Friday, January 02, 2015

the full monte -- mexican style

When I take my examination for Mexican citizenship, I will call today to the attention of the examiner.  It was the day I was a full Mexican.

That is a bit of exaggeration.  But the day ended about as Mexican as a day can be.

We are in Acapulco.  On New Year's Day.  Without a hotel reservation.

To some those elements will sound like a fool's recipe for a disaster.  For us, it has been the entry into a day of adventure.

But that is just the ending of the day.  To end up in Acapulco, we started the day yesterday morning by heading south from Lázaro Cárdenas. 

I was surprised at how much of Highway 200 affords sea views.  I am more accustomed to the segment of the road between Puerto Vallarta and Melaque -- where the ocean is merely the whisper of a promise.

That is not true of the highway to Acapulco.  There is plenty of rural scenery to please the traveler.  But it is the dramatic Pacific views that make the trip the delight that it is.

I was warned that the road is twisty.  It is.  That it takes a long time to drive it.  It does.  That it is dangerous for the unwary journeyer.  That is simply not true.  At least, not for us.  Other than the topes, we did not encounter a single unpleasant surprise.

None of us had previously visited Troncones -- a little village that smacks of southern California.  When I was searching for a place to begin my retirement in Mexico, it was on my short list.  Its lack of infrastructure struck it from the list.

Our short visit did not change my mind.  It has a great beach with some interesting rock formations.  But my initial impression was correct.  It looks like a great place to get away from it all.  But that is about it.

The village is filled with places of mediation and frivolity.  I am not certain where "Casa Kitty" falls in the list.  We didn't stick around to find out.

But the atmosphere in Troncones was far preferable to what we found in Ixtapa. 

Ixtapa is one of Mexico's  government-planned resort cities.  It feels a bit like Laughlin, Nevada.  Like it has been misplaced. 

Tall buildings in the middle of -- tall buildings.  These planned resorts always feel a bit creepy to me -- like Cancun or Cabo San Lucas.  We passed through and fled.

To Zihuatanejo.  Both Dan and I had been there on cruise ships.  My last visit was around 2004.  I believe his was in the 1980s.

It is a pleasant place that has grown in quick spurts.  The tourist area has a new homogenized look to it.  Rustic porticoes with uniform signs announcing shop names.  The feel is far more Aspen than Morelia.  But it is designed to play to tourists.  And play it does.

What caught my eye was the rather ragged Christmas tree on the town's malecon.  It was almost as if the town fathers wanted to contribute an entry in Mexpatriate's Tragedy of Christmas series.  Complete with a beer bottle.  There is enough symbolism there to write a good-sized novel.

On the way, we stopped at a small fish restaurant atop a cliff overlooking the sea.  My general rule is that great views and great food do not go together.  Unfortunately, I did not get to fully test my theorem because I am in the midst of trying to expand my palate to include fish.

Again, it was red snapper.  This time with garlic.  And how did I like it?  Let's just say, I am getting there bit by bit.

But we did not have time to dwell on postmodern holidays and fish dishes.  We were in the midst of Mexico's first big holiday of the year -- and we needed to get to Acapulco.

When we started this trip, we opted to not set up reservations.  We wanted to have the flexibility of heading off to where we wanted to go -- when we wanted to go.

And that brings me back to where we began.  We showed up in Acapulco on 1 January without a hotel reservation in the midst of a traffic jam on the malecon that would have done Manhattan proud.

Nothing could be more Mexican.  Acapulco, once the crown jewel of Mexican holiday spots, has become a bit ragged.  It is certainly out of style for the jet setters.  But Mexicans love the place.  And that is who we saw there.  (Including what was apparently a headless horse pulling an LED-lit Cinderella coach.)

Of course, lots of people anywhere usually means a dearth of open hotel rooms.  But within a half hour, we had discovered two vacant rooms a few blocks off of the beach.

I am writing you now around midnight at the hotel pool, surrounded by young Mexican and their families.  All willing to share their table, music, beer and cigarette smoke with me.  I only accepted two in the list.

No resort could offer an experience like this.  It must be worth several points on that forthcoming examination.

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