Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Pretty pretty Patz...
My reverie is the result of our decision to explore the Patzcuaro area for a few days during our annual trip to Zihuatanejo. Although we spend just a short time, the visit left us aching for more. After our initial week in Zih, we took off on the Autopista Siglo XXI, the highway to Morelia-Patzcuaro. Immediately we have a lesson in driving two lane toll roads in Mexico. The Siglo XXI winds through the mountains and although it boasts HUGE shoulders, it is never wider than two lanes. Of course this doesn't stop the ever resourceful Mexicans from passing. In fact not only do they pass on this winding scenic track but the traffic engineers apparently encourage it. Signs are everywhere admonishing slower drivers to use the parking strips so that others can pass. In fact, on one stretch of road another stripe has been painted down the middle of the lane indicating, if you don't have the cojones to pass on a curve, you should keep to the right . So here we are, driving on the parking strip, me frantically imploring, "Don't PASS.. for God's sake don't pass, Gerry!". Cars, trucks and buses zoom around us ignoring the no passing signs and double lines. My rattled husband finally has enough, giving me a 'RELAX or ELSE' look and starts taking a few chances. As yet another bus crawls up our bumper I steel myself to the ordeal and keep my mouth shut as Gerry gingerly joins the dart and go game. About half way there we come upon what I had already envisioned in my mind for the last 100 miles - a horrible head-on accident. We wait while the ambulances pick up the injured and cover the dead. Some impatient drivers ahead of us honk persistently and we shake our heads at this bizarre reaction to the carnage. Surprisingly, we discover later that accidents of this nature aren't all that common on this Autopista but by the time we move through the debris I am ready to walk the rest of the way to Patzcuaro.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Labels: Astoria Pilot House
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Oregon my Oregon
Next stop was the old fishing town of Astoria, Oregon where we checked into the historic Hotel Elliot in the center of the quaint downtown. The Elliot may not be for everyone as it simply drips old hotel ambiance: musty building smells, creaky elevator, frosted glass panels over dark wooden room doors. I half expected an old sea captain to appear with a floozy on his arm. Of course I loved it. The rooms themselves are decorated in period appropriate decor and, though small, were very pleasant. The bathrooms had (wow!) heated tile floors that would be fabulous on a typical chilly Oregon coast weekend. (it was 80 when we were there) I would advise asking for a room above floor 2. Ours had a lovely view of the ventilation system. Our friend Daniel, however, had a very nice room just down the hall which looked out to the hills and the Astoria Column. Location Location ...
Before dinner we popped into The Schooner just across from the hotel. We immediately made friends with the charismatic and interesting bartender, Rob, who managed to design the ultimate Cosmo while keeping us mesmerized with a fast paced monologue that ran the gamut from surfing to parenting. He had a cool tattoo of the NY Yankees logo too...we ran into him later at the Baked Alaska. (ok.. I was a little smitten)
We dined at the popular Italian restaurant, Fulio's, just around the corner from Hotel Elliot where we experienced the wonders of grilled romaine lettuce salads. (you will just have to trust me on this one) After dinner we wandered down to the Shipyard Inn for an energetic night of 70's rock and dancing. They have an impressively large hall located in the back of the bar that could easily seat 500 people. When we were there the crowd was significantly less than 'full house' (you could have safely done cartwheels across the width of the floor) but we enjoyed the Jimi Hendrix sound alike guitarist and the Astoria crowd who were totally into it.
The weekend finished up with a night out in Portland. Because we live there I generally avoid mentioning any of my experiences as, strictly speaking, my Portland life isn't travel oriented. But
this particular night I went on a 'trip' of sorts. I tried absinthe for the first time. Just that week I had read the 'real thing' (Yes, the Absinthe of decadent Paris and Tolouse Latrec!) had become legal and Oregon bars were beginning to serve it. So while we lounged at the Blue Hour bar I noticed a beautifully decorated bottle sitting on the shelf - Absinthe. I knew immediately I had to ..well.. experience it. (Am I detecting a Jimi Hendrix theme to this post??) Blue Hour spared nothing in the whole ritual of the Absinthe 'setup'. The silver slotted decorative spoon.. fire lit sugar..the beautiful little crystal glass of water on the side. The cube drops.. the water swirls.. the blue turns to a milky green. Without going into too much detail, I will just say I am one of those susceptible to the 'green fairies'. The night whirled to a finish with my husband (and my cat) having forbidden me to go near the stuff again.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Body Surfing.. The Sequel
After a couple of months trying to convince himself and everyone else that he was FINE DAMMIT, Gerry finally relented and saw a physician about his shoulder. With the help of such wonderful diagnostic machines as the MRI (guaranteed to cause "get me the hell outta here" claustrophobia in even the most stable of folks) my aspiring surfer husband found his body surfing adventure had resulted in three severely torn rotary cuff tendons. This revelation was followed by surgery, a week of excruciating pain and all you can eat oxycontin. On the up side he got to pretend he was a recovering NFL player when we rented the cool psuedo- sporty Game Ready Ice and Compression Machine. He was finally able to hire a lawn service! And he was put on the injury list for dish washing duty for a couple of months. He has been a pretty good sport though as you can see from the photo. The other night at the San Dune Pub in Manzanita, Oregon I whined about us not getting to dance. He came back with a defensive "oh yeah??" and pulled me out onto the dance floor. After the song, the band leader remarked wryly, " C'mon folks.. if a ONE armed guy can dance...EVERYone get out there!" Shrug. Maybe the singer mistakenly thought the massive black sling was some kind of prosthetic device. So just remember gang, when the waves are too big, the break too short and your logic goes out the window you TOO can have this kind of summer fun - it lasts and lasts...
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Rants, Raves and Lessons on Staying in the Present
It has been roughly a month since we returned from Zihuatanejo. After having a few weeks to regroup, there are a few things that still warrant mentioning. Always top of the list are the restaurants. I have to admit I'm getting a bit tired of eatery posts. More often than not these days there is a trend among trip reports in which the primary focus is eating. A typical report goes something like this: "Monday we went out to eat at Restaurant X and ordered grilled Y with Z sauce. It was excellent and cost only (fill in the blank) dollars/pesos/euros/yen! The waiter was blasted slow and we about died of hunger but the place was packed so we understood. Tuesday we went to... " And on and on for about nine long paragraphs. Sigh. Why don't they just stay home and go out to dinner every night?! It would save them a lot of time and money. With that said here are a FEW Zih restaurants that we tried for the first time this year that are noteworthy...
Worth a Repeat Restaurant - Cafe Mandarino: This cozy cafe is located across from the church on Calle Cinco De Mayo. Their culinary niche is a varied offering of yummy filled crepes. The dinner crepes are quite large and filled generously with your choice of everything from Mexican to French fillings. In fact, the only regret about this place is that we were so full we weren't able to work our way through the dessert crepes. Crepes may not be traditionally Mexican but it was a nice change.
Cleanest Restaurant - Neuva Zealanda: We only ate breakfast here but their sparkling floors, tidy cafe counter and pristine bathrooms inspired confidence in their food. Even their menus were unsmudged! Fairly priced meals, standard Mexican menu and decent portions.
Calle Cuauhtemoc #23
Craziest Restaurant with Great Food - Angelos Pizza:
Whew! This place is something out of a Fellini film.
- A screaming, raging, pan-banging Italian chef
- A dreamy sweet faced waiter serenely taking orders and trying to retain calm
- A sea of impatient customers unwittingly adding to the tension by their constant neck craning in the direction of the kitchen.
- Us.. as.. well.. ourselves!
When we visited we were seated promptly and after ordering, sipped on excellent and inexpensive wine. Eventually it was impossible to ignore the barrage of outraged screams coming from the kitchen. Coupled with this cacophony was a seemingly endless parade of the chef's friends who wandered by calling out enthusiastic greetings in Italian. (who knew there were so many Italians in Zih?) The shouts, agonized cries and pot banging continued from behind the counter. We fidgeted and wondered if coming here was a terrible, terrible mistake. At last, from this real life 'Hells Kitchen' chaos, our pasta dishes emerged. Within seconds we knew! They were ALL delicious. Forks stabbed ferociously back and forth as we struggled to try a morsel of each other's dinner. At last satiated, we sipped our wine, sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere. Apparently the evening hadn't been exciting enough for him, because Gerry took advantage of our pasta induced reveries (and subsequent inattention) to interject himself into this mad house. The chef had been doling out a scathing, long and LOUD critique to our serene and unflappable waiter. The monologue seemed to revolve around the pros and cons of firing him.
At this point my husband entered the fray. God help you if you are in a discussion with my Irish 'Persuader'. He can go all ten rounds - talking at you.. over you.. twisting what you say.. bringing up random bits of evidence to support his case...Yes, Gerry can go on for hours. So as the debate raged, both men's voices became louder, faces turned redder, customers interrupted their homage to pasta and exchanged looks of alarm. As I was preparing to give Gerry a kick in the shins (my long standing marital signal for 'knock it off, blockhead!') a silence fell over the establishment. The chef nodded in resignation and as he slumped weakly into a chair he agreed to keep our saintly waiter on staff. I strolled over and briefly interviewed this mercurial restaurant owner. Found out he was from the south of Italy.. had been chef at many interesting establishments.. just your typical, amazingly talented, wild Italian chef! As we prepared to leave, the waiter glided by our table and baring his peaceful Buddah-like smile, he breathed a soft "Thank you..". For this quick tempered Gringa he was a walking sutra lesson.
So, although Angelos is not for everyone, this place served up an unforgettable evening of high drama, some unexpected inspiration and outstanding food! We will be back. At Pedro Ascencio and Agustin Ramirez
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
My Other Brigadoon
For the last several decades I've been fortunate enough to enjoy our family beach house near Manzanita, Oregon. The house my parents built lies in the lee of the legendary Neahkahnie Mountain which, according to Oregon coastal Tribal traditions, is said to possess mystical powers and be home of the Great Spirit. Many mornings we have watched the mists and fog, like some witches brew, spill over the top of this oceanside peak and trickle down the slopes to meet the sea. Those that live in the mountain's shadow talk of feeling a sense of being in a hidden, otherworldly place of peace and contentment. Once, while sharing a glass of wine with a local resident of the area, Kate Johnstone, we discussed this phenomena. She nodded in agreement and remarked wistfully "This IS Brigadoon...". Now I believe I have found yet another Brigadoon; Zihuatanejo. In my own mind It certainly fits the definition - a place where time seems to stop, each visit feels as though you haven't aged a day and a sense of being removed and protected from stresses of the world. Oh, I know, my perception is perhaps the result of too much sun, cervesas and late night viewing of old Gene Kelly musicals but I truly feel I am somewhere 'else' when I am there. As I return from my most recent visit to Zih I am haunted by this altered sense of reality and joy that I experienced for a few short weeks.