Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mazatlan, Part One: A Tale of Two Cities

If you've enjoyed only Mazatlan's Gold Zone resorts with their air-brushed ambiance, you don't know Mazatlan, a city with a dual persona.  A recent trip to Mexico gave me an insight into the delightful port city whose roots go back to the 17th century and earlier.

An error in airline reservations for a conference left me with a quandary.  Do I cough up an extra $150 to change my flights, or do I invest that money in discovering the soul behind an uber developed resort?  A quick Internet check uncovered several small, traditional hotels which would enable me to spend those open days exploring.  The decision was made.  The airlines would not get my funds, and I would discover the original Mazatlan, a city older and richer than its modern incarnation.

My first bit of luck was selecting the 58-room Hotel La Siesta, located on Olas Altas  directly across the Malecon and walking distance to the market, cathedral, museums and shops.  Built around the interior patio concept, La Siesta has both interior and ocean-view rooms.  I went for an ocean-view room with  balcony.  It was spanking clean, a bit spare and basic with tile floors, a bath with shower, and airy with windows opening on Pacific breezes.  Early mornings found me on my balcony watching the parade of locals and fitness enthusiasts walking the Malecon. Evenings I would read a bit while watching the sun dip below the horizon.

Service was impeccable, and front desk personnel were helpful in mapping directions, carting my heavy bags up the three floors to my room (no elevator), and securing taxis or a pulmonia, the open air, golf-car-like transport used all over the city.   The pool with its sunning chaises and burbling fountain is in an interior courtyard.  In January it was a bit chilly for swimming, but it's a lovely spot when the weather is more moderate.  

Another bit of fortune was the discovery of The Shrimp Bucket, located on the hotel's first level.  Although the name conjures up images of tourist traps, this was not the case.  In business since 1963, The Shrimp Bucket is one of the finest seafood restaurants in town.  Its breakfasts are legendary, and on weekends the tables are jammed, mostly with locals.

I probably sampled almost everything from the menu during my stay.   For under $5 , my breakfast was either a Numero Uno, fresh squeezed juice, two fried eggs, with crispy bacon, refried beans, toast and jam, and coffee with refills, or Numero Dos, ranch-style eggs with the usual accompaniments. 

Their shrimp tacos were crispy and fresh, tasting of brine and salsa.  Their Shrimp Salad Towers for $5.50 were two four-inch portions brimming with shrimp, avocado, carrots, and garnished with cilantro and bell pepper oils.  Delicious!   I wasn't brave or hungry enough to order their specialty, 15 ($3) or 30 ($21) freshly poached peel-and-eat shrimp in a bucket with lime and a trio of tangy dipping sauces.

La Siesta was home base for my city wanderings, which I will describe in following blogs.  After returning home and dealing with all the detritus that piles up while you're away, I find myself closing my eyes and imagining myself back on their balcony, watching the parade of life on the Malecon.

Note:  prices are in U.S. dollars and are subject to change.

Hotel La Siesta
Olas Altas 11 Sur
Mazatla, Sinaloa, Mexico 82000
011 (669) 981-2640 (from U.S.)


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