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Semana Pasqua

We are half way thru the second week of Easter, or, as they call it here, Semana Pasqua, which means the Easter holidays are drawing to a close.

I cannot describe the crush of people who come to Puerto Vallarta during this time.  Here, in Riviera Nayarit, our beaches go from something that normally looks like this

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to this

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There is almost an electrical charge in the air as the mood in the entire bay shifts to a slightly happier albeit busier plane.  Yes, it is true, traffic picks up, or grinds to a complete halt, depending on how one wants to view it and that table at our favourite restaurant may not be quite so easy to get.   There are waits at gas stations.  Grocery stores tend to be out of a few, (or a lot of!) things.   You know, all the stuff one would normally associate with the sudden influx of an enormous amount of people.   Think Summer Rental with John Candy.

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Visitors to the bay, naturally, are all in high spirits.  They are on vacation after all.  As locals, we have learned to embrace rather than dread the crowds knowing that they are helping our economy perk along.  (Though, I must admit I have found it easier to embrace the crowds when we make sure to have purchased anything we think we might need in advance).

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We were blessed again this year, to have had a full house over Easter, and our guests truly appreciated our quiet oasis after a full day of being entertained by all that Vallarta has to offer.

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Today, our Easter guests have all headed back to Guadalajara and Mexico City and the house is quiet, for a few minutes, while we are in between check-outs and check-ins.

I can say with certainty that since we started in this business, life has never been dull, and without exception, the people we have met are exceptional!  The season will come to an end in a few weeks and we will spend the summer doing the usual maintenance, getting ready for what is already shaping up to be an even busier season than this year.

 

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Good Friday, 2016

It is shaping up to be another fantastic weekend here at Casa Madera!   Easter guests began arriving yesterday and will continue to do so over the next couple of days.   Our rooms have been cleaned, dusted and freshened in anticipation of another full house.  Alexa is readying herself as the official greeter and the cats are peering in thru open doors as we do last minute prep to the rooms.    I tell myself they are taking an interest in our business, though, I suspect all they are really only looking for the next quiet place for an afternoon nap

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Kevin is already enjoying a round of golf at Flamingos Golf Club,

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and I intend to turn an afternoon of total freedom into one of frustration as I try to sew straight lines with my sewing machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of sewing.  Taking a piece of fabric, any fabric, and turning it into something useful is a very rewarding experience.  Turning that same fabric into something useful AND beautiful, with nice seams and straight lines, to me, is a form of art.  One that I aspire to.

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I must say that I was very fortunate this year to have had several guests who are practiced seamstresses and who were kind enough to share their tips and ideas for making my sewing experience a much happier one!   Ladies, I will be thinking of you this afternoon as I attempt to put all of your advice into practice.  Perhaps this time, I will get the measurements for those curtains correct!

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You may think me strange, but even an afternoon making poor decisions about where to make that cut, bad measuring and miscalculated seam allowances, can feel like time well spent.  I can also state that in spite of all my sighing, cursing, toe tapping, groaning and seam ripping, sewing is a relaxing experience for me.   I think that is because when I am sewing, I think of nothing else.  There are no random thoughts cluttering my head.   Seriously,  all I think about is how to turn this latest mistake into something useable!

These chair slings practically cut themselves!  Loved the straight lines!DSCN9415

On the upside, every mistake I make teaches me something.  Lately, I have been applying the  lessons I have learned at my sewing machine to the bigger picture of “real life”.   And, it works.  In sewing, as in life, if there is something worth doing, it is worth doing right so that it turns out well. So, Heather, stop with the shortcuts, dig in and learn to do it right the first time.

It totally goes against my nature as I am always looking for the most efficient, simplest and easiest way to perform a task.  Sewing is teaching me that sometimes the simplest, easiest and most efficient way of doing things is to slow it down.  Take your time.  Stop looking for shortcuts.   Do it right the first time.   Learn from that process.  And remember, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  And to do it well, you have to do it right.

Happy Easter everyone, and whatever you choose to do this weekend, take time to slow it down and enjoy the process.  As they say, life is not about the destination, it is about enjoying the journey.   DSCN6193

Our Favourite Fried Chicken

If you are like Kevin and I, we don’t eat as much fried food as we used to.  But our love of fried foods still dwells within us!  The big difference being, that now, if we are eating something fried, it had better be good!  No longer do we settle for mediocre fast food fare to satisfy our cravings (though I will admit to a weakness for the onion rings at Carls Junior lately).   Mostly when we want something fried, we want the best darn fried food we can find, and for food snobs like us, that usually means making it at home.   


Enter Bon Appetit magazine and their recipe for southern-style fried chicken.   Originally published in 2012, I only discovered this recipe last year.   (Go ahead and make fun.  Food nerds like us are thrilled to have back issues that we can read at our leisure as many times as we like.)   The recipe actually calls for the chicken to be fried in oil stove top, so I balked at trying it for a long time.  Both Kevin and I, being career insurance people, know very well just how dangerous a pot of hot oil on the stove can be.  



However, their claim that this is “the only Fried Chicken recipe we will ever need” had us searching for a good deep fryer at every store we entered for the next 6 months.  This is not Canada, and while they are easy to find now, 3 years ago when we started looking, it was like hunting for hens teeth.


We eventually convinced ourselves that we live in a concrete house, with marble counters and finally, we talked ourselves into making this without a deep fryer!!  We should have videoed our first attempt, as I am sure all the precautions and worry we took were worth a sit com series but in the end, the finished product was well worth the effort and worry!   Juicy inside with a crispy crust, and the hot vinegar pulls it all together.


You will need to start the vinegar a week in advance, and the chicken does have to sit overnight, so there is some planning inovolved, but I promise you it will be worth it!   We are used to doing it stove top now, and are  happy with the results but if you prefer using a deep fryer,  just be sure that your oil is at the magical 350F before adding the chicken.  I am sure you will get the same results.    The real key to this is to use a smaller chicken and to let it sit in the dry brine over night.


I have tweaked the recipe a bit from the original, which you can find at www.bonappetit.com


Here is my version of Skillet Fried Chicken:
(serves 4, 1 serving is approximately 616 calories)


2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder


1 3 – 4 lb chicken cut into 10 pieces, back removed
1 cup milk


1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg


3 cups flour
4 teaspoons cornstarch


1 litre canola oil for deep frying (more or less, depending on size of your pan)


  • Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
  • Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish. 
  • Pour oil into a 10″–12″ heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″.  Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°.  You can try propping the thermometer in the pan, but I never have luck with that.  I just keep it close and check the temperature of the oil frequently.  Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. 
  • Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place up to 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry, turning chicken with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and breasts and 12 minutes for thighs and legs. 
  • Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack. 
  • Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

    And voila, better than takeout any day!  Oh, and don’t forget the Spicy Vinegar!  

    SpicyVinegar
    1 cup white vinegar
    1 habanero chile
    1 serrano chile

    Slice chiles into quarters, lengthwise and place with vinegar in resealable jar.  Seal and shake.   Let sit at room temperature for 1 week before using, shake daily.  After that it will keep almost forever in the fridge.  


How the system really works! Or not….

Something that has always bothered me about Mexico is the number of people standing on street corners and public markets begging for money “for their operation”.    Having been born in a country  where health care is a given,  I really did believe that those people begging for medical money had, in fact found a way to use their disabilities as a source of income.   After this mornings conversation with our gardener, I am not so sure.

It seems he and his wife are caught in a loop of red tape which I will try to explain.  You may think you are reading Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine but honestly, no one can make stuff like this up.

You will recall, our first and unsuccessful attempt to give blood was in the Seguro Popular in San Pancho, in the state of Nayarit, which is the home state of our gardener and his wife.

Due to a medical emergency which could not be dealt with in San Pancho, his wife was rushed to the Pitillal branch of Seguro Popular, which is in the state of Jalisco.

At this bright, friendly hospital, which I quite liked, our gentle gardener and his wife were lead to believe that they would perform the operation to remove her tumour once they had donated the allotted blood.  We left the hospital feeling confident that our blood would complete the requirements and the operation would proceed.

OMG, not so fast.!!!  Now that the Jalisco branch of the hospital has our blood, and our gardener and his wife have exhausted ALL avenues for donors, the powers that be have decided that her operation is not urgent enough and she must go back to hr home state and the San Pancho hospital to have her surgery there.

Uh-oh, a red light.  Had to know it was coming.

One would think that isn’t that much of a problem, all the blood has been collected and credited to the patients name, so…. they can just ship it out to the other hospital.   I think most reasonable people would deem this a logical solution to a rather small problem.

Trouble is, the hospital in San Pancho does not seem to want to do the operation.   They have even gone so far as to issue a false document stating our gardeners wife had been scheduled for an operation in April for which she failed to show up.

Our gardener swears there was no appointment in April, and I believe him.  Why would the hospital have scheduled an operation before enough blood had been collected?   Predictably, some administrative dummy in Jalisco has decided to accept this piece of garbage as the truth, which is complicating matters even further.

Needless to say, our conversation with our gardener this morning was not the positive one we had been anticipating and because he was so angry, he was speaking so rapidly it was difficult to follow the whole story.   Lucky for me, our maid was also here and she was able to fill me in on some of the details I was unable to get.

Spiny – how our gardener felt this morning!

She tells me he will go to the Recursos Humanos, which, as I understand it, is a Human Rights commission to see if anything can be done.   Hopefully, they will help him, but I fear things will just drag on so long that it will be faster for us to just wait until we are able to donate blood again!

There are times when Mexico really shines and there are so many things that make this country great, but honestly, Mexico, this time, you have failed miserably.   Shame on a hospital system that treats its patients so poorly, and shame on the government for allowing it to happen.

Strong words for an outsider, but, based on this event, I do feel that my opinion is justified.

Fat Cats looking down on the general population?

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Giving Blood – Our first experience

Awhile back, our sometimes neighbour called us from her home in Mexico City.  She does this every so often, just to check on her house and, fill me in on any gossip she has heard from her other friends here in Nuevo.   We have shared the same gardener for nearly 2 years now, and  this time, during our conversation, she asked how our gardeners’ wife was doing?   Apparently, she had been sick for quite some time, but I knew nothing about it.    Hmm, come to think of it, our gardener,  is normally a happy, chatty person.  I had maybe noticed that he hadn’t been as cheerful these past few weeks, but I really didn’t think much about it.

So, on his next visit, I asked what was wrong with his wife.  Because he has an accent I find extremely difficult to understand, I don’t get everything he says, but I was able to ascertain that she has some sort of tumour, possibly related to the female anatomy, but I honestly can’t say for sure.   It sounded kind of personal, so I didn’t pry too much, but what I did get from the conversation was that she needed an operation.

Their health care is thru Seguro Popular, which I understand, is free to all Mexicans.  I asked him why, if she was so sick, they had not operated already.

Turns out that one of the costs of this free service is that in order to get an operation, the patient must first come up with blood !!   Yes, before she can have her operation, she is responsible for finding enough donors to get her thru the operation.   I have limited understanding of all the details, but the bottom line appears to be no blood, no operation.

He continued to say it has been extremely difficult for them to find suitable donors and they had already exhausted their supply of  friends and relatives.  All of whom, while more than willing to donate have been deemed unsuitable donors by the hospital for a variety of reasons.  At this point, I really had no choice but to tell him that I would love to try to help.  He brightened and said “y el señor tambien?”   Which meant that, Kevin also had no real choice but to step up to the plate as well.

You would think we could just march into a Red Cross or local branch of Seguro Popular and donate blood on someones behalf and get on with our day.  Nope, not that simple.

Blood donations for a specific person must be made at the hospital that is treating the patient.  They were using the hospital in San  Pancho which only accepts blood donations on certain Mondays between certain hours, first come first served.

So, the appointed day comes, we wake early, have a light breakfast grab a coffee to go and are out the door by 6am so we can be there for 7am to meet our gardener and hopefully be among the first in line.

This hospital did not give me a good impression.  It was dark, and the staff, while not unfriendly were certainly not friendly.  The doctor interviewed us begrudgingly and seemed quite pleased to be able to kick us out of the queue because we had thoughtlessly eaten a bowl of Frosted Flakes before leaving the house.  Telling our gardner that we screwed up so badly was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

The next appointment would not be for 2 weeks, and we would be on vacation in Canada then, so our second attempt at donating would be delayed another month.  Because of that stupid mistake, his wife would not get her operation and will remain in pain while her tumour presumably grows.

In hindsight, this turned out to be a good thing, because in our absence, there was an emergency for which she had to be transferred to the Seguro Popular hospital in Pitillal.    Our gardener was very happy with this, because the difference in hospitals is night and day!  Aside from friendly staff who made them both feel like they were important, the biggest difference is that anyone can show up on on any day and get in the line up to donate blood!!   Yay!

So, last Thursday, we drove to the hospital with our gardener, so he could be sure that our donation was credited to his wife.   Wow, he certainly was right about the difference in hospitals!  It truly did feel like the staff cared about what they were doing.   We remembered not to eat before our appointment this time, so there were no snags and we were able to donate blood for our gardeners wifes’ operation, which, if I understood correctly will take place on the 24th of June.

As a way of thanking us, our gardener had us stop at the local taco truck so he could buy us breakfast.

Doing the right thing has a way of making us  feel very humble.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Its summer the weather is fine and watermelons are plentiful!

I love watermelon, But I have to admit after the first half, I am looking for ways to get rid of it!

Yummy as it is, just plain fruit gets kind of boring after awhile.

Being it is the weekend, I thought I would focus on drinking it.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to use it is just to fill up the blender with chunks of the watermelon, seeds and all, add a little water, a small chunk of bit of ginger,  peeled and  roughly chopped, some sugar if you like and blend away for about  45 seconds.

Strain the mixture thru a fine mesh sieve and there you have it, Watermelon Agua Fresca!!

You can then drink the juice, or freeze it in ice cube trays, then put the ice cubes in the blender for a watermelon slushie.

A great after work treat, and if you have had a stressful day, add a splash of tequila and you have a watermelon margarita!

Oh, if you want the flavour of a watermelon margarita but don’t want to go thru all the effort, just cut some cubes (abut 2 cups), add 1/4c silver tequila and 1/4 cup simple syrup or a couple tablespoons of sugar.

Let it sit for a few hours, stirring every once in awhile so the tequila gets into all the pieces.

Serve in a Margarita glass with a salted rim and a fork.  There you have it!

Enjoy your weekend, and remember to eat and drink responsibly.

Tamales!

We moved here armed with 2 Mexican cookbooks and a great determination to learn to cook the cuisine while we were here.

And we did get an excellent start on it!!  Those who have been following us from the beginning will remember Kevins’ hilarious account of using the washroom right after working with chiles.  Yes, he learned the hard way why men here wash their hands both before and after using the washroom!

The honest truth, though is, I lack motivation.  I can get some of the best tacos in the bay right down the street and  the only effort I have to make is to put one foot in front of the other for about 15 minutes.   A 5 minute drive gets us to Valle Dorado where the options to taste authentic Mexican food are endless.   I’m talkin’ GOOD Mexican food.  Not the stuff one often finds in the tourist zone, made by people who know they will never see you again so why try anyway.    Made by cooks who know that their business is only as good as their last service because word in a small town travels fast and even a poorly made tortilla could stop people coming to their spot.  And, it is inexpensive.  So why go thru all the effort in my own kitchen?

After 7 years here, our knowledge of Mexican Cuisine is mostly limited to knowing which restaurant or taco stand has “the good stuff”.

There is, however, one Mexican Food challenge I have been working to perfect – Tamales.

Even though, every night, there is a truck at our Oxxo, selling Oxacan-style tamales, we have yet to try one.    Our reluctance to do so stems from our first weeks here, when  we would buy tamales from a vendor who passed by our apartment nearly every day.  They were wonderful.  Until the day Kevin bit into one with a whole, uncleaned shrimp hidden inside of it.  So whole, the antennae and shell were still on it.   Thus ended our love of the tamale lady, and tamales in general.

We don’t buy tamales anymore, but the flavour still haunts me.  Plus, I love the concept – Little bundles of corn husks, hiding more corn  and filling inside.  They are tasty snacks that are nice to have on hand, and, they re-heat beautifully in the microwave!

Perfecting this particular Mexican food has become my challenge,  and, for the most part, I have had pretty good reviews.

As a matter of fact, my Ecuadorian girlfriend liked them so much, she set aside a whole afternoon so I could teach her how I make tamales.  (Yes, this the truth!)  We made a fairly large batch and she took half home.    In an uncontrollable fit of generosity, she actually shared our hard work with a Mexican woman in her condo.  A couple of hours later, the woman returned.  Not to thank her for the gift, but simply to tell her that they were dry, period.   Suggestions, tips, insider secrets….????   Sigh.

So, today, another try, at less dry tamales.  Armed with a pot full of leftover braised pork shoulder, I tried again.

For todays version of my tamales, I used Alton Brown’s recipe on FoodTV.com as a guide.  The braised pork and liquid were from earlier in the week, and the masa recipe I took from the bag of Tamale Masa.

My results while not entirely authentic, are a very tasty attempt, which at the end of the day, is really all we wanted.

The Journey to Casa Madera – A pineapple! We finally have a pineapple!

February 24, 2013 – It is a muggy day today at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  Warming up but a little cloudy which keeps the humidity up.  Normally by this time of day the sun has burned off any cloud cover and the day is bright, sunny and warm.  Its warm, now all we need is sun!  Being Vallarta, it will be here soon.

As I mentioned in the last post I seem to have writers block occasionally trying to come up with things to write.  I start to wonder if what is interesting to me is interesting to those who read my dissertations.  I have been assured by our friend Elaine that it is all interesting and unique so if that is the case here goes!

We have been trying to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables over the 4 years we have been in the house.  Most have been a total disaster.

The tomatoes we planted came up, bore two fruit and died.   The corn came up, grew to 2 and a half feet, sprung an ear the size of pea pod and died.  The list is longer but frankly it is depressing so I cannot remember all of the total failures.

However there was one item that grew like wildfire.  Watermelon.  We did not plant it.  It was planted by Oswaldo when he was working here.  The plant went crazy once it started to grow.  It spread out like it should and flowered like it should.  We know the flowers had insect traffic but the fruit never set.  It was then we found out that most of the watermelons you buy are hybrids and won’t actually finish fruit.  So as they too died we took them out and were once again fruitless.

And then there were pineapples.  We had been told that when you cut the top off of your pineapple just plant the top and it will grow.   So Heather did that with a few of the pineapples we bought.

The first one she planted took to ground well and started to grow almost immediately.  She diligently watered it and watched it grow wider and taller.  This inspired her to plant more.  However they were not as successful.  Some died or rotted in the ground.  Others grew but were not happy about it.

The original one was still growing and doing well but it was kind of lost in the front garden with the other plants that were overgrown and blocking its light and our view of it.  I had even forgotten it was there.

We have noted that others that we have planted in our yard are not as happy as the one in the front flower bed.  We are guessing it is getting the right amount of sun and shade whereas some of the others get maybe too much sun.

After all of the frustration of things we have planted today was a special day.  Today in our garden an actual pineapple has sprouted on top of our plant.  We knew they took two years to produce fruit and I am pretty sure that one has been in there for 3 years or more but my bet is that the plant is now happy that Ramon comes once a week and trims the plants, fertilizes and takes care of the garden.  Somehow I think that the fruit on our pineapple plant showing up 6 months after Ramon started here is not a coincidence.

Either way, it does not matter.  I am looking forward to putting a few slices of this on my plate one morning.  Not sure how long they take to mature but hopefully it won’t take too long because it will be hard to wait.

The good thing is they are so easy to start that we have 7 more plants growing across the street.

Our first little pineapple
Our first little pineapple

For more garden photos check out our photo albums on our facebook page.   https://www.facebook.com/CasaMadera

 

 

The Journey to Casa Madera – The Guests Speak!

I have not been a very good blogger this year.  My followers will know that I have basically written nothing.  Well folks that continues today as I present a story written by a guest of ours over Christmas, Rolando Gomez.  It is a great story and I am happy that Rolando gave me permission to share it.  Please take the time to read about his visit to the Puerto Vallarta area and comment if you like it.

My December Vacation in the Eleventh Canadian Province

Politically incorrect ramblings 

If you think the eleventh province I’m talking about is Nunavut or Saskatchewan, check again your trivia sources.  Besides, no way I would go to those…in December.  After I’ve lived for a few years the “true Wisconsin experience” in Milwaukee, I would have to be pretty darn stupid to pick Kugluktuk or Saskatoon as a destination for a December Vacation, wouldn’t I?…I thought so too.

So, it turned out to be that the 11th Canadian Province is actually located down here in the Mexico, and its name is nothing complicated or First-Nation as other Canadian provinces: it is simply called Vallarta.

My wife Judy and I decided to escape this past December from the craziness, the loud noises, the horrible traffic jams and the pollution in Mexico City.  We packed the trunk of the car with bare necessities (including of course my fishing poles and sandals), we told Bombón to hop into the back seat, which he happily did, and we all set for a very long drive.

We arrived Nuevo Vallarta right before Christmas day.  Judy had made a reservation at a Bed & Breakfast called “Casa Madera”, and I just went along with her choice.  I just knew she had a phone conversation in English to settle conditions before our trip.  I knew nothing else.

On arrival to Casa Madera we were greeted by a very nice woman named Heather and by her friendly husband Kevin.  The fact that I knew nothing about the reservation process, led me to commit my first gruesome mistake; politically incorrect mistake: in my heavy Argentinean accent I asked Heather…”what part of the States are you guys from?…”

Silence.  Throat clearing.

-“Er…we are actually from Alberta, eh?”

I didn’t know where to hide myself.  I wished the earth would have swallowed me in that very moment.  I felt almost as Collin Farrell must have felt when he realized he actually hit a Canadian, confusing him with a Yank in the movie “In Bruges”.

But it didn’t go pass that.  I hit no one else no more, and Heather and Kevin turned out to be a great hosting couple.  Nice people who own a beautiful house in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and just –I thought-”happen to be” casually from Canada.  Their Bed and Breakfast is beautiful.  A two-story Mexican house with a nice patio, a cute small swimming pool and three rooms for guests, each one with independent access and a small terrace.  Heather and Kevin manage the place very professionally, but also with discretion and charm.  It is their house, but they let you be.

A happy female dog named Alexa greeted Bombón, and they quickly started to play around the house as if they knew each other from the Kennel Club for years.  Two handsome and very cool cats let Bombón know very quickly who was the boss at the house, and I couldn’t get their names because they retrieved themselves to secure quarters during the rest of our stay.  Smart felines.

The first evening I invited Judy to go to the Puerto Vallarta’s famous “Malecón”; a stone paved promenade by the sea in Down Town Puerto Vallarta, sort of a boardwalk, just fifteen minutes driving from Casa Madera B&B.

It is there that I started to realize that the fact that Heather and Kevin were from Alberta was not a mere coincidence.  The Malecón was absolutely full of English language signs -some of them with a Maple leaf- and English speaking people all over, almost all of them saying “eh” every other sentence –Canadians.

I sat down on a short stone wall with Bombón while Judy went inside one of the stores with English signs, and a very, very fat woman approached me to ask me for Bombón’s breed.  If it weren’t for the fact that she added “eh?” to her question, I would have felt –again- like Collin Farrell in the movie.  I almost started to remind her about Granada 1983, Panama 1989 or Falujah 2004, but I didn’t   Neither I would have called her “f’king elephant” like Collin Farrell in the movie.  I am usually politically incorrect, but I ain’t no Brit.  I just answered that Bombón was a “Golden-Spaniel” and went on smoking my cigarette.

The good thing about Casa Madera is that you can go in a matter of few minutes to that place where there is a noisy crowd, very loud music, Cuban cigars smoke in the air all over, plenty of booze of all kinds and of course the loud talking that comes along, and when you are fed up with it, you can return to a very quiet place in the middle of a tropical forest, and fall asleep to the sound of frogs and silence, and wake-up to the sound of birds.  Peace and tranquility as you wouldn’t imagine.

The next day we searched for activities around the area.  Of course we went to research the very popular “Vallarta Adventures” tourist business.  Swimming with Dolphins?  -Nah.  Not my cup of tea.  Especially after seeing that the swimming pool where the poor mammals are made into wet clowns was overflowing to the sides due to the presence of very-heavy-beer-drinking-over-sized-tourists.  Are they from Canada too?  I doubt it.  I didn’t ask.  Whale watching?  -mmm…maybe, but too expensive for what is worth.  Outdoors Adventures or Extreme “Zip-Line” Adventure?  None of that for me.

We left the place booking none of the expensive options, and decided instead to take the car and explore our own options.  We drove all the way down to a beach called “Boca de Tomatlán”.  A place where a cold, clear-water river meets the Ocean, and we rented the services of a young boy named Joel (pronounce it kho-el), who took us to a peaceful and nice beach after a 15 minutes boat ride.  We had a margarita, ate fish and shrimp at a restaurant on the beach, and Bombón had a blast jumping up and down of the boat in the middle of the waves.  In the way back on the boat, we even spotted a couple of dolphins, swimming free  along side the boat, away of the over-sized tourists!

That day we had a great time, and we ended-up paying a small fraction of what the corporate tourist business ask for each one of their “adventures”.

Back in Casa Madera that evening we simply rested, and took advantage to check e-mails and talk to family on Skype.

At this point I am sure you are already asking yourself the typical North-American tourist question.  No; not the one about safe drinking water; the one about crime and violence in Mexico.  Well, Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta both seem not to be Mexico.  It is actually safe and quiet!  I am convinced that maybe it is the eleventh Canadian Province.  It is not only safe, but full of “residents” who came from the ice and snow up there.  Heather and Kevin are not the exception.  In mathematical equivalence, Canadians are to Vallarta what Americans are to San Miguel Allende in Guanajuato, and I tend to believe that Canadians have chosen better.

The confirmation for the 11th province status came for me the following night: Judy and I were a bit hungry, and I drove around Nuevo Vallarta looking for something to buy and eat at the B&B.  I was a bit in a hurry, and in a solitary main road I committed a gross traffic violation that I will not details out of shame for myself.  Well, a police patrol was right next to the road, and they stopped me.  Since I live in Mexico City, I went “oh boy!”, and checked quickly my wallet to see how much I had.  It had happen to me already several times here in Mexico City.  To my enormous surprise, the copper was not only absolutely professional and never, ever hinted a word about “mordida” (bribe), but he also was kind a sympathetic for my explanations about why I committed the violation!  His sympathy did not alter the fact that I was fined.  Cleanly and properly fined.  I spent the next morning just a few minutes paying the fine at the local Traffic Police Station.  Don’t tell me: this usually happens in Vancouver, not in Mexico, right?

Tatiana, my Canadian cousin’s wife, had made me believe that all Canadians despise Mexico.  She refuses to come to visit, claiming that down here they attack Canadians.  Vallarta has made me see that she is hopefully quite lonely in that perception.  Perhaps if I open a Tim Horton’s franchise on the Vallarta Malecón, not only that Tatiana would finally come to visit us to drink “regular coffee” (with “homo milk”, that is), but I could also strike a business opportunity of a life time with the “locals”.  But no; I wouldn’t dare to spoil my good Argentinean espresso or Middle-Eastern “mud” Turkish coffee.  Not even for the sake of Tatiana’s visit.

We left Vallarta right before New Year’s Eve and drove back to the noise and hectic chilango life.  Kevin posted in Facebook that it pour-rained in Vallarta the following day, which is extraordinarily unusual in December.

Maybe the sky decided to wash out all traces of my visit and discoveries.  No one would ever admit the 11th status.

I liked Vallarta.  You may call me a lunatic, but I liked it.  It is like a nice Mexican town with a bunch of “loonies”, eh?

 

Rolando “el negro” Gómez

Coyoacán, January 5th 2013

 

Editors note, I have, at the author’s request, corrected some grammatical and spelling errors but I have tried to leave the story the way it was written in most cases.  If you have not seen the movie of which he speaks, In Bruges, then download if off of Netflicks immediately.  It is a great movie.

Next week, I promise, I will write, really, I will.

Kevin