Well, we are finally back and the dust...er sand...has settled. Laundry has been caught up, the fridge is restocked with groceries...life is resuming it's normal pace, and I'm back to work tonight.
It was an incredible vacation.
Zihuatenejo is a small fishing village on Mexico's Grand Coast, south of Puerto Vallarta and just outside of Ixtapa. It is NOT a resort community. The Zihuatanejo bay is surrounded by 3 beaches, 2 of which are wonderful for swimming, snorkeling and all sorts of water activities. The weather was in the 80s and sunny every day. The people were engaging, friendly, helpful.
We rented a 2 bedroom 'villa'(like a condo) with kitchen and living room for our entire stay. It was on the 4th floor of the Villa El Morros and extremely reasonable. Comfortable lovely rooms with AC (when needed), ceiling fans, and the nicest staff I've ever met. A bonus was the daily housekeeping and towel origami art.
A new design every day we were there. Three connecting balconies, one off each bedroom and one off the living room gave a stunning, unparalleled view of the bay.
In the morning we awoke to the sounds of local roosters announcing a new day....at night we drifted off to the sounds of music drifting up from the town square. There were many other 'snowbirds' staying at the villas...some remaining as long as 2 or 3 months and they'd been coming to Villas El Morro for years. The swimming pool was cool, clean and also afforded a view of the bay.
Each morning, after breakfast, we would traipse down the 173 (yes we counted...each time) stone steps (quite a workout up and down 2 x each day!)
to the cobblestone road edged by the bay.
We said hello to the pelicans
and other waterbirds. We saw puffer fish and other types we couldn't identify in the waters. A short (less than 10 minutes) walk, "buenos dias" to the local fishermen and dive shop folks, and across the yellow bridge
into the beachfront shops and restaurants abutting the Playa Principal (beach)....but this is the beach where the fishermen bring their daily fresh catches...not a beach for swimming. We would then take a 5 minute water taxi across the bay to Playa Los Gatos, or walk a mile further down to Playa Ropa.
At Playa Los Gatos, we were made to feel like princesses.....restaurants had umbrella shaded lounge chairs lined up and waiting...we would pick a good spot, drop our things and head into the water to play.
Back at our chairs, friendly wait staff would bring beer, other adult beverages, and food menus. They were very attentive! You could get your hair braided into a million braids, have an hour long massage, rent snorkel equipment, get henna tattoos, be serenaded by strolling guitar players. We spent hours and hours of several vacation days there. The dollar exchange was very good, 14+ pesos per $1 american. We spent maybe $30/day total for all the food/drink and extra fun we could stand.
I felt badly at one level though. The economy has caused a 40% devaluation of the peso in the past year (i.e. one year ago the exchange rate was 10 pesos/1 american dollar) and has also impacted the sheer number of tourists passing through. Up until several months ago, cruise ships came through the town 2x weekly....
now it's down to once per week/ with far fewer passengers/tourists. The beaches were never crowded during our 10 day stay. And the prices have remained the same.....and lower...if you decline to purchase anything, vendors will follow you offering their wares for lower and lower, sometimes even as much as half their initial asking price. They are seriously hurting economically.
Another thing I was unaware of is that there is no free public school......we saw many private school kids in their different uniforms, but far more children not in school...and working. In fact, one day a petite girl, probably no more than 6 years old, made her way from beach chair to beach chair singing and dancing for whatever pesos people were willing to give her, while her mother and sister wandered the beach selling jewelry. It was a good life-lesson for my daughter. We also purposely drove through some areas not on the 'touristy path', where the working class people lived in rough shanties with pigs and chickens wandering in and out of homes. I think it was a good eye-opener for my privileged daughter to obtain a real world reality check.
The Mercado Centrale was our stop for fresh fruits, veggies, fish, meats, etc. We loaded a shopping bag every couple of days and made fresh guacamole with tortillas we watched being made...we also purchased vanilla beans, strong coffee and other traditional foods
Sometimes we would eat from sidewalk stands that catered to local workers. The food was amazing. So fresh, so delicious. I know I ate my weight in shrimp while there...barbecued shrimp, garlic shrimp, shrimp tacos, shrimp empanadas, coconut shrimp (aahh Lety's the best coconut shrimp ever ever ever...and I Don't like coconut shrimp...but this was divine!) Drank lots of cerveza (mostly Corona) and a couple or three margaritas......:)
The girl was able to go horseback riding on the beach at Playa Largo one day.
Think miles and miles of soft sandy beach...
it was glorious and she had a fabulous time.
We also did an amazing, once in a lifetime experience...we swam with dolphins.
yes. we did.
Now, I have to tell you, I have conflicting feelings about this. For one thing. I believe that dolphins are intelligent wild animals and should not be in captivity. period. However, the desire to have the experience of being in the water, touching and interacting with these creatures (who were extremely well cared for....and the numbers of people were highly regulated.....and strict rules about no lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, or jewelry so that the dolphins can remain safe and healthy)...well the opportunity over rode my hesitations.
I'll admit, for me, it was a very emotional experience. And these guys were so well trained. We had an hour or more in the water with them...and they did tricks with us....like letting us hold onto their flippers
and getting a 'belly ride' the length of the (very very long and 20 foot deep) pool...
and get this....the trainers asked us to lie flat on our stomachs in the water, legs slightly apart, lock our knees. Two dolphins came up under our feet and lifted us out of the water....pushing us the length of the pool (like circus performers standing up straddling two horses....only these were two dolphins and no reigns....) Like I said, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I only wish that they had given more education about the dolphins and their training etc......I'm sure many people feel the way I do about this. Again, they are amazing animals. This is the website for Delfiniti if you are interested in more info.
I read 4 books while there...Sarah's Key (which the girl also read and loved), Friday Night Knitting Club (total tearjerker), something else that was pretty forgettable...i can't even remember the name...and The Tea House Fire which was amazing and i highly recommend.
I did knit a tiny bit....a sock...which is at the toe. That's all. I napped, I sunned, I ate, I wandered. It was everything a vacation should be. I plan to return again and again as I'm able. Zihua is charming in its Mexican authenticity...no McDonalds, no WalMart, no Costco....just a beautiful place, with wonderful people. The perfect spot for a relaxing vacation.
Well, that's about enough for today....until next time...KNIT ON!