4 September, 2022

The Méxican tienda close to me here in Seattle, Plaza Latina Shoreline, told me that they have carnitas for sale on Sundays. After a late start to my day (that bed was just too comfortable) I hiked up there to get a pound so I can make my favorite tortas ahogadas de carnitas. HUGE line at the deli counter so I popped over to the meat department and got a half pound of chicharrón to start. The meat guy said that yes, the carnitas were at the deli. The line now was twice as long so I zipped over to the end pronto!

Chicharrón

I didn’t know what they were selling – it wasn’t carnitas, but EVERYONE was getting it and they were getting quart sized styrofoam cups of it. Mostly 6 to 12 of them at a time! When I got to the deli counter I saw what it was …. BIRRIA!!! Ok, no one’s birria is as good as Taqueria El Sabor, not even in México. But I had to try theirs. I asked for a container of it and then the magic question came. I was stunned!

“¿Birria? ¿Quieres birria de res o chivo?

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!! They had GOAT birria!!!!!! I can’t find it anywhere in Mazatlán! So I left the tienda with birria de chivo, carnitas, and chicharrón – and they kept $20 of my money. I think it was a fair trade!

I tasted the birria before I put it in the fridge – very tasty. Not gamey at all – a little would have been nice, but I’m good with it. And it’s not as good as the Taqueria down the street. But it’s definitely good. And I’ll be doing a happy dance when I eat it! As I will when I make the tortas! And when I make tacos de chicharrón! The happy dance will likely stop when I weigh myself and see that I’ve gained muchas libras!

What $20 usd gets you at the Méxican tienda!

There’s a price for happiness, and this time it’s a notch on my belt.

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25 August, 2022

Once again I find myself in Seattle. I need to winterize my house there every year and frankly I didn’t want to be in Seattle in November and December again. Cold, wet, grey, snow. No. With the ‘fake news’ global warming, Seattle’s usual 6 weeks of summer seems to have extended to 8 or 10! It’s actually near 90 f. – without humidity! I’ll admit that I’m enjoying myself!

So I’m getting yard work done, slowly – but doing it. I am checking things that need checked, and will wrap pipes and shut off hot water tanks before I leave. I also got my second booster for Covid-19, as well as the second shingles vaccination.

This time the vaccinations didn’t go as smoothly, probably because I doubled up on them. Both arms hurt – which happened with the others, so I expected it. What I didn’t expect was the day of not being able to think, the itching, and today there’s a slight rash around the shingles vaccination point. Nothing concerning, but it is annoying. At least the brain fog is gone!

I have also found that the Méxian tienda near the house here has a pretty good selection of things, including real chicharrón! One of the ‘upscale’ grocery stores now has chamorro (pork shank) in the freezer section! I’m all set! Lol. And the birria at my favorite Méxican fast food place is still better than I’ve found anywhere in México … I don’t know what it is, but theirs is crazy good. I think I’ll apply for a job and stay long enough to learn how to cook it!

Mid October I will be in Puerto Vallarta for a week, then off to Acapulco. I have a week booked, but am considering staying another week or two. I’ll have to see how I feel. One of the Youtube vloggers from Acapulco has been doing a series on the economical hotels in Acapulco – which are right up my alley! The last one was a place just a couple of blocks from a beach I like, so I’m thinking $20 USD a night for a week or two might be do-able! And, score!, they have hot water for showers! Lol. I’m not sure about how I’m getting back to Mazatlán … the bus is 24 hours from Acapulco, and even on a ‘luxury’ bus it gets really uncomfortable around hour 12. I see I can fly AeroMexico for $136. I might just have to do that! Maybe two weeks in Acapulco and one in México City? Hmmm. Now I’ll have to check Airbnb!

Groceries are about to be delivered so it’s time to wrap this one up. If you haven’t looked at my other project lately, please give it a go …. https://www.mazatlanweekly.com. I’m still updating it daily – and I brought my laptop with me so I can do it while vacationing!

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23 July, 2022

I’m going to admit that Polleria Catalina is my favorite chicken vendor in Mazatlán. I don’t know why, but occasionally whatever I buy is $100 pesos. Total. The first time it happened I had several items, including at least a kilo of chicken breasts. Today it was a kilo of legs/thighs, and a whole chicken. The price isn’t *always* $100 pesos, but it’s a nice relief to my budget when it is!

Additionally, Polleria Catalina gives you a tamarind & chili lollipop with every order! AND it’s in the shape of a chicken!! I will admit that I feel like I’m cheating on my chicken guys in the mercado pino suarez – but THEY don’t give me a lollipop (and they’re never just $100 pesos)! Polleria Catalina has a facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Polleria-Catalina-1583941151883035/.

Polleria Catalina is in the mercado hidalgo in the Juárez colonia. My suggestion is that you make a visit to the tianguis in Juárez some Sunday, then hop over to the mercado to buy your chicken before going home. Remember – DO NOT just hop on any bus marked Juárez! Some don’t go to the mercado! Either ask the bus driver if they go to the mercado Hidalgo, or take a pulmonia/cab. I don’t suggest that anyone drives there if they have a car – the Sunday tianguis makes the streets crazy!

Polleria Catalina is one of the larger vendors in the mercado – they’re hard to miss. And while you’re there, try to find the spice vendor – Productos Oaxaqueños. They have almost everything, and might order it if they don’t! If you like chili’s, ask them if they have chili pasilla mixe. These are very much like a dried smoky chipotle, but just different enough to make things interesting. They’re great to give your salsas a little smoky kick! Productos Oaxaqueños is more difficult to find in the mercado – they’re down a narrow aisle, but well worth a search. Their facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/Productos-oaxaque%C3%B1os-100453638281569/. They have another location, so don’t be concerned if you don’t see Mercado Hidalgo on their page!

If you make a visit to the Sunday tianguis and/or Mercado Hidalgo in Juárez – please be sure to bring a bottle of water with you! Summer temperatures are crazy hot and heat exhaustion can sneak up on you very easily. Be safe, but have fun!

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17 July, 2022

Costa de Oro Beach Hotel

Saturday marked the end of a 12 year journey for me! In February of 2010 I took a Méxican Riviera cruise for my late Aunt’s 97th birthday. Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. I realized that my day trip to Tijuana in the early 1960’s was not typical and that, to my chagrin, México wasn’t some place I wanted to avoid.

Shortly after the cruise I found a timeshare week on ebay for $1 + the annual maintenance fee (then it was under $400/year). The week was in July – hot and humid, and virtually no tourists from north of the border. Coming from drizzly, cold, Seattle it was just what I needed. Having a timeshare also forced me to take a vacation, something I always seemed to put off.

Costa de Oro Junior Suite

Twelve years of my Costa de Oro timeshare week was three too many, since I made the move to Mazatlán, but I knew my contract would expire in 2022 so things were good. And now Saturday was the last day of my 12 year adventure! I actually checked out on Friday – Saturdays in that lobby are crazy!

They did try to get me to go to an owner’s update breakfast – but I skipped it. There really is no need for a timeshare week someplace you live! And it appears that they’ve recently fired all of the old bar staff – there were NO recognizable faces at all. Even Lucy, who had been there forever, was nowhere to be seen. Service has gone down considerably too – I sat at a bar table for over 20 minutes and no one came to see if I needed anything. They changed the pool, removing a rock/water feature. And a few years back they started charging a day use fee – even if all you wanted was a beer at the bar!

Costa de Oro Pool

So I now have restocked my toilet paper and travel sized shampoo supply, as well as little soaps for my sink, travel sized hand sanitizer, and 4 cup coffee packets! They put me in room 983 instead of my assigned room 683 – the view was considerably nicer. So, better view and a bunch of toiletries – and a dozen years of memories. And now this adventure is complete.

¡Adios, Costa de Oro! It was a hoot.

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13 July, 2022

There is sometimes a benefit to hanging around other ex-pats! Today while I was doing a Mazatlán Tourist Aide Volunteer shift I stopped and talked to another volunteer. He told me about an app he uses that has most of the bus routes on it!

What??? There’s an app???? Yes, there is! Does it have them all? No. Sabalo-Centro is not there, nor is Sabalo-Cerritos. Many of the Juárez lines aren’t there either. But many routes ARE on the app. I cannot vouch for accuracy though. Time, and exploration will tell!

If you have an android phone, you can find the app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.esoftmovil.enrutate. I don’t have an iPhone, so you’ll have to find the app on your own!

Cities other than Mazatlán are available as well, so this could be a very handy application!

Speaking of the buses, rates just went up. Air conditioned buses are supposed to be 12.5 pesos. 11 pesos for the buses without air conditioning. The Sabalo-Centro line believes they’re worth an extra .50 (because they’re painted green?), so be prepared to pay 13 pesos for each ride. If you’re disabled rides are supposed to be free, and students pay 3.5 pesos. I’m finding it a good way to rid myself of the .50 centavo coins that I’ve accumulated … the other way is by ordering a half-kilo of tortillas that are now 23 pesos a kilo! Lol.

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10 July, 2022

A little update to my last post … El Chepe apparently still does go to Chihuahua! Evidently there are still two different trains. I had been told that the Chihuahua stop had been eliminated and that everything was consolidated into three classes of fares between Creel and Los Mochis. And that’s what the El Chepe website (https://chepe.mx/) says. Until you enter the ultra secret url: https://chepe.mx/chepe-regional/. El Chepe Regional and El Chepe Express. Two different trains with different sets of stops.

Different video about El Chepe

The caveat is that you cannot book tickets on El Chepe Regional online. You either have to visit one of the ticket counters (Los Mochis and Chihuahua both have them – not sure about the other stops) or call to get tickets. If you want to use both trains on one trip, you also have to ride further on El Chepe Express.

So there you have it – you can ride El Chepe from Los Mochis to Chihuahua city!!! Woo! Creel is definitely a stop you should spend a couple of days in, but going one step further to Chihuahua is even better!

I’m doing my last stay-cation at the Costa de Oro. The timeshare contracts all expire this year, and my two weeks there will go poof. One already has. They’re being sneaky this time – they have a separate table for owners to check-in, and they’re getting everyone to sign up for an ‘owners update’ breakfast. Fine print on the reminder note says you have to bring a credit card with you. So I signed up to get the check-in process going smoother, and then the afternoon before I’m going to leave them a note at the front desk telling them I can’t make it. I can’t – it’s a Wednesday and the cruise ship Panorama is in port. I will need to do a Mazatlán Tourist Aide Volunteer shift! One great thing is they put me in a different room this year – my assigned room is 683 and this time I’m in 983! The view from an extra three floors makes a BIG difference from the balcony!

My twelve years as an owner were nice, but the ONLY reason I would want to go back to the property is to visit Lucy in the bar – and she hasn’t been there the last two days, the possibility that she has retired is very high. All of the other servers appear to have been replaced as well – the only people I recognize now are a couple of security guys. Don’t get me wrong – the Costa de Oro is a great location in the Gold Zone. The beach is nice, and having dinner at Adobes with the waves crashing against the seawall at high tide is always fun. I just don’t need to get away from my apartment for a week at the other end of town!

So this week I wake up, water my plants, walk up to Benito Juárez and catch the Sablo-Centro bus to the Costa de Oro. Then I change into my beach attire, spend some time on the beach, come back for a quick shower and change back into my street clothes, then bus back home! Lol. I might stay overnight one day – just so I can hit a restaurant or two (Casita Maria is always an enjoyable experience – as is F.I.S.H.). So much fun to be had I don’t know what to do with myself 🙂 Lol!

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7 July, 2022

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about excursions so I thought I’d put a few out there for people to consider. Now that it’s a tad hot and humid, a little get-away someplace else might be to your liking.

Las Barrancas del Cobre / Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon is accessed in one of three ways. You can get there by car. You can get there by bus. Or, you can get there by riding the extremely fun El Chepe train. Four times bigger than the Grand Canyon in the USA, Las Barrancas del Cobre is a stunning visual treat.

If your español isn’t too good then I suggest you search the internet for a tour; otherwise you can use their website and email to book tickets on El Chepe. There are three classes of travel, first class, executive class, and passenger class. Prices vary by class as do access to amenities. El Chepe has a website here: https://chepe.mx/en/

Stops you may be interested in are: Los Mochis, El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, Divisadero, and Creel. When you book your ticket, you can do it in multiple segments so you can experience these stops for more than a few minutes.

Divisadero is the main area for viewing Copper Canyon, and access to the adventure park is also at this stop. If you only stop one place, this should be it – and stay for multiple days so you can experience the area fully.

Creel also has a lot to offer … there are stone formations (my favorite is the valley of the monks – google it!), a popular local lake, and two waterfalls. In the winter you will likely encounter snow, so bundle up!

El Fuerte has it’s namesake fort which is now a tourist site – and interesting if you like Méxican history. They also have some darned good food, and if you’re lucky – and staying at the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo – you might even get to see a show by Zorro!

Sadly when I did the trip I didn’t stop in Bahuichivo, and only did an overnight in Los Mochis where I caught the bus to Mazatlán early in the morning. I plan on correcting my haste on the next trip! When I rode El Chepe it also went from Creel to Chihuahua; it’s a shame they’ve dropped that stop as Chihuahua is very nice and I enjoyed my time there.

Since I took the bus back to Mazatlán from Los Mochis I wasn’t able to stop in Culiacán. I definitely would want to stop in Culiacán if I were taking a tour. Heck, if I did the trip again, I’d bus to Culiacán for a couple of days, then bus from there to Los Mochis. Culiacán has a fantastic Botanical Garden, and I’d just like to check out the capital of the state I live in!

Here’s a video about the adventure park in Copper Canyon to get you motivated! Youtube has some pretty good videos about El Chepe as well – if this interests you then by all means do a search!

Adventure Park in Copper Canyon

Edit: A little update to my last post … El Chepe apparently still does go to Chihuahua! Evidently there are still two different trains. I had been told that the Chihuahua stop had been eliminated and that everything was consolidated into three classes of fares between Creel and Los Mochis. And that’s what the El Chepe website (https://chepe.mx/) says. Until you enter the ultra secret url: https://chepe.mx/chepe-regional/. El Chepe Regional and El Chepe Express. Two different trains with different sets of stops.

Another video:

Different video about El Chepe

The caveat is that you cannot book tickets on El Chepe Regional online. You either have to visit one of the ticket counters (Los Mochis and Chihuahua both have them – not sure about the other stops) or call to get tickets. If you want to use both trains on one trip, you also have to ride further on El Chepe Express.

So there you have it – you can ride El Chepe from Los Mochis to Chihuahua city!!! Woo! Creel is definitely a stop you should spend a couple of days in, but going one step further to Chihuahua is even better!

Las Labradas

My second selection is Las Labradas. This is just a little North of Mazatlán and offers petroglyphs on the beach. It’s a very interesting day trip that you can supposedly arrange with several of the tour operators. When I went, only Onca Explorations (https://www.facebook.com/oncaexplorations/) would take me. The other tour operators either didn’t respond to my requests, or said no. Onca Explorations did have a 4 person minimum, so get some friends to go with you!

Here’s a short video about Las Labradas to give you an idea of what to expect:

Las Labradas

Durango City, Durango

My last choice is a trip to Durango. I took the bus, and it was dark out going there so I missed the scenery AND getting to see the Baluarte bridge. The bridge is probably the biggest thing you’ll miss by taking the bus, even if you head out in daylight. Tours usually stop somewhere for a photo op, and the bus definitely does not! I did come home in daylight so I saw parts as we drove around corners and hills! It was something I wish I’d seen more of – but for the price difference between a tour and the bus, I was good!

Things to do in Durango include a trip over the city on their gondola – which allows you a really good view. If you’re into churches there seemed to be one on every other street, enough to keep you happy! Durango has interesting museums, and some really good restaurants too. Another tourist attraction is a wild west town used for movie productions, and also for western re-enactment shows. This is another option where a tour would come in handy – but I would bet you could get local transportation to/from it if you wanted to do it on your own.

Gondola over Durango City

Ok! So there you have it. There’s a trip that you can easily spend a week on (El Chepe/Copper Canyon). Another trip that you’d want to spend 3 or 4 days doing (Durango City). And a day trip from Mazatlán (Las Labradas). Only Las Labradas will keep you in the heat, but you’ll be on the beach with a nice breeze!

Both Las Labradas and Durango are easily done by yourself if you have a car. El Chepe/Copper Canyon is probably a 5 or 6 on the 1 to 10 difficulty scale to arrange yourself if you don’t speak español. Not super easy, but definitely do-able with the help of google translate.

Previously I would have recommended a particular tour guide – but I had a bad experience with him and will never refer anyone to him again. It’s too bad as when he started he was more interested in showing people México from his viewpoint than he was in doing gringo tours to jewelry shops (fyi – that jewelry is almost always not from México). So now I just suggest you check out the local tour operators and chose the one that fits your budget and timing.

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2 July, 2022

Another visit to Fonda la Chilanga (https://www.facebook.com/jonathanfondalachilangaes) near the corner of Zaragoza and Dr. Carvajal. I have a particular fondness for tacos de canasta, and they made a Facebook post saying that they were serving them today. I don’t know if they have them every day (they aren’t on the regular menu), if it’s a Saturday thing, or if it is just something for today.

Tres tacos de canasta con papas y chorizo

They had three kinds, none of which were my favorite, chicharrón (which they do have for other menu items). There were tacos de canasta con papas y chorizo, something I don’t remember, and tacos de canasta con frijol. It was a tough decision, but I ordered three with the potatoes and chorizo even though frijol can be quite tasty if you have the right salsa.

If you haven’t had tacos de canasta (basket tacos) you’ve missed out! Not that many places offer them in Mazatlán so when you find them order quick! They’re made and layered (like their name) in a basket, typically with some type of liquid (stock/water/oil) on them to keep them moist. When you eat them they have a totally different texture and flavor profile. Soft, wet, rich – flavors that explode in your mouth! If you haven’t already, turn on Netflix and watch their docu-series called ‘Taco Chronicles’. One episode is about tacos de canasta!

Food on the griddle!

Fonda la Chilanga normally serves foods you’d find in México City. Huraches, Quesadillas, Tlacoyos, and Gorditas (not the tiny ones some places sell here). They’re all made by hand to order. Today I sat at the counter around the griddle. Yes, it was 90 f. outside. Yes, the waitress told me I could sit at a table under a fan. But it was more fun at the griddle, and there was a nice breeze coming in so I was pretty comfortable. It was interesting to see them make the gorditas – they took masa, put the filling on it, then formed it into a ball. On the griddle they flattened it out and cooked it – I’d only seen them made once before and the filling was added after the masa had cooked. This way looked much easier!

Hurache con chicharrón

So, three tacos de canasta con papas y chorizo. They weren’t enough to fill me up, even with the jamaica I ordered. So I asked for a chicharrón hurache. That got me to the full limit quickly, and then some! I really should have ordered a tlacoyo (it’s smaller) or at least have asked for half of the hurache to-go, but no … I ate it. And then I stumbled back home! Two hours later my food coma passed and I was back on my feet again!

Total bill was $140 pesos ($7 usd). Three tacos de canasta, a hurache, and a liter of jamaica. Food and service were both great. The chicharrón was a tad salty, but not enough to keep me from eating it. I did a previous review of them that you can read here: https://www.mazatlanweekly.com/2022/03/21/fonda-la-chilanga/. If you’re in Centro around Zaragoza give Fonda la Chilanga a try – you’ll be happy you did!

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1 July, 2022

Torta Ahogada
Torta Ahogada desde “El Mono”

Just a little update on Tacos y Tortas Ahogadas “El Mono” (corner of Zaragoza and German Evers. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elmono.tortasahogadas). They, like most other places recently, have had a little increase in the price of their menu offerings. Tortas Ahogadas are now 65 pesos each. Delivery, at least to my location, is still 5 pesos. This is the second price increase in 3 weeks, so hopefully they settle down for a while! If you don’t need a plastic spoon, or the limes, please let them know so they can save a few centavos.

Also a caveat – I sometimes make the mistake of putting my hands into the bag that contains the onions in the salsa de arbol. Then I regret it as either my hand burns for a few hours, or I don’t scrub my hands well enough and then scratch an itch in a sensitive place; and again the regret (to varying degrees depending on where the itch was) makes a visit. Save yourself the anguish and use a fork!

Another price increase I noticed was at Loncheria Zambrano (Aquiles Serdan near Ángel Flores). Their Tortas de Pierna are also now 65 pesos. Their tortas are very very big, and if you don’t eat a lot one of their sandwiches could definitely be two meals, especially if you add a side dish or two. (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoncheriaZambrano). There’s a little video about them here: https://fb.watch/d-0P4Gh9qQ/ that shows the torta and their tostada.

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26 June, 2022

Six weeks of being sick and I finally got out of the apartment and took a walk. I haven’t had many days over 1,000 steps so I was a little apprehensive about doing my ‘normal’ walk of around 15,000 steps. Since I’ve lost several pounds I decided to celebrate with a visit to Restaurante MiYeya. I did however, take the bus to Colonia Juárez where I started the walk. Saved me a few steps and lots of sweating!

Only one trip through the buffet today, but I got some chilaquiles roja, a couple of chicken guisados, beans, potatoes, and some birria. The birria made some good tacos! Add a glass of jamaica and a cup of coffee and I was good to go! TWO busloads of customers (I think I overheard they were from Chihuahua) were there and they were hopping for a while! But service was good, food was excellent, and the only thing missing was the guy sitting by the door who sings.

Restaurante MiYeya Buffet
Restaurante MiYeya

I also made a stop at Gasparin on the way home and got a couple of hamburgers to-go (they have a special 2 hamburgers for $100 pesos). So now I’m at 9,440 steps for the day. If I walk around the block I’ll hit the 10,000. I was very sweaty by the time I got home, and needed a little nap (that’s not unusual), but the breathing was fine and there are no aches and pains. Only unusual thing is a little blister on my foot, so I think I can resume my normal activities without worrying that I’m going to drop like a rock on the sidewalk somewhere.

Just noticed I have a couple of visitors playing in my living room! They usually come out at night and LOVE my kitchen, so I was surprised to see them playing in the living room!

Gekos playing on my living room wall

Ok. Now that I’m not convinced I’m going to keel over if I exercise I’ll start in on my ‘track the buses’ project! Lol.

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