How many times have we heard or even said the maxim, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey!”? Well, let me just add to that well-loved thought. It’s true that it is not only the destination. But I think it is even more than the journey. I believe it’s being able to relive the story, many many times after.
Therein lies the beauty of being a storyteller. And the retelling can be by speaking, uttering the words with the nonverbals that accentuate them. However, I prefer to put those words silently on paper. Yes, after my retirement, besides becoming a wanderer and a wife, I have also become a writer.
Still, the road to becoming one has been fraught with difficulties.
First of all, I come from the world of left brains. From a degree in BS Mathematics and a career in the business world of computers, it was hard trying to awaken the right half of my brain. I had been writing proofs of theorems and hypotheses or business project proposals and reports. Theses and dissertations in my master's and doctor's programs did not help either. My first book Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream came about only as a compilation of the posts I kept in a blog as we RVed across America.
The other the problem I have is this: English is not my native tongue. I was born in the slums of Manila. I got a great education through the Philippine public school system in elementary and two scholarships in high school, and college. Besides, Tagalog has a very foreign syntax as compared to English. My husband, the one who edited my early writings used to return pages I wrote almost black because of erasures and revisions.
My writing has improved over time. After all, I have been writing for nine years now. But I still do not have the flair for the idiomatic, local American English, that which is spoken in the streets, in homes, in the offices of America. That is why I have the TV on the whole day so I can imbibe by hearing. Unfortunately, it drives Bill to his office. Actually, I have an office. I just don’t use it and prefer to stay in a more expansive living room. That’s why Bill is thinking of putting an Arizona room. But that is TMI.
Now, I want to express my innermost feelings and thoughts, even if it makes me vulnerable. There is so much I want to share from our exploration of the world. And my time here is ever becoming shorter and shorter. It is good that the hours we spend on the road has also become less, giving me more time to wonder about our wanderings, to think about insights gained from those trips, and share the lessons learned so that they might be of help to others, too.
In other words, I now also want to write about the other not so obvious journey, the inner one. Since shifting gears, around my turning seventy, I have created thirty-two travel essays and an equal number of travel stories. I love it. It leads me right on to the direction for my second book which will compile the best-loved of them. It is tentatively titled: Carolina: Cruising Past 70.
By the time I am done with Cruising Past 70 and have shifted to the last phase, Cruising to the End, I would not only have the outer journeys to relive. I will also have lessons and insights to refine and reshare. By that time, I can picture Bill and me, smiling and with hands clasped, reliving each one, whiling our hours away in our “rocking” chairs or maybe still traveling...from our “armchairs.”
No, it’s not chicken soup. although chicken has something to do with it. It’s something from my childhood but it's not magic either.
Family and friends can’t understand why I still am constantly on the go. Last year, as I turned seventy, we spent three weeks in Cozumel, four weeks in Europe, one week in Sedona, one week cruising LA and the Baja, one week in San Francisco, and three weeks in Vegas for a total of thirteen weeks or 25% of the year. This year it’s even worse. We have just completed thirteen weeks in Mazatlan, am on a two-week road trip to Colorado, will do a six-week trip of eight states and provinces, and a two-week trip to Kansas This is nearly half of the year at 45%.
What pushes me to keep going? I retired from a job that had me going to various countries to gain knowledge about how they did pioneering IT applications so I could apply them locally. Earlier, the companies I joined also sent me to various countries to train me. I was thrilled to get such awesome trips for free. But I suspect that what pushes me started much earlier on when I was young. And when I retired, something powerful was unleashed. When I was no longer confined to trips defined by my jobs, my exploration of the world became unhinged. I began to go all over the place.
So I searched deep into my youth. I believe that one of the factors was witnessing my mother’s journeys across the globe. She was sent everywhere, starting from winning the Philippine government’s scholarship to the US to study how the deaf receives education and how they are taught how to speak. Sounds familiar, huh? But no, it wasn’t only that. During her year-long scholarship, she would write us letters about her experiences. One of the most defining moments was when she enclosed dry gold, yellow, orange and red maple leaves that had fallen from trees during autumn. I thought, “Whoa! I wonder if she can send us snow!”
But I thought there must be something more because this passion is unbelievable, unfathomable, and unstoppable. True enough, I remember what really did it. My mother always insisted that I eat chicken wings. And she served them to me often. She believed, as many in the Philippines during her time, that this simple act would give anyone the “wings” with which to “fly” the world. I remember eating a ton of them as adobo, nilaga, tinola, afritada, steak, curry, inasal, arroz caldo, and, of course, fried. I love anything made from chicken wings! Thanks, Mommy!
Then I developed an intense liking for chicken feet. Ever since I can remember, when I got introduced to the Chinese dim sum in Manila (the Philippines is also greatly influenced by the Chinese who settled it in droves, aside from the Spanish and the Americans who both colonized us). I didn’t develop as much taste for siopao, siomai, hargow, sticky rice, meatballs, spare ribs, fried squid, egg tart, sesame ball, mango pudding, and congee as much as my favorite, Phoenix Claws (is it any wonder then that I have settled in Phoenix?). I don’t know how to make it so that’s what I order every time at a dim sum place.
Chicken wings gave me the reason to fly. Chicken feet gave me the reason to do road trips (walking is too slow), starting with our eight years of RVing, as chronicled in my book, Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream. And I still have not stopped eating both. So how can I ever stop traveling, you might ask. When I take my last breath.
There you have it. That’s the secret to my traveling soul. I suggest you start eating them, too! If not chicken feet, then all the chicken wings you can.
When I saw the Northeast in autumn for the very first time, I fell madly in love. From that time on, I couldn’t stop dreaming about living with those trees that paint the skies when they turn to golds, reds, yellows, and oranges. But being originally from the tropics, I knew it would be foolish. I would not be able to survive the height of winter in those places. Therein lies the quandary.
Fortunately, RVing full time for eight years brought us to the Arizona desert. Deserts are described as barren, desolate, waterless, and without vegetation. It is considered dull and uninteresting, unlivable due to extreme heat or cold. People, therefore, wonder how many can stand to live in Phoenix, Arizona, Well, let me tell you that if spring and fall are the best seasons to visit (or live) in the Northeast, they are also in the Southwest. And, if the winter is the bane of the former, summer is it in the latter. That leads me to the crux of this post: Springtime is the best time to experience the desert. The following are the 10 reasons why.
If the trees turn multi-hued in the New England fall, trees turn yellow in the desert spring. (Disclosure: yellow is my favorite color) The Palo Verdes bloom with abandon and their tiny blossoms are yellow. The name Palo Verde literally translated means “green stick” in Spanish. All parts of the tree from the leaves to the branches, limbs, and trunk are green. There are two native Arizona Palo Verdes: the Foothills Palo Verde and the Blue Palo Verde. April is the blooming period for both. The first to bloom in April is the Blue Palo Verdes. Two weeks later, the Foothills follow. The Mexican Palo Verdes bloom till August.
Flowers carpet the valleys and hillsides in the desert spring. Winter has been especially wet and cold this year. As a matter of fact, some snow collected in the desert valleys, more at the hill and mountain tops. Larger snow melts are now watering the landscapes. Yes, water abounds at this time in the desert, especially this year when winter produced so much melts. It is time to see the desert in bloom!
Because of the trees and the flowers, color reigns in the desert in spring. It is truly the best time to visit. Besides, temperatures in the desert are ideal at this time. Highs are in the 80-90s, lows in the 45-75s. It is fresh, chilly air to wake up to in the mornings, perfect for your hot coffee, chocolate or tea. And the nights of 60s-70s are cozy for indoor family activities or for night outs in style and comfort.
Daytime, on the other hand, is in the perfectly enjoyable 70-80s, except for June when it gets to the balmy ’90s later in the month. For this reason, markets come alive at this time in the desert. There will always be a farmers’ market to go to, every day of the week. Festivals also sprout, from art and music to film and everything in between. Even sports teams choose springtime in the desert to train. Come to see your favorite ballplayers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. What a bonus!
The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is such a paradise in spring for all these reasons. In fact, it is also good in the fall. Winter can be a little bit chilly so we go farther south to Mexico. And the heat of summer, though no worse than the humid heat of the Midwest drives us to visit our children who all live in great summer places. As you can see, we have even decided to settle in the Phoenix area. But this spring, come and see the desert in magnificent bloom and enjoy the other bonuses.
My husband Bill had been coming to the city of Mazatlan since he was 45 years old, some 30 years ago. He admits it’s the people that keep him coming back. He felt the same when he met Filipinos. But we are both shying away from the long haul trip to Manila now that we have reached our 70s. So, Mexico has become a practical choice.
Mexicans, in general, and Mazatlecos, in particular, remind me of what gives me pride about the Filipino: hospitality, friendliness, and warmth. We may have started slow but, by the middle of our three-month annual vacation in El Cid Resorts, we got drawn to a few people. There were the guests who, like us, were staying for three months a year: a couple from Vermont, another from New York City, and a third from Idaho.
students who wanted to interview Bill at the store
From among the staff, we had identified our favorites: two waiters, our chambermaid, the concierge guys, and the activities leaders. But little did we know that closer friendships were also in the offing and that soon, we would have a new family!
The first two were Chef Luis Villa and Capitan Guillermo "Willy" Garcia of the La Concha Restaurant, the premier restaurant of El Cid Resorts (out of nine). Luis was our lead instructor at the Cooking Class. I was not only fascinated by the dishes but also awed by his gentle personality. He was able to convey so much despite knowing very little English. I interviewed him and wrote this blog post on Mexican Cuisine.
Capitan Guillermo, on the other hand, I met as I was looking for the cinnamon powder that was supposed to be beside the Aveena (oatmeal). In a jiffy, just like magic, it appeared before me. That experience would be repeated a few more times. He made things happen. He managed the waiters, the kitchen, and the ushers with gentle authority. As a result, everyone's dining experience was always memorable.
Chef Luis and Capitan Guillermo and their spouses with us at Casa 46
In appreciation, Bill invited both Luis and Willy, together with their spouses, to dinner at Casa 46, the best Mazatleca restaurant in the famed Plaza Machado. It was a night to remember. In turn, Willy invited us to dine at his home in the next season.
For Bill’s 75th birthday, they whipped up a celebration like no other. The special menu included shrimp cocktail, tuna Nicoise salad, Chateaubriand, and rustic chocolate cake for us and our three couple-friends. Before we left, we gave them copies of my book, Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream.
the Elite Lounge Staff
Then there's the Elite Lounge. That's where special concierge staff take care of timeshare owners like us who stay for months. Vinirisa, Michelle, Sonia, Ody, and Daniela (whom I fondly called Yeye just like my granddaughter) always welcomed us with delightful service. No question was too hard, no task was too difficult, and nothing was ever impossible. On February 14, we gifted the girls with a huge box of chocolates for sharing. And when we left, we gave them a box each and left the Lounge with a copy of my book.
Finally, there is Israel, the only gentleman in the Elite Lounge. From the outset, he was determined to serve our every need. So we could watch movies every night (which is a must), he lent us his own DVD player. He even took Bill to his friend auto mechanic and our car’s little dings disappeared for a fraction of the cost it would have been in Arizona. Not only did he volunteer to pick up our tickets for front-row seating at the Carnaval but he also took us to the Biblioteca Municipal to get our library cards. Finally, he invited us to the Baby Shower for his first-born Diego who due in May. For us, to be invited to a home or party by a local is the highest form of compliment. We got both in our first stay in El Cid Resorts.
Israel's family at the baby shower
The truth is we missed family and friends in Mazatlan. We wished they were there with us to enjoy the beach, the pools, the spa, the shopping, and the sights. But we know they are busy with their own families. Perhaps in the next few years, they will be able to make it. In the meantime, we have been fortunate to have built friendships that allow us to share our joys. Mazatlan, you have truly amazing people. I don’t feel very far from my other home, the Philippines, at all!
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Because we had driven to Mazatlan, we packed too much. So we really didn’t need to shop for anything. But when we found out that the prices are so much cheaper than in Mesa, Arizona, our last few days became a shopping frenzy. We discovered that there are five main shopping areas: 1) the Zona Dorada all around El Cid, 2) Walmart and Gallerias Mall toward the north, 3) Soriana/Gran Plaza southeast, 4) Juarez Sunday Market further southeast, and 5) the Old Mazatlan Mercado in the Downtown area.
the market in Old Mazatlan, downtown
There were so many great value items for swimming, nice local shirts, etc. but Bill didn’t seem to notice any of them. So, after a while, I decided I didn’t have to wait for him and bought what I wanted, just like a normal woman. My final stash included: black classic slacks for US$10, four tops ranging from US$7-20, black socks for US$2, black fashion hat for US5, beaded Mexican necklace and bracelet set for US$10, one gold and one silver shawls each for US5, Aztec earrings for US$20, and two knock-off Dior reflectorized dark glasses for US$10. I got one or more from every single one of the shopping areas. I just couldn’t help myself. ! spent all of US100 for my complete makeover
When I ran out of eyebrow liners, we drove to the Walmart/Galleria Mall. And because they were much cheaper than in the US even if they were the same brands, I finally got to buy all sorts to try which one best suits what I want to do with my brows. I did the same thing for my lipstick. I also found out that the Grey Away spray I use to hide the white in my hair so I do not have to dye as often was only US$4 when it is US$10 in the US. So I bought a nine months’ supply to last until my next trip in January 2020. We found bargains for hair dye, shampoo, body wash, and mouthwash, too. Bill finally had to stop me. He said there was no more space in the car.
Soriana, the biggest local supermarket chain
By the time we were packing to go home, we panicked because we had not bought any “pasalubongs” (arrival gifts) for friends and family at home. So we rushed to the El Cid Shopping Arcade which had a few souvenir stores. For friends, I bought 11 beaded bracelets and Bill bought El Cid golf towels and ball cap markers. I also found another reflectorized fashion dark glasses like the one I bought for myself. A granddaughter said they were sweet shades. Bill got four zip-up hoodies with Mazatlan logos and designs for each of his grandkids, too. Of course, he didn't forget the tequila!
But the prized articles we are bringing home are two. The first is the ceramic tile painting we bought from an El Cid Hotel shop featuring the Malecon with the Valentino, the party place, as its iconic focal point. And the second and high value one is a unique photo collage of 16 Mazatlan doors mounted on two wooden door panels. We found this art piece during one of the First Friday Art Walks in the Centro Hispanico of Old Mazatlan.
our art pieces
Next year, we promised ourselves that we would not bring so much with us in the car, list what we need throughout the year, and buy them in a more organized fashion in Mazatlan. We would not only save millions, but we would also have so much fun right from the very start!
pottery and ceramics by the roadside
PS On the drive home, there were roadside shacks that attractively displayed tons of pottery and ceramic works. Of course, I begged Bill to stop at one. I bargained myself into a clay pot and mortar and pestle to display on my kitchen counters.
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It's almost Easter Sunday and it feels like the sun will shine more. I have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award. It is nice to be recognized by a fellow blogger, the owner of Wendy's Blog. It is an extraordinary read about her rural hikes and urban walks around the country with a focus on gardens. Thank you, Wendy, for spotting my blog. Now I can splash yellow representing sunshine all over my post.
beautiful lily, given to me by my hubby
The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given by bloggers to bloggers. Essentially a peer to peer award, it is given to bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring. One of the requirements is that the nominee has to answer eleven questions posed to her. Here's my turn:
1. What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? I have learned that a happy life is filled with experiences, not material things. I can only advise her to start as early as possible. Coming from a very poor family, I was drawn to material goals at first.
2. How did you get started with blogging? After twenty years of being a career-minded single parent, I found my life partner. He led me to RVing North America and then traveling the world. Once we started, I wanted to document our experiences well. I turned to blogging.
3. What is one small thing that makes you truly happy? I believe it is having a deep conversation, be it with another person or a gem of nature.
the wattle tree, Australia's national tree in full bloom, 2017
4. What is your favorite place in the sunshine? Anywhere where the sun shines or where her brightness is trapped: a flower, a tree, or a field. I guess that is why I love the color yellow!
5. What do you do to relax? I watch a a movie that entertains and doesn’t tax the brain too much.
6. If you could spend a day with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why? Any of my grandchildren. They light up my life.
7. What is your favorite dessert? decadent chocolate cake or Chocolate Therapy.
8. What is the meaning behind your logo? Would you believe I do not have a logo? I have a byline though. "Carolina: Cruising Past 70. It's not only about the obvious journey. It's also about the inner one. It's about the lessons of earlier cruising lifestyles applied to travels past 70."
9. What is your favorite season and why?New England Fall or Desert Spring because they wear lots of yellows.
10. What are some of your favorite hobbies? photography, writing, reading, and later, hopefully painting. 11. What is your favorite book? The book I wrote and published: Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream.
desert cacti in full bloom in Phoenix this spring
Here are the eleven questions I would like to ask the bloggers who have inspired and encouraged me:
1-2. What was the most inspiring place you have ever visited? Why?
3-4. Who in your personal circle inspires you most about travel? Why?
5. What is the major reason you travel?
6-7. Who would you rather travel with: your partner, your friends, your family, or no one? Why?
8-9. Which of the following types of travel do you prefer: budget, luxury, adventure, history, culture? Why?
10-11.During what season do you like to travel: spring, summer, fall or winter? Why?
giant sunflowers in Kansas
And these are the bloggers whose insights I would like to know and share with others. They have inspired and encouraged me in my writing journey. They will inspire and encourage many more.
It’s a far cry from the feeling we had driving down to Mazatlan. Yes, those urinals we bought will be of utterly no use. As a matter of fact, we felt confident enough that we even took a different route. We followed the advice given to us by a couple we met in El Cid who had been driving the route for years.
This route is so much better because it divides the trip more evenly to 6.5-6-5.5 hours. The previous one we took was 8-6-4. (Both include border times.) We also bypass Los Mochis, Sinaloa the city with Level 4, the highest crime level according to the US State Department Advisory (our trip down was uneventful, too, but we were so cautious).
Saying goodbye to all the friends we had made in the three months we were in Mazatlan was not easy. We hugged lots and reminded ourselves that we would be seeing each other again on January 4, 2020. I gave copies of my book, Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream, and boxes of chocolates.
Packing all the things we brought with us and all the things we bought in Mazatlan was not easy either. But, on the morning of April 1, 2019, we drove our car north on Mexico 15 D, the Cuota freeway. I delighted at the burst of yellows along the way on an early Spring Day. We also stopped at inexpensive Mexican pottery stores.
The first stop of our three-day road trip was Navojoa. It is the fifth-largest city (population, over 150,000) in the state of Sonora just past the state of Sinaloa where Mazatlan is located. The Mexican Revolutionary Álvaro Obregón was born in Hacienda Siquisiva in the small town near the city. After the 1910 revolt, he became the President of Mexico, introducing modern agricultural techniques.
Navojoa's Palacio Municipal
seen at the Main Plaza
He made the Valley one of the most prosperous agricultural regions in Mexico. Today, aside from agriculture, foreign as well as local investors have gone into many industries like shrimp farming, swine production, recycled containerboard and box making, and a Tecate brewery (recently acquired from Heineken). The Valley exports mainly to the US because of its close proximity to the border.
The colorful Navojoa signage stands out at the roundabout as you enter the city. Prosperity is evident and we had time to take pictures of the Main Plaza fronting the Palacio Municipal. Four monuments surround the Plaza and the City Clock Tower donated by the Rotary Club leads to it from the main thoroughfare, Mexico 15 D. The Cathedral is just a block away, its spires visible from the Plaza.
the Welcome Sign of Navojoa
Magdalena de Kino
The next stop should have been Santa Ana, about six hours from Navojoa and a little over 60 miles south of Nogales on the US border. Santa Ana is a small city with a population of just over 10,000 known for raising cattle with over 20,000 head exported to the US annually. The movie The Fast and The Furious was filmed there throughout the months of June and July 2008, as well as the larger town of Magdalena de Kino (population, 25,000).
Padre Kino's Mausoleum
Temple to Santa Magdalena
Hotels.com did not have available hotels in Santa Ana so we booked at Magdalena de Kino which is even closer to the Mexico-U.S. border. When I researched the city, I found out that it is a Pueblo Mágico, one of 83 towns selected for scenic, cultural or historical qualities.
We loved our stay at the 5-star Hotel Industria, one of six hotels in the city. It is just a half block away from the Main Plaza. The remains of Father Francisco Eusebio Kino, the pioneer Roman Catholic missionary who founded fifteen missions in the area as well as Arizona was discovered in this town in 1966, 255 years after his death. A monument with a crypt housing his remains and a chapel with his effigy lying down are both in the Plaza. The city is named after him and the patron saint Santa Maria Magdalena. There is a pretty temple/church built in her honor also at the Plaza.
the Main Plaza of Magdalena de Kino
The border was only a little over an hour from our hotel. This time we went through the correct crossing called Mariposa. It is right after Km 21 where we surrendered our auto permit that refunded our US$400. However, we forgot to surrender our visitors’ permit. We will have to find out how to do that by mail. The wait at the US border was a whole hour and our car didn’t have to be inspected by the US Customs border agents.
the Mariposa Border Crossing
After realizing that we had forgotten to surrender our permits we passed by the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. But we were told they didn’t have an immigration office there and we either had to go back to the border or forget about it. We wanted to make sure we would be given reentry to Mexico next year but we definitely didn’t want to go back to the border. We lost our appetite for lunch and continued on to Viewpoint. We simply said we will stop at the first McDonalds we spot. Would you believe we didn’t see any? We left Magdalena de Kino at 8 am and we arrived home at 2:15 pm.
We will find out if we can mail our visa permit to the Immigration Office. By next year, we will have all the border processes down pat. So, yes, we will drive down to Mazatlan again next year, if they’ll let us!
Part 1 has been a definition of what all-inclusive means at El Cid Resorts. Part 2 was a discussion on how we mitigated the two major disadvantages of weight gain and sociocultural isolation. Part 2 is a discussion of the costs. We offer three kinds of analysis. The costs of all-inclusive stays as compared to 1) prevailing market costs, 2) owning a home in Mexico, and 3) costs of staying at home in Viewpoint.
Each is compared to our total cost of ownership of a three months stay at El Cid Resorts for 20 years. We paid $90,000 for this privilege. Computing a total of 1800 days (30 days x 3 months x 20 years), our total cost per day is at $50 at present value.
Comparison to Market Costs
The market value of lodging at El Cid Resorts through Tripadvisor is M$2342 or at a 20:1 exchange rate means US$117. The present value of buffet rates at El Cid are: breakfast M$280, lunch M$$390, and dinner $450, a total daily rate of M$1090 or US$56. This includes all drinks. If you add this to the US$117 daily lodging cost, the total daily cost of an all-inclusive stay is US$173. Compare this to the US$50 daily cost, Our savings is more than one hundred twenty dollars a day!
Comparison to Owning a Home in Mexico
condo ownership in Mazatlan
The average selling price of a one-bedroom condo facing the ocean in Mazatlan is US$180,000. The obvious advantage of buying is that, at the end of 20 years, you still have the asset that is worth, let’s say, the same. But what are the other costs of owning this home? 2.2% of the purchase price is owed to the bank and 4% is closing costs or a total of 6.2% one-time costs. This amounts to US$11,160. The cost of furniture and appliances can be US$5,000. Thus, the one-time total cost is US$16,160.
Subtract this from US$90,000 and you have to account for the balance of US$78,740.
Estimates of recurring costs are culled from the cost of living estimates for expats living in Mazatlan: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/mazatlan. Total living expenses per month would be food, US$300, utilities, US$100, cleaning help, US$300. At three months a year for 20 years, these translate to US$42,000. The balance of US$36,850 can be used for the maintenance of the condo and furniture and appliances, property management fees, and property taxes per year or a monthly cost of US$3,070. In short, it is a zero-sum game.
But do I really want to get all the headaches of owning a home? Definitely not at this age and neither do I want to give up all the amenities and activities I can have at El Cid at no additional cost. We will not have the same level even at the plushest of condos. At El Cid real estate, homeowners have to pay for a membership at the country club. Those cooking and Spanish classes also will cost a lot of money. And I can no longer have that free special birthday gazebo by the sea (headline photo) or the heavy discounts for tours and fishing boats.
Comparison to Staying at Home in Viewpoint
our Viewpoint home base
What if we stayed at home? Our monthly living expenses in Viewpoint are: food, US$300 and an opportunity cost of US$ 2,750 or a total of $3,050 per month. Opportunity cost is what we give up if we do not rent out our Viewpoint home for three months to Arizona’s winter visitors. Multiplied by 3 months for 20 years and it comes up to US$165,000. This more than pays for the timeshare investment of US$90,000 with a savings of US$75,000. These savings we are earmarking for the maintenance of our Viewpoint home. For example, we plan to add an Arizona Room for US$20,000. In other words, it would cost us more if we stayed at home during winter.
Whether we compare to market costs, to owning a home in Mexico, or to staying at home in Arizona, we are at a major advantage by choosing to stay all-inclusive in El Cid Resorts for three months a year. This year, we have chosen to stay in Mazatlan. We can also choose to stay in Cancun or Cozumel. We are even waiting for the completion of the Cabo San Lucas resort and hope that they will also build in Puerto Vallarta. We are so happy we stumbled upon this new way of vacationing past 70!
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Two weeks ago, I wrote about how much I think about Mazatlan as our third home country. And then I saw a poster at the El Cid Country Club advertising an Annual Tour of Mazatlan Homes sponsored by the Damas Trabajandos for the “A Drop in the Ocean” cause. What if we upped our investment and bought a home in this city? I reasoned that, even if we do not, the tour would give us excellent ideas about how to decorate our new Viewpoint home base with a Mexican theme. There were seven homes on the tour but these are the five I liked. Two of them I really, really liked.
Casa Maria Cortez
the second floor garden at Casa Maria Cortez
I was immediately enamored by this home. The color yellow is everywhere, unifying the home and brightening the look. The main house has the living room, dining room, kitchen, and a portico. There are also three bedrooms on the upper floor. A two-story casita with an upper and lower bedroom has a beautiful garden area on the second floor that joins the two houses. Also connecting the two houses on the ground level is a swimming pool. With lots of space filled with plants, flowers, and greens, the entire compound feels very open and refreshing. Big décor pieces are flushed into huge windows. The beautiful owner, Maria, operates a popular restaurant across the street.
courtyard, Casa Constitution
Angelina, the owner of the second house, also owns a restaurant named after her. She didn't have a name for her house but, when I pressed her, she said, "Call it Casa Constitucion." The one-story main house has the portico, the kitchen, dining, bar, and master’s bedroom. Built in the 1850s, it feels old Spanish. A small courtyard is in front with lots of greens and a central fountain. The lot is fairly small and the newer yellow casita has one bedroom on the ground and two on the second.
the Catedral Spires from the Casa Las Campanas
Casa de Las Campanas
We were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the third home so I only have photos of the garden and porticos. Also built in the 1850s, it feels a lot like a house museum. With many antique fixtures, furniture and décor, American owners Greg and Renee enthusiastically talked about the distinctive features of their home, especially those that the previous owner was able to obtain from Bel Mar, the original Malecon Hotel when they did an update. The living room, the playroom, the dining room, the kitchen, and the bedrooms are on one floor laid out as an L-shape. There is a two-level courtyard: the upper level with a garden and a central fountain and the lower level with a patio/bar and a small swimming pool. The property is called Casa de Las Campanas. The Mazatlan Catedral’s spires can be seen from the garden and you can hear the bells that begin to chime at 5 am.
dining room, Casa Delaney
This property is owned by Kim and Tom Delaney who decided to retire in beautiful Mazatlan just a few years ago. It sits on the area called El Rebajo which means a recess. The original hill was cut-off to create a beautiful raised residential space for the now multi-colored homes (see headline photo). This house is the one with the yellow façade. The entrance opens to a sitting room and a spacious living room that leads to a dining room, split level, that then leads to the kitchen. Between the dining room and the living room are stairs to the family room and two bedrooms upstairs. The dining room looks out to a small garden while the kitchen leads to the bar/patio and a good-sized blue swimming pool at the back.
what you see when you walk into Casa Guzman
As they say, “Save the best for last.” The Casa Guzman is on the highest point of Mazatlan, beside the Observatorio Historico de Mazatlan which is being converted into a museum, atop Cerro del Vigia. So we had to change to smaller buses since the big bus would not be able to climb the winding uphill road. And this house wowed us all. It has a 360-degree view of the city of Mazatlan/ and all the waters around it, It overlooks the El Faro Lighthouse which is the highest operating lighthouse in the world sitting atop the opposite hill, Cerro del Creston, and the twin Mexican “icebergs” so called because they are white with bird poop. More than 17,000 square feet in three levels, new sections are still being built (the renovations started a couple of years ago). The main level has the receiving area, a formal living area, a den, a dining /family area, and a large kitchen that all open to the majestic views. The lower level has a family room, a cellar, and another social area that opens to a garden. There you will find a modern infinity pool and a cedar fire pit area for relaxing. The garden continues on to a play area for the young couple Karla and Amado’s children. The upper floor with the bedrooms was not open for us to see, however. This gorgeous home is elegantly laid out, decorated with stunning art pieces, and built with classy high ceilings.
fire pit, infinity pool, and jacuzzi at Casa Guzman
Dorey and her "Mazatlan Doors"
We took the opportunity to visit the Old Observatory beside it for more photos of the views. This house (and the first) gave rise to the following question: “Should we settle into a beautiful home and forego our wandering life?” After some talk, we decided not just yet or maybe not ever. We could never afford this last one and, even if we are able to buy something like the first, both of us do not really like maintaining a house. All-inclusive vacation and resort community are perfect for us.
Jazzy Art Galleries
But we got lots of ideas for decorating our little Viewpoint home base. At the Casa de Las Campanas was a wall full of Spanish masks. They may be perfect for the space above our bed headboard. If we find at least six pieces we love, we will string them together. Actually, we also got a lot of ideas from the Art Walk in Centro Hispanico that happens every first Friday of the month. We were able to visit around ten of the fifty galleries and stopped only because we had found an art piece that we fell for at the Beau Pres Gallery. It is a collection of sixteen photographs of beautiful Mazatlan doors set in two door panels each with eight frames. Since we have a car, we can easily bring it home! Next year, we will go to more galleries. And we may again tour a new set of homes. It’s not only fun but also enriching.
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Mazatlan boasts of 80 kilometers of coastline and seven islands that dot its scenic bay. It is thus home to a lot of interesting aquatic activities. We had opportunities to go on day trips to the Turtle Sanctuary, to do a Sunset Bay cruise, and to frolic at one of the islands. The fun touristy activities were plenty but it was seeing the thriving wildlife that was most heartwarming.
Catamaran on a Sunset Bay Cruise
The Sea Turtle Sanctuary
I was already getting sad. Somebody told me that the turtles come to Mazatlan during the months of July to November on their annual migratory patterns. We were given this free Pronatour turtle sanctuary tour as Elite members and we had come during the wrong month! Then I heard that a few stragglers wander to Mazatlan’s shores during the odd months and the tour was available once a week!
El Verde Camacho
So, one Friday, together with about nine other adults and three children, we went on a day trip to El Verde Camacho, the marine turtle station just outside of Mazatlán where researchers have been monitoring and collecting data on the sea turtle nesting and stranding activity for almost 40 years. The tour includes round trip transportation from the hotel in an air-conditioned van and lunch.
turtle release ceremony
Imagine my delight when, after lunch, the tour included a ceremony when each one of us was given a 6-hour old sea turtle to release back to sea. The station collects the eggs and enables a higher percentage of them to hatch in incubators instead of being left alone on their natural sand habitats to be savagely preyed upon. I named my baby Memo, short for Guillermo which is Mexican for William in honor of Bill.
An Estuary by the Beach
beneath the mangroves at the estuary
The day trip also included a special boat trip through the Estuary beside the station. Immediately, we saw baby crocs hiding amongst the leaves and tiny hermit crabs scurrying around our boat when it was being launched. We rode through and under thick white and red mangrove trees piled onto the murky waters inhabited by lots of fish. As a result, there were many large birds flying all around.
a bird up close
I loved all the swooping and swishing of the wildlife from under and above the water. I also cherished all the opportunities I got for photographing the birds in a wonderful ecology so bountiful for them to thrive. I never had seen them fly so close to me before. It was a great side trip of the tour.
Some Rock Sanctuaries
Mexican icebergs, the bird sanctuaries
On our Sunset Bay Cruise, before the sun actually set, our huge party catamaran took us to the rock islands that are called Mexican icebergs. They jut out of the blue waters like their Arctic counterparts but their white color does not come from ice. They are bird poop. These rocks are great bird sanctuaries, along with Bird Island.
the sea lions' rock sanctuary
Near the two is a different kind of sanctuary. It is a small rock, home to more than a dozen sea lions, happily frolicking between the rock and the waters around them. Some of us on the catamaran imitated their unique grunts, hoping to strike an animated conversation, before taking off for our sunset gazing time
An Island Sanctuary
Deer Island is the other island where the animals called men, women, and pets get their own frolic time. I feel compelled to include this day trip as an example of seeing another kind of thriving life. This island is a nearby refuge from the busy city which we just left behind for half a day. They are so near each other.
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