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.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Seduction Zih Style

So... this is your scenario. You are taking someone to Zihuatanejo. You plan to propose or you want to make like Liz and Dick with nights of sweaty, lusty embraces under a tropical moon. You don't know quite how to set the mood. You reason, maybe if she just drinks enough she will be overcome by passion! Unfortunately, chances are she will probably end up hanging over a Mexican porcelain throne and you will be running to the nearest pharmacia. No problemo amigo, I can help! I just spent an evening that had all the elements required to make your dreams come true. Now first let me say, I readily admit I'm a woman of a 'certain age'. Yes, despite my mini-skirts, blond highlights and penchant for wild adventures I am certainly not a young sweet thing easily given to weak knees and non-earned bodice ripping. I know full well what it is going to take to get from point A to a sometimes quite distant B. So, with that being said, let me go over your plan of action. First - reservations for 6:30 pm at La Cala Restaurante at Puerto Mio Hotel. The food, presentation and quality are decent enough, your typical 'continental' style menu - lots of shrimp, steaks, fancy schmancy sauces and big prices. The pay off here is ambiance. When I walked in and saw the dining area I literally gasped. Elegant table filled terraces edge down the hillside to a small punchbowl shaped grotto of boiling sea and pounding waves. We dined on the lower level and were so close to the ocean we literally felt a slight salt spray from the larger waves. (No worries! It only adds to the whole edgy-sexy-danger feel!) As twilight falls, young men scamper up the cliffs to light torches amongst the rocks. The waves crash.. the rocks clack and hiss.. the wine pours... the waiter discreetly hangs back and allows you to work your magic on your paramour. (I know.. I know.... the photo shows my husband and amigo Daniel... but work with me here ok!?) So back to YOU and your beloved. You are nearly there. She smiles and gives you a come hither look. But wait! You need to seal the deal and I know JUST the place... Zihua Blue Lounge.

This restaurant lounge is located on the road to Playa La Ropa on the first hill ascent near Hotel Irma. The taxis will know it. We walked up the stairs to the outdoor deck and saw a few tables, pretty lights, knockout view AND a scattering of beds! And not just any beds, but gorgeous four posters of somewhat unusual height were spaced about every 25 feet throughout the patio. (they even had darling little bed steps up to them) They all featured piles of plump pillows, cozy terry cloth coverings and white sheer curtains fluttering in the breeze. Waiters were casually shuttling back and forth as though people sipping cocktails on beds was the most natural thing in the world. Sexy jazz played on the sound system and stars twinkled overhead. I sprinted over to the nearest bed and clamored up. Of course our experience was complicated a bit by there being three of us so we got a few confused glances from the other couples around us. But we knew others would want to know about this place so we forged ahead. After one cocktail and a wry "why don't you guys find a room..." directed at us from one of the neighboring beds we decided the three of us sharing a 'bed' was taking on a certain scandalous quality. With that we paid the bill and left the other couples to their romantic interludes. But back to you! Take your sweetie to Zihua Blue for the perfect end to a wonderful evening in Zihuatanejo. The playful and unique quality of the lounge can't fail to impress anyone who happens to experience it. Just make sure the night isn't too breezy - the restaurant is set on a hill and can be a tad cool if it is very windy. After a night cap the rest is up to you... Go get her tiger!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pics from Zihuatanejo

Only in Zihuatanejo...

Sometimes you see things here that make you do a double take. Like this sign advertising happy hour at a beach side restaurant called Rossy's. As a wine drinker I was quite happy to see they now encourage you to ask for the buckets... sounds good to me!

As we all know, it can be damned hot in this part of the world. But that shouldn't deter the biker who still wants to dress in his macho bad ass best. Leather in Zih? No problem... just get this little vesty version of a full jacket.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Here Chivo Chivo...

I'm not one for tours. Whenever I run upon one of those ant lines of camera packing visitors led by some guide with a booming voice and clip board I smugly congratulate myself on my esprit de travel. I tend to lump tour takers into two types - the blue haired walker set who have no other choice and those that haven't enough cajones to do it on their own. So it was with great reluctance and humility I allowed Gerry to arrange for a taxi tour of Petatlan and the surrounding area. We fell into the 'no other choice' group as Gerry's injured shoulder won't permit driving and there isn't a Mexican bus driver alive who would put up with my "BANO! NOW!" requirements. So this led us to Juan. He is a charismatic forty-three year old father of four who, over time, has developed his own unique area tour. We drove out of town in his tidy air conditioned taxi, as Juan quickly gave a short history of Zihuatanjo and excitedly pointed out businesses along the way. Although we pretty much knew what a propane factory looks like or what water bottling plants entail, under the spell of Juan's enthusiastic commentary they somehow took on a new and interesting importance. Over the course of the day, as Juan showed us again and again what he termed 'authentic Mexico' we gained an appreciation for the work and thought he put into making what became a very special experience for us.

He first took a detour into the small town of El Pozas, where we experienced the raging inferno of a brick factory kiln and were treated to Juan's cousin's hospitality and a tour of his many fruit and medicinal trees. We squealed wildly (well I did) over the many small herds of goats or chivos trotting happily through the village streets. I dreamily considered how goat ownership might work within our neighborhood rules and covenants. Such lovely little innocent animals I thought as I watched a young goat prance gaily by.. We drove up and down one after another of the unpaved but quaint streets. Everyone smiled, waved and greeted us. I sighed and soaked up this Disney-esque version of Mexico.

Now although I had specifically requested a stop at the Iquana Sanctuary on the road to Petatlan, Juan only nodded and made a vague remark about the 'Iguana Tree' as we edged back out onto Hwy 200. A short time later we turned onto the road to the Zihuatanejo Aeroporto and pulled into the parking lot of the small but immaculate Restaurante Emanual. As we exited the car I looked over to the parking area and trees behind the cafe. My jaw dropped as I saw Iguanas... Hundreds of Iguanas. Iguanas eating.. running.. Iguanas climbing.. draped over the branches of the trees.. screwing...basking... this was frickin' IGUANA HEAVEN. The proprietors of this cafe have taken it upon themselves to be the guardians of the Iguana and it is an official/unofficial Iguana protected zone. We ran back and forth taking as many pictures of Iguanas as we could possibly need in a life time. Juan simply smiled as we piled breathlessly back into the car and were on our way.

As we drove south to Petatlan, Juan cheerfully pointed out the preponderance of 'Sex Hotels'. These establishments rent out rooms on an hourly basis and even provide a curtained carport in which to discreetly park. We then passed the "real" iguana sanctuary sign but at this point my Iguana obsession was satiated so I felt no regrets as we roared by.

Once in town Juan showed us the Petatlan Church and I lit a candle in the adjacent grotto for my recently deceased Mother. After a few prayers and tears we breezed through the gold market and wandered the dark, cool aisles of the Petatlan Mercado. Juan eagerly pointed out chamomile, the ubiquitous butcher stalls, noni juice, Uruapan avacodos finally guiding us into the bright sunshine of the city's streets.

I blinked and surveyed stall after stall of taco counters or Taquerias. You could pull up a stool and feast on a variety of small but delicious looking tacos. One sweet little hand painted sign caught my eye. One of my dear little chivo friends was featured in profile... "CHIVO!" I exclaimed and smiled at Juan. He clapped his hands together and called out, "WANT ONE?!". The next thing I knew I was gazing in horror at a glistening pile of hot cooked meat nestled in a small corn tortilla. Juan looked at me encouragingly and with his great roar of a laugh said, "C'mon!!". This was a moment of truth for me. Was I the true traveler I claimed to be or simply one of the plebeian hoards with fanny packs, strict food guidelines and a ridiculous Heidi goatherder complex to boot? I opened my mouth, took one delicious bite and in seconds it was gone.

The rest of the day Juan drove us to many other out of the way destinations all of which seemed to be accessible only by unpaved rocky roads. Despite the bumps and dust we enjoyed every minute of this 'Anti-Tour Tour'. But rather than divulge any more details, I believe it is best to experience it for yourself. Give Juan a call - Juan Solis Millan - phone number 7551102630... Cab #275 in Zihuatanejo.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Accident Free Days on this Jobsite - O

When we travel a 'theme' to the trip usually begins to develop. Last year in Mexico could be entitled "Surf or Die" as we were hell bent to find the perfect combination of waves and tropical ambiance along the Michoacan coast. The tour culminated, after DAYS of anticipation, with the rather anti-climactic meeting of the 60s surf icon, Mike Doyle. For complicated reasons he briefly became our fellow houseguest at Villa Tropical which we rented in Caleta de Campos. The one time world champion surfer once hung out on Malibu beach with such legends as Corky Carroll and was buddies with the real Gidget. As I poured over the piles of surf journals at the Villa, I concocted a script of our eventual meeting... he would walk into the villa, take one look at my 5'1" frame, my authentic so-cal board shorts, my perky "Sally Fieldish" demeanor and promptly dub me the spitting image of Gidget! Alas, the meeting was more on the par of "Waiting for Godot" than "Gidget goes to Michoacan". After a cursory introduction and a couple of "Hi.. how are you"s, we caught only fleeting glimpses of him moving his board from his private quarters to his car at 6AM.

This year in Zihuatanejo the theme is shaping up to be "Accident of the Day". Yesterday, amid the booming and highly unusual big surf on Playa La Ropa, Gerry turned an attempt at body surfing into a body modification experiment. He now can't lift his arm and is living on advil and copius amounts of painkilling beverages. "Mr Surf", who conquered the monster waves last year at Nexpa, ironically met his match on the calm shores of Zihuatanejo Bay. Go figure.

On the other hand, although we have been somewhat "homebound" this year while we recover from our various injuries, we are finding some great places to snack and refuel as we creak our way around Zihuatanejo. A particular favorite this year is 3 Amigos. Angel hands out the snarky witticisms, humor and gossip while Robert, the philosophical American owner/host makes you welcome and comfortable. We have really enjoyed listening to Robert's interesting stories and take on life. Of course the food is great too and the sweet bartender, Belmar, will whip up a generously poured cocktail with style and panache. While some restaurants 'do good food' they miss on the ambiance or warmth factor. These guys have it all. Just down the alley from the Church...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Just another day in Zih..

Monday, March 3, 2008

Listen to your Mother!

Like most mothers, my Mom passed on some golden rules to live by - Don't run with scissors, never open the oven door while your cake is baking ...and being a frequent visitor south of the border, Always look down when walking in Mexico. As I ponder the dark blue bruise on my palm and my swollen knees this morning I would have to add RUNNING to this bit of sound advice. How did this happen? Well, yesterday started uneventfully enough with a rare blanket of fog drifting in from Zihuatanejo Bay. After breakfast we went about securing three lounge chairs at Rossys on the beach. The beer was cold and the quesidillas greasy and tasty. All was good. Continuing with our daily routine, a late afternoon siesta was followed by dinner at one of the restaurants that line the Playa Principal (the main beach in downtown Zih). We then wandered the streets and took in the bustling Sunday night scene around the basketball court. After a glass of wine at Paccolos we headed over to Bandidos where we intended to have one drink and head home. (I think my mom had a rule about that too) Marcos, the owner, has a keyboard player that warms up the bar crowd before the salsa band starts at 10pm. So we sat sipping our wine and enjoying an eclectic mix of latin hits and 70s rock with a few show tunes thrown in for good measure. Your standard smaltzy piano bar fare. Our old friend Enrique (Bandidos famous dancing waiter) was there, showing off his fancy motorcycle and making the young gringas swoon.
About this time the piano player started an energetic rendition of "New York, New York" and Enrique asked me to dance. There is something that comes over me when this guy starts dancing with me.. we swooped and twirled and did our best impression of "Dancing with the Stars". My yoga practice came into play as he flipped me backwards time and time again. We finished the song with a triumphant finale - Enrique tossed me into a backbend over his shoulder and ala "ice dancing pairs" hoisted me into the air and off the dance floor... I was sure that Cirque de Soleil would be calling any minute.
We happily paid our bill and headed out into the night air.
As we looked down the street to hail a cab Gerry excitedly pointed out two Vaccaros on horseback. In full cowboy regalia they made their way down Calle Cindo de Mayo. My camera stubbornly refused to exit my purse...THIS WAS A GREAT PHOTO OP!! I had to get this picture. They rode down and around the corner. I took off running and "boys", Gerry and Daniel, followed in hot pursuit. So here I was running.. in the dark,..two men frantically trying to keep up with me ..through the streets of Zihuatanejo just to get a photo of a couple of drunk cowboys. I believe at this point I had now violated about 10 of my mom's rules to live by. I brushed by the crowds of late night locals and saw the horses approaching. I picked up speed as I came to the end of my quest when suddenly I was face down on the pavement.. camera skittering across the cement.. bouncers from a nearby nightclub helping me to my feet.. shocked looks on everyone's faces. I watched the horses make their way down the street and around the corner. As for myself.. I and what was left of my composure dove into the nearest taxi.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Zihuatanejo.. three for the road

Arrived last night for yet another visit to dear Zih town.. After some frantic unpacking and suffering my obligatory shin cracking on the bedstead at Casa Rayo Verde we shuffled down the hill to Rossy's just in time for a sunset cervesa. Although we were exhausted from a mere four hours of sleep the night before (Sheraton Hotel.. Please do something about thin walls and creaking mattresses for your over sexed guests) we found just enough energy to revisit Tres Amigos and finish with a night cap at Bandidos. Marcos the amiable host (and as always oh... so .. suave - gulp) gave us a little welcome back gift. Seen in this image, Bandidos has now come out with it's own private label Tequila. Now although for very VERY good reasons I have sworn off imbibing of this nector of the Gods, I may have to try just a teensy bit before the trip is over. I guess you could say that is a warning..