Tag Archives: Travel Mexico

Museums, Parks and Attractions in Guadalajara and Mexico

Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

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Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

Years ago when I’d go on short winter holidays, I always marveled at the fact that the locals from California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Texas always looked pale. They didn’t have that bronzed suntannned look. However now that I actually live in that type of climate here in Mexico, I completely understand it. In the days when I was teaching, I had to travel to a beach area so that limited the opportunities. Even living here in Mazatlan and retired now, there are just so many other things I have found that fill my days.

But I finally did it! On Friday a friend and I ventured out to the beach on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). We took a bus down to the embarcadero and paid 30 pesos for a round trip ticket on the ferry. Of course “ferry” is a loose term for some type of watercraft that amazingly not only remains aloft but makes dozens of trips a day out to the island. I took advantage of the life jackets provided anyways.

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There were two other gringos on the boat with us. They were two men from Penticton, BC who were looking for somewhere to stay on the island. There was a young Mexican with a huge tray of pastry he was going to sell out on the beach. The rest of the passengers were Mexicans and did not speak English.

Our brief voyage over was uneventful and minutes later we were on the beach. We claimed two loungers and were delighted with the prompt arrival of a server to take our drink orders. It’s important to keep hydrated and I carefully balanced my cerveza with bottles of water.

My friend prefers an area with more solitude but the photographer in me thrives on the hustle and bustle of vendors and other beach goers. A line was strung across the sand to keep the hawkers at a distance.  Jewelry, tattoos, clothing, hammocks, sunglasses, hats, fruit, a variety of seafood, donuts, pastry and much more were readily available.

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And this being Mexico, of course there was music.

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The beach at Stone Island is very different from the rest of Mazatlan. There is a completely different feel to it. There are no strings of hotels along the beach. The restaurants are more casual. Bare feet and bathing suits are accepted attire. There is no evidence of Senor Frog’s or Oxxo.

I didn’t venture into the town itself. That will be for next time. I was quite content to hang out on the beach for seven hours instead working on my suntan. 

Semana Santa

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Semana Santa

Semana Santa has arrived, that dreaded time of year when the beaches here in Mazatlan are packed due to the invasion of vacationers from inland areas in Mexico. Children have two weeks off from school and the beach is always a popular spot. Of course there is also the added nightmare of the rerouting of traffic in an attempt to alleviate some of the congestion.

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I will be hiding out at the pool in our condo complex for the next three days.

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Then I will escape to Culiacan for a long overdue visit with my Mexican family.  We will attend the procession Friday morning to the cathedral. There are also special masses to be celebrated. Although I am not Catholic, I enjoy attending church and observing the traditions with my family.

Semana Santa is a busy time for all modes of travel, especially buses. Buses are crowded and it’s necessary to purchase tickets in advance, as opposed to merely showing up at the bus station and purchasing a ticket at the last minute, which is usually the norm here.

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When I lived in Canada Cadbury creme eggs symbolized Easter. When I lived in Guadalajara empenadas were prominent. I miss both of these, but I do look forward to a pina colada raspado in Culiacan. But most of all, I look forward to spending Easter with my family. After all, family is what life is all about.

Mi Amigo Telcel

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Mi Amigo Telcel

Cell phones. Can’t live without them, especially smartphones. When I arrived in Culiacan just over six years ago, I ventured out to buy a cell phone and obtain a plan. How hard could it be? After all, in Winnipeg, you went to the MTS store, chose a phone, chose a plan, gave them a credit card number for automatic payments, and away you went. The entire process took under a half hour.

Not in Culiacan. I went to a Telcel store and was told that I could buy a phone, at an outrageous price, but could not have a plan as I was not a residente permanente. My Spanish was extremely limited at that time and their English was non-existent. I left the store empty-handed.

My friend Juan Pablo offered to help me. He took me to a friend’s house to buy a phone. She had boxes full of cell phones, every make and model you could imagine. I chose a then state of the art Blackberry. She hooked me up with Telcel then and there and introduced me to the idea of pay and go. I was set.

Until I moved to Irapuato a year later. I had to get a new chip with a local number. Once again I had a Mexican friend help me out. But this time it took almost four hours until the chip was installed and the phone was working.

I stayed in Irapuato less than three months before moving to Guadalajara. Here we go again! This time my command of Spanish had improved and things went smoothly at the Telcel store. The new chip was installed and this time it only took two hours until it was activated and working. And I got this nifty little chip at Oxxo for adding saldo.

By the time I arrived in Mazatlan more than a year and a half ago, Telcel had done away with roaming and I was able to keep my Guadalajara phone number. The problem was that my iPhone was locked in Canada and my Blackberry was now vintage. And I despised carrying two phones around all the time. Telcel also has this annoying habit of requiring you to feed your phone monthly or your credits disappear. I quickly learned the art of calling people on What’s App which works off of WiFi.

I spent several months in Washington state last summer with no cell phone at all. Just before I left I bought an unlocked Android and took it with me to Mazatlan. Now I was faced with the challenge of removing the chip from my Blackberry and inserting it into the new phone. Of course it didn’t fit.

My Mexican friend Sofia took me to Telcel at Gran Plaza. They were reluctant to even try to insert it and wanted me to get a new phone number. Now that would have been a major pain. Sofia got them to try to agree to somehow cut it and get it to fit. But now there was another problem. Back in Guadalajara the man at the Telcel store had for some reason used his name to register my number. So now in Mazatlan they didn’t want anything to do with it because the number wasn’t in my name. Somehow Sofia convinced them to do it. And as a plus I was able to get a plan for 150 pesos per month that has data, unlimited texting and phoning, free Facebook and What’s App and long distance to USA and Canada. I love the Amigo Plan 150!

A month later I go in to renew this pay as you go plan. I go to the cashier and pay my 150 pesos. I go to get it activated and she informs me that I have paid a day too early so they now have to set up a new plan. And we go through the whole thing again of who the number is registered to. She was satisfied that I said it was in a man’s name and started a new plan for me. She told me that the day my plan expired I should come in and renew it in a month.

Yesterday I received a text that it had expired. I go to Telcel and pay my 150 pesos. I go to the desk to get it activated. Oh oh! The rules have changed. Now I’m supposed to wait a day after it expires and then go in to pay and activate it. This time the staff member who assisted me spoke amazing English. He offered to change the registered name into my name. Yay! It’s finally all mine! And he gave a number to text the following day, along with a code, in order to activate. And it actually worked today when I did it! He also told me I’d get a confirming message, which I did, and that I didn’t need to reply to it.  So I didn’t.

But I then got another text which I didn’t understand at all. Oh well. I’ll see Sofia on Saturday at our cooking class and I’ll ask her to deal with it for me.

A side note, I’ve been told to never ever give my credit card number to Telcel. Even my Mexican friends pay in cash every month!

Where Does The Time Go?

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Where Does The Time Go?

The other day I had lunch with friends who are returning to Calgary for the summer. They know I haven’t been teaching much and are amazed when I tell them that my first year here in Mazatlan has gone by so quickly. Whatever do you do with your time Karen? So it appears that it’s time to reflect upon what I’ve been doing.

Last year at this time I was back in Winnipeg. I was preparing for a book launch and I had a lot of loose ends to tie up so that I could return to Mexico for an indefinite period of time. My two week visit became five and I was more than ready to return to Mexico, especially when an unexpected snowfall graced us in Winterpeg.

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Living in Mazatlan is very different from living in Guadalajara. It is much hotter here and much more humid, although Guadalajara gets a lot of rain and some flash flooding. Mazatlan is a much smaller city and the air is much fresher. English is more common here, especially in certain expat areas. I actually have met people here who have lived here for years and do not speak any Spanish.

Because it is a smaller city, nothing is really far away. The traffic is lighter, and the roads are better as well. But the one big lure for me is the ocean. If Guadalajara had a beach, I’d still be there. I miss the museums, art galleries, parks and especially the canyon. But nothing compares with zipping along the Malecon here on a motorcycle with the wind blowing through your hair.

My friends have visions of me basking on a beach all day with a cerveza at my side. While I do make a point of going to the beach to relax, just the sight of the ocean from a bus window on a daily commute is calming and peaceful.  I teach, I write, I volunteer and even tried my hand at acting, but I most definitely do not lie on a beach all day long everyday.

I suppose you could say that my major focus has been on writing. I’m working on my third book and am writing fiction as opposed to self-help books. I belong to writers’ groups online. I also contributed to a book published here in Mexico extolling all the wonders that this country has to offer.

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At the moment I am only teaching private students. But I did find myself back in the classroom obtaining a CENNI examiner certification as well as a certificate to administer TOEIC exams here in Mexico.

I volunteer with Vecinos Con Carinos and La Vina. I also attended my first Friends of Mexico meeting this month.

I haven’t done too much traveling in Mexico. I went to Culiacan last September, Guadalajara in December and spent Christmas in Tototlan. My big trip was to Punta Cana in the Dominican for my daughter’s wedding last October. En route I spent a couple of days in Toronto.

I can’t believe I haven’t made it back to the aquarium yet. I went there a few years ago and it has expanded since. I also haven’t gone to Bosque de la Ciudad or to Stone Island yet. I also want to try out the ocean pool on the malecon.

Friends have introduced me to a multitude of restaurants and bars. And I have still have several on my list that I am eager to try.

But the best discoveries are all the beaches here in Mazatlan. Pueblo Bonito is fast becoming a favorite, although Olas Altas and Playa Bruja are also beautiful. These beaches are far less congested than the ones in Zona Dorada, and there are fewer hawkers to bother you as well.

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I checked out the art gallery here but it was pretty dismal compared with the galleries in Guadalajara. The Angela Peralta theatre is an elegant historic venue with a variety of plays and concerts to offer. And there was an abundance of entertainment on the streets during Carnaval and Semana Santa. Motorcycle Week featured four nights of bands and a fabulous parade. And of course fireworks are always part of any celebration.

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There are also markets featuring home-baked goods and crafts. The Plaza Machado has a weekly market and an abundance of restaurants. It was also the scene of celebrations during Day of the Dead and featured a parade.

The Malecon is an amazing stretch of about 20 km which I have yet to walk in its entirety. Beautiful statues, restaurants and bars on the beach, as well as artisans selling their crafts are found here. Benches are plentiful, and the view of the ocean, especially at sunset, is spectacular.

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My first year in Mazatlan is fast coming to a close, and I know that many more adventures await as I explore this coastal city. I’ve been hearing a lot about play readings……………………

Mazatlan Sunsets

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Mazatlan Sunsets

Mazatlan has the most beautiful sunsets as well as fabulous beaches. The other night I was totally mesmerized by the colorful display in the sky. I was out on my second floor terrace and cannot believe that my iPhone did such an incredible job of capturing the vivid colors.

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My next project is to wake up early enough to view the sunrise, which I;m sure will be equally as spectacular.

Monday After Motorcycle Week

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Monday After Motorcycle Week

It’s Monday morning again and another weekend has gone by all too quickly. It’s April already and yesterday the clocks sprang forth an hour with the time change, finally catching up to the rest of the continent who did it three weeks ago.

Time changes should not be allowed the weekend of Motorcycle Week. I went to the parade on Saturday and was totally blown away by the number of bikes that had invaded Mazatlan for this event. MazatlanCity.com claims that over 20,000 bikers were here. The Malecon was completely closed off to traffic Saturday afternoon and evening as the cyclists made their way from the aquarium to Olas Altas. I’ve been to parades in my life, but have never seen anything like this before.

Thousands of people lined the streets hours ahead of time in anticipation of this event. Hawkers circulated amongst the crowd selling ice cream, donuts, chips, balloons, cotton candy, bandanas, candy and anything else you can imagine. The beaches were all but deserted as the parade was THE place to be on Saturday.

Motorcycle week also involved much more than a parade. For 450 pesos, a wrist band admitted you to the grounds for four days of music and displays. (You also received a t-shirt.) There were also events on the beach such as pole dancing contests and bikini contests. Hotels and restaurants were overwhelmed with people, and of course traffic was a nightmare. And the noise of these bikes !!!!!!!!

Here are some pics I snapped during the parade:

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The bikes are gone now, the roar of engines a fading memory, and the streets are no longer parking lots due to traffic jams. The outdoor band concerts and the numerous displays are done for this year. Many locals tend to run away from Mazatlan during Motorcycle Week. Not me! I can hardly wait until next year!

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Reverse Culture Shock

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Reverse Culture Shock

Traveling and living in another country are amazing experiences I have had. I have immersed myself in in a foreign culture, have acquired a new language and have adjusted to a different climate. But the biggest challenge has been returning to my hometown for visits.

After eight months in Culiacan, I returned to Winnipeg intent on finding employment and remaining in Canada. While it was great to see my children and my friends, it definitely was not one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I had grown accustomed to a far different way of life in Mexico and I was quickly overwhelmed by the stressful lifestyle in Winnipeg. I lasted five weeks and breathed a sigh of relief when I boarded that flight back to Mexico.

The following two years were a split of six months in Guadalajara and six months in Winnipeg as I had two knee replacements done a year apart in Canada. I really had to psyche myself up for those lengthy Canadian stays. Anxiety and panic attacks were my constant companions along with grueling physiotherapy following the two surgeries.

When I returned to Guadalajara, it was for eighteen months this time. I planned a brief visit to Winnipeg to launch my second book in May of this year. However the two weeks dragged out to five weeks and it really was no vacation. I had a myriad of appointments and endless issues to contend with. Those weeks were exhausting and stressful.

I returned to Mexico in June and moved directly to Mazatlan. I welcomed the challenges of a new city to explore. Of course I did have to deal with Immigration and that comes in second only to divorce in terms of stress and aggravation.

Reverse culture shock is common when you have lived in another country and return to your hometown. The biggest obstacle for me is the concept of time. Here in Mexico, the pace is much slower. I like to call it the “land of manana.” There’s always another bus, another train and another day. There is no rush and multi-tasking is not a necessity. Everything gets done in its own time.

When I returned to Winnipeg, multi-tasking was an absolute necessity. Appointments combined with shopping in the same morning or afternoon left me feeling like I was in a marathon. I missed my little corner tiendas and the neighborhood tienguis. I missed the leisurely stroll to a coffee shop or a bar instead of the hassle of driving in traffic.

I missed the sound of the beautiful Spanish language. Although English is the predominant language in Winnipeg, I heard far more conversations in a variety of foreign languages when shopping in the malls.

I missed the smiling Mexican faces greeting me with a Buen Dia although they were complete strangers to me. Bus drivers would wish me a good day when I said gracias as I alighted from the bus.

While it was nice to return to some of my favorite restaurants, I missed the street food in Mexico. Wherever I was, a taco stand or a churro stand were never far away. And many of the foods I had become accustomed to in Mexico just were not available in Winnipeg.

I missed the loudspeakers blaring in the streets advertising tamales or fruit or mattresses. I missed the jingle of the Zeta gas truck and the bells of the ice cream vendors. I missed people trying to sell me pencils or tools through my window. I missed people offering me pots and pans in exchange for jewelry.

I could go on and on. But until you have actually done what I have, I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the struggle in returning to your home town after a lengthy stay in another country.  My world no longer begins and ends in Winnipeg. I have grown and learned so much in the past five years in Mexico. And isn’t that what life is all about?