Starlight Star Bright

DSC_0573©Like this photo of a starry night over Deer Island, with a splash from an ocean wave thrown in for good measure? I know I do! (You can click on it or any photo in this post to view it much larger.)

Last night I went out with a new photography partner and he taught me how to use the “intervalometer” on my Nikon. He had already been experimenting with taking photos of the night sky, and advised me to set my ISO to its highest, adjust my white balance, open my aperture as far as it’ll go, and set the speed to eight seconds. Sounds very simple, but it was amazing! The photo below, of the trees on Deer Island, is taken from the beach in front of El Quijote Inn in pitch blackness—my eyes couldn’t even see the island, yet look at that detail and color in the pic!

DSC_0512©

My partner explained to me that the human eye could actually see this and much more, but our eyes are set to “video mode.” Isn’t he brilliant? The other really cool thing he said is that my camera’s aperture controls depth of field, speed controls flow or movement, and ISO controls graininess. Why don’t photography sites and teachers speak in terms like this? How simple and accurate is that description, I ask you?

Obviously I was thrilled with my camera’s capabilities; there is most definitely a whole computer inside, just waiting for me to figure out how to use it. There was a lot of light on the beach, and a party going on with a laser light show, so that obviously interfered with picture quality (or added interest; your call). I also had some fun taking photos of the lights from the restaurants playing in the waves.

I was so excited that I spontaneously woke up about 4:00 this morning, and set my camera up out on the terrace. Living here on the malecón, there was way too much ambient light to take star pics over the island or the city, so I pointed the camera up at the sky. And, I caught TWO shooting stars! I also made my first time-lapse movie! It’s cool to watch how the stars move over the course of two hours. Take a look, below:

My new mentor encouraged me to make a star trail. I did so, using the very same images as you see in the video above. The photo below shows you the lines the stars followed over two hours:

Star Trail Nov 9 2015©

I then changed my shot to look out over the city, and filmed a time-lapse of the sunrise. I like it, too, and I hope you will. Yes, I now see that my lens needs cleaning; a little late! I could have photographed longer, but we needed to get hiking the lighthouse before starting work!

We are thinking to start a photography club here in town. It would be bilingual (Spanish and English), and we’d take turns being in charge of new techniques to teach or excursions to arrange. If you’re interested, please contact me. Thanks!

5th Anniversary and 200 Posts

5 yearsOur first entry on the VidaMaz blog was June 14, 2008. At that point, I had been a lover of and frequent traveler to Mazatlán since 1982; Greg since 1993. We had been married here (at the Hotel Camino Real in its heyday), and we had already owned our home here for a few years. In 2007, we had made the decision to change our lives, and the country in which we lived. In June of 2008 we loaded our just-out-of-sixth-grade son into a car, drove south by southwest, and enrolled him into junior high school here in our adopted hometown.

And oh how we’ve loved it! Danny did not want to come. He didn’t want to leave his friends. He didn’t want to learn Spanish. When we woke him up for school on the one-year anniversary of our move here, he proclaimed, “One year since we made the best decision of our lives!” We have made so many dear friends, we have learned so many new things, we have experienced events and realities that have stirred our souls. Our son has become bilingual, bicultural, the children of immigrant parents. He celebrated his 13th birthday in our pool, and just two weeks ago he celebrated his 18th. Every parent says it, but where has the time gone?

We started this blog in order to let our family and friends back home, and worldwide, see a bit of our new lives here. What I really treasure about this blog is the way it has helped us keep a record of our journeys, of some of what we have learned, and most importantly, of the people we have met along the way. Mazatlán absolutely has some of the world’s friendliest, happiest, and most open-hearted people on the planet! Thank you all for allowing us to live here in this beautiful port city with you!

In looking at the blog’s statistics, I realize that the blog has become a source of information for many of our fellow expats. We didn’t plan it that way, but we are very happy to be able to be of some service to others. We have thousands of readers who come here to learn how to enjoy Mazatlán with kids and how to choose a school and live here with kids (onetwothree, and many more). Two of our most popular posts include last year’s Immigration Forum (not a topic we’d normally write about, but the changes in immigration rules were hugely important for all expats, and no one else at the time, at least in Mazatlán, was really writing about it), and Getting a Driver’s License in Mazatlán (information that has of course changed since it was first published, but our readers have kindly kept it updated).

Most of our posts, as you our readers know, are about events and people here in town. We definitely enjoy life here, despite or because we work more than full-time. Other popular posts have included:

HOLIDAYS

  1. Quite a few on Carnavál (one, two, three, and our “eternal calendar” of Carnavál events)
  2. Day of the Dead
  3. Spring Equinox at Las Labradas and the Deer Dances (one, two)
  4. Celebrations for Independence Day here in town
  5. Religious tourism in and around Mazatlán for Holy Week

EVENTS

  1. Happily for us, posts about our favorite event all year—Desayuno de los Pollos, a charity event conducted by my good friend Yoly (one, two), are popular. We have participated in this event from the time we came down as tourists. Danny was maybe eight the first time we had the privilege of participating.
  2. The extremely cool annual swim to Deer Island, the Travesía Anual

PROFILES

  1. Eating breakfast with oyster divers
  2. Interview with a cancer survivor who opened a meat shop and deli (and the story of a historic restaurant we enjoyed decades ago)
  3. Shrimp fishermen (one, two)
  4. Lots of excitement around Ice Skating at Christmas last year

OTHERS

  1. Travel nearby (weekend trips): Mezcaltitán, Bird watching in Singayta
  2. Definitely take longer to fully enjoy Copper Canyon

There are hundreds more posts—our observations and experiences of the culture here, dozens of other holidays, events and people. Please check them out.

Everyone, thank you for joining us! We work full-time, we have a son still at home, we enjoy nature, like to exercise, are always ready for a good time, and we enjoy the opportunity to record some of our pleasures here in this space. We are most grateful that you have found this blog interesting or useful. What has been your favorite post?

Visiting Mazatlán with Kids

Kids love Mazatlán! The list below should help whether you are traveling here on holiday or whether you live here and are wondering about something new and different to do with your kids during school break. The to-dos are organized alphabetically.

  • Aquarium and bird show: The aquarium in Mazatlán is a lot of fun. The most exciting thing at the aquarium is you can swim with the sharks! In addition to the indoor marine exhibits there are entertaining bird shows held on an outdoor covered stage. Aquarium staff do most of the rescue of marine animals and birds here in town, so we all very much appreciate you supporting this venue.
  • Batting cages: On Avenida del Mar, right next to the double yellow towers (Las Gavias), is a batting cage called, “Wild Pitch.” There is now also a second one up on Avenida de la Marina in the new Mazatlán Golf Center.
  • Beach day: Pick a beach, any beach. You can get chair side service and lots of vendors at a hotel beach. You can dine on fresh, affordable seafood in a palapa/thatched hut on Playa Pinos. Make sand castles, pick up sea shells and sea glass, play soccer or football, volleyball or catch … You name it, you can’t go wrong with kids and a beach.
  • Bicycling: Biking along the malecón/oceanside promenade is gorgeous, easy and fun! From Valentino’s to the Pedro Infante Monument is about 4 miles one-way, it’s of course a very level ride, and safely out of the traffic. It’s easiest to borrow a bike from friends or your hotel if you can. Kelly’s Bike Rental used to be near the malecón, but now he’s moved up towards the marina so is a bit harder for the tourist to reach. Kelly (Güero) has a terrific mountain bike trail/course where he will gladly take older teenagers. He has bikes to loan out as well.
  • Bird watching, hiking and picnicking: The lush Estero del Yugo nature preserve on the north end of town makes for a day of hiking and bird watching. Bring a picnic lunch, binoculars, and your camera.
  • Boogie board: Bring your own, or buy one at one of the many shops along Avenida del Mar or Av. Camarón Sábalo. It’s a whole lot of fun!
  • El Bosque/City Park: Located one block off the malecón, this park has a large pond with waterfowl, swing sets and climbing gyms, a small zoo, and a walking trail. There are play areas in small parks throughout the city, though I recommend you check their safety beforE letting your kids climb up and slide down.
  • Bowling: Space Bowling, up on the north end of town near Marina El Cid, has fun laser-light bowling at night, and makes for good refuge if you happen to be here during rainy season.
  • Boxing: Older teenagers and young adults may enjoy a night of boxing. Our boys love it, as you get up close and personal to the boxers. I imagine the ring card girls don’t hurt their eyes either 🙂 Held on Friday nights about once every month, downtown in the Cancha German Evers.
  • Catamaran: You can have one of the playeros take you and your family out for a cruise around the bay for very little cash. Watch the sea lions (Mazatlán is their southernmost point), cruise past Bird and Deer Islands, see the city from the sea. A boat ride is always fun. We also have sailboats, or you can go out on a party boat and enjoy music, dinner or sunset.
  • Climb the lighthouse: One of our very favorite family activities, we do this once a week. The climb only takes about 20 minutes, and the view from the top is gorgeous!
  • Dolphin, whale and sea lion watching Also one of our favorite activities! DEFINITELY do this if you are traveling here! You can read our blog post about this trip.
  • Fishermen: Sitting near the pangas/boats at Playa Norte beach in the morning, watching the fishermen bring in their boats, unload and sell their fish, can make for a very enjoyable morning for a family.
  • Fly a kite: Buy one anywhere, and spend a few hours flying it on the beach. Enjoy some ceviche, fresh fruit or turnovers/empanadas from a strolling vendor, and maybe some live music from a passing band.
  • Horseback riding: There is nothing like a family horseback ride on the beach, or through a forest of palm trees. Rent horses on the north end of town at Playa Bruja, or out on Stone Island.
  • Inline skating: That 4-mile malecón is calling your name! You and the family can of course walk it, or you can rent skates in Olas Altas at the Looney Bean coffee shop.
  • Island day: Spending a day at either Deer Island (one of the three islands in the bay) or Stone Island (it’s actually a peninsula) feels like going back in time to a simpler, more charming era. Pretend you’re shipwrecked, or that you own your own private piece of paradise. On Stone Island there are plenty of restaurants with lots of adult beverages; the beach is great for kids as the ocean is pretty calm. On Deer Island you can get a few things to eat or drink. You can get tours to either island that include banana boating, snorkeling or jet skiing; Stone Island tours often include horseback riding. Stone Island has an affordable water ferry (about US$3 round trip per person).
  • Kayaking: Rent a couple of kayaks on the beach in front of one of the hotels, and enjoy some terrific family time paddling in the bay.
  • Movies: Movie theaters in Mazatlán are MUCH more affordable ventures than they are north of the border. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to see a subtitled movie rather than one that’s dubbed. Cinepolis is in the Gran Plaza; Gaviotas is an older theater near Valentino’s in the Golden Zone; and the two Cinemexes are in the main part of town on Insurgentes Street.
  1. Cinépolis 
  2. Cinemas Gaviotas
  3. CinemexMaz
  4. CinemexToreo
  • Paint ball: For some weird reason, paint ball is called “Gotcha” in Mazatlecan Spanish. The nearest location is Master Gotcha located behind Casa Country in the Golden Zone. Closed on Tuesdays, check their Facebook page for specials.
  • Parasailing: Before I parasailed I never imagined I’d enjoy it as much as I did! It is amazingly fun and exciting! Book a trip on the beach in front of your hotel.
  • Port: Watch the workings of the port from the Mirador or the Old Observatory. Drive, walk or bike up Paseo del Centenario to either of these places, and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city of Mazatlán and the workings of its port. See the loading and unloading at the docks, the boats of the largest shrimping fleet in the Americas, as well as the tuna fleet.
  • Sea turtles: Release baby sea turtles, or see their mothers lay eggs. Sea turtles come in to the beach to lay their eggs starting in late August or September every year. It is an amazing process to watch, but please don’t bother the nesting Moms! You can read a blog post about the sea turtles here. If you call the aquarium you and your kids may be able to participate in a release of baby sea turtles, which the kids also really love.
  • Skate park: Bring your skateboard, rip stick, BMX bike or inline skates, or just your eyes and good humor to watch the festivities. The Skate Park is next to the outdoor gym in Playa Norte. We did a blog post about it.
  • Snorkeling: Playa Norte has a sheltered beach, just south of the swim club and the outdoor gym, which has pretty interesting snorkeling: lots of colorful fish and sea glass. On Deer Island you can snorkel for octopus or scallops.
  • Surfing: Many kids would love to learn how to surf! In Mazatlán there are a few options: Mazatlán Surf Center, Jah Surf School, Puras Olas, or just do a web search.
  • Swimming: This would seem to be a no-brainer. In the pool, in the ocean, Mazatlán is a swimmers’ paradise. Something our family loves is, in the early morning, to go down to Playa Norte and watch the swim club swimmers do their ocean swims. Many are grandmas and grandpas and boy can they swim! In November each year the club does a Travesía, during which swimmers swim out to Deer Island!
  • Swim with the sharks: The aquarium offers this cool activity. There are plans to swim with dolphins, but as of this blog post that’s not yet an option. But swimming with sharks sounds so cool and dangerous (yet isn’t)!
  • Tide pools: One of the BEST activities ever, on the planet, for families with young children. Bring a book of tide pool life along with you, put on some water shoes, and take a walk when the tide is out along the beach south of Valentino’s. Starfish, crabs, tadpoles, sea urchins… Gotta love it!
  • Video arcade: Ok, I don’t like going on vacation to have the kids go to an arcade, but I do remember traveling to Prague and having my kid beg for laser tag, so it happens. The best video arcade that I know of is in the Gran Plaza shopping mall. There is also a small, “cooler” one for teenagers just north of Valentino’s, on the second level.
  • Water park: If the kids want more slide action than the hotel pool can provide, take them up to Mazagua, on the north end of town on the way to the Hotel Riu or Emerald Bay.
  • Zip line: Huana Coa gets incredibly high reviews on TripAdvisor. While we haven’t gone on this one, if your kids are into this, it sure sounds like fun.
In addition to the above year-round activities, there are also terrific seasonal events that you should try not to miss. These include:
  • Carnaval/Mardis Gras (a very family-oriented five days)
  • MotoWeek, a huge gathering of motorcycles from around the continent. Includes concerts, an expo and a huge parade.
  • ExpoCar, usually held in December, this is a car show and, I guess, drag racing event. Exhibitions, concerts, and lots of burning rubber.
  • La Frasca/Shrimping in the estuary A once-in-a-lifetime experience for families, occurs only during shrimping season. You will need a car or driver and to speak Spanish or have an interpreter or guide.
  • Day of the Dead, altars and callejoneada parade
  • Easter Week processions
  • AeroFest, usually held in November along the malecón
  • Revolution Day
  • Independence Day, especially “El Grito” the night before in the main Plaza downtown
  • Look for signs for special events such as Monster Truck shows, Lucha Libre, circuses (one going on somewhere in town at least once/month), carnavals/fairs (5-7 every year), NBA exposition games, etc….
  • There are also “cultural” events such as bullfighting (held occasionally) and cock fighting (held all the time at various venues). Look for signs or ask around when you are in town if you are interested.
I’ve only included things right here in town. If you have something I should add, please let me know. There are also loads of things to do outside the city—small pueblos to visit, the petroglyphs at Las Labradas… Those will have to be for another summary post. 🙂
Enjoy your holiday! Or, rest assured that the kids will go back to school, eventually, ja ja.