and went to a restaurant for dinner.  The food here, so far, has been delicious and all tastes very fresh.  Megan, who is not the most adventuresome eater, has stuck to her favorite, chicken strips even here in Mexico.  She had them last night for dinner and was a bit disappointed because she said they tasted like fish.  I had some steak that I gave here that she found quite tasty.  One of my goals for this trip will be to try and expand Megan's palate a little bit.  I love that you can sit outside for a meal here and see and hear the ocean, yet still be warm and comfortable.  The Oregon beach is often cold and windy and it is seldomly possible to sit comfortably outside and enjoy a leisurely meal.

Once again, we spent the evening in the room, watching some TV.  We did not rent a car for this trip so we are a bit constrained in our options for going out in the evenings.  The buses only run until 9 p.m. or so and we are unsure of what there would be to do in town so we have, so far, chosen to just hang out in the condo.  Tom and Joe did head down to the bar here at the condo to watch the football game there, allowing Megan and I to have the TV in the room.  After flipping through channels and finding nothing to watch, she and I ended up watching a couple of original "Twilight Zone" episodes on the computer.  After Megan went to bed, I decided to go out and take a walk around the resort and snapped a picture of the tree they have decorated here for Christmas.  Very unique and quite lovely.

Tomorrow we plan to visit "old town" Mazatlan.  Until then......................

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Going to Mazatlan!!

Friday, December 14th.

Tom and I both worked a full today, then went home put the finishing touches on our packing, loaded up the Mazda and drove up to Portland.  We spent the night at my favorite pre-flight hotel, the airport Hampton Inn (big, fluffy pillowtop mattresses!), with a wake-up call at 2:45 am to catch our 5:30 am flight to Mexico.  Tucker chose not to come with us on this trip and will be staying home in rainy, chilly Oregon, while we are in sunny, warm Mexico.  He just got in from Las Vegas this morning and is ready to hang out with his Oregon buddies.  He did ride up to Portland with us, however, so that we don't have to pay for long term parking.  This ride also gave us a chance to catch up with what's been going on with him over the past couple of months.  He seems to be enjoying his time at Kairos in Las Vegas, although he has come to the conclusion that he is not totally in tune with their philosophy of ministry there.  I think he will finish the year out there, then end up coming back home to Oregon.

Once in the hotel room, Tom turned on the TV (of course) to catch a basketball game.  I turned in pretty early knowing that 2:45 a.m. would be arriving WAY too soon!!

Mazatlan, here we come!!

Saturday, December 15th

We have arrived, safe and sound without any glitches in our flights.  Our layover was in Phoenix and was very, very short.  Tom was hungry and went in search of food.  While he did this, we discovered that we needed to show our passports and boarding passes at the gate before boarding.  Joe, Megan and I stepped up to the customer service desk to do so and we were treated to an upgrade to FIRST CLASS seats for the flight from Phoenix to Mazatlan, at no additional charge.  HOW SWEET IS THAT???   Unfortunately, there were only 3 first class seats available and Tom wasn't with us so he missed out.  Sorry, honey, better luck next time.

Upon arrival in Mazatlan, we were shuffled through customs where they checked our immigration documents and actually stamped our passports!!  This will be the third time we have used our passports (first time was for our Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, the second time was our road trip to Canada), but the first time they have actually been stamped.  While waiting for our luggage to come off the plane, there was a man with what we decided was a drug-sniffing dog wandering amongst all of us allowing the dog to sniff all of our carry-on bags.  Once the bags started going around on the luggage carousel,  the dog just climbed right up on the carousel and on top of the bags to continue his sniffing.  It was very interesting to watch, and fortunately, it appeared that the dog found nothing of interest.

We then had to put our bags through an x-ray machine upon leaving the luggage pick up area.  There was a young woman seated behind the screen to view what was being x-rayed as it passed through the machine, but she was busy texting on her phone and didn't appear to look at the screen even once while we were observing her.

While on the plane I overheard a young man in the row in front of me, who has been here many times, telling someone in the row in front of him to stay away from the people inside the airport offering free taxi rides.  While there is no money required for the taxi rides these folks offer, if you accept their generosity, you are obligated to listen to a time share/resort spiel, so, unless one is willing to commit some of one's valuable vacation time to such a presentation, these folks are to be avoided.  I mentioned this to Tom as we were going through customs, but he almost fell prey to it anyway.  We did escape, however, without making any such mistake and paid the $35 for a cab to our destination resort, Torres Mazatlan.

We attempted some conversation with our cab driver, but quickly figured out that he did not speak much English, so we mostly just conversed amongst ourselves on the 30 minute drive from the airport to the resort.  The ride took us through some areas that were very much what I had pictured in my mind about much of Mexico.  Poverty, graffiti, lots of people out and about everywhere.  But there is also a lot of beauty, too.  Murals painted on walls that line the road.  Lovely flowering plants, trees and bushes.  And the taxi ride, itself......Wow!!  Taxi drivers all seem to be very similar wherever one goes. They drive fast, they change lanes like crazy and seems to have no patience.  It seemed to me that there were no real "lanes" marked in the road as there are back in the states and people on motorcycles just drive in between cars, creating their own lane.  Tom even saw a family of THREE on a motorcycle, kid  in the very front, Dad, driving,  behind the child and Mom in the rear.   YIKES!!!!

The cab driver does, however, deliver us safely to our condo, where we are able to check in and move into the room, despite being a bit earlier than the 4 pm check in time.  We are very pleased with the condo.  Two nice, spacious bedrooms, one with 2 double beds in it that Megan and Joe will share, then the master for Tom and I.  There is a deck off of the living room as well as one off of the master bedroom, and both overlook the ocean.  Beautiful.  The weather, while quite windy, is what I consider to be nearly perfect.  It feels like it is right around 80 degrees and the humidity is much lower than a typical summer day in Indiana.  We wander around the resort a bit, check out the Christmas decorations (it is just so weird to see Christmas decorations in a warm, tropical place!), the pool (which has nice warm water) and the beach.  We were all a bit surprised that there are many local vendors selling their wares down on the beach, although, once I give it some thought, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all.  One gentleman selling hats also had an interesting mask for sale that Joe decided he MUST try on.

This mask reminds me Chewbacca, the Wookie, in the Star Wars movies, although I do think that Joe looks quite remarkable in it!  Joe is seriously considering buying this thing to use in some secret rituals at his fraternity at Oregon State University.  Whatever floats your boat, I guess!

Since none of us, but Tom, has eaten anything since breakfast, we decide that it is time to have our first authentic Mexican meal.  Well, all of us but Megan, who chose to have chicken strips, which she said tasted like fish.  Sorry, Megan.  Tom, Joe and I also decided to have authentic Mexican beer and each ordered a Corona.  We sat outside, nearly on the beach and listened to the ocean while we filled our tummies.
This is the life!

Once back in the room, Joe and I both decided that it was nap time and off to the bedrooms we went to catch a little sleep.  While we were napping, Tom and Megan went down to the beach and took a little walk and a few sunset photos.
We then all settled in for the rest of the evening to rest up for the rest of our trip.  We plan on heading into town for a while tomorrow for some shopping.  So, for now, Buenas Noches!