Saturday, February 27, 2016

Art imitates life, or is it the other way around?

Went to a Seinfeld episode last night! Not a real one just felt like one – this was an episode of high farce. The occasion was a visit to a local restaurant, having visited this place earlier in the week and being impressed with the service, prices and menus we decided to visit again as Elvis was coming to Town. Robert from Edmonton is a local impressionist and if we wanted to see him we had to reserve a table. Ken from 11a, on his exercise route, a couple of days ago, did just that and we were all set to go.

Arriving on time and at the appointed table the party of eight settled into the start of conviviality. The wait for drink service was long but we wrote that off as a harried waitstaff. We should have realised that this was an omen of the night. The first thing we noticed was that the regular menu had been replaced by one with much higher prices, with the warning that a minimum charge of two hundred pesos, per person, was in effect. Feeling a little miffed about the doubling of the food prices we thought that the extra cost was to pay for Robert - wrong he passed the usual tip jar. Good times flowed and occupied the wait for the food orders to be taken. The waiter did take the food order but not the drink and so we sat thirstier than normal.

Finally some food did arrive, but three of the eight were left looking as we ate up. But the food arrived before the utensils did, so we just pretended we were in India and finger-food ate it - the utensils did turn up but after eating half the plate. Complaints to the waiter did not improve anything and the three still did not get food. The only thing that moved the management was a text to their website that told them in no uncertain terms that table sixty wanted their food! As the management rushed over to find out what was going on they were told by the three that it was too late to wait and they no longer wanted any of their food. At this time we were all told that things would improve as they had fired the waiter!

Now we waited to find the replacement waiter to tell him to bring the bill. Waiting for many minutes the level of frustration with the place and some anxiety about the accuracy of the bills rose. When the bills did arrive, again after telling the most lingual of the waiters that table sixty was really POd  the discussion turned nasty and one member of the party did resort to a loud voice and a couple of f-bombs. The problem here was that the Manager only would handle on bill at a time and three had to be adjusted. Our bill was lower that it should have been, no complaints there but I did write on the bill “no propina” (no tip) and carefully counted out the correct amount and left it on the table.

At this time, two bills adjusted and one paid out, Ken from 11a was the only person let clutching his bill. Now faced with another waiter, a younger bilingual one, and the only woman waiter, who spoke no English but was really ugly about the whole affair and who couldn’t wait for us to leave fast enough, the younger one said “Do you want to see the Manager and write a comment about this?” Write a comment? We asked ourselves as I was standing with Ken from 11a – why not!

Wending our way through the now clearing restaurant we came to the Cashier’s desk where the Manager appeared and proceeded to attempt to clear up our misgivings about the experience. Asked again if we wanted to write a comment we answered - "Why, what would that do?" "It would tell us what you didn't like!" was that answer. With the younger bilingual waiter translating the Owner now appeared at his side. After explaining the complete failure of the management systems that night Ken from 11a asked what was he – the Owner, going to do to make amends for the complete fiasco. At that point the Owner told Ken from 11a that his meal would be free. I was asked if I wanted a free meal but refused as I was satisfied with the food but nothing else. My satisfaction was not giving a tip in a public manner.

Finally we left with the assurance from the Owner that the next time we would be given the VIP experience, but this being Mexico we wondered just how this would happen without a voucher – “Who are you Senor?” All we could say was the experience was taken in good spirits and we agreed that tomorrow all of this would be funny – and it was.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Road Warriors

From a pencil and paper and a dozen paperbacks to this -a veritable backpack of electronics. Two laptops (one each), two e-readers, two cameras and their assorted chargers and devices, cables and an Ipad mini. 

Just how fast and far have we got away from earlier methods - Progress?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The first post of 2014

Yep we are outta here on Jan 3rd 2014 - stay tuned and stick with us as we become "Official Snowbirds". Two months away from the snow is enough to allow anybody to qualify.

Two months this year will be a challenge but i am sure we will rise to it. Keep in touch by using the comments.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Three Days in the District of Guadalajara - last post of 2013

Surfing the web before we left for our usual trip down south to sunny Mexico it was noticed that a tour to Guadalajara was available from Superior Tours in PV. Signing up was easy by email and paying by Paypal was easier. So on the second weekend of our stay we found ourselves outside, in the dark, at the Walmart parking lot waiting for a tour bus. Introducing ourselves to other obvious Canadians we discovered out travelmates. Clarence and Jean, from Calgary, and Brian and his partner, never did catch her name. It turned out that Brian was a restauranteur with franchises in Calgary but had just opened a place in the Marina area. Also with us at Walmart were three French Canadians, who true to form didn’t speak to anybody other than themselves. Getting on the bus we discovered another couple - Robbie and Sandy from Oshawa and we were off to Bucerias for the next pickup and then another on at Sayulita - nineteen people in all.

The first stop in our five hour journey was at Compestela, an agricultural place set in one of the valleys between the mountain ranges. A pee break at one of the tolls places on the main highway. Ten minutes here and then off heading East. Passing through the fields of corn, cows and old tobacco patches. One strange feature was the abundance of lava rock, asking the guide where was the volcano he answered vaguely “Over there” pointing to the Southeast. This area of Mexico is prone to active volcanoes and the last one was in the 90s - very recently. I figure the rocks had been excavated when the road went through as there was no apparent lava trail. With road repairs forcing us into one lane sometimes the trip dragged but entering tequila country the landscape changed from scrub to well tended fields of agave, this stuff will grow anywhere and takes seven years to mature, hence the abundance.

Coming into Guadalajara (GDL) one noticed the traffic - heavy but not crazy, like Rome or Lima. What was noticed was the total lack of local zoning laws, one stretch of Town showed the Airport, a feedlot and an industrial metal fabrication plant all in a row. We never did see the proverbial chemical plant next to the luxury home but I am sure it exists.

First stop was to see the sights of Tlaquepaque ( I still can’t pronounce it), a district of GDL famous for its concentration of artisans and markets and cafes. The guide warned us,    "This area is safe but if you have anything shiny don't wear it! We will meet back here in two hours" and we were on our own. Strolling past much public art, some we had seen on the Malecon in PV, was very inspiring and shopping was cheap - mainly ceramics and leather. We did stop in a big restaurant for nachos and salsa - very tasty.

Back on the bus we went back into GDL, as the Hotel Cervantes was downtown. This three star hotel has everything we needed including the cheapest food in the area. The room was clean, full of hot water and the TV had over a hundred channels. Quickly dumping our stuff we came back downstairs to assemble for the ninety minute walking tour. It turns out the hector the guide liked to talk and show sights so the tour ended up in the darkness some two hours later. We saw the colonial centre of Town, the Cathedral and other Government buildings. The architecture was Colonial as GDL is over four hundred years old, and it showed. But after touring the Governors building, it contained huge murals done by Jose Clemente Orozco, the most famous Mexican muralist in the last hundred years we moved onto the modern squares where blocks of Colonial buildings had been demolished to construct plazas and shops. To this day the project is controversial. Finishing back at the hotel we sat down in the bar, watching a soccer game and Doreen sipped wine and I guzzled beer. Robbie and Sandy appeared holding a bottle purchased at the nearby supermarket and joined us. Their bottle cost as much as Doreen's glass - sixty pesos ($5.00).

So endeth the first night.

Day 2
Breakfast at 8am and off in the bus at 9. The buffet b'fast was full of the usual fare including Mexican pulled pork for the chilequilles - I love this stuff. We were off to the Lake Chapala region today. This area has interested me as there are reported to be over 50,000 "Norteamericanos" living in this region, I wanted to see where and how they lived. But first getting out of GDL proved to be a long process due to its sprawl. This heavily industrialised City appeared to be the transportation hub of Mexico. Truck repair shops, depots and maintenance places of all kinds seemed to dominate. Driving past a new Walmart distribution centre the size of which was impressive - 350 loading doors long, probably 700 doors in all - huge.

Climbing out of the valley we approached Lake Chapala slowly and parked in the Main St., the Malecon. This beachfront contained a Pier in the middle of the stretch and the choice was: which way to walk first. But to get here we saw the layout of Lake Chapala. A busy highway lined with service industry shops and the entrances to 'gated communities' where the 'gringos' lived. It is easy to see how the lifestyle here is so Americanised and exists because of the temperate climate. One that remains constant whatever season of the year. Given the cheap cost of living here it is very attractive for an 'expat' to choose this place to retire to. First walking on the pier to see what the Bay looks like and to gaze back on the Malecon, Hector filled us in on the geography and the local history of the place and then we walked the distance of the North Malecon to the "best coffee in Town". We were now on our own for ninety minutes after being shown yet another Civic Building, this time to appreciate more public art in the Town Hall. The South side of the Malecon beckoned - it was all 'market' and the stalls were just opening. The locals must be drinkers as we did notice the stalls selling "Mechiladas" a bloody mary mix of tomato juice and beer - a reputed hangover cure sold in one litre mugs. But back to the stalls and their cheaper prices. I bought a shirt for 140 pesos a price that would have been double back in PV.

Back on the bus it was off to Ajijic, another place 'expats' have adopted as their home. This time we could see why, fewer gated communities and an established Town revolving around the Square. "Be back in two hours." said Hector as we rushed to the Beach, we could see from the Square. This place bristled with Art Galleries and restaurants, very entertaining. Not just ceramics, jewelry or paintings either, those painted steely things like suns and roosters were here too. Finding a cosy restaurant - La Uno, with an inside patio, we settled down to a lunch of BLTs on a croissant. mighty tasty and cheap. Whilst lunching we struck up a conversation with two other diners, one was there for a couple of months one lives year-round - both loved the place. Continuing the walk we checked out two local churches and the bottom end of the square, settled on a park bench and waited for the others. In a bit of research to find out where the fifty thousand gringos lived I spoke to Diane Pearl, the owner of a snazzy ceramic art store. She told me that the fifty thousand were spread out from the top to the bottom of the large bay and into the mountains that ringed the bay, Asked if she thought that the expats could integrate with the Mexicans in their communities she shocked me with the vehemence of her response. "You must be fucking nuts if you think you can integrate, the Mexicans want to be separate!" Hence the ability of the gated communities to flourish.

Back in GDL by five thirty the rest of the night was ours. A meal in the Hotel, still the cheapest place for good value, and an early night. Tomorrow would be much of the same and a long bus ride home.

Day 3
On the bus at 8am we travelled through GDL to the market of Tonala. Passing through yet more urban sprawl GDL's industrialisation showed itself. Small metal working plants , truck repair shops and other signs of "real work' not just service industry sales-shops.  Passing the new WalMart distribution centre again, the size of it amazed - this behemoth had three hundred and fifteen loading docks on one side, probably over seven hundred in total.

The market in Tanola is located on a large parking lot and accompanied on two sides by the streets. Probably ten acres in total, just rows of vendor's stalls and miles of lanes and alleys. The one street that became a market on side of it ran for approximately two kms. A wonder for customers and vendors alike. The runs on Thursdays and Sundays and attracts professional 'pickers' as well as locals looking for bargains. The bus next to ours was filled with buyers from the Texas border area, there wasn't a cubic inch of spare space left in the cargo hold of that bus as they left, the seats were probably filled too!

We walked around and in the ninety minutes, at a fast pace and buying little, we saw much stuff we wanted to buy but couldn't, how could we get it back? This pig bbq really enchanted and at four hundred pesos ($37usd) who could resist. Finally Doreen broke down and bought two leather cushions, the stuffing will be left behind, for ninety five pesos for the pair ($8.00usd). One impression will always remain with us about this part of the tour - "what a place for bargains"

Another aspect of the tour appeared here  - the professionalism of the guide. After waiting about twenty minutes all were back  on the bus except the two French ladies - they had become lost in the maze. Hector quietly phoned the local Police and they found them and escorted them back to the bus - very efficiently handled.

The final stop on the tour was to the Town of Tequila, a world heritage sight and it didn't disappoint. The town located in a valley was the epitome of small town Central Mexico. The square with the church, the street lined with stores and the weather was fantastic - little oppressive heat and no humidity. We were here to look at, and maybe buy Tequila, the national drink. However as novices we were overwhelmed by the variety of tastes and the shapes of the bottle, would it be 'blanco', 'reposado' or 'anejo' so may choices. But we did change some money, at the best exchange rate of the holiday so
not all choices were confusing. Being a bit rushed, because of the delay in getting away from Tonala the time for the lunch was rushed so the meal was not fully appreciated but good. Another sight seen but not sampled was the 'tequila bus' I guess the driver would be the only non-drinker!

Back on the bus heading back to PV, one pee break and then let off at the Plaza Marina - thank you Hector for arranging that, and thanks to Superior Tours for the good value and introduction to a part of Mexico few tourists get to see, if they stay in the resorts.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why no posts?

Writing this travelogue I have refrained from being repetitive and only want to tell the readers about things we have not done in years past. Consequently the mundane is forbidden, you can only read so much about the sun, beer and eating. I will write about new eating experiences but not the usual. so what have we done this year that is new?

We visited the new Casino. Vallarta is getting into gambling in a big way, they now have five. Mexicans are stereotypically great gamblers, betting on horses and cockfighting, the casino experience is new but they have welcomed it and so have the visitors. It is no mistake that the newest casino is opposite the cruise ship dock. A couple of differences exist between the OLG setup and the Mexican Way. Firstly all nearly gambling is on the slots or electronic blackjack, secondly the actual machine play is conducted by means of the ticket. One buys a ticket at the cage and then punches in a code for each machine one plays at the a running total is maintained until depletion or cashout. Metal detectors and bag searches are mandatory and no drinks are free. Payoffs on the machine appear to be sporadic leaving the impression that the machines are 'tight'.

Visited Pitillal. Pittilal is a small town inside the environs of Puerto Vallarta. Once standing alone the boundaries are now merged and visitors fail to understand the distinction. However when one travels to Pittilal the difference between Puerto Vallarta and Pitillal is stark. One is touristy and english speaking th other is still Mexico. So if you want Mexico within five miles of downtown take a bus to Pittilal.

Investigated MedicalTourism. This topic is still  in the research stage. But Mexico, and Vallarta especially, are preparing for a huge growth in Medical Tourism. New hospitals and clinics abound and one new2 hospital has joined with a boutique hotel to accept patients in the recuperative stage., for $218.00 USD. A growing trend for the visitors is to schedule a visit to the dentist while staying here. Why not when a filling costs $40 and a crown $450!

Doreen's pedicure. As with medical and dental services personal services are cheap too. Walking past the Spa on our way back to the condo, Doreen noticed a very swanky place offering mani/pedicures - for $50 pesos - just over forty dollars. Enjoying every minute of the forty-five minute experience she tried to chat with her attendants - Marjory and Hortensia. Anyway they all got along and Doreen left happy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Manzanillo and back

This trip to Manzanillo was planned in the summer of last year when Doug and Crystal Winger told us, at their summer campsite, "Oh we winter in Manzanillo, that's not far from Puerrto Vallarta - just down the road" Well 270kms and four hours of travelling we arrived at the Winger's place.

Driving the Hwy 200 is no Pacific Coast Highway driving experience but not boring. The first hour South is in the mountains and is very windy as one climbs and drops following the original trail, levelling out  after one hundred kms we then moved through the agricultural heartelnad of Jalisco State and into Colima State.Passing through dusty towns and villages that have suffered the effects of urbanisation in the larger centres and the local stores and ventures have closed and whats's left appear to be not viable - just rundown and existing. With only two large Towns between start and finish we saw a lot of cultivated fields - mango trees, bananas and maybe tomatoes and peppers.

Arriving at Manzanill we entered the Town from the North, the touristy area and travelled around the bay to the South where Doug and Crystal's condo was located. This is in the middle of this huge Bay, the arc of which is probably thirty kms. The beaches at the North and the working port at the South end. Old Town or "Centro" is at the South and hasn't been modernised - it is cheaper to infill the open land between the boroughs than touch old town. The condo is in a complex of eighteen and D&C are the only occupants at the moment, it will be filled and rowdy at Easter time when the Mexican owners come in for the festival. Welcomed with open arms we settle in and decide to be entertained by the "tour" Everyone who gets friends from out of town wants to show off their sights/sites and we set off to see them. After an impressive drive around the richer homes pegged to the cliffs of the Bay we end up in a scruffy backwater compound that is the "Iguana Sanctuary". A local man has taken it upon himself to turn his property, that lines the main river, into an Iguana Sanctuary. We were not told if the iguanas lived here before he did but he tells us that there are now five hundred of these beasts living in the trees and buildings that make up his patch. Only seeing a couple on the ground, we questioned the numbers, but were told that it is too cold and they were up in the trees to catch the sun - and they were. As we drove along the river, on the way out, we could see iguana trees - trees thick with iguanas on the hhigher branches just sun-bathing, a strange but magnificent sight.

The drive back showed us the old town and its present state of busy decay, so familiar to older downtown urban centres. Busy, functional and very charming to a visitor's eye. Doug, who had adopted the Mexico way, very fast, was proud of the present expansion plans for the industrial port of Manzanillo. Governments of all levels has made the Port expansion a keystone of local economic development with National implications. "This will be the largest Port on the Pacific Coast when finished." Doug states. Finally he shows us a row of houses, in a better part of the residential area nearer downtown and tells us that "This is where I thought we might move to next, we want to live with the Mexicans!"

Twenty four hours later we parted company and thanked them profusely for the abundant hospitality, which far exceeded our expectations - thank you Doug and Crystal.

Arriving back in PV, the journey had none  of the minor drama of the trip South, when we had to wait for a while when the road was blocked due to the recovery of a tanker truck that had rolled off the road, burned out and the driver was killed. Also seeing one of the roaming cows, some Mexican farmers turn out their cows to graze on the roadside, laying dead in the gutter. Just a couple of sights that one sees on the roads. But then checking the internet that night it was noticed that an eighty car pile-up had ocurred on the 401 just West of Port Hope. Bad drivers everywhere!

Being away two days we fhought that would have been enough time  to have the internet installed, after all TelMex had said "within the next two days Senor" - wrong. Checking with our ever-present but not efficient rental agent, she agreed that TelMex had not been in and when checking further she said the same thing, "Within two days. But if you offer a tip I can get a technician now." Yep within twenty minutes Miguel had arrived and discovered what i suspected - ther was no internet feed on the line. As Miguel packed up and tried to explain, he finished with the same old refrain - "Manana (tomorrow)" But having been told about the free feed from a nearby Dental Clinic, which has an open network, we did get to check email later that night.

This entry, and the previous ones will be uploaded when the internet comes to the condo - perhaps Manana.

Day 2

Housekeeping duties - key to be recut, money to be changed and the final payment to Superior Tours for the bus trip next weekend to be made and the car pickup.

Riding the bus again, the fare has remained the same snce last year, we found oursleves downtown and noticing that the bus route had been changed. The bus was running on a parallel route to the road used last year, noone asked and nobody except me wondered why. H.owever the bus no longer runs on the Malecon as it is now a pedestrian mall, crowds are down ans the merchants are agitating for the return of the car, RoboFord should be Mayor here he'd give the cars back in an instant

The payment made the next stop was the "Page in the Sun" a popular coffee bar and local bookstore. But it had wifi. Everybody at the table produced their gadgets, plugged in and caught up with email and facebook. Lunch was at the familiar burger stand at the corner of the Square Lazero Cardenas on the waterfront. Same menu, different owners but really low prices and a free beer for ordering. Fantastic value Philly sandwich, burger, two beers for less then eleven dollars.

One oddity, even though the Canadian dollar is above par the cambios are paying less for it than the US dollar when you change money. Even the banks are in on this - go figure.

Time to catch the keymaker before he leaves for his other job at 3.30 is really passing quite quickly and we have to be back at the condo.  We also have to walk across the road to get the car. Charles and I go to get the car the ladies stay in the Supermarket to look for a hair dryer, the trip to Walmart had not yielded a cheaper result, so they went back to the first place they saw one.

Same procedure as last year for the car - arrive say hello to Luis, hand over license and credit card and wait for them to fill out the forms inspect the car and drive away. This year the mandatory third party liability insurance was $16 dollars up from $13, the second driver charge was $4 per day making the extra fees more expensive than the rental rate. Still $205 for six days was still reasonable for Mexico.  All we have to do now is remain scratch-free. This car is festooned with little stickers on the dents that say "reported"

A quiet night of wine/beer and chips and salsa/guacamole and an early to bed time. Funny with company in the house the lack of TV and internet is hardly noticed.

The first beautiful day

Day one was not without surprises. Arriving one hour late due to snow and de-icing operations we arrived at the rental agency on time as I had forgotten about the one  hour time difference between PV and Cobourg. "Bad news and Good news." Brissa said as we walked in the office. "First I messed up and booked you into the wrong condo (#6) but I have got you a much better one."

All the papers signed, and a security cheque handed over we walked around the familiar complex to a gate on the North side, we had the West side last year, walked as far as last year's model, all of these units are always so far from the entrance and opened the door. As with the other one the top two floors - the two bedroom units - are above the studio units so the first thing you see is a flight of stairs. This one was brand new glossy ceramic tile. "The owner has just spent six months remodelling it." Brissa said. And it showed. Everything was brand new and a few little items had not been thought of like the hair dryer and the toaster.

Suitably impressed the next orderof business was the 'vittels'. There  is a large supermarket in the building and we used it to stock up with essentials like beer/wine and toilet paper. Food was bought as well. The one item missing from the buying was the homemade salsa, to go with the tostados, we knew it would be gone, it usually is by 1045 in the morning - good stuff never lasts long. Never mind we will get it tomorrow when we are up and early.

Brother Charles, the birthday boy was ready to go to eat, so finding the bus stop in the usual place, nothing appears to change in PV they just add more new stuff to the old stuff, I like that; a perfect example of "infilling". Getting off at "Blakes" we entered the familiar sports bar to see the punters drooling  over the three hockey games beamed in by satellite. A thought did flash by "what did these people do in December during the lockout?"

As Wolfe says, "You can never go back" - Doreen did mention, back at the condo, "I didn't think the food was so good this time" a damning comment that will see us strike this one off the list.

Day two sees us downtown, to pay the other half of the trip to Guadalajuara, back to the airport to pick up the car, for the trip to Manzanillo, and whatever may come up. We do have to drop off the keys to Brissa for more copies, and patiently wait for the internet and cable to be installed - Manana?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On our way back again - first post of 2013

The amount of electronic gear we are taking each year seems to be getting bigger. This year another computer and a smart phone. Add them to the cameras and e-readers and one wonders just how we ever got along without them.

So we leave tomorrow afternoon and check in for a lazy night in TO and cheap longterm parking for the car.Arriving tomorrow afternoon it's only a ten minute walk to the condo and then we are in for a month. Finding a place to celebrate Charle's b'day will be the big event of the day.

So check in from time to time and live vicariously. We promise to be just above the mundane level - maybe interesting but we know that some of you do read it so we like to write it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The last post for 2012

the last pose
As we prepare to pack up the question before us both was - did the great experiment work? That was how does one fill a month in a different place without blowing the budget or going mad and killing th3e marriage? As Doreen puts it "We just do what we would do at home except we are doing it in the sunshine and warmth."

All I can say is that without an internet connection and a ton of books on my e-reader I would be climbing the walls right now. For instance this morning's attitude was, "we have to get out  of here." A solid day of rain and a broken internet connection can only be stretched so far. So what happened to us this morning was a wonderful surprise. We got on a green bus marked "Centro". Normally green buses serve the suburbs and don't venture downtown, so we usually use the blue ones. Anyway this green bus was marked Centro but still took us all around the 'burbs and streets that we have never seen before before we got to Centro. Pittilal is a very interesting place that few 'gringos' venture into without purpose, not because it is not safe - it is - but because they have no need to visit.

a mountain view fom the seventh floor
Arriving downtown with little ambition we meandered around, rediscovered the farmers' market and walked up and down a few streets just idling. Stopping at a real estate office we had a conversation with Monty who told us he had plenty of rentals for next year, including four in the newest condo downtown. Walking over to look, it was built on the lot that we parked the car on three years ago, we walked in a went to the seventh floor - it was a magnificent view and worth the effort. This place could be ours next year for only $1800 a month.

As we arrived back at the Plaza Marina to wind down we realised that as it stands now we must do this again next year!

Thanks for reading this travelogue.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday and it's time to catch up

Brother Charles left us on Saturday, but just before we parted at the airport we had to taste "the best burritos in the world" so says the champ of burrito munchers - Patsy's Sandy B. The tacos hang out in a small roadside cafe under the pedestrian arch at the airport, a quick and easy walk for us all. Marlin tacos are the speciality of the house and they were good. One odd thing was that the waiters directed us the store next door to buy the beer. Inside the terminal the place was just as crowded this week as it was last week. Saturday is a bad day to travel to and from PVR.
Sign advertising the Primary elections downtown

Sunday was the start of phase three - the next ten days are ours; will we be able to stand ourselves? Skipping the walk because we had to be downtown by ten o clock. We were off to see the Constitution Day Parade. Not knowing what it was we just hopped a bus and got off where we thought it might be. Arriving at the main square we saw hundreds of people neatly queued in a circular line around the square. As we stood the lineup grew and we were intrigued. Walking to the front and spying tables and ballot boxes political juices kicked in and interest was piqued. A fellow with a nametag identifying him as a candidate's representative appeared and I asked what was going on. He told us it was a Primary Election for the PAN party and all were here to vote on their selection for three positions - President, Governor and National Deputy. All we could think was that these were mighty committed folks. When we came back a few hours later we saw from the bus that the lines had become bigger. Congratulations to the organisers for getting out the vote; most people had to travel in to Town to do this.

It turned out the parade was the Annual Charros de Puerto Vallarta celebration. PV is based on farming and cattle ranching is a big part of this and any occasion that lets the industry dress up and parade is a welcome and festive  opportunity. This year was the fifteenth year for the parade. We had been told it was on the Malecon, but nothing was happening there at the appointed time. Seeing a family, on horses, coming down the street we decided to follow them to find out what was really going on - people on the street did not know. Over the bridge into Old Town we came upon the collection of horse trailers and 'charros'. Asking them about the time we were told "11am". Good, time for a coffee at the "Page in the Sun". Back at the Malecon an hour later the crowds had swelled but we sat down on the roadside step and waited.

The parade consisted of about one hundred and fifty horses and riders, two bands and a couple of roping exhibitions. A community and family affair the riders lined up by the regional associations that they belonged to. Except the women's team they rode as one. Loudly cheered by all on the sidelines. There were three roping displays, two charros on the ground and one on his horse. The parade finished with the cleanup crew armed with brooms and shovels picking up the "pucks".

Feeling hungry and knowing where there was a good place to eat, we walked over to "Fredy Tucan's" this restaurant specialises in breakfasts and closes at two in the afternoon, We arrived at twelve forty-five to see the usual lineup. This place is very popular with the Mexicans even though it is completely Americanised in makeup. Hearing the constant refrain - "fifteen minutes to wait" we knew it was going to be longer - and it was.

Completely fed and watered back to the Plaza Marina and into the grocery store to buy a couple of days supplies. Into the pool and called it a day.

here is a video of one of the ropers at the parade

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thanks to the readers for coming in everyday

Had a post ready but the pics never materialised - no memory card in the camera - had a couple of good ones too.

Stay tuned we are off the parade, it's Constitution Day

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sayulita - sleepy no longer

A Beach Band, drummer is only about six years old
Sayulita, a town to the North of PV has been a favourite of ours for years. With a reputation of being more laid-back than than the City it has always attracted those looking for peace and quiet. Well folks it is no longer peaceful or quiet, in the original sense. The masses have invaded and now the people looking for p&q are moving further North - San Francisco et al.

However enough of the original charm still exists, mainly due to the smallness of the Town. The streets are now being filled in with  shops and cafes. Hotels appear to be of the Mexican style so the younger crowd prevails. The main attraction is still the surf. Sayulita is recognised as the second-best surfing beach in Mexico, Puerto Escondido is the best. Sandy decided to surf. Hiring a board is cheap and easy, sign the waiver, grab a board and head off into the briny. The rest of us sat down in the sun and waited for the intrepid surfer to get ashore. As usual the waiting place was with drinks at a table on the beach. One  of the reasons for this is that only patrons of the bars are allowed to use their wasrooms, rather a redundant position - have to buy drinks just to use the washroom - definitely only renting the beer.

A word of thanks to the person on the internet who gave us the best tip of the travels - always book the rental car online. When I took the car back, I asked "how much would this rental have cost if I walked through the door?" "Seventy five dollars Senor" As I completed the credit card slip for half of that it felt pretty good. 

Vendors waiting for customers
Stopping in Bucerias, the place that was sleepier before Sayulita was awarded the monicker, we browsed around the flea market, all the while feeling sorry for the vendors who were fighting with a decreasing number of tourists. "Business is bad this year, Senor."

One sight that we will never see in Ontario is the Voter Registration Van. This van will park itself in small towns and register voters. There are upcoming elections and naturally a complete registration list is the backbone of a vibrant democracy. These vans do a good job - MPAC should take notice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Now for something completely different

We went to the rodeo yesterday! It was fun and hot, we saw 'charros' ride fine horses, saw Mexican locals dress in their finery and (we cannot go anywhere without mentioning this) we ate well. Now for the details.

Having seen all the signs for the "Nacional Charro Championships" hanging from most streetlight poles we knew the cowboys were in Town. Telling us all that the event was being held in the 'Arena Vallarta' was the easy part finding said Arena was much harder. This new Arena had been newly built this year way out of Town. A small village called "Colorado" in fact. Thirty minutes out of Town. So how to get there. Most taxi drivers wanted twenty to twenty-five dollars to take us and there was no guarantee that there would be a taxi to bring us back. So on to the trusty computer at nine-fifteen in the morning to "Mr Thrifty", my car rental pals and booked a car online for ten o clock. BTW booking a car online is the cheapest way to do things. We got a five-seater Nissan for $11.53 per day , but hold the rejoicing, by the time mandatory Mexican insurance and sixteen percent tax is added the final tally came to forty two dollars - still cheaper than two taxi rides to Colorado. So fitted with wheels we set off. Pointed towards the mountains and got out of Town. Navigating the usual danger of "Topes" - vicious speed bumps that are hard to see until one is right on top of them, we made it following the huge blue directional signs. The signs became smaller until the last turn when we saw the incongruous sight of a motorway sign in the middle of nowhere telling us to turnn left onto the dirt road. The dirt road took us through the usual Mexican village sights, dusty houses, smallholdings, chickens and roosters in the yards and horses tied to hitching posts - we were in the Country. Finally we came onto a very wide dirt road that had obviously just been graded. Looking ahead we saw, in the middle of a freshly cropped corn field, the Arena, A brand new steel competition ring with an impressive vinyl roof. We had arrived. "Twenty pesos Senor" ($2 parking fee) "Admission is free" the attendant told us in perfect english. Waved over to the next parking person he meticulously guided us to park on the white line marked in the field that designated the rows. He would not let us park until we had put the front wheels on the white line - such is the mindset, we have a line you will park on it.

Charro on a cell phone - the old meets the new
Suitably impressed by the Stadium we found seats in the nearly front row, we deduced later that had this been a paid admission these seats would have been the "golds" as they were up front and padded flipdowns, as opposed to the nearby 'bleachers'. The show we had come to see was the celebration of the end of the Championships and a fun competition for the local charros. The atmosphere was a fun one not a competition by any means. That meant we saw bulls that had to prodded to buck and missed lariot tosses by the younger charros. What was impressive was the riding displays by the female riders - all riding side-saddle, see the pic, and the way all were dressed in finery, These were not charros dressed in working clothes. One touch of the modern was the one time, during a speed run, one of the charros received a cell phone call. He immediately pulled up his horse and proceede to answer the call. A clash of centuries.

After a while we were enticed by the smell of the barbecue to investigate. Finding a restaurant, with table cloths in a tent, we looked at the menu - all beef items (what would you expect at a Rodeo?) Doreen chose a burger, she declared it was better than the previous winner of OldTown and I had a plate called "Arrachera". For those trying to translate this Spanish forget it there will always be items on the menu that don't appear in the Berlitz lists of food items, this was one. Turned out to be grilled beef strips and dipping sauce trimmed with grilled green onions. Very tender, good food all round.

Back to the ring it was time for the bullroping. The idea was to demonstrate roping skills but started off with the release of a bull from the chute, and one of the more daring charros would try to be bucked off. The problem was that the bulls must have been more at home in the breeding (hey this is a family tale but the more poetic of you can change the word to rhyme) ring than the bucking ring and they were not inclined to jump. But undeterred the ropers still looped the first toss around the bull's neck and tried to hold tension on the rope to make the bull stand still long enough to allow a second roper to toss a loop under the bull's back feet and then entice the bull to step into it. Once looped at the back the bull was then hauled down, presumably to be branded. Enough of that and the lengthy presentaions, we were off to look at the vendors, Charles wanted to buy a hat, couldn 't find one, they were all either too big or too tight. We left - it was fun - great day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Two pics that need no explanation but you will get one anyway

#1 - The Beer Warrior
The Beer Warrior, Charles on his way to the pool decided to carry some ammunition to get him through a hot couple of hours. Wrapping the beer sock around his chest he carried six beers - maximum load into action

#2 For Foodies

Pipi's is the home of the fajhita and big meals. The owners must have trained in America, the home of 'big food'.

Ordering for four, three had Fajhitas and one had a Mexican pork loin. All food was judged to be fantastic but way way too much. In fact the pic shows the food we had bagged to take home - enough chicken for another two meals!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We are all here now

0630 hrs

All the siblings have arrived. One esconced in an all inclusive resort two miles down the road and one bunked in with us. Both arrived on AirCanada and both arrived late. Patsy and Sandy delayed just a bit and Charles delayed ninety minutes by the late arrival of the plane into Toronto from Montreal. It's a pity that the easiest and most relaxing airline to fly with is so unreliable on its flight times. We will be meeting Patsy and Sandy later this afternoon as they explore.

Walking to the airport was a ten minute walk and we arrived at the supposed time of the plane's arrival. It was delayed so we bit the bullet and bought a couple of drinks, the most expensive drinks in town, but who cares we are on vacation. The airport was a bloody zoo as seven or eight planes landed within the half hour. And a lot of other people crowded in to meet them, add the chaos of the porters, hucksters and taxi drivers and the place is a mass of movement. Watching it all from the safety of the bar made the experience easier. During the sipping a man emerged from behind the bar a gave out "beer socks" long tubes of insulated plastic festooned with beer names. We are now able to carry six beers that shouldn't get warm when we go to the pool.

Interruption for the walk.

Back to the story, Charles was suitably impressed by the walk amongst half million dollar homes backing on to a golf course - Very picturesque. Armed with free mickey d's coffee we are now ready for breakfast.