Recap of the Best Year of My Life

If I measure 2016 by the one yardstick that matters to me, how much I travelled, it was the best year of my life. That’s hard to reconcile with how horrible the year was to the world in general, but it’s my truth.

This was a rare year of my life where there was enough money to do what I wanted to do. I prioritised paying for the big stuff, like making sure I had a roof over my head, could get from point A to point B, and that I stayed healthy. I savoured the little stuff I could afford. I refused to be a glass half empty person and bemoan that I couldn’t do X, Y, or Z because of a tight budget and instead celebrated that I was wherever I was at that moment.

I covered so much ground this year that you might have forgotten where I started. So here’s my 2016 travel retrospective.

January started in Mazatlán, Mexico. It was the second year of my life starting there and the novelty hadn’t worn off! I spent many hours cantering on a beautiful tropical beach, a weekly ritual that made me feel like the richest and luckiest woman in the world.

The lagoon at the Isla de la Piedra botanical gardens.

The lagoon in Mazatlán’s Bosque de la Ciudad.

February brought me to Mérida, in the Mexican state of Yucatán, on a scouting mission in anticipation of possibly moving there!

I saw ancient Mayan ruins!

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

March had me discovering the wonderful botanical gardens right in my backyard on Isla de la Piedra.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra's botanical gardens.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra’s botanical gardens.

April found me seeing Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

…and exploring Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

…and the town of Moab, Utah.

May took me to Cody, Wyoming

downtown Cody, WY

downtown Cody, WY

…with plenty of time to explore the Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

… and a Japanese internment camp

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

… before going home to Haven…

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

… before getting on a plane and technically visiting my last Canadian province.


So June took me to London, England (really!)…

London from the St. Paul's Cathedral

London from St. Paul’s Cathedral


… and to Bulgaria!

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria


July took me on two trips to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

August took me to Plovdiv

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

… and across Bulgaria in a Chevy to Nessebar

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

…to Soviet ruins



Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

…the scenic town of Teteven



Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

…the Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

…and a the magnificent 15th century Glozhene Monastery.

inside the Glozhene Monastery

inside the Glozhene Monastery

September saw me quit Bulgaria for Serbia and finish the month in Belgrade.

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

October found me in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, BiH

Sarajevo, BiH

Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

…blipping through Albania

an Albanian fortress

an Albanian fortress

…staying out too late in Prizen, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

…not being impressed by Skopje, Macedonia

Archaeological Museum, Skopje

Archaeological Museum, Skopje


…ambling through Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


… then through Alicante

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain

… before settling in Almería for seven weeks.

The port of Almería

The port of Almería

November was spent in lovely Almería learning to live in the real Spain.

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

December saw me in Málaga for a few days…

Málaga from the top of the itinerant Ferris wheel.


…before jetting off to end the year and ring in 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands!

Quintessential Amsterdam scene


What a journey 2016 was, from getting more and more comfortable in Mexico to becoming a seasoned European traveler!

But the most amazing thing that happened? I was offered my key to Mexico. So my 2017 is well plotted. But before I return to the blistering tropical heat of the Yucatán, England, Quebec, and Haven beckon. So clichéd as the saying is, the best really is yet to come.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers!

A Year In Mexico… Isla de la Piedra to Guaymas

I woke up at four this morning ahead of a grueling driving day and two and a half hours away from daylight. Unacceptable. I dozed until about 4:30 and then, thankfully, fell back asleep, to wake up eight minutes before my alarm at 5:22. It’s amazing how different I felt after just another 50 minutes of sleep. I got up, dressed, put water on to heat, and then got to work packing up the bedding. Both toppers packed well and quickly. Even after adding them, the dirty laundry tub (topped with sheets and a blanket in a garbage bag), and my pillows, I still had plenty of room to add the bucket after I washed the floors.

I made coffee and while it cooled a tad, I packed my computer bag and got that into the truck. Then, I went through the fridge and freezer one last time and realised that I had six slices of fresh bread and a quarter of a small container of strawberry jam left. I converted that into three jam sandwiches and had one with my coffee. If that doesn’t speak to my state of mind this morning, I don’t know what does — it’s rare for me to have breakfast on a travel day! I knew I would have a very late lunch, so I’d have another sandwich at my morning coffee break and then have a final one a couple of hours before lunch. Perfect; that saved me a stop at Panamá’s. I haven’t been there much this winter, incidentally, not since we got our panaderia on Isla.

By 6:30, it was getting light out and I was done, the house left spotless and the truck neatly packed. It was time to go.


Yes, I was sad. How could I not be? I had the best year of my life (in two segments) living in this house, in this village. But I was also looking forward to new adventures, and so I was also happy. I have a biological imperative to go. I am unhappy if I don’t heed it and I am unhappy when I do heed it. But I am my best self when I let myself leave, when I accept that this is what my life has to be, constant arrivals and departures, so many hellos and goodbyes, so many shallow and fleeting friendships (and the odd one that really sticks), so much stress about what comes next. It is in this uncertainty that I find myself strong, ambitious, energetic, and productive.

I savoured my time in Mazatlán. I got to know parts of it in ways that I have only ever known one other city in my life. I truly lived in Mexico for a year, dealing daily with the locals for all my needs and speaking their language. I saw all manner of expats, from those who are truly integrated into Mexican life and those who come only for the weather and remain in their Gringo enclaves. My experience was closer to the former and incredibly enriching. I have come to understand things about myself that I have always suspected, but was never able to truly articulate. What I found in Mexico is exactly the same thing I found at my beloved Haven and merits its own post. But I will say now that I have spent but a scant year in Mexico and I have felt more at home in the parts of it that I have seen than I have ever felt anywhere in Canada outside of Haven, and that’s taking into account that the Mexican people are still a mystery to me since I haven’t really befriended any yet. All that to say, I’m ready to move here.

I set off at 6:30 and the Road was, of course, paved except for the last few metres. There were now topes at the houses midway and even speed limit signs (60KPH!). I look forward to reports of how the paving changes Isla over the next few years.

I’d only been driving a few minutes when I realised that my odo and speedo metres weren’t working! I pulled over in front of Estrella del Mar to check my manual and see if they are on the same fuse. Yes. So that was probably the issue, a very inexpensive fix, and one not worth worrying about. I prefer to use my GPS as a speedometre anyway, although I was concerned about not clocking the mileage on the engine. I hadn’t realised it was that easy to turn off and now wonder if the previous owner ever did that and my truck has more mileage than I thought? Ah, no sense worrying. Even though I haven’t driven since the end of November, Moya started up perfectly and was purring.

It was super early, so traffic was light coming into Mazatlán. I pulled into a Pemex at the northern end of town for a final bathroom break and asked the attendant to wash my windows. I also asked if she knew where I could buy a fuse and she told me I was out of luck until stuff opened around eight or 8:30. It was seven and this really wasn’t pressing (I had my turn signals and brake light) so I decided to just stop at the AutoZone in Navojoa near the end of my day.

Because of the increased amount of violence around Maz in the last few months, including several carjackings north and south of the city I made the decision to take the cuota (toll road) all the way, a decision cemented by the fact that numerous people told me to not take the libre no matter how safe I’ve felt taking it in the past. So the first part of my day was very boring, not particularly scenic, and very expensive toll-wise. The most exciting thing that happened was that I got an amazing coffee at the Oxxo 100KM south of Culicán. Second to that was the stop by the federales right after the coffee break, with the very fatherly officer telling me I really should be traveling with a dog or cat! I also had a couple of fruit stops, but they went quickly. Oh, and it rained hard most of the way from just south of Culiacán to just south of Los Mochis… and I discovered that my dead fuse also controls my windshield wipers! That was… “fun.” 🙂

This was my first time doing the cuota to Los Mochis and it really didn’t feel any faster than taking the libre, on top of not being able to go through the pueblos. It’s definitely not my favourite way to travel and the day just draaaaaaagged. I stopped at a Pemex at one point to put in more fuel (I always put in just $500 at a time to force me to stop more often) and had to pay with $50s, which I counted out. The attendant was shocked that I could count to ten in Spanish. Not the most amazing thing I’ve ever learned! Most expats I know who struggle with the language know that… He asked if I was going to Maz because he had some sort of coupon for a hotel, but I told him I was going way, way, way north!

There was a military checkpoint just before the Sonora border, where I got sent to secondary inspection, where I was told to exit the vehicle and go stand by the big dude with the huge gun (my description). My heart sank at the thought that they were going to empty out everything, like they were doing with the class B from California next to me. An officer opened just the canopy and rummaged through what he could reach, including the dirty laundry (*laughs*) and going into two tubs and unwrapping some things in one of them (keyboard and external hard drive). He then said I could lock up and follow him to the front so I could move the driver’s seat ahead so he could see what I was carrying behind it. I told him there is a rear door, so he opened that himself and rummaged through the two totes there. Then he asked me the usual questions of where I was coming from and where I was going before telling me I could go. I was there about 20 very long minutes!

Then, came the Sonora border, the really bad bit of road right around it, and another fruit inspection. This one also went very quickly. It was around here that I realised that I was going to “gain” an hour today, thanks to my GPS. I didn’t use a GPS last year and am pretty sure that I didn’t clue into this because I didn’t note gaining an hour until I crossed into Arizona. So that was a surprise, neither good nor bad.

It was slow going from the border to Navojoa because of construction meaning there was only one lane in both directions and I got stuck behind a semi. So by the time I reached Navojoa, I was just done and ready to call it a night! If I didn’t have that reservation on Monday night, I just might have done that! But, instead, I decided to have a proper lunch break. The last two times I passed through Navajoa, I noted one taco joint in particular (there are a lot of them on Mex-15 through the city!) that has al pastor tacos, Don Amable, in front of the Chevrolet dealership. I decided that I would stop there if they were open and I could find parking.

I got a red light before the Soriana coming into Navojoa and two boys took the time to wash my windshield. They couldn’t have been at it more than fifteen seconds, really, and did an amazing job — there wasn’t a streak or bug left! How do they do that with just a water bottle and a squeegee?! I love the window washers in Mexico, even if I sometimes get irked when I get my windshield done and one block later, another guy decides to do it again and won’t take no for an answer! In that case, he gets $1 instead of $5 (pesos!).

Before lunch, I stopped at AutoZone and wasted ten minutes. I found my fuses in under thirty seconds and then went to the till to pay. A few people lined up behind me and when a cashier finally came after a whole ten minutes of waiting, she called to the guy behind me! I said no, I was there first and she replied that they were there first, the five men in line behind me and that I could wait till they’d paid! What the hell?! Needless to say, I dropped my fuses right there and left. No, I did not misunderstand what she said.

Too hungry to be annoyed, I continued on a few blocks and found Don Amable open, with ample street parking across from it on my side of the highway. It’s just a normal taco joint, nothing special in terms of decor. I sat and a gentleman came to welcome me and take my order. I asked for two al pastor tacos with everything and he asked me to specify corn or wheat tortillas! Apparently, the look on my face said it all because he burst out laughing and said “Corn it is!” without my having to say anything. LOL!!! They came quickly with heaps of extras to pile on them!

Here they are naked:


And semi-dressed:


I kept adding stuff as I ate. I went light on the hot red sauces, but went through a lot of the salsa mexicana, guacamole, pickled onion, and shredded cabbage. I love cabbage on tacos, but have never had it on al pastor ones! I was done with my first taco when I started regretting not ordering something to drink. Just as I was about to look around for a server, one materialised to ask if I wanted anything to drink! Really! He was about to recite a list of beverages, but I cut him off and asked if they had Fresca. Yes! And it came in a glass bottle! How quaint!


I couldn’t feel my tongue when I came out of there and decided that it was fate that there just happened to be a Thrifty’s ice cream across the street… One choco brownie cone later, my tastebuds were restored and I was ready to do the final stretch to Guaymas.

Dull as the day had been, it had been a good one thus far. Now that have three Mexican cities under my belt and have driven away from this Mex-15 stretch, I feel that I have more general Mexico experience and am so much more comfortable in new situations. I did well going north last year, but I still felt that I needed to stick to familiar places. Now, I have a good idea of where to get things outside of chain stores and I’m not nervous about asking for what I need. I’ll definitely be able to hit the ground running when I move to Mérida and focus on the more advanced things I need to learn.

And so, I kept driving, and running into toll booths. There were exactly ten today, for a total of $677 (52.13CAD). OUCH. But I have to say that with my not being budgeted as tightly as I was last year, it wasn’t distressing, just profoundly annoying when you’d get to a toll booth only a few kilometres after the last one!

I finally got off the cuota at Guaymas. Traffic was light going through the city. I knew the AutoZone was on the “wrong” side of the highway, so I turned off before it so I could go in the back way. I love knowing little things like that! If I’d had to make the left-hand turn, I don’t think I would have bothered because I was knackered and just wanted to get off the road!

My experience at the Guaymas AutoZone was the completely opposite of that in Navojoa — I was out the door in under a minute! And as I opened my front door wide to put the new fuse in, an employee came to ask if I needed help! Wow! No, I didn’t need help. I pulled out the old fuse using a very handy little tool mounted right into the fuse box and then popped in the new one. I did a couple of checks and confirmed that my problem was solved. Easy peasy! Only cost me 2CAD and not an ounce of worry. I had to buy a package of fuses so I have a few extra. They’re 10A and I tend to go through at least one 10A fuse a season with one of my inverters in the RV, so the extras will be used up.

I was glad that I’d made the decision to stop in Guaymas rather than San Carlos tonight because I was just done as I left the city limits on the other side. I’d found a decently rated cheap motel, the Malibu, in front of the Walmart and headed there to see if they had a room.

It wound up being just past the Walmart and I had to do a U-turn:


Yes, they had a vacancy, and the room was $40 more than on the website. I lost that argument, but at $450 pesos, it was still a good deal. Well, as the check-in process moved on, the clerk and I chatted and she finally said, “You know what? I’m going to give you that $410 rate!” Wow. What happened?! So $410, plus a $100 key and remote deposit, with breakfast included. I was already doing better than at Totonaka!

The room is equivalent in terms of amenities and age, but marginally cleaner and the bed a touch softer. I like that the only window is in the bathroom, meaning that once the bathroom door is shut, the room is dark. I also like that there are multiple signs stating that people are here to sleep and that music and other loud noises will not be tolerated. Okay. I’m starting to like this place! I do miss not having that last view of the Sea of Cortez, though. But here are the red hills I’m going to be seeing a lot of in the next several days!


There is just one restaurant within walking distance, literally beside the hotel. And it’s Arbolitos de Cajeme! I didn’t realise they are a chain! I’ve been there a few times in San Carlos (they’re right next to Totonaka). In fact, if I had gone to San Carlos tonight, I would have going there and had the octopus pasta I had in November of 2014


Needless to say, I barely glanced at the menu after I was seated tonight. 😀 I had the pasta with an icy cold XX and skipped the totopos and garlic bread. So yummy! I mean, Parmesan, fresh basil, red and yellow peppers, and tons of shrimp and octopus. Yum!!! It looks different from what I was served in San Carlos in that there, the Parmesan, basil, and oil are served as pesto while here, the ingredients are separate and you get the whole basil leaves. Both versions are great and are generous with the octopus.


There was an ad on the table for their freshly made ice cream so even though I really didn’t need dessert, I asked if they had the mango one. No. But they did have a bunch of other flavours and I decided to try the pineapple… which wound up being $69… and worth every peso for the presentation. I burst out laughing when this was placed in front of me!


Seriously?! I’m still laughing at how unexpected this was. The server says that the ice cream was made from the pulp of that miniature pineapple. Hmm… Well, the serving was very generous, but I got through it. 🙂


This was really good quality ice cream, very “pineapple-y,” and the perfect cap to a good meal. Dinner was $275 with the tip, a lot more than I normally spend on a meal in Mexico, but absolutely worth every centavo in terms of the quality and even gourmet nature of my meal. This was a 20CAD meal. You don’t get food like this for 20 bucks in Canada!


I was done for the day after that. I came in and had a tepid shower (perfect temperature), then crawled into bed to check out the wifi (a bit slow, but it works!!!!). It’s only eight local time, but nine my time and I’m almost at the point of needing to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks! Breakfast starts at six and sunrise is at six, so I might as well turn in early and get an early start. My ambitious plan for tomorrow is to get through Phoenix! I’ll know how realistic that is when I get through the border…

Kneaded and Cooked

I had thought my final day on Isla would be one of quiet relaxation. Ha. Of course, work came in at the last minute and I found myself up at 6:00 this morning to finish work by 10:30 — and the house being about as packed as I had thought it would be by that time Wednesday! But it was worth it since I’ve picked up a new client.

I skipped my morning coffee break so I could do a solid two hours of work on the house and packing. By the time I collapsed with some hummus and crackers at noonish, the worst was behind me. Thank goodness for that since I had a massage scheduled!

My muscles were worked hard and I’m pretty sure I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it felt so good to pamper myself one last time before my coach turns into a pumpkin.

While my masseuse is Mexican, he lived in the US, in Vermont, for many years and learned his trade there. He says that when the heat gets like this, he misses Vermont winters! He also confirmed that insane driving is very much a Maz, not generalised Mexico, thing, because people here tend to get their license with a bribe. He had some venting to do about a near hit he had this morning!

All I wanted after he left was a nap, that’s how magical his fingers are, but I had more work to do. I put in another two hours and then could finally collapse with a cold beer, having only a few more things to put in the truck in the truck in the mornings and the floors to wash.

Around 6:30, I headed out to dinner, going by way of the beach to say my goodbyes to the surf, and the unthinkable happened: MIGUEL’S WAS CLOSED.

Needless to say, I was heartbroken. 🙁 I ended up going “downtown” and having a torta at Osuna’s. It was okay, but not the final Isla dinner I was looking forward to. The walk home seemed very long. I’m exhausted!

So I’m ready to go first thing tomorrow. I’m hitting the sack early since I’m seriously drooping and hope to be ready at first light, like I was last year. It’s going to be a very long haul!

Last Lunch on the Beach

Of course, work has popped up in these last few days, as it alway does, so I’m squeezing in typing with packing. But I absolutely had to fit in one last lunch on the beach! I headed to Rudy’s around 1:30 and refused a menu, saying I knew what I wanted — a coco and coconut shrimp! 🙂

The jewelry vendors descended on me like vultures, of course. For a gal who never used to wear much jewelry, I’m getting quite a collection now. Of course, it’s all cheap stuff.

The first guy got me with this tiny gecko pendant:


I love the octopus I got from the same vendor, but it’s not something I can just wear 24/7 because the chain gets caught in the legs. This little guy can stay around my neck as long as he wants.

And then another vendor came up and had this:


It’s still more massive than what I want in a snake ring, but a little less than the one I got last year. He left me with his jewelry case when he went off somewhere to get my size. I must look honest. 🙂

My coco was the biggest and heaviest one I have ever seen!


Here’s lunch, with the sweet salsa visible at the top left and a spicer one out of shot. Good meal! Rudy has the least expensive coconut shrimp of the beachfront restaurants I frequent, but they also have the least amount of coconut. However, the portion seems a lot more generous!


Here’s his menu showing that what we call pico de gallo really is “salsa mexicana.” But $70 for chips and salsa?! Have his guacamole instead. 🙂


Another guy came up while I was eating collecting $20 donations for a group home in Maz that does drug prevention work. He had official ID confirming this. I checked out the information flyer and it looked like a good cause, so I donated… and got four little bags of chocolate covered cranberries. Seems like the universe felt I deserved dessert?! 😀

I didn’t eat alone! Francisco the blanket vendor plopped himself down and started chatting. I didn’t mind at all. We had a good conversation and I learned a little more about him. He had a tablecloth I really wanted, but I showed amazing restraint. 🙂

It seems like I’m doing a lot of splurges in these last few days in Mexico, and you’re absolutely right. But I’m going to have to be very frugal the second I get across the border on Sunday. With the current exchange rate, I won’t be able to do nearly as many restaurant meals while in the U.S. as I have in the past and it won’t be worth doing much shopping. So I might as well enjoy the inexpensive good life while it’s here and support Isla’s hardworking vendors.

An Excuse For a Final Trip to the Mercado

I’ve started packing in earnest and have discovered something surprising. I’m going hiking next week and, guess, what? While I do have suitable footwear, I not only do not have any clothes for the occasion, but I don’t have my leather backpack that I use on day hikes! I guess I was so focussed on the cannonball run south that I never got as far as thinking that, hey, I might have time to go hiking on the trip north!

So I made a mental note to pop into a Walmart or, preferably, a thrift store when I get across the border to pick up a cheap backpack when I had a thought. Every single time I’ve been to the Mercado, and this includes last year, I’ve wished for an excuse to pick up a cute woven backpack… Well, this was the time to go see how much those cost! And yay for an excuse to do one last trip to the mercado!

I enjoyed my second to last lancha trip over, especially since we got a show:



Rather looks like a pirate ship from this angle, no?


There is a brand new “no fumar” notice on the steps. Particularly funny when there’s a jerry can above it!


Here we are at dock. Nothing fancy. The captain gets off first and holds the lancha tightly against the dock so people can get off. He also offers a hand for those who are unsteady or wrangling very full skirts. *whistles innocently*


Looking down to the dock. The ticket booth is in the centre (taquilla). To the right is space for vendors on the weekends and holidays. The doughnut lady was set up right in front of that guy with the blue shirt, in the shade. Usually, she’s on the street corner.


This is behind me in the last picture. It’s much busier on weekends, holidays, and some evenings, with fish vendors, more produce sellers, food stalls, and more.


Coming out onto Emilio Barragán I either turn right towards the gas station in the distance if going to the Fisherman’s Monument for a bus or to the bank/big Ley/big Waldo’s.


But today, I turned left towards Centro.


When I come home from the little Ley or am just going there, I cut through the alley next to the fishing supply store.


See the grey tower in the background? That’s the Pacifico brewery. I walk along the far side of it (calle Miguel Hidalgo) to go to little Ley.


I cross here to take Leandro Valle to get to the mercado. The perspective on this shot is a little off. The yellow building on the left has the white wall with green writing and is on one corner of Leandro Valle. Across from that, the pulmonía is parked at the other corner. So I cross here (good place to cross because there are topes and so traffic stops) then continue on down Leandro Valle.


Here’s the first, flat, section of it. I love this little community. There’s always something going on and people sitting on porches. Everyone is friendly and says hello.


The upper green sign made me laugh. She’s selling shaved ice, raspados, and didn’t have quite enough room to spell out the word. 2=dos. See what she did there? 🙂


The mix of houses on Leandro Valle is interesting. You have this run down place…


Next to this rather posh place.


These folks make ice. A truck backs right up to the opening. There are “steps” carved into the wall for getting up and down.


This water seller on a bike is probably in great shape. He gets those bottles to the top of the very long and very steep Leandro Valle hill! It’s very slow going. No, he does not pedal up, but rather pushes.


This is one of the nicest houses on Leandro Valle and is owned by an expat lady.


The house has many levels. I like the exterior because it respects the neighbourhood. It’s neat and well maintained, but doesn’t stick out. It’s what I want to do in Mérida, get an older (ie. affordable) place in a more rundown neighbourhood that I can spruce up without changing the character of the neighbourhood/gentrifying. When I spoke with folks from Mérida about my plans to move and my wanting to avoid the expat neighbourhoods, many spoke with derision of this gentrifying effect many expats have, buying super inexpensive homes and turning them into luxury compounds, driving up prices in the neighbourhood. That’s not the kind of expat I want to be.


I don’t think I’ve ever passed this house when this dog wasn’t napping on the steps!


The house is in a great location because it’s just blocks from the mercado. However, it’s right at the top of the hill (so uphill all the way home). I bet being at the top of the hill lowers the value on the house somewhat.

And right next to it is another house that has seen better days.


These folks repainted their house this year. Nothing shows pride of ownership more than a fresh coat of paint! I love the bright colours houses are painted here.


I survived the climb. Now, downhill all the way to the mercado!


Pretty flowers growing out of a foundation.


Nice house next to a ruin. I’m not sure if these façades are salvageable. There is no roof or floor behind that wall.


Looking from the corner of whatever street (no signage!) to the little Ley on Melchor Ocampo.


I love, love, love the yellow paint matching the tiles on this house. Notice there’s not only a house number, but…


An apartment number specifying “downstairs”!


A couple of busy corners later and here I am at the corner of Leandro Valle and Aquiles Serdán.



Shops along Leandro Valle across from the Mercado (heading towards Benito Juárez). Tony’s Burgers is the first door into the Mercado.


Tony’s is where I was going for lunch, but I wanted to do my shopping first. So I headed down, knowing that about two thirds of the way to Benito Juárez is a shop with the backpacks I wanted.


They only had one on display and it was hideous, so I asked if they had more. A sales lady led me inside and showed me a stack. I was surprised that the bags come in shades other than beige or bright red, green, and yellow. I immediately zeroed in on this pink and purple one and asked her if I could examine it more closely. It didn’t have “Mazatlán” written anywhere on it, which a lot of otherwise nice bags have (I don’t like my clothes and accessories to advertise where I’ve been), so that was an immediate plus. I was immediately struck by the quality. The seams were solid and there were lots of little details I hadn’t expected.


Like the flap for the pouch in front opening to reveal a zipper!


The top flap opening to reveal a draw string:


The straps on the back being sewn in such a way that you can easily hang the bag from a hook:


And the very copious storage space:


I asked how much and was shocked that the answer was only $130! I felt cheap trying to bargain that down, but replied with $110. She countered after a long second with $120 being her absolute best price. Wow! Only 9.24CAD!

She asked if I needed anything else and I said that I got what I came in for. She laughed and said that was very obvious and that it was a pleasure doing business with me. Another great mercado shopping experience. I wish they were all like that. The pushy vendors are so unpleasant.

My business done, I retraced my steps to have a shrimp burger at Tony’s. I haven’t really been in the mood for that kind of thing since I got back from Mérida (no tortas, no burgers, and barely any tacos!), but it seemed appealing today. I could have done with half the bread (so I left half of it) and no crema, but the fresh grilled shrimp, veggies, guacamole, and stringy cheese (plus the addition of chiles curtidos) really hit the spot!

I finished my last trip to the mercado by going to my favourite aqua fresca vendor, who is inside the mercado off of Aquiles Serdán, and got a whole litre of guava water! It was so hot that I drank the whole thing by the time I’d retraced my steps to the embarcadero!

I know I won’t have time to go back into town again, so thus end my Mazatlán adventures. It’s been fun! I can’t believe I’ve spent nearly a full year of my life here!