A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico City

Do We Have to Go Home?

We are a bit mournful that "the party is over" and we will soon be returning home to perhaps, eternal rain!

Mexico City Ah, the city of opposites! Infamous for its pollution and chaos yet famous for its history and culture.

Much to our surprise we found the zocalo in Mexico City (one of the largest in the world) to be rather drab. It reminded me more of an Eastern bloc country, particularly its drab grey color. The rest of the city is rich by design, color and energy.

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We had another bumpy beginning with our lodging, however we quickly turned that around and found comfortable quarters in a barrio called Roma. It might be akin to Kits in Vancouver- more or less. Great restaurants, chilled neighbourhood and many friendly faces.

Unlike Vancouver, Mexico City is built on top of a lake. (as, we were told). What this means is that many of the oldest structures have taken on a "mean lean" literally, as sections of Churches have calved off hunks of building from its mother structure. We saw, several churches, young and old in this state as well as an apartment building. Imagine spilling a drink in your flat and having your neighbour clean it up in theirs!
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We have been inspired by many things in Mexico City. From the more mundane . . . the subway system, a magnificent network of hundreds of kilometres of underground transportation which moves millions of people per day. The flip side of the mundane are the Eco bicicletes, an on-the- ground network of bicycles used by thousands of people per day. By all appearances, it is a very successful venture in Mexico City. Bicycle users ranged from businessmen to jean dressed folk. Often we had conversations of how this might be replicated in Vancouver. Here is another type of 'green taxi' service offered in the heart of Mexico City, a peddle bike with room for two!
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Amongst many things in Mexico City that inspired us was (oddly) the post office! The outside of the building features an architecture style typical of the era. One might think that the inside would be as utilitarian, however, it was quite the opposite; grand and expansive ceilings, plenty of marble and a stunning "stairway to heaven!" The building is still being used for mail sorting and delivery and it is quite spotless!
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Mexico City is truly one of the "centres of the universe" for art. We had the pleasure of visiting Palacio Bella de Artes (Palace of fine Arts) and the Museo de Arte Moderno, two exquisite sites. The Palacio was a splendid display of deep pocket architecture but more important the magnificent murals by the likes of Diego Rivera and Rufino Tomayo.
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Frida Kahlo, Maria Iziqerida and once again Rivera and Tomayo had magnificent showings in the Museo de Arte Moderno.
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During our time at the Museo de Arte Moderno there were several school groups visiting. It was exciting to see their interest in art displayed through questions and discussions with the tour leaders about these inspiring art works.
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In spite of this large city we were both surprised and pleased to find such grand green spaces. Many of the large thorough fares in the heart of the city had tree lined boulevards with large, walking and cycling paths. Here we saw all walks of people relaxing and enjoying Mexico City. Minutes away from the business district is a grandiose Parque de Chapultepec . It is an enormous park in the heart of the city. We enjoyed our electric train trip through the park, like all the other touristicas!
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During our ride we came across this sign. We thought it was a very strange combo of words together on the same sign! If need be, you can google translate the words!
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Although we were at the peak of museum fatigue, we did take time one day to visit the Palace Museo. Once again we were reminded of the incredible Mexican culture that evolved over centuries of time.
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Here are some of the artifacts from the museum. And Remember . . . I am only the photographer!
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The most exceptional and breath taking experience were the Teotihuacan Pyramids. These are located about one hour NW of the City. We decided to take a tour bus c/w guide to the site. The guide and driver were both great and met the linguistic needs of both Spanish and English speaking folk. I believe that the pyramids are the 3rd largest in the world. They were enormous! Similar to the Egyptian pyramids and Chichenitza, these sites have parallel orientations to the sun and moon! Some of the pyramids had paintings dating back eons of time. We were able to scale the pyramids and enjoy the 360 degree, vistas. These incredible moments offer up the opportunity to ponder what life might have been like without the invasion of the Spaniards.
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Our time was very short in Mexico City to "see it all". Our time in the country, like Peru, was insufficient to see it all as well. Once again both Carole and I feel quite blessed to have the health and desire to travel. We have witnessed many amazing things, met some beautiful people and deepened our appreciation for the many similarities and differences between cultures in a few short months.

Once again, we both want to thank my bro Lee and our neighbor and friend Amy for taking care of our home while we were away. It means so much to us to have you folks take time out of your day to make sure that our home is safe and sound.

Thanks also to those who read our blogs and to the few who actually enjoyed it!! We have appreciated reading the comments from friends and family as we shared our stories with you.

By the time you read this last (almost) posting, we will have arrived safe and sound back to Nanaimo - in surprisingly wonderful weather.
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Posted by Carole and Rod 13:21 Comments (2)

Guanajuato - City of Colourful Casitas!

The bus trip from Morelia to Guanajuato was amazing. So much water (lakes & reservoirs), mountains, hills, agriculture and at the end....a city in the desert. But....our first impressions of the city were not favourable. It seemed there were just so many people converging into the centre of a small city by car, bus, by foot, by donkey...and all were surrounded by steep hillsides stacked with colourful house on top of colourful house. I think they call this "transition"!

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Amazing what a good nite sleep in a beautiful casita 15 minutes outside of the city centre can do for one's perspective! We awoke to a cacophony of sounds which we grew to love more each day - birds, donkeys, dogs, dogs and oh did I say dogs! Guanajuato is definitely a city of dogs- on and off leash.

Our casita was on the same property as the owners residence, (a charming couple from California), surrounded by cactus, bouganvillia and trees. Both the casa and casita were architecturally designed in Santa Fe style and lovingly decorated with colourful Mexican tiles and art. We felt so lucky to have discovered such a beautiful spot so close to downtown and all the action yet so quiet.

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Inside was simple, but so comfy...

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Our friend and guard dog - Bella!

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Guanajuato was founded on silver mining and today there are still a number of operating mines. One of these was located just above us operated by a Canadian company and each evening we were privy to a number of underground explosions in their continued lust for silver.

Our dining view was of two defunct silver mines on the hillside; one from the 15th century and the other 17th century. These are incredible bastions of stonework that we enjoyed cada dia (every day). Where in the world can you drink your morning coffee looking at history! So fortunate.
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Guanajuato is a colonial city extraordinaire. From the many churches to the elaborate architecture of the university to the opulent Teatro Juarez - we loved them all. In fact, on our final evening we were treated to a free concert in the Teatro amid all the adornments. Incredible acoustics !

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Some other highlights were the Museo de Pueblo which housed a number of art pieces and murals by Jose Chavez Morado. Jose was one of the next generation of Mexican mural painters in the Diego Rivera style. Stunning works!

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Proportion of murals we have seen - absolutely amazing works.

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Speaking of Diego, we spent a couple of hours in the home where he was born and lived to about age 6 . It is filled with some of his very early works, commissioned works and later works also. I was so excited to be seeing his works in person! Sadly, we were not allowed to take any photos of his works.

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We also visited the Museo of Mummies which I found very creepy. These were bodies exhumed from the cemetery on the street above as the families could no longer pay for their plots, or no one knew who they were and more space was required for those who had money. This took place beginning in the 1940's and continued until as recently as the 70's! There were also many mummified babies that I found quite distasteful. BUT....the Mexican folk love it and take many many pictures of themselves and their children (living ones), beside the mummies. Very very creepy to this gal!

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On our last evening downtown we stumbled upon a VW rally paralyzing both auto and foot traffic. There were so many VW's from different eras; some original, many customized. Sadly the heavens opened up, the wind gained momentum and the downtown cleared of people and VW's before a true appreciation could be realized. Another time perhaps...

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At the end of our 5 day visit, we were quite sad to be moving onward. Quite a turn around from our initial impression!

A few random parting pics!

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Ah Mexico - A VW in every driveway...

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Yes yet another outstanding church!

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Best meal of our entire trip!
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Next stop - our last on this adventure. Mexico City!

Posted by Carole and Rod 20:25 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Visiting Baden Powell

Well here we are . . . still, at the Baden Powell apartments in Morelia, going to the Baden Powell Institute of Languages! Yup, Baden Powell - Be Prepared . . . as any good boy cub/scout would remember!
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Morelia continues to be a city of awe for us! It has also been both exciting and exhausting as we have hauled our "bedraggled" bodies to/from school, each day, over the past 2 weeks, to learn Spanish, still! We have met many interesting gringos through the school as well as some fabulous Instructors! Although an exhausting experience, it has been wonderful.
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You cannot continue to embarrass and humiliate yourself through Spanish lessons without taking a break! So, last week we went on a tour to the "reserva de las mariposas Monarch", the Monarch butterfly reserve on the east side of the state. We met up with a van full of wonderful Mexicana folks, whose company we truly enjoyed. In fact, the bus trip (3 hours each way) became yet another Spanish class.

The tour was quite incredible. After a one hour hike you arrived at one of the monarch sites. Remember how snow storms sometimes develop. . . first you see a single flake, then another and soon you are surrounded by an infinity of snow flakes! So to with the Monarchs! It is still staggering to the imagination how these insects make the bi-annual pilgrimage from Mexico to the US & Canada, and return. Apparently after mating in Mexico, the male butterflies die and the females make their way north. It was truly awesome to see the Monarchs fluttering about in silence, preparing for their flight. We were truly blessed to have this experience. I have taken several short videos of the reserve, however, For some reason they refuse to play on the I pad. I plan to send them later from a real computer!
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One of the more inspirational moments of this adventure was an abuela (grandmother) and her grandson. He had assisted her all the way up the mountain so she could see the butterflies. Step by step they worked there way to the top. Even after a stumble to the ground, the abuela regrouped and continued the trek. Both her and her grandson were inspirational to us.
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Every Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm the City of Morelia cordons off one of the main Streets to traffic, allowing only "ped-icular" traffic of all sorts: bicycles, trikes, skateboards, roller blades, baby buggies and walkers! Sunday is really a Dia de familia (family day) with Moms and Dads and chillens on bikes etc. enjoying their day together.
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We also had the pleasure to visit the cathedral on Saturday night to watch the "los fuegos de artificiales". (Fireworks!) It happened that this particular weekend many things were being celebrated resulting in the streets being closed off, rock bands playing in front of the church, a show and shine of cars, motorcycles and boom box cars . . .who knew! Families, friends and strangers hovered around the cathedral awaiting the dimming of the lights. At last the lights dimmed and the music began, a soul warming piece of orchestral music filled the air followed by the splendour of fireworks. So there we were, standing in the middle of the street with fireworks being launched overhead, with the now lit up cathedral in the immediate background, with this soul wrenching music! We felt as if we were caught in the middle of a Peter Pan and Chariots of Fire screen set. It was one of those "peak living moments" where you simply had to be there to understand the rapture of the moment. Again I have videos that you can't see, yet.
And yes, the moto; I thought it would be a great way to get around Morelia! And it's a two seater!
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Although I pitched it the best way possible, I was out voted! Actually, the deal was, I could buy the moto, if Carole could fill the closet with shoes like these!
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About once per month Eugenio, the director of the school, invites his students on a "walking tour" of Centro. It begins around 4:00 and ends around 6:30 or so! A small group of students so enjoyed this tour. Eugenio offered about one dozen stops c/w talks about each point of interest. He first relayed the message in Espanol and then repeated it in Ingleis, for anyone who missed parts of the Spanish translation. The tour was "over the top" wonderful for us. Both Carole and I have become quite infatuated by Morelia and to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the city only enhanced those feelings. Oh, so lucky are we!
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We have also met some very interesting Morelian folks. We shared our home one evening with a very young man who recently graduated with his MBA from a Texas University. This young man was full of hope and energy to make the world a better place. We spent an afternoon with Eugenio, the director of BP Spanish school, discussing life in Morelia and our interest in returning in returning to BP amongst other things. He is truly a gracious man, willing to offer any assistance.

So we continue our adventure till Monday, when we pack up our packs and head to Guanajuato by bus. I know, you thought Carole might re-consider on the moto, but alas!

So here is a series of photos taken at different times, different places in or near Morelia
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So the final photo is of our "time machine". We love the showers in Mexico and we have likened them to our very own time machine. This is me, arriving back from an Elton John concert circa 1980's!
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Hasta luego!

Posted by Carole and Rod 16:29 Comments (2)

Patzcuaro to Morelia

Country to City

We left Zijuatanejo relaxed, warm and happy for many swims in the Pacifico ocean. In my humble opinion, there is just nothing quite like swimming in highly salinated water. I can actually float, and for this gal who sinks like a stone in the pool at home, it is a treat to lay on the surface like a starfish with next to no effort!

This is how relaxation at Casa de las Suenos (House of Dreams) looks!

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We boarded a bus to Patzcuaro, our next destination, and were told it would take approximately 4-4 1/2 hrs. Of course that would be Mexican hours!

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Beautiful scenery enroute.

We arrived 6 1/2 hrs later to our B&B and wow what an amazing place it was. We had decided to splurge on a little comfort, but were unprepared for what we walked into. The home had been completely renovated and added to in true Mexican style. Quite simply it was exquisite. Our hosts Vicky & Eric were gracious, incredibly helpful and plain fun. We enjoyed coffee with them each morning in their garden under a huge avocado tree that thankfully did not drop fruit on us! The tree was indeed loaded with fruit as it is harvest time in this region
Check out their home at www.posada-yolihuani.com

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Patzcuaro is a very old village and at one time vied to be the capital of the state of Michoacan. The building facades in the central district are all painted the same colours, brown and cream with store names and numbers in red & black lettering . Rod commented that it looked a little military, however we have since learned this is a government requirement to identify the "downtown" area and is present in all small communities too.

Patzcuaro centro streets - the military look...

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The Biblioteca & mural inside - amazing!

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Still operating secondary school - an incredibly well built building
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The town square or Plaza Principal is absolutely charming and filled with folks at any time of day from all walks: lovers "sucking face " (our slang), families, biz folk, mothers and daughters walking arm in arm....am sure you get the idea. Even the trees are happy as they emanate music from speakers tied around each one! Evening is even more charming as the plaza is illuminated and every building sports a turn of the century looking lamp Really very European!

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We happened to arrive on a festival weekend which is always fun. On Saturday in the Plaza Principal scores of budding and experienced artists of all ages began creating chalk art for many hours. It was fantastic! Music is also ever present from a solo accordion player to tubas & swirling dancers in the street. Love love the energy.

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Truly inspirational as a lot of the art spoke to peace among friends, families, pueblos and world peace.

We took 2 side trips from Patzcuaro - one to an archaeological site called Tzintzuntzan and another to Santa Clara del Cobre, a copper making community. Both were fantastic days.

Tzintzuntzan was a surprise as the architecture of the ruinas was so very different than anything we have ever seen. The walls were round and undulating, very different than the more linear way of building we are so used to seeing. The outside of the walls appeared to be sheathed in cut volcanic stone, probably retrieved from a few miles away.

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View of the lake that Patzcuaro is located near.

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Santa Clara de Cobre is famous for copper smithing. We arrived at a local taller (workshop), and watched a demonstration of copper making in the traditional style. It is incredibly labour intensive but the outcomes are so beautiful, truly pieces of art.

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We were invited to "hammer" the molten copper and later do some hand hammering as the product worked towards completion. Hard hard work. The end result however was the crowning of the King & Queen!

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After 4 days in our luxurious B&B we decided to head to the capital, Morelia as we had heard it was a beautiful colonial city with many side trips to enjoy. All stories are true! It is a fantastic city. We have moved into an apartment in a lovingly restored colonial house in the central district close to all sorts of good things - markets, sights, music and a Spanish school.

We have already visited the main cathedral - breathtaking and ornate but in a much lighter way than the Iglesia Santa Domingo of Oaxaca.

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We were given a heads up by one of our neighbours, that there would be a free outdoor classical music concert taking place in the Jardin de Rosas (garden of roses) the other day. The musicians were from the prestigious conservatory across the street and the music was traditional Michoacan. Amazingly lovely. I thought Rod was going to float away he was so intoxicated by it!!

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So we are off to a wonderful start here, feeling very comfy and "at home" in a city of 1 million. Hard to fathom that. We have signed up for classes next week hopefully to learn not be humiliated!

Hasta luego nuestro amigos.

Carolina y Rodrigo

Posted by Carole and Rod 19:28 Comments (1)

Adios El Tule. Hola la playa

I have been remiss in my editorial duties of late! What seems like some time ago, we were wandering the streets of Oaxaca entranced by its beauty.
Often times we felt as if we were strolling the streets of an Italian, or Portugese town. We came across the tiniest of coffee bars in Oaxaca, found by Carolina as she drilled down on one of the websites. As fortune would have it, we met the owner of the cafe, who engaged us in discussion of his fine coffee beans. Quite delightful, he was. Just when I think I have a sense of the beautiful Spanish language and request a 1/2 a kilo of coffee for our early morning taste sensation, I end up with a kilo! How does that happen and so humbling.

Before leaving El Tule we took a "4 rosary ride" up the valley to the market in Tlacloluya. It was quite the adventura as we wandered from stall to stall, to stall, to stall . . . Anything that you ever wanted to eat, drink, wear could be found there. There were endless stalls of flowers, meat, clothes . . . Young and old roamed through the walkways between the stalls, most having a better sense of where they were going!
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We also took a trip to a Fabrica de Mezcal (Mezcal plant). We had a Spanish speaking young man give us a tour of the facility. It was most interesting to see the more traditional way of making Mezcal. We felt we had to do the "right thing" and make a purchase of a few items, for medicinal purposes!
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On another trip to Oaxaca, we noticed that a Church of interest was open. We were unsuccessful in getting into this church earlier in the week so we took advantage of the opportunity in the failing light of day. Truly, it was one of the most beautifully adorned churches either of us have seen. Absolutely stunning and as usual, photos do such an injustice to its beauty. Delayed gratification takes on an entirely different meaning when you understand that the bit players who built the church, would rarely, if ever witness the final fruits of their labor.
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For our last eve in El Tule we had dinner in a small and hospitable restaurant.
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You have to eat early in El Tule as they roll up the streets around 7:30! We had decided that we were making an exodus from the region. Zijuatenajo trumped other points south of Oaxaca. We chose to fly from Oaxaca to Zijuatanejo and endured a rather convoluted way of catching what might be considered "an airporter bus" out of Oaxaca!

In the shadow of Ixtapa (which we probably won't visit), the city of all-inclusives, lies this still rather quiet little fishing village that has escaped (for the most part) many of the pitfalls of tourist towns. Still, there are many gringos in Zijuatanejo, but the vibe is different.
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We had booked, through Trip Advisor, what appeared to be a funky place to stay. Our flight was delayed so we arrived around 6:30 pm, as the sun was setting. We found our way to the site and had experienced our first "shock and awe" with Trip Advisor! Without going into lurid details about the place, we bailed, but not before the neighbor came over and removed his pot plants from what could have been our balcony! We later met with the manager of the unit who graciously stated that she would recommend a refund via Trip Advisor and we now await a credit to our account.

We were fortunate enough to find a nearby place down the street that was perfectly fine for the night. Later the next day we were absolutely charmed by the beautiful and delightful Rosa Maria, who let us stay in here bright and cheerful abode.
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We booked 5 nights with her and enjoyed her company immensely. Rosa Maria has a small tienda in front of her rooms where she sells clothing. She can often be heard laughing and chatting with friends, neighbours and those wishing to buy from her.
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Next to the ocean near the zocalo in Zijuataneo, we found our evening entertainment. Every night we were entertained by many basketball games. It appeared that weekend games may have been out of towners and week nights were local games. Regardless, the games were lots of fun to watch! One of the refs came to be known to us as Eddie Murphy. When he wasn't a ref. he was playing basketball. We saw him every night of our game watching.

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On weekend, there was entertainment for children and we got to witness the next generation of budding artistas from Mexico.
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Zihautenao was also inspiring as it gave me an idea of how I can offset the cost of my motorcycle.
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Although the beaches, the swimming, and the food have been quite fine here in Zijuatanejo, we have the need to move away from the beaches and travel inland. So, once again we are saddling up and heading back into the mountains! Hasta Luego!

Posted by Carole and Rod 17:02 Comments (1)

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