Southern Hospitality

Dateline Charleston, SC: First order of business is to clarify that even though we are back in the US and closer to our old stomping grounds, we are not done with this adventure yet. One of our original goals had been to sail back to the NY area to meet up with family and friends, and we are very excited to be doing that. But it is not the end of this journey. I think when that time comes we will just feel it and it is not here yet. So, we are taking this opportunity to visit favorite places and, perhaps more exciting, to visit parts of the US one or both of us have never seen. We may be domestic, but many places are still foreign to us.

Lovely homes line the Charleston Battery

Lovely homes line the Charleston Battery.

Another benefit is that family and friends are closer at hand for quick visits. They aren’t burdened with trying to cram their week’s vacation into our wildly unpredictable schedule. Pete’s brother Matt was first to arrive for a 4th of July/Brothers Malloy visit during our stop in Charleston, SC.

Brothers Malloy lineup

The Brothers Malloy.

Returning crewmember Chris was able to bring his whole family, giving us the chance to meet our new niece Sophia.

Pete convinced Emma they could run through the fountain without getting wet.

Pete convinced Emma they could run through the fountain without getting wet.

and....

and….

Emma learning not to trust Uncle Pete

Emma learning not to trust Uncle Pete.

We even caught back up again with fellow cruisers Rob and Rose, who we’ve sailed off and on with since Pacific Mexico.

We love seeing our boat buddies Rob and Rose  arrive to share in the fun.

Now the party can start.

We arrived in Charleston to a harbor buzzing with Coast Guard and police boats.   We later learned it was security for President Obama who was giving the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of 5 church members shot to death at the Emanuel A.M.E. church.

cross in wet lands

It was truly inspirational to see the families and the city of Charleston rising above and forgiving, persevering and seeking light from such a dark and repulsive act.

These uplifting banners were found throughout town.

These uplifting banners were found throughout town.

AME church note

AME church flowers

Hundreds of flowers line the front of the church.

AME hydrant

Charleston is dripping with charm and history and bacon fat (the food is delicious but geez have they met a dish they haven’t merged with a pig part).   Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t let that stop us and we ate and ate and ate. Hell, who doesn’t love a homemade biscuit or eating catfish for breakfast?

You know how I know I’m getting older, no not that it is harder to lose weight from all those biscuits or recover from a hangover, it is I’m going on a walking tour or taking a corny carriage ride and, gasp, enjoying it.

Carriage ride

All aboard the middle age express.

yes of course I worried about the horse.

Yes, of course I worried about the horse.

Where once I scoffed at guides leading me around with a group of other camera toting gawkers, I now find them a perfect way to get the lay of the land and god forbid learn a thing or two. Afterwards we can tackle the city on our own, seeing it at our pace and once again being too cool for guide books. Humidity be damned, we walked and walked (remember we ate a lot of biscuits) soaking in the gorgeous architecture, landscapes and everything else the low country had to offer.

Southern hospitality wasn’t just for us, Charleston is one of the dog friendliest towns we’ve been to and Lucy was welcomed almost everywhere we went.

Some of the best houses were down these alley streets

Some of the best houses were down these alley streets.

Lucy riding into town.

Lucy riding into town via the marina’s courtesy shuttle…now that is first class.

Caught red handed (or mouthed) Pete and Lucy sampling hot sauces

Caught red handed (or mouthed) Pete and Lucy sampling hot sauces.

Lucy found a new house for us.

Lucy found a new house for us.

But it’s not only about horses and dogs, we had another raccoon incident.  This little guy somehow found his way onto the our dock, and was caught by Lucy actually trying to climb up our water hose to get on the boat.  Since the dock is long and far from the shore, he was certainly not where he belonged.

Wanna be crew

Wanna be crew.

The marina called the critter catcher who scooped him up and we were sad because we know where wayward raccoons go (and not to a big farm out in the country).  But we later saw some commotion on the dock and heard that the little guy opened his cage and got out.  But not to be deterred, the critter catcher caught him again.  However, this guy was determined and once again opened his cage and escaped.  This time he scampered into the marsh and the catcher said he would not go after him a third time.  So here’s to a determined little guy.  May he live long and prosper.

He sure is cute

He sure is cute.

Note to cruisers: The Charleston City Marina was full of some of the most helpful folks we’ve met. They welcomed us and Lucy with open arms and dog biscuits. They provide a free shuttle service into town yet it is walkable if desired. If you are in the anchorage it is a quick dinghy ride to the marina’s dinghy dock.   If you do go into the marina and they assign you to the Megadock be sure to request the inside. When those summer storms roll in the boats tied to the outside were getting tossed around like corks.

Here comes the rain again

Here comes the rain again.

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Bright Lights, Big City

Panama City meant one thing to us:  the Canal.  Transiting it was our major goal for this year, so I did not give the city itself much thought.    We ended up staying there much longer than we anticipated (see rock post) and decided to embrace the opportunity to explore this historic city.

So cue the skyline, public transportation and museums because we were back in a real honest to goodness big city!   And just like every metropolitan area you get the good with the bad, so we dusted off those NYC street smarts, threw our Panama hats in the air and enjoyed every second of city living.

Frank Gehry-designed Biodiversity Museum adds a pop of color to the skyline of Panama City

 

Open just two months, Panama's new Metro was terrific way to get around town.

Open just two months, Panama’s new Metro was a terrific way to get around town.

Metro, 35¢ a ride, what a bargain.

Metro, 35¢ a ride, what a bargain.

 

Lights of Panama City

Lights of Panama City

The city wears many hats, part Miami with its nightlife and high rises dotting the shoreline, part Old San Juan with its charming historic districts, part ghost town of abandoned American housing in the old Canal zone

Old "Canal Zone" housing now stands empty.

Old “Canal Zone” housing now stands empty.

and part bustling port city that, of course, centers around their main cash cow, the Canal.  Oh and lest I forget malls.

Wall to wall malls

Wall to wall malls

Shopping seems a national sport here.  Panama City hosts 4 ENORMOUS malls both high and low end.

Casa del Whopper

Casa del Whopper

I’m not a shopper, but did enjoy the air conditioning and cheap swimsuits, otherwise they just seemed like a labyrinth of the usual suspects, ubiquitous food courts and multiplex cinemas.  But the main transit center is at one of the malls, so you always had to pass through on your way to everything else.

My friend Robin & I mastered the buses!

My friend Robin & I mastered the buses!

Casco Viejo (Old Quarter)  is the historic district of Panama City.  It was established circa 1673 by the Spanish colonialists.  Majestic homes, cathedrals, government buildings all went neglected around the 1950s – when we all should have invested in the area.  Because now there is a renovation boom.  It is fascinating to see the renaissance in action.   Street by street it changes before your eyes, turn to the left you see a private residence being lovingly restored, to the right are the shells of buildings ripe for repair, look behind you see a rather dodgy area with squatters occupying buildings in ruins and straight ahead are impeccably restored buildings which house restaurants, shops, hotels, embassies, etc.    It has a similar look to the French Quarter in New Orleans without the drunken revelers. (Click on the photos in the gallery to enlarge and read descriptions)

Older you say, you want to see older than 1673.  Alright, Panama Viejo is for you.  This was the original Panama City founded in 1519 before it was shifted to Casco Viejo.  Now they are just ruins which are incorporated into a museum and park.

old and new panama city

old and new panama city

ruins of Panama Viejo

Ruins of Panama Viejo

Panama Viejo juxtaposed to the City today

Panama Viejo juxtaposed to the city today

And of course we ate and drank and watched more soccer during the World Cup than we had in our entire lives.

We hiked off all that food and booze in rain forests and parks throughout the city.

This is a good example of the 18' tides they have on the Pacific side of Panama.

This is a good example of the 18′ tides they have on the Pacific side of Panama.  This will all be underwater at high tide.

Hanging birdsnest in Parque Natural Metropolitano, rainforest inside the city

Hanging birdsnest in Parque Natural Metropolitano, rainforest inside the city

Mango trees are messy

Mango trees are messy

Giant ants love mangos

Giant ants love mangos

View of the city from the top of Parque Natural Metropolitano

View of the city from the top of Parque Natural Metropolitano

And of course we went to the Panama Canal Museum and Miraflores locks to get an education on what was in store for us!!!!

Panama Canal, here we  come!!!!

Panama Canal, here we come!!!!

Gritty City Golfito

After several lovely stops throughout Costa Rica,

Drake's Bay, Costa Rica

Drake’s Bay, Costa Rica

Giant bamboo

Giant bamboo

seeing all types of creatures,

Crocodile swimming by our dinghy

Crocodile swimming by our dinghy

Squirrels with skunk stripes

Squirrels with skunk stripes

Howler monkeys all over the place

Howler monkeys

The Costa Rican Puma

The wild Costa Rican Puma

spending too much money (their currency is strikingly beautiful, which is a good thing because you are going to need a lot of it),

Costa Rican Colones currency

Costa Rican Colones currency

and with the rainy season starting in earnest,

Here comes the rain again

Here comes the rain again

rain gear for all crew members

rain gear for all crew members

we ready ourselves for our final stop in the country: the town of Golfito, which is not known for its, shall we say, hospitality.   Countless tales of crime from fellow cruisers and locals left us less than excited about going there, but it was necessary, as it is the last port where you can check out of the country.

First impression coming into the Golfo Dulce...looks promising

First impression coming into the Golfo Dulce…looks promising

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Fishermen use these black flags to mark long lines and nets.   The worst color ever to see against a dark sea.  How about a nice neon orange?

Fishermen use these black flags to mark long lines and nets. The worst color ever to see against a dark sea.  How about a nice neon orange?

This once thriving town has fallen on hard times since the departure of the United Fruit Company and now depends mainly on a duty-free zone and robbing cruisers (just kidding…I think).   Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t pick it over a trip to Maui, but for our fellow cruisers you’ll most likely have to be here and it was not as awful as we were led to expect.  The bay is well protected and even with the biblical rains we experienced it was always calm.   And clearing out of the country is easy and only costs $20.

 

Goflito town

Goflito town

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Freshly shaved Captain and his faithful first mutt

We moored at Land Sea where the owners, ex-cruisers Tim and Katie, and their many pups provided a safe haven and welcomed us, including Lucy.   Land Sea has a few moorings and a wonderfully funky cruiser’s lounge.  For our land-based friends, let me explain what cruisers want in life; good weather, cheap beer, clean laundry, easy land access and free reliable wi-fi.  And we got 4 out of 5 of those things at Land Sea.   The rain was by the buckets everyday.

Land Sea deck

Land Sea deck

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Honor bar at Land Sea

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My new buddy Vinny. Tim adopted Vinny from an Italian cargo ship where Vinny was a stow away.

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Cruisers leave their mark on the walls of Land Sea. Can you spot Neko?

Here comes another storm

Here comes another storm

Tim regaled us with wild stories from the many years he has lived in Golfito and recommended local restaurants and field trips to fill up the week we were there.

This salty gal celebrated her 46th birthday.

This salty gal celebrated her 46th birthday.

One of our best field trips was to Casa Orquideas, only 5nm but a whole world away from Golfito. These are meticulously maintained gardens owned by an American couple, Ron and Trudy, who have lived here for almost 40 years.  DSCN2990

Trudy, coconut opening expert

Trudy, coconut opening expert

Trudy is the sweet woman who gave us a botanical education, taught us how to open a coconut, and sent us off with many of her home grown fruits and herbs.

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miniature pineapple

miniature pineapple

Shampoo ginger

Shampoo ginger . When you squeeze it a sweet smelling liquid comes out that you can use for shampoo.

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Lucy enjoying some lemon grass

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Water lilies

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Wild macaws.  Wish the photo showed their brilliant colors

Wild macaws. Wish the photo showed their brilliant colors

We were just going to go over to this bay for the afternoon, but ended up staying 2 days.  It was a delightfully tranquil spot perfect for kayaking, swimming and dreaming of our next stop – Panama.

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Nappin’ Captain

 

 

 

Oaxaca This Way

When we first pulled into the outlying parts of Oaxaca City, we thought, this is what we drove 6.5 hours to see? But as soon as we turned into the colonial downtown we knew right away we made the right decision.

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Zócalo

We arrived late in the day, but after a spin around the Zócalo (the main square and center of town), a leisurely bite to eat and an evening of people watching, Oaxaca (wa-ha-ka) began to live up to its billing.   Oaxaca evokes an old European city with a special Mexican touch.  On this and most Sunday evenings the Zócalo is filled with live music, people dancing, families strolling and lovers embracing. IMG_6642

What we found so fascinating was that, even though this is an old city, full of churches, gorgeous old stone buildings, churches, cobble stoned streets, and did I mention churches, it not only preserves the historical but also celebrates the new.

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Church of San Francisco

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Bummed out Jesus

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

The churches range from the highly baroque to the modestly simple and everything in between.  Most of them are working churches and not museum pieces. But Santa Domingo’s former monastery now is home to the fascinating Museum of Oaxacan Cultures and Botanical Garden.

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Museum of Oaxacan Cultures

Blue Tile Skull at Museum of Oaxacan Cultures

Blue Tile Skull at
Museum of Oaxacan Cultures

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view from Museum of Oaxacan Cultures across to Santa Domingo

Pipe Organ in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption

Pipe Organ in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption

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hand embroidered shirts

DCIM100GOPROIndigenous peoples sell their crafts on the streets and in the markets and along other streets you’ll find young artists selling their creations.

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Art students selling their graphic tshirts

Young people freely show their passion towards each other as well as their political passions through physical protests and visual ones.  The political graffiti is fascinating.  DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

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oil protest

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Pedestrian only streets

It was just enjoyable walking through the city taking in the bright colors and finding delightful courtyards behind wooden doors.  Impressive stone homes from the 1600s still

stand and house both historical and contemporary museums, art galleries, libraries and host film festivals.  IMG_6778  Click here to check out the cool doors of Oaxaca.

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Museum of Contemporary Art

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Public Library

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO What also is special about Oaxaca is the number of indigenous people who live here.  We heard estimates that the many indigenous groups, the Zapotec and Mixtec people being the dominate ones, make up 1/3 of the population of Oaxaca, with many of them speaking their languages and not Spanish.   IMG_6782 20140219_104249                                                                                  The woman are tough cookies; strong and noble.   One lady let me have it when I was taking a street shot outside the market place and she did not want to be a part of my tableau.   You don’t have to speak Zapotecan to know she was pissed off.   From then on, I asked for permission to take photos, even if it was of a piece of fruit.   And they always said yes.   Speaking of fruit, click here to read about the food.

Oaxaca Means Food

This is a food town for sure, with corn, chocolate and mezcal being the cornerstones.  Once again what is compelling about Oaxaca is the way they preserve and celebrate their traditions, but also welcome the modern take on them.  And food is no exception, from the fantastic marketplaces and family restaurants, to today’s chefs putting new twists on locals dishes.

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Comal (griddle) heating nopal (catus)

La Biznaga restaurant

La Biznaga restaurant

Food vendors outside Juarez Market

Food vendors outside Juarez Market

hot cakes

Late night snacks.

Comida

Comida, is the main meal of the day.  It includes  sopa (soup) or ensalada, a main dish and postre (dessert). It is often accompanied by an agua fresca(fruit flavored water). That is the milky looking drink on the table.

One tradition is chapulines, baked and spiced grasshoppers. They sell them by the bagful in the marketplace, but we also saw them on restaurant menus. And yes, we did try them. We just sampled some from a street vendor. Peter’s was spicy and crunchy and mine tasted like a dill pickle and crunchy. Let’s just say we can check that off the list.

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Who knew there were so many grasshopper?

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Cautious, but I did it!

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Unlike Lay’s Potato Chips, you CAN just eat one chapuline.

Chocolate comes in numerous forms from a beautifully crafted hot chocolate to the famous mole poblano.  The complex sauces can be bought throughout the markets and of course ordered in restaurants.  Many debate if there are 6 or 7 official types of moles, so Peter decided not to try just one and ordered a tasting that came with roasted pork in 6 different moles.

6 mole sampler

6 mole sampler

Hot chocolate

Mixing the hot chocolate

Hot and cold chocolate drinks are made with the same intensity as your coffee barista.  They scoop steaming milk into ceramic pitchers and break in chunks of dark chocolate from solid bars and feverishly mix and froth with a traditional wooden dowel called molinillo (moh-lee-NEE-yoh)

One thing Oaxaca is really into is Mezcal – not the rot gut downed by Hollywood banditos, but rather high-end, aged clear Mezcal, sin worm. Mezcal is made from maguey, a type of agave and is meant to be sipped straight. Thanks to a tip from our friend George, we went to a little hole in the wall mezcaleria called In Situ. Its walls were lined with hundreds of bottles of Mezcal, and only Mezcal.

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In Situ mezcaleria

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Owner, Ulisses Torrentera, and friends at the bar

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Bottles of mezcal

IMG_6660 The liqueur is made in dozens of factories around Oaxaca, from Mom and Pop shacks to fancy places with tasting rooms that would not look out-of-place in Napa.  A red-cheeked round little man named Ulisses Torrentera runs In Situ, and he wrote the book on Mezcal (literally – he handed us the book he wrote but alas it was in Spanish).  However, even with his limited English and our nearly non-existent Spanish we learned a great deal from him and tasted several varieties before settling on a bottle with a nice smokey flavor to bring back to the boat.

The bottle we took home.  Traditional mezcal is drunk from these ceramic cups

The bottle we took home.  Traditionally mezcal is drunk from these ceramic cups.

Ulisses tasting a local farmer's mezcal

Ulisses tasting a local farmer’s mezcal

It was fascinating to watch a farmer come into the shop with several large soda bottles filled with his product to sell to Ulisses.  After tasting it, Ulisses let us know under his breath that this particular batch was not very good and he wouldn’t be buying any.  We felt bad for the farmer but that’s business I guess.  Although it isn’t as well know as tequila, mark my words, I predict it will soon be the next drink de jour in the states.

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Mercado entrance

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Camarones (shrimp)

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Sorry Wilbur

The Juárez and 20 de Noviembre mercados are giant labyrinths of food and craft vendors selling everything you can imagine and some things you can’t. On our days, yes we made several trips there, we ate and sampled and bought everything from Oaxaca cheese (like string cheese), chocolate to those damn grasshoppers.

Oaxaca cheese

Oaxaca cheese

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO IMG_6691Peter was in carnivore’s heaven when we wandered into the smoky carne asada alley.  It’s about 200 feet long and lined with glowing barbecues on each side.  You can barely see your hands in front of you, due the smoke.  He didn’t know what the procedure was, but after a little Spanish and a lot of pantomime, he was handed a plate with raw peppers and scallions and pointed to the row of identical stalls grilling beef and sausage.

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO He picked one and handed his plate and the vegetables to the grill master and said “mixto”.  What he didn’t know was that the meat was sold by weight and, not specifying an amount, they decided how much he wanted.  We sat and waited and soon a kilo, maybe more, of perfectly grilled meats and the aforementioned scallions and peppers as well as tortillas and salsas were delivered to the table.  It was really a meal for two or three people and all for about $9.  IMG_6683 IMG_6678 I went to another stall in the marketplace for a tlayuda.  This is a pizza-size baked tortilla that is covered with any combination of things, but always based with black bean paste.

Tlayuda stacked up at La Abuelitas

Tlayuda stacked up at La Abuelitas

tlayuda

tlayuda

Again this was enough food to feed the town and was only $5.  I wasn’t successful finishing mine (I shouldn’t have filled up on those grasshoppers 😉

Lucy had room service back at the hotel!

Lucy had room service back at the hotel!

Click here to read other posts on our road trip to Oaxaca or for post on touring the city.

A Fabulous Trip to Sunny Acapulco

Image 1I first learned of Acapulco, in the 1970s, home sick from school, the overzealous Price is Right announcer declared the final showcase prize as “A Fabulous Trip to Sunny Acapulco!”.  The Love Boat pulled into port more times than I could count and I’m pretty sure the Flintstones took a trip to Rocapulco.  Sadly, in recent years the media’s main focus has been on the city’s episodes of drug gang violence, thus the demise of Acapulco’s tourist industry.   Because of the latter, many boaters don’t stop here, but damn it, I’ve been waiting to see cliff divers since the 2nd grade.  DSCN1850So cliff divers we saw.

We decided to go to the night show, which is great for the drama, but not great for our camera, so sorry for the grainy photos.

FYI, there are many ways to watch the clavadistas (divers); free from the road, pay $4 for the viewing platform or pay a $15 cover fee for a table (fee includes two drinks) at La Perla bar at the El Mirador hotel.  Guess which option we picked?DSCN1779 DSCN1783

DSCN1824 DSCN1840 DCIM100GOPRO DSCN1865Peter and I had the place to ourselves and watched the divers from the best seat in the house.   From our vantage point you could see the whole spectacle; the divers parading down the stairs, jumping into the narrow cove and swimming across to scale the steep jagged cliff wall (which in hindsight seemed like the most dangerous part), praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe, to the big dives from as high as 130 feet.   Pretty spectacular, but there were only 4 divers and 2 of them dove in tandem.  Don’t get me wrong, it was impressive, but for some reason I thought the show would last longer.  Luckily there was another dive at 9:30pm, so we decided to move down to the viewing platform for round two.  Here you are right where the divers hop over the wall to enter the water, making you feel part of the action.  The one thing we noticed was that after 80+ years of this tradition, how simple and old school of an event it is.  The divers walk down by themselves, no handlers, no cheesy music, no corporate sponsors, no “senor y señoras please direct your attention” kind of announcement.  It is just the divers and their bravado.

This time there were six divers and with each one the height of the dive and difficulty increased, culminating in the final diver landing into a ring of fire in the waters below.  “ooohhh, awwww”    We loved it.

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VW Bugs, official Acapulco taxi

Since it was late we jumped in a cab back to the boat.  No yellow cabs here, another charming part of Acapulco is that almost all the cabs are VW Bugs.  No, not the brand new, plenty of leg room Beetles, but the old ones that they thankfully refuse to let die.  Since our family had a 1964 Bug in my youth, they are near and dear to my heart and it was great to ride in one again.   The city is much like San Francisco with its many hilly, curvy streets, so the driver’s stick shift ability was almost as impressive as the cliff divers.

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With over 1.5 million people Acapulco is a real city and a much needed contrast from the many small beach towns we’ve experienced.  We need that balance or it all starts to seem the same and god forbid we become jaded 😉   On the approach to the harbor you have a great view of how large of a place it is, sprawling up the hillsides and around the enormous bay.   This is a house divided as the mega rich live and vacation on the North side in areas like Diamante.   We stayed in a rather nice newly

Pool at Acapulco Marina

Pool at Acapulco Marina

renovated marina on the South side and decided to stick to this area and explore the older historic part of town.   As we walked around you could definitely feel the character of a city that once was and glimpses of it trying to come back.

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Zócalo

The traditional main square, the Zócalo, is lined with banyan trees, cafés and pedestrian only streets.

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral

At one end of the square is the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral, with a surprisingly non-Mexican architectural style of blue onion-shaped domes and Byzantine towers.

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We stopped for a bite to eat and people watch in the square.  Although I have never been somehow I feel like this is what parts of Cuba look like.

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A little lunch and people watching

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Shoe shine stations all over the Zócalo

DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO  Then with map in hand we set out on a walking tour of the city and to hunt for the “La Casa de los Vientos” (House of the Winds).   So up and down and around the streets we went seeing one beautiful view of the city after next.   The hilly streets really reminded us and our leg muscles of San Francisco.

DCIM100GOPRO We couldn’t get over the stunning grand old stone homes that have been abandoned, but our itch to buy up investment property was left unscratched.  I’m sure we will be kicking ourselves in a few years when this place is booming again.

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Exterior of empty house

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Interior, shot through the broken stain glass window

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Empty house

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For sale

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Another abandoned grand home

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65′ snake tile mosaic depicts the Aztec god of rain Tlaloc

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Dog detail in mural

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Frog detail. The frog was Diego’s nickname

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42′ feathered Aztec god Quetzalcoatl

Finally, we arrived at the “La Casa de los Vientos”, where the famed artist Diego Rivera lived out his final years and although the home is now a private residence, you can see his tile mosaic mural depicting Aztec gods on the wall outside.    DCIM100GOPRO

This was a terrific payoff to a strenuous, hot hike up and down  this residential neighborhood.IMG_6615

                                                      

click here for more photos

Potlucks, Pickles and Packages

We celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle or thankfully just called La Cruz, a friendly little town about 10 miles North of Puerto Vallarta.  La Cruz and PV are located on a big bay called Bahia Banderas (Banderas Bay).

La Cruz coastline

La Cruz coastline

La Cruz

Closest we got to church in La Cruz

And although we missed seeing our family and friends and even a little snow, we did enjoy several potluck parties to celebrate the holidays with some of our old boating pals and several new ones.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

If you are reading this blog and planning your own sailing adventure, don’t forget to add disposable serving dishes and easy one pot recipes to your inventory list, because if there is one thing cruisers love more than calm seas, it’s a potluck.   So everyone feel free to send me your favorite easy recipes that don’t include mayonnaise. (hot sun + mayo = green boaters)

Since we used to keep Neko in Puerto Vallarta and had spent a lot of time there, we decided to only take a day trip into PV proper and focus our time exploring other parts of Banderas Bay.

La Cruz also gave us the opportunity to catch up with our old PV marina neighbors, Val & Ron who now live full time in La Cruz.  We had a great dinner with them hearing about their new life on land.   A big thanks to Val for the ride to the Mega, not having to schlep groceries back on the bus was a real treat!

Mary's maiden voyage on the stand up paddle board

Mary’s maiden voyage on the stand up paddle board

We took road trips to Sayulita (click here for side trip post), Puerto Vallarta and sailed over to Punta Mita (that’s when we saw the whales).   Some days we broke out the boat “toys” which included kitesurfing for Peter and an opportunity for us to christen the stand up paddle board.

Emily, Tom (Girl Four) Mary & Peter rockin' night at Philos

Emily, Tom (Girl Four) Mary & Peter rockin’ night at Philos

Plus great nights out with Emily and Tom from  “Girl Four” listening to live music at Philos (a local bar run by Philo, a timeless musician with a kickin’ band)

I even got Captain Pete out on the dance floor.

Philo and Leon jammin'

Philo and Leon jammin’

Leon, one of the guys in Philo’s band is an 85 years old dude who wears every kind of percussion instrument you can imagine and the crowd loves him.    If you are ever in La Cruz, have dinner at Tacos on the Street, it is a family business that has grown from literally tacos on the street to a sit down restaurant, with their specialty being carne asada tacos.   You know if a place famous for their beef still does a fantastic veggie version for this pain in the ass gringo, it is good.

We went for a crazy dinner with the crews from “Heavy Metal”, “Destiny,” “Ayla May” and “Permanently Temporary”, which included more dogs than people LOL.

Destiny's child(ren) 2 of the 5 dogs in our group

Destiny’s child(ren)
2 of the 5 dogs in our group

Traveling with Lucy has its obstacles but since most restaurants and bars are open air, she is welcomed almost everywhere.   So 11 people brought 5 dogs along for a fun dinner and night on the town.

Best of all, every Sunday La Cruz hosts a farmer’s/fish market that rivals many I’ve seen in California.

La Cruz farmer's market

La Cruz farmer’s market

If you go, go hungry because along with fresh fish and produce they have a lot of prepared foods and baked goods.

Who knew you could buy fresh homemade dill pickles from a Southern lady living in Mexico.  Thankfully you can!!

Yikes, as I write this it dawns on me, all we do is eat and drink.

empanadas

empanadas

Although we had a great time in this area, we ended up staying longer than we planned waiting for a package of boat parts for various repairs.  Long and boring story short, thanks to my Dad’s heroic shipping skills, the package made it to Mexico in record time, but spent forever in customs jail and, because DHL sucks, and it is impossible to call a toll free # in the states from another country and nobody seems to have direct phone numbers anymore, the package was sent BACK to the U.S. against our explicit instructions (warning never try to send liquid to another country).   So with those lessons learned and a refund from DHL, we sail South for new adventures, new friends and hopefully a new package of parts waiting for us in Manzanillo.

Click here to see more La Cruz photos