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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29 March, 2019

Part of the idea of moving to México was to explore a country that was pretty much new to me. I’ve seen almost every state in the United States, and have been to several Canadian provinces, but I’ve only begun to explore México.

With the approaching Summer heat I thought it might be nice to take a few trips.

First I looked at going down the coast … Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Acapulco, Puerto Escondido … and I may still do that when company arrives in July. Wouldn’t be escaping any of the heat and humidity though.

Puerto Escondido

Then I thought a revisit to Teotihuacan would be nice, but I’ve been there twice and I’m sure it will still be there after I see other places.

Teotihuacan

I briefly considered a trip to Cairo, but that’s not México, and flights were $$$$. Hotels there are almost offsettingly cheap though, so it’s still on my list!

Cairo

Durango came to mind – The tour operator that I used to go to Guadalajara last time does a Durango trip. A big part of that trip is at a Wild West movie lot, and that doesn’t interest me. There are other things I would like to see in Durango though, so it too is still on my list!

Durango

I’ve been thinking that I really haven’t seen anything in México City. I’ve been there twice – well, been there as in driving through to get to Teotihuacan. Then it dawned on me. I could go to México City for a month and take side trips from there! If I did an Airbnb, I could even do it on a budget!

So, June in México City here we come! I’ll be renting a room and staying in the Juárez area, just off of Av. Chapultapec – close to a lot of things, including a metro station. I can see parks, museums, and even do day or overnight trips to Teotihuacan! And I’ll be out of the 90 degree weather that’ll be starting in Mazatlán!

México City
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27 March, 2019

Today’s subject is Food in Mazatlán!

Had to take my laundry to the lavandaria, so I decided that I would take my walk and have breakfast at La Marea MazatlanLa Marea Mazatlan recently started serving breakfast and I’ve been wanting to see what’s offered, and give it a go.

I will start off by saying I did try to have breakfast there one day last week, but the hostess left to seat a party there before me, and didn’t return in over 5 minutes. They seat the lower level for breakfast, so I had no idea what she was doing as I couldn’t see her. Worker bees were milling around inside the top floor though, and no one bothered to acknowledge that I was standing at the podium. So be it, I wasn’t all that hungry, and getting back to my walk seemed more important than waiting unknown number of minutes for the hostess’s return.

Today the hostess was there, and immediately sat me at a nice table overlooking the water. The lower level has sheer curtains that were partially closed – obscuring their million dollar view. I’m not sure why they would do this. Anyway, I looked at my watch – 10:30 on the dot.

Turned my coffee cup right side up so the server could see I did indeed want coffee, then began to examine the menu. It’s nice. There are a good number of items to select from. I decided that I’d try the ‘El Quelite’ dish. It’s now 10:35. 10:40. 10:45. At 10:50 I got up and told the hostess I’d been there 20 minutes without a server ever coming to my table. Yes, I did see her. She went to the table to my left. She went to the table behind me. She went to the table to my right. Several times to each. She NEVER once looked at me, so I had no way to get her attention without physically interacting.

I left, just as I had the time before. Note to La Marea Mazatlan – if you’re going to do breakfast, staff accordingly. You need two hostesses (or a hostess and a manager). One should remain at the podium to greet while the other seats. You need competent staff in your dining room. You REALLY need to do this on cruise ship days (today there were two) as your location gets a lot of tour traffic. Lunch seems to go fairly smoothly, other than your occasionally being out of all forms of dark beer. Yes, you only have one hostess at lunch – but she’s on the same floor as her podium, and if she gets tied up at a table, she can at least see that she has people to seat.

So, I had the fritatta at Via Condotti. It was pretty good. A little dry, but the flavor was nice. Next time I order it I’ll ask for some salsa or ketchup. And I don’t know how they do it, but Via Condotti has the BEST cafe americano in either Mazatlán or Seattle. 🙂

Via Condotti’s fritatta

Last night I made the trek to Tacos raymundo. For those who live or visit Mazatlán, Tacos raymundo is about 2 blocks West of the park on Zaragoza. They have an indoor seating area on the North side of the street, and a few seats across the street where their mobile cooking area is. I tried both the papa loca and the quesadilla. Excellent, although one of the two would have been plenty for one meal. I’m glad I had a hefty walk to get back home.Tacos raymundo is open, I believe, from 7:00 pm each evening so early bird gringos are out of luck 🙂 Plan your late lunch accordingly!

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26 March, 2019

Only 4 more days! I don’t think it takes much for México to pull out the fireworks displays!

The Festival of Lights is only expected to draw 40,000 people, and will last about a half hour. They’re putting the show on in Playa Norte so it will be visible to anyone along the malecón between Valentino’s and the Fisherman’s monument. 7:00 pm is start time, and almost my bedtime, but I won’t be able to lean out my window to see this one, so perhaps I’ll go down and make it 40,001.

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25 March, 2019

Got up early and decided to spend a couple of hours over on La Isla de la Piedra. It was just a tiny bit chilly, but the water is warming up quite nicely – I imagine in a month it’ll be quite enjoyable to walk in. After a cerveza and some guacamole I took the long walk home. It got my fitbit to show fireworks for my 10k steps!

I have a trip to Puerto Vallarta coming up. It’s only for three nights/four days. Just a quick getaway to meet up with a friend from my Seattle neighborhood. We grew up on the same street, and were born three days apart. I believe she told me she’s been there before, but hasn’t yet made it to either the zoo or the botanical gardens. I’m going to try to talk her into my favorite Puerto Vallarta past time, skydiving with Skydive Vallarta! Soooo much fun!

Now that I have residency, insurance, and the senior discount card I’ll be planning excursions to other new and interesting places! I REALLY want to go back to both Las Barrancas del Cobre and Teotihuacan, but there’s so much of México I haven’t seen that I feel it would be better to strike out for the unknown. Manzanillo, Puerto Escondido, and Acapulco are on the short list, and I’ve got a trip to Europe planned for late September. It’ll be my first trip to Europe, and I’m only there two weeks – perhaps I’ll miss my flight home and have to extend my stay?

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22 March, 2019

Began the day by running two blocks down the street to get my INAPAM discount card (México has a country-wide senior discount program)! Had a copy made, and got both laminated – for less than 50 pesos! Woo!

Next on the agenda was food. I needed my walk, so I thought I would go to Burro Gordo for lunch. On the way there, I changed my mind. Not enough walking. So I continued almost the entire length of the malecón. It was getting close to noon, and my favorite place in the Gold Zone, La Cocina de Ana, gets REALLY busy about then. Hopped on a bus and rode the last half mile. I’m not going into detail on La Cocina de Ana because they’re already too busy. If you feel the need, do some googling and make an adventure of finding it! If you have trouble give me a shout and I’ll show you where it is in exchange for lunch!

Back home by bus because not only were my legs very tired – but I was slipping into a food coma 🙂 Nap time, then watch a lot of news (Muller report done!). Finally time for dinner!

HORMIGAS! Ok. I had my apartment sprayed YESTERDAY for critters. Tonight discovered 1000’s of the tiny little sugar ants scurrying around on one of my shelves! Of course they weren’t in their typical place on my counter top – which is easy for me to spot them on. Nope, they were hiding behind pots and pans. Discovered them when I went to heat the pan to cook some chicken, and little black things rose to the surface of the oil. Thankfully I saw them BEFORE the chicken went in! Pulled everything off the shelf, washed them and sprayed the shelf with a little raid to boot. Then I spotted a big group of dead ones behind my step ladder. Swept them up, and sprayed that spot too! I noticed that I had my used pizza box sitting on top of the step ladder in preparation for garbage pickup tomorrow. Nothing crawling on it …. omg, it was a colony inside though! More raid! Tomorrow I’ll repeat the inspection/cleaning process, and will put some boric acid out. Spiders invade my house in Seattle at the end of every fall – I think I prefer the hormigas (those spiders can get BIG).

And now the chicken is cooked, and the rice is done. Time for a little comida and then off to bed!

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