DAY 3 – FRIDAY 2/14 – Valentines Day – Part 2

I arrive in La Barra and set up camp at La Condessa, the restaurant furthest to the right as you face the beach from where the pasajera drops you off. I then set out for Dona Laura's house, Casa del Encanto, to drop off the school supplies. (Folks, this is a beautiful place, and to anyone considering staying in La Barra, it's difficult to imagine finding better accommodations. I saw all the rooms as each was unoccupied at the time and each is beautiful in its own unique way.) Unfortunately, my entirely unannounced arrival is at a very inopportune time, and I feel badly for dragging Laura downstairs. Nonetheless, she is exceedingly gracious to me, and I'm not even a guest, so I can only imagine what kind of hospitality she deploys for actual customers. Again though, having come at a lousy time, I quickly relieve Laura of my presence and head back to the beach. (One last thing for anyone wondering….you will have no trouble finding Casa del Encanto. Laura is obviously both respected and loved in La Barra. Just ask where her house is. I did. It works.)

The rest of my day is spent at La Condessa and is delightful and quiet. A bus off-loads at an enramada down the beach, but at La Condessa there are only a total of maybe 8 to 10 people. The food is great, the water perfect, and after about an hour-long walk down the deserted beach (with spf 45!) I am sufficiently nervous about burning that I beat a hasty retreat.

The view from La Condessa

Back at Pacificos for a shower before going out for the evening.

It's Valentine's Day and I sort of think I should get some place special for sunset, but I'm alone and what's the point? I'd just be taking up space that would be better spent on others. So instead I make another plan. I will e-mail a "Valentine". It's all I can do from here. I walk into town during sunset along the beach pathway between Madera and el Centro. ¡Muchas Novias!

I happen into an e-mail place next to Hotel Zihuatanejo. It has a/c and cold Coronitas which make the miserably slow internet connection quite bearable. There's a young girl working the joint, I'm guessing maybe 14. The keyboards are a bit wacky and I have to ask another patron for help just to correctly address my e-mail with an "@". I can see it on my keyboard, it's in the normal place, I just can't make it happen. The fellow who helps me out says it took him 10 minutes to get one. I thank him. With e-mail sent, I'm in and out in under an hour. Time to pay the bill.

Two Coronitas plus e-mail comes to $34 pesos. I pull out my wallet and let out an audible gasp. All I have are $200 peso notes. I know I'm screwed. (Cambio es muy dificile, no?) I sheepishly hand one to the girl. She rolls her eyes and starts hunting around for change, asking a Spanish speaking patron she knows, then going next door etc., etc., to no avail. I get an idea. I'll go across the street to Coconuts, order a drink, break the bill, and come back with change. I let her know I'll be right back and reach for the $200 peso note in her hand. She'll have none of that; she holds on tight. Somebody taught her well. So, leaving my $200 pesos behind, I walk across the street, order a margarita, get change, leave the drink on the counter (to come back to, of course) and return to the girl. Now I hand her a $50 peso note for my $34 peso bill. She gives me a sad look that says, "We're still not there yet." Essentially, in US dollars, I owe her $3.40 and I'm handing her a $5 bill. No go. She pokes around the shop for more change and finally comes up with 12 of 16 pesos I'm due. I swear she was trying to do her best….I think she was trying to do her best….was she trying to do her best? At this flash-point, after spending about 15 minutes on the project, I have an epiphany:

A) I'm on vacation
B)I'm delaying my vacation for what amounts to 40 cents US
C)I haven't eaten yet.

I'm out the door and off to dinner. So was the little girl playing me? Certainly not. But I rather like to think she was, because if she was, she was very, very good.

Dinner will be at Puntarenas tonight. I cross the bridge by the pier and turn right…walk a short bit. I'm in a residential neighborhood and it's dark and I'm not seeing a lot of possibilities. I'm following a local, who's following his daughter on her bike. In my most humble "resort Spanish" I ask the fellow, "Por favor, Senor….Donde esta' restaurante Puntarenas?" He looks at me both kindly and quizzically and tries to guide me back over the footbridge to el Centro where all the restaurants are. My Spanish is limited, but my pronunciation ain't that bad and I've also got a pretty good idea that I'm in the right area. So I persist. But just as I'm about to ask again, I notice we are passing directly in front of the restaurant. Either he simply didn't know where it was or my pronunciation is worse than I think. Either is entirely possible. Regardless, I point at the sign and smile triumphantly, "Puntarenas". He acknowledges with a shrug and moves on.

Basically, Puntarenas is a restaurant run out of a Mexican families house, with a covered front yard area serving as the dining room. Dinner, which is served by what must be the grandmother of the household, is Chile Rellenos. This is probably my favorite Mexican dish, and my first Rellenos since arriving in Zihua. They are excellent. And I mean outstanding. In the end, when abuela brings me the check, I not only want to tip her, I want to hug her.

Apparently, I'm not the only one in Zihua
trying to figure out his camera.

After dinner, I spend another night at the basketball courts next to the plaza. It's Valentine's Day, but the court is still pretty active. I have a conversation with a woman, maybe in her late thirties/early forties. She's local and is quite dressed up—it is, after all, both Valentines Day and a Friday Night. She wears a red dress. She looks pretty terrific really, some effort has obviously been involved, and she sits with two other friends who are also dressed up. She wants to practice her English and I my Spanish. I ask her where her novio is. She explains to me that she's "done with men". I laugh. The lack of "acceptable" men is discussed for some time. (I think I've had this same conversation with women in the States….) She then explains to me that even an extended stay in the U.S.—in San Francisco--didn't produce a man to her liking. I laugh again. Quite a bit this time. Her arched eyebrow and telling expression makes me think she knows why I find this funny. Rather than let the conversation drift into a discussion of the "Men of San Francisco", which could only be a quagmire, I re-direct it. She asks me why I'm alone on Valentine's Day. I explain that my Valentine is back at home working. She says, in essence, "See why I'm done with men?" I backpedal, explaining that my Valentine will be joining me tomorrow, and that I missed our entire previous vacation together because I had to work. For whatever reason, as if there's hope, I'm trying to rehabilitate the entire male sex in her eyes. I finally concede that she probably knows a hell of a lot more about the subject than I do, and after many laughs at the expense of my Y-chromosome-sharing brethren, we leave it at that.

On the basketball courts that night I watch a charming scene. The courts are open to pick-up games, nothing organized. On one half of the court is a family playing together. It's mom and her daughter against her two sons. Mom's probably in her early thirties and her daughter around 10. The two sons are maybe 11 and 13. Much fun. Mom's in flip flops, but let me tell you, she's got skills and is very competitive. How she moves so fast in flip-flops is beyond me. The competition is pretty close, but the boys go on a bit of a run and take the lead. At this point, an even younger son, maybe 5, joins the female team to try to "help". Of course, every time the little boy touches the ball it has the opposite, disastrous effect, much to Mom's good-natured, highly animated, chagrin. It's a riot.

…..You make all these plans, and if you can manage to abandon them for a bit, the really good stuff starts to happen…..

I return to Pacificos to discover that two young lovers have moved in next door to the previously empty bungalow. They are on the patio opposite mine, and though it's pretty private, I can see and hear them through the plants. I'm already used to being alone on the magnificent patio at Pacificos, and this almost feels like an intrusion. I light a small candle to scare them off. Doesn't work. From the sounds of things, they will be up all night…it is, after all, Valentines Day.

That's just fine with me. They'll be sleeping in and so will I.

Wrong again.

On to Day Four

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