Zipolite. The First Few Days.

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Zipolite. The First Few Days…..

We arrived in Mexico on December 14. I can hardly believe that we are here until the end of March. Over the past 20 years we have vacationed in Mexico for 2 to 3 weeks almost every winter. Each time we have been here I have felt it is the place I want to be forever. That is a remarkable realization. There are some things that it is very good to figure out: what you want to do to earn a living, who you want to spend your life with, and where you want to live on this planet. I don’t know how we’ll figure it out but I know that Mexico is where I want to spend most of my time. Happily, Fred loves it, too.
This trip we are in Zipolite, a small beach town on the Pacific coast in Oaxaca state. It is big enough that there are several restaurants and bars, and small enough to have no traffic on the main street. There are not many Americans who come here. Most of the tourists are Canadian and European, as well as many Mexicans on vacation.
We are staying at Las Casitas, a wonderful collection of palapa-roofed little houses on the hillside, looking down at the ocean. I lack words to describe how beautiful it is. The proprietors, Paco and Javier, are guys we met when we visited this part of Mexico before. They have my favorite restaurant in Mexico, La Providencia, right here in Zipolite. I was thrilled to learn (when I was looking for a place to rent in Zipolite) that they had added Las Casitas to their enterprise, providing not only a stylish restaurant, but also a lovely place to stay, and I have not been disappointed. We decided to extend our trip and come earlier then we had originally booked, so we have spent the first 10 days in the biggest house on the property, where they live during the slow season. We move today to a smaller one, and I’m sure we’ll love it, too. Staying in this wonderful house has been like my fantasy of the perfect Mexican house. It is so comfortable and filled with atmosphere. Paco is the chef at La Providencia, so the shelves are filled with cookbooks. Javier is an artist, and many of his wonderful portraits are in this house. Everything is open-air, so the inside and the outside become one. If you are a close friend of ours in Nashville, you have spent a summer evening with us on our back porch, so you know how well that suits us.
So far, we have been eating two meals a day at home and going out for one. I enjoy cooking here, and will be writing more about that in future posts.
I am going to close for now–more to come……hasta maƱana.

A Word in Spanish

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This is a picture from a few years ago in Isla Mujeres.

I have been having a serious love affair with Mexico for a very long time. It started about 25 years ago when Fred and I went to Acapulco. We left Acapulco after the first night and went to Pie de la Cuesta, a tiny beach community that was a short bus ride – yet very far away – from Acapulco. We rented a little room right on the beach for $12 a night. It was very basic, but the main hacienda had a lot of charm, and the dogs on the beach were quite friendly. Every day was sheer bliss.
A few years later we started going to Mexico regularly, starting with Puerto Vallarta, where missing the boat back from a day trip to Yelapa led to many wintertime returns to this remote little village that could only be reached by water. When we were there we stayed in palapa-roofed cabanas, again right on the beach. I started to notice that when the plane landed in Mexico I felt an extreme feeling of happiness. The only way to describe this feeling is that whenever I land in Mexico I feel that I am right where I need to be. And when I leave, it always seems too soon.
When we finally decided we needed to explore somewhere else, we headed to the Yucatan. At that time, the mid-1990’s, Tulum wasn’t quite so hip and expensive as it is now, and we loved it. Playa del Carmen also hadn’t completely turned into “little Cancun,” and we spent some fun days there. We did a lot of traveling in the Yucatan and saw Merida, Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and many miles of interesting roadside and little villages, where life seemed to move at a far different pace than anything we were used to. One of my favorite days involved a ride in an old VW that we drove to the end of the Boca Paila Peninsula, which seemed like a ride to the end of the earth, to a little town called Punta Allen. The road was like driving in a dry, rocky creek bed and we had to frequently stop to chase huge iguanas out of the way of the car. Fred’s memory of this day is different from mine as he had to do the driving. He was very concerned that the ancient VW was going to completely fall apart, leaving us stranded in the jungle.
We spent some time in Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox (where a friendly bartender introduced me to the wonderful world of good tequila), Mahahual, at the end of the Yucatan, and visited Xcalak, the community that is as far as you can go without entering Belize. We visited Chetumal, the capitol of the state of Quintana Roo, and Lake Bacalar, called the lake of many colors for good reason.
When we realized we had pretty much covered the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, we decided to return to the Pacific Coast. Crossing the mountains by van from Oaxaca City, we ended up San Agustinillo, a tiny and very quiet fishing community. We loved Punta Placer, the hotel we found in San Agustinillo. While we were there we spent some time in the larger beach town of Zipolite, where we made friends with Javier Huesca, who runs La Providencia, the most wonderful restaurant we’ve found in Mexico. We spent some time in the beautiful colonial town of Oaxaca City as well. (Where another friendly bartender introduced us to the wonderful world of good mescal). Oaxaca is the state in Mexico that is famous for its cuisine and for its crafts. Pottery, weaving, painted wooden animales…and for its artisan mescal, another product of the agave plant.
About three years ago we started taking two trips a year to Mexico, spending some summer time in San Miguel de Allende. There are really no words to describe the beauty of this little city, which sits right in the center of the country. It is literally close to Heaven, way up in the mountains, where the weather all year is wonderful. It is an artist’s city. It is very clean, and the people are very nice. It is the kind of place I could see us settling down in, not for a vacation but for life.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Fred and I both “retired” last year. We are now free to go wherever, whenever, as long as we can budget it. That already means more time South of the Border. Last winter we again decided we needed to try something new, and went to Costa Rica for 6 weeks. Nothing against Costa Rica, but that trip pretty much sealed the deal for us. Mexico it is. So this coming year we are planning for six months in Mexico, spending time in both Zipolite and San Miguel. Then it may be time to decide what to do next. There is one more place in Mexico I am curious to explore, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. I don’t know when we’ll take that trip. Since I am an obsessive planner, I want to see the whole picture right now. I also know that no matter how much planning you do, life is best when lived one day at a time. (But of course, you do have to book tickets and secure rentals). So, we’ll see. We leave for Zipolite on December 14 so for the next few weeks I’ll be spending lots of time working on my Spanish. I have no gift for languages, but I am very determined. I’ve always heard that the best way to learn a foreign language is when you are motivated by love.

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