Melaque and Barra de Navidad
When we booked our second week's accommodations few weeks before we arrived, it was hard to decide where we wanted to stay. Taking a chance, we chose Melaque (aka San Patricio), mainly because it was slightly larger than La Manzanilla or other coastal villages. And it was perfect. La Manzanilla had been wonderful for its smallness — by the end of our week there we knew many of the people from town, both gringos and Mexicans alike. Melaque was about twice the size of La Manzanilla, and it provided much new entertainment for us as well. There was a good sized street market, several blocks of shops and grocery stores, and many restaurants to choose from when we wanted a break from cooking.
We were excited to buy our own groceries (and practice using our Spanish while we shopped), to try cooking with local ingredients. We enjoyed trying various vegetables, exploring different types of local cheeses, and eating in little fondas — kitchens counter restaurants like Marta's. (No, we did not buy any meat from that truck, below!)
We also just enjoyed exploring the area, walking the beach and hiking in the hills. Our apartment was near the school, so we saw the local kids celebrate the coming of the Christmas holiday with songs and piñatas.
We rented an apartment at Bungalows Mallorca. "Bungalow" is the local generic term for a hotel room (or apartment or rental house) with a kitchen. Our place was on the beach, and perhaps a 10 minute walk from the central part of town. We enjoyed cooking our own food, making guacamole, and eating fresh local vegetables!!!
We loved exploring Melaque at night, since everyone came out after the heat of the day to shop, eat, and play. We found many local shops closed shortly after lunch, only to open again at 5 PM after the siesta time, and then stayed open until about 10 PM. It was a wonderful time for us to poke in and out of shops, buy things for our apartment, and see what the locals were up to. We enjoyed the interactive experience of shopping, especially for flan and other fresh deserts sold by individuals with roadside stands.
We spent several of our days just enjoying the town, sitting near the beach and eating our favorite seafood dishes.
One of the days there was an "indigenous market", where we found all kinds of stuff for sale — from crafts to DVDs, to plastic ware and clothes. Whatever you wanted for cheap, you could find it there. Blocks upon blocks of tarp-covered booths, sold by people who traveled from town to town, arriving in Melaque on Wednesdays.
When we arrived in Melaque on the very first day, we noticed a building way up on the hill (Punta Melaque). One day we took the challenge of finding a way up there, and were rewarded with panoramic views of both the sea and the town.
Another one of our favorite food experiences were the popsicles. Unlike in the US, these popsicles were only slightly sweetened and, we found, actually were made from real fruit! Geoff had a guayaba (guava) popsicle that contained seeds and everything! Laura had a jamaica (hibiscus flowers) popsicle. For some reason, the jamaica melted especially quickly, dripping blood red juice everywhere! We also tried tamarind and coconut.
One day we trekked over to the next town, Barra de Navidad, at the other end of the beach. Barra shares the same bay (Bahía de Navidad) with Melaque, but the two towns are separated by a lagoon. We took a local bus to Barra de Navidad, and wandered around the town. We found Barra to be significantly more touristy than Melaque, with its central commercial area filled with tourist shops and where we were constantly being asked to purchase trinkets from wandering vendors. We did find some yummy beachside restaurants, and tried our first local oysters, which were amazing. The Barra area is also known for its sea turtles. There was a little sea turtle nesting ground right in the middle of the tourist beach, surrounded by mesh fence to keep out intruders. On a whim, we happened to go into the tourist center to ask about kayak rentals, and inside we saw a bin of tiny freshly hatched turtles right there in the office! At the end of our long day, we walked home along the beach from Barra back to Melaque, stopping to check out the lagoon along the way.
At the end of our last week on the beach, we were off on a flight inland to Michoacán. You can see Melaque (on the left) and Barra de Navidad (on the right) in this view from the air.