You Can Go Home Again

As more and more time separated me from Mazatlán and I failed to bond in the same way with Mérida, I began to wonder if I had an idealised version of Mazatlán that could be corrected with a trip back that would make me appreciate Mérida more.

Nope. Mazatlán is just as I left it. And I’m left to realise that there just might not be a “perfect” city and while there are so many things I miss about Mazatlán, I’m definitely in the right place for this period of my life and made the right choice to move to Mérida… but equally convinced that Mérida is another stopping place for me, not my “forever home.”

At any rate, it’s been an incredible week in my Mexican hometown — I can’t believe how fast the week went or how little the city has changed in the ways that matter. I haven’t needed a map all week, fully orientated from the moment I landed at a corner I know so well and still in full command of the bus routes most relevant to me. And while some of my favourite restaurants and shops are gone, many more are where I left them. Who says you can’t go home again?

So I landed here last Tuesday afternoon, running on about five hours of sleep. I checked into my Airbnb and almost immediately set out for Olas Altas to have octopus tacos at El Fish Market. The last parade of Carnaval was happening in a few hours, so many things along Olas Altas were closed or blocked off, but the restaurant agreed to serve me if I could be out before four (it was two thirty). The tacos were delicious!

I haven’t missed Pacifico beer as much as some might think — I can consistently get it at the Extra convenience store around the corner from me in Mérida, the odd time that I’m in the mood for it. I actually prefer the Mérida equivalent, Montejo. 🙂

Heading back to the apartment, I passed my favourite nieve (sorbet) vendor! I couldn’t believe he was still there. I was too stuffed to get one but decided to try later in the week.

Wednesday was a “vacation” day. I slept long and hard as the neighbourhood was surprisingly quiet, but woke up sore. I’m just not used to sleeping in a bed anymore. I would grow to miss my hammock more and more as the week progressed.

Early afternoon, I went to the Pino Suarez mercado (THE mercado) and was happy to find a dress in a style that is very flattering on me. I own two and was hoping for a black one to wear in the evening in Mérida.

It was surprisingly easy!

I then met Contessa and Colin at Tony’s for a shrimp burger. It was great to see each other again, but we’re always in such close contact that it didn’t really feel like all that much time had gone by. We had a good chat and then they had to get their groceries home.

I walked back to my place and worked for a bit, then I headed out for a long walk along the Malecón, going from the Fishermen’s Monument towards Playa Sur. I really was very tired, but I knew it wasn’t the kind of tired that could be cured sitting on a sofa!

How had I never noticed that this guy shares his name with an avocado type?

A fisherman yelled at me while I was photographing the pelicans. It took a moment to realise that he wasn’t admonishing me, but rather inviting me to come feed them. He put some fish on a stick for me and let me take some pictures and videos feeding the birds, then asked me for 10 pesos, which wasn’t unexpected and I was very happy to give him.

The Malecón has been completely redone and is gorgeous!

I failed at finding a cold beer by the water as things were shut up tight (I think everyone was recovering from Carnaval!) so I picked one up to have at home. In the evening, I ventured out to a cart on Zaragoza street that my landlady told me has some of the best hot dogs in town. There is nothing like a Sinaloan hot dog — something I realised after I actually found a guy near me in Mérida who comes very close and whose hot dogs are much better than any others I’ve had in Yucatán. I really try not to eat that crap too often, but it’s such a good treat, especially when you’ve pre-burned off the calories!

Thursday morning, I headed to Contessa’s on Isla! The lady at the ticket booth offered me the Islander rate, but I declined and bought a non-resident round-trip ticket (now $35). I really enjoyed the crossing!

The condos that were being built by the embarcadero were completed, but otherwise, nothing much had changed on that part of Isla.

I hadn’t had much breakfast, so I was happy the peanut vendors were still there. A bag had increased to $12 from $10, but the taste was the same. These are their chile ones — very hot!

My house hadn’t really changed, but for the gate being gone and the yard being more jungly.

But there was now this wall blocking my easy beach access.

I spent the day at Contessa’s helping her with computer issues, a main reason for my visit. I was amply rewarded with a brand new wardrobe (it’s great to have a similarly sized friend who also only wears skirts and dresses and who likes the same colours you do!) and a really good lunch of shrimp quesadillas!

It was late afternoon when I returned to centro. I had some work to do and then I headed out in search of food. I’d say I’ve changed more than Maz has, at least in terms of how much more comfortable I am in my adopted country. I remember wandering around a lot more looking for food in my early days here. Now, I trust restaurants and carts a lot more. So I literally plopped myself down at the first eating place I passed, which happened to be a burro cart.

I had a shrimp, beef, pork, and bean burro with avocado, heaps of veggies, and several yummy sauces (the green one on the far left was liquid fire). I had a horchata with it, which was beige and the colour horchata is supposed to be. I took this picture of my meal because the “plate” amused me.

Friday, I stayed in most of the day to work, but I planned to finally catch one of Maz’s famed “Art Walks” in the late afternoon and I was meeting Colin and Contessa for dinner at 7:30. I headed out towards the water around 4:30, stopping in at my favourite nieve vendor. Get this — he had my favourite, prune, and it was the first time that week he’d had it!!! I was so happy to be able to tell him how much I’ve dreamed of his prune sorbet over the years and he was beaming when I left. The price was the same, by the way, $20, the only thing that hasn’t gone up! Prune is a common flavour in this part of Mexico, but not so much in Yucatán, where coconut fills the role. 🙂

Art Walk is a chance for local artists to open up their homes and studios and possibly sell some of their work, while people get a chance to go through homes and buy art work.

My first stop was along the upper pedestrian section of Calle Ángel Flores, where I had a chance to roam through an incredible old house with beautiful murals. The owner is a local painter and author. I loved her work, but not the choice of prints she had available, so I didn’t buy anything.

But there was another artist upstairs, Evelyn Wolff, an Ontario artist who works in stained glass. I had to buy these prints of two of her pieces, a loon and a raven, after she read me the story of the events that inspired them, adventures in the Ontario wilderness that come straight out of one of my many past lives.

Next stop was a photographer who digitally manipulates his photos to create an effect I’ve never seen before. I bought this postcard-sized print of a scene from my beloved Plazuela Machado.

I walked and walked and walked, visiting so many wonderful spaces. One of my last stops was to speak with a National Geographic photographer and I was thrilled to walk away with one of Maz’s famous sunsets.

I walked by an incredible home on my way to catch one of those famous sunsets.

I had time to kill before dinner, so I checked out the vendors at the Plazuela Machado and was thrilled to find these gecko earrings — I have the nearly exactly same gecko (with a blue stone) as a pendant and had wished to have it as earrings!

I found a bench outside the Angela Peralta theatre and was treated to an opera rehearsal!

Just before meeting up with Colin and Contessa, I did another round of the vendors as more had opened up. I’ve been looking for a ring, but my fingers are enormous and so, my choices are limited. But it’s nice to look. As I did so at one vendor, he commented, “You like pink, lady, and I have a pink ring that will fit you!” I was dressed in a black dress with a pink sweater over it, had on pink earrings, and was carrying a pink purse while looking at rings, so Sherlock Holmes he wasn’t, but a good vendor he was!

He went through some boxes he had under his table and emerged with this, which made me gasp, as it was exactly what I’d been looking for! And it fit. And he dropped his price of $400 without my even having to ask him to. I bought a lot of jewellery in Maz when I was here and the quality has really held up — it actually has been silver and polishes up beautifully — so I was happy to fork over $350. The earrings had been quoted at $320, but the lady dropped the price to $280!

It was then time for a lovely dinner with good friends.

I refused to have the pork that was calling my name (I can get great pork at home, but the shrimp are better here) and instead went with the Parmesan risotto with shrimp and a balsamic vinegar reduction, with roasted veggies under everything. Very, very, very good!

As the evening wound down, guess who came by the table but the formerly from the Isla empanada vendor! I really don’t eat a lot of sweets anymore, but he had some still hot empanadas with him for sale, so I had to buy one!

With my apartment being on the way to the embarcadero, I hopped into a pulmonía with Colin and Contessa. I’ve missed those so much! It was a bit hard to give him directions, though, as I walk everywhere and am not super aware of the one ways. So we had a few missed turns, but eventually made it to my place. I remain shocked by how poorly taxi drivers here know the city — I had to guide the driver from the airport!

Saturday was another Isla day helping Contessa with her computer issues. I want to state for the record that she is having genuine Google-related issues that nearly made my brain implode before I gave up using Google products. I wish I could have helped out more with all of that, but Google just doesn’t play well with Apple. Anyway, I felt like I made some progress.

I came back later on Saturday and passed a taco stand of which there is no trace at all during the day. I went there for dinner, enjoying four tacos with handmade tortillas made fresh right there in front of me. I had them “con todo” and let me tell you, heat in this part of Mexico that comes from jalapeños and serranos is nothing like the heat from Yucatán’s habaneros!

Sunday was my last Isla day.

I went over a little later and met my friend Sue for brunch at El Velero, the restaurant favoured by the expats on Isla. I ran into another friend there, too, a lovely French-Canadian man I’ve kept in touch with on Facebook. The food was generally mediocre as ever, except for what mattered — the coconut shrimp!

This sign by the bathrooms made me laugh. Danger — watch out for the duck!

I tied up all the loose ends at Contessa’s and then headed back to Maz down my old street.

I finished up some work in the early evening and then headed to the Water’s Edge Bistro for dinner. That was always my favourite splurge restaurant when I lived here and was sick of Mexican food. They used to have a very good lunch special, but don’t appear to anymore. The à la carte menu is quite eclectic, but I went with an Asian theme — dumplings to start and Shanghai noodles after, paired with a very citrusy and delicious beer.

This brings us to today, Monday, which I was determined to have as another vacation day. I slept in and eventually headed back towards Fishermen’s Monument, to walk the Malecón towards the Golden Zone — this way I would have walked the whole of the Malecón on this trip!

The Golden Arches in the distance still announce that you’ll soon be upon the Golden Zone.

Done, entire Malecón walked!

It was still super early, not even quite noon yet, so even if I’d wanted lunch up there, I was an hour to lunch being served. I treated myself to an amaretto ice cream from Thrifty.

Then, got right onto a bus to go back to my apartment! I had a few ways to get there, but decided that the more expensive and comfortable “tourist” bus was the best option — I could get off at the stop on Aquiles Serdán just past Zaragoza and then I’d be only 5.5 shortish blocks from home.

I passed a pet bakery on the way there — too bad my baby (who has been doing very well in my absence!) wouldn’t appreciate any of these treats!

I rested a bit, then headed back out for lunch, wanting a second meal at El Fish Market!

I remember passing this house when it was in ruins and dreaming of owning it. So glad it got some love!

My three homes in one picture — a Canadian flag by the Mérida guayaberas sign in Mazatlán. 🙂

Calle Ángel Flores. So pretty!

An icy cold Pacifico.

And a perfect piece of mahi-mahi. I couldn’t believe it was still so good!

This final glimpse of paradise wasn’t bittersweet as I’m heading to a different corner of paradise tomorrow. 🙂

I stopped at the mercado on my way back and stopped in at my favourite dressmaker. She remembered me and gave me a great deal on two skirts and a blouse!

And so ended my trip, other than making a run down towards the mercado this evening to get some supper (was lured to Chinese food by a kind man offering samples!). I’m leaving around 11:30 tomorrow morning, so I think I’ll just sleep in a bit and then maybe go out for breakfast as there’s a taco joint around the corner I haven’t had a chance to try yet and they’re only open in the mornings.

It’s been a great week and I got done what needed doing (and more!), but I’m definitely ready to head home. I think that’s the best kind of vacation — one that’s so full it flies by so fast it makes your head spin, but that leaves you eager to walk in the door of your own home!