Playa la Ropa - from Buenas Dias (Good morning) to Buenas Noches (Good night).

Vacation 

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PLAYA LA ROPA - FROM BUENAS DIAS (GOOD MORNING) TO BUENAS NOCHES (GOOD NIGHT)

Paul and Lorie Bennett 

Playa la Ropa - from Buenas Dias  (Good morning) to Buenas Noches (Good night)

Praised in a widely syndicated travel article as "just about the best beach
in western Mexico," Playa la Ropa is within walking distance of the quaint
fishing and tourist-service town of Zihuatanejo.

Zihuat, which houses the support staff for the nearby resort centre of
Ixtapa,  boasts the slogan "Lugar des mujeres bellas" -- place of the
beautiful women. We hasten to add -- and splendid food, grand views, safe
and clean beaches, good fishing and water sports.

Add to this accommodation with prices to suit the budget-conscious as well
as the four-star variety, and you've got an unbeatable combination.

6 a.m.  Black night tinged with first hints of violet-grey. Cocks crow,
crickets chirr, frogs tink-tonk. Somewhere on the bay, a lonely fishboat
burbles. Buenas dias, amigos.

7 a.m. Getting lighter outside. Soon day will break and El Sol will jump
the crook in the arm of mountains framing the town. I rise, splash cool
water over my face, don shorts and t-shirt.

It's 59 steps down the cliff to the sand. I greet stray caninas as they
stretch and yawn. My footprints mark a slow trot on wet sand to the
beach's rocky end, then back again over scalloped indents carved by wave
combinations created somewhere in the vast Pacific. As I turn, shafts of
yellow-orange sunlight strike the hills on the far side of the bay.

8 a.m. The sun crests the coconut palms, revealing workout folks - joggers,
runners, power walkers, swimmers, abdominal buffs, tai chi enthusiasts. One
lone guy does pushups. No Mr. or Ms. Universe here, we're all just staving
off Father Time. I think just being in this place helps a lot!

8:30 a.m. Hotel and restaurant workers rake and bag the night's flotsam and
jetsam and level yesterday's footprints in the sand. Today's tourists will
have a tabla rasa. to walk on Restaurant tables, beach lounges, umbrellas,
chairs and sailboats are dragged out. Breakfast smells - frying onions,
chilies, bacon, tortillas - tantalize me from the beachside cafes.

I watch three gringos wade the surf to Moby Dick III for a $100-a-day
fishing trip. Heck, you might even get a really big fish. "No life jackets,
no communications, we're outta sighta land for hours," said Jim Armstrong,
a businessman from Racine, Wisconsin. "We caught a seagull, two undersize
bonito. Don't know as if I'd do it again, but I had a helluva time."

The 18-foot outboard fishing boats, locally built to ride the offshore
swells, offer open-air cabins for sun protection and natural air
conditioning. Ernest Hemingway, author of The Old Man and the Sea, would
applaud the entire experience.

9 a.m. El Sol races towards the zenith. Shadows have been washed from the
hills across the bay. Mist swirls at the end of the beach as cool mountain
air and warm seawater interact. Cormorants and terns nab their fry-sized
breakfasts, while gulls and frigate birds steal whatever and whenever they
can. Here's where the fish-catchers flourish.

Pelicans repeatedly crash-dive the waves to shock and grab their prey. A
long neck jabs the water and scores. The bird's tail waggles and, after a
moment, the head tips back, the pouched beak swallows. Is the delay to
praise the Omnipotent One, or is it just letting the fish say goodbye?

Mexican net fishermen work harder for their catch. The surf yields a few
meal-sized fish to their circular nets cast by hand. I ask permission take
a photo. One grizzled guy readily agrees.

Small boats begin to ply the bay. Tourists head from the municipal wharf
for a day of snorkeling at "Las Gatas," where the cat-sharks were kept
away by an underwater wall built by the last Tarascan king to protect his
daughter. The palapa restaurants are ready to provide shade, comidas
(meals) and cervezas (beer).

9:30 a.m. Walkers dominate the beach now. Slant shade is gone until late
afternoon. Restaurants are ready to serve breakfast. Swimmers do their laps
in gentle swells. I watch our 85-year-old patrone, Carlos Breuer, do his
daily lengths then check the beachfront as he walks toward the steps to his
office.

Seņor Breuer built the two hotels that first drew the rich and famous to
Playa la Ropa in the early 1960s. Beside the stairs which climb through the
wings of the modern Sotavento are photographs of guests perched on the
ocean rocks wearing racy sombreros and behaving like pelicaņos! Its sister
hotel, the Catalina, has bungalows that meander down the cliffside nearby.

I pause to admire the real estate and dream of living here year round. Hah!
Back to reality. I stop for fresh-pressed orange juice. Twelve pesos,
(about $2) buys a "copa" of almost a litre. I walk up the 56 steps and
share the wakeup taste with my sweetie.

10 a.m. We settle under our favorite palapa (umbrellalike palm shelter)
and sign for hotel beach towels from the "toalla bar" staffed by
round-faced, warm-spirited Armando.

The day's first swim is the best - calm, clear water, small waves. A couple
of 150-metre laps whet our appetite for the hotel's buffet or desayuno
mexicana (Mexicana breakfast) on the beach. We enjoy huevos revueltos con
tocino (scrambled eggs with bacon) served with warm tortillas and refried
beans. In a hurry? No problemo, slow down gringo. Enjoy Mexican time. Cafe
negro or con leche (coffee black, or with milk) provides a taste of
Mexico's superb regional beans. Or try Mexican hot chocolate, with its hint
of cinnamon.

11 a.m. Sunscreened and deep in the shade of the palapa and overhanging
bougainvilla, we read paperbacks, watch the passing scene and munch
cacauates, peanuts roasted in the shell sold by young vendadores. Children
both local and tourist, cavort in the safe waters of the bay.

12:30 p.m. Hey! Did we doze??? Time for another swim, a walk along the
beach and the big decision - where to lunch! Camaronillas (shrimp in
tortillas), fresh oysters or guacamole are tasty and reasonable. A bit more
buys a crayfish salad. Or ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) for a
change? "Dos cervezas por favor" lead to a post-luncheon nap.

3 p.m. Another swim. The afternoon breeze chops the water but the saltchuck
is warm, uplifting and still inviting. A school of huachaningo (small
snapper, highly prized as barbecue fodder) brush past our legs and the
pelicans are still crashing into the surf around us.

4 p.m. Jet-skis buzz (hate 'em), children laugh as they build castles along
the beach, waves sweep noisily in and out. A small cruise ship anchored in
the bay for the day silently steams out to the next resort city.

5:30 p.m. Sun's rays, lower and weaker now, penetrate the shade of the
palapa. Hey, this day's gone too fast! Time for one more swim and a quick
beach walk.

Back up those 56 steps to shower and "dress."

6:30 p.m. We meet friends at the Bar Panoramico's hora feliz (2 for 1
happy hour) The unsurpassed view of the setting sun, salt peanuts, and
guitar music are free. They all conspire to keep us ordering margaritas way
past dark.

8:30 p.m. So, where to eat ??? A barefoot walk through the moonlit surf to
a beachfront restaurant to dine with our toes in the sand? Or a taxi to the
town's superb selection of restaurants? We savor the seafood and comida
tipica. (local specialities such as mole, the celebrated chile chocolate
dish of this area).

11 p.m. We're un poco cansado (a little tired) after such a busy day. But
we linger on our balcony to view the night bay, the reflected lights, and
the half-moon overhead. The rhythm of the waves is insistent; the beat
unfathomable to anyone but Dave Brubeck or someone who knows the theory of
sevens and thirteens. So who can stay awake any more??

And, just think, maņana  we can do it all over again. Buenas noches amigos.



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