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Old 06-23-2010   #61 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by daydreamer View Post
What an awesome TR! Really enjoying the pictures. Looks like a great place to visit.
Thanks! Glad you're enjoying everything. The area was FANTASTIC! Mike and I have decided that we aren't going back to Playa for awhile, as there are WAY TOO MANY places in Mexico to explore. We were in a RUT!

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Old 06-23-2010   #62 (permalink)
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That's an awesome story, Joanie. I do want to go back to Playa a few more times because I haven't done everything I want to do there yet - but I also want to explore other areas of Mexico, and your TR has given me some inspiration to do that. Out of curiousity, approx how much would a trip like this cost? Finances are starting to get a little tight here, so that's something I have to consider. Of course, I would expect visiting areas like this would be less expensive then PDC. I forget, how long was your trip?
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Old 06-23-2010   #63 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by JoanieBlon View Post
Thanks! Glad you're enjoying everything. The area was FANTASTIC! Mike and I have decided that we aren't going back to Playa for awhile, as there are WAY TO MANY places in Mexico to explore. We were in a RUT!


totally agree, there are so many wonderful places to visit.

Your report is making me feel guilty for not getting to more inland places....but we are SO into the beach and ocean activities, and with only 1-2 weeks at a time, we always head to the coasts. One day we will get to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro, etc.


You two should look into a trip to Oaxaca City/ Puerto Escondido/ Zipolite/ Mazunte/ Huatulco... I think you would love that area. Also the Colima/Jalisco coastline between Manzanillo north to Puerto Vallarta is wonderful, La Manzanilla, Barra de Navidad, Tenacatita.

sigh. So many places to visit, so little vacation time and money! Come onnnn, retirement!
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Old 06-23-2010   #64 (permalink)
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Lightbulb Prices....

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Originally Posted by daydreamer View Post
Out of curiousity, approx how much would a trip like this cost? Finances are starting to get a little tight here, so that's something I have to consider. Of course, I would expect visiting areas like this would be less expensive then PDC. I forget, how long was your trip?
Lets see...cost....

Plane tickets for us flying out of Tampa are pricier than flying into Cancun. We flew Tampa-Houston-Morelia and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo-Houston-Tampa. The Base Price for our RT tickets on Continental was $587.00 each, but by the time all the U.S and Mexico Taxes and Fees were tacked on, the tickets came to $702.62 each. People up north (like you, perhaps) can often book charter flights and get tickets MUCH cheaper...

We stayed in the BEST rooms in the hotels in Morelia, Patzcuaro and Uruapan. I booked these almost a year in advance to try to get the BEST rate. For the Hotel de la Soledad in Morelia, and the Hotel Mi Solar in Uruapan, I emailed the hotel, told them what type of room I wanted, and asked them what the BEST rate was that they could offer me, including ALL taxes and breakfast. Our suite at Hotel de la Soledad in Morelia was about U.S. $125, and our King Bed room at Hotel Mi Solar ended up being only about $70, as the owner came over and said they were running a special promotion and so reduced our rate!

At La Casa Encantada in Patzcuaro, we got a special rate because we stayed 4 nights and it was off-season. I paid the entire bill in full to the owner's account at a bank in Santa Fe, NM. The rate I got for the best room in the place, including a full breakfast each day and a bottle of wine at check in was $101.25.

At all of these places, we could have stayed in "standard" rooms for considerably less money.

Mike says dinner is READY, so I'll have to finish this later!
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Old 06-24-2010   #65 (permalink)
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Smile Isla Janitzio en Lago Patzcuaro

The muelle (docks) for the boats to Lake Patzcuaro are located quite a distance from the center of the town. You “could” walk it, if you had a mind to, but we just took a taxi. I always asked “Cuanto cuesta ir a….?” (the destination) if I didn’t know for certain that the trip was within the normal boundaries of established taxi fare. I was pretty surprised that a trip to the boat docks was just the standard $25 pesos.

There were all kinds of souvenir stands and restaurants at the docks. It was getting close to lunch time, but we decided to wait and have our comida out on Janitzio.
The roundtrip fare on one of the many boats was $45 pesos, so if you paid for two tickets with a $100 peso bill, you received a $10 peso coin in return ~ which came in handy for a tip later on….

There were MANY boats lined up at the docks, but only a few of them were actually operating this day, as the crowds weren’t too big.







Probably ALL these boats are in operation during Noche de los Muertos later in the year.

We got on the boat and sat down ~ waiting for other passengers to get on board. The boats only left when each of them was fully loaded. Day trips out to Janitzio seemed to be a popular pastime with the locals. On our boat, we were the only non-Mexicans.

Once we got underway, a little Norteno style band (with a LOUD snare drum) who had boarded started playing. They, of course, were playing for tips, so that’s where the $10 peso coin came in handy. It seemed like almost all the passengers tipped them, so they probably did ok with money raising, although they undoubtedly had to kick back some of what they earned to the boat operator.



The trip out to Janitzio took about 20 minutes or so.



As we approached the island, there were a number of fisherman in small barcas with their traditional “butterfly” style nets, who were putting on a demonstration how these were used. These fisherman no longer make their living from actually catching fish, as the lake is so polluted, they are unsafe to eat. One fisherman dipped in his net and actually DID catch a fish, though. These guys were also performing for tips, and several of them came along side out boat to pass a small tip tray around. The earnings were then split up with the other fisherman.









You can see how my tile mural really looks like the real thing!

The boat captain took us almost completely around the island, so we could see it from all sides, before docking. When we disembarked, there were lots of kids hanging around who wanted to help in assisting us off the boat and onto the dock for a small tip. There were also other kids selling the ever-present Chiclets.

Once on Janitzio, there were lots of restaurants and places selling all varieties of souvenirs. All the restaurants that we saw were very attractive.



Mike and I decided to get a little away from the commotion of the restaurants and shops that were right by the boat docks and take a little look around.

We decided to not try to climb to the top of the island to get a close view of the famous statue there of Jose Maria Morelos ~ whom the city of Morelia is named for. We were told that there were about 365 steps (stairs!) to the top. That combined with an altitude of about 7,000 feet were just too much for Mike. If you do go to the very top, you can actually go inside of the statue with MORE stairs ~ all the way up into Morelos’ upraised arm. There are a series of murals inside depicting Morelos’ life.

We were able to see the statue fairly well from the first terrace on the island.





I thought that this dome was attractive. I believe it’s a part of the island’s church.



There were all sorts of things to look at and to buy. The Tarascan people who live on Janitzio are basically totally dependent on tourism for their livings.



There were a number of alleyways that headed up toward’s the island’s summit that were lined with shops.



It seemed that Janitzio was a popular place for parents to bring their kids, and so many of the items for sale were aimed at them.



Bougainvillea seemed to be in full bloom everywhere we went.



One of the amazing pleated skirts worn by the Tarascan women as a part of their daily dress.



This little stone carving reminded me of the ones we saw on the highway to Tzintzuntzan.



EVERYTHING that comes to Janitzio must be brought in by boat, and once it’s unloaded, it must we walked up the MANY stairs to wherever it needs to go to. You see hand trucks everywhere. There were no bicycles or vehicles of any sort on Janitzio. People just walk and climb to get to where they are going.



These hats of display were undoubtedly made in the village of Jaracuaro. There were several stacks of hats just like the one I bought.



All of the kitchens for the various restaurants looked very similar. The women would cry out in sort of a chant what they offered for meals. The ladies who were tending their huge pots of fish soup would lift the fish up out of the broth so you could see it.



Mike and I finally decided on a restaurant that was somewhat removed from all the hubbub near the docks, that had a nice view across the lake, that had shade, and that had very attractive tables to sit at. All the food offerings at the various restaurants seemed to be about the same.



Our meal was REALLY good! We had 2 coronas, 2 micheladas a la Cubana with Corona, two platters ~ I had tacos dorados (which is like flautas in the USA) and Mike had a large chile relleno ~ with all the trimmings and a basket of freshly made blue tortillas. The price for this whole feast? $130 pesos total! That’s just a little over US $10.00.







After our meal, we decided to head back over across the lake and return to Patzcuaro. We again had a band onboard to serenade us.
Once we got back up into the center of the town, we wandered around a bit more, just taking in the sights and sounds, before heading over to La Surtidora for a couple of beers.

On Monday, we would be out touring with Jaime and his uncle again, so we decided just to take it easy that evening.

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Old 06-24-2010   #66 (permalink)
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Really nice trip, I have to say again.

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These pans which I believe are called “Charolas” were in use in many of the taco stands in and around the market. Jesus?? Can you verify the name?
Charolas = Trays. For frying quesadillas and tacos, the name could be "Comal"

Not my pics, but to get an idea of comal and ....



Maybe you got the name stuck from the little dry fish: Charales,
the charales can be eaten in soup, in tacos or alone, fried as a snack (like chips) with limon and some salsa.
A recipe for soup: «La Cocina de Skychef™»: Caldo de charal estilo Pátzcuaro

"Botana"

taken from: Restaurante El Camino Real, Pátzcuaro Photo Gallery by Don Cuevas at pbase.com



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Old 06-24-2010   #67 (permalink)
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Talking Comals & Charales...

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Really nice trip, I have to say again.

Charolas = Trays. For frying quesadillas and tacos, the name could be "Comal"

Not my pics, but to get an idea of comal and ....



Maybe you got the name stuck from the little dry fish: Charales,
the charales can be eaten in soup, in tacos or alone, fried as a snack (like chips) with limon and some salsa.
Jesus ~ this truly was a wonderful trip!

If the flat pans for cooking quesadillas and tacos are called comals ~ what is the name of the metal tray that has the indentation in the middle? The ones that are used by the taco vendors for cooking the meat in before they chop it all up on the wooden cutting board ~ which looked like a section of tree to me. Are these trays also called comals ~ or are they known by some other name?

We did try the Charales somewhere...I don't remember where at this point, as it seemed that we were on a non-stop eating our way through Michoacan and Guerrero trip! SO MANY wonderful new things to try that aren't normally found at most "Mexican" restaurants up and over this way. The charales we had were dried and were seasoned with limon y sal. They were pretty tasty!

Speaking of snacks ~ Mike and I kept wanting to try the potato chips ~ "Papas Fritas" (?) that came with a little packet of hot sauce to dump over them in the see through plastic bag. This snack was REALLY popular. We saw lots of people eating them. Again ~ something for NEXT TIME!
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Old 06-24-2010   #68 (permalink)
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Lightbulb More About Prices.....

Ground transportation was relatively inexpensive. One thing to note here is that you should ALWAYS pay in pesos! You should also be clear on the cost of the trip before getting into a taxi....

Our trip from the Morelia airport into the center of Morelia (about a 40 minute trip) was either US $32.00 OR $230 pesos (about US $18.00)! That's a HUGE difference. Guess they are charging extra for the inconvenience of having to go to the bank to exchange the dollars for pesos. Banks tend to have LONG lines, and it takes quite awhile to get up to a teller. I saw one bank in Zihuatanejo where you had to take a number and then wait to be seen.

BE SURE to visit the ATM inside the airport for pesos before heading out to get a taxi!

Our pre-arranged taxi from Morelia to La Casa Encantada was either US $25.00 OR $250 pesos (about US $19.75).

Our pre-arranged taxi from La Casa Encantada to Hotel Mi Solar in Uruapan was $320 pesos (portions of the trip were on a "cuota" - toll road) OR US $32.00 (about US $25.00).

We *could* have taken local buses for quite a bit less, but decided that the convenience of door to door service was worth the extra.

We could also had a pre-arranged taxi door to door from La Casa Encantada direct to our hotel in Zihuatanejo. If I recall, this was about US $150.00. The bus was MUCH cheaper. We also didn't want to be cooped up inside a small taxi for close to 4 hours! The 1st Class buses in Mexico are REALLY comfy!

The 1st Class Express Bus that we took from Uruapan to Zihautanejo was $315 pesos (about US $25.00). More about the bus and the tickets later in my report!

The taxi we took from our hotel in Zihuatanejo to the Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (about 20-30 minutes away) was $160 pesos for a NON-AC taxi (about US $12.65) OR $220 pesos for a taxi WITH AC (about US $17.40). We went with the non-AC, as it was comfortable enough with the windows open.

In every town or city we were in, the basic taxi fare was $25 pesos. In Zihuatanejo, you could have the option of having AC running, but if you did, most drivers charged an additional $10 pesos.

For our guide in the Patzcuaro area, we paid $1,680 pesos per day (about US $130.00) for a van with a driver. I'm pretty sure that you could have 4 persons for the same price. We tipped both our guide Jaime, and his uncle US $200 pesos each per day, as we felt their services were extraordinary. We were out with our guide for 2 or the 4 days we were in Patzcuaro. Again, I cannot speak highly enough of Jaime and his services. As Jesus from this board commented ~

Quote:
You got a very good guide, the prices are more than good, some people may charge you more than that without providing a car. And noting the price of the lunch (60 pesos) and hat ($50 pesos) he took you to a very real places, not a tourist trap where the owner gives a comission to the guides for bringing "victims" which is very common at Teotihuacan for example.
If you want a "complete" experience in the Patzcuaro region, then I recommend that you should hire a guide. Jaime's the BEST!

Our hotel ~ Brisas del Mar ~ in Zihuatanejo was the most expensive place that we stayed at. Their website gives prices in US dollars, so you know you're going to pay more.... BUT...WHAT a hotel! Right on the beach with GORGEOUS views of the bay ~ and it was beautifully furnished with very stylish furniture and art, had ice cold AC, satellite TV with loads of English (or English subtitles) stations, beautiful grounds, a REALLY nice pool with a slide, and a restaurant on site. We paid US $149.00 (plus tax) for a Jr. Suite with a Jacuzzi on a private balcony with a view of the entire bay. You could get a standard room here for US $125.00 ~ again with a balacony. Not sure if those had Jacuzzis or not. At ant rate....REALLY worth the price. Wait till you see the photos of this hotel and our suite!

Food was relatively inexpensive depending on where you ate. As I mentioned before, we had a 3 course comida in Patzcuaro for just $60 pesos (about US $4.70). The most expensive meals we ever had ran $130 pesos each (about US $10.25) and that was for an entire grilled fish with all the trimmings. Beers were typically less than $20 pesos (about US $1.65). The place that we preferred in Patzcuaro ~ La Surtidora ~ charged $17 pesos for Pacifico (about US $1.35) and $50 pesos for Don Julio Reposado tequila with sangrita (about US $4.00). There was a place right on the main beach in Zihuatanejo that has ice cold beer in bottles for just $10 ~ TEN ~ pesos!! (about US $0.80!!)

If you don't go for top of the line rooms in top of the line hotels, and watch where and what you eat, you can get by here very reasonably. The airfare is high ~ YES ~ but, Continental does offer DIRECT service out of Houston to many cities in Mexico. No having to make connections in Mexico City!

Hope this helps!
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Old 06-25-2010   #69 (permalink)
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Jesus ~ this truly was a wonderful trip!

If the flat pans for cooking quesadillas and tacos are called comals ~ what is the name of the metal tray that has the indentation in the middle? The ones that are used by the taco vendors for cooking the meat in before they chop it all up on the wooden cutting board ~ which looked like a section of tree to me. Are these trays also called comals ~ or are they known by some other name?
A comal wold be a "griddle", and you are right it's normally used to cook the tortillas.
The one used for the meat may have a specific name, but I'm not really aware of it, but charolas are definitely trays and not used for cooking.

In this photo by Michele, you can see the one you mention on the bottom of the picture

in this case is not an indentation, but a "bubble" to lay the meat above the liquid.

The cutting board may have looked like a section of a tree because that is the traditional cutting board for tacos, they can just add legs or layers as the board gets eroded by the chopping.

Foto courtesy of a great Taco Blog

Hope that Stewie is reading, Street Gourmet LA: Tijuana's Magnificent 7 Tacos as this guys have an amazing blog and even rate the quality of the tacos.




Quote:
Speaking of snacks ~ Mike and I kept wanting to try the potato chips ~ "Papas Fritas" (?) that came with a little packet of hot sauce to dump over them in the see through plastic bag. This snack was REALLY popular. We saw lots of people eating them. Again ~ something for NEXT TIME!
A bit greasy depending on the vendor, but if you try them, go for them, they are thinly sliced potatoes just fried with salt.
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Old 06-25-2010   #70 (permalink)
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Cool More Travels With Jaime...

On Monday morning, following our wonderful hot breakfast at la Casa Encantada, Mike and I met up with Jaime and his uncle again. Today our plans would take us out of the immediate Lake Patzcuaro region.

The first town we would visit was the very famous Santa Clara del Cobre, which is filled with copper workshops. Santa Clara del Cobre is located almost due south of Patzcuaro.

This was some of the lovely landscape we saw on our way to the copper town. We were at about 7,000 feet in altitude. The mountains, of course, are even higher.



We visited one workshop to see first hand how copper is turned into beautiful sinks, bathtubs, pans, plates and other items. At one time, copper used to be actually mined in this region of Mexico, but now a consortium of various workshops purchases copper in the form of used wire from the Mexican telephone and electric companies and also used copper plumbing that’s being replaced by PVC.

The workshop we visited was Taller El Portón. Their website is HERE



There were a number of guys in this workshop that worked together to form base copper into beautiful works of art.



First the wire, or other copper object, is heated in a forge until it’s softened by the intense heat.



In days past, the fire was fanned by using an enormous set of bellows, but now electric blowers are used.



Once the copper is softened, it's first dipped into water to cool it slightly and then it's placed on a thick steel plate to be hammered out into a disk.



This process is repeated as necessary to get the right size of disk size of disk for the object that will be made. The men use long handled hammers and beat in rotation ~ a pretty tricky business that they’ve perfected through working together.



More copper can be added in the forge to make the appropriate sized disk. All copper pieces ~ even BATHTUBS ~ are fashioned from a single piece of copper.



Once the copper disk is the appropriate size for the item being made, it’s reheated and then taken to an anvil for shaping. The worker has to be careful not to strike too long in any one place, as the thickness needs to be very uniform. If struck too many times in one place, a hole could result, which would mean returning the piece to the forge to be remelted.





Once the item ~ in this case a bowl ~ is made, the worker uses special small hammers to “polish” the raw copper. The small hammers have various special surfaces with patterns in them, which form the pattern on the copper piece when struck. To be good at this takes years of practice. I was wondering if all that hammering affects the craftsmens' hearing. They didn't seem to be wearing ear plugs, and the hammering was LOUD.



Here are some pieces in the open air courtyard of the workshop area.





To make some of the copper pieces even more elaborate, they are engraved with floral patterns and then silver is applied to highlight the design. This work is generally done by women and young girls, as they have they necessary “delicate” touch to do this type of work.



Photographs were not permitted in the salesroom of Taller El Portón. I purchased 4 chargers to place under serving plates that had their rims engraved with a floral pattern and then silvered ~ rather like the sink above. I also bought 4 matching napkin rings and 4 plain copper coasters for glasses. I can recall exactly how much this all cost, but I DO remember that I thought the prices were very reasonable, considering all the work it takes to produce each item. I also bought 2 folding copperfaced mirrors (like clam shells) that were decorated with a smiling sun to give away as gifts. The price on these was an ASTOUNDING $29 pesos each. (about US $2.25) I also purchased a EXQUISITE copper bell that had been enameled with monarch butterflies to hang on our Christmas tree. The price for that was just $70 pesos. (about US $5.50)

We went across the street to another sales place that did allow photos to be taken. How I would have LOVED to bring home some of the BIG pieces there or in the workshop we had just visited!





I thought this place could have found a better solution to hold up the right side of the shelving ~ instead of shoving a wooden pallet under it!

From Santa Clara del Cobre, we traveled a short distance to the village of Cuanajo, which is famous for its carved ~ and sometimes gaily painted ~ furniture. We took a look around several shops, but everything being offered for sale was just too large to be taken home safely.

More to come…….

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Old 06-25-2010   #71 (permalink)
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Cuanajo and Tupataro

Cuanajo is really a lovely little town. As we traveled through the region around Patzcuaro, I kept thinking about how “poor” many of the local people are, but yet, they have pride and do the best they can with what they have. I would MUCH prefer to live in most of the little villages we drove through there than many of the interior Florida towns I can think of. The Mexican villages are just SO much more attractive. People don’t live in run down trailers with loads of wrecked cars and trucks parked in the yard.

This is the village church in Cuanajo.



Part of the church yard.



This elaborate carved door is inside of the church.



A rather surrealistic painting inside the church.



The church courtyard looking towards the village plaza with its fountain.



The village center store. Notice the references for USA products ~ Gatorade, BIC pens, Makita, Elmer's, DelMonte, etc.



The village fountain in the town plaza.



Another one a Mexico’s ever-present sleeping dogs.



The road out of town.



From Cuanajo, we headed on to the village of Tupataro, which is noted for its very old church with a very elaborate hand-painted ceiling. This church also escaped any damage from guerillas during the Revolution.



Photographs weren’t allowed in the church, but I was able to find a photograph that some person had managed to take of the ceiling. Look HERE. It’s AMAZING!

Tupataro was a very sleepy little village. This small tienda seemed to be the center of activity….Jaime commented that this village is referred to by the locals as "Tupataro de Tejas" because so many people who live here go to Texas to find work.



From Tupataro, we headed for Capula which is located about half way between Morelia and Patzcuaro ~ north and east of Patzcuaro.

As we traveled along, Jaime told us stories about his “duties” as the godfather of a Tarascan girl who lived in Tupataro when she got married.

To be continued......

Last edited by JoanieBlon; 03-24-2011 at 11:40 AM..
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Old 06-25-2010   #72 (permalink)
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I had been waiting for the copper town
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Old 06-26-2010   #73 (permalink)
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I really enjoyed this - I was saving your report till this morning so I could have the time to read and enjoy. Thank you for taking the time to do this...your pictures are awesome. I wish a was a better planner so I could put something together like this.
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Old 06-26-2010   #74 (permalink)
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I really enjoyed this - I was saving your report till this morning so I could have the time to read and enjoy. Thank you for taking the time to do this...your pictures are awesome. I wish a was a better planner so I could put something together like this.
Tappy ~ glad you are enjoying my report and photos....I still have Capula, a bit more of Patzcuaro, Uruapan, and Zihuatanejo to go!

I hope to get everything wrapped up before we leave next Thursday morning for New York City ~ and then by train to Niagara Falls for an extended 4th of July weekend!
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Old 06-26-2010   #75 (permalink)
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I forget, how long was your trip?
Somehow, I don't think that I answered this question. We flew out of Tampa on Thursday May 13th, and returned Monday, May 24th ~ so we spent 11 nights in hotels ~ 1 night in Morelia, 4 nights in Patzcuaro, 1 night in Uruapan, and 5 nights in Zihuatanejo.
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