Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Real Day vs The Planned Day

Before we went to bed last night, we decided that today would be the perfect beach day. To be honest, they are all perfect beach days, but sometimes it just makes us feel a teeny bit more productive if we actually plan something. We also promised ourselves that tonight we were going out for a Shrimp dinner, at either of two local restaurants that have been highly recommended , Mariscos El Memin and El Guamuchilito Mariscos. We have planned this dinner several times over the past week or so, but something always seems to come up – we're too tired after exploring all day, we've eaten too much food for lunch, or once again, or once again, we've had an “Impromptu” evening.

So, we have the day all planned – get up, have our regular breakfast on the patio, take Abi for her morning stroll, then off to the beach for a few hours then home for a clean up and siesta, a puppy walk and then off for our feed of shrimp. We've even got our Mexican Spanish to English food lesson set out to take with us so we know exactly what we're ordering. We have also vowed that there will be no lunch at the beach, because, remember, we are going out for shrimp tonight.

We got off to a great start, breakfast and dog walk went as scheduled. The walk to the beach also went smoothly; we even found a more direct route. So far so good. Tried two palapas, but liked the second one better - could have been because the Tecate (the beer of choice) was only 15 pesos. That`s about $1.50. Then we decided that we really had to have the fish – Red Snapper, grilled, whole. But, keeping the shrimp dinner in mind, we will only have one and share it. Which we did. However, the salsa was amazing, so we had several bowls of that as well. Feeling a bit full now, but if we walk home, we will wear it off. But it's hot, the buses are cheap ...

While we're on the bus, we hear someone mention Edgars. Oh Oh – off to Edgars we go with a quick stop at the Central Mercado for limes (got to make this look good, like we meant to go to the market and just happened by chance to wander past Edgars). Well, what a surprise, ran into some folks we'd met before, so chatted to them for a bit, and had a chance to get reacquainted with Miki, our favourite waitress. She thought we'd gone home, so was glad to see us (well, especially Mike, or Mikie, her name buddy!)

By this time, we've decided that the shrimp is definitely not happening, especially since the botana today was a huge bowl of tortilla soup, so after we left Edgars we stopped off at our favourite chicken stand by the market and picked up a barbequed chicken for dinner.

We started the trek home, discussing what a truly wonderful day we had had, couldn't be more perfect, etc. etc. Then we chanced upon the hairdresser that our friend Nora had recommended. Mike
had just mentioned that he desperately needed a cut, so next thing we knew, he was in the chair. Tony did a great job, I was feeling a bit scruffy (really, with hair only ¼ inch long it can still br messy), Tony waved his scissors, and I left the shop looking pretty good too. With some hairspray. I have hair!!! Not much, but I need hairspray!!!!

This has been a great day. Wonder what the shrimp would have tasted like. Oh well, another day. We just won't plan to go there and maybe we'll actually make it one night!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Health Issues

Swine Flu seems to be the leading story on the news these days, and I guess for obvious reasons. We're starting to receive queries on the state of our health and I know that some people are concerned about our safety.

I'd just like to reassure everyone that all is well in Mazatlan. The breakout seems to concentrated in the Mexico City area, which is about 750 miles away. We have heard that the bars in Peurto Vallarta have been closed, but as a precautionary measure. The Governor of the State is concerned that, as the schools in Mexico City and surrounding areas have been closed, the students will turn this into another spring break and flock to the beaches and bars of the resort cities. Hopefully the same won't happen in Mazatlan. We really don't spend all that much time in bars anyway! We are starting to notice a few residents of Mazatlan wearing masks but other than that all is normal here.

Mike and I had to have flu shots this year before I started Chemotherapy and during the treatments had to be very careful to avoid infections of any kind. We are just continuing with that practice - lots of hand sanitizer, avoiding crowds, etc.

We'll be fine!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Edgars Bar ... A Mexican Cantina

Edgar's Bar is an old (1940's) style Cantina. Cantina's are unique to Mexico and typically are great places to have a “refuge from both the wife and life” ... not my comments but from a very good article with much more detail by a local writer by the name of Bodie Kellogg.

He has written a great article about Cantina's in a local publication called M – Arts,entertainment and information”. If you would like more detail have a look at in the April issue and the article is called; “Cantina Crawl: Not for the Tender-Hearted”

But Edgar's has been our favourite. It is very near the Central food market and when we go shopping there it is very convenient to stop for a cerveza and something to eat on the walk home. Around 2:30 every day they serve a Botana – which is a small plate of food and it is free!! Some days it is a meat stew with rice and refried beans and tacos; sometimes it is marlin stew; or a Mexican versin of meatball soup; or a shrimp soup with a couple of shrimp in the soup to chew on or it might be a Mexican salad with seafood of some kind mixed in. Throw in a cheap Tacate beer and you've got a light lunch for about 1.20 Cdn or less if they have a special promation on the beer. Some people even bring their own food in; a bbq'd chicken or a few tacos and no one at the Cantina seems to care.

But the people are the most fun. Business people, local folks, some tourists and people selling everything from watches, to peanuts to pirated vieo tapes. They also have music every day; mostly a fellow playing the piano and an older man playing an old beat up guitar ala Willie Nelson.

And the waitresses are a real hoot. They all dress in black and white and flirt with the patrons; hugging and kissing old friends and new patrons alike. Our favourite is Miki whom you can see in the pictures along with the bartender and the manager.

Somehow I don't think this idea would ever work in Canada but in Mazatlan and Mexico it is a time homored tradition to go to the Cantina for drink and conversation.

Next time you travel to Mexico search one out; I promise an adventure awaits you.

Afternoon at the Beach

We decided it was time for an ocean fix, so spent the afternoon at North Beach, which is about a 15 - 20 minute walk from the Casita. We can see it from the patio, way off in the distance. It was almost deserted, certainly a change from the crowds during Samana Santa, and so it was very peaceful and relaxing. We had lunch at Lupe's, a Palapa which was recommended by our friends Nora and Omer and the food was every bit as good as they said. We shared grilled fish filets and tortilla soup, which were delicious, then walked along the beach for miles just enjoying the feel of the sand between our toes. On the way home, we turned the corner and met this little guy, just strolling down the sidewalk.

By the way, the group strolling down the beach was one family, all men. Guys day out, I guess!

The Impromptu Evening

We went to the beach yesterday afternoon, had lunch, and then walked home so we were sort of worn out and decided that we would just stay at home in the evening, maybe play a few games of Chicken Feet Dominos and then perhaps watch a movie. However when we got home we checked our email and had received a posting from Janet, the editor of M!, a new Mazatlan newspaper for the English speaking folks in town. She was letting everyone know that there was entertainment at the Plaza Machado in the evening, part of the Dance Festival that's going on right now. So, we changed our minds, called Brenda and Wayne and met them there. The first segment was a Cirque du Soleil type number, which Brenda and I both really enjoyed. Mike and Wayne said they missed most of it because they were napping. The second two numbers certainly kept them awake though – these kids were amazing and it was extremely entertaining.

Now, if we were smart we would have ended our evening there and just gone home. However, some one decided we should stop for a marguerita (I'm going to blame Brenda and Wayne for this) at one of the restaurants at the Plaza and one marguerita of course leads to another. As were sitting there, the Plaza Mime wandered over and made Brenda and I balloon puppies and lovely balloon hats for the boys. Which they wore. We ended the evening at the Bull Fighters Bar where some fool (Mike) ordered yet more tequila. I'm not sure what became of the puppies, or the hats.

Tonight we're going to behave ourselves and stay home. I think.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh for the juice of a Lemon

It's the funniest thing – lemons simply cannot be found in Mazatlan. I don't know about the rest of Mexico, but we have searched high and low and there is not a lemon to be found in this city. Or, for that matter, lemon juice in a bottle. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, and it really isn't. Except when you have a craving for Caesar salad and for all of those who make your own dressing, you know that lemon is an important ingredient. I would advise not trying to substitute lime juice – an interesting taste, but definitely not Caesar salad. We also have a favourite pork tenderloin marinade which calls for lemon juice. After the attempt at Caesar salad, I was a bit hesitant. As luck would have it, we were dining out at a favourite 'real' restaurant, Te Amo Lucy, and during a chat with the Tony, the owner the subject of the lack of lemons came up. Apparently they do show up, rarely, and when they do, he buys lots, as in bags and bags, juices them and freezes the juice in ice cube trays. I came home with a cube, made the marianade, and dinner was delicious. However, I am still hunting as I really would like a Caesar salad. If all else fails, it's back to enjoy more of Lucy's great cooking and to hit Tony up for another cube.

This blog is posted as a hopeful reminder to all those we hope plan on visiting us next year. Always check with us before leaving home – a freshly made bed, and refreshments, not to mention meals, might be dependent upon you packing in your suitcase whatever essentials we discover we are missing here in Paradise. Mike has just mentioned that we cannot find relish either or a good pickle.

This is just an aside. We boiled some eggs for lunch, and when I took them out of the pot noticed the sizes. These all came out of the same, size large, carton.

We were also up around 6:00 am one morning and this was the view out of the living room and kitchen doors. By the way, after the picture was taken we went back to bed but think it was worth getting up for.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bike Week

Bike week made me realize that I am quite happy living here in Centro, within walking distance of the beach, but away from all the hustle and bustle. The beaches and the Malecon have been thronged with people for the past 2 weeks as it has been Semana Santa, which is a huge holiday period for the Mexican people, tied into Easter and their Spring Break. Then, just as Semana Santa ended, Bike Week started. Now, we're not talking bicycles here. Nope, these are the big bikes, every shape, size and colour, and all very very loud. We decided not to venture out too much as we have just moved into the Casita and didn't want to leave Abi alone for too long until she was settled, but every night as as sat out on the patio we looked over the city and admired the clouds of exhaust fumes and the rumble of bike engines. Actually, the rumble we could hear all day - I kept thinking it was Abi fussing over something!

However, on Saturday, we met friends and sat at Canucks, a restaurant on the Malecon, to watch the wind up Bike Parade. The regulars who have been here for years told us that it was a disappointment as it was not nearly as large and loud as previous years races, and I had to agree that we were expecting a bit more. However, it was a lot of fun, and to be honest, quite loud enough! And then, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset, so all in all, it was a most satisfying evening out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Peaceful Day

This has been the most delightful, totally relaxing day I've had in ages.

We moved to the Casita on Thursday and spent the afternoon pretty much unpacking and getting settled in. Of course, we also made a batch of spagetti – that seems to be the tradition everytime we move to a new home, spagetti for dinner the first night. Today (Friday) has been spent going through cupboards to see what kind of goodies Sarah has tucked away (lots) and rearranging things just a bit to make it seem like home.

And what a home it is! The Casita is even prettier than we remember, and the view is more spectacular. Sarah has done a lovely job of decorating, all very light and airy, with the marvelous touches of Mexico in the accessories – lamps, pillows etc. She's even bought a bit more furniture – one chair in particular would go missing if we could get it into the car. (Just kidding, Sarah!)

We're getting acquainted with our new neighbourhood and have already met out next door neighbours. Lori owns a very popular taco stand/restaurant and we're going there for dinner tonight. Mike is actually out right now, is making his second trip of the day to the corner store to see if Alfredo has any limes as he forgot them the first time. Abi darted out the door as he was leaving, so he relented and took her with him. I thought I heard her barking, but just looked out the door to see them heading off way down the street, past Alfredos. So, either Alfredo did not have the limes or Mike is being a really nice guy and taking his dog for a walk. The barking, by the way, is coming from up the hill. Did I mention that the Casita is on a very, and I emphasise the very, steep street? The exercise will be good for us!!

But, back to the relaxation part. We decided that since this is the first day in the new house for Abi we wouldn't go out and leave her. Mike, as mentioned, has ventured out twice for staples (ok, fine I admit – cervesa, limes and mix). I stayed home, puttered, read my book, worked on a crossword puzzle and just laid back. We are in the midst of Bike Week here in Mazatlan (many many very loud motorcycles – more on this later, as we're going to the parade on Saturday) so it is quite noisy in certain parts of town. But up here, on the hill, all is blissfully quiet and serene. We can hear the birds sing and the church bells ring. We do also hear our neighbours' cars revving up in the morning as they get ready to leave for work and listen to them chatting at night after we've gone to bed, but that's what neighbours are all about. Can't wait to meet more of them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Packing Again

Tomorrow is moving day, so as soon as we leave the Plaza we're heading home to pack up the Azueta house in preparation for our move to the Casita on the hill.

I do have a confession to make - I admit it, I brought too many clothes. What a surprise!! I've already packed up our cold weather stuff that we wore on the drive down - will just leave that in the trunk of the car. I think I'll also be leaving some warm weather clothes there as well. With the extra shoes. Please remind me of this when we're packing up for our trip back in the fall.

We're looking forward to the move. One of the nice things will be having internet access. We love coming to the Plaza Machado in the mornings to use the wifii but we can't always get on, but have found the connection is too slow to attach pictures, and there is so much to look at it's hard to concentrate. I'll be much better about doing postings from now on - promise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Hood

We're moving next week to the house we had originally rented for our 6 month trip to Mazatlan – the trip we had to postpone. We quite like the little house we are in right now, and have become quite familiar with and fond of the neighbourhood, but as both the house next door and the one on the corner are being restored, it can be quite noisy and dusty at times. We are excited about the move to the Casita as the house is lovely and the view is spectacular and this will be a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with the area before we settle there next November. Like the house we are in right now, it is an easy walk to the Plaza and the Market, not to mention Edgar's, Mike's favourite bar. (More on Edgar's later – promise!) The Casita is on Ice Box Hill, so the walk is a bit steeper in parts, but the exercise will be good for us. Well, good for me anyway – still fighting to lose those pounds gained during Chemo. (More on that later as well...)

Before we move I wanted to share some of the pictures we've taken of the house we're living in and also some of the neighbourhood. So this time, not too many words, and more pictures. Wish I could capition them, but to be honest, not sure how to do that (more lessons required from Jeff this summer) so let this be an adventure – just like it was for us.

We are having some connection problems on the WiFi we are using, the pictures won't upload so we'll attach them after we get into the Casita on Thursday. Also goes for the market pictures per the previous post.

Grocery Shopping

We are discovering that we can live and eat fairly cheaply in Mexico. After a month here, we have settled into a routine, and have found the stores we like to shop in, including our favourite people at the market, like the lady who sells the sweet potatoes, and the man who supplies me with my semi-weekly bouquet of flowers.

Once a week or so, we head off to Mega, an appropriately named Super Store type outlet in the Golden Zone, to pick up the staples. This is where we buy the basics, like toilet paper, and deodorant - the really exciting but essential stuff. This is also where the wine is purchased, also essential. Mexicans are not big wine drinkers and wine simply cannot be found in Centro where we live, so we stock up at Mega. Ok, this is definitely not fine wine we are talking about here, about $16.00 for a 4 litre jug, but it's quite drinkable. They have a great meat department as well, so we usually buy most of our meat here, but never shrimp. That we get from the Shrimp Ladies.

As well as Mega, there are several other large grocery stores in town, Soryana's and Walmart. Yes, Wally World – it's everywhere. We're used to Mega, however, and the prices seem to be better.
We also shop at Ley's, a smaller, Mexican style grocery store, walking distance from home. Ley's actually has just about everything Mega has, except wine. Which can be a problem.

Usually we buy all our produce at the Central Market. The market is also great for spices, and the best tortilla shells in town. My opinion, of course. We bought chicken a few weeks ago and are still alive to tell about it, but buying meat is a judgement call. Some of the vendors have refrigerated display cases, some do not. The chicken was delicious, and very tender – I would definitely buy from him again. Mike has spent quite a bit of time checking out the fish (I'm being honest here – the fishy smell gets to me, so I usually go buy tomatoes or something while he's browsing. I don't feel too guilty as I've seen some Mexican women covering their noses in this area!) We plan to try a new fish recipe this week, and will pick up the main ingredient from the market. Beef is another story. Think we'll stick to Mega for red meat. Maybe next year we'll be a bit braver, but think we'll play it safe for now .

There are also Fruiteras everywhere if we run short of a veggie, and every street has a local corner store where you can often purchase a single egg, a quarter of a cabbage, or one tea bag.

This is a lot more fun than Safeway!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Dogs of Mazatlan

There are many – street dogs, roof top dogs, balcony dogs, parking pad dogs and 'leash' dogs.

Street dogs come in all shapes and sizes and seem to be everywhere. We were told to be careful as they apparently can be aggressive, but so far all they have done is look at us, and occasionally follow us for a block or so. We usually pick up Abi if they do seem to be developing an attachment, just in case. I feel sort of sorry for them. As we have heard about adoptions I guess others feel the same way.

Roof dogs really do spend time of the roof. Our favourites – the 2 somewhat untidy bijon cross types who prance around on a roof that has no edges at all. We're just hoping that they don't become so obsessed with barking at Abi that they fall right off. It's a high house! The least favourite – the huge black rottweiler who lives down the street from Mike's beer vendor.

The balcony dogs come in all shapes and sizes as well – another biggie, a beige rottweiler with a really big bark, the cocker spaniel who races from one end of the balcony to the other trying to catch us (cute, but perhaps not too bright) and of course, the 3 chiawawas, who peer out of the openings in the brick, barking madly – really fierce.

Many of the homes in our area have gated parking pads attached to the houses, and this is where the family dogs hang out, catching a breath of fresh, checking out the neighbours, and barking, barking, barking. We have 3 who live in the house down the street ( fluffy when we got here, but they've recently had a cut and are now very very bald) who seem to enjoy starting the day with an early morning group howl, often as early as 7 a.m.

Then there are the leash dogs. Other than the ex-pat puppies, there are not too many of these. The only ones we really see regularly are Chiawawas – and although they are on a leash, they are often being carried. Not to brag or anything, but our litle leash puppy is doing really well. She actually walks without attempting to dislocate our shoulders and has learned to pretty much ignore the other dogs we encounter. Quite a change from her behaviour at home; we're hoping that she keeps it up when we get back!

Sigh. Mexicans never seem to tell their dogs not to bark, so it can be a bit noisy at times. Another sound of Mazatlan!

The Sounds of Mazatlan ... definitly not the Sound of Music

Church Bells – Mazatlan has a huge cathedral in the center of the Old Centro area where we live. The bells ring at odd times but usually around 6:00 AM, noon, 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM or whenever the mood strikes the bell tower operator as far as we can tell. It's hard to distinguish what they are playing – I say O Sussanah, Home Home on the Range but Sandie says Ava Maria – but I'm not really sure she's right.

The Plane Boss, The Plane! - Every day a small Cessna flies over advertising through a couple of large speakers slung under the wings. Sounds like a new business venture for the summer in Winnipeg, don't thnink in Winter there would be enough people out for it to be practicle and there's probably some crazy rule about safety that would also be a problem. Oh well if that won't work maybe a taco stand.

Agua, Agua!!! - A couple of times a day a fellow rides a bike along our street yelling Agua! Or water in English.There is also a truck that drives around selling water but we like the “bike guy”. 15 pesos, 1.50 Cdn buys you a large jug of fresh water and he brings the heavy jug inside for you.

Parades – They just appear as if from another planet. Usually lots of horns, a band or some kind of music, sirens to drive Abi crazy and a few pretty women waving to the people on the street. The problem is no seems to know what the parade is about. Right now with Easter week upon us the city is packed with vacationers from other parts of Mexico enjoying an ocean side holiday. Seems like the number of parades has risen proportionally.

Talking cars and pedal bikes – Every day cars with speakers drive around LOUDLY advertising we're not sure what – could be for a restaurant, a political party or the end of the world! Guess we'll have to learn more Spanish soon or we may miss something important ... like the end of the world. The bikes sell the Noreste newspaper - they have a battery hooked up to a tape machine and speakers blaring out the headlines.

All in all there is always something going on in the background. Right now as I am typing this we are hearing more sirens ... could it be another parade?