Category Archives: Travel

Can we have your Feedback Please?

Hi travel fans,

Here are a few simple questions that will give us some feedback to allow us to improve future travel blogs.  Please take a moment and let us know how we did.  Also, all comments will be appreciated.

Thanks again and see you next trip.

Keith

Advertisements

Bye Bye Mexico!

Hi to you all,

Well, today is our last beautiful, sunny, warm day in this Mexican paradise.  We had breakfast at the hotel for the first time today, while waiting for our taxi to the airport.  As we sat in the relaxed atmosphere I realized just how beautiful this place is.  Our table is open to the magnificent view of the bay and you feel the soft breeze from the water directly in front of us and from the slowly turning overhead fan.  There is classical music playing softly in the background.  The staff is friendly and attentive and the food is good.  I don’t want to go home!

The main doors to Villa Vera are large beautiful carved wooden doors.  They contain intricate carvings and are in very nice shape.

As we reflect on our week here in Zihuatanejo there are some positive thoughts that come to mind that you may find useful if you ever come to this part of Mexico:

  1. We think the Zihuatanejo area is more authentic than Ixtapa.  The downtown if full of small shops and the city has put roofs over many of the sidewalks so the shopping experience is much more comfortable;
  2. The resorts here are smaller than in Ixtapa.  A smaller resort offers a much more intimate experience.  You are far more likely to meet new friends and it is much quieter than the big resorts in Ixtapa with their poolside sound systems turned up to 3 decibels above the threshold of pain;
  3. Most of the resorts are located adjacent to Playa La Ropa.  While our resort was located across the bay from Playa La Ropa, it was quite isolated.  If you are not prepared to either taxi or walk down the mountain to town you will be fine.  It’s only a 15 minute walk but by the end of the week coming back becomes a bit of a chore particularly with a full belly of food;
  4. Food prices here (and in Ixtapa) run around half of what you will pay at home.  There are lots of restaurants to choose from and the food is excellent.  Don’t take the all-inclusive option.; and
  5. The beaches are excellent.  Both the downtown beach as well as Playa La Ropa are great beaches.  The downtown one tends to be a bit quieter and the water is less rough as it is protected somewhat from the ocean access to the bay.  This would be better for swimming, although Playa La Ropa tends to be busier with both tourists and locals.

You may remember from Shame on You Mexico and from Its Not What You Know But Who You Know, that we were supposed to have a solution to the materials stolen from Alicia by the airport security staff.  When we arrived at the airport, we asked for the person who was supposed to return the soda pop and toiletries taken from Alicia on 21 May.  Nobody seemed to know of the person.  We eventually found a security supervisor working for Continental who told us that the manager of the airport did not work on the weekend and was not the person we had the name of.  We explained what we were supposed to recover and she explained that she knew that there was no Apple Pop seizures in their inventory.  Well, you can’t believe everyone I guess!

The process of checking in at the Zihuatanejo airport involves a physical search of checked luggage before you get to the desk to get your boarding pass.  We were told that this process will disappear soon as they are soon to receive x-ray equipment for the luggage.  All passengers go through an inspection, it’s not just a spot check.  As we were having our luggage checked, the line up next to us, for an Aero Mexico flight was also being checked.  I watched as 4 cans of soda pop were removed from a protesting passenger’s checked luggage.  When we got to the desk the security supervisor we had talked with earlier was there so I asked her why the pop had been removed from the checked luggage.  Se indicated that there was a crush hazard if the luggage was stacked or handled badly.  I asked her why there was no sign warning travellers that soda pop would be removed from checked luggage before they entered the luggage check area.  People might want to sit down and drink it themselves and not donate it to airport security staff.  Also, you cannot take pop through the personal security screening and in your carry on so it would be better to remove the pop from checked luggage and give it back to the traveller.  They could decide how to dispose of it before they went through personal security.  Anyways, the response from the supervisor was a typical Mexican shrug.  It seems that, although pop in checked luggage provides no security hazard, in Mexico they seem to want to protect travelers from themselves.  As far as I am concerned, if I want to take the risk of having soda pop leak all over the inside of my luggage, I should be able to do so.

Well, this brings our trip and my postings to a close.  It has been lots of fun for me to share our trip with you through my ramblings and images.  This blog software works well, once you get used to it.  To date we have had 1,367 views, and I would consider that a success.  If anyone is interested in doing a blog, WordPress.Com gives you 3 GB of free space and the use of all their different templates and widgets.  All of this blog has only used up 36.8 MB including the 181 images uploaded to the site.  I would definitely use this process again.

Now, I have no way of knowing who the 1,367 people are, as I only get a hit count.  As such, I will produce one more posting with a short survey attached and ask you to give some feedback for future uses.  Also, if you would like to be advised of our next trip we do this for, please subscribe to this blog by providing your email address at the bottom of the right column of this posting.  I will send you an email before the next trip with instructions of how to reach the blog for that trip.

Thanks so much for your interest in our trip.  Remember, if you ever need someone to document your vacation, I’m available.  It will just cost you airfare, accommodation, and food.  Also, if anyone wants a higher resolution copy of any of the images in this blog, at a reasonable cost, shoot me an email at khowie@shaw.ca.  Tell me the image name (mouse over the image and the name will show) and what size you would be interested in.  I will get back to you with details.


Playa La Ropa and a Wedding on the Beach

Hi travellers,

Guess what!  Another sunny warm day here in paradise.  Its was 33 C and we went to the beach.  This was our last full day here in beautiful Zihuatanejo area.

Our other new friends, Julie and Ed, move over to the Pacifico resort in Ixtapa for another week today.  I wonder if we could camp out on their balcony?

For our last breakfast we headed down town with Julie and Ed for breakfast at Bananas restaurant.  They make a mean fruit smoothie.  I liked the sign on the outside of the restaurant about the soccer game.  They spell kind of  like I do.  Too bad they don’t make a spell checker for a white board.

After an enjoyable breakfast we said our good byes and jumped on a bus for Playa La Ropa.  I think when they retire the buses that run from Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo, they put them on this route.  I’ve not seen such beat up old busses since our early travels to Mexico.  They rattle and shake and all sound like they need a new muffler.  Oh well, the fare here is only 5 pesos and they run with all the windows and doors open so you are not overcome by fumes.

Playa La Ropa is right across the bay from our resort.  If you stood in our resort pool and looked across the bay, Playa La Ropa would be at about 10 AM.  Today is Saturday and even with the triathlon in Ixtapa, the beach is busy with locals.  It’s very scenic here, with resorts built along the beach and up the hillside.  I took a shot of our resort from Playa La RopaVilla Vera is the big brown building in the top right quadrant of the image.

We were in Zihuatanejo twelve years ago for a day when we drove up the coast from Acapulco.  Until today, we were not sure where in the Zihuatanejo we had stayed.  Today, we located it and some other familiar landmarks.  It was here at Playa La Ropa!  Judge for yourself from the images I have enclosed.

There were a group of about 20 high school kids sitting just down the beach from us.  Some of the boys started doing some tumbling on the sand.  One of the kids was pretty good.

We headed back to the resort later in the afternoon, surviving the gassy bus ride once again.  The climb up the hill is getting harder and harder to do.  For those that need to know, it is actually 0.75 Km and takes just under 10 minutes to climb.  According to my workout monitor, you will burn 37 Kcal on the uphill walk.  The last part is the killer with a 45 step steep staircase to climb.

We decided we would descend the mountain one last time for dinner tonight.  It is a bit cooler and there is a steady cooling breeze so we picked a restaurant we had been to before, Tatas restaurant.  It was a beautiful night and they are located right on the beach, in fact, in the sand about 20 feet from the water.

Because this was our last night I elected to leave my camera at the resort.  It weighs 14 pounds and after two weeks of lugging it around with me everywhere, I thought it would be nice to have a night without it.  Now this has backfired on me before and, sure enough, it did again tonight.

We arrived at our restaurant and right next door on the sand there was a local wedding happening.  It was just a small group of local people but they had set up a small shelter made of palm leaves right on the public beach and lined both sides of a 20 or so foot pathway from the beach walkway with coconuts that were carved out, then filled with kerosene and lit.   The bride was in a long white dress and the groom was also in white but Mexican casual.  The whole service took about 15 minutes or so and all the people walking down the beach applauded when the ceremony was over.  I wish I had some pictures to show you.  I should have guessed.  We have been here 3 Saturdays and the previous 2 have both had weddings.

We had a great dinner and an opportunity to say good-bye to Umberto, the proprietor, who we have come to know.  I had garlic shrimp and Andrea had lobster.  With drinks, the meal was only 360 pesos (around $35.00).  We lingered an hour or so until dusk watching a half-dozen or so kids on boogie boards performing in the surf.  It was a fitting close to a wonderful vacation.

There probably will be no post tomorrow as we overnight in Houston.  I’ll catch you up when we get home on Monday.


A Dress for Andrea

Howdy,

Today was another perfect day here in paradise.  Sunny and 32 C again.

Today we headed into Ixtapa for lunch at the Pacifico resort.  We had a coupon  for 400 pesos (about $40.00) to use up.  Have you ever tried to spend $40.00 on breakfast in Mexico?  It’s a bit like the game you played as a kid where you tried to spend a million dollars out of the Sears Catalog.  It’s hard to do but we did it.  With a tip, we were able to spend it all.  (Murray, you’d have been proud)

Part of the lunch was a huge fresh fruit concoction that was to die for.  Take a watermelon and lop the bottom off it so it will sit flat on a plate.  Cut the melon off about 5 inches above the plate then take an ice cream scoop and dig 3 large holes in the watermelon.  Put the scoops of watermelon back on top of the watermelon, then stand full size slices of cantaloupe, honey-dew melon,  and papaya in the 3 watermelon holes.  Finish it off with a big old scoop of lime sherbet.  I’d love to show you a picture but we kind of got eating before I got the camera out and it was gone before I could take the picture!

We finished our shopping in Ixtapa and escaped before there were too many barriers set up to impede the traffic.  There is a huge triathlon here tomorrow.  Apparently it is an annual event and a very big deal here.  There is lots of preparation underway and we were warned that trying to get anywhere in Ixtapa tomorrow will be difficult.

I think I have been away from home too long!  All the mannequins here look particularly well filled out and all the stores have them.  They don’t seem to look the same as most of the people we see walking in the street but I will keep looking and let you know if I find a match.  😉  For some reason, that has now escaped me, I thought that this information might be useful to someone.

We were walking down the street and found a wedding shop with some dresses that are quite different from home.  (Alicia, pay attention)  They are really quite beautiful.  Andrea has picked out the gold one to wear to Alicia’s wedding. (Hehe)  If anyone is looking for wedding garb and likes these styles, we can give you the address.  They have pretty good pricing too.  These three are each between $400.00 and $600.00.

We found another massage place today.  This one was in town and provided a real good massage for 250 pesos.  (about $25.00)

We lost two of our group today.  Paige and Jay left for home.  We hope they are still following this blog because we need them to know what they missed tonight.

As we walk to and from town, we have been passing Lety’s restaurant but we have never gone in.  It turns out that this little place, above a fisherman’s bar is another Trip Advisor recommended restaurant.  It’s kind of on the wrong side of the tracks, or in this case river and looks a tad local.  It’s one of those places that you would normally just walk by.

Julie, Ed and us walked to the small second floor restaurant and seated ourselves at one of the dozen or so tables and ordered coconut shrimp.  After all, it was the specialty of the house.  The owner, Lety herself, came out and introduced herself to us and thanked us for coming then headed off to the kitchen to prepare our order.

The second floor location provides a nice view of the public pier, across the river.  Lety tells us that she has owned the restaurant for about three years.  The decor was already there when she opened the restaurant.  Would you have guessed from the wall art that it was a fisherman’s bar?

The food was excellent!  The coconut shrimp was done perfectly and the shrimp were a good size.  This place gets a double thumbs up for great seafood, authentic atmosphere, friendliness, and being close to our hotel.  Too bad we have been walking by instead of walking in!  Too bad, Paige and Jay, you missed another great one.


Thalasso or a Swim?

Hi again travellers,

Once again today is warm, sunny, and 32 C.  We had part of our breakfast in our room which consisted of coffee and some sweet rolls that we bought from a street vendor on the way back to the hotel last night.  They were 3 pesos each which would be about $0.30.  We headed downtown to finish breakfast at a restaurant that was recommended by Jay, one of the group that we were out with last night.  The draw was a large fresh fruit plate for 25 pesos (around $2.50).  We found the La Tertulia restaurant right across the street from Zorro’s bar, right where it was supposed to be.  The large plate of fresh fruit fed both Andrea and I.

We decided to use up a day pass that we ad for the Loma Del Mar’s Thalasso Spa.  Now when we first saw this place a few days ago and they called it a Thalasso Spa, I had no idea what “Thalasso” was or meant but I was suitably impressed as it sounded very, exotic, expensive, advanced and spa like.  It turns out that “Thalasso” simply means sea water or salt water.  I was disappointed!  Could it be that this whole exotic spa experience could be equated to a swim in the sea?  We went anyways because of all the toys around the main treatment pool that I wanted to play with.  Thanks, Andrea for being a good sport.  I needed a model to show the treatments and after much sniveling, groveling, and begging on my part she agreed to fill in for Alicia, who went home early!

We were met by Vicky, who was assigned to help us through our treatment.  The whole think takes about 2.5 hours and it is all water related.  There are 15 steps in the complete treatment.  Here is what happens:

  1. This is the Reflexology treatment.  You walk over a path of small round stones that are about an inch in size.  This is designed to give stimulation to the feet.  At the end of the small path of round stones, you are deluged with 3 large volume water jets.  One for either side of you and one directly above you.  It is a great massage for the neck and back.  Alicia, I have permission to use this picture.  It is not a peeper shot;
  2. The next step is a relaxation stage where you lay on a fiberglass bed in the salt water treatment pool and air is gently released through the holes in the bed.  It is very comfortable and relaxing.  You have to hold on or you will float away;
  3. Next is the treatment for neck and shoulders.  You can move back and forth to get the water directed to right places.  Very effective and relaxing;
  4. Now a more gentle stream of water is directed to your face and head.  It is a refreshing experience as long as you keep your eyes shut.  Remember, this is salt water;
  5. Next, you use an air jet chair.  You sit in the chair while the air is directed to the back of your legs and back.  Very relaxing.  It’s surprising how good the back of the leg jets feel after just a few minutes of treatment;
  6. Now, jets from the floor of the pool shoot up.  There are three positions you use.  Standing will work the lymph system.  Lay on your back to work the lower back and roll over to stimulate your stomach.  Guys, be careful;
  7. The next stage works the muscles in you shoulders and neck.  The small jets are intense and feel quite sharp.  Andrea liked this one but I found it a bit uncomfortable.  It felt like someone was sticking needles into my back;
  8. This step also works the shoulders and neck but without the sharpness of the small jets.  This thing is powerful so you cannot back up too close to it or you will loose your balance;
  9. The jet tub is for relaxation again.  This is a bit like a standard hot tub only stronger.  Think Tim the Tool Man pump upgrade!  It provided a very nice and relaxing experience.  I could stay in this all day;
  10. Sitting and using the wooden headrest is comfortable and relaxing.  I’m not sure what, other than relaxation it is designed to accomplish;
  11. The round saline pool with salt content of 40% is an interesting experience.  You are directed to lay on your back for 5 minutes in the pool with your body is supported due to the high salt content of the water.    Your ears are under the surface and there is soft music playing in the water.  You experience total relaxation, and feel almost weightless.  I tried to lift an arm after a few minutes and it felt like it weighed a ton;
  12. Next is 10 minutes in the sauna.  Yes, it is 32 C outside and they put you in a sauna; 
  13. When you get out of the sauna, they provide crushed ice for you to close your pours with.  You start with icing your feet and legs and work up to your face and head;
  14. Now you go into a lightly scented wet steam room with lights that change color for 10 minutes.  They call this chromatic therapy.  The lights cycle from dark blue, gradually changing to magenta, then red, and finally light blue; and  
  15. When you finish the chromatic therapy, its back to the crushed ice to cool down, and you finish with a cool shower.

When we were done, we headed up the stairs to the road level of the resort and found that our legs were like water.  We were so tired that we had to take a cab back to the resort.  It really is an amazing treatment.  I must confess that there is no way you can equate this experience to a swim in the sea.  I know my back is out and this helped a lot.  If you ever get a chance to try this kind of treatment, you really should.  It is amazing.

Our little group (Paige and Jay along with Julie and Ed) was off to dinner in town again at 6 PM.  Tonight we were headed to another highly recommended restaurant according to Trip Advisor.  It is called La Casa del Pozole Guerrerense.  Don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either.  We found the place not very cooperative at all.  Jay tried his best to coerce our server into 2 for 1 drinks which are pretty standard around here but he was unsuccessful.  This place is supposed to be known for it’s tamales, but they didn’t have some that were on the menu.  People also didn’t think there was much alcohol in their drinks.

When the food came, it looked great.  Wonderful presentation and large servings.  Some thought their food was good, others thought it average and I thought my garlic fish filet was the worst fish I had eaten on the whole trip.  It was cold, dry, tough and chewy.  I sent it back.  Some of us had sweet tamales for desert but these weren’t particularly memorable either.

I think our generous group might rate this place as average but nothing spectacular.  From my point of view, I thought the best thing about the restaurant was the toilet in the lady’s room, and no, I’m not going to tell you how I knew about it!


In Search of Jay’s Potato

Hi again from sunny Mexico,

This is a catch up post to bring you up to date.

One of the things that’s special about staying at a small resort is that you often  meet some new, interesting people.  In our case, with only a few rooms filled at our resort, that has been our experience.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I went for a run into town at around 7 AM.  I found the fish market open on the beach.  Fisherman had small tarps spread out on the sand beside their boats and were selling the day’s catch.  What a busy place!  Everyone looking for fresh fish was there.

The most of the rest of the day was spent at the pool, talking to other guests, picking on people with iPads,  and generally trying to mitigate the heat.  We talked with Julie and Ed, who are from the San Francisco area and Paige and Jay who come from Portland, as we whiled away the day at the pool.

Eventually, our discussion turned to what dinner plans we had.

 Jay came equipped with some pre trip research about one of the best restaurants in Zihuatanejo, called La Papa Loco (Crazy Potato).  It was characterized as a local restaurant that specialized in baked potatoes.  That sounded like an interesting enough outing for our little group so we set out in search of Jay’s potato restaurant.

The research Jay had included a street map so we kind of knew where we were headed.  We walked down the hill and found a taxi just after crossing the bridge into town.  He offered to take us but 6 people would not fit into his little Toyota so we elected to walk. We headed down the street, checking occasionally with locals to make sure we remained on track.  After missing one turn and going around the block, we found it.  It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t give a second look without it being our specific target.  It is right next to the Victoria Hotel and a car wash operates almost next door .  We seated ourselves at one of the plastic tables in the street and readied ourselves for dinner.

There was a large Mexican cook behind an open grille that contained the largest baked potatoes I have ever seen.  They were the size of small watermelons!  Our order was taken by an equally large server.  Looks like these folks have been sampling their own  goods too much.  We were delivered a table full of food, salsa, chips, sauces, and drinks.  It turns out that the large potatoes I spotted on the grill were just the starter level potato.  Once you place your order, it gets loaded up with all the rest of the stuff that makes up what you ordered.  This causes the size to grow by another 25% or so, kind of like my belt size.  They are huge!

We enjoyed a great local experience and by the end of the meal we all felt as stuffed at the potatoes we had been served.  Dinner for 6… 400 pesos (about $40.00) and a large thumbs up from our little group of intrepid travellers is awarded to La Papa Loco restaurant.

After dinner we wandered back to the beach, stopping for a gelato hit along the way before climbing the mountain back to the resort, which was our next order of business.


Inez and the Thalasso Spa

Hi guys,

Well, I am safely back from our trip with the aliens and they seemed happy with the secret work I performed for them. 😉

Our secret work involved visiting another resort here.  Loma Del Mar is a tiny 18 room resort that features a Thalasso Spa!

There are not many of these around.  If you Google Thalasso Spa, you will find around a dozen or so world-wide.  This is a multi station spa where each station is designed to give some specific kind of benefit to the body or spirit.  When you complete one stage you simply move on to the next.  Everything involves water in some way.  There are saline pools containing high amounts of salt as well as other pools containing only trace amounts.  Some pools contain chairs with air holes, others with water jets, while others are just cool pools.  It looks like an interesting process which we will try later if we have time.

Dinner tonight was at La Pampas restaurant at the Loma Del Mar resort.  This restaurant is similar to the La Faro restaurant at the Pacifico, in fact they are right next door to each other separated by the access to the gondola that takes you down to the beach.  La Pampas features Argentinian cuisine and is a small restaurant of around a dozen or so tables.  The view of the Ixtapa beach from their place is wonderful.

On our arrival at 7 PM, we were the only patrons and when we left at 9 PM, we were still the only patrons.  Our server was a beautiful young Mexican girl, named Inez, who has a great smile (Facebook Status: single: available), and who was friendly and  extremely attentive during our meal.  As far as the food goes, I had the rack of lamb, which was beautifully presented.  Andrea’s reported her Cameron’s Pampa (a kind of shrimp stew) were a bit well done.  We both would suggest skipping the fruit flambé which was a grilled banana.  Other than that, we would give this place a high rating for service an attention to detail.  Ask for Inez.  She will look after you well.