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Guerrero State

Zihuatanejo: our last beach trip in Mexico

I sense your sympathy may be limited when I tell you that today is the last day of our LAST Mexican beach vacation, and it’s raining. We’ve truly been spoiled with all the amazing travel opportunities during our 2.25 years here in Mexico, but nonetheless we wanted to jam in one last trip to a beach.¬† The selection process of “which beach” was helpfully facilitated by the implosion of Mexicana Airlines (which had the only flights out of Benito Juarez Airport to places like Puerto Escondido and Huatulco), and the near infinite number of times I have seen The Shawshank Redemption on TBS while growing up.

For the possibly 5 people who have seen fewer movies than I have, I will try not to unduly spoil the plot by disclosing that at the end of the movie, someone ends up going to Zihuatanejo. Although I now understand that scene was actually filmed in the US Virgin Islands (liars), the seductive call of the name Zihuatanejo was enough to sway us– particularly when combined with a reasonably-priced plane ticket + generally positive reviews on the innerwebs.

Here is my underbelly skin contrasted against a white piece of paper, white fabric, and a white tile floor. Can you tell where my arm ends and the white objects begin??

Traveling to a Mexican beach in the month of September puts you firmly entrenched in the rainy season. I wasn’t overly worried about this, because God knows it’s not like my skin is destined to spend a lot of time in the sun. (see evidence at right) But I did sell John on the idea of spending a bit more money to stay somewhere nice, since odds were good that we would be spending a lot of time indoors. ūüėõ We settled on Casa Cuitlateca.

I wasn’t sure if Casa Cuitlateca could possibly live up to all the rave reviews on Trip Advisor, but it did. :) We were especially appreciative given the constant weather forecast of:

...and by "chance of rain", we mean "rain."

We arrived on Friday to a beautiful sunny day, but it poured that evening & has basically continued raining with ~2-3 momentary pauses over the subsequent three days. Casa Cuitlateca gets bonus points because despite only having five rooms, they have a number of open-air common areas so you’re not trapped in your room all the time during the downpours. We lucked out being the only guests during our three nights here, but I think even if the other four rooms were full, there’s enough space that you wouldn’t all be on top of each other.

This place was probably the best-designed B&B that we’ve stayed at, combining innovative design, traditional decor, novel water features, excellent food, great service, and very well thought-out rooms. If you were willing to pay a lot more, I’m sure there are more luxe options available, but for us Casa Cuitlateca struck a good balance with their boutique hotel feel + their off-season pricing ($150/nite + tax for the nicer rooms, apparently a 60% discount off high-season prices). Check out more pics below:

After you arrive via taxi, you're dropped off in the parking lot & get to cross a sweet suspension bridge over the driveway.

As you head up to the main level of the property, you pass this lovely pond (located below the infinity pool). Those stairs take you down to the road below.

A view towards the centro of Zihuatanejo from Casa Cuitlateca's pool. All the greenery you see around the pool-- that area is filled with little fish + a few big orange koi, so you have free entertainment while swimming.

I am a sucker for an infinity pool. One of the employees, Alfredo, told us a great story about how some dude showed up for a drink in the bar one night along with his dog. The guy sat down, and the dog promptly jumped in the pool & began vigorously paddling across. Alfredo tried repeatedly to get the guy's attention but was ignored. The dog, meanwhile, reached the infinity edge and jumped over it, down a ~30-foot drop off. FINALLY the guy takes notice, but by the time he heads down the stairs, the dog is already on his way back up- though now sporting a limp in his front right paw. The guy left his drink & departed in a huff, idiot dog in tow.

Facing the pool on the main level is the bar/breakfast nook when it's raining out. It has a great view and is a good spot to sit & wonder, "How long can it rain for, anyway?" with a drink in your hand.

This area had two strategic fans mounted on the walls, which we found to be great for taking "fan showers" when you returned all sweaty after your hike uphill from the centro. (note glistening body)

On the 2nd floor there's a spacious TV room/dining table...

...along with a computer for checking the intertubes.

I believe we were in the Puebla room, which offered an excellent direct view of the ocean.

It did not have as large of a terraza as the Guerrero room, but it had more indoor seating, which we decided was more valuable due to the everpresent mosquitos waiting to attack.

And if you tire of your room's bed, there is always this cute bed under the palapa by the pool.

Casa Cuitlateca also had a jacuzzi on the 3rd floor that we didn’t test out. They serve a small lunch menu of things like sopes, quesadillas, guac, sandwiches, burgers, etc. at *extremely* reasonable prices (i.e $75 pesos for a cheeseburger, $50 pesos for 4 sopes with the best tinga I have had in Mexico, etc.). Everything we had was excellent. Dinner you have to request in advance, and it is a set menu priced at $65/$75 USD per person, depending on entree (and includes an hour of open bar + a bottle of wine). I have read numerous rave reviews, but we didn’t try it as the pricing seemed a little high to us for a set menu that included several traditional Mexican dishes (that we eat often).

The last two highlights are the breakfast and the staff. For desayuno (which is included), you’re handed a menu listing juices, fruits, eggs, meats, side orders & drinks, and you basically order as much as you want off of it. Our first morning, we had 4 cups of coffee, a glass of fresh OJ, a glass of fresh grapefruit juice, a plate of mixed fruit accompanied by a bowl of yogurt for dipping, huevos rancheros, a ham-n-cheese omelet, and two orders of waffles. Um, yeah. Let’s just say we didn’t go hungry. ūüėȬ† Finally, the staff were all extremely friendly, helpful and attentive– we enjoyed chatting with Alfredo & Amador, and Sylvia did a great job in the kitchen. I believe there are 10 employees in total, and they do fantastic work maintaining a property that is certainly no small task!

As for Zihuatanejo in general, it is definitely a very laid-back spot that skews towards smaller hotels and houses vs. the massive, high-rise, chain hotels that are found in Ixtapa. The water/beaches were not the best I’ve seen in Mexico, but I think some of that is a function of rainy season + a really heavy rainstorm on our first night in town. I’m sure the beaches look more like this during the dry season, whereas I would not rush to go swimming in the ocean or walk along the sand barefoot in the rainy season.

Employees of a restaurant along Playa La Ropa work to clean up garbage after a stormy night.

Zihua’s centro is cute, with a good mix of touristy + local restaurant options and plenty of shops to buy all the Mexican artesanias that your little heart desires. Be aware that in the rainy season, the centro definitely has some drainage problems, so no need to wear your fancy high-heels here! Apparently water management has been a consistent problem in Zihua due to small, old pipes & the massive elevated area that is draining into the centro. We saw a number of “storm drains” that were actually functioning as fountains…

This drain may not be that effective... In other news, I didn't know I would be in this photo wearing my all-shades-of-green outfit. John told me the fashion police probably wouldn't be out in Zihua on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but now my fashion faux pas has been exposed to all just to bring you the news of Zihua's crap storm drains. What sacrifices I make for you people...

Many of the fancier restaurants are located along Playa La Madera/Playa La Ropa, mostly in hotels. We visited Kau-Kan Restaurant on Saturday night, and had a fantastic meal. To be fair, it didn’t end up being *that much* less expensive than the dinner pricing I mentioned above, but we had some novel dishes like an Asparagus & Cranberry Tart, Smoked Sailfish Salad, Seared Tuna w/Creamed Spinach & Mushrooms, Sea Bass w/Herbs, and an amazing Passion Fruit Sorbet.¬† Service was very good; highly recommended.

The other spot that everyone & their pet dog has recommended on Trip Advisor is Lety’s Seafood Restaurant. I will admit to being slightly skeptical as to how good these coconut shrimp could possibly be. FYI: they’re great. Big shrimp, not greasy, filled with a bit of cream cheese & accompanied by a coconut milk dipping sauce.

Yummm. Camarones de coco at Restaurant Lety's in Zihuatanejo.

Notes to self for when we try to make this at home: the shrimp seemed to be butterflied & filled w/some cream cheese. We hypothesized that then they are dipped in egg, then flour, then egg again, then shredded coconut.

Lety’s is located just across a footbridge from the centro, so have a taxi drop you off in the parking lot by the pier. Cross the bridge & turn left, and look for the below sign. Lety’s is on the 2nd floor.

Sign & stairway up to Lety's in Zihuatanejo

In summary, we’ve enjoyed our time here in Zihuatanejo despite being impressed by just how consistently it can rain for for 3 days. :) (We do have rainy season in DF as well, but it tends to consist of sunny mornings & temporarily rainy afternoons/evenings.) If you visit here, I recommend staying somewhere with a pool (as I’ve heard mixed reviews of the cleanliness of the bay). Zihua is a nice, traditional Mexican town/fishing village, vs. vacationing somewhere like the Zona Hotelera in Cancun where you could be on any beach in the world, trapped on a strip of chain hotels. For dining, there are plenty of fancy, high-end options that are priced accordingly, but you can also easily access <$1 USD tacos & traditional Mexican fare. And for drinking, there are numerous liquor stores in the centro if you’re looking for a better bargain than hotel bar prices. (May we recommend the Havana Club Siete A√Īos rum?)

Now I am off for our Last Meal on a Beach in Mexico. :) See you back in DF!!

****Quick Update (Sept 7, 2010)****

For those interested in prices for getting from the Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo airport (airport code ZIH) to town, here is a photo of one of the signs listing taxi prices:

This gives you an idea of the taxi prices at the Zihuatanejo airport (aka the Ixtapa airport).

Sluggy McSluggerson recounts some Mexico Highlights!

Ok, so I’ve been a slug. Every now and then, I like to do a blog post outlining all the riveting topics I’ve been meaning to write about, promise you that I will actually write about them, and then never execute on this.¬† Which sucks, because we have been some really amazing places in Mexico that I would highly recommend, if I ever got around to recommending them. :)

As a temporary fix to this, I thought I’d quickly highlight the best of my “Haven’t Blogged About Them” Mexico spots (and then vaguely promise to elaborate on them at an unforeseen later date).

IXTAPA: When I was trapped at school one weekend, John abandoned me for a much more glamorous weekend with a former boss of his who was in Ixtapa for the week with family. They stayed at this crazy-pretty house on the beach called Casa del Sol. It is located right next to a ski-lift (essentially), so he didn’t even have to exert himself going up & down to the beach, and the live-in staff of 3 took care of every food & drink need. If you have money to burn & a week to spare, this sounds like a great place to do it.

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

A glimpse of the pool & house that John had to suffer in for 3 painful days... :) So jealous!! (see the house website for more pics)

GOOD VIEW OF MEXICO CITY + GOOD TACOS: To enable friend Kim to experience the monstrosity that is Mexico City, we drug her up to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana, which holds the impressive distinction of “used to be the tallest tower in Latin America”! What excitement!! But, they have a good viewing platform (once you get outside so as to avoid sweating to death in the greenhouse portion). We recovered by stuffing ourselves with beer and tacos at El Huequito, top contender for “best tacos al pastor” in DF.

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE: During the swine-flu frenzy, we escaped town to check out San Miguel de Allende, generally known as “Hub of Retired Gringos”. This place has some of the most beautiful B&Bs I’ve seen in Mexico, but know that you will be paying US prices for the privilege of staying in them. :) The town is lovely & rife with tasty restaurants and trendy galleries. Food was amazing at a spot called “The Restaurant“.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

GUANAJUATO: The second half of our swine-flu trip, we stayed in Guanajuato– town of crazy tunnels & colorful houses. It was cute & felt v. European with loads of plazas to lounge about outside. If you drive, abandon your car at first apparent parking garage below the city & walk everywhere.¬† Stayed in Hotel Casa del Agua & were v. pleased with it. Employee walked with us to get our car & rode with us back to the hotel parking lot (a standard service at that hotel, which gives you a feel for how much of a cluster the roads are in Guanajuato. This hotel also created our new Mexico travel requirement of “hotel bathroom must have solid toilet that flushes plus a vent that vents outside of the room”.¬† During the 1.5 days of food poisoning aftermath, we realized how lucky we were that Hotel Casa del Agua had exactly that.

I ate at La Capellina repeatedly while John was MIA; food was great. Go to the fancy-pants Hotel Refugio Casa Colorada on the hill for drinks but no need to spend the money/effort to stay there.

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

HUATULCO for our ANNIVERSARY: Huatulco, aka Las Bah√≠as de Huatulco, is made up of 9 bays along the Oaxaca coast. Some of the bays are part of a National Park & hence untouched by development, resulting in some of the most amazing, pristine beaches I’ve seen in Mexico. (e.g. if you’ve seen the Mexican movie “Y Tu Mam√° Tambien“, its famous beach scenes were shot here on Bahia de Cacaluta“). You can rent a small boat at the marina, and the captain will take you as many bays as you want & stop as often as you want to snorkel/check out the beach. I recommend getting one with a roof or the sun will roast you. Not sure how much we paid, but I want to say around $800-$900 pesos for as long as we wanted to be out? But I could be way off. The very last bay is developed & has loads of restaurants where you can eat amazingly fresh shrimp cocktail & fish.

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco & its trusty captain.

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

We stayed at a gorgeous house called Villa Escondida located on the eastern-most beach (La Bocana). Whoever designed/built this house did an amazing job– infinity pool, hot tub on the roof, water feature in the entry way, master suite w/amazing views, a secret bar down on the beach. It’s a bit spendy, but we lucked out negotiating a deal due to post-swine-flu tourism slump. This place would be brilliant to rent out w/8 people, though you would have to battle for who gets the Mar Vista suite.

The couple, Elsa & Armando, that care for the place are super friendly & accommodating, picking you up from the airport in an air-conditioned SUV (so you can slowly acclimate to the humidity) & whipping up welcome drinks once you arrive.¬† Armando’s mango mojitos & hamburgers are both to die for– best hamburger I’ve had in Mexico to date. This beach was only marginally developed when we were there in May 2010, so it was v. quiet & private, yet had a great “meat & booze” restaurant around the corner. Only caveat– the Copalita River meets the ocean here, so it’s not a great beach for swimming- more for surfing, so if you are a “must be able to swim in ocean outside my door” type, be forewarned. But I personally found the beach to be absolutely beautiful.

The entryway into Villa Escondida

The entryway into Villa Escondida

And a view of the house from the beach

And a view of the house from the beach

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: This is not in Mexico. However, they did have lucha wine.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

THE PYRAMIDS a.k.a. TEOTIHUACAN: In June, I finally made it to the pyramids with visiting friend Emily. If you come to Mexico City, it is totally worth the trip. Teotihuacan is located about 45 minutes north of the city, assuming no traffic drama. You can take a bus from the Terminal Central del Norte (reachable via metro to “Autobuses del Norte” on Yellow Line #5 ), just confirm it’s going to the Zona Arq. Teotihuacan or Teotihuacan ruinas or Piramides. Rumor has it tickets are ~$70 pesos for return trip. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for the day for maybe $600 pesos to take you there, wait for you, and bring you back at your convenience. Obviously more spendy, but not bad split amongst 3-4 folks.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Other tips:

  • Bring water with you, as it isn’t sold within the ruins (just at stores outside).
  • Wear a hat/sunscreen; there is *no* shade out there & you will burn the crap out of yourself.
  • Leave early to beat crowds & the heat– I recommend leaving DF at 7:30AM.
  • I like to start near the Pyramid of the Sun (Puerta 5, if you drive). You can climb all the way up this one, which is much cooler if done before every other tourist & their pet dog arrives. Here’s a good map.
  • If you’re not going to pay for a guided tour (they do have them in English), I strongly recommend reading up a bit before you go or buying a book. Otherwise you will have 5,000 questions that the 10 plaques will not answer & you might not find the experience as interesting.
Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

OAXACA: It’s pronounced Wah-ha-ka for anyone wondering how that combination of letters can possibly form a word. The drive between DF & Oaxaca City through the mountains was actually quite beautiful– duration of 5-6 hours depending on time required to escape Mexico City. The town is lovely, the food/mezcal are fantastic, and the archaelogical site (Monte Alban) offers sweet views over the whole valley. Another town with lots of cute B&Bs/hotels. We stayed at Los Pilares Hostal, which was very nice & cost ~$1000 pesos, but is a few blocks away from the action. The Centro Cultural Santo Domingo (an ex-convent) is worth checking out. For food, hit La Olla for comida & La Biznaga for dinner; Los Danzantes is good for the mezcal but I’d skip the food… not amazing for the $$ (except for the magical Hoja de Santa appetizer– a crazy-big leaf stuffed w/cheese). Also, La Farola was a great cantina for further mezcal sampling.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IN COYOACAN (SEPT 16): The festivities for Dia de la Independencia start the nite before (Sept 15) at 11PM with the El Grito (the cry of independence). If I teach you nothing else, let it be that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day. :) Instead of joining in the craziness in the Zocalo, we went with some friends to the plaza in Coyoacan. In a nutshell, there is much excitement, food, carnival rides, fireworks, music, dancing, yelling, etc., though all of these to an even greater degree when it isn’t raining out. (boo) It is worth experiencing at least once– though try to learn some of the relevant songs/chants in advance to better blend in. ūüėČ

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of the spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of some spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

ALEBRIJES ON REFORMA: If you’ve been to Mexico, you’ve likely seen for sale crazy-looking, multicolored animals made of paper-mach√© or wood. These are called alebrijes, and were originally conceived of by a guy in Mexico City in the 1930s. For the last two years during October, Mexico City has had an impressive display of gigantic alebrijes along la Avenida de Reforma (the main east-west drag through town). I hope they do it again this year, because these things are the coolest.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

Ok, now we’re marginally caught up through the end of October 2009…. Please comment if you would specifically like to see more details/photos on any of the above topics, & I’ll see what I can do! ūüėČ

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Acapulco– Mexican Independence Day Wknd Part 2

One of the pretty-pink jeeps that carts you around the multi-tiered resort facility

One of the pretty-pink jeeps that carts you around the multi-tiered resort facility

Sunday morning Sept 14, John, Robyn and I¬†rolled into our fancy-pants hotel in Acapulco, Las Brisas. Although we probably didn’t *need* to stay in one of the top 3 hotels in Acapulco, this was our last hurrah before I started work¬†and after all, one never knows when one will get back to Acapulco! So we splurged on the Pink & White Wonder (the theme colors of the resort), with our own private pool outside the door of our room.

View of Acapulco Bay from our hotel's hillside

View of Acapulco Bay from our hotel's hillside

Clearly the question on that front is– was¬†Las Brisas¬†worth the ~$300 a night? Our vote is– if you are interested in a complete get-away, where you don’t really need to leave your hotel room at all & just lounge around your private pool (sipping the $7 tequila + Squirt that you smuggled in), then yes.

Pro reasonings include–

  • it is certainly a unique, high-rent, flashback-to-the-50’s experience
  • the¬†beach club down on the water is amusing with a pool + a couple salt water swimming areas which offer easy entertainment watching people step on crabs & yelp in surprise

    A Corona-esque view of the Las Brisas Beach Club

    A Corona-esque view of the Las Brisas Beach Club

  • the private pool makes a great space for a private dance party w/your Ipod
  • fairly close to the √úber-trendy mammoth clubs on the main drag

Cons include–

  • since you’re probably being lazy & can’t be bothered to hike up the mountainside, you have to wait for the jeeps to come and¬†drag you around everywhere & a van to drag you down to the beach club
  • prices for food/drink are (unsurprisingly) steep, & reasonably priced food options are slim-to-none
  • they promise you a magical breakfast through a secret passageway in the wall, but the breakfast is light on tasty, unhealthy pastries & heavy on not-so-tasty papaya
  • can’t walk anywhere, and taxis in Acapulco are pretty spendy

 

Our trendy private pool complete w/matching flowers!

Our trendy private pool complete w/matching flowers!

Anyway, we had a lovely time lounging about during the day Sunday, being whisked to a random faraway restaurant for dinner after naively asking the cabbie “well, we were thinking about place X, but what do you recommend?”, and having a few beers in a wacky pirate-themed¬†bar where we encountered a waiter with the largest bubble-butt on record. (got you beat, Steve)¬†

Seriously? Please don't bring your dirty, breast-free chicken wings to my house.

Seriously? Please don't bring your dirty, breast-free chicken wings to my house.

We also saw the Acapulco Hooters, whose sign strongly promoted its home delivery service. I thought this was the funniest thing ever, because let’s face it; Hooters isn’t exactly *known* for its food. Why you would want to eat cold, slimy chicken wings in the privacy of your own home without even any busty girls to stare at is beyond me, because somehow I am guessing that the delivery person is not showing up at your door dressed in micro-shorts and a tank-top¬†& waiting to be sexually harassed.¬†I am fascinated to know how successful Hooter’s Home Delivery service is.

Noooo rain! We are paying too much money to lie here to get rained out!!!

Noooo rain! We are paying too much money to lie here to get rained out!!!

Monday brought another day of lounging¬†at the Beach Club until our efforts¬†were thwarted by rain, so we retired to our¬†room. The weather cleared but we were too lazy to¬†make the jeep-to-van trek¬†down to the water, so we initiated a tequila and 80’s music-fueled party at our private pool…with just the 3 of us…¬†There may have been some karaoke/air guitar involved. Anyway, suspicions began to grow that we might all crash and burn, since as around-30-somethings, our ability to get drunk in the afternoon and then go out at night has decreased…¬† HOWEVER, in a burst of dedication to celebrate El Grito (Mexican Independence Day), we all showered up & headed out to dinner.

Here's the air guitar band who gave a private performance

Here's the air guitar band who gave a private performance

Who's up for some grilled Billy Goat's Gruff (the prime cut, that Gruff)

Who's up for some grilled Billy Goat's Gruff (the prime cut, that Gruff)

We found a restaurant down in the thick of things & had a nice Mexican dinner at El Cabrito where we were able to watch a bit of the official “El Grito” on the TV, and also watch the ‘goat cooker’ grill carcasses on spits over a large fire. Then we rallied up to go celebrate at one of THE CLUBS of Acapulco– Palladium. We jump in a taxi and promptly find ourselves in standstill traffic outside of this clump of the three √ľber-clubs, so we jumped out and very un-fresa-ly hoofed it up the steep driveway to find a crowd of Mexicans standing outside the rope. Luckily apparently us¬†three stunning Amercans passed the “threating eye of the bouncer” test, and made it inside to be graced with luxurious Palladium-branded goods. And by ‘branded’,¬†I mean, ‘written on with a black permanent marker’.¬† We scored 3 sombreros, 3 festive handkerchiefs, and about 9 mini-clay-pot-like shot glasses full of tequila¬†among the 3 of us.

The inside of the club was not what I expected, with a fairly small dance floor against the middle of a massive wall of windows with a stunning view of Acapulco Bay. Then in a semi-circle around the dance floor, there were tiered floors of tables & chairs, almost a bit like an over-sized cabaret venue. Apparently everyone else got the memo about reserving a table in advance, as there were essentially no tables left to sit at (which is what everyone does at bars/clubs here). Robyn worked her magic though, and got one of the waiters to offer up the fact that “his friends had some space at their table” and promptly led us over to a teeny table with 2 guys and 1 girl (who was CLEARLY displeased with our arrival). Unconcerned, we donned our sombreros for some photos while listening to the inital foray of classic Mexican folk songs.

Highlights of the evening included:

Redefining the phrase "The nightclub was a total cockfight"

Redefining the phrase "The nightclub was a total cockfight" (look closely for the rooster he's holding)

* COCK FIGHTING. Yes that’s right, at Acapulco’s trendiest club, everyone stopped chatting and gathered ’round the dance floor to watch TWO MEN HOLDING COCKS er ROOSTERS, walking briskly around in circles, pausing, setting the roosters on the dance floor, letting them peck at each other briefly, and then repeat. Fascinating

* Lassoing. One dude with a frigging-huge lasso, also on the dance floor. Check.

* The crappiest techno DJ I’ve heard in a while. I love techno music, but this guy kept making the looongest mixes that I have ever heard¬†of techno songs from like 5 years. Just when the song would start fading down & you were ready for the next one to start up, it would get louder again WITH THE SAME SONG.

* People who dance WORSE than I do. I mean, let’s be honest, I am horrible dancer, but somehow even I felt like I had better moves than the 37 people on the dance floor.

* And on that noteРno one on the dance floorРWTF??  Everyone was hanging around their tables on the various tiers, chair dancing or dancing in place. This is a techno club, people!! Go dance!!!

One of the light bursts at Palladium that usually lasted about 9 seconds too long

One of the light bursts at Palladium that usually lasted about 9 seconds too long

* Excessive lighting. Whoever was controlling the lighting (which to its credit was at least heavy on the green lasers), didn’t understand that no one really WANTS to be able to clearly see the people they’re dancing with at a nightclub. Let people at least have the HOPE that they found a total hottie. Instead, they kept flashing the lights at random intervals during the songs, but then would sloooooowly turn them back down after like 10 seconds. At least long enough for me to stop dancing because I realized everyone could see me clearly.

* Fantastic people watching with some of the sluttiest outfits I’ve seen in recent memory. Guys, take note.

* Commoners on the podiums. Usually hot clubs have slutted-up girls dancing on the podiums to help, er,¬†inspire people to¬†dance. Here, for the first hour or so after the DJ came on, one of the podiums was graced by two somewhat-dumpy kids in sweat pants & t-shirts who looked about 17 and¬†who didn’t appear to feel even slightly out of place. Eventually they were replaced by half-naked girls who also looked about 17, but for at least a good hour, the dumpy kids had their moment in the sun (or in this case, lasers).

Observe a) how much space there was to take photos on the dance floor, b) the white-hot podium dancers behind John, and c) our table mate/cast member from Austin Powers (yes I'm a bad person)

Observe a) how much space there was to take photos on the dance floor, b) the white-hot podium dancers behind John, and c) our table mate/cast member from Austin Powers (yes I'm a bad person)

In summary, good times were had by all at Palladium, even if we did wuss out early (3 AM)¬†because the bad music/dancing was simply more than we could handle…¬† Luckily this meant we had enough energy the next day to take some strategic photos of the high level of security in the rooms at Las Brisas. The little window you see next to the door is the secret entry point where the staff magically leaves your coffee & breakfast each morning. However, we had a good chuckle after observing that when missing a small interior latch, the magical breakfast nook became a hilarious vehicle for breaking and entering. Observe John’s stealth maneuvers below.

Hmmm...is that someone's arm easily accessing the door of our pimp room at Las Brisas???

Hmmm...is that someone's arm easily accessing the door of our pimp room at Las Brisas through our breakfast nook???

 

Aha! Our thief is caught in the act!

Aha! Our thief is caught in the act!

...but not before he demonstrates that someone could easily send a small person through here to rob you blind (if they for some reason opted not to just open your door).

...but not before he demonstrates that someone could easily send a small person through here to rob you blind (if they for some reason opted not to just open your door).

Taxco, home of silver galore!

Having officially lived in Mexico City for a whopping seven weeks, we decided it was time for our first excursion into the countryside. Much internet-searching & advice-gathering lead us to Taxco, a former silver mining town of ~50,000 people located about 2.5 hours to the south of D.F. Originally founded by the Aztecs, this town was built on the side of a mountain with records of silver mines dating back to the 1500’s from the Spanish and Cortes.¬†

the pretty pink Santa Prisca Cathedral in Taxco

the pretty pink Santa Prisca Cathedral in Taxco

More hot activity ramped up in 1716 when Don Jose de la Borda rediscovered silver there,¬†building an amazing church (Santa Prisca Cathedral) of pink stone¬†on the site where his horse stumbled and unearthed the first sign of a new silver vein. Just goes to show that you shouldn’t make fun of people who fall a lot.

Anyway, I was feeling quite proud because Saturday was my first day of driving in Mexico City, and I managed to make it out of town w/o any unwanted interactions with the police. We rolled into Taxco about 11:30AM and progressed sloooowly to our B&B through the narrow streets.

the slightly narrow two-way road up to our B&B...

the slightly narrow two-way road & pedestrian thoroughfare up to our B&B...

I began having second thoughts about driving John’s seemingly-mammoth car after going up a steep,¬†one-lane but¬†“two-way” street & having to execute a four-point turn around a sharp corner under the watchful eye of an elderly man who, instead of offering any directional assistance, simply stood directly in front of the part of his store I was most likely to hit. Luckily, I managed to get us to the driveway of Casa de las Palmas without mashing into¬†any of the¬†omnipresent white VW bug taxis that briskly navigate the tight roadways.

After a slightly awkward interaction at the front gate wherein we thought the innkeeper’s son was trying to sell us flowers & repeatedly declined them, he escorted us in to the amazing villa we were staying at for the next two nights. We had reserved the main house¬†at Casa¬†de¬†las Palmas after reading positive reviews on Trip Advisor (despite the fact that it could sleep up to¬†7 people, arguably slightly more space then we needed),¬†and it did not disappoint in either interior decorations or exterior views!! It also filled the bill by being far enough up the mountainside, away from the Zocalo, that we didn’t hear the clubs that allegedly continue on til 5AM in the heart of the town.

view of our villa, Casa de las Palmas

view of our villa, Casa de las Palmas...

 

...and part of the view from our private deck

...and part of the view from our private deck

an interior view of our massive weekend house!

an interior view of our massive weekend house!

John contemplates our next move, while his friend Zeb lies loyally at his feet

John contemplates our next move, while his friend Zeb lies loyally at his feet

 

To summarize our trip take-aways of Taxco:

  • It’s a good weekend/overnight trip from Mexico City, and you can fill a two-night trip if you like low-key, wandering around the city/market (and especially if you like hitting the couple hundred silver vendors/shops!).¬† Get up early on Saturday & drive down (about $166 pesos in tolls on the 95-D cuota road), arriving in Taxco before lunch. Consider stopping at Xochicalco on your way back (as we did), if you finish up early in Taxco on Sunday (but beware the traffic back from Cuernavaca).

    my favorite shot of sleeping dogs in a churchyard in the Guadalupe neighborhood, overlooking Santa Prisca

    my favorite shot of sleeping dogs in a churchyard in the Guadalupe neighborhood, overlooking Santa Prisca

  • Wearing hiking boots is not a bad idea, as the roads are STEEP and full of uneven cobblestones. Bring tennis shoes or rugged sandals at a min; ladies, leave your heels at home. :) Also, though the weather seemed quite temperate & accompanied by a nice breeze, be prepared to get sweaty when you are hiking around the town (unless you are in better shape then me).¬†
    Heading down into the depths of Taxco's mercado

    Heading down into the depths of Taxco's mercado

     

  • The market was a fascinating multi-level¬†rabbit’s warren of stalls, stairs & winding pathways. You could easily get lost looking at unidentifiable fruits for 30 minutes.
  • There are silver shops on every street & silver vendors every 15 feet with cheap silver a-go-go, but I it didn’t seem THAT easy to find interesting/unique pieces at bargain-basement prices. That said, I found one shop I was very excited about, Taxco Disena, which I recommend checking out especially if you’re looking for more modern-y jewelry. (address: Calle Benito Juarez & Exrastro No. 1)¬†
    The front interior wall of Santa Prisca

    The front interior wall of Santa Prisca

     

  • This is a no brainer, but check out the inside of the Santa Prisca Cathedral. Holy ornate, batman.

 

 

 

a view of Taxco up the mountain-- we walked almost all the way to the statue!

a view of Taxco up the mountain-- we walked almost all the way to the statue!

  • Take some time to explore up some of the side streets, up the mountainside towards what we referred to as the “fake Christo Redentor statue” near the top of the town. If you follow Calle Guadalupe up from the Zocalo, that will take you by Casa de las Palmas as well as two additional churches with great views (if you make it far enough vertically)! Intriguing to walk the narrow, neighborhood streets, with regular respites of mini-convenience stores & ‘restaurants’ that seem to consist of an oven & a counter. :)
  • For eating & drinking, we recommend Bar Berta on the Zocalo (drinks only) with miniature seating on its balcony that has great people-watching. Order a “Berta”, which is tequila, lime, honey, and soda water. Gooood stuff.¬† Hotel Agua Escondida has a nice rooftop terrace restaurant with some tasty enchilada & good cathedral views (also on the Zocalo). If you max out on Mexican food, we found a great pizza spot with almost every seat full & operating¬†a wicked takeout business, called Pizza Estelar located on Calle Hidalgo.

    needless to say, we did not attend

    needless to say, we did not attend

  • Also, don’t forget about the hot nightlife options. Especially for teens…

 

 

 

 

Two of our favorite street vendors, Corn Mama and Angel Wearer
Two of our favorite street vendors, Corn Mama and Angel Wearer
  • My only regret was not purchasing more from the bazillions of wandering vendors, ranging from the¬†men & women¬†with a thousand hats, to a guy draped in ceramic angel figurines, to these crazy wicker-pig-purse sellers. We did, however, boldly purchase an ear of “corn on a stick”, rubbed with lime, swabbed with mayo, dredged through cheese, and sprinkled with red pepper! As John said, anything with mayo is a no brainer.¬†
    some blossoming PRD (Mexico's Party of the Democratic Revolution) members talking shop in the Zocalo

    some blossoming PRD (Mexico's Party of the Democratic Revolution) members talking shop in the Zocalo

     

  • Hanging out in the Zocalo (the town square) offered loads of entertainment, with great local people-watching. Great spot to grab a bench,¬†watch all the little kids run around, and observe the street vendors from a safe distance.¬†¬†¬†

 

 

 

 

  • And finally, a gratuitous pork photo for my friend Bruce in MD.

     

    Meat-licious?

    Meat-licious?

     

     

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