Valentine’s Day in Mazatlan

February 14, 2014
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We stopped midday in Mazatlan for fuel and to use una cajero automatico (ATM).  We were feeling irritable after a poor night of sleep, a morning of expensive cuotas (tolls), and an abundance of pushy panhandlers.  All morning we’d been driving almost in view of the ocean; the nav was such a tease.  We were hot, hungry and stressed.  Then, we hit the water.

Instant calm.

A sailboat resting peaceful on the horizon, off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico

A sailboat resting peaceful on the horizon, off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico

We quickly found a hotel across from the water, parked in the world’s tightest underground, and bought some cervecas (I know you know what that means), then went to the beach.  It was glorious.  For hours we walked in the sand, watched majestic kingfishers float lackadaisically along, and envied the sailboat resting peacefully on the horizon.  Sophie valiantly protected us from oh-so-intimidating Chihuahuas and we chatted with their owners in terrible Spanglish.

The sky exploded with colour as the sun slowly set, and the most romantic evening began.

A beautiful sunset over the ocean on Valentine's Day in Mazatlan

A beautiful sunset over the ocean on Valentine’s Day in Mazatlan

We walked along the boulevard, passing restaurants full of heart-shaped balloons and eager staff, but few patrons. After a kilometre or so we hailed a golf cart cab and asked the driver where to find the best carne y pescado.  He just smiled slyly and started driving — a little disconcerting.  We passed many barrios and tacquerias, Senor Frogs and A class resorts, and then nothing.  The driver pulled a U-y and parked in a gravel lot.  In the distance, we could see a tattered tent with a few plastic and wooden dining sets beneath it, and a banner that simply said El capitano.  What was this?

travelen.org: LJ and Nadia at El capitano for Valentine's Day in MazatlanWe paid the man and apprehensively went “in.”  All at once our senses realized we’d hit restaurant gold.  The smell of the ocean breeze mixed with freshly cooked steak and seafood; the sound of live music; and finally, the sight of a lonely table sitting right on the beach.  We sat down our chairs which sunk into the sand and were quickly brought tostidos with fresh spinach dip and hot sauce.  Our drinks, blended lime margaritas, were delicious; they put American pre-mixed margaritas to absolute shame.

Our first course, a half-dozen Pacific oysters, were nice.  Since we’re comparing, these have nothing on oysters in the Pacific Northwest, but they were good.  We did miss the sides that typically accompany them up north – cocktail sauce, horseradish, etc.  Here they simply came with lime wedges, and very little natural juice.

travelen.org: Oysters at El capitano on Valentine's Day in Mexico

Oysters at El capitano in Mazatlan, Mexico

Our entrees, however, were magical.  Easily the best garlic prawns we’ve ever had; accompanied by rice, perfectly cooked vegetables and toast, all soaked in the garlic butter.  Then there was the Surf and Turf: deliciously marinated chicken (it was like candy), Lobster Thermador, and perfectly cooked filet mignon.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  I will have dreams of this meal, I’m sure.

travelen.org: Surf n' Turf at El capitano on Valentine's Day in Mazatlan, Mexico

Surf n turn — I promise it tasted better than it looked. Still learning how to not take an awful food photo

The backdrop of the crashing ocean waves, and the four-piece ensemble serenading us with musica romantica, was the ultimate setting.  LJ will be hard pressed to beat this Valentine’s Day in Mazatlan. ;)

As we walked down the boulevard after dinner, it was full of life.  It was clear that Mexicans are night owls.  Coming from Yellowknife, wherever everything closes by 9 pm, it was a welcome change. We passed clubs packed full of young people playing dated American top 40 and restaurants full of older ones; we talked with friendly street vendors and locals and, slowly, made our way back to the hotel.

We ended our night on the moonlit beach with Sophie; the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

An itinerant entrepreneur, Nadia travels slow and low in search of clean eats, dirty Jeeps, and good vibes. Meanwhile, she works with entrepreneurs and organizations to create memorable and successful brands.

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