It’s funny but I’ve had this strange need to defend Mexico lately in light of all the bad press it has had. And rightfully so in many cases. I was never a big fan of Mexico, having lived through the worst case of “tourista” known to any human 20 years ago, and I tend to have issues with having to be overly cautious about the food I eat when traveling. But I have since learned over the years that you can get sick in the cleanest areas in the world, simply because your system is not used to the local environment. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend a fresh salad if ever in Tijuana or Ensenada. The resort areas in Mexico have greatly improved the quality of the water they serve, often serving bottled water in order to give the curious traveler’s stomach a fighting chance. Aside from the food, unfortunately, Mexico has always had bad press in regards to the dangers of traveling to the country. It can be a dangerous place for sure but that said, I’m not one to paint with a broad brush and decide that the whole country should be off limits. God knows there are places in the U.S. that I wouldn’t travel to without a Priest, Rabbi, Buddhist Monk and a Shahman just for coverage.
After many years of avoiding Mexico, mainly because I had other places on my list I wanted to explore, I visited Mazatlan for the first time and had a fantastic time. Mazatlan doesn’t look like much for most of the car ride from the airport but once you get to the center of town, it’s actually quite nice. I will say that the main irritant we encountered was the endless stream of condo salesmen constantly pushing the real estate. The solicitations are almost equivalent to what you would find on the Vegas Strip but it’s something which can be avoided if you’re willing to walk along the beach instead of the street.
The historical part of Mazatlan is wonderful and I want to return just so I can enjoy more of that part of the city. The colonial structures, great shopping and authentic food is well worth the trip and deserving of more than just a day trip. The locals are very friendly and since it is a cruise stop on many cruise itineraries, it is very easy to communicate around town even if you don’t know how to say, “no comprende.” The restaurants along the beach are great, and combined with the warm air at night and those margaritas, mama mia. That’s what vacations are made of.
I’m a very picky shopper when I travel but was able to find great prices on jewelry and earings, my weakness. I bought some gorgeous silver earrings that I love and wear constantly and now wish I had bought more. I had one request to buy a wedding gift for someone and in searching for this gift, discovered some furniture shops that were out of this world. Oh yeah, my other weakness where shopping is concerned, is furniture. Make no mistake, furniture from Mexico is quality craftsmanship. I’ve never been much into the IKEA look (not that there’s anything wrong with IKEA) rather preferring a more eclectic look and the furniture I saw definitely piqued my interest. At one point we were seriously trying to figure out how to obtain a truck and haul a bunch of furniture back over the border without looking like we were up to something. Believe me, if I could have smuggled that wood and iron hutch with the hand painted detailing, I would have.
And did I mention the food? I’m officially over the food trepidation. I had some of the best fish tacos ever for about $3.00, including drinks. Something as simple as chilaquiles (fried shredded tortillas with salsa and spices galore) became a quick favorite as well as the local carnitas and tacos. I don’t have anything against the chain restaurants but not enjoying an authentic meal in Mazatlan would be a mistake. We even made it to a local spice shop and loaded up on local spices so we could re-create those wonderful dishes at home. Don’t forget about the fresh oysters that you can enjoy, right there on the beach.
And then of course, there’s the beach itself. Everything is there. Cliff divers, para-sailing, horseback riding, and a beautiful sunset. This all sounds so simple but in our busy lives and limited time to get away, when you think about it, it’s all you really need for a break.