The Journey to Casa Madera – We have the house….what the heck do we do now?

August 25, 2011 – I am enjoying coffee this morning on our balcony at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta surveying our front yard and trying to remember what it looked like 20 ago when we moved in.  It is difficult as we have made so many changes over that time.  New iron fence, a few more plants, grass; they all contribute to fogging the memory.  It has been an amazing 20 months since we signed the papers and took over the stewardship of this house.  It was a few more months until we really took ownership of our home….months

December 9, 2009 – We are sitting in the office of Notario #4 with our realtor, the listing realtor, the mortgage company representative and the Notario’s assistant.  Our search is at an end.  After months of looking, making an offer and then waiting for all of the paperwork to be completed we are about to sign the final papers.  We were excited but also a little terrified!

Signing the papers. Are those smiles of joy or trepidation?

We were about to take on a project that neither one of us had ever thought about 4 years previous.  We wanted a house that could be used as a Bed and Breakfast and we found it.  It was perfect.  All the guest rooms would be separate from the main dwelling so no one actually had to walk through our living space to get to their room.  The pool was right by the guest rooms.  The rooms had front and back doors.  It looks like the house was designed specifically for this purpose.

After many explanations of the various documents, many photos & many signatures, the deed was done.  The keys were handed over and we went to look at our new abode.

The house that would become Casa Madera

Everybody feels something different when they walk through the front door of their new home for the first time.  For some it is the elation of having a house for the first time.  A house to raise a family in and build their lives together.  For us it was different.

It was the feeling of incredible terror!  We had just walked into a 3,000 square foot mass of concrete that needed some serious upgrading before we could even hope to get our dream up and running.  However, it was now ours.  Two people who had spent the last 20 odd years working in Insurance.  Heather, a gamer who would try anything in a home handyperson kind of way and me, who is anything but a handy kind of guy.  We spent that first 30 minutes looking at our castle and realizing we were about to be taken on the ride of our lives.

Over the next 3 days we moved all of our stuff into the house.  Now all of our stuff is kind of a liberal term.  We moved down with the Toyota Rav 4 filled to the brim but that was all we brought with us.  I still cannot believe it took 3 days to move everything in but apparently we had bought a lot in a year.

Before we could set anything up or put anything away the house had to be cleaned.  It was filthy.  So after buying new brooms, mops and cleaning supplies we went to work.

A rare sight, me with a mop!

The second day our new bed was delivered so we spent our first night in the house.  That was more than a little different.  We had been living in the interior courtyard of a condo complex where you might hear a cat meowing after dark but that was it.  We spent the first night and a few more after that going “what the hell was that?”  Some noises were easy to identify, crickets, frogs, the odd cow but there were others that just defied description.  We don’t notice those anymore.

After getting everything moved in and put away it was time to try to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.  We would sit under the palapa and just stare at everything.  We had no clue of what to do or where to start.

Tearing out the kitchen in room number 1

Do we deal with the green pool first?  Do we deal with a bedroom?  We just had no idea.

The pool, what a lovely colour

It was few days before we started to work out a plan.  The bedrooms had to be demolished.  The woodwork was termite ridden and rotten.  The rooms were dark and dirty.  The bathrooms were disgusting.  They needed a complete overhaul but nothing could be done until we had ripped everything out.

So we started with our back room.  It had a full kitchen which was at least 20 years old and looked 40.  So I started taking out the kitchen while Heather started on the wall unit.  It was difficult figuring out how they had everything installed and removing screws that had been in place for many, many years but it started to come together.

Bathroom sink and vanity

For 3 days we worked on this room.  It was hot and dirty work but we did feel a sense of accomplishment when we were finished.  The problem then was what do we do with it?

The first bedroom after the kitchen tear out

It was that day a friend of ours came by and said he had a fellow working at his house building his wood fired pizza oven.  He was almost finished with and he wondered if we would consider taking him on.  He did concrete and tile work.  He could do other things too but we would need to make sure he knew what we wanted. We needed somebody to help us with this so we said yes.

And thus began the tale the Oswaldo…..

Good things come from dirty laundry, part 4 – did someone say TEQUILA!

August 9, 2011 – It has been some time since I sat down at my computer at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast and continued on with this story.  My apologies to those who were waiting for the next part but it was time for my annual sojourn home to Edmonton so I could get my yearly dose of cold.

Now it wasn’t that I could not have written it there but my editor was here.  Yes, someone actually edits this diatribe.  Heather, stand up and take a bow because without you these rantings would never be fit to be read by anybody, let alone friends.  However, now she is in Canada so you are going to just have to take it as it is!

But I digress, aside from being cold and swatting entire squadrons of mosquito’s, I had a great time at home.  I enjoyed my visit with family and friends but I especially loved spending time with Elizabeth, my granddaughter and my children (OK grown adults), Allison and Brendan.

You always have to bring things back that people like.  Brendan always gets hot sauce, the hotter the better but this year we found pickled habaneros so if he is making you a sandwich, watch out.

The major item that was brought back this year was 8 bottles of Tajin (pronounced -taheen) which is a spicy salt that you sprinkle on fruits and vegetables.  Heather’s sister’s family and friends have come to want it by the case so I stuffed as many as I could in my suitcase.  I firmly believe that is the reason I got searched by US Customs going into Denver!

But as usual the star in the suitcase was the bottle of Tequila for my brother.  You cannot buy good Tequila in Canada without dropping a lot of dough and for the most part you just cannot buy GOOD tequila in Canada at all.  So I bring him a bottle back every year as there are times when you want to sit back, relax and sip a good tequila.

I like this one!

Tequila.  The name is enough to make a lot of people shiver.   Mainly because they had bad experiences with it when they were younger.  Something which I can attest to myself. Whoever introduced the idea of a tequila punch party should be shot….but I digress.

I truly began to appreciate Tequila when I came down to Puerto Vallarta to buy the condo into which we moved.  I stopped in a bar one night on that trip and sat at the bar to watch a ball game.  The bartender and I got talking and he walked me through the various tequila’s he had and explained the differences in quality and taste.  He was the one who showed  me that Tequila should be sipped, not shot.

He was right.  After moving through about 4 different variety’s you could taste the difference between grades.  It was a good night and it allowed me to appreciate the subtlties located within that glass.

Thinking about good tequila always sends me back to our Guadalajara trip with Mary and Lore as it was them that suggested that one afternoon we should head out to the town Tequila, Jalisco.

September 2009 – Saturday

It had already been a full trip.  Lots of sightseeing and shopping we were having a great time.  Mary and Lore though thought we should take a small trip outside of town to Tequila.  It sounded pretty good to us but Mary had to convince her brothers that they should take us.

They had to finish dealing with the Papaya that they had but they were game so at 3:00 they loaded us all into the box of their Nissan King cab and we were off.  Yes, the box.  There was not enough room for us all in the cab so 4 of us got to ride in the box.  Considering it was about 32 degrees the box was a nice change.

The view from the back of the truck

The view from the back of the truck

However, the road to Tequila is not straight and it is very busy.  Traffic moves at the speed of light so you have to hold on.  It was fun but I am not sure I would want to do it again.

We arrived in Tequila in about 30 minutes.  It is a quaint little town with stores everywhere dedicated to selling…tequila!  The stores are everywhere.  Selling anywhere from 1 to 5 liter bottles.  Now the interesting thing in Tequila is that tequila is not taxed.  Not one of the bottles had a tax sticker in any of the stores we were in, including the brand name stores.  This allows you to get some good Tequila for a reasonable price.

One of the many stores we visited

We were moving from store to store tasting this one, that one and that one over there.  It was great but there were more things to see in Tequila besides the stores.  If one had the time you could tour the Jose Cuervo Distillery or one of the many others in town.

We did not have time to take a tour so we did our own small walking tour of the town.  Checking out the square, one of the town cathedrals and seeing what else there is to do.  We will return to Tequila when we actually have time to stay there for a day or two to see all the sights.  If you ever have the time to see this town I would highly recommend it.  It is a great place.

One of the tour barrels that goes around town


The time had come however to buy a bottle so I called in the brothers to tell me which one I should buy.  After trying a few they pointed at one and said it was the purest.  So I said the person behind the counter how much was the 5 liter bottle?

150 pesos!  14 bucks!  You’re kidding, right?  Nope, he wasn’t.  I quickly paid the man and took my leave in case he changed his mind.

Tequila bought we hopped back into the truck and made our way back to Guadalajara.  It was great visit in a neat town.

The Main Cathedral in Tequila