This was our view of the security line as we returned to the terminal Saturday after almost making our 6:15 a.m. flight. About 20 minutes prior, it was filled to the gills. We headed home, had a good night's sleep and started over Sunday on the same exact itinerary. This time the airport was empty and the plane almost half full. Instead of Saturday to Saturday, we went Sunday to Sunday and it was all good. I'll never forget Pedro giving the kids a pep talk about how this was just the first story of the vacation...a story we'll be telling forever.
Still it was a relief to get up in the air and then above the clouds and then to see the shoreline and palm trees to know we were finally in paradise.
Within nano seconds the kids were suited up and either pool or beach-bound.BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
One of my favorite ways to start or end the day is with a walk on the beach. Our condo was about midway along the 2 mile stretch of beach. On the first morning, we were up at dawn and out walking the beach at sunrise along with the pelicans and the sandpipers. That's quite a way to greet a new day.
The kids made friends with a family from SF with girls 10 and 13, and they had a blast conquering waves and playing games in the pool all week long. This was the surf all day everyday. It wasn't for the feint of heart...only for the fierce. I made it in only to waist-deep. There are sharks in the ocean you know, and the current was strong. One of our friends had to be rescued by a jet ski from a rip current and that was humbling for even the strongest swimmers among us. I was surprised that Ted spent as much time in the water as he did. He had a lot of fun in the surf as well.BANANA BOAT
They didn't get the macho ride we did decades ago, but they still had lots of fun and got a little wet. Because of said macho ride, Sue and I happily stayed on the shore taking pictures.
Olivia was sweet enough to do Lily's hair many a night. Braids and beach vacations totally go together.BEACH BUMS
CHILDREN WITH CHICLE
We buy all Media's penny gum and some of her brother's artisan bowls. It makes Lily a little sad that these children are out late at night peddling, and I remind her that things are very different in the United States than many other places in the world. We decide we will be kind and fair and generous while we are here. Lily bought a lot of chicle, and not just because she loves gum.
Fun for all ages at the end of day or end of night.
An old and delicious favorite. The coconut shrimp were almost as good as I remember them and the caramel crepes (for dinner) made Teddy very happy. Everyone enjoyed their meals in the twinkle-lit courtyard. We also enjoyed our table-side service. My cafe con crema y Kahlua was also a treat. The whole meal was a treat and it was the most decadent and expensive of our trip. For seven, it was $350. That included appetizers, drinks including a bottle of wine, entrees and dessert. It was obviously still quite a bargain.
We made many sweet kitty friends about town. The fact that they are trusting and friendly alleviated a little of our sorrows over their homelessness. The little white kitties hung out at our resort. We named them Marshmallow and Snowflake, and yes, we bought pet food. They would eat almost anything, of course, including chips and guac we discovered. I always had a bag of kibble in my beach bag or my purse and we would have a trail of furbabies following us.
There were stray dogs all around Zijua. They were mostly friendly and a little hungry most of all for our attention. It was a tad rough on the heart strings. We wanted to take them all home. Instead we showed them lots of love while we were there.
Most nights we'd head to Zijua for dinner after a sunset happy hour enjoyed from our own balcony. We'd walk around, shop and keep our eyes open for a place to enjoy dinner. We lucked out every time, and did not have a bad meal for the entire trip. In the first picture we're at Adelita's. It was located off the malecon on a new to us street in Zijua lined with street musicians and decorated with twinkle lights. Everything was fresh off the grill and delicious. In the second photo, we are at La Cantinita on another quaint street for another tasty meal. I love the way you can see the lights in the foothills of Zijua. I don't remember that from the last time we were here. The city has definitely grown, yet it still has that pictorial flavor.
FRIENDS (Old and New)
We traveled well together, and all had an amazing time.
I'm so glad we did this spring break. The tropical vacation isn't Teddy's favorite, yet he really enjoyed himself. He's not a sun worshiper so often we'd be coming up in the late afternoon and he'd be going down. He really got into conversing with the locals...getting to know them. It made me proud to see him making efforts to make connections and to be the opposite of the ugly American. I loved watching Lily, my fearless fish, take on the waves without an ounce of trepidation. She is in her element in the ocean. The best thing about traveling for me is the opportunity to expose my kids to different people and places, and of course, to make memories to last a lifetime.
All day every day the sky was filled with para-sails. Lily and Olivia went one sublime afternoon.They were like meh. I guess it's something you only need to do once in your life because this was the second or third time for both of them. They sure filled the sky with whimsy though.
On our first night we walked across the street to Senior Taco. Pedro loves Taco Man and would eat there every meal if we agreed. Lily loved it too, and was quite impressed by our waiter, Angel's, execution of the most delicious guacamole table-side. Midway through dinner the lights went out for all the restaurants and bars in the square. Later we found out power was out throughout Ixtapa and Zijua. It didn't last long. Just long enough to freak out Lily a little. She also got a taste of the constant stream of people (often women with babies strapped on their backs or toddlers in tow) selling goods right at our table in the middle of our meal. Monday night in Zijua. Angel approached us on the malecon. He was on a date with his novia. It was nice to see him enjoying himself. I really don't know how Mexicans get labeled lazy. They are some of the hardest working people ever. They work hard and long and often for not very much.
We came upon Gilberto and Kevin as we passed their restaurant after shopping at the market. They were trying to drum up business. All their tables were empty. After a brief
sales pitch conversation, they promised us a free round of drinks if we returned. We got a few cold cervezas and headed to the malecon for some people watching and then we did a little more shopping. We did go back to La Catinita, a seafood restaurant and sports bar. Only in Mexico can you experience white table cloth fine dining in the aire libre at a sports bar for $20 per person. Gilberto and Kevin literally talked to us throughout the entire meal. They were practicing their English and we were working on our Spanish. Teddy made a strong connection with both of them and, in fact, went back to hang with them whenever we went to Zujua. One night, Gilberto walked us through town to a good dessert spot when we asked him for a recommendation. Then before he headed back to his perch, Teddy taught him a handshake and it was really sweet. Our food was really tasty too. I had (pictured above) a spinach and cotija cheese stuffed chicken breast served with a roasted chile relleno cream sauce.
There was a foursome for golf one morning. The course wasn't in the best of shape, but the views were beautiful and Ted was quite happy with his first round of the season (even with loaner clubs).
HOMECOOKED (SUNSET DINNER)
Tuesday night we hired a personal chef to cook us a traditional Mexican dinner in the condo. Liliana made us shrimp, steak and chicken fajitas with Mexican rice and silky refried beans. More guac and pico too. I love how that duo is like salt and pepper: on every table without having to ask. After dinner, we went for a walk about (a Pedroism) to get helados, and then a few of us went on a long beach walk under the stars. In the past, we may have gone in for a swim or a dip (skinny), but not any more. The waves crashing sound so soothing, but this is serious surf.
Ixtapa is on the Pacific coast about 150 miles northwest of Acapulco in the shadow of the Sierra Madres. The Amara, where we rented a well-appointed condo, is located right across the street from most of the restaurants, clubs and shops in town. That's convenient. And although Ixtapa has grown a little, it maintains a calm and chill vibe. This was our fourth time visiting the area. That's how much we love it here.
On our last night (Saturday), we stayed late soaking up the last of the breeze and beauty of the beach, played a game or two of spoons after sunset and then found an amazing artisan shop that we ( Sue and I) couldn't get out of so dinner was late. We walked over the two bridges to that magical little street we found earlier in the week. We were hoping to eat at La Terracita as it looked and smelled amazing and was highly recommended by our SF friends. No luck. It was closed. The street was dead so we hiked back to La Cantinita, but that too was closed by the time we returned. We ended up at Los Bandidos a little after 10 o'clock. It was loud and festive. There was live music and dancing. We enjoyed our last supper even if conversation was near impossible. The food looked and tasted delish. The fresh salsa made in the traditional molcajete tasted like sunshine and warmth and was a table favorite.
The people...the place...all something quite special.
We head to el mercado late one afternoon by autobus to engage in a little bartering for goods. The kids have fun talking down the sellers, but then they want to pay the hard working merchants full asking price. Lily buys a pair of sterling silver earrings and some woven bracelets. Ted buys bracelets and souvenir Dia de los Muertes skulls for friends. He's more interested in striking up conversations again than shopping.
No words.OPEN AIR
The first view is taken from my spot in bed on the 14th floor. The second is from the front door of the condo straight through the living room to the balcony that ran across the whole front and offered unobstructed views. When we opened the sliders and the door, we got such a lovely breeze through the condo. Truthfully, I almost preferred the two nights the air wasn't working because we slept with the slider open and were lulled to sleep by the sound of waves crashing below us. The third shows how the balcony was just like another room.
Cobble stones below, flags strewn above, twinkle lights like magic softly blinking, street musicians crooning, asters, dahlias and hibiscus blooming and restaurants pouring out onto streets.
We rent bikes to explore a nearby beach one morning. There is a beautiful paved trail that makes the trip easy even if it is a little hot. Playa Linda is a public beach with a slightly different vibe and it's only 4-5 miles away. I would stay for the day, but we didn't come prepared with our gear.
The scene of our first dinner and last lunch.
When in Mexico...
Usually the gloaming is my favorite time of day, but here in paradise it's sunrise. I think it's more breathtaking than sunset, and if you're awake to witness the birth of the new day, it inspires all day long.
That's not to say that sunset is a slouch. It is dazzles and delights all who pause to see the show.
It's true you can just stare at the horizon no matter the time of day or night and feel the wonder of this world...how big and small we are.
My guys finally had a tennis match on our last day in the heat of the day.
We applied and reapplied the 50 and the 70, and spent long stretches in the shade and still we felt the heat of the sun. There was some sunburn and sun rash and peeling.
We ate well whether it was fresh seafood, grilled meats, street tacos, Reuben's hamburguesas or papas fritas from the palapa.