11 June, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán – Teotihuacán Edition

Took a bus from México City to Teotihuacán yesterday. I’ll be here until Thursday – enough time to wander around the pyramids! A few caveats with the bus – first, don’t believe the ticket counter people when they tell you what gate the bus will leave from. They’ve told me gate 8 twice, and this time it was 7. Ask someone when you get outside. Second, I wanted gate 2, but this bus only went to gate 1. Just means a little further to where I wanted to go. Third, Uber. Just say no. App scheduled a driver and said he was 15 minutes away. Five minutes later he canceled the trip. The app showed the next driver doing doughnuts in the freeway at 11 minutes out. For 10 minutes. It’s a hike, but you can do a nice slow walk to the hotels around the perimiter – or pay too much money for a 5 minute cab ride. I paid 🙂

The bus I was scheduled to take broke down 10 minutes out of the terminal. Thankfully all the buses go the same way, so the driver flagged the next one (they go every 15 minutes) down. Just enough room for everyone, and an hour later we were at the site.

There’s a touristy restaurant called La Gruta just outside the gate behind the pyramid of the sun. I’ve wanted to go on my other two trips, but have never made it – so I walked over and had some dinner. La Gruta’s dining room is in a cave. Food was good, but not cheap. It’s still an experience not to be missed, and I’m glad I finally did it!

I’m doing the trip on the cheap this time (well, except for the cab), so I booked a $20 USD a night hotel/motel room for the stay. I read the reviews. I did. I didn’t think the no hot water thing would bother me too much. It does 🙂 Next time I’m finding something between the $90/night place I usually stay at and here!

Pyramids are fantastic. If you haven’t been here, this should be on your bucket list. This is my third time here, and I’m still finding new things. And I never come for just one day! So many things to see and do, you need at least two full days to fit it all in.

Just a note on prices – the bus is 56 pesos each way. Half price if you have an INAPAM card (senior discount card for nationals and residents 60 and older). You can pay the return fare at the bus when you come back. Admission to the pyramids is 75 pesos (I think I’ll double check). Free if you have an INAPAM card. I believe it’s free for nationals on Sundays. Don’t come on a Sunday – I hear it’s packed. The museum on site charges a small fee – not sure what it was because … it’s free with the INAPAM card.

So today is Tuesday. I have tomorrow to explore the site again, and then Thursday I’ll walk back to the bus stop and return to my AirBnB in México City.

May the fun never end!

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3 June, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán – México City edition.

Made it to México City!

15 hour bus ride, easy but was not pleasant! From Mazatlán to Guadalajara the bus was full. Then from Guadalajara to Querétaro there were 6 passengers. Lost one in Querétaro so 5 from there to México City. I’ve decided that buses need to be like airplanes for me. Aisle seats so I can get up and move around every hour or so. Sitting in one place from Mazatlán to Guadalajara gave me a very good idea how people get bedsores! My tush still hurts!

The bus left Mazatlán at 11:00 pm, so no roadside burrito vendors in the middle of the night. We did stop for lunch though. I had a taco de barbacoa. Not too hungry, as I’d brought half a torta de pierna with me 🙂

So, the bus arrived at del Norte, but the youtube video I watched that showed where the subway entrance is was wrong. Do NOT go to gate 1 – not there. It’s outside from gate 4. If you look for the metro logo you’ll see it. Bought a few tickets and made my way to the platform where I took line 5 to line 3 then to line 1! The subway platforms are marked by the last stop in the direction the train is travelling – which the app I was using didn’t bother to mention! I’m now using a better app 🙂 But I did it, in a decent amount of time.

Now comes the snafu. And it’s ongoing and I’m not sure why. Google maps pointed me in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. I’m about 4 blocks from the subway entrance. After walking six or seven, I rebooted my phone. Still gave me funky directions, but at least I was headed in the right direction. It wouldn’t have been bad if I hadn’t been wearing my 50 lb. backpack! I hit my 10,000 steps as I was approaching the AirBnB (and that’s counting being on a bus most of the day)!

Have been wandering – yesterday down to the Ángel de la Independencia. Today to one of the Chinatown’s. Weather is a cool 75 with low humidity, and some afternoon rain. My sinuses are having fun with the smog and have given me a sore throat. I think in a couple more days I’ll acclimate; or I’ll hit the drugstore for some cold meds.

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29 May, 2019

A month of food!

Well, perhaps not an entire month, but a selection of the meals I’ve had in May.

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17 May, 2019

I’ve been dirty (how to use a lavandería)!

So you’re in México for more than a typical vacation week and realize that the laundry service your hotel provides is outrageously expensive – what do you do? Coming to your rescue is your neighborhood lavandería!

There are three types of lavanderías. 1. Dry cleaners – very few and far between in my experience, but when you find one it’s likely they don’t do normal clothes washing. 2. Do it yourself lavanderías – basically you pay to use their machines. They typically will provide soap. This is the cheapest option. 3. Full service lavanderías – you drop off your clothes and pay by how much they weigh. They’ll usually tell you to come back the next day so be proactive! Most of the time they’ll be closed on Méxican holidays – so be aware of those too. Sometimes they’ll iron – but not usually, and I think this is an extra fee at the locations that do it.

I’ve heard that in some areas the lavanderías have tip jars. I worked in the service area for 30+ years and find this crazy! Most lavanderías (in my experience) are operated by the owner, so why would you be tipping them instead of them raising their rate a few pesos? And what are you tipping FOR? No lost single socks? No pink clothes because they washed your load with someone else’s runny red t-shirt? Personally, if I saw a tip jar I’d find another lavandería. Someone on Facebook called me cheap when I said this – but think about it, would you tip a bank teller? A grocery check-out clerk (not the bagger, you *do* tip them)? A clerk in a department store? I just don’t see a service that they could be providing that would be tip based.

Lavandería “Denisse”

Here in Mazatlán, I use Lavandería Denisse. She’s just a few blocks from me, close to the Playa Sur area, and does a good job. It’s just her and her daughter, and judging by the stacks of completed laundry I see, they have a brisk business going. She uses a little too much fragrance for my taste, but I deal with it because it’s one of the few I’m not allergic to. I haven’t gotten pink clothes back yet (I did at another place, now out of business), and all socks have been accounted for – I don’t know how she does that one as I’ve lost socks doing laundry at home!

Be aware also that lavanderías in neighborhoods will be significantly cheaper than lavanderías in tourist spots. The afore-mentioned, now closed, lavandería that turned my t-shirts pink would charge me $200 pesos for a load of laundry that Lavandería Denisse charges me less than $100 pesos for.

Navigating a lavandería isn’t too difficult – you need to be able to tell time, so you know when to come back to pick up. you need to be able to understand money so you can bring the right amount to pay, and you will probably either be asked for the information on the recibo (pick-up receipt), name/address/phone, or will be asked to fill it in yourself. When picking up, it’s just like dry cleaning in the USA – give them your pick-up receipt and the money and they give you your clothes!

Don’t be dirty! Use a lavandaria!

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15 May, 2019

It’s getting hot. The snowbirds have pretty much all flown the coop. What was a nice 75 f. degree day is now a need-to-carry-a-water-bottle 85 f. day. By mid-July it’ll be a “sweet baby jicama it’s HOT” 95 f. Cruise ships are still coming once a week though – just like last year!

As I said in another post, I’ve been coming down mid-July since 2010. I knew what I was getting myself into. Which is why I planned on traveling to other parts of México during the Summer months! And not necessarily just to cooler places, I still want to see Manzanillo, Acapulco, and Puerto Escondido (Hot, HoT, HOT).

This year I’m spending June in México City. I booked an AirBnB room on the cheap, but in a good neighborhood (Juarez, just a few blocks from el Ángel de la Independencia). Smog is bad, and they have clouds of smoke from wildfires, so I’ll be lugging my inhaler along. I’m a big fan of Teotihuacan. You can catch a bus from México City to Teotihuacan for just a few pesos and my entrance fee is discounted with my INAPAM card, so I’ll be making multiple runs out there. There are a ton of museums and parks to explore, and many mercados to overwhelm the senses. The Korean neighborhood is just a couple blocks from me – Mmmmm, good Asian food! There are a couple of people who advertise inexpensive events on Meetup that I may partake of. I’m sure time will fly by and I’ll be back home before I know it! I’m not taking the laptop – just an iPad and my Android phone, so probably not many updates.

Teotihuacan

I have company coming in the beginning of July, and then my timeshare again mid-July. September I’ll be returning to the USA for a couple of weeks, then off to Europe for another 2 weeks. It’s my first time! I saw tickets to/from Boston/Paris for $288 and had to buy them! So, two weeks to see Paris, Amsterdam, Munich (OMG – I’ll be there during Octoberfest!) and Budapest. I’d originally had two more cities on my list, but my heart medication would have stopped working and Europe would have become my final destination! Once back, I’m spending a few days in Boston as I’ve never gotten to play tourist there, and have always wanted to try a lobster roll in the city that made them famous!

Still need to figure out what to do/where to go in August. I’ve been considering a cheap run through Las Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) on El Chepe. I’d love to do the zip lines again! Or I might do something new and make a visit to Acapulco!

Las Barrancas del Cobre
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15 May, 2019

Just the timeshare facts, folks.

I’ve been away to my wonderful timeshare about 4 1/2 miles down the street! Lol. In 2010 I bought a fixed week 28 (Mid July) timeshare at the Costa de Oro. Four years ago I added another week, this time week 17 (end of April/beginning of May). Most timeshares in México are “right to use” which means they aren’t deeded property like many of the ones in the USA/Canada are. They also usually have an expiration. Mine is 2022. When I bought, I figured if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have long to wait until they expired.

My timeshare caveats – 1. Don’t buy from the developer, ALWAYS buy resale. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars and years of hefty payments. 2. Research BEFORE you buy. Figure out if weeks or points work best for you. 3. Is it part of a bigger group you can easily trade in? 4. Are there hidden fees (some have additional fees every 5 years or so)? 5. Are the maintenance fees due annually, or when you use? Lots of questions to ask, but things are much easier if you join the Timeshare Users Group (tugbbs.com) and ask for help.

Now that I’m down here permanently, I really don’t need the timeshare weeks anymore. Selling them would be next to impossible though (the sellers of the week 17 I ‘bought’ paid ME $200 to take it off their hands), so I figured I’d either let friends use the weeks, do a staycation kind of thing, or bank them on RCI or II (these are companies that, for a fee, will let you exchange your week in one resort with a week at someone else’s resort). Some resorts block you from trading back into your location if you bank the week, so I haven’t tried that route yet. Timeshare’s in México don’t get a lot of trading power either. I would have to bank two or three of my weeks here just to get one in the USA. My annual maintenance fees are really low, so letting friends use them, or just pampering myself for a week are options that don’t hurt the wallet much.

So I offered the week to friends, and without any takers I did the staycation. The Costa de Oro is in the “Gold Zone” here in Mazatlán, which is the hotel/tourist area just North of downtown Mazatlán. It’s not my favorite area because it’s pricey and full of tourists, but I am fond of the Costa de Oro – because my week 28 housekeeper remembers me, as do all of the staff in the bar and restaurant, and some of the security guys. There are also some really good dinner restaurants in the area that I don’t usually visit, and then my favorite lunch place La Cocina de Ana is there too. Nope, not giving directions, they’re too busy as it is!

The Costa de Oro did a little “upgrading” last year. New stove tops in the kitchenette, new televisions, and an additional kitchen hutch with storage and spots for the coffee maker and microwave. These were much needed changes as many of the units had cook tops that would spark at you and/or shock the bejeezus out of you! They also put new tables and chairs in the bar. This year they remodeled the restaurant and added two dinner buffet nights to their offerings! I made it to the standby Sunday breakfast buffet, but not the dinner options.

This year they put me in room 580. My usual room is 480. The difference is that 480 looks out directly into the tops of the palm trees, and 580 has a great view of the ocean and the islands just off the coast. I didn’t complain! I *do* complain if they try to do it to me during my week 28 stay as that’s in room 683 with the excellent view and my amiga (y vecina tambien), Juanita, doing the housekeeping. The rooms ending in 80 are all on the North side of the building next door to The Inn (another timeshare/hotel, but a bit more swanky than the Costa de Oro). The Inn has been doing construction for the last couple of years – didn’t hear any work this time, and their building really does look nice from the street. Since the ’80’ rooms are on the end of the building, there are extra windows that look North. My fun this year were the pigeons with two babies in the planter outside one of the windows! The babies had almost filled out with their adult feathers! I have a feeling this week they’ll be doing their first flights! No photos of them, they didn’t even like me peeking at them 🙂

And as a side note, Lucy (the waitress in the bar) told me that the Costa de Oro has dropped their day use fee for people who want to eat in the restaurant or drink in the bar. A few pesos to use the pool and amenities, but nada to eat or drink. This is how they should have done it in the first place.

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24 April, 2019

Today’s topic is: Grocery Shopping!

Grocery shopping in Mazatlán is an experience with many choices and decisions to make. There are the big box stores – Costco and Sams Club (ok, Costco is in Culiacán – but there’s a monthly excursion people take to stock up). Then there are the big supermarkets – we have Soriana and Ley. We used to have Mega, but Soriana bought them and changed them over (it was a sad day). There are smaller groceries like Ley Express. Then there are the two mercados (Pino Suarez and Juan Carrasco). Next you have the corner abarrotes and the fruterias. Someplace in the mix you might want to consider convenience stores like OXXO and Kiosko.

I never use Costco or Sams Club. I’m one person and live in a 60 m2 (646 square foot) apartment with very little storage. Costco also has their crack chickens that make me forget to diet. They probably don’t actually rub crack on the chickens, but those things are addicting! I may do a Costco run just to go to Culiacán and explore for a couple of hours though. From what I understand, many Kirkland brands are the same as the USA/Canada, and available here at the Costco’s in México.

Soriana (Mega) / Ley – In the Pacific Northwest of the USA, the closest equivalent would be Fred Meyer. Groceries, clothes, deli food, a little of this and a little of that. They carry bigger sizes of things, and have a wider selection of brands. This is where I go for things like olive oil, cheddar cheese (it’s not, but kind of close), eggs, condiments, shampoo, razor blades, etc.

Ley Express – Fewer selections than the bigger grocery stores, and no clothes or outdoor furniture. They have a couple dozen brands of cheese – but all of them are cojita. They also have the gallon size of the orange drink I like. Veggies are cheap and in fairly decent shape.

Mercados (Pino Suarez and Juan Carrasco) – Fresh everything. Multiple vendors selling fruit, vegetables, chicken, beef, pork, dried goods, household products, etc. Very few of them display prices. When you shop here, you have to start off doing price comparisons. Quality is also a consideration. I shop for chicken and machaca at the mercado Pino Suarez. Some of the chicken shops aren’t too concerned with removing all the bones/cartilage from the chicken breasts. One has tiny pieces of bone mixed in with the chicken. The vendor I use rarely misses bone, and the chicken breasts are nice and clean. Currently 90 pesos for a kilo of chicken breasts ($2.15 /lb usd). My machaca is $100 pesos for a half kilo ($4.76 /lb usd). A half kilo of machaca is enough for breakfast all week! When I’m buying my chicken and machaca, I will also buy produce here if I need it. A couple of things to note: Beef isn’t typically aged much, if at all. it can be tough. Still good if you chop/grind it for hamburger. Eggs in México are not pre-washed, so they can sit out at room temperature. You need to wash them at some point before cracking them open. I do it when I get them home, then I refrigerate them. Also, I buy my eggs at the supermarket because they come in the egg cartons. If you buy them in the mercado they put them in a plastic bag loose. I don’t trust myself to get them home without breaking them. Shells do seem to be sturdier here though.

Fruterias – Fruits and veggies are the main items, but they also carry things like jars of salsa and hot sauce. Most of my produce comes from the fruteria down the street.

Abarrotes – these are corner mom & pop grocery stores. They carry a lot of different items, but the sizes are usually tiny and prices are higher. I would love to shop at my local abarrote, but I’d be going there all the time and would blow my budget all to heck. Great places though when you run out of something and just need it now.

OXXO / Kiosko / 7-11 – I don’t normally shop here. They’re just like 7-11/Circle-K in the USA. Beer, chips, candy, and cigarettes are the big items. Prices, surprisingly, are not double grocery store prices.

Not a place for groceries, but probably need to be mentioned, are the beer shops. Corona, Modelorama, SIX, etc. run in, grab a cold one (or six), run out. There are even drive through shops. I’ve seen people buy big bottles of water at the locations across from the malecón at Playa Norte – so don’t stand in a long OXXO line if you don’t have to!

I took my grocery receipt today and converted it to US quantities/prices. You can compare this to your location to get a feel for the difference in prices here. I had two large bags of groceries. Ok, one big reusable bag full, and several additional items in my backpack.

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20 April, 2019

Semana Santa in Mazatlán!

Monday and Thursday both, I walked down to the malecón at Playa Norte. There were a few people, but nothing out of the ordinary. For years I’ve been seeing pictures of Mazatlán during Semana Santa – CROWDS of people covering every inch of the beach. Where were they????

I don’t know where they were, but they’re HERE today! Had a nice little walk (haven’t hit my 10k steps yet though) and then a stop at El Burro Gordo for a bite to eat.

When I walk home from El Burro Gordo I pass a block away from an asada place. I know because I smell grilling foods and can see billowing clouds of smoke halfway down the block. Today I detoured over to get a closer look. Camera battery was dead, so no photos. It looked like it’s a chicken asada place as their three or four grills just had pollos on them. There was a menu on the wall, but I didn’t look at it because I want to go back again and spend more time (and some $$$). Mmmmmm. Asada!

A couple of photos of Playa Norte. Strangely, there were a few floats parked on the street.

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9 April, 2019

I took an hour out of my busy schedule (not) today and opened an account at BBVA Bancomer. Research narrowed the bank choices to CitiBanamex and BBVA Bancomer, with the latter winning out. Too many horror stories of money disappearing from accounts at CitiBanamex.

I was fortunate enough to have a bank employee who knew some English, so between us we were able to get it taken care of. And he even had me install two Bancomer apps on my phone and showed me how to use them! I can now generate a digital debit card whenever I want to make an online purchase!!! Not being able to buy things online that require a Méxican bank issued debit/credit card was very frustrating – especially when I DID have one from Intercam. I’m not impressed with Intercam at all, even though their interest and exchange rates are really good. And I was able to change my pin number on my debit card at the ATM! Can’t do that with Intercam – you’re stuck with what they send you.

They only offered me a choice between two accounts. One that had a mandatory monthly amount that had to go into savings and one that had a mandatory home or life insurance policy that can only be cancelled after 6 months. Home insurance is less than $25 usd a month and covers small repairs too, so I went with that one. I probably won’t use it, but at least I can kill it dead after 6 months. Note to self: put a reminder to kill it in your Outlook calendar. Oh, and no minimum balance required, so I don’t have to let money sit.

They wanted to see the following items, so be sure to bring them with you if you need to open an account with them:

  • Residency card
  • Drivers License (US/Canada fine)
  • Passport
  • Recent (not more than 3 months old) utility bill in your name
  • Méxican cell phone number
  • Email address

They also looked at my INAPAM card, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t required. I gave them my CURP info too, but I didn’t see them use it.

So, the process was easier than changing utilities over into my name (thank my friend forever for being in town and pushing me to do it while she could help translate), but not as easy as ordering pizza through WhatsApp. I’d assign just a little less difficulty than getting curtains made at Parisina. Do-able, but involves use of Google Translate and convoluted hand gestures 🙂

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9 April, 2019

It appears the changes to phone dialing in México are happening on August 3rd, 2019. At that point, you’ll only have to dial the 10 digit number, unless you’re calling from outside the country. Then you’ll just dial the country code (+52) and the 10 digit number.

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