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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zihuatanenjo in December 2011

This blog is complete.  As is our trip.  Enjoy as it suites you.

Count Enrico

Why we go south:

Being a native of Seattle, one can recognize, after 60 years, the lack of sunshine during the winter months in the NW.   The cure is to go and find sun.  This has any number of benefits.  There is the obvious gain in vitamin D, the lack of stress in wardrobe selection (flipflops, swim suit and light shirt),
there is the entire natural beauty concept with flowering shrubbery and non-swaddled people to look at,  warm beaches and good food with beer that actually is refreshing because it is cold, sailing on water that is 80F instead of 50F, etc...

A bonus for us has been to get others to think we are always out of town during the holidays.  It may be a bit selfish to keep to ourselves but there it is.  We just do not do Xmas.  It only cost a bit more to get on a plane and soak up the sun than it does to do the entire Xmas regimen.

Where in the world is Zihua?:

We are about 150 miles north of Acapulco.
Playa La Ropa is the name of the beach just out of town.

Approximate location of Casa Iguana

The right dot is over our unit (of 6 total) at the Casa Iguana.  The left dot is the El Vira restaurant where we spend our time on the beach.  The white sand beach is about a mile or more in length.  The water is 80F or so.  NICE!

The Countess and the Count on vacation.
This would be a typical day at the beach.
Photo taken by Nuham our host.

How we got there:

The Countess and I used our companion fare (supposedly a $90 add on to buying one ticket but the total ramps to $250 after airport fees) on our Alaska Visa card to book this trip in Feb. of 2011.  It was cold then and gave us something to look forward to.  We had missed our sun in 2010 after big travels to England and around Vancouver Island.  (see other blog articles on this blog page).  I guess the Alaska Visa is as good as most.  I used miles to go to San Diego in November for a 'free' ride on Alaska

Enough about Visa!

History of our accommodations of previous visits:

The fact that the price of the air was right is the point.  Zihua (shortened from Zihuantenjo) is one of our favorite spots in Mexico.  This is our 4th visit here.  We have stayed at the (now) Villa Mexicana, Hotel Irma, Las Brisas del Mar and now at the B&B Casa Iguana (  The Mexicana and the Casa Iguana are on La Ropa beach which is a mile long of white sand with 80F clear water lapping at it.  The other two are just outside of town right above the bay and both have their advantages.  Irma is cheap at $70 a night and Las Brisas is very nice but more, around $120 a night for a junior suite.  They are both in walking distance from town.  La Ropa hotels require a taxi or bus to town.

Travel woes:

The suffering we had to go through coming down here was pretty much limited to getting UP at 3:00 AM to catch a 7:00 AM flight out of Seatac.  After deicing the plane, we got into LAX on time, which gave us 30 minutes to get to our next plane, duty free gin purchase, and find a head.  We managed all three with 3 minutes to spare.  Our plane landed at the Zihua airport at 3:00 PM and we were out of customs (losing my peanuts, pistachios, and almonds to the customs) and in an airport taxi by 3:30.

The flight back was brutal.  We left Zihua at 4:35 PM and got to our house at 3:30 AM Zihua time.  3.5 hours to LAX, 3 hour layover, 2.5 hours to Seatac, 1.5 hours home... .OUCH, very fuzzy the following day.  There is a 2 hour difference between Zihua and Seattle, just like Chicago.

There are the usual time share dudes laying in wait just outside the exit and we hooked up with one but were easily able to shed him, being the Mexico veterans we are.  We weren't buying his shuck and massage offers.  The airport taxis are a monopoly that one just has to put up with.  $34 US one way which is fair but the fee for the return trip will be around $240p using the city taxis.

Arrival at the Casa Iguana is very understated with just a metal iguana on the exterior wall, doors closed to the street, but our host, Joel, meeting the cab, saying our flight, online, was saying it was delayed??
The very modest entrance.  Note the metal iguana.

Joel is a 55 year young Frenchman who has done well here in Zihua.  He has two successful businesses here (over at Xtapa) and this 6 unit B&B of which we are the only occupants at the moment.

Where we stayed:

A description of our suite:  (  The bottom gate opens onto a small lawn and single car parking area.  From there is a path of stepping stones set in the lawn with a flowering hedge on the left and the units on the right as one ascends the gentle grade.  Our unit was the 4th from the street and very quiet and peaceful.
Looking at our lounge area from the path.

The outside roofed lounge area has a buffet area with a fridge, water dispenser, toaster, and coffee maker.  There are two comfy chairs, a sofa, overhead fan, lights, and a coffee table with lots of plants hanging and set about.

Looking down the path from outside our suite.

Through the door into the bedroom there is a large desk, bench seat, a corner shelf with TV (satellite and several stations with movies and shows in English).  Overhead is a fan, many overhead lights in paper balls (like the one we have in our dining room), an AC unit and windows on opposite sides with screens.  The bed is kingsize with side tables and lamps.  We had to get a light blanket out around 4 AM as it did chill just a bit and the sheet was not enough even though we were snuggled together.
King size bed on concrete platform.  Where the Count felt the
earthquake of 6.5 or so.

The bathroom is a long room with clothes storage on shelves with a room safe (issues so far but will solve) then a sink above the counter, a long toilet, and at the end a walk in shower.  Everything is tiled and VERY well finished.  This is well executed construction with lots of attention to the finish.

Sitting around here is all one could ask for in comfort.  There have already been comments from jealous friends about the lack of a pool.  Well, we say to that, there are no rowdy kids splashing in that nonexistent pool.  The beach is just a two minute walk and the water there is perfect for a dip.

I will be doing a complete bathroom pictorial soon as the masonry details here are very well executed and perfect for using.  (stay tuned)
Looking at menus
Bloop in the clouds, no green flash this time.

This was where we enjoyed our first sunset down here.  The possibility of a green flash exists as the sun is going down in the sea.   The first night there were clouds on the horizon but we will keep a close watch for the phenom.

Home from the beach we both required a nap, shower, and then a taxi ride to town.  I suspect this may become routine as walking to town is a matter of a couple of miles up a steep hill and then back down.  The road is very narrow with speeding buses, taxis, and locals.

On entering the roundabout at the town entrance, Jose, our first taxi driver in his Crown Victoria (one of the largest cars in the town and rare) noted there was a parade to the Virgin Mary.  We tried to get around it but ended up following in the wake of the marching crowd and police escort.  Jose had spent 5 years in Olympia but was not able to keep work so came back here to drive a taxi.  Now with the cruise boats not coming so much (down from 100 visits a year to 10, his words) his tour business is very slow.  One can rent him and his car for $50 US an hour or $120 US a day.  The cost of ride to town is $3.50 US so that beats waiting for the bus.
Note the Xmas stuff on the roof at Any's Tamale and Sopa

We went out to dinner on day one to Any's which we had eaten in during previous visits.  Maybe a it was a different name but it was the same decor and tables.  We both ordered Tortilla Soup, Sopa de Tortilla, and were served the best tortilla soup we had ever had!  The cost was $205 pesos (10 pesos= 1 dollar mostly).  Lori noted one other gringo couple but speculated they were full time residents, there are many.

What to do while here:

Sitting on the beach, reading books, going shopping, eating at multiple restaurants, sailing Hobie cats from the beach, going out to nightclubs, taking starlit walks on the beach, riding the bus, sleep, and generally relax.

All in all, not much more than simple relaxing.

 One of the best things one can do in Zihua is find Jimi Mamou playing his blues at a club.  Be advised, many places will say he is playing just to get you in.   Check out a bit of riff he has on Youtube.  Link to:  Jimi Mamou gets started on the blues.   This is WAY too short but one gets the idea.  Jimi is now 73 and very fit and fine, still living down here and playing in various clubs occasionally.

There are other activities which we eschew:  Booze cruises, para sailing, banana riding, discos, condo touring, etc...

Been there done that or decided it is a never to be activity.
The Countess taking a promenade on the beach.  This was a Sunday and the most crowded we had seen so far. (Dec 11)
The crowds, such as they are, really show up on the day we leave, Dec 20.

We might do an eco tour, where they take us to the bush somewhere and put us in kayaks and paddle around some lagoon with alligators???

Activities we actually did this trip:

Massage:  2xs for both of us at Elvira's with Maria and Sabrina.  $250p for an hour of deep full body massage.  VERY high marks!  One can barely stand up after the session!

Hobie sailing 2xs with Xavier and Ramon's boats next to Elvira's.  $300p / hour  Light winds most days.  No hull flying wind ever.
These Hobies are in good condition and very fun.  Easy to drive.  High marks for fun.  The water is like bath water.

Dining Options and Opinions:

Since dining out is one of the common activities practiced by all travelers here I thought a bit with bullet points would help those who scan blogs.

$  Anetelia's located in 'Posole Alley':  You will not see many gringos here but the food is local and very good.   The ambiance is supplied by going local.  We had tostadas, posole (white, chicken), steak tacos, and quesidillas.  We will always go back there.  Less than $100p each meal for 2.  Beer is only $15p each.  Cheapest I have seen them in a restaurant.

$$ Tamales Y Atoles Any's located on Calle Edjito:  The BEST tortilla soup!  We went back twice for it.  Lots of inflatable Xmas stuff inside and out.  $200-210 for each meal including drinks.

$$$  Paty's Miramar located on La Ropa, next to Villa Mexicana:  Very good and romantic.  Nice lights in the palm trees with the water 30 feet away over the white sand.  We ordered too much food.  The shrimp cocktail could be a meal by itself so we took one home.  We couldn't eat what ever we ordered (too much fuzz upstairs) but it was good.  $390p and good.

$$   El Viras on La Ropa, located right next to Paty's.  This is where we have spent each day on their lounge chairs under umbrellas, ordering an item or two plus drinks.  To die for are the Sopes which are like little tostados with a thick tortilla base.  The strawberry dacquri without sugar (sans dulce) is an amazing slurpee.  I am having at least one a day.  Mmmmmmm!  The Countess likes the lemonada, chips and pico de gaio.  Our bill daily is between $180 and $350p.  Nuham and Rebe are the two main waiters who take care of us.  They are very good at getting it just right.  The only reason we have not eaten dinner there is for us to sample other place's fare.

$$$  Tres Hermanos, located down town on a walking street:  Very marginal, would not go back.

$$$$ Agave, located upstairs across from Amfibios surf shop on one of the main drags away from the water.  Tied for the best food I have had down here!  A new place, and very empty, we hope they can make it.  The spinach salad was amazing no matter which city you might be in.   The mexican steak I had was peppery and GOOD.   The chicken fajitas were way too much for one.  Consider splitting one with each having a good salad.  $485 plus tip for two with food and drinks.

$$$$  Chuletos, hard to find for us. (We looked 3xs)  If you are looking at the water from the downtown basket ball court, turn right and go most of the way toward the public pier.  It is on a corner on the right with darkened signs.  A small place but the food was SUPER.  We split a house salad, a good idea.  I had the thickest pork chop with brown gravy and mushrooms with little potatoes and other veggies.  Lori had the fish with some cajun spice.  It was WAY too much food again.  $485 plus tip for food and wine.

Monday (day 4):

A bit of stomach issue in the AM but we are going shopping for the day.  We both took the bus for $10p each which is 1/10th price of a taxi.  Not a very long wait and just as quick.

Low head room in the Mercado.
Lori shopped while the Count watched.  The Mercado for the locals is FULL of stuff.  The Countess even bought a bag to maybe put loot in.  The local shop keepers really showed her the stuff over and over.

Two shop girls that were sure the Count needed something.

I merely watched and when asked if I wanted anything I merely replied I am watching 'mi espousa compranda' which I was told means watching my wife shop.  The men understood immediately and the girls just kept showing me stuff.

We had lunch in the Mercado for $108p that was wonderful.

Most food is about what you would pay in the Seattle area.  For example, a bag of Cheetos and a 6 pack of Victoria beer was $92p ~ $9.20 US

The bus cost is $5p each.

Our table at the edge of the Mercado.  Not crowded and good food.

Sunsets are free!
Count Ferrari is watching for the green flash!  So far with two good sunsets observed, this with a bit of haze and another with no haze, there was only a 'bloop' as the sun dipped below the horizon.  The green flash occurs in these conditions and many $$ are made in Key West because of it.
Tuesday (day 5):

It was a day at the beach and then tried to take the bus in but we were talked into sharing a taxi for the same money into town.  There was some shopping, looking at stuff and seeing what was available.  Talked with some people in town we saw at the beach.

We ate in Antelia's in Posole Alley for the grand total of $75p.  Lori had Tostadas, and the Count had steak tacos.  Drinks were the fruit punch made on site.

After dinner, we waited at the bus stop at 8:35PM and were told by a kind soul that the bus stopped running at 8:30 PM.  We took a taxi out of necessity.  The cost didn't break us at $35p.  Back at our B&B where we continue to be the only inhabitants (except the owner, Joel, who is only home at night) we got out our cards and played Skipbo.  Lori trounced me 2:1 that night.

Wednesday (day 6):

Out of bed at the crack of 9:00 AM.  Breakfast of toast, tea, cornflakes with dried cut strawberries mixed with yogurt and fresh banana is a great way to get started.  It is always waiting for us to fix in our little fridge on our covered patio with the nice overhead fan blowing cooling wafts of wind over us.

We made our appearance at El Vira's beach restaurant a bit after noon.  This is our no rush schedule.  The waiters there know who we are now and just make a space for us with umbrella and lounge chairs.  We have become part of the scene.
Casual dress and following the shade with the lounge chairs is the usual.  Here the Countess is getting her dose of vitamin D.

There is a couple (older by a bit) who run the beach each day.  They shamed me into doing the same.  I was gasping for air before I got to the end of the beach!  Running in sand with bare feet really used the calves to the point of tight!!!  The water flowing up to 6" deep was a wet splash too.  On the way back the strategy was to stay in 1" or less water and the wave patterns allowed me to slow and nearly stop on several occasions to get back my breath.  I did the entire distance and felt I earned a full lunch!

Activity Note:

After lounging for a bit each of us took a massage from Maria ($250p + tip).  There is a massage area right next to the bar.  OMG!  She had strong hands and really made an impact on our bodies.  It was tough to walk after her tender touch.  It was decided we should do that again prior to leaving.
You can barely see a white massage tent thing on the left side of
this photo.  This is our hangout.  Buy a few drinks and snacks
and one becomes a part of the family.

The Count had a club sandwich with great french fries and the Countess had some tostada look alikes that had a puffy soft corn chip bottom that were excellent.  We terminated our beach stay with a swim. The Count swam around a mooring buoy twice in a row.  A new record for him for this trip.

Back to the B&B for showers, cocktail hour, nuts, and a nap.  Later, as we waited by the bus stop at 7:05 PM we were told by a taxi that the bus stopped running at 7:00 PM.  Oh well, what are you to do? We took his cab and asked about once in town and verified his claim.  A weird thing, I asked the driver how many taxis were in town and he replied 663.  All the local cabs have large numbers on them and we didn't see any number over that so maybe it is correct.  I do know they are predatory in trying to get passengers.  Always a horn or 'taxi?' from any passing empty cab when you are gringos.

Bug spray at the farmicia was a good find, cookies and chips at a mini 'costco' was also a hit.  We had dinner at Tamales Y Any again and had the best tortilla soup ever again.
Tortilla soup at Y Any's.  The best!

Thursday (day 7?)  (It must be Thursday if my vitamin container says so...)

Activity Note:

We got to the beach at 11:30 for a fairly early arrival.  The wind was as strong as it has been, say 5-7k with lulls.  It was time to take out a Hobie 16 in the bath water.  Armed with PFDs and a bottle of water we sailed out of the bay into the Pacific enjoying the upwind sail.  Turning around it got hot and seemingly slow but we did make it back to the beach after sailing the bay and reaching back and forth a bit, maybe getting to 6-7k of boat speed.  It was good fun and reasonable at $300p an hour.

The rest of the day was spent reading in the shade on the sand, having lunch, and walking the beach.
The empty beach is typical until Dec. 21 or so when 'high season' kicks in as do the crowds.

Peat and Repeat....  The days just go by.  Met a 67 year aged dude who had been doing this since Oct 30.  He is seriously relaxed!  Also met an 88 year young fellow, also walking the beach, who was certain that being negative shortens one's life.  There may be something in that.

We are nearing one of the toughest things we have to do down here.... Decide what to have for dinner.  It definitely means going out to dinner as the potato chips and gin over ice were our cocktail hour.  We already napped after going to the beach and then taking showers.  Grueling... (oh) NOT!

Something Different:

Here is a short video that shows two of our friends staying at Zihua in Feb of 2012 at the hotel right next to our beach restaurant.  Kudos to Dennis and Nola for getting a video together.
Video of Zihua in vacation mode.

Drivel and more written drivel... There is a certain repetition of fun in the sun here.

Could be Count Ferrari and his dance friends?
Dinner location was captured on a recommendation by the shop keeper who sold Lori a pretty square of material to be used as a wrap for the beach.  Lori also did a great job of negotiation when buying her Aztec dog in a very nice art shop, getting the price from $485 to $410p in active offers and reoffers.  We found some way cool 'Day of the Dead' statues, called Catrinas, in yet another art shop.  Will have to get one of these fashion show stylizers.  Very detailed and pricey.
These girls in red were $900p and about 16" tall.  A bit delicate
for us to transport at that price.  Note the black tails.

Anyway, we ate at Agave and were told it was not expensive but it was 2xs the price of most our meals at $485p.  It was the best food of the trip but we are not great at spending money for food so don't do it often but do enjoy it when we find a good place.  Great salads and too much food.  It was fun looking down on the street from the 2nd floor balcony.  We were the first diners of the evening at 8:00 PM and another couple came in after us but that was it, most likely for this restaurant for the night.  Slim pickins and very slow.

When we get back to our home away from home:
Chanel with the red collar and Gigi (mother of C) without a collar
and a happy dog petting Countess, after a tough night of dining out.
Friday (day 8):

MOS...  (More Of the Same).  We got to beach at noon and had some sun, cold drinks, and a couple of walks along with a swim.  Back to the room for a shower and nap at 4:30 PM.

The weather never changes.  We did get another couple move into the B&B.  We shall see how that goes as we are used to having the entire thing to ourselves.  They took the upstairs suite which is the nicest with the most space.  We looked at it and decided our room was cooler with a greener (albeit smaller) view.

Saturday:  A cruise ship came and we stayed at the beach rather than face the crowds of the Silver Sea. Not a real huge one but enough to keep us on La Ropa.

Bathroom details:

A long thin corridor done in tile and decorative rocks.  Very well executed.

Floor detail

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