February 27, 2014

A Second Week in Ixtapa

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of our two week in Ixtapa.

Betty and Nelly
IMG_0192: Betty and Nelly
Sundown at Las Brisas
IMG_0195: Sundown
Ixtapa Mirador
IMG_0226: Lalo and Bill
At La Casa Que Canta
IMG_0239: Sunset
Lalo and Julio
IMG_0276: Los Hermonos

Our second week in Ixtapa was not as busy as our first week. Still we made it out twice for drinks and the sunset.

Music on Las Brisas Terrace

We decided to stay another week in Ixtapa.

One day we went to a fancy resort, Las Brisas, for drinks one evening with Lalo and his family. Pina Coladas were the favorite at the table. There was some mellow Mexican music coming from a live band. The sunset was different, setting over a cloudbank out to sea.

One day we stopped at a mirador, lookout point, with a great view of Ixtapa. There is the very green beach area where the only major structures in view are the high rise condos and hotels. Then, inland a bit, are all the red roofs of the smaller condos where most of the city's population lives. Just a really cool view!

On Sunday afternoon we visited the beach in Zihuatanejo. We drank beer and had a light dinner. It was great place to see the locals enjoying the beach. And the sunset was spectacular that day.

Nelly is a great cook. She has shared some of her wonderful foods with us almost everyday. We have only cooked for ourselves a couple of times. We made our enchiladas one day. They were appreciated, but nowhere near as good as Nelly's gastronomy.

Yesterday, we had a light meal in the evening with Julio and his wife. It was a real pleasure to chat and drink beer. I had made a bowl of ceviche the day before and I brought it with. It was devoured.

Today is Nelly’s birthday. Late this morning, we went for a birthday breakfast at wonderful boutique hotel in Zihuatanejo, called La Casa Que Canta . While a bit pricey, the food was extremely good – especially Betty’s Chilaquiles. It was one of the most beautiful hotels that I have ever seen and views of the bay from the terrace were spectacular.

Tonight we will all go out for pizza. Birthdays appear to be two–day celebrations.

Tomorrow we will go to Cuernavaca. We have arranged a place to stay for the next two months at the same place we stayed in 2006.

Sunset on Beach at Zihuatanejo
IMG_0239: Sunset

Posted by bill at 05:32 PM | Comments (2)

February 19, 2014

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of our week in Ixtapa.

Sunset with Lalo and Nelly
IMG_0146: Lalo and Nelly
Crocodiles in the Area
IMG_0128: Crocodiles
Feeding the Dolphins
IMG_0139: Dolphins
At the Fish Market
IMG_5858: In the Fish Market
The Birthday Cake
IMG_5872: Birthday Cake
The Carrillo Family
IMG_5855: Carrillo Family
The Grilled Snapper
IMG_5889: Grilled Snapper

We arrived in Mexico on Monday, February 10th. We had a full tank of gas and we crossed the boarder fairly early in the morning. The visa cost $25 now. The big change was the addition of a large deposit to get a temporary car registration. Before 2012 you paid $30 to $40 for the registration. Now, there is a huge deposit (?!) of over $400 dollars. They say it will be returned when we cross back into the US.


Like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are twin cities. Ixtapa is one of the 5 specially designated tourist cities created about 1968, while Zihuatanejo is the older and larger of the twins. Together there are about 120,000 residents. There are thousands of vacation homes - condo's that cost any where from $50,000 to $10 million USD and associations fees from $50 to $5,000 per month. Note that we spent a week in a three-bedroom condo that could be purchased for $50,000.

It has good beaches and great food. It appears to be warm all-year round with temps in the 80's in February, but it is also quite humid much of the time. If you are by the ocean there is always a good breeze.

The next three days were very hard on us. The first day we took all the toll roads, because we wanted to get as far south as possible. We arrived in Los Mochis just before dark. The next day we drove on one segment of the toll road system then switched to the free roads. This road was actually pretty good, although quite a bit slower. We did not make it to Guadalajara. We did stay in a very, very old hotel that seemed great until the next morning when we discovered there was no hot water. We started out the next day on the free roads to Guadalajara. But the GPS said that we would not get to Ixtapa until late in the night. So we got on one segment of toll road then off for several hours, then back again for most of the journey. We arrived about 5:30 PM and with just a bit of difficulty found our way to the home of my old friend Lalo Carrillo and his wife Nelly Gonzales. We were exhausted from the three days of travel, but happy to be with our friends. They helped us rent a condo just a few doors down from theirs.

What I can say about the cost of the tolls and gas is that they are a bit high. The tolls that we paid were about $68, and if we had taken all the toll roads - the cost would have been over $100 for tolls. Unfortunately, the only alternatives to the toll roads are two-lane roads that pass through every town with those miserable speed bumps. If one has lots of time, patience and the area is safe, then the free roads are fine. Gas is $3.75 per gallon.

On Friday we visited the Ixtapa Marina to eat breakfast. Breakfasts are cheap and extremely good at most restaurants. The Marina was no exception to this rule. While looking at the yahts, I noticed a sign prohibiting wadding in the water, because crocodiles are on the loose. Crocodiles and iguanas are protected and can no longer be taken for food or their hides.

Lalo had been asked to repair a network router and fix a PC at a $10 million home on the beach. La Senora was nice and extremely rich. The home was exquisite. Lalo had worked on the construction of this home.

Montessori School Show

Lalo's brother lives in nearby condo. He and his wife Esthela are architects. They have one son, Julian. He attends an English immersion Montessori school in Zihuatanejo. The kids' show was fun, but a bit long. See the video to get a sense of the show. After the show we visited Julio and Esthela's home, which is in the same complex where we are staying.

Saturday morning Lalo and I went to the fish market in Zihuatanejo. Seafood in the market is very reasonable in cost. We fixed it for both Saturday and Sunday dinner. Nelly did most of the cooking, but Betty made cilantro and lime rice. We ate by the pool and his parents eventually joined us. Their names are Irene and Felipe. They usually live in Chilpanzingo, but they too own a lovely condo just four minutes away by foot. Felipe is my age and Irene is a couple of years older.

Sunday was to be a day to relax. We did take a walk on the beach. During the walk we passed by venue for a dolphin show. We were permitted to take a look-see at the dolphin tanks. The keepers were feeding them and checking them for skin problems. It was pretty cool. Again we went out for breakfast, again tasty and cheap. We took it easy the rest of the day. I went for a swim. The pool was clean and the water was warm. We ate the fish again in the late afternoon. Then it was off to a very sweet bar with a great view of the bay in Zihuatanejo. Best of all was the sunset, which arrived just before 6:45 PM.

Lalo and Julian
IMG_0190: Lalo and Julian

Monday we breakfasted at the home of Irene and Felipe. Breakfast was fresh papaya, watermelon and muskmelon, yogurt, granola and tamales all washed down with coffee and fresh orange juice. We have been eating big breakfasts all week and it is just too much. But man, is it very tasty. In the evening there was Lalo's mini birthday party, nochecitas, for the family. We ate a lovely cake and sang happy birthday.

Tuesday was Lalo's real birthday. It was his 40th birthday. I had not realized that he is exactly the same age as Birgitta. The day started with breakfast at an exclusive hotel, Club Intrawest, in Zihuatanejo. Almost every room has a balcony with a spa that overlooks the sea. Rooms are just under $300 per night. Again the food was outstanding and very reasonable in price. Betty and I shared a plate with Betty, trying to ease up on my breakfast intake. In the late afternoon, the real birthday party began. In the evening there was another party, which his family attended. Lalo had prepared two special dishes. The first was a cold soup made of cooked fish, raw vegies including tomato, corn and cilantro. He called it ceviche. Now, I have been eating ceviche for years but I have never had any which came even close to resembling this ceviche. And this ceviche was incredibly delicious. The second was an eight-pound red snapper that had been split open and coated with marinade. The marinade imbued a taste of Mexico. When the grilling was done, we simply ate it with tortillas and bit of salsa. I love snapper and this style of snapper was very good.

We will be leaving tomorrow or Friday. It has been a great visit.

Next we are off to Cuernavaca.

Posted by bill at 11:20 AM | Comments (5)

February 11, 2014

Postscript from Tucson

Sunday evening was truly a delight. We accompanied our host Nancy and her friend Genie to a club in Tucson. The Old Pueblo Grille has a jazz jam session every Sunday night form 7 to 10. The music was simply astounding. The lead players who appear almost every Sunday are Glen Gross on trumpet and Malik Alkabir on the alto saxophone. When Glen and Malik play together it was like magic.

Twice during the show, I videoed a couple of minutes . I hope that you can get a sense of how good their performance was from the videos that I posted on YouTube.

At the Jazz Jam in Tucson 1
At the Jazz Jam in Tucson 2

Sunrise Halfway between Tucson on Nogales
IMG_0121 Sunrise

Posted by bill at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2014

Salt Lake to Tucson

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of our trip from Salt Lake to Tucson.

Betty in Temple Square
IMG_5832: Temple Square
In the Tabernacle
IMG_5827: In the Tabernacle
The Facebook Campus
IMG_0077: Facebook
San Luis Reservoir
IMG_0080: San Luis Reservoir
San Xavier Mission
IMG_5836: San Xavier Mission

It seems like forever since we left the mid-west, but it has only been a month. The morning the we headed out it was 5 below zero. We drove almost 200 miles south and it was still below zero. Then we were heading west. Another 200 miles and it was much warmer and by the time we were in western Nebraska, it was about 30. Sometimes people ask why we travel so much. It is all about the weather.

The next day we were Salt Lake City. We have never spent any time there before and this seemed as good a time as any to take a look around. The best thing about the area is the mountains to the east. They are stunning to view but they trap smog. The air quality was not very good. We would guess that further south in Provo the lake might add a bit of beauty to the area. But the Great Salt Lake is not all that great or beautiful.

As we drove into the city we decided to go to Ogden and then drive south. We visited a museum there. The best part of the museum was a collection of several hundred Browning rifles and hand guns. But the rest of the city was not very interesting. Since it was late we drove south to where we were staying with a couchsurfing host.

The next day we drove to the center of Salt Lake City. For some reason we decided to take a look an old trolley depot that has been converted into some lovely commercial space. Unbeknownst to us, this was the place where people could buy tickets to the Sundance Film Festival, which we did not even know was beginning that day. We got a catalog of all the movies, but there was nothing we wanted to see that day and we were leaving the next day. From here we drove down to Temple Square. The square is very beautiful and the commercial area across the street is a site to see. We only went in to the Tabernacle at Temple Square. It was a great oval shaped building with fantastic acoustics. Only the most devout Mormons are permitted entry into the temple, so that clearly left us out.

After visiting the city center we had quite a bit of time on our hands, so we decided to drive to Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival. It is about 40 minutes outside of Salt Lake with most of the travel on an interstate highway. Once we got close we slowed down almost to a crawl at times with all the traffic headed for the ski areas and the film festival. There was NO place to park in the town, which was a pity because from what we could see, it was a very nice town. So we head back down the mountain and arrived at our host's home just before dark.

We headed out at 5 AM the next morning. All was fine until we were 50 miles west of Salt Lake, when thick ribbons of fog obscured the roadway. Still we pressed on - some time slowing to 30 mph as we made our way through the fog. Eventually, the fog dissipated and as we entered Nevada the sun began to poke its way above the horizon. It is a long way to the bay area and we pressed on past deserts, rock formations and little mountains. Finally in the early afternoon we passed through Reno and then we were winding our way up to Donner's pass then down the mountain through Truckee and Sacramento. Soon we turned south about 50 miles west of San Francisco Bay and we angled toward San Jose. It was almost dark by the time we were coming around the south end of the bay. If not for the traffic we were less than 30 minutes away, but the traffic forced us off the freeway. Finally, we arrived at Dain and Marleta's home in downtown Palo Alto.

We had a lovely visit, lasting more than two weeks. When we got there Dain was recovering from the flu, a flu that hung on for most of our visit. That is to say, Dain got to stay home during most of our visit, even though he worked most days from home. We got to eat out at some of the local restaurants and Betty cooked some of Dain's favorite meals, like beef stroganoff and chicken enchiladas. Although we did not do a heck of a lot, just hanging out with them was enough. They visit us once or twice each year and it is just not enough time to suit us.

We got to spend an afternoon with Betty's brother John. His friend Matt and Suzanne were over and we spent a wonderful afternoon in his backyard, chatting and munching on goodies. We love him and we love to spend time with him.

Betty and I played tennis once. We did some walking, mostly to get groceries. We saw the movie Nebraska, which we liked so much that we can recommend it to anybody whoever lived in a small farm-town in the midwest. The dialogue and the setting just blew me away. They really nailed it.

The second week Dain went back to work. He usually rides his bike, but I gave him a lift on those days. His health still wasn't up to speed. The next day or the day after he was off again, because of a reaction to his medications. On the day before we left, we spent a hour or so in the afternoon on the Facebook campus. It is like a little city, with dining areas, restaurants, coffee shops, a bike shop, a bank and so much more - truly amazing.

We got up early and packed our gear in the car. We left room in the car for for three to sit, because Dain's bike was on the Facebook campus. He was finally going to ride it home that evening. So, with hugs and kisses we left him at the entrance to Facebook.

Panorama of San Luis Reservoir

With Mary at Coyote Bar

Panorama of San Xavier Mission

Then we were headed for San Diego, well actually Vista, where my cousin Mary Cox lives. The drive was not all that interesting. We stopped at the San Luis Reservoir in order to take in the view. We stopped for lunch at Harris Ranch. By late afternoon we were in the Los Angeles area. We were caught in the afternoon rush hour, where we crawled along. It felt like we were in a parking lot. The traffic added an hour-and-a-half to our journey. It was dark by the time we got to Mary's. After a short rest went out for a bite to eat.

On Saturday, Mary, Betty and I visited Christina, our landlady of two years ago. She is such a cute bundle of good looks and boundless energy. We got to spend a couple hours with her talking about our families and our lives. From there the three of us drove into Carlsbad for a brief walk along the ocean. Then it was to the Coyote Bar for some drinks and some blues and rock. It was a lovely day.

Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. Betty and Mary set about mixing and baking several dozen cookies. They were delicious. We brought them with us to a Superbowl Party hosted by Mary's friend Lise. The food and drink at the party was outstanding. We got to meet a great bunch of people. The game was kind of boring. I cannot ever remember there being such a blow-out in the Superbowl. So, not long after the second half started - we started back to Mary's home.

It is way too seldom that I get to see my cousins. If I am lucky we see them every couple of years. The last time was at my Aunt Tiny's funeral. So, we try to make the most of it we we are in California.

On Monday, we drove to Sun City. We were couchsurfing with a great couple, Bob Hilton and Mary Ann Lemley. They were really wonderful hosts. We could not have asked for a better reception. The next day they showed all around the city and we got to see several golf courses and recreation centers. Betty says that she is done with extensive travel and wants to find a place to return to every winter. So, this Sun City stop was for her and she took full advantage of it.

On Wednesday, while I was getting our car serviced, Betty was out with a realtor all morning and then some looking at properties. I am not happy about this turn of events, but I guess I will have to live with it. I like Sun City a lot, especially the rec centers, but I hate the desert. So, I guess it is up to me to find a place to stay every winter that we can afford and is not in the desert. So, I will be looking in California and the gulf coast for a place that suits me. If I cannot find one, then Arizona will be our future winter home. So, that is why we are in Tucson today. I like this area better then the Phoenix area. The air is cleaner, but it is more expensive.

So, tomorrow we are off to Mexico, the last of our serious winter travel.

Posted by bill at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)