Days 10, 11, 12 – Friday, February 21 through Sunday, the 23rd

The rest of my trip to Zihua is blissfully uneventful and thoroughly relaxing. One excellent day is spent at Patys on La Ropa. Another is had at MJ & Richies on Madera. At the end of the day at MJ & R, Mauricio hands me the bill. I tell him he's made a mistake, this must be someone else's check as the amount owed is far too small. With a smile and a shrug, he says, simply, "That is what my father wants you to pay."

All in all, the vacation winds down perfectly, with everyone hitting their stride and experiencing that sense of total relaxation we only seem to know in Mexico.

Just another day in Paradise...

Other than that, about the only thing of note happens one evening after we've enjoyed an outstanding dinner at Tamales Any. The four of us are walking around el Centro shopping. Now, I'm not really a shopper. And on this evening, nobody is shopping for anything in particular. But we are looking. And looking. And looking. So when Chad, Kim and Allen walk into their 37th store, I hold back. I decide I've made enough compromises on this vacation. I'm gonna have a little (more) "me time".

Thinking I've got a good 15 minutes to kill, I spot a tiny, open-to-the-street bar right around the corner. Basically, it's a counter with 7 or 8 bar stools. Without telling anyone, I slip into it. (I figure there's no need to mention where I'm going as from inside the bar I still have a view of the store. And I'll be keeping an eye out. I'm sure you can guess what happens….)

There are maybe a handful of people in the place, I presume locals since everyone is speaking Spanish. I pull up a seat and order a Michelada. The man next to me, Sr. Cortez, immediately starts up a conversation. A few minutes pass, and when I look back to the store it's dark. As in closed. As in friends gone. It couldn't have been more than five minutes. Well, okay, maybe ten minutes. I tell Sr. Cortez I have to go find my amigos. He tries to talk me out of it. I tell him I really do have to at least make an effort and look for them, but when he insists, I agree that I'll come back if I can't find them. Well, a quick search around the neighborhood proves futile, and I figure I'll probably never find them so I go back.

(Was I intentionally trying to lose my group? I would say "No". Then again, a fellow named Freud might argue otherwise. He was a pretty smart guy…)

Back at the little bar, I buy a round of micheladas for the "house"--all of five people—and Sr. Cortez and I resume our conversation. We cover quite a bit of ground despite my wretched Spanish. He says he is a painter and that he lives/works near Calle Adelita. I tell him that's very close to where I'm staying. He hands me his card. He says his paintings are shown all over and that in a month--"maybe"—he will have a show in Ixtapa. I wonder how much truth there is to all this. His card looks impressive enough, that's for sure. It's even 4-color. But I am, after all, in a bar, and I also know that sometimes in Mexico a card is just a card. So who knows. Either I'm sitting here talking to Diego Rivera, or Cortez is some guy who makes a living peddling caricatures of tourists on the beach. No matter, I'm enjoying our conversation.

Eventually, Sr. Cortez asks me why I'm staying in Zihua and not Ixtapa. I tell him I just prefer Zihua, that it suits me better. Sr. Cortez suggests that I probably prefer Zihua because it is less expensive than Ixtapa. It takes a bit of effort and a couple of attempts on my part to convince Sr. Cortez that cost is not why I find Zihua preferable. I try to explain in my hack Spanish that I have other reasons, mostly experience-based, including moments like the one I'm having right now. I get the feeling that he doesn't really understand my point. Struggling, I finally arrive at the word "soul"(alma), suggesting that Zihua has one and that, at least for me, Ixtapa does not. This he understands. Fully. Maybe Sr. Cortez is a painter after all.

Before it gets too late, a rare case of "better judgment" kicks in and I decide to call it a night. Sr. Cortez protests, practically demanding that I stay and continue with drinks and conversation. But I beg off, trying to do so as diplomatically as possible so as not to offend. I use missing friends as an excuse, etc, and manage to exit with some amount of grace. I think buying that round of drinks may have helped.

I'd go back just to see the girls in the "Piñata Factory" in el Centro. Zihua is a great place with even better people.

In the end, about the only other thing I have to say about my vacation to Zihua is this:

After looking forward to my trip for almost five months, and doing a lot of research, I was a bit apprehensive upon arrival, wondering if my expectations of Zihua were too high or if I would somehow be disappointed. It is a testimony to Zihuatanejo's charms, and particularly to its people, that I was in no way disappointed. If anything, even my highest expectations were exceeded.

On that sad last day as I was leaving for the airport, Elizabeth, one of the housekeepers at Bungalows Ley, asked if I would be returning for another vacation, and if so, when.

"Pronto," I said.

POSTSCRIPT: Two months later, on the spur of the moment, I returned to Zihua for a week. I went by myself.

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