Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mainland Mexico

Enjoying Mojitos in Barra Navidad

Ever since we came across to the mainland we have been continually delighted with the small towns we have visited.  I cannot express how nice it has been to get to know the “real” Mexico compared to the touristy towns I have been to in the past.  Traveling by boat allows us to get to many areas that would have been a little more challenging to see by car.  While many of these places are still clearly dependent on tourist dollars – they are so far removed from what you see in Cabo, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta that you might think yourself in a different country all together.  Following are some thoughts on some of the places we have visited on the mainland over the past month…

Fishing Pangas in La Cruz

La Cruz

La Cruz is located in Banderas Bay, about a 45 minute drive northwest of Puerto Vallarta.  It’s a very popular destination for cruisers as it has a large anchorage, a very nice marina, good access to boat parts, an excellent fresh fish market and a wonderful little town where you can get most things you need with a little searching. 
What I think makes La Cruz so fantastic is the cornucopia of restaurants that you can find, offering a large variety of dishes.  Along with great food, many of them also showcase live music!  One of our favorite stops was a restaurant called Tacos on the Street.  While the name brings to mind a cart on the road, it’s actually a real restaurant.  They have just three items on the menu – beef tacos, beef quesadillas, or beef tostadas – and while they like to keep it simple, any one of those options is delicious and CHEAP!  A taco “con todo” (“with everything”, which is the ONLY way to order it) is just 20 pesos (about $1.75 US).  How great is that? 

La Cruz Sunday Market

The music you can see in La Cruz is diverse and interesting.  Imagine yourself walking through an arched doorway into an open courtyard with tile floors.  Near the center is a small raised stage, with a semi- open kitchen at the back, where you can watch the meals being prepared.  You sit down at a classic Mexican table (a plastic table covered with some sort of colorful cloth) and in front of you sits a lone man on an old wooden chair, under a huge tree, holding what is clearly a well-loved guitar.  The night is warm with a light breeze and the music this man produces is incredible.  His name is Lobo and he’s an amazing flamenco guitarist that has been a regular in the area for many years.  Watching his fingers race along the neck of his guitar while his right hand strummed and patted and shook over the guitar strings was an experience that I will likely never forget.  It’s times like this that remind us of why we are on this trip.   
House in Melaque
Barra Navidad & Melaque
About a 140 miles south down the coast is a wonderful town called Barra Navidad.  The town is set along the beach with a large lagoon running along the backside.  There is a HUGE resort located here that is absolutely beautiful – with water taxis running between it, the lagoon and town.  

Hotel in Barra Navidad

On our first morning here we heard a light knock on our hull.  We emerged to find a classic Mexican panga (small boat) that had been converted to a traveling bakery with a French pastry chef!  Yes, he’s an enterprising local imported from France that actually brings the goodies to you!  We were delighted to purchase some of his wonderful little quiches, croissants and baguettes and I could see him becoming a VERY bad habit if you were to stay for any length of time.

On the Streets of Barra Navidad

The town of Barra is filled with great restaurants and stores where you can find any kind of knickknack along with some very good artwork.  There is a beautiful white sand beach that runs the length of the town and connects it to the next town to the north called Melaque.  We walked the beach (about 2.5 miles one way) to visit Melaque and it was well worth the trip – lots of great places to wonder through and the people in both towns were incredibly friendly and helpful.  While there, we found this amazing little store where one family has been weaving rugs for many generations.  Grandpa raises the sheep, grandma takes the wool and hand dies it using traditional methods and the “kids” (now WELL into being adults) do the weaving.  The result is pure, vivid colors made from all natural products – beautiful!  We had been searching for our “Mexico keepsake” and we couldn’t imagine a better spot to get it.
Mexican "Keepsake" Hand Woven Rug

Artist in Bucerias
This town is just a few miles southeast of La Cruz and is kind of an eclectic mix of old town Mexico and a modern day city – battling it out block by block.  You can get almost anything you need here, along with lots of stuff you didn’t even know you wanted!  There are all the normal tourist items and shops, along with some less expected items. 

Les & Diane in Bucerias

We went here with our friends Les and Diane on Gemini – who have been cruising for over 10 years now in Mexico and South America.  They introduced us to Abalito, the coolest little seed and spice store I’ve ever seen.  This place had rows and rows and rows of every spice, seed or grain you could ever want – all sold by the kilo (or gram).  It was a little slice of heaven!    Bucerias is an easy bus ride from La Paz or Puerto Vallarta and shouldn’t be missed.  

Lunch Stop in Bucerias
These are just a couple of our favorite spots and I wish that we had planned more time here in Mexico as it has FAR exceeded our expectations.  The people are amazing – warm, friendly and inviting – willing to lend a helping hand in any way they can.  The beaches are beautiful, the air is warm and the food is incredible.  I am VERY happy to report that neither Brett nor I have experienced any issues with “Montezuma’s Revenge” – not even at the many spots that most would consider pretty dicey. 

Mexican Scaffolding
Mexico is a wonderful place to visit.  I know a lot of people are concerned with visiting here due to the drug war, but I can honestly say we have personally seen zero violence and have felt extremely safe everywhere we have been.  If you make the effort to get a little off the beaten track and avoid the larger cities on the boarder and inland, you will see the “real” Mexico that we have come to love.  

A Typical Scene in Melaque

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