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A coffee and a plant shop = La Isla Botanic. La Isla Botanic, Café y Plantas is the brother and sister dream of Adolfo and Denisse Guerro. The sister is the coffee and food lover, the brother is the plant lover. They are so enthusiastic about combining coffee and plants you can almost hear them chanting “all I need is my coffee and my plants.” I have the black thumb syndrome: glowing, growing, drooping, dying, dead. Because I have “lost” so many plants over the years I had nothing to lose by calling Adolfo and inquire if he made house calls. Yes, he does! Adolfo came to our condo, measured the space, analyzed the light, and suggested the plant – ficus pandurata/fiddle-leaf fig.

He followed the home visit with pictures, and a quote and a date to return. He brought the gorgeous matt black pot we had selected, the plants he had selected, potted on our back terrace, and wheeled it in with instructions for watering. Most of you have green thumbs so you will enjoy a visit to La Isla Botanic where you can relax with a coffee, Denisse’s homemade food, and take your time shopping in their garden center.

If you aren’t sure about a certain plant, Adolfo will answer your questions. I kept asking about lavender, “no”, jasmine, “no”, ok how about any flowering plant “no”. “You need XYZ for all that and you don’t have it.” Adolfo is not about to let a plant die on his watch. So far, my fiddle-leaf fig is making me very happy.

[La Isla Botanic, open Wednesday to Monday, 7 am to 9 pm, Ave. de los Venados #4519, Los Portals. For a house call or a ‘plant design’ text Adolfo, 669 175 5623. Adolfo speaks English but it’s best to text in Spanish, if you can .SM, August 2022.]

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Sign of the times – Barrio Gastronómico

If you have been walking around Centro lately you may have seen a few of these signs outside restaurants and upscale bars. In 1992 when Marco Bernal [La Molcajeteria] arrived in Mazatlan there were maybe two or three restaurants – Señor Frogs leading the way. With La Molcajteria well established in Culiacan, Marco and his wife Flor returned to Mazatlan and they simply couldn’t believe the number of restaurants in Centro Historico. For the past six months, Marco has visited 60 of Centro’s restaurants, bars, music venues, coffee houses[often with a gorgeous indoor or outdoor space]– any place that offers the visitor a culinary Centro experience. So far, 60 businesses have joined and proudly wave the Barrio Gastronómico banner. These banners are saying : “hello Golden Zone, hello Cerritos, hello Marina, hello hotels, we are here and have much to offer. Centro has changed in 28 years, come and experience some wonderful food and interesting spaces such as Patio Escobedo, El Presidio, Totem, Esinti and drink in the wonderful atmosphere of the Plazuela Machado with Gaia, Casa Canobbio and Pedro y Lola, etc.”  This is an awareness campaign – there are no discounts or loyalty cards, it’s a hello wave – come to Centro, walk around – there’s a restaurant or a bar on every corner!  You will find many of the restaurants here. [SM March 2022]

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The Imaginese Brand store has arrived – bringing your vision to life. [Updated June 2022 – I went into Imaginese for a terrarium [too small for my space] and walked out with cute cocktail napkins, divine new sheets [cheaper than a bottle of scotch!] and side table I’d spent  1/2 years looking for! SM] Imaginese made a soft landing in Centro in October 2020. Owner, shop keeper, designer and general contractor, Gerrit Visser says: “We are a unique furniture store with one- of- a kind furniture pieces and home decor items to include a custom line of furniture. Looking for interior design? No project is too big or too small!” The  Canadian team – a family affair – with wife Katrina and mum, Linda Crossley, really want to bring your vision to life: they offer tailor -made services by an industry professional and personalized attention for all your design needs. “Let’s build your dream kitchen. Everyone wants a spa in their home!” These are just a few of their claims.

The Imaginese space [now double trouble for your wallet as the previous retailer they shared the space with moved on] contains home decor items and furniture you may have seen on your travels but certainly not ever in Mazatlan. Linda Crossley has always been an avid shopper [just ask her husband] and now she and the Vissers have turned her shopping “hobby” into a retail adventure. That’s the right word – it’s an adventure to shop at Imaginese, it’s fun, it’s different, it’s new. Friends of mine fell in love with a bedroom set they had seen by Restoration Hardware – “no problem” says Gerrit. I saw Gerrit on a hot summer night in my underground parking lot supervising his workers, delivering the massive bedroom set, assembly, installation and removing all the packing debris. That’s full service for you. Imaginese that!

Easier than climbing El Faro, closer than the Zipline, it’s time for you and your plastic to go on a shopping adventure! Linda, Katrina, and Gerrit are warm and friendly; it’s not snobby and the entire staff encourages you to wander and to wonder what will I buy today – if not today, then there’s always tomorrow. [SM, November 2020, and updated June 2021]

[ Imaginese Diseno Brand brand is located on Heriberto Frias #1404, and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you would like an appointment with Imaginese call 669 244 7892, e mail: info@imaginese.ca or visit their website . Credit cards accepted.]

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Put on your face mask, grab a cloth bag  and let’s go shopping in Centro! The newest store is The Art Shop. The logo says it all. A unique finger print – most, if not all of the items, are handmade in Mexico. Denisse Oualle opened The Art Shop in early March 2021; you may know Denisse from her kiosk on the weekends in the Plazuela Machado. The shop is well designed and Denisse has curated it all beautifully – a little of this and a little of that. You can see from the photos that this small store has much in store for you. Moving on – be sure to visit The Oaxaca Shop next door to the Art Shop on Carnaval. Around the corner on Heriberto Frias is the design shop Imaginese. Head over to Libertad and you’ll find Nidart Gallery, and on Constitución there is the Gandarva Bazar – a big selection of goodies to buy there. Don’t forget to visit the Raices Art Gallery in the Machado next to their restaurant. Sixto Osuna has two lovely stores – the well-known Casa Etnika [with a new location on Benito Juarez #1218]. At least 10 stores within a couple of blocks, all unique and waiting to see hello and welcome you after this long pandemic season. [The Art Shop is on Carnaval #1315 and now a second shop on Carnaval opposite the Angela Peralta-  open every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.]

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Dip into Mazatlan’s first artisanal chocolateria – La Poste. The owners of La Poste artisanal chocolate have been making their handmade chocolate since 2017. The chocolatier studied with a famous chocolatier chef in Mexico City and set up the marble counter top and cool room in Mazatlan. It’s branded La Poste with a nod to stamps and mail; La Poste has been selling online for years and they will even deliver a single chocolate bar. Recently, they are sharing bricks and mortar at Casa Amarilla with a boutique display. Currently, they offer 12  different flavoured chocolate bars made with coco beans from various countries and all the bars are handmade.

This box of ten handmade artisan chocolates costs $250.

As for the individual box of chocolates, it’s the very opposite of the expression” life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you’re gonna get.” With La Poste you know exactly what you are getting – the most divine, handmade truffles, and other melt-in-your mouth bon bons. No “I Love Lucy” assembly line here – each chocolate is lovingly made and decorated, no added sweeteners, all organic. It’s art! It’s jewellery! It’s food! Oh, go ahead and indulge yourself, it’s the happy hormone. La Poste’s box of chocolates [either ten, 12 or four pieces] make the perfect hostess gift, a birthday hello, or a romantic present. It’s a boutique business so they will cater to all your needs.

This box of four handmade artisan chocolates costs $120.

[To order: La Poste is now available at La Olivia [Belisario Dominguez #1216 at Libertad, closed Wednesdays, open 8 am. to 2 pm.]; if you wish to read more about the popular restaurant, La Olivia, please click here.  Order on Instagram, FaceBook, or call, WhatsApp 669 229 4936. La Poste accepts special orders for events, dinner parties, etc. Please have pesos ready for all deliveries.  Is there a better way to start your day than with a balanced diet – a chocolate in both hands?]

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Do you have “an in a case of emergency” wallet card? What’s in your pocket when you take your dog for a walk, go for a morning stroll on the beach, or a run on Malecon? The consulate suggests something like this:

It will surprise you how much it takes to become a certified tourist guide.

[KM had this to say, March 2022:”if you are looking for an exceptional tour guide, I highly recommend Akino Montiel. He is a certified tour guide and the most knowledgeable and pleasant guy you’ll ever meet. We spent the day with him seeing dancing horses, visiting a tequila distillery and learning about the process in Osuna, and ending with a great meal and shopping in La Noria. Akino knows a lot about the area and the one question he couldn’t answer he researched and followed up with me soon after we returned. The whole experience was such a pleasure!”]

Many of you have “your guy” the person you turn to for day trips and for city tours. I always knew, to receive this designation, that it took time and money. A friend who has know him for 18 years introduced me to Akino Montiel  – a certified tour guide. He kindly gave me all the details of what it takes to become a certified tourist guide/Guia Turistas General. I think you’ll find the dedication and cost to be an eye-opener.

  • The certification allows a tour guide to work in any city in Mexico, but you must be a Mexican National and have finished high school.
  • To be certified requires 510 hours and costs between $30,000 to $40,000 pesos and you must past the bilingual [English/Spanish] test, as well as the CPR course.
  • Every teacher is an expert in their subject [architecture, wild life etc.] and has a master’s degree which is partly what makes the course so expensive.
  • Every four years Akino must renew his license, which involves 160 hours and approximately another $10,000 pesos.
  • Akino must renew his CPR course every two years.
  • If you have a federal driving license with a federal plate [which Akino has] he must pass a medical test every two years and every six months there is a mandatory engine and pollution inspection.

“I love to be a good host, it’s like when you have a new friend visiting your house, you just want them to feel comfortable and you want to show the best part of your place. It’s super fun and to give good service is my passion. For me it’s the best job in the world.” [These are all Akino’s quotes with no editing so you can see his English is excellent.]

He’s been tour guide since 1997, and his van holds six passengers. Not a requirement but Akino also has a degree in Tourism from Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. Akino will take you wherever you want to go, but his two personal favourite tours are the Tequila Factory with El Quelite, and Concordia and Copala. If “your guy” is busy or you want another recommendation for a tour guide judging from his FP page and all the rave reviews he’s your man. You can reach him on WhatsApp 624 122 0915, e: akinomontiel@hotmail.com. [ SM, November 2018]

[Updated October 5, 2020: over the years Noë has trained a team, he’s not working alone any longer. During the height of Covid-19 he suspended his business to protect his employees and his clients. It’s full steam-ahead -cleaning now. A queen mattress is still $500 and very large and well-used sofa was $680.]

If you have ever thought about giving your mattress a deep cleaning then Noë Guadiana Villareal is your man. He started his business, Deep Extraction Cleaning [yes, that’s the name – “Mexicans love English names”.] opened its cleaning services in 2014.  A deep cleaning takes about 1 1/2 hours depending on your mattress size and stains. Noë begins with a Hepa filter vacuum [oh, the dust bunnies you would not believe!], then a soil remover and finally an injection suction for the deep clean. Allow a four to five hour drying time, with an approximate cost of $500. You may have two mattresses and there is a discount, or you may just need a light cleaning, for $250. He also cleans furniture, rugs, and car interiors. Noë’s team is very punctual and texts right on the dot of the appointed time, “I’m here.” The English-speaking Noë can be reached at 669 134 8864, or 669 986 1314 or e: decmazatlan@gmail.com. Sweet dreams.

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If you want to say it with flowers, then Luz Elena is the florist for you. She’s owned Floreria Jardin de Rosas for 35 + years and specializes in fresh flowers and creative arrangements; for years she has had her flowers shipped from south of Mexico City four times a week. Many are unique to Mazatlan! Wish to have a delivery? No problem, free delivery with a minimum order of $600. Luz Elena also accepts most major credit cards. If you don’t speak flower-Spanish don’t worry, Luz Elena’s English is perfect. In fact, you don’t have to worry about anything with Luz Elena, she’s just so professional. Jardin de Rosas is located on Paseo Lomas #248 [past Starbucks and the school], call 914 1754,or WhatsApp, 669 912 0415 and the hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.and on Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Like every florist in the world, plan your order way ahead for Mother’s Day [May 10] and Valentines.

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