My last post recalled my travels to a small town in Mexico, maybe you’ve heard of it before I posted the blog. From what I can tell, many Canadians have. This place serves as the equivalent of Florida or Arizona to those seniors north of the US, being a cheaper investment versus those retirement communities in the states. I have to commend them on their taste.
The town is known as Barra de Navidad, as the translation from Spanish to English means ‘Christmas Sandbar’. Having a history that dates back to the 16th century, the town was once a repair station for Spanish vessels headed to the Philippines. Today, it is part of the Costalegre and plays home to fishermen, shop owners, tourists, retirees, and a small menagerie of wandering livestock.
As I meander through the streets towards the town from the Cabo Blanco Hotel, I see all different manner of structures. From fenced in grassy ruins to beautiful stucco houses with the classic terra-cotta tile roofs, there is an authentic feel to this town. On our way, as we stride down a well-kept sidewalk beside a narrow cobblestone street, a horse and donkey munch on some grass, blocking our passage. Both animals pose no threat and respond casually to our approach, nonchalantly moving from the sidewalk.
They are not the only animals that stir this morn. In the distance, I can hear a chorus of roosters, as they are spread throughout the town and barrio. Dogs, who mainly keep to themselves, travel through the town unimpeded.
Like I said, there is quite a difference between buildings in this community. Along the canals and some streets on the outskirts of town, architecturally stylish homes shelter retirees and vacationers. Humbler structures, pleasing my eyes with their old-world charm, house natives and serve as businesses, some of these in the town’s heart are meager hotels. Yet, across the lagoon lies a hotel, classically designed with Spanish architectural roots, that blows the doors off of any hotel I’ve seen in my life. It seems like a page stolen from a novel I was forced to read as an adolescent- ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, as the humblest and most extravagant are meshed together in a mural that represents all sides of the human condition.
Even though it is past the first of January, many of these businesses and homes are decorated with classic Christmas lights. Resting at the malecón, an artificial Christmas tree that is illuminated at night is perched on the stony pier. I don’t know how to feel – when I think of Christmas time, I think of log cabins nestled in a snowy Midwestern forest or field, not rope lights around the trunk of a palm tree.
The streets are narrow, surfaced with bricks that remind me of landscape pavers. As I approach the passages nearest the ocean and lagoon, Palms line the streets at points. Other times, shops spill onto the walks impeding travelers by foot, showcasing anything from hand painted ceramics to weaved purses and clothing.
Along with the shops, many restaurants offer a wide array of Mexican and seafood dishes. Some restaurants require boat taxis, being on the other side of the lagoon, as was the case with Mary’s, our favorite seafood place. We discover that all one has to do to find a good restaurant, as in many cases the tables are set right on the walks or streets, is just go where there are many people seated. Otherwise, the locals and Canadian retirees, both of which are incredibly friendly and hospitable, are gracious enough to give many tips.
I am reminded of a man who we met at Reconcita’s, a place featuring baked potatoes topped with anything you choose. Paul, hailing from Alaska and earning money as a drummer in a classic rock band, pointed out many great places to eat. Not only that, he told us of busses running to other towns and about the music scene. You may have guessed, many of the musicians cater to those retirees, playing blues and classic rock. Paul admitted to being lucky, “I’m playing music with great musicians in the middle of paradise, what more can a man ask for?” -I’m jealous.
As for music, it seems you can’t wander too far before stumbling across a musician trying to earn a peso. From bongos and guitar to singers and saxophone players, live music seems to be everywhere. Even on a bus traveling to another town,(that’s coming in a later blog) a man sang over instrumentals on a Bluetooth device.
This morning, it’s early. Yet, we know later we will sit atop the roof of the Alondra Hotel, drinking beer and watching the sunset. It has become a routine. Every day the sun drops into the ocean so quickly you can actually see the fiery ball move, as it disappears from view. After the sun is gone the horizon glows like a long blade of fired Iron.
Before the sunsets, we may catch surfers, however we really don’t dare walk the beach in Barra. We tried, as it ended disastrously. Here the beach is slanted like the pitch of a church roof, sloping down towards the ocean. As the surf crashes into the sands it can knock you over twice. Once, when the waves are coming in and second, when the water retreats back to the ocean, creating an undertow. My companion was knocked over and struggled a great deal to escape the cycle- I had to come to her aid.
Besides the quaint charm, the old world feel and small town atmosphere, the outstanding characteristic of this destination would be that many Mexican tourists flock to this area. I realize, as I journey through Barra de Navidad this morning, that although I see many people out this morning, this town isn’t at its busiest till sunset. Being cooler in mornings and after sundown, the lively streets are fun to experience as street venders sell food and snacks.
The allure of this community set along the pacific coast comes in many different forms. From food to culture and water sports to relaxation there is more than enough in and around Barra to keep the vacationer busy. Boat tours offer everything from deep sea fishing and shipwrecks to snorkeling. The only downfall, at least from my perspective, is the fact that there are no Aztec or Mayan ruins nearby. If your into fun and relaxation Barra de Navidad may be right for you!
My next blog will include our day trip to la Manzanilla and the boat tours.