Trip Report 12/31 - 01/08 including VDS vs. Tides

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Escrito por Joe in California desde ( el día domingo, 13 de enero, 2008 a las 16:25:48 horas :

We have been going to Zihua since we first discovered this charming village in 1999. Our first visit was in August for my birthday (hot and humid), then in October the next couple years (still hot and humid). In 2004, we chose to go in High Season for New Year’s, and have now visited at this time of year ever since, making 2007/2008 our 4th consecutive visit for the New Year holiday.

We stayed at Villa del Sol the first two years (in the hotel), and have since stayed at the Residencias each time after that. Last year, the sale to the KORS group had just closed escrow, and we noticed no changes yet. Not so this year! The corporation has stripped the property of absolutely everything with the old logo’s (rightfully so), but they have done more than just that. They changed the names of the restaurants, revamped the menus to represent exotic-type foods, with more of an American flair, than anything close to Mexican. They also took away many of our favorites, including the Beach BBQ (where, for a flat fee, you could eat lobster, shrimp, beef, lamb, pork, etc. right off the grill onto your plate, not to mention the outstanding salad buffet and dessert delights they offered with it.) I must also mention that the food and liquor prices appear to have increased by more than 50%. Being in the condos, we were not mandated by the Meal Plan. One impressive thing is that the old Orlando’s Bar now offers over 125 tequilas (with the popular Patron Silver costing $22 US per shot…ridiculous!)

The other noticeable changes include everything being transformed to neutral beige colors. Gone are the signature towels with the vibrant shades of orange, green, and yellow, which have been replaced with beige towels and pillows. No more green striped shirts for the beach waiters. They now are required to wear non-descr1pt beige shirts with matching pants, and no more indication of their name embroidered over the shirt pocket. We were elated to still see many of our favorite guys there to serve us, but extremely disappointed to no longer see our favorite, congenial bar host, Omar. He was always a highlight of our vacation, and his absence was overwhelmingly noticed. Rumor has it they terminated him (after several years of loyal service and popularity), over a seemingly harmless choice he made that the new management disapproved of.

The hotel and beach area seemed to be half empty, compared to previous visits at this time of year. Not sure if it is an indication of the overall economy the World is facing, or if their increase in room rates and other changes have forced people to make other choices in their destinations. I seriously believe, if they do not rethink their choices, they will sadly destroy (more so than they already have) the reputation that Helmut created and maintained. Even the staff said that things are “very different.” We noticed an overall change in the energy/karma that we have enjoyed in the past. This includes the construction noise inside the Beach Suites, located directly behind your lounge chairs.

So, enough about that! Let’s discuss the places we chose to eat:

Day One (December 31) – We arrived around 6:30 PM, as our flight was late getting in. We “supposedly” had reservations at Paty’s for our celebratory dinner. I even called Paty personally (from home) to schedule the reservation. However, on our arrival, she had no table set for us, and behaved as if we were just some jokesters whom had no intention of actually showing up for dinner. Once we were situated with a makeshift, very small table, as far from the beach as possible, practically in the kitchen, everything began to improve. We enjoyed the potato salad appetizer (very tasty) and then we ordered the whole lobster for each of us, and it was delicious. Matthew was our server, and he remembered us, from his previous days at VDS. We received excellent service from him, and the lobster was outstanding. Ruby made our margaritas to perfection. Getting past Paty’s initial reception/attitude took me awhile, but I soon ignored her lack of hospitality, and focused on the people that were really there to take care of us, and all was well.

Day Two (New Year’s Day) – John chose La Perla for dinner, and I reluctantly said “OK.” We sat down in the 75% empty restaurant, and waited more than 15 minutes to be acknowledged, and finally gave up, when he just went to the kitchen counter to get our own menus. This should have been my first clue. I ordered the chile rellenos, stuffed with cheese, lobster and shrimp meat. My plate arrived with two huge green bell peppers (not the chile peppers I am accustomed to), that were stuffed with copious amounts of cheese and shellfish. I cautiously ate most of the first pepper and its stuffing. Realizing the second one would be asking for horrendous heartburn, I only scooped out the filling and ate that. He ordered grilled chicken breast, and said it was tasty. Based upon our whole dining experience, I would most likely not return to this establishment. We are used to Mexico, and a slower pace of service, but this was at its extreme. I must mention that we encountered the same experience previously, on another trip, but I elected to give their staff another chance.

Day Three – I asked to choose the restaurant, so we went into town, to Capricho’s. I had wanted to try this Grill House before, but we never made it there. We didn’t make a reservation, but were told there would be a table ready in fifteen minutes. We were finally seated forty-five minutes later, inside the grotto, near the live band. They do have an impressive wine list, and feeling burned out on tequila, I chose a yummy Italian Pinot Grigio (at $115 pesos per glass). I couldn’t believe the extremely small size of the pour, which was probably two ounces at best. Think of what would be poured as a wine tasting sample in Napa Valley, and you get the idea. Not my idea of an $11 glass of wine. Not wanting to switch my choice, I ordered two more glasses (using this term lightly). I even mentioned how small the wine pour was, to which they said was their standard. That said, we were both in the mood for lobster again, so we each ordered it, and it was absolutely delicious with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Only negative was the wine situation.

Day Four – Elvira’s on La Ropa – After cautiously lying on the beach (partial sun/mostly shade) all day, we did not feel like going into town. We each ordered a Don Julio margarita, and were very surprised when they were delivered in glasses the size of fish bowls. Delicious, and very strong! No problem, we’re on vacation! I ordered chicken fajitas, and they were yummy, the portion was more than I could eat. My mind escapes me as to what my mate ordered.

Day Five – Another beautiful day at the beach, so I chose one of the palapa’s with full sun, as I was determined to come back to California with a cinnamon colored glow. After all, this was the day that the World News report indicated heavy rain/possible flooding for the Bay Area, and several feet of snow from blizzard conditions in the Sierra Nevada mountains surrounding Tahoe. We’re (fortunately) here in the sunshine, so I wanted to make the most of it. Little did I know the price I would pay. We ate dinner at Paty’s again, and I ordered the tuna steak (delicious and reasonably priced) and drank two margaritas. Ah, this is Heaven, with fresh fish to eat, my feet in the sand, and delicious beverages. We stumbled back to the condo, relaxed and ready for bedtime.

Day Six – I woke up with what I thought was a hangover and a combination of sun poisoning. You know… diarrhea, body aches and chills, with goose-bumps on my skin. We went down to the beach, but chose a palapa in the shade for the day. I ended up lying on a beach chair, wrapped in a towel (trying to stay warm) for the rest of the day. I ate chicken soup with rice (aka caldo) for lunch, trying to get my stomach to settle down. Now, mind you, I didn’t need a lecture on the effects of the sun and alcohol, after this many trips to Zihua, but yesterday, I still chose not to obey the “rules.” No alcohol entered my body today, strictly 7-up and nearly a gallon of water. We chose not to leave the hotel property at all this day, so we ate dinner at La Morea (formerly The Cantina) at the Tides (I still can’t get used to that Americanized name). I ordered the fettucine with lobster medallions sans peperoncini (at $395 pesos) and John had the half-roasted chicken. This meal cost us $80 US, and was definitely overpriced. Oh well, the price of convenience, I guess. Back to the room for bedtime.

Day Seven – No beach time today, as I still had an upset digestive system. We went into town for lunch, and we stopped by Lupita’s boutique, where I did the special dance, and was granted permission, where we had a mutually wonderful visit with Senor Rob. After that, we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Garrobo’s for lunch. He had his favorite staple, grilled chicken breast filet, and I opted for their signature Ixtapa Salad, followed by chicken fajitas (mild with few peppers and onions). Neither of us had cocktails with lunch, and it was only $340 pesos for lunch (cheaper than just my fettucine the night before). Their salsa is addictive.

We made a reservation and went to Il Mare for dinner (our first time there), and they had a beautiful corner table for two, with an amazing cliff-side view of the bay at night, accompanied by a refreshing breeze. He had the rib-eye steak, and I enthusiastically ordered the House Salad, followed by the Rigatoni Almatraciana, which was delicious, even though I was nervous about the spicy marinara sauce. The Italian wine ($395 pesos for the entire bottle) was yummy, and the staff was super friendly and very efficient. We never had to request anything, as they were always keeping an eye on our water and wine. Fernando really has a good thing going here, and I wish him continued success. If you go, request this small, intimate, corner table, for its million-dollar view.

Day Eight (Our last full day) – Still suffering with an upset stomach, we went to Paty’s for lunch (always a safe choice for us) and Paty actually came and sat down with us. I told her of my stomach condition, and she suggested I order her chicken/rice soup with lots of saltine crackers thrown in. It was delicious, and I started to feel better instantly.

Feeling great by 4:00 in the afternoon, I was ready for a cold Pacifico. We later went back to Il Mare for dinner again, as we enjoyed our experience the night before. The restaurant was packed this night, and we didn’t make a reservation, as it really didn’t seem necessary on the previous visit. Little did we know, that because it was Saturday, there were a lot more people in town. That’s OK, because every table has a view. I explained to our server, that I had been having stomach issues, and requested an order of bland linguine in a mild white wine/olive oil sauce. It was cooked to perfection and delicious. John repeated his dinner from the night before, and ordered the rib-eye steak. He said the baked potato was the best he had eaten in Z. Order the strawberry ice cream for dessert! I only drank one glass of wine, trying to observe my alcohol quantities.

Day Nine – We had to leave our room at noon, but didn’t have to be at the airport until 5:15 in the afternoon, so we went into town. On the way over in the taxi, John asked if I wanted to go to Bandido’s (we had eaten/drank there on previous visits). I agreed, and we had the driver drop us off directly in front of the restaurant. As we looked for a table, we saw two familiar faces sitting at a table. It was a husband/wife Realtor team from my office at home. We knew they were arriving in Ixtapa toward the end of our trip, and told them to call our cell phones, so that we could get together while they were in town. It turns out they didn’t activate their International Calling Plan before leaving California, so they couldn’t call out. Imagine our surprise, when fate dealt us the pleasure of seeing them on our last day. And who says there is no karma? We enjoyed a delicious lunch (I even drank a Pacifico). I ordered cheese quesadillas (boring!), but I knew it was all I could put on my stomach, if I was about to get on a plane for our 4 hour direct flight into SFO. John had the shrimp tacos, which he said were good, but a bit spicy for his delicate taste buds (note his other mild choices above). John is a life-coach for Realtors, and also a licensed Agent too. He had worked several times with our friends, so we all knew each other. We hung out with them for a couple of hours, before heading back to our friends’ newly purchased boutique hotel, where we had stored our luggage for the day. Airport check-in was a breeze, as we were in First Class on Alaska, and had the luxury of going to the front of the line for MVP treatment. Our flight was an hour late arriving into SFO, and it was 1:00 AM (California time) when we arrived at the house. Exhausted, I ran to the bathroom for yet another reminder that I was still sick.

This is the first time in our 8 visits to Zihuatanejo that I have ever spent so much time not feeling well. I went to the doctor, and was given an assignment to collect samples for the lab, and I began my powerful antibiotic treatment yesterday. Today, I woke up to the beginning of a terrible cold, on top of everything else. I just want to feel better soon.

This trip has not jaded us at all on the beautiful locat1on and intimacy/friendship of Zihuatanejo. We plan on returning long before next December, hoping for a different outcome (pardon the pun) on our next visit. I’ve never written such a detailed Trip Report before, so I apologize for its length. For those of you who have made it this far, thank you for allowing me to opportunity to share our experience with you through my (sometimes extensive) words.

Hasta Luego….Joe

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