8 August, 2019

Summer in Mazatlán is a little different this year. Rain usually comes at night, in torrents with spectacular thunder and lightning shows. This year it’s coming whenever it wants. Drizzle, light rain. Medium rain. An hour of torrent. Mix and match. Maybe thunder and lightning. Maybe not. And while it’s hot and humid, it’s been easier to tolerate than previous years. I miss the shows, but easier to tolerate I’ll take!

Ok, quick note on the upcoming travel plans. September will find me in Seattle for a couple of weeks. I’m flying to Tijuana and walking across the border. Staying in a hostel in San Diego, then taking the train to Los Angeles, where I’ll take the Coast Starlight to Seattle. I like the train, and haven’t had the opportunity to do the full run – am looking forward to the views on the Southern California coast!

After Seattle I’ll be flying to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, and Budapest. Two weeks in Europe – my first visit! Somehow I timed it so I’ll be in Munich during Octoberfest! That hostel stay should be interesting!!! I plan on doing the hop-on-hop-off buses everywhere, but I did schedule several days in each location so I can wander and stuff myself full of good food!

Coming back, I’ll be spending a few days in Boston. I’ve been through Boston three or four times, but never had an opportunity to stop and smell the McDonald’s Lobster Rolls! Lots of USA history to experience, and I’ll appreciate a little slow down time before coming back home. Am flying to San Diego then doing the San Diego –> Tijuana thing, then flying into Mazatlán from Tijuana.

Two days after I get back to Mazatlán I’m off to México City for 11 days. I have to visit the Chinese Consulate to get a visa, and their website says it can take up to 4 business days. I’m allowing for problems 🙂 Plus I’ll get to eat some good food and see a few things I wasn’t able to see in June. From México City I’m going to my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta for a week. That’s going to be my relax and enjoy life time!

Oh, yeah. China. About a year ago I signed up on a airfare alert website called Secret Flying. They email me a recap of the day’s discounted fares every afternoon. That’s where I saw $288 (usd) round trip between Boston and Paris. They recently sent me one for $305 (usd) round trip between Los Angeles and Beijing. I couldn’t pass it up! So early in November I’ll be racking up some more frequent flyer miles and giving myself some travel bedsores with a 10 day trip to Beijing!

I really need to do some things at my house in Seattle, so I may just go up there after getting back from Beijing – but I have to be back in Mazatlán by January as my residency needs to be renewed.

And here I thought I’ve already been busy traveling!

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3 August, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán: Acapulco Edition!

I’ve caught up on my sleep and have slowed back down, temporarily. More travel coming up but for now I’m home in Mazatlán enjoying the Summer heat. It doesn’t quite feel as hot/humid as last year. Could I be acclimating? I do have my air conditioners on, but they’re set to 87 f.

Acapulco was amazing. The city was vibrant and full of tourists, but very few from outside México. I did not encounter any problems with security/safety. In fact, I felt very safe during the entire trip. And while there wasn’t any wandering outside the hotel zone at night (other than the one early evening watching the clavadistas), I did travel to a couple of places I don’t think many international tourists go.

The bus ride from Mazatlán to Acapulco was a killer. First, the bus was three hours late. I’m fairly certain that it actually wasn’t three hours late, but that they canceled the first bus because there weren’t enough passengers. I think this because a few of us wound up having tickets for the same seats, and the driver had to do some quick re-arranging! At this point I was just glad to be on the bus, and wanted to sleep (it was after 11 pm when we pulled out of the station). The bus ride is almost 24 hours, and doesn’t have many stops. I have more stops on the bus to Puerto Vallarta, and that’s only 7 hours! And that may get you wondering – Hmmm. 7 hours to Puerto Vallarta, and 24 to Acapulco? Is Acapulco really that much further? Well, if you’re going down the coast it’s not. But this bus for some reason goes through Guadalajara, Querétaro, México City, and Cuernavaca (very pretty! I think I’ll add it to my places to visit) before heading over to Acapulco!

I finally arrived in Acapulco and checked into my hotel, the Playa Suites. I have a timeshare in South Lake Tahoe that I don’t use, so I bank the week with a trading company, RCI. My one week every two years in Tahoe gets me two weeks at most places in México. With the fees, it’s about what I pay for my week in my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta, so I come out a happy camper. Reviews for the Playa Suites in Acapulco were not good, but it was a great location, and not all inclusive, so I decided I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did as it’s on the playa tlacopanocha and the main drag (Av. Costera Miguel Alemán), the room wasn’t dirty, housekeeping did a great job, the front desk people were helpful, and the dining room buffets were tasty – and not horribly overpriced! The greeter in the restaurant even started remembering my room number! While the place was a little older, it was a solid three/three and a half stars. And it was right next door to the funky shaped HS Hotsson hotel (used to be the Crowne Plaza) so I always knew where I was! I’ll definitely be going back there!

I’d describe Acapulco as Puerto Vallarta all grown up. Mountains to your right, beaches to your left, great local food, both mercados and new shopping malls, AND the cliff divers! Pretty much everything anyone would want in a Méxican beach town. The city and the beaches really are beautiful, and the people are friendly and welcoming.

While I was there, I went to two off-the-beaten-path locations….

The first was the Isla de la Roqueta. Specifically the restaurant Palao. Think big tiki hut on a remote jungle island! The boat ride over was in a glass bottom boat and included a stop for one of the crew to climb up some rocks and do a nice dive into the ocean (please tip the dripping boy after his dive!). I passed on the options for lunch, a show, and a jungle tour – but the show was held right where I was sitting, so I got to see it anyway! Ordered an appetizer and a beer off the menu and I was all set!

The second place was the adventure of a thousand buses. Ok, there were just two buses and one boat – but it took quite a while! And it was my lesson into the finer details of the Méxican bus system! In addition to the city buses (urbanos) there are re-purposed vans called collectivos. To get to my second trip, Barra de Coyuca, you take an urbano to the end of the line, then you grab a collectivo to someone with a boat who will take you the rest of the way! Barra de Coyuca has to have the longest stretch of beautiful beach that I’ve ever seen. And it was virtually empty. There are a couple dozen palapas/beach restaurants – and they were ghost towns other than the families working them. Summer is definitely the time of year to go if you don’t want crowds!

I’m going to wrap this up so you can get to looking at the pictures to see for yourself what Acapulco has to offer! Just a quick note on the clavadistas at La Quebrada – there’s a nice restaurant at the hotel Mirador where you can sit and have apps/beverages/dinner while you watch the divers do their thing. They charge a cover if you aren’t staying there, but they charge at the lookout point as well. The only drawback is that while you can see everything quite clearly, an inexpensive travel camera doesn’t quite do it justice.

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9 July, 2019

Templo Mayor and Zócalo

Every town in México has it’s zócalo. Usually there is a cathedral on one side, a government building or two on another, and a plaza in the middle. México City is a little different as it has an archaeology site as well! The original city, Tenochtitlan, was razed by the Spanish in 1521 so they could build the cathedral and other buildings. They didn’t do a great job, and much of the antiquities lie just below the foundations of the colonial buildings in México City’s Centro.

The Templo Mayor is located just next to the Cathedral. As of this post, admission was 75 pesos. INAPAM cardholders enjoy free admission. One of the most accessible and interesting sites in the city.

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7 July, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán – México City Edition

I’ve been back a week, but with over 3,000 pictures it took a while to organize them! I’ll be sharing, in a limited way, and giving a little overview of the México City I experienced.

I’ve previously posted a couple of pics of the Juaréz area of México City, so let’s start with Chapultepec Park ….

Once inside the park, many options are available. The ones I visited were the Chapultepec Zoo, Chapultepec Castle, The Botanical Gardens, The Museum of Anthropology, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of National History. Admission to each of these was 75 pesos, unless you have an INAPAM card (senior discount card) – then admission is free.

The Zoo – Something fun to do, and only takes about an hour to make your way through the entire zoo. Two if you take your time and read all the signs.

Chapultepec Castle – Incredibly beautiful and excellent views of the city. Well worth the admission and hike up. I went three times and saw new things each time!

The Botanical Gardens – Only one greenhouse, and an area around it. No admission to this though!

Museum of Anthropology – This one will blow your socks off! Plan at least 3 hours here for your first visit, and plan on going back at least one more time. There’s a restaurant on site so you can take a break and let the fire in your head calm down. This isn’t in Chapultepec Park proper, but across the street near parking and some food carts. If you do one thing in México City, this is the place I’d go.

Museum of Modern Art – No pictures allowed inside, but they have some sculptures outside! There’s also a nice café if you want to stop for a cup of coffee. This would be the one I’d skip if I was short on time, along with the botanical gardens.

Museum of National History – at the castle. Make the hike!

And there you go with the main attractions I saw in Chapultepec Park! My favorite was the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, by far. I spent a week exploring, and I only hit a small section of the park.

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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 the bus departs at gate 8 twice, and this time it was 7. Ask someone when you get outside. Second, I wanted to arrive at 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 (EDIT: Free for nationals on the first Sunday of the month). 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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