Mexico 2019

December 2019 - March 2020
Our first winter in Mexico!
  • 39footprints
  • 2countries
  • 85days
  • 180photos
  • 3videos
  • 10.0kkilometers
  • 6.3kkilometers
  • Day 1

    ¡Arriba, Arriba!

    December 13, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    After a really lovely autumn season, the cool, gray and wet weather that is Vancouver's winter crept into town this week. It's time for us to get outta Dodge!

    We typically like to winter in Thailand, but with the long travel times, jet lag and mosquitos that love to feast on Brenda, we've been looking for a more idyllic getaway spot.

    Earlier this year we cruised out of San Diego down the Mexican Pacific coast, stopping in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Cabo left us cold and felt like any of a thousand other resort areas that has been over developed to the point of losing all traces of its heritage.

    Puerto Vallarta was better, offering us a taste of Mexico, but was still too touristy for our tastes.

    Situated almost right in the middle of those two ports was Mazatlan, and just like Baby Bear's bed, we found this charming city to be just right.

    During our brief shore excursion we learned that there are many Canadian expats (mostly from Alberta) living there. All of them that we spoke with had nothing but good things to say about the city.

    When we got back to Canada we began researching flights to Mazatlan and learned that the majority of them out of YVR had a stopover in Edmonton or Calgary. However, discount airline, Swoop, offers direct flights from Abbotsford for literally half the price of a Westjet flight from YVR.

    Our very kind neighbor, Jennifer, got up early and drove the one hour and fifteen minutes to bring us to the terminal in Abbotsford for our 11:15 flight.

    We've flown no-frills airlines before in Europe and Asia and will soon find out how Swoop compares to the others.

    As I sit here in Abbotsford waiting for our plane to depart, the westher outside is 6°C with drizzle. When we arrive in Mazatlan tjis afternoon it will be 24°C with an overnight low of 18°.

    Tomorrow morning there is the weekly organic market at Plazuela Zaragoza, an eight minute walk from our accommodations, where we plan to stock up on oodles of fresh fruits and veggies to fill our larder.

    And who knows, maybe after that we'll hit the beach.

    Ain't life grand?
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  • Day 2

    ¿Hablas Español?

    December 14, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    For 1305 consecutive days I have religiously completed at least one Spanish lesson on the Duolingo app. So, naturally, I was quite anxious to test out my finely honed language skills in a Spanish speaking country.

    We landed in Mazatlan at just after 5:00PM local time and, dropped off our luggage at our Airbnb at about 6:00. We couldn’t locate the wifi code in our apartment, which made getting a local SIM card for our phones our first order of business. We had researched the best plans for expats before we left Canada, so we knew exactly what we wanted and even where to get it. Or so we thought.

    We walked into the closest Oxxo convenience store (a Mexican 7/11) and I confidently asked for two Telcel SIM cards and the 200 peso telecom package. The clerk replied with what sounded to me like, “nonovendemostarjetasSIMaquí, tienesquecomprarloenotrolugaryluegoregresasaquíyte venderemoselpaquetequedeseas.”

    Have you ever noticed how the contestants on TV game shows seem to get stupider and tend to choke as the pressure mounts? That was exactly how I felt. In response to the clerk, I blinked a couple of times, picked my jaw off the floor and could only manage to blurt out,”Errr.......ok, gracias.”

    In the end, after visiting several stores, we were finally able to acquire what we needed and get our phones connected to the network we wanted.

    In the process I learned that 1305 consecutive days studying Spanish on Duolingo did not really prepare me for real world interaction in my third language. But I am a very stubborn old goat and I am intent on being comfortable conversing in Spanish by the time we leave Mexico in March.

    Hasta la vista, baby!
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  • Day 3

    Vegan in Mazatlan

    December 15, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    On our first night in Mazatlan, we went to La Ruta Vegana, the best vegan restaurant in Mazatlan... well, OK, the "only" vegan restaurant in Mazatlan but it nonetheless deserves the accolade that "best" conveys.

    Roch ordered a plate of 3 quesadillas and I ordered a couple of tacos along with an order of crispy potato wedges to share.  The only thing lacking was a good bottle of Dos XX.  The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol so we had to settle for non-alcoholized beer which was surprisingly satisfying with our meal.  Our dinner altogether was a mere $18.11 and we left the restaurant thinking, we gotta come back to this place...

    ... and indeed we did go back the very next day.  We didn't realize that La Ruta Vegana was the only vegan restaurant in Mazatlan until we went to Bliss Tienda Vegana which we thought was a cafe as well as vegan store.  Nope, it was just a small vegan store so we happily went back to La Ruta Vegana.

    This time I ordered the quesadillas and Roch ordered "Pozole", a Mexican soup typically made with hominy (processed corn with the germ removed) and pork. The thick soup is seasoned with a combination of spices and garnished with radishes, shallots, shredded cabbage, limes and tortilla chips. We'll never know for sure if the vegan version that Roch had was as good as a traditional meat version.  All I can say is, there wasn't a drop of soup left when it came time to pay for the meal.

    The owner of La Ruta Vegana told us that there were a few other vegan restaurants in Mazatlan but they have consequently closed.  How odd, when everywhere else we've travel to has seen an increase in the number of vegan establishment in light of the plant-based revolution.  La Ruta Vegana will be celebrating its 5th anniversary next week, and we have every intention in joining in on their celebration.

    Although dining out here is a challenge, the local markets offer a plethora of beautiful fruits and veggies. They even sell large packages of trimmed and diced mixed vegetables that is made into soup. In fact, that's what we had for dinner last night. Strangely, however, Sinaloa province is reputed to be the mango capital of Mexico (and home to most cartels), but we've rarely sen any. Those we did find were expensive even by Canadian standards.

    On the other hand, papayas and pineapples are plentiful and succulent, so we can't complain too much.
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  • Day 4

    Airbnb Nb Nb

    December 16, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    AIR BNB
    For most of our travel, Brenda and I book our accommodations through Airbnb and we have, for the most part, been very happy with our lodging and with the service provided by Airbnb.

    In June, when we were booking our Mazatlan stay, we were already a little late to get the choicest spots in our desired location. We figured that our options would only diminish as we got closer to tourist season, so we booked our entire 85 day stay at a listing in Centro, Mazatlan's historic area.

    Before we arrived we had several email exchanges with the host, who was always responsive and helpful. As we were uncertain of our ETA she left the keys for us in a lockbox at the entrance door.

    By the time we arrived night had fallen, but we couldn't initially get the lights to turn on. There was an overwhelming chemical smell in the apartment that I thought might be insecticide. We couldn't find the wifi address or password to contact the host. The last straw was the bathroom layout. When we opened the door we realized the shower stall and toilet shared the same space, which we've seen before in Europe. However, in this case, one had to go through the shower area to get to the toilet. In other words, if we had to use the toilet after we had showered on the morning, we had to walk over the wet floor.

    Things were not going well.

    After we got our phones working, we contacted the host and told her we could not stay under these conditions, particularly since we were scheduled to be here for three months. She came and met us the following morning and agreed to let is out of the contract with no penalty, which was very nice of her.

    NB
    In the interim, Brenda and I had been scrambling to find alternative accommodations, but as we suspected, picking were pretty slim. Brenda found a place in the relatively upscale Machado area, but it was already booked from December 24 through January 3. We decided to book it for all the available dates through March 6 and moved in here for the first part of our stay to December 24.

    NB
    So what are we to do over Christmas and New Year's? Brenda has generously invited me to spend the holidays and my birthday with her in Mexico City until January 4. We've heard there's a booming vegan culture there and were excited to try it out.

    Our hosts at our Machado Airbnb have agreed to hold the bulk of our luggage while we're in Mexico City so we can just travel with our carry ons.

    So that's it. After our European trip where we were packing and unpacking continuously, we were looking forward to arriving here, unpacking only once and repacking when we returned to Vancouver. Sometimes the best laid plans find a way to go awry.
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  • Day 4

    Comida China

    December 16, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    In light of the fact that there is only one vegan restaurant in Mazatlan, we knew that most of our meals would be eaten at home. Our Airbnb unfortunately only had one pot and one fry pan for cooking, and the fry pan had been pretty much fried to death. Luckily, our Airbnb host who is very kind agreed to pay us back if we wanted to purchase a new pan. We therefore decided to take a long walk (7 kms) to the Gran Plaza, a large shopping mall purporting a wide range of stores, a Cinepolis, and a big American style gym.

    Even though we walked for well over an hour, the lengthy walk along the seashore went by very quickly. The salt air, the cool breeze tempering the hot sun and, of course, the magnificent scenery all combined to seemingly shorten the kilometres.

    The Gran Plaza was indeed large but most of the stores sold only clothing or shoes. We decided therefore to continue an additional 2.5 kms to Walmart but before setting out, we decided to try our luck at the food court for lunch.

    The world over, wherever we've travelled, we always see Chinese food and Italian pizza. This was true for the food court at the Gran Plaza as well. And since most of the restaurants in the food court were meat and seafood centric, we were left with few dining options. We decided to give one of the Chinese food stalls a try so Roch approached one of the food staff at Comida China and asked if they had anything without meat. The young lady answered no, but if we wanted to order any of their dishes, they would make it without meat especially for us. Can you imagine getting that kind of service in a food court in Canada? We both ordered the broccoli & veggie stirfry which came accompanied with fried rice, noodles, or both. We waited a couple of minutes and were presented with 2 heaping platefuls of freshly prepped food for just under $10 CAD total.

    Fortified with lunch, we continued onwards to Walmart and found an inexpensive set of pots and pans, then bravely ventured the local bus system and found a bus that took us 2 blocks from home.
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  • Day 6

    Malécon de Mazatlan

    December 18, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    When we briefly visited Mazatlan last February, we were struck by the charm and authenticity of the old city and the beauty and attraction of El Malécon. “The Boardwalk” is the English translation of El Mélacon, but Mazatlan’s version is like no other. First of all, there are no boards to be seen anywhere. It is a wide concrete and paving stone walkway that runs twenty one kilometers along the seashore, from the southern tip of the old town all the way to the touristy the Golden Zone and beyond. There is a separate bike path alongside the pedestrian path where you can ride one of Mazatlan’s bike share two wheelers.

    There are several statues and sculptures that celebrate the ocean and others that commemorate great musicians born here. There are fishermen selling their catch of the day, an endless array of restaurants and bars, and hawkers selling hats, sunglasses, jewelry and the ubiquitous souvenir knick-knacks.

    But the big attraction for us is the ability to run along the shore, with the omnipresent sea breeze providing refreshing coolness, the sound of the surf providing the soundtrack and the seabirds singing harmony. The Mélacon is almost completely flat and, early in the morning, is teeming with many runners getting in their daily mileage fix, however, the path is so wide, one never feels crowded, rushed or delayed by other joggers.

    Last, but not least, is the scenery. The sandy beach seemingly goes on forever and the view of the western horizon is interrupted only by the handful of islands that rise out of the sea. Night falls quite early here, and the sunsets seen from the Mélacon are nothing short of breathtaking.

    All in all, Brenda and I will have no trouble spending the rest of the winter here.
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  • Day 9

    ¡Beisbol!

    December 21, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    On a warm June night in 1969 Montreal, my sister, Dena, invited me to my first major league ball game at Jarry Park. The game pitted the upstart hometown Expos against the powerful Pittsburg Pirates, led by future Hall of Famers Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazerowski. For me, it was love at first pitch. From that night on, and until their demise in 2004, I followed Nos Amours religiously.

    I no longer keep up with MLB as much anymore, but my love of the game has never diminished.

    On late Saturday afternoon, Brenda and I made our way to Teodoro Mariscal Stadium to watch the Mazatlan Venados take on the Jalisco Charros in the second of a three game series. Yup, it’s late December and they’re still playing baseball here!

    We arrived at the stadium at about 5:40, twenty minutes before game time and had time to check out what kind of snacks Mexicans eat at the old ball game. Hot dogs have been replaced with chunks of sausage smothered in a variety of sauces, a large cone of fries, smothered in more sauces, can be had for 95 pesos (about $7.00 CDN). The Mexicans seem to love everything smothered in sauces and,  of course with a squeeze or two of lime juice.  We watched a woman order what looked like a bag of taco chips. The bag was opened, poured into a big styrofoam cup, topped with several sauces,  covered with another styrofoam cup and shaken like a martini before being handed to the woman. Pizzas, tacos, peanuts, candy floss... everything can be ordered from the vendors roaming the stands if you're too lazy to go catch it from the stands. 

    And of course, what would a ball game be without cerveza? There were several stands offering different brands of beer, from Michelob to the local Pacifico, but strangely, only one of them had customers, so many, in fact a line had formed. Like any good beer swilling sheep, I waited my turn in the queue and was rewarded with two bottles of Pacifico poured into a jumbo glass for the princely sum of 30 pesos ($2.10 CDN)! We don't know if this was a pre-game happy-hour special, but the same two beers in the stands during the game cost 60 pesos.

    The stadium was originally built in 1962 and was. completely renovated in 2018 with an expanded capacity of 16,000. It is quite beautiful with comfortable seats and a natural turf playing field.

    The Venados are part of the Pacific Mexixam League and, at the start of the game, were sitting in eighth place of a ten team division.
    Their opponents were in second place.

    There are only forty games in the season, which starts in mid-October and ends December 30.

    On this night, the Venados' starting pitcher held the Charros to only two hits through five innings and was replaced with one out in the sixth when his control started fo fade and, I believe, he had reached his pitch count. The home team came out swinging, scoring two runs in the first, one run in each of the fifth and sixth and a final nail in the coffin in the bottom of the eighth. The Charros only managed to score once each in the sixth and seventh as the Venados used five relief pitchers to wrap up the win. Final score 5 -2.

    The caliber of the baseball was very high and it brought back fond memories of a night in 1969 spent with my sister at Jarry Park.
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  • Day 12

    Christmas in Mexico City

    December 24, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    At 2:40 PM, we flew out of Mazatlan on an Interjet flight en route to ten days in Mexico City. This last minute change to our winter staycation in Mazatlan came about when our original Airbnb turned out to be a dud and we couldn't find another that could accommodate our entire stay there.

    However, since Brenda and I had wanted to make a side trip to the capital city anyway, it all worked out in the end.

    We weren't expecting much from the no-frills Interjet flight, but we were pleasantly surprised. First of all, there was more than sufficient legroom to accommodate me, even when the person sitting in front of me fully reclined her seatback. And then, half way through the flight, the crew came down the aisle handing out snacks and complimentary drinks, INCLUDING COCKTAILS!!! Dos gin y agua tonica por favor! Wow, Air Canada barely hands out water on cross country flights. Lastly, our pilot gently dropped the Airbus onto the tarmac in Mexico City twenty minutes ahead of schedule.

    We metroed into the city and found our hotel without any difficulty. A subway ride here costs five pesos ($0.35 CDN) so we only spent about seventy cents to get to our hotel.

    We chose our hotel for its proximity to a number of highly rated vegan restaurants. Unfortunately, by the time we checked in, all of them had already closed for Xmas eve. And that folks, is how Brenda and I had our "A Christmas Story" moment of a meal of Chinese food in a food court, just before they closed.

    We managed to find a well stocked grocery store where we picked up some fruit for breakfast, as we believe most places will still be closed after the late night posada celebrations. We're told most places will re-open at noon on Christmas day so we should be all set for food the rest of the day.

    And if not, there's always Chinese food.

    Hohoho!
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  • Day 13

    Krishna, Krishna, Haré, Haré

    December 25, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Today we ventured into the historic Center of Mexico on a brief scouting trip. Our first stop was La Plaza de la Constitución where the Christmas festivities were in full swing. The entrance to the square is adorned with enormous, glittering snowflakes hanging from overhead cables. They claim to have the world’s largest artificial ice skating rink (4000 square meters, it was BIG!) and to complete the faux winter picture is a 10 meter tall Christmas tree made entirely of potted poinsettias.

    In reality, the main reason for heading to that part of town was that we were hopeful some of the restaurants we wanted to try may have been open today. Unfortunately, not all the information one acquires on the web is one hundred percent accurate. After making unanswered calls to all our choices and scouring the internet for new potential dining spots, I struck gold. Govinda Ram would be open until 5:00, they were serving a special Christmas fixed menu and they were only a little over one kilometre from our location. Having eaten at a similar restaurant in Ottawa, Brenda and I knew this was an establishment run by the Hare Krishna movement.

    On the way there we discussed our first exposure to this sect that, back in the day, always seemed to have a roving band of disciples with mostly shaven heads, clad in saffron coloured robes strolling down St. Catherine street, clanging cymbals and chanting. At the time, they were pretty much looked upon as a cult. But times have changed, the wandering Hare Krishna minstrels seem to have gone the way of the dodo and they are now almost mainstream.

    In any case, when we arrived we were warmly greeted by the staff who informed us, once again of the special set menu for Christmas. We were promptly served a glass of Jamaica flower infused water, a plate of beet salad and another plate of what I thought was potato salad. What a surprise I got when I popped a piece into my mouth to find it was diced pear in a coconut sauce. Delicious, but more for dessert than as a main course. Another plate arrived with two more dessert items; a small torsade pastry dusted with sugar along with a red coloured mousse of some sort. With all these desserts in front of me, I asked the server if there was any more food coming, because, frankly, a beet salad and a couple of sweets wasn’t going to do it for me. She responded in the affirmative and set out a plate in front of each of us that was filled with a serving of stew, a slab of lasagna and a vegetable roll, all of it vegan and all of it delicious! The price for all this was 200 pesos for the two of us.

    A much better option than another dish of food court Chinese food.

    And although I may have the haircut, you won't be seeing me sporting a saffron robe and chanting anytime soon.
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  • Day 14

    Roma Norte y La Condesa

    December 26, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    On Thursday Brenda and I did a self-guided walking tour through the area we’re staying in, Roma Norte, and the neighborhood next to us, La Condesa.

    Condesa is most definitely upscale and was, during the ‘40s and ‘50s, home to Mexico’s biggest movie stars. There are more trees here than anywhere else in Mexico City, dozens of fine dining establishments, including some that are vegan, and countless beautiful Art Deco buildings.

    We started our tour at Plaza Rio de Janeiro, which contains a lovely fountain graced with a replica of Michelangelo’s David. There were several people sitting on park benches in the warm sunshine and taking in the tranquility of the place.

    We then moved on to Casa Lamm, which truly was the highlight of the tour. Built in the early 20th century, the architecture es heavily influenced by European, especially French trends of the late 19th and early 20th century. It now houses a fine arts school, fine dining restaurant, and has three separate art galleries that we browsed through. One of the artists used song lyrics, repeated over and over as a backdrop to the abstract work painted over them. He was very clearly a Beatles fan as the majority of his pieces included Lennon and McCartney lyrics.

    We strolled down Álvaro Obregón Avenue, popping into shops and spots that caught our eye and broke for a terrific lunch at La Pitahaya Vegana restaurant before continuing to amble down the Center of Amsterdam Avenue, which once served as the route of the city’s horse track.

    During our wandering we noticed the Drunkendog craft beer pub that offered no less than thirty six beers on tap and probably double that many in bottles. We returned at the end of our tour to sooth our parched throats and try a few of their offerings.

    To wrap up our day, we walked a few blocks to Por Siempre Vegana 2 where we had a meal to die for that was unfortunately sullied by the worst server in all of Mexico. The food, however was so good that we will be returning one day soon to try more of their offerings, but we’ll be sure to be seated in a different section.
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