Friday, January 31, 2014

Weekend Reflections

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January 2014 - Mazatlan Mexico

Mazatlan - El Ajibe

El Ajibe is located on Constititucion in Centro Historico. It is housed in a 150 year old cistern, one of three that supplied water to the city in the 1800s.

The owner has decorated this massive vaulted building with all kinds of collectibles as can be seen.

Reservations are a must!

We took some photos during a walk by during the day.

We made our reservations via e-mail and received a confirmation from Jose. When we arrived Jose greeted us by name. There are only eight tables that seat from 4 to 6 people. Four were occupied by tourists and another filled up beside us.

As you enter you go down some stairs and this is on your right.

Looking towards the front from our table.

John started with the tortilla soup which was delicious. I didn't have an appetizer. One of my pet peeves is when a server wants to bring my main course while John is still eating his starter. Then when John still isn't finished the server brings both our main courses. Service could be definitely improved.

 We both had trouble choosing a main course. Shrimp figured heavily but dipped in a plum, peanut and peach sauce and wrapped in bacon?

I chose the ox tail stew which was tasty and quite large. The potatoes were delicious.

John was disappointed in his fajitas saying they had an odd taste like pickles. They weren't served on a hot dish.

Large golden letters on the wall spell out Que Onda - What's happening?

Complimentary appetizer of olives.

They have a good wine list which Jose carefully decanted.

To sum up we didn't love our meal or the service but did think it would be fair to give it another try. We did think Jose was a charming host.
I received a thank you note the next day from Jose. He also responds to every review on Trip Advisor.

Durango Mexico (Travel Photo Thursday and Monday)

I'm posting over at The Budget Travelers' Sandbox and Travel Photo Monday.
Travel Photo Monday

With an average elevation of almost 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), most of the state is heavily mountainous and a good part forested; the Sierra Madre Occidental occupies two thirds of the state, mostly in the western and central part of the state.

In summer, the average maximum range from 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) in the eastern parts of the state to a low of 20.0 °C (68.0 °F) in the western parts. In winter, the max ranges from 15.0 °C (59.0 °F) to a low of 0 °C (32.0 °F) in the winter.

I posted about our trip this week along the new Mazatlan to Durango super highway. The highway is just amazing.

In 2010 the city of Durango was designated as a World Heritage Siteby UNESCO. There are 17 museums (5 more to open in the next year) and 21 (not a typo) universities.
The more I got involved in writing this post the more I realized that this tour was very disappointing when we got to Durango. I had mentioned in the bridge post that we had really wanted an overnight tour and we should have looked around for one. This is an important cultural city with so many things to see and do.

As you drive into Durango there is a park dedicated to the bridge with miniatures of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa etc to show that these edifices would easily fit underneath the Puente Baluarte.

The first stop on the agenda was the Pancho Villa Museum or more  properly called the Museo Francisco Villa. 

We were handed over to a museum tour guide, Tomas, who was delightful. The only problem was that our tour guide Chili Willie (nickname) had already given us Pancho's life story on the bus. So this felt like a waste.
The building, however is definitely worth a visit. The murals are spectacular (another post).

The building was known as “Palace of Zambrano” and was the  property of the miner Juan José Zambrano, later it became the venue of the government of the state of Durango for more than 150 years. The Palace was given to the Cultural Institute of the State of Durango to house the Francisco Villa Museum.
 Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango on June 5, 1878, in the state of Durango, not far from where John Ford shot his most famous Westerns and John Wayne built his Rancho de la Joya. His parents were landless peons, and their poverty forced them to leave their son at the age of 7 in an orphanage. By 15, he had already run away and joined a group of bandits. At 16, he settled in Chihuahua, where he took on the name Francisco Villa, after a bandit from Oaxaca. A year later, he broke all bridges with society by killing a member of the gentry who had assaulted his sister. The myth of Pancho Villa was born.

Photo of Gen. Francisco Villa and his wife, Sra. Maria Luz Corral de Villa (1914)

 Durango has 749 historic buildings that are preserved by the city. One of my complaints about the tour was the lack of a lot of information on these buildings. We also did not have enough free (none) time to walk around town.

The state of Durango is home to different ethnic groups such as the Huichol, Cora, Tarahumara, and Tepehuano. 
This gentleman was selling herbs to passerbys..

Teatro Ricardo Castro  - At the end of the 19th century, the Compañía Constructora y Explotadora del Teatro de Durango was formed. It later became a movie theater, known as the Cine Principal.

The building is very grand with massive stairs leading up to arched entranceways and, has crystal-windowed wood doors guarded by iron gargoyles. A statue of the theater's namesake, Mexican concert pianist and the last romantic composer of the Porfirio Díaz era, stands on the corner of the Avenue 20 de Noviembre and Bruno Martínez Street.

These children, in their classroom, were busy staring at us. They later started waving at us probably to the annoyance of the teacher. Durango is just beginning to embrace tourism so the locals are still surprised by all us gringos!

Mc Donald's

As all Mexican cities do, Durango has a lovely town square or plazuela. 

A band boarded our trolley and played a traditional Durango song.

Note really annoying tourists we were stuck with all day long!!! Rude, unpleasant, the man on the other end ate an apple while on the trolley and then simply threw the core onto the road. I won't show their faces but if I did you would see that they were always in the front of every photo! Oh and did I mention that they knew absolutely everything!

This historical tour was alright but it could have been much better. 
Much of the highlights were glossed over leaving me a little annoyed.

We barely were able to get photos of the train station that was built in 1920, but one of the structures in the train yard dates back to 1893. Outside the station, Durango's last steam engine, number 900, has been conserved.

Durango has a street system that for some left turns you drive on the left side of the road for a block or more.

Dotting the skyline are many ornate churches, again we didn't get a chance to visit any of them.

The Catedral del Basílica Menor is an imposing sight in the square. Its baroque facade was constructed from 1695 through 1787.

The best part of the tour was a stop at these murals depicting the history of Durango.

Just a sampling, I will post all of them another time.

My favourite - dedicated to the arts.

Finally, it's gone 2 PM and we head for lunch. Considering that we had our boxed breakfast around 7:30 this was a long wait.

The restaurant was a local run of the mill spot. there was no ambiance and the food was already made for us so service was really quick.

Lunch was included as part of tour and came with a beer or soft drink and tip. We were served a chicken chimichanga. It was tasty but frustrating to find the chimichanga underneath all that lettuce.

Our next stop was the city market, something I love to visit in any city. Lo and behold he tells us we have a WHOLE 20 minutes. Considering that this it is the size of a city block meant you really only went down a couple of aisles as no one wanted to get lost in the labyrinth.

The "deadly" scorpion is the unofficial state symbol and is glorified on everything from clocks and ashtrays to key chains. The baseball team is called the Scorpions.

This species, Centruroides suffusus, can kill a child and inflict vicious pain on adults so ferocious is their sting. 
I read an article that described the scorpion catchers out early in the morning looking among the garbage for these critters using tweezers and a glass jar. This is a trade that is passed down from father to son. They are sold mainly to make all the souvenirs you see are the market.

Here are some live ones on display at the market.

A much prettier picture!

Durango is also known for its cheese, in particular queso chihuahua, also called 'queso menonita', a type of cheese made by the state's numerous Mennonite residents as well as the traditional ""Queso Ranchero"" usually made in the high Sierra's (mountains) of Durango which tourists as well as natives like to enjoy.

Then we were hustled off to the cable car for a view of the city. By the way we made sure that we were at the front of the car despite the dirty looks of the pushy members of our group LOL. 

I left John to take pictures of the city while I headed to the church.

I headed to the church, El Mirador los Remedios.

We were on the bus back to Mazatlan by 5 PM. The drive back was long as it rained and we even had hail so the driver was very careful and we didn't get back until 8:45.