We have been here only one week so we have barely scratched the surface, but it has been a lot of fun so far! For the first time on Cool Change, we are staying in a marina associated with a resort so we get to use the pools, including having a drink at the swim-up bar; playing pool volleyball with the regulars in this timeshare complex; soaking in the large, hot hottub at night when it cools off; watching free movie night in lounge chairs on the lawn, and strolling around the perfectly manicured grounds to watch the sunset over the breakwater with foofoo drinks in our hands.
Our bus ride into town the day after we arrived was eye-opening as we realized how much bigger Mazatlan is than La Paz. It makes La Paz look like a small village. Our bus drove through a busy two-lane main thoroughfare surrounded by restaurants, pharmacies and street vendors selling cheap trinkets in the Zona Dorada, which is the foreigners all-inclusive hotel zone north of the city, and then along the Malecon, the wide walkway bordering the shore on the one side and the more established, Mexican hotels and restaurants on the other. The bus turned up off the Malecon and ended in the Old Mazatlan (Centro) area of the city, where we got off the bus at the indigenous market called Mercado Juarez. This market was so much bigger than anything we’d seen in La Paz; much more like I remember from Cuernavaca. It is good to see that large U.S.-type supermarkets haven’t totally replaced the traditional Mexican market; this market was thriving, with lots of fish, chicken, meats, grocery items, and clothes. As in most of these markets, there is an exciting sense of chaos, with butchers and fishmongers constantly mopping up the faded tile floors and people squeezed onto benches eating over tiled surfaces at the most popular food counters found down narrow passageways that continue forever.
We went to the First Friday Art Walk, admittedly dominated by Norte Americanos, but interesting nevertheless. The Old Town area, centered around Plazuela Machado, is much more chic than I remember it from even 10 years ago or so when Rick and I passed through here on our one and only cruise ship cruise.
We had a snack at a sidewalk cafe on the plaza, and then headed over to the other main plaza (Zocolo) where the cathedral and municipal palace were located. Wow these Catholic countries put a lot of money into their cathedrals! I am always in awe of the grandeur every time I go in one – they certainly inspire a sense of wonder and glory!
During the Art Walk, Rick and I met a Huichol Indian dressed in his traditional garb, selling the peyote art his people are famous for. Rick bought one of his yarn designs, inspired by his view while on peyote of a buck, and he signed the back of the artwork for us.
After our self-guided tour of art and of the Centro, we strolled down to the Malecon along the Olas Altas beach. We enjoyed a sunset cocktail at one of the restaurants along the waterfront and then walked some more. There was a bicycle parade awards ceremony going on, with a Ranchera band playing, and elote and other street food for sale. Lots of families were strolling along the Malecon in the early evening, as seems true everywhere we have been. We saw some of the sculptures along the Malecon before walking back up to the Plazuela Machado to a fine bistro called Water’s Edge where we had one of the best dinners since arriving in Mexico.
Another day we took our bicycles over to a fancy mall not far from the marina. The mall was modern and shiny and spotless; such a contrast to the indigenous market of Benito Juarez that you’d think you were back in the U.S., except, as Rick remarked, you wouldn’t even see a mall as spotless as this in the United States. It seemed as soon as you put your hand on a polished railing, there was someone right behind you polishing it again. It had anchor stores of Liverpool and Sears, with lots of smaller shops like Radio Shack and dress shops, plus a movie theater that played mostly movies in English with Spanish subtitles.
We then headed over to WalMart to do some food shopping. It is not our favorite place to food shop but it was the only market we could get to on our bikes, and I wanted to get some exercise. This city is clearly not as conducive to bike riding as La Paz was; I am afraid that most of our food shopping will have to be done by bus; there is just too much traffic otherwise, and not many back roads.
Another day we took the dinghy out for a sunset cruise of the canals inland from our marina, in the deepest reaches of Estero Sabalo. Elegant homes are constructed along the shorelines, and in the center of one of the canals lies an island full of cormorants taking their nightly perch.
Yesterday we took the short ferry ride across the entrance channel to the beach resorts north of the marina. We were proud of ourselves for walking all the way down the beach to the north end where we congratulated ourselves with some fish tacos.
Well, today I went off early in the morning in the dinghy to my first attempt at an advanced Spanish conversation class since returning to Mexico – the jury is still out on whether it will help me but I will give it a few more tries – and Rick is off now doing his first group class, although he has been intently studying Spanish on his own every day since we arrived in Mexico. This afternoon we are off to El Centro for the opening day of Carnaval, purportedly the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in all of the world! It will continue for the next five days, with Saturday night fireworks and Sunday night parade being the biggest events. We have reserved seats along the route of the parade, so that should be fun.
After that, we still have so much more to explore – we haven’t even begun to discover the salsa dancing seen yet, there are tourist attractions we haven’t seen like climbing to the top of the lighthouse, and we have barely had a chance to really just slog by the pools, not to mention, getting to know the City below the surface. I was just loaned a good sewing machine for a month or so, so I need to take advantage of it to sew up a bunch of pending projects, and Rick has some unfinished boat projects as well. So I imagine we won’t be leaving Mazatlan till at least the beginning of March if not longer. We then plan to head slowly down the coast to Banderas Bay for La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta, where our boat will remain while we are in the States for a while in late Spring/early summer.