As we are newly into 2016 it about that time to do a beach vacay. Here is short essay written by architect and photographer Anna Sulikowska about her visit to Acapulco:
Acapulco de Juarez or La Perla del Pacifico; formerly, a mid-century lux haven for Hollywood stars, aristocrats and millionaires, now often times a gritty local balneario with a population of nearly one million people; it is a multi-faceted city where the paradox of luxury blends into the vernacular and vice versa.
Staying at the classic 1950s Boca Chica Hotel in Las Playas, recently renovated by the HABITA group, I was in awe. Its recent modernization brought out the glamour amidst the hectic overcrowded scenes of Old Acapulco outside of its guarded gates: that of the local themed buses swarming the streets, friendly feral animals, lounging beach-goers lingering on for hours, shanty-town souvenir vendors and fisherman. It is mesmerizing in all of its activity which quiets down during the week. The scenes only heightens with the sounds of a brass band or mariachis roaming the beaches of adjacent Caleta and Caletilla beaches. The views of the bay and towards Isla de la Roqueta are transfixing in this idyllic location amidst superbly staged architecture – an incomparable Paradise, exactly as it once was in the opening scene of “Fun in Acapulco” starring Elvis Presley.One can visit the nearby Quebrada and watch the divers jump off the cliffs in front of La Mirador hotel stacked upon the sharp cliffs – just like in the film.
The city has grown since the 1950s. Now the Costera is where the hotels attract all of the action. Reminiscent of the Strip in Las Vegas, it is a mixture of kitsch, neon signs, shopping malls and cabanas – a pure hardcore mishmash. A dose of local culture is present at local malls along Costa Azul, cheap diners specializing in local food and local restaurants with plastic chairs. By contrast, a chic Becco del Mare restaurant, perched on Las Brisas hills and overlooking the bay, provides the most spectacular views of St Lucia Bay or the main bay of Acapulco – serving incredibly fresh and perfectly prepared wide range of fresh seafood – where I was invited to by a family who are frequent visitors to the city because of its proximity to the capital. The views can be enjoyed from the hilltop Capilla de la Paz – a chapel located near the famous yet privately-owned Casa Mabrisa-Arango by John Lutner. Further past the hotel zone is Diamante or the luxury resorts and apartments with La Isla shopping centre – an area reminiscent of Las Vegas which provides a respite from the high-energy city life.
A stopover in Mexico City allowed me to visit friends and some new architecture – an intermediate pause between Acapulco and Toronto. Souyama had a great collection of Canaletto’s Venetian landscapes and Tomayo provided a glance of international contemporary art. The renovated Palacio del Hierro in Polanco was worth the trip to indulge in all of its marble-clad interior and high-end shops such as Chanel and YSL. There, one can enjoy a meal of local escamole or ant eggs on a bed of blue tortillas served with avocado – a buttery goodness that looks and tastes better than it sounds. By courtesy of a friend, I was sent to Lardo, a new enterprise from the owner chef Elena Reygadas of Rosetta where I was warmly greeted and treated to a delicious dinner of fresh calamari on a bed of black beans – a perfect marriage of Mexican and Italian cuisine and the most succulent octopus dish.
But in the end, the phantasmagoria of neon lights, plastic chairs, swimming at Boca Chica at sunrise and the sounds of poolside bachata playing on my iPhone for hours on end is a constant reminder that, as per the cinematic Elvis Presley song, you just “can’t say ‘no’ in Acapulco” – it will mesmerize you.