Trip Report – Patzcuaro

20Jun07

Trip to Patzcuaro
Thursday morning (June 14, 2007) we took a cab from our hotel to the Parkhuni bus station located next door to Estrella de Oro. We purchased our tickets the day before as recommended by Pedro of Casa de Café fame. Luckily our concierge, Antonio told us about the Parkhuni line option in case that Estrella didn’t have a bus running to Patzcuaro which they did not. Thank goodness we knew what to do otherwise we would have stood there feeling helpless. The girls at the Estrella de Oro office spoke no English and I only speak enough Spanish to get by. Having never purchased a bus ticket in Mexico and having never traveled to Patzcuaro before feeling totally lost when they couldn’t meet me halfway with a little Spanish/English compromise. But I do understand the word no J.

We walked directly next door to the much welcomed air conditioned office for the Parkhuni line. I went up to the counter and simply said “boleto a Patzcuaro, por favor”. There was only one bus going that day. She nodded and started typing on her keyboard until she came to the part where she needed our names. She handed me the keyboard to type our names and then pointed to seats to choose from. So it ended up being pretty easy. The cost was $34 per person one way.

As I was saying, we left on Thursday morning at 9. Pedro told me the bus would be nice but I didn’t really believe it until I saw it for myself. The bus was huge with comfortable seats (more comfortable than most planes I’ve flown) with plenty of leg room especially for our tall frames. There were only four of us traveling that day: myself and my husband and a sweet Mexican woman with what looked to be her small granddaughter of about 2 years old. The driver put on some American music which I found interesting and off we went. We stopped fairly soon in Ixtapa after departing. It seemed to take forever for the driver to return and when he did a woman dressed in uniform came aboard and walked up and down the isle and offered us bottles of water. She got off and we went onward. It was a beautiful scenic drive that took 5 hours! We were shown two movies: the horror film, When a Stranger Calls (the remake) and The White Countess. We passed by endless amounts of farm land, mountains and lakes.

Driving into Patzcuaro was a bit like driving into Zihuatanejo. The feeling of “oh shit” this place looks like a dump creeping up. But just like Zihua, the feeling passed quickly as soon as we pulled into the central district. It really comes down to adjustment and expectations. Takes a minute to adjust and as long as you are realistic in your expectations you will be pleasantly surprised again and again!

The bus comes to a stop just outside Casita de Rosie and on the small square with the basilica. This is also where you buy your ticket back to Zihua. We decided to go into Rosie’s to check out her rooms since arriving with no lodging. Rosie has to be one of the sweetest ladies in Patz. She was so helpful and spoke very good English. She happily showed us her little place. Her rooms were clean and simple and only $34 for the night! We thanked her for her kindness and explained we were going to explore a few other places and we might be back. We ended up just down the street from Rosie’s at the Meson de San Antonio. http://www.mesondesanantonio.com/

We decided to splurge since we had planned to only stay the night on this quaint courtyard hotel. ($60US) The hotel had free wireless connection in the rooms which was an added bonus. Alfredo showed us to our room which was tastefully decorated with beautiful linens. The room had high ceilings and a stone floor plus a fireplace and a huge shower. The bed was small (a double) but very comfortable with the best pillows! It was so peaceful here. I was just telling my husband this morning how much I miss the sounds of the tiny birds singing and the roosters crowing (at all hours of the day J they must be the hardest working roosters in the world). I wish I would have recorded the sounds so I could listen to them anytime. The courtyard reminded me of something from the movie Frida. It was decorated with beautiful local furniture, striking flowers and cactus and an open view to the sky.
We left our room to go explore the city. The climate was completely opposite that of Zihuatanejo. It felt amazing if not a bit chilly. We had only brought one pair of pants (thanks to Pedro’s suggestion) but everything else was for Zihua weather. We received the strangest looks as we strolled around in our shorts and short sleeves. I think we were the only Americans we saw that day. I stood out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair, blue eyes and 5’9” frame as did my husband who has Latin roots yet is also very tall. Everyone was so bundled up! We ended up buying a poncho (for my husband) and a knitted shawl (for me) since it did get quite cold in the evening.

Patzcuaro is a colonial city filled with squares, churches and cobbled stoned streets. It has a very European feel with many hidden treasures waiting to be found inside courtyards and down narrow streets.

We had lunch at Campania(?) which is just at the end of the square near the hotel we stayed at (closer to Rosie’s) and it was delicious, quick and only $12US for 2 coffees, 2 waters and 2 entrees. My husband had a hamburger which was fantastic. They put thin slices of deli style ham on top of the burger. I had a little mix up w/ my plate but was happy that either I said the wrong thing or the man taking my order got it wrong. I ended up with milanesa served with French fries and beans. The salsa was amazing. We’re from Texas so we live on salsa. We had a late dinner at some place with Gaucho in the name. Places seemed to close early but this one stayed open later than most. Also, Patzcuaro doesn’t close for siestas as often seen in the beach towns. I guess the climate is so mild there is no need for the afternoon break from the sun. Dinner at the Gaucho restaurant was great Argentine cuisine with good service, cute décor and huge portions. The only thing bad was the Caesar salad which had too much dressing for my taste.

We loved the area so much we couldn’t resist staying another night. We got up Friday morning and walked down to Rosie’s for breakfast. We couldn’t resist repaying her in some way for her hospitality. As expected, breakfast was great and very affordable. We decided to take a taxi to Urapuan to see the National Park. We hopped in our cab and negotiated a price of $20US plus a bit more if we stopped on the way in Timbugato to see the ruins. The weather looked nice in Patz but as we headed out of town clouds, rain and thick fog forced us to turn around just as we approached the ruins. The driver could barely see to drive on the winding roads. We were so disappointed and only prayed the weather would hold up in Patz so we could at least explore the town some more. It was beginning to feel like the day might be a total loss. It wasn’t! When we arrived back in Patz it showered briefly and the sun came out and the afternoon was perfect. We had a fantastic lunch at El Patio off one of the squares – the one with the male statue. There is a square with a female statue nearby. It’s easy to get turned around. I can’t say enough good things about El Patio. Just go see for yourself. I will tell you that they had the best salsas in all of Zihua/Patz combined. Oh, and you must try the Sopa Tarasca!! It’s delicious. Ok, one more thing J get the sweet corn tamales. Fabulous!

Late in the afternoon, we decided to take another shot at Uruapan. We called the same taxi company but got a different driver, Marcelo (car 30 with Ejectivo Co.) Marci was awesome! So friendly and we exchanged English & Spanish lessons on the way. He really made the trip special. I wish I had taken his photo L but I didn’t. The weather had cleared so we stopped at the ruins and Marci walked us to the small entrance that’s at the edge (rear) of the town of Timbugato. The cutest old man came out and for $3.50US each we had the ruins all to ourselves. The man led us around the grounds and made a few attempts at communication. The site of the ruins is small and takes only 10 minutes or so to see everything. The site has been well kept. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more historical information listed on the plaques. At least what information available was listed in both Spanish and English but it wasn’t really much more than you would decipher on your own by just looking. We climbed up to the top of the pyramid and what a view! Just beautiful. He also took us into the tomb which he had to open with a key. So glad we stopped here.

Marci took us on to Uruapan but the park was closed by the time we arrived (closes at 6pm) so we had him drop us off in the center thinking we’d have dinner. Even Marci looked at us like we were crazy but we like to be adventurous. Uruapan is very dirty and very congested. It’s a much larger city than I ever anticipated. It reminded me of Naples, Italy but without the hidden charms. We did get to witness a politician running for gobernador speak to a crowd of people in the square. We walked around for about half an hour. The smell of exhaust for all the traffic was too much so we hopped back into a taxi for the expensive trip back to Patz. Maybe we didn’t give Uruapan a fair shake but not really knowing where to go and not seeing much worth hanging around for we figured better to play it safe in a city we loved.

We arrived back in Patz in time for dinner. We took a regretful chance on the restaurant located at La Posada de Basilica. We had walked in to the hotel the day before and the friendly reception man showed us one of the rooms and the beautiful view from the courtyard (of rooftops & the lake) so we thought the restaurant would be good and I had seen a good review on the msg boards. We should have known better to turn right around and leave the minute we walked in the restaurant. The lone waiter was slumped back in a chair at one of the tables sitting in the dark. It took him a minute to decide to get up to “welcome” us in which wasn’t a welcome more of a pointing toward any table. We sat down and he disappeared into the kitchen. Why we didn’t walk out is beyond me. The service was slow, rude and the food was terrible. Not just terrible but inedible. It’s not even worth mentioning. Just do not go! The only redeeming quality was the view. We did get to see a beautiful sunset. Ugh but even that wasn’t worth it! Disgusting!

There were two really cool bars that we found in Patz. One was on the square (plaza Vasco de Quiroga) with the guy statue next to something San Miguel (a hotel possibly). The guy at the tourist office located at the square recommended it…this is a good place to go if you need information. He spoke great English. There was live music and it was a definite local hangout. The other bar was right next to our hotel – El Satuno, I think. There is actually an entrance that leads underground inside our hotel courtyard to the bar but it’s been closed off. The kitchen and living area of the Meson is hollow underneath thus that is where the bar is located. You walk to the right of the Meson and the first entrance you come to takes you to the bar. It’s like walking into a dungeon (reminded me of Paris). We had some of the best and cheapest frozen margaritas here ($3US each). They were playing old American music videos from the 90s – it was a hoot! They also had a pool table and foosball table. This place rocked.

Patzcuaro might be our favorite part of our trip to Zihua. We’re so glad we went and we’re already discussing plans to go back. We want to explore the National Park, Morelia and San Miguel de Allende is within driving distance. If you have the chance to go, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Patzcuaro.

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