Saturday, November 28, 2009


We have just returned from a 4 night stay in the small, tropical, Pacific coastal city of Zihuatanejo, in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

This trip was out of character, as I especially have not liked beach resorts in the past (I was bored to irritation), and we are both averse to steaming hot locales. (One of the big attractions of the Pátzcuaro area is that it's seldom hot.)

Lately, however, the onset of cold weather here in the Michoacán highlands plus a desire for a change of scene, impelled us into taking this brief trip. I theorized that an air conditioned hotel, in a city with numerous restaurants and shops nearby would appeal to me more than a "chill" beach scene. (Chill beach scene, if I understand that phrase correctly, is a place of hammocks under palapa shape huts, where you lie around, drink coconut water mixed with gin or whatever —neither of us like coconut water—, and I'm good for oh, maybe, 5 minutes chilling in a hammock.)

We decided to travel by bus, an economical and less stressful way than driving. Oddly, no buses go directly from Pátzcuaro to Zihuatanejo; one has to either back track to Morelia or go to Uruapan. Uruapan is the logical choice, as it's 50 miles down the slope and in more or less the right direction. We packed lightly and carried two soft mini-duffel bags and a woven shopping bag. Thus equipped, we walked down our street to the corner, where we waited then caught the combi van to Pátzcuaro.

There's a second class bus stop in lower Pátzcuaro called "La Estacíon", after the long inactive train station nearby. This is a popular transportation hub for buses and combis and taxis. We dared enter the Tortas Pátzcuaro shop, next to the infamous Federal Police Station that got shot up by narcos last year, to buy two tortas (hoagy/sub-like sandwiches) to go. Then we walked a block, waited a few minutes, and got tickets for the Uruapan bus.

The bus is "servicio ordinario", which in other words, means it isn't first class, but it's reasonably comfortable for short trips.
The scenery is beautiful, as the highway winds down the mountain slopes through pine forest and views of extinct cinder cones, then past groves of avocado trees. The outskirts of Uruapan mark the end of the pretty part and the start of the gritty part. It's quite unattractive a place, but the bus station isn't bad. A good thing, as we had over two hours to wait for the next bus. We'd bought our senior discount tickets for the 1:30 p.m. run two days before.

The people watching was above average, and helped while away the time. There's even an operating bakery, where I watched the baker scrape down the dough on the inside of a still whirling dough kneader machine.

From Uruapan, our First Class bus on "La Linea" took us down into the Tierra Caliente of Michoacán and the dramatic mountains around the Presa del Infiernillo reservoir.
Three quite forgettable movies played for our entertainment. (At least, I'm trying to forget the last one, an animated, full-length feature about anthropomorphic eggs, in an Old Mexico desert setting. Although the stark beginning, shaman-haunted and set amongst the buttes and mesas of Real de Catorce was auspicious, it quickly degenerated into mawkish and squawkish silliness.
The autopista disgorged us onto the sunny coast road, which carried us palm thatched huts, cold beer stores and  for about 45 minutes to lovely Zihuatanejo.

The Zihuatanejo bus station has no taxi boleto taquilla where you can buy tickets at a regulated rate. So I was pleasantly surprised when the taxi driver quoted us a rate of $25 MXN to take us to our hotel, Villas Miramar, in Colonia La Madera, a ten minute walk from Centro.

Colonia La Madera is a pleasant, semi residential area, in which most every property is dedicated to the hospitality industry. The principal, east-west-ish street, Calle Adelita, is shady and relatively cooler than the nearby streets across the mostly dry canal that marks its northwestern boundary. There, as in much of touristic Zihuatanejo, English is widely spoken. Prices are often quoted in dollars, but with firmness, you can pay in pesos, which is better for you, the customer.

Villas Miramar was a good choice for us. We are grateful to our friend D.L. Glidden, who told us about it, and gave us many dining tips. The Miramar has two sections, one on either side of Calle Adelita: a "garden view" and a "sea view" section.

We chose the sea view section, which cost us $850 MXN a night (about $66 USD a night, with a 40% discount on the 4th night. It would have been $100 MXN less per night for a garden view room. (These were shoulder season rates, which changes to high season on December 18.)

The room was very spacious and comfortable. There was a small terrace with  a view of the bay and the pool below. There was a small refrigerator; an effective ceiling fan; two double beds, reading lights, an AC unit, a decent bathroom with very ample supplies of hot water, and a telephone, which we never used. The TV had very few channels available, and we had no remote, but TV watching is not among our priorities.

What didn't come with the room was purified drinking water, facial tissues, and instructions for operating the lights. But we bought two liter bottles of water at nearby stores and we eventually figured out the light system.

We were soon into the pool. Not big enough to do laps (like I care?), it was perfect for cool, easy lounging.

I realize that this post is getting long, so I'll leave it here for now and later, describe our quasi-touristic activities and especially, the restaurants, on My Mexican Kitchen.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beam Me Down, Google...

...there's life down there.

I learned on's forums the other day that Google Earth now has Street View for Guadalajara. I have to admit the Guadalajara aspect didn't excite my interest, but I was really thrilled that Google Earth had this feature. The poster helped me out by explaining how to enable Street View in your Google Earth browser. Open the panel on the left side and look under "layers" for "street view", then check the box.
(You can visit Ajijíc and Chapala, if you wish. I haven't tried San Miguel de Allende yet.)

Areas which have been photographed for Street View have little camera icons up and down the street. Mousing over the icon reveals the street name. Corner intersections are indicated with names of both streets.

You can click the camera icons to reveal a small photo, then click the link below to open in Street View. Or, just double click the camera icon to swoop directly down to street level. This is often vertiginous and not for those prone to los mareos. Once at street level, you can drag the image to either right of left and then navigate your way up and down the street. There's some limited zoom in-zoom out capability. To exit, click "exit photo" in the upper right of the screen. This does not return you to your previous, regular view very well. I have to zoom out and correct the North arrow on the navigation tools to reorient myself.

Instead of Guad, I went zooming off at high speed to México, D.F. There I homed in to one of my favorite areas of the city, Colonia Roma. Once I "arrived", I navigated to Avenida Álvaro Obregón, locating various well known landmarks such as Casa Lamm, Hotel Colonia Roma (budget), Hotel Milán (moderate), Hotel Stanza (Executive Class). The latter is located at the corner of Álvaro Obregón and Calle Morelia, with the Jardín Pushkin to the east side. (You can see the street tianguis and food stalls there.) About three blocks up Calle Morelia, at the corner of Calle Colima, I located my favorite hamburger stand. (pictured below) With minimal maneuvering, I was able to get a good Street View, full screen picture and save it.

With a little trial and error maneuvering (the direction you are looking is not always clear.), I then navigated several blocks to the off-center, second floor, shiny chrome and formica restaurant, Las Costillas d' Fuentes, at the corner of Calle Mérida and Calle Durango. Nº 58, to be exact. It's on the first floor up in this modern building, pictured below. It's a slightly odd but pleasant, low priced restaurant specializing in charcoal grilled meats, especially the eponymous rib steaks. Coming soon on My Mexican Kitchen.

This is another great tool enabling us to explore the world and its wonders, thanks to the generous development of the Google Corp.