We’ve entered a number of new ports and we’re now to be able to compare first impressions. I loved La Paz the moment that I set foot on terra firma. I don’t exactly know why. Perhaps it was because it was so different from the tourist trap of Cabo San Lucas. Don’t get me wrong, Cabo was fun, but I was searching for something more “authentic”. La Paz felt like the Mexicans’ tourist town. It had a beautiful malecón (aka boardwalk) adorned with dozens of beautiful bronze statues, small streets with quaint shops, numerous restaurants (most of which served Mexican food) and extremely friendly people. No wonder it’s called La Paz (Spanish for peace). I was instantly hooked. Perhaps that is why we spent 7 weeks there. La Paz was also very close to beautiful islands to explore should one want to get away from the “city life”.
After La Paz we made our way to Mazatlan which had mixed reviews. Many said that it was an industrial city with not much to see for the cruiser. Well, we had to see for ourselves. We settled outside of the main town in a marina/resort called El Cid with 2 pools, golf course, restaurant etc. At first, I was enamored with the facilities. I felt spoiled and that I wasn’t truly “cruising”. No cruiser should swim in a fresh water pool for gosh sake. But it felt so good. When we left the marina for a walk, we made our way toward the “old town” and were accosted by time-share salespeople. Did we want to listen to a presentation? They would pay us 3000 pesos (about $280 USD). When we looked disinterested they offered us free tequila as well. Woo-hoo, that should seal the deal! My reply was “No tengo dinero” (I have no money). My first impression of Mazatlan was not overwhelming. We started exploring without a map and didn’t know where we were going. We made it to the amazing public market (where they were butchering sides of cattle) but after that couldn’t find our way to the “cool” historic district. That is, until we were staring at a public map and bumped into some fellow Canadians who showed us the way. Upon finding the Plaza Machada things started to look up. This was a square surrounded by restaurants that had outdoor seating on cobblestone streets. We had a quick look around and then made our way back to the boat. It wasn’t until some other Canadians on our dock invited us out for dinner at Plaza Machada in order to show us the town that I really discovered the Mazatlan that I now want to go back to. We went on a Friday evening when things were “happening”. The Plaza Machada was all lit up (the palm trees were adorned with beautiful white lights) and there was a band singing in the middle of the square.
We ended up at a fabulous restaurant in an old exposed brick building with a beautiful courtyard and a jazz singer. Mazatlan is known for its historic district with old, restored and un-restored buildings. It’s very unassuming but as you wander about the small streets you come across numerous cafés, stores and restaurants tucked into these old buildings. It’s so easy to pass them by if you don’t take the time to look into each doorway. I think that was our problem the first time out…we were walking too fast trying to get somewhere when we were actually already there. It has a plethora of good restaurants with varied menus and is known for fresh shrimp and tuna. What’s not to love? We left Mazatlan after about a week but have plans to visit it again on our way to the Sea of Cortez.
Our next town was La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (simply called “La Cruz”). It’s a very small town close to Puerto Vallarta on Banderas Bay. We had heard that this quaint town is hard to leave so I had high expectations upon our arrival. We set anchor after sailing 16 hours with a beautiful full moon to guide our way through the night. The following day, after some rest, we headed to town and were really surprised by how small it was. There are about 8 streets running north-south and 4 streets east-west. It certainly didn’t take long to walk the entire town. I thought to myself “what’s the big deal about La Cruz?” But then we listened to the morning net (the cruisers listen to the VHF radio in the mornings to hear about the weather, local assistance, and announcements about anything that might be going on that day) and discovered that this little town has a lot of soul. It has small restaurants that provide entertainment with musicians, dancers, and actors. When you wander about and peer into doorways, you never know whether you’ll be looking into someone’s private kitchen or a restaurant. However, I was very impressed by the Taste of La Cruz, a food and music festival held on the malecón at the marina. Hard to believe it but the marina actually has an amphitheater. It seemed like such a big production for such a tiny place. But they did a great job. Watching the musicians on stage with the mountains and sailboats in the backdrop was magical.
A visit to La Cruz is not complete without a visit to the fishmarket (which is open daily) and the Sunday morning farmer’s market. The fishmarket has the freshest fish available. I have always been hesitant to buy fresh fish fillets because I’m never sure if I’m actually getting what I asked for. Not here….I asked for mahi-mahi and the fishmonger picked up a 4 foot dorado (mahi-mahi) and asked if that was okay? Wow! Now I know that I’m buying what I asked for – I couldn’t mistake that green fish and bulbous head for anything else. He deftly filleted one half of the dorado and I was set for my dinner party that evening.
Tonight we are going to a restaurant to listen to a duo known as the Blond Gypsies (akin to the Gypsy Kings). It is one of at least 3 venues where we could listen to live music tonight. How can such a small place pack so much in? I think I’m going to love it here.