MAZAT­LAN

Waterloo Region Record - - Travel -

Pa­cific char­ac­ter.

•••

And so we set off ex­plor­ing. Plaza Machado — a rec­tan­gu­lar park with wrought-iron gazebo, lush grass and palm trees — is sur­rounded by colour­ful two­s­torey build­ings that house a lively col­lec­tion of restau­rants, cafés, art gal­leries and bars. By day, the plaza is an oa­sis of calm. On week­end evenings, a fes­tive mood pre­vails as mu­si­cians roam the brick perime­ter where lo­cal crafts­men sell their wares, and din­ers en­joy alfresco breezes at can­dlelit ta­bles.

Just off the plaza, the re­stored An­gela Per­alta theatre is at the heart of the town’s cul­tural re­vival. Named af­ter the le­gendary op­er­atic diva — who died of yel­low fever in Mazat­lan in 1883 — the build­ing is home to a stun­ning 800-seat theatre (with elab­o­rate Ital­ianate mez­za­nine and bal­conies) that of­fers clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary dances, sym­phony con­certs, opera, jazz and more by per­form­ers from around the world. The com­plex also in­cludes a mu­nic­i­pal art cen­tre, art gal­leries and fine-arts school.

We wan­dered most of the 20block his­tor­i­cal area near the theatre. Though much of the ar­chi­tec­ture we ob­served — in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive arche­o­log­i­cal mu­seum, his­tory mu­seum, and for­mer shops and homes of wealthy mer­chants — dates from the 19th cen­tury, we also saw a num­ber of in­tact Art Deco and mid-cen­tury build­ings that add to the town’s vis­ual ap­peal.

Fac­ing the Plaza de la Repub­lica, an­other palm-filled park with a Vic­to­rian fil­i­gree band­stand, we spied the twin yel­lowtiled spires of the Cathedral Basil­ica of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion.

In ad­di­tion to the ex­pected soar­ing col­umns, gilded arches and sparkling chan­de­liers, the eclec­tic neo-Gothic basil­ica re­veals a soar­ing in­te­rior with a sur­pris­ing piece of his­tory: each of its 28 stained-glass win­dows con­tains a Star of David, com­mem­o­rat­ing a do­na­tion made by a wealthy lo­cal Jewish fam­ily in the late 19th cen­tury.

Be­yond the cathedral, the cen­tral mar­ket beck­oned. The bustling in­door bazaar of­fers phan­tas­magoric dis­plays of lo­cal food. Coun­ters were piled high with glis­ten­ing fish — Span­ish mack­erel, sea bass, red snap­per, snook — mounds of golden and red man­goes, bursts of red toma­toes, orbs of cheese and ven­dors sell­ing only one prod­uct: tubs of spices, stacks of hot sauces, cases of cof­fee, chicken or beef cut ev­ery which way. Small eater­ies served ca­sual fare (also found on the sec­ond floor) while other shops of­fered T-shirts, hats, beach­wear and other touristy trin­kets. •••

Af­ter our nearly three-hour walk, we were ready to re­treat to the beach to body surf (him) and read (me). We hailed an open-air pul­mo­nia, the iconic lit­tle taxi (pic­ture a golf cart with a roof for shade) cre­ated in Mazat­lan in the 1960s. Dur­ing our five-day stay, we never needed to rent a car, not even to ex­plore the re­mote and wild north­ern beach, Playa Bruja; pul­mo­nias, as well as reg­u­lar taxi cabs, are plen­ti­ful and in­ex­pen­sive.

Serendip­ity played a part in our daily ad­ven­tures. While en­joy­ing a break­fast of eggs with tuna chorizo at our ho­tel, we mar­velled that a thing such as tuna chorizo even ex­isted. Our waiter dis­ap­peared into the kitchen and re­turned with the la­bel from the prod­uct — and direc­tions on where in the Golden Zone to find Dolores Mar­ket, a mod­ern, all-things-tuna em­po­rium. (We trav­elled home with a dozen frozen pack­ages.)

By chat­ting with oth­ers along the way, we learned where to en­joy the best sun­set cock­tails (the roof ter­race of the 11-storey Posada Free­man Best Western, where we first met Howard and Gar­rido); where to find a fab­u­lous meal (Hec­tor’s Bistro, a stylish and jazzy spot helmed by Mazat­lan-born chef and owner Hec­tor Peniche, touted as a cat­a­lyst for en­tic­ing other creative eater­ies to the Cen­tro); and where to hear live jazz in Plaza Machado (La Bo­hemia).

Un­sur­pris­ingly, fresh seafood is a pop­u­lar menu item in the Cen­tro’s ex­pand­ing num­ber of chef-owned restau­rants. Per­haps the best tip of all for two oys­ter afi­ciona­dos was where to slurp fresh bi­valves on the beach. A brief pul­mo­nia ride brought us to Playa Los Pinos, a shal­low wad­ing beach pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies with small chil­dren.

Seated at plas­tic ta­bles and chairs, shaded by um­brel­las, we en­joyed two dozen freshly shucked Pa­cific oys­ters ($5 per dozen). The gnarly crea­tures, re­sem­bling pre­his­toric beasts, were sweet and per­fectly com­ple­mented by the lo­cally pro­duced Paci­fico beer.

Na­ture and cul­ture? In Mazat­lan, we dis­cov­ered we could have both.

NECEE REGIS PHO­TOS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles are piled high in the in­door bazaar of the cen­tral mar­ket in Mazat­lan’s Cen­tro His­torico.

Typ­i­cal of the colour­ful his­toric struc­tures found in Mazat­lan’s Cen­tro His­torico is this build­ing that once housed a Ger­man No­tions Store, founded in the 1840s, that re­mained in op­er­a­tion for more than 100 years.

Freshly shucked Pa­cific oys­ters await din­ers at Playa Los Pinos, a shal­low wad­ing beach pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies with small chil­dren.

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