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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7 April, 2019

Today’s subject: Buses in México

If you’re from the USA, you’re used to Greyhound and Trailways. Let me tell you that they have totally destroyed bus credibility North of México. I vividly, and not fondly, remember a ride from Decatur, Il to New Orleans, LA one fall. Bad, uncomfortable seats that were far too narrow – and that was during my skinny time! Dirty, smelly bathrooms on board – and we won’t even discuss the ones in the stations!

Rest assured, interstate bus travel in México is NOT the same! It’s even better than air travel in most ways, with the exception of duration. I always pop the very little more for the premium/first class option as there are less stops and more amenities. A lot of times you even get a meal! Ok, it always seems to be a ham and cheese sandwich, cookies, and a can of pop – but hey! It’s better than the nothing you got flying! And there’s ample legroom – AMPLE. Seats recline almost all the way back, and there’s this ironing board contraption on the back of the seat ahead of you (at least on TAP Doble Piso buses) that folds down to support your legs and feet if you feel like napping.

Entertainment centers, some with the ability to change the language to English. Wi-Fi. USB and power outlets. Curtains for the windows that can be opened or shut. Comfy seats that don’t cause me to yearn for valium.

And discounts – Most will give you 10% off if you order online. And if you’re paying by credit card and the system doesn’t like it you can tell the agent at the ticket counter and ask for the discount. You may get it one way, you may get it both ways! If you’re a student you often get 50% off. Teachers usually get 25% off. Seniors, with an INAPAM (INSEN) card get 50% off, but they only offer a couple of seats per trip at this discount so first come, first served. Oh, and when you check in at the counter, the agent will almost always write the bus number (located on the lower left or right on the outside front of the bus) on your ticket so you can find the right bus.

My FAVORITE perk is that occasionally, if you’re lucky, the driver will stop for roadside food. A small tray of little bean burritos will typically set you back 30 or 35 pesos and are really tasty! I did have some chicken tamales once, and they hadn’t removed the bones – but it was good and the bus waited while we spit bones out into the oil-barrel trash can next to the road!

On the double decker buses you can ride in the first row and get a great view of where you’re going. Sometimes (as in the narrow, windy, mountain roads of Nayarit) this is not a good thing – especially if it’s raining!

The route from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta is very pretty. It takes around 8 hours, and there is a 15 minute stop in Tepic, then a couple of stops around Nuevo Vallarta. Compare that to the 4 1/2 hour flight. Add two hours for the “get to the airport early” factor. For me, add another 30 to 45 minutes to get from Centro to the airport (bus station is 10 minutes away from me by uber/taxi). All said, getting to see the countryside in comfort is worth the extra couple of hours. And that doesn’t mention the cost savings.

If you’re traveling in México do yourself a favor and do not rule out doing the trip by buses. You’ll see so much more, and see pueblos that you’d never even know were there from 30,000 feet!

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6 April, 2019

Alas, the Puerto Vallarta trip is over! Took the bus down on the 2nd, and returned on the 5th. Don’t let anyone tell you different – it takes at least 7 – 8 hours to do the trip by bus. Not that it’s unpleasant. The TAP Plus Doble Piso buses are nice, and this route gets you a ham and cheese sandwich, cookies, pop, and earphones to plug into the entertainment console (some of which can be switched to English). Seats recline almost all the way, and there’s a contraption that looks like an ironing board on the back of the seat ahead of you that folds down and lets you lie almost flat if you desire.

Many trips to Los Muertos beach and Cuates y Cuetes for a beer or two and botanas. Some people watching from the pier. LOTS of walking around town. This trip I finally went into the cathedral – I’m definitely not religious, so it has been low on my things to do, but I got it done this trip! Just an fyi: there’s a sign outside asking you not to go in if you’re wearing shorts. I saw SO MANY people ignore it. Whatever your beliefs, you should respect their wishes.

I also made it out to the Zoo in Mismaloya again! I like the zoo. No, it’s not shiny and pretty. Some of the animals don’t look in the best of shape – but they bring in injured critters and take care of them, so don’t jump to conclusions and blame them for mistreating their animals. If you haven’t been, you should go and see it for yourself. You may or may not like it, but you should go and make that decision. 200 pesos get you in. Another 50 pesos for the food bag. I don’t remember how much they said to hold the babies at the end, but it’s worth it at least once. FYI: If you save up some of the little stuff (corn, pellets, peanuts) and dump them all at once in the last pen, all the pigs will stampede over to get a bite! This is why you NEVER want to slip and fall in a pig sty – you’ll be under the hooves of all those pigs!

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment!

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30 March, 2019

Mazatlán’s Festival of Lights (Festival de la Luz) 2019!

I started my walk around 3:00 pm and made my way to Burro Gordo for a late lunch/early dinner. Thirty minutes, one Muuu Playero and a Toni-Col later I was back out and about.

Virtually no one had parked themselves along the malecón yet, so I found a nice spot a little North of the Fisherman’s monument and started my wait. My vantage point was directly between two groups of firing areas, so I thought this would be a pretty decent place for viewing! Festival didn’t start until 8:00 pm, so I just relaxed, got a little sun, and did a bunch of people watching.

Everything was good until the sun made its final appearance. The beach breeze that had been so nice during the day was now COLD, and there I was dressed only in my shorts and a t-shirt! BRRRR! Next year I will either wear jeans, or I’ll schlep a hoodie with me.

About 8:05 the show started … I was right about my location. I’ve never had fireworks rain on me before! Bits of cardboard, and cold embers would fall after every POP! POP! POP! The view was amazing!

And the show went the entire length of the malecón – from Valentino’s to the Fisherman’s monument! It was crazy!

About 20 minutes later it was over. All that was left was a blanket of smoke that hung over the city (it really did). Until next year, Festival de la Luz! Or next week when there’s another excuse for fireworks!

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