Monday, February 23, 2015

Mazatlan With Visitor's Eyes -- February, 2015

We have visited Mazatlan five different times since we set sail for Mexico in 2011, and we chose Maz as a place to further Bryce's hip recovery in part because it is so familiar to us. But over the last few weeks we have once again been reminded that there are new experiences to be had even in a familiar place.

That's particularly true when visitors give us the opportunity to see through new eyes. Our friend Jodi Rafkin (of Portland, Or.) came to visit recently and we shared some familiar and new experiences with her:

The Familiar:

Those that know us well do not need to be reminded that many of our favorite places are restaurants. One of these - Mr. Lionso's - is a favorite less for its food than its location -- the spectacular surfing beach, Playa Bruja (Witch Beach). 

Catchin' A Wave - No, Not Us

Beach Busy-ness

Post-Brunch Beach Walkers

The New:

               Carnaval: Jodi's visit corresponded with Mazatlan's Carnaval and she joined us for our heavily photographed Carnaval experiences which we shared in a prior blog post.   

               Stone Island:  Because Jodi is a beach lover we used her visit as an excuse to scout out a trip to a local beach that we have heard great things about - Isla de las Piedras (Stone Island). A visit to Stone Island is an enjoyable, typical Mexican beach day and if you visit Mazatlan definitely put this on your itinerary. 

We arrived mid-morning and had no trouble securing a pleasant table at Lety's, a highly recommended restaurant on the beach. 

Jodi and Bryce at Lety's
The food at Lety's is very good and (important and not always the case at a Mexican beach restaurant) the bathrooms are clean and well equipped. Our one disappointment was that Lety's does not have hammocks and all the restaurant's beach recliners were in use. Next time we will call ahead and try to reserve some recliners or perhaps try the restaurant next door which does have hammocks. It's just plain difficult to take an after-luncheon nap in a plastic beach chair. 

Getting to Stone Island is half the fun. At this point we can only report in on the ferry that leaves from the Embarcadero near the naval station, but we hear there's another ferry dock in town. More on that later, perhaps. If you are cabbing or riding in a pulmonia just tell the drive that you want to go to Stone Island and he will get you to one departure spot or the other. 

We drove to the Embarcadero and parked in the Isla de las Piedras ferry dock parking lot - we were guided in part by a blue line that has been painted on the street to lead cruise ship passengers from the cruise ship dock to downtown. Parking was a true Mexico moment complete with an attendant that, using whistles and hand signals, directed us into such a tight spot that Bryce had to crawl out the passenger's side door. 

The Stone Island "ferry" is a panga with a fiberglass cover and - unique in our Mexico experience - life jackets! We suspect this safety feature is due to the ferry dock's proximity to the naval station. The Armada acts as the coast guard: it is the governmental entity responsible for maritime safety in Mexico. 

The ferry cost 30 pesos ($2.02 USD at current exchange rates) per person for a round trip (ida y vuelta). Don't loose your ticket - you will need it for your vuelta!  

The "Ferry"

Upon arrival one can walk to the beach or take the local "taxi" - a truck with bench seats in the bed. We didn't know how far away the beach was so we took the taxi (40 pesos one way - $2.70 - for the three of us). Next time we will probably walk unless we're carrying a lot of beach stuff.

The "Taxi"
Once at the beach there are several restaurants to choose from, all of which will let you sit all day for the price of a meal and a few drinks. Our lunch at Lety's was very good. Molly and Jodi had decadent shrimp dishes and Bryce had some very fresh fish. 

The water off Stone Island is very clear, the waves are fun but not overwhelming, and the beach is full of typical Mexican beach activity:

Para-sailing Kites

Food Vendors

All in all, Stone Island is a great day.

               Salsa y Salsa: Molly has been looking forward to having a guest who would take a cooking lesson with her - but Carnaval had all of the local chefs otherwise occupied. What she found was less - uhm - authentic? academic? - but fun: Salsa y Salsa is a margarita drinking / making / drinking, salsa making / eating and salsa dancing event that is popular as a cruise ship land excursion and, as it turns out, a total hoot - with some pretty good salsa recipes as a take-away.

Salsa y Salsa started out at 9:30 a.m. with all-you-can-handle margaritas.

Jodi's Breakfast Margarita

The "dancing chefs" then taught the group how to make a margarita, saving pockets of North America from the horror that is margarita mix. After margarita making the group moved on to making salsa roja, salsa verde, salsa de pina, pico de gallo, and a dessert salsa with coconut. And they got to wear chefs hats! 

Who Would Not Trust These Chefs To Make Great Salsa?!

The next salsa event was a salsa dancing lesson. We will pause here to reiterate that Bryce did not go to Salsa y Salsa. He felt the combination of daylight margaritas and a salsa dance lesson might be unwise as, historically, dancing has not been one of our partnership's core competencies. But Molly and Jodi had a a great time. 

Say "Salsa"!

But perhaps their favorite part was the post-salsa-ing hour-plus they spent on the beach in front of the hotel where Salsa y Salsa was held. Jodi negotiated the rental of a little thatched shade cover, a table and two chairs and a lovely time was spent taking turns paddling in the ocean and walking the beach. 

               Alagua:  It came time for Jodi to return to sunny Portland. [Really - it was sunny in Portland while she was visiting, which was particularly ironic when for two days it was rainy in Mazatlan!] On the way to the airport we stopped for the breakfast buffet at Alagua, a new restaurant find for us along the Zona Dorada beach. For 70 pesos ($4.75 USD) we were more than pleased.

Jodi's Breakfast Orange Juice

Now that we are without our "new eyes" we will have to open our own! We will let you know what we "see".  

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