Rocky and I are off to Mazatlan for a family trip. When I was a child and teen, Mexico was a safe destination and a favorite spring break spot. Then a series of kidnappings changed our feeling about young people crossing along the Texas and Mexico border. The coastal cities in the Caribbean and Pacific remained popular destinations and going to Mexico meant a flight rather than a drive. Mexico was also a bargain compared to other foreign destinations with a weak peso to our dollar. The coastal cities got another boost to tourism when the cruise ship industry took off.
The drug wars in recent years have resulted in a lot of bad press for Mexico and travel to this country has dropped significantly. The US State Department continues to issue safety warnings to Americans intending to visit our southern neighbor. I have limited my personal travel to Mexico and I remain hesitant when considering the travel options here. I continue to go to Cozumel for the diving and we have taken a few group trips to Cabo San Lucas. We tend to hang around the resort more or rent a home with a cook to avoid going out in the evenings. (This can be a very economical option for a large group splitting expenses.) However, I find the city center in Cozumel very safe, even after dark.
This trip we are staying at the home of my brother’s in-laws. Originally, from Argentina, they immigrated to the United States when my sister-in-law, Ivanova, was eleven years old. She grew up in New Orleans. Her parents now split their time between New Orleans and Mazatlan. The house in Mazatlan was built by a wealthy Texas homebuilder and has some very interesting architectural features. All the rooms have an ocean view, particularly beautiful at sunset. Ivaniva’s father saw a picture of the house in USA Today when it had been vacant for two years and pursued it from there. They have owned the property for 10 years now.
The United plane we flew on was small, one seat on one side and two on the other. It was a quick flight from Houston, just over two hours. There were seven of us traveling together, meeting Ivanova and her parents who were already here. (Boris just got the fixator off yesterday, but is not cleared for travel until August.) My brother 3Jack2 met us at the terminal in Houston-he had flown in from Minneapolis-with Shipley’s donuts in hand.
Arrival into the airports in Mexico usually means walking down stairs directly on to the tarmac. Keep your sunglasses or umbrella handy when exiting the plane; you may need them. When coming into Mexico, you still have to fill out the paper forms, but they have certainly gotten easier in the past few years. This time one of the forms-the one for the head of household-was only offered in Spanish, a bit of a challenge for me. However, I was surprised at how much I was able to figure just from being familiar with the type of form you fill out when entering a foreign country and the Spanish I have picked up from living in Texas.
Mexico has this interesting system where after clearing passport control you pick up your luggage, send it all through a scanner, then press a button which gives you a red or green light. If you get green you are done and pass through. If you pull a red, they inspect all your bags and those of anyone else in your family. This is meant to be random, but I have always wondered about that. I got red, so both Rocky and I had to have our bags inspected. There was nothing much to see in my luggage, just swimsuits, sarongs, and flip-flops, my typical Mexico travel wear.
Ivanava’s Dad picked us up and took us in his van to the house. It was certainly not a scenic ride; the first thing we passed was a prison. My nephew started us in a game of slug bug where you get to (playfully) punch the person next to you if you spot and call out the color of a VW beetle. There are a lot of the old models in Mexico, particularly in Acapulco. One Thanksgiving we visited Acapulco and noticed that the white, “Herby-like” VW Beetles were used as taxis. We decided to count them on one trip into town from the resort, but I stopped at 1000 about half way into our drive.
After slug bug, we moved on to counting the small open air taxis that look like extended golf carts affectionately called Pulmonias since you are inhaling all the fumes when you ride in one. Apparently, these are a local specialty.
Eventually we made it to the heart of the city and passed along side the water before ascending to the hillside house. It was built on multi-levels. (Boris could have never handled this.) You enter on the highest level with the dinning room, living room, kitchen, game room, and balconies. The next level down is a series of bedrooms, all with an ocean view and balcony, and the upper entrance to the two-story attached condos. The next level down is for the infinity pool, saunas, sundeck and the lower entrance to the condos. From this level, you can also go up a different series of stairs to access a beautiful palapa covering an outdoor cooking and dining area and the wine cellar-really a wine cave. Cave storage for wine is all the rage in California as I learned during a group tour to some of the smaller wineries in Napa a few years ago. The caves are naturally cool. I haven’t yet seen the whole house, but the palapa and wine cave were my favorites.
We arrived in the afternoon and enjoyed welcome cocktails on the pool terrace-two pina coladas for me. After a light lunch of fruit and ceviche, we swam in the infinity pool. It connects to a circular deepwater section that would be a wonderful training area for scuba divers. The deep area was off-limits for our game of Marco Polo. We did some “sun” bathing on a cloudy afternoon until the showers came. All of us fell asleep in the sun to be woken by the raindrops. Next was casual dress for dinner under the palapa.
Ivanava had hired a local chef for the week and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of shish kabobs, rice, and beans. The meal started with a sweet corn soup. Not only was the food delicious, the presentation was lovely. The chef prepared the meal next to our table and the process provided our evening’s entertainment. We enjoyed wine from the adjacent cave.
We watched the sunset from the pool terrace. After dark, we headed to the game room to choose from among the hundreds of movie DVDs our host had. I will sleep well tonight.