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January 23, 2021
MEXICAN MCALLENArriving in McAllen I checked into the Drury Suites. There were two rooms. One was the bedroom, of course, and the other room had the living area and full kitchen, although there wasn't much of an opportunity for me to use it considering the free hot breakfast buffet and manager's early evening nosh. Use of the internet was in the lobby area, free one hour long distance phone calls, and guest laundry…but not free. I liked that there was a separated area of lounging in case you wanted to meet with someone and the buffet area with tables and a large tv screen. Drury certainly isn't dreary.
Rather than the "breakfast food", I went to El Pato and indulged in a more Mexican style breakfast of a fresh torilla with scrambled eggs and salsa. What I didn't indulge in was the condiment buffet…too spicy hot for me. I got that the owner started by making the tortillas and then winding up opening a few of these quality fast food restaurants. I'd call it a more upscale version of Taco Bell.
Shopping near Progreso close to the Mexican border. It would have been great if I wanted pottery, art and items for the outside of my home in one of the outlets. I did wind up getting bottles of vanilla extract. Competition from across the street offering free refreshments…only soda, though. That was okay because the focus was more on jewelry. Just a necklace needed. Then got a quick look at the Mexican border.
Time for a break as we go to Frida's Spa. Anaise Barrera and Victoria Salinas run the spa. Hector, a massage therapist, gave me the perfect massage of not too much pressure. A simple facial was included as well as my having a foot detox. They use this foot bath in which they place an ionized machine. As your feet relax the machine pulls out the toxins from your body. How can you tell that it's doing so? The water turns color. Mine turned black.
Chilled out at the hotel before going to dinner at The Patio on Guerra. Met the chef. A different fried olives was one appetizer. Esther and Eunice were not pleased to see that I had ordered quail for another appetizer. Entrée was red snapper with asparagus. Much too full for dessert.
Instead of ending the evening with dinner, we went to a basketball game at the Arena. The Viper's were the home team. The first of many outdoor experiences occurred at Quinta Mazatlan, an historic home and nature center. This historic adobe home. One room has bird paintings due to the site being one of the area's bird and butterfly watching experiences. We loved seeing the estate, halls and courtyard. Stories were told to us about the former owner before venturing outdoors to view the rest of the property.
We saw some birds and butterflies but not as much as if we would have come out there just the right time. It looked as if grapefruit shells were used as bird feeders.
Esther and Eunice spotted a couple of turtles and insisted on getting their picture taken with them.
Lunch was at an authentic Mexican restaurant called Koko's. We met owner Albert Suarez and did a tasting. Three salsas came out…green, the usual red, and another that had roasted jalepeno peppers. I asked how hot it was and Albert said that it wasn't too hot. Now, it wasn't Albert's fault in telling me that as I'm sure that anyone used to eating Mexican spices food would probably find it mild. I didn't and it burned my whole mouth. I ribbed Albert about it the rest of the meal. V In no order of what we had: flour tortilla quesadilla with white cheese; enchiladas, one of which was filled with chicken and topped with salsa verde with gaucamole and sour cream; sizzling fajita plate using Angus beef skirt steak; some empanandas; shrimp marinated in a garlic butter sauce; chicken flautas; chile with mole sauce; carne guisada - stewed beef; flan; sweet fried tortilla chips served with a caramel sauce; flan. The tortillas are hand made…not using a machine. Best Mexican food I've come across. I'm told that a mole sauce combines chili, peanuts, peanut butter and melting chocolate. We then met with the Mission Chamber of Commerce for the next part of the tour. Los Ebanos Ferry would have been viewed if it weren't out of commission, due to the water height…or low…at the Rio Grande. Butterfly Park was the destination. To really get the best experience, you have to arrive at the right time of day. Not many butterflies were viewed. People from all over come to see the species when they are spotted. Where there are butterflies, there are also birds. So, this is somewhat of another birding center as well.
For one of the best, the World Birding Center headquarters can be an awesome experience. The park is pretty large and has several areas including one near the docks where you can also have a picnic. They do give a sightseeing tour via a tram. We were able to ride in a truck. At one point, Esther and Eunice insisted on sitting atop a feeder but were ignored by the other birds. Bird watching here can be a most relaxing experience as well. These birding and butterfly centers allow you to get pretty close to them.
We later went down near the Rio Grande to see how near we were to Mexico. Boats and kayaks are allowed along the river.
One of the Mexican border cities is Hidalgo which is not far from the arena that we went to when we saw the Vipers play. Hidalgo Lights was the attraction as lights were crafted in figures, letters, etc. and placed at parks around the town. We took a trolley tour from what appeared to be the town center, which had lights set up all around it. There was celebration in music and food. We could see a few houses lit up for Christmas as well. Cesar Derdugo is the chef at Yoko's Uptown. What may be odd is that this is a Japanese restaurant owned and operated by Mexican-Americans. There are no Asian folks working here. The art of learning to make sushi can be picked up by any chef who either studies at a school or is personally taught by a Japanese chef while you happen to be working at the restaurant in some form of preparation or cooking.
A Mexican breakfast is not complete until you've had migas, scrambled eggs with tortilla chips and jalepeno peppers. Nancy Millar's favorite spot to eat them is at the Spanish Room. I, on the other hand opted for French toast with an apple cinnamon sauce.
Time to depart as I chose to be patted down again at the airport. Let them figure out if the x-rays are harmful after someone sues! Bye, bye McAllen.
March 24, 2011 - Queens Times
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