February 24, 2013 – It is a muggy day today at Casa MaderaBed 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.
For more garden photos check out our photo albums on our facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CasaMadera
We are often asked about medical care here in Mexico. Most ask out of curiosity or concern for our well-being. Some ask out of disbelief – as in “Really ,they have doctors in Mexico?”. The truth is yes, there are a lot of doctors here. Many have studied not only here in Mexico, but in the US, Canada and even Europe in some cases. It is also true that just like home, some are better than others and it is our job as a patient to find a doctor that works for us.
After 4 years of living here, I had an opportunity to experience Mexican medical care first hand. That is not to say it is the first time I have seen a doctor here, we do have our annual physicals and blood tests; but my first experience with the Mexican “drop-in” health care system because I had a health issue that needed a doctor’s care.
I had an earache.
I think I can best describe the set up as a version of a Canadian Medi-centre. The idea is the same, people drop in to see the doctor on call. The difference is that these “drop-in” places, called Consultorias, are attached to a drug store. Actually, ina drug store attached to the medi-centre, so in actual fact, there really is no difference.
The doctor is either in or out, and he or she will take patients on a first come first served basis. Just like Canada, one could wait a long time in that hot little room while waiting to see the doctor. But, here, happily, that does not have to be the case. There is, literally, a drug store on nearly every corner, and most have a Consultoria. So, if the waiting room in one is too busy, we can simply drive down the street to the next one.
We do have a favourite doctor we see, but he is a whole 10 minutes away in Mezcales, so we decided today, to take our chances in Valle Dorado, which is much closer to us. The waiting room at the Farmacias Medism was empty when we pulled up! What a stroke of luck. NO waiting at all today!! Within 2 minutes of getting out of the car, I was ushered into the examining room by the doctor himself. The good doctor also invited Kevin to sit in on the consultation.
I speak some Spanish, the doctor spoke some English, so between us, we were able to communicate very well.
I told him I had an earache and he promptly plopped me on the examining table and told me to open my mouth. Whaaat?? He was very happy to tell me that my ear problem was related to a throat infection I did not know I had. He continued to explain that the ear, nose and throat were all related. . . . and did I want meds or a shot?
A shot? For a throat infection? I have not had a shot since I was vaccinated in high school! My efforts at asking questions to determine if this was a better option than 5 days of pills were totally drowned out by my ever loving husband, Kevin. It was as if he had suddenly turned into a contestant on a game show, and be began yelling out “Shot! Take the shot? Just take the shot!” I could barely hear the doctors answers over Kevin’s’ encouragement to opt for the needle instead of the pills. Naturally, the doctor was very amused by all of this, and though he tried to remain as professional as possible, I could see he was siding with my husband. Must be a male thing. How bad could it be, I thought. One shot or a weeks worth of meds. Really, the shot did sound like the better option.
Then the medication came out. 3 vials of stuff, all mixed together, my “shot” turned out to be 5 cc’s of meds. if you are not sure what 5 cc’s looks like, it pretty much filled the needle. The old joke about horse tranquilizers leapt to mind. In my arm, right? Oh, no, lie on the table, face down. Oops, I forgot to ask, can you inch your waistband down just a little.
I don’t think I need to mention that as I hopped off the table to undo my pants and peel them down far enough to reveal the target for the needle that my loving husband and best friend, Kevin, was doubled over with laughter and would have suffered serious injury from falling on the floor laughing had he not already been sitting down.
I hopped back up onto the table, target side facing the ceiling. By now, the doctor, being egged on by my husband, was also laughing. Lucky for me, his mirth did not affect his steady hand, so he hit the “target” on the first attempt.
Slightly embarrassing, but nothing I would not live thru. Then he said “this is a series of 3 shots”. I need to find looser pants to wear to his office tomorrow.
I should also mention that the cost of this afternoons entertainment, aside from my eternal embarrassment was $211 pesos and my ear ache will be gone in a day or 2. We shall see…..
A couple of months ago our Facebook fan page, www.facebook.com/CasaMadera started to get likes from a lot of people we did not know. We have found over time that this does happen sometimes but we can generally follow the trail as to how they found us. A friend, relative or a surfer who saw a picture of great looking food.
This time we could not discern where they came from. However, we liked seeing the amount of likes go up higher so we did not think too much about it.
We are not techies. I have enough computer intelligence to get by but if things go south I am screwed.
I had just arrived back in Canada at the beginning of September for a visit when Heather, who was still at home, let me know that people were not able to access our website. They were being redirected to either Google or a page full of Malware. Now there is a great way to get clients! Infect their computer.
This needed to be fixed. I went to work and did what I could but it was not much as I had absolutely no idea what the problem was or where to find it. We contacted our web designer to see what he could do. He got the page working again and with people clearing their recent history the page was loading and operating correctly. Yay!
Then last week it was happening again. This time however I could not even get into the files, it was redirecting so quickly. I contacted the host who were very helpful and deleted the appropriate files. The website was working again except for a couple of minor glitches which I could fix.
An hour later, it was redirecting again. I put in another support request and one more time they cleared the files. The website is still working correctly but the source files need to be updated. This involves a lot of stuff that should wear the brain of this useless twit out. I could ask our tech to do it and pay the fee but I am stubborn.
I have to for the same reason people climb mountains. Because it’s there. Technology is not going away and it is Heather’s and my lifeline. Most of what we do here revolves around the computer. We look for clients on the computer. We see the grandchildren on the computer. We keep in touch with family and friends on the computer.
And for that reason I have to fix the website issue myself. If I can do it, then it is one hurdle that the technologically challenged (aka useless twits) won over todays youth. The question is can I get this old brain over the hurdle.
And the questionable Facebook likes, we deleted them all. I cannot help but figure they were involved in this somehow.
On June 7th, 2012 a remarkable thing happened to Heather and I. We drove to Guadalajara! I attribute this to not parking the Jeep near any trees or other things that could fall down on it. We made sure to visit the mechanic to have the oil changed, the brakes checked and the bolts tightened so it was running well.
It all worked. At 11:30 am on Thursday June 7th, we backed out the driveway of Casa MaderaBed and Breakfast and hit the road. It was exciting. Our first road trip in quite a while. We were giddy with anticipation.
Or was it hunger. It had been 4 hours since breakfast. So we made it as far as Bucerias (12 minutes) before we stopped for lunch. But hey, we were on the road!
A quick lunch and we were off. It was a nice day for a drive, sunny but not too hot. The traffic was relatively light which was really nice. It was a pleasant 4 hour drive to the big city.
We had booked ourselves a room in the Suites Bernini as it appeared it was close to the fabric store area. We had never been to the hotel before and really had no idea where it was but thankfully the gps was able to pinpoint it and made it relatively easy to get to which at 4:30 in the afternoon is a good thing.
After checking in and putting the Jeep in the smallest parking lot known to civilization we took the elevator up to our room on the 16th floor. Only the penthouse was above us. The view should be spectacular!
We were right, the view was spectacular. The interesting thing about this view was that the entire wall was glass, floor to ceiling. The top half, opened. Totally opened. We could open the window up 4 feet. It was just a little disconcerting. We got used to it but neither one of us ever really got close to the glass.
The area had many watering holes and restaurants. It was tough to make a choice of where to eat but we did and the food was great. So many places within 4 blocks and so little time we will definitely return.
Friday morning we were out and on foot looking for the fabric stores that Heather wanted to visit. We hit the area right, there was a street of fabric stores, bridal shops and general formal party wear just a couple of blocks from the hotel. It was a beautiful street with a pedestrian walkway down the middle of the road with benches, fountains, shade, plug-ins and wi-fi.
It was a great way to spend the morning before it really got hot. Once it did we headed out to the Galeria’s mall. I know what you are saying, a mall is a mall. And you would be right but this mall had a Krispy Kreme kiosk, sigh…oh and a Best Buy. All it really needed was a Golf Town.
On Saturday we were going to move hotels over to Tonala as we wanted to do the market on Sunday. So we checked out of the hotel after breakfast and headed out. Our plan was to spend a few hours in Tlaquepaque to check it out but do all of our buying in Tonala.
Tlaquepaque is another must visit in Guadalajara. Beautiful galleries, totally different handicrafts than we have seen here before and a nice traffic free pedestrian only mall. It was fun. It was there that we found the Tapatio Tourist bus.
For 110 pesos you could ride the double-decker bus to downtown Guadalajara where you could take the Guadalajara tour, or change to the Zapopan bus and take that tour. From Tlaquepaque you could catch a tour bus to Tonala. We decided to take the Guadalajara tour. It was cool.
The roof of the bus is open air so you can take it in all the sights and sounds. It also has stops along the way where you could get off, see this attraction and catch another bus an hour or two later. Great idea.
We really enjoyed the Guadalajara tour. When you are not driving you can take it all in. It allowed us to see where things are so in future visits we will have more of an idea where we are going. When the tour is over they park downtown by the government buildings and main cathedral.
When getting off of the bus they told us that the bus back to Tlaquepaque leaves at 4:30 and it is bus number 4. This gave us about an hour to kill so we wandered around, toured a corn exhibit in the main City square, bought a cold lime and salt drink and then just headed for shade to wait for bus number 4. At 4:15 a bus pulled in, number 2. At 4:22 I wandered over to just double-check where it was going and just before I got to it the bus pulled away.
So we waited for bus number 4. At 4:40 we finally asked the tour people where the Tlaquepaque bus was and they told us it left 20 minutes ago. Well this was a problem. First off, it left early and was not the right number. Our car and our luggage was sitting on a side street in Tlaquepaque. There were no more buses.
They did eventually see the problem and started to make phone calls. Finally they said a bus would be by at about 6:30. This was just under 2 hours away. We had yet to get a hotel, this was too long to wait. So we eventually took a taxi back to Tlaquepaque.
Will we take a Tapatio tour bus again? You bet. It was great. Yes there was that little glitch but it was our fault as much as theirs. And where else can you spend a day travelling around a city getting on and off a special tourist bus for less than 10 bucks.
The taxi driver knew where we needed to go and dropped us close to our car, into it we got and started searching for the hotel. We knew where we wanted to stay it was just finding our way there. That is always the main challenge.
Surprisingly it did not take that long to find our Hotel, the Hacienda del Sol. Once registered and luggage put away we headed out in search of food and drink. Found a great restaurant 4 blocks away with super cold beer and great beef. It was a lovely meal.
Sunday brought the market. Always a lot of fun. People everywhere, stalls everywhere. You can buy everything under the sun there. And we did. More artwork, soap, lamps, mugs and so many other things it just too hard to list them all.
On Sunday night we went for a walk. It was a beautiful evening and while walking during the day we stumbled upon the town square so we wandered down to check that out and see if there was anything good to eat.
Sunday night is the night to go to the town square. It is teeming with life. Food stalls, music stalls, bands playing music, places to get drinks. It is something else. On this day we found something really special, a corn dog. Hot out of the oil. Heather thought she had died and gone to heaven. There are just some things you don’t regularly see on the street here for food and corn dogs are one of them. Alas he only had one left so I was forced to have a deep-fried taco instead. Oh, poor me.
Monday morning it was time to head for home. So after a quick stop at Krispy Kreme to pick up a dozen glazed for the road (they really are the best donuts in the world) we were on our way.
Passing by the town of Jala we could see the new 4 lane toll road being built from Jala to Puerto Vallarta that should turn a 4 hour drive into 2.5 to 3. I can hardly wait…
March 7, 2012 – We had to go to Costco the other day to pick up new glasses and supplies for Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast. It’s funny, a year ago our supplies at Costco generally involved items we could not buy anywhere else and were limited to foods and wine with the purchase every 6 weeks of dog food for Alexa.
We never bought cat food at Costco. Zorro was fussy and Costco did not carry Whiskas, the only brand he would eat. The other problem was the large bag would probably go rancid before Zorro would eat it all.
Now for the first 6 months we had him we did buy the cat litter at Costco but we soon found that he stopped using the litter box and used the jungle. Typical male, the whole world was his bathroom.
We did not complain about that aspect of Zorro’s existence as it was one less item to clean up and 20 bucks we did not need to spend every 8 weeks or so. Oh how things have changed…..
July 8, 2011 – My annual trip home to Alberta to see my kids, Allison and Brendan and my granddaughter, Elizabeth. Always a joyous event to see the kids and to spend time with them. As always when I go home in the summer my brother Alan, his son Jonathan, Brendan and I journey out into the foothills of Alberta to go fishing.
Well that’s what we call it anyway. Many would wonder if we actually do any fishing as we rarely come home with any fish but do come home with a fair amount of empties.
This year we made a change to the trip due to high water levels where we normally go and headed out to Jarvis Lake outside of Hinton and spent the weekend camping with Heather’s brother, Neil and her brother-in-law, Denis. The fishing was no different from normal and we were still having a good time.
It was on Friday afternoon while we were sitting around shooting the bull and enjoying the sun when Neil while checking his Facebook said “hey you have 4 more cats”. Oops I was not supposed to tell you that.
Cats?? What do mean I have 4 more cats??? I can’t wait to hear how Heather could get 4 cats. I had only been gone for 4 days!
It seems that the night before it was absolutely pouring rain as it is apt to do in Nuevo Vallarta in rainy season when Heather heard Alexa making strange noises and pawing at the garage door. When she went down to investigate she saw a little paw coming under the door.
Now a lot of people at that point would have ignored it and went back upstairs. However, Heather is not like a lot of people. She opened the door and into the garage ran 3 kittens. Well this was a bit of a shock, especially for someone who never wanted a cat. They were all over her and Alexa. It was then she made that fatal mistake…..she took them upstairs.
Kittens are cute. Even when they are ugly, they are still cute so I understand the pull to protect them.
It was raining, hard. This brought Zorro home. He was not impressed to see the little things in his house so this was a problem. Heather put them into the library where the door could be closed, added some litter to Zorro’s litter box and gave them food and water while the big mean adult male sat outside the door and tried to figure out how he would get in to deal with them once and for all.
The next morning a girl who would walk a couple of dogs for her neighbour yelled up that she saw something strange over on the other side of our neighbours house. Heather went down so she could show her what it was. And there laying in the sodden dirt was one very wet and looking dead black kitten. Apparently there were 4 kittens not 3.
The kitten was covered in muck, flies and eggs. Apparently it was dead. Heather went back to the house and called the Vet. He said to try a little food around its nose and see if it responds. He was already coming out to have a look at them and deflea them but it would be an hour or so before he got there.
Heather did as suggested and went down with some wet cat food on her finger and waved it in front of the kitten’s nose. CHOMP. The kitten was very much alive but weak. However it still managed to break the skin and cause a little bleeding. So Heather picked it up and brought it to the house.
The Vet examined the kittens and made sure they were good to go. Heather made a trip to Mezcales to see the Doctor about her finger. He told Heather that if the kitten dies it has to be brought in to be tested for rabies being as it bit her…..great, just what she needs.
Needless to say I was interested to see these little additions to the household when I arrived home a week later but I still did not want them. I love cats but one cat was enough, we did not need any more. Heather had been trying to give them away or find a shelter for them but the only one that might be able to take them wanted a $100.00 US a kitten. 400 bucks! I don’t think so! However, looking back…that would have been cheap!
It was two days before I arrived home that Heather made the largest mistake. She named them. Blanco, Esperanzo, Dulce and Lluvia. They should have been known as 1, 2, 3 & 4, not real names. Nope they had names. I knew at that point that we now have 5 cats. One whose main goal in life was to kill the other 4.
We still tried to find someone to take the cats. No luck. 2 weeks after I got home Heather headed to Alberta for 2 weeks. I put up posters, I posted on Craigslist. I put them on various Yahoo group boards. One phone call. They wanted a fluffy cat. Something these weren’t. Why they would want a long-haired cat in Mexico I will never understand but its their furniture.
When I was not trying to give the kittens away, I was running interference, as was Alexa. It became her duty to protect the kittens from that dastardly Zorro. It was entertaining watch though I must admit I was getting tired of constantly keeping the kittens in the library when Zorro was in the house which became more frequent as he stalked the kits.
There were no takers on the kittens even after we had them sterilized and they got their shots. All that happened was they wormed their way into our hearts. That and they were great fun to watch.
It was early October and the break through was coming. Zorro was becoming more tolerant. He still had to be watched but more time was going by when they were all together before he attacked one. It was apparent that in about a week the worse would be over and they should all be able to live in peace. He was starting to play with them and it was not all aggressive, we could hardly wait.
It was a couple of days after that when Zorro did not come home. We called for him constantly but nothing. He always answered when he was within earshot. There was no trace of him anywhere. Last time I saw him he was walking across the downstairs hallway by the pool with a lizard hanging out of his mouth, his favourite non Whiskas snack. We don’t know and never will know what happened to him. It still makes me sad. He was a really cool cat and we miss him a lot.
Now we have 4 cats. They are growing like weeds and are no end of entertainment though I have to say I never thought a king size bed would be too small!
The standard Costco shopping trip now consists of: a big bag of cat litter(every 2 weeks), a big bag of cat food(every 3 weeks), a big bag of dog food (every 6 weeks) and maybe some cheese….to go with our whine…..
December 31, 2011 – It is another beautiful morning in Nuevo Vallarta at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast. The sun is coming up over the mountains, no clouds and a lovely 18 degrees. It is sooooooo boring. Everyday the same thing. No clouds, sunshine, beautiful temperatures and an afternoon breeze off the bay. Do I miss that old Alberta standard, “Don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes”, not a chance!
It has been quite some time since I posted a new entry to this blog and for my regular readers I apologize but I just could not decide what to write about. A bit of writers block maybe, who knows. Either way, it is time so I thought I would review the year and see where that takes us.
2011 was our first year of operation and like most new entities it was anything but spectacular. Heather and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would grow this project organically without a big splash so we knew it will not happen overnight. It would all rely on us, success or failure. Nothing like pressure. Especially for me, an introvert, relying on my sparkling personality was not going to be easy!
It was with great trepidation that I went to the airport on January 6, 2011 to pick up Doug and Linda from Leamington, Ontario. Our first guests staying longer than one night. To say Heather and I were a bit nervous was an understatement.
We were terrified! What if they don’t like my cooking, or the way the pressure pump comes on for no reason. There were a multitude of things that were running through our heads and to top it off my old boss from Peace Hills Insurance and his wife, Bob and Susan were due to arrive 90 minutes after Doug and Linda. Yikes!
My fears quickly dissipated as I saw Doug and Linda come through the arrivals gate. It was not hard to pick them out as Doug had broken his leg 10 days before he came down, so I pretty sure the guy in the wheelchair with the full leg cast was my guest. When they arrived at the house they could not say enough good things about it. Their comments helped relieve a lot of the pressure we were feeling.
When Bob and Susan travel they always stay in bed and breakfasts’ so the nice comments from Doug and Linda aside, the litmus test was going to be the b and b pros!
We could not have asked for nicer guests to cut our teeth with. Our fears were alleviated and everybody had a great time. It was a sad day for Heather and I when they all went home.
Both couples are returning to stay with us again this year so we cannot ask for any more validation than that.
Heather and I have been in Mexico now for 3 full years and we learn or see something new almost every week. Some of that knowledge comes from locals and some comes from tourists who have been coming here for years. Either way, we are like sponges and take what we learn to try to give people the best time they can have with things they may never have done before.
In February we were visited by Don and Charlotte from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Friends we met when we were still living in the Condo. We had a great visit with them and look forward to seeing them again this year when they arrive in Puerto Vallarta.
March brought my son, Brendan, down for his 21st birthday with his buddy Ray. They were quickly followed by Heather’s Aunt, Danny. It was with the 3 of them that we ventured out into the wilderness to find a set of hot springs armed with directions that said, “take a left at the big road and keep left at the fork”. Talk about a wing and a prayer.
However we got there and it was well worth the effort. While rustic, the hot pools were spectacular and now on our list of regular places to visit.
April was a busy month as Heather’s brother, Kevin and family arrived for 10 days. A great time was had by all, though I think they really enjoyed the two days that Heather and I were away in Ajijic.
They really enjoyed having our dog Alexa to watch over them and keep the safe. Alexa rarely sleeps outside at night but she did while we were away. In front of the door to the kids room, nothing was getting by her there. Of course they did have to figure out how she was getting out of the yard and following them when the went to the beach. Only dog I know that weighs 60 pounds and can balance on a 5 and a half-foot high fence that is 4 inches wide while nosing her way through the barbed wire….
June was spent trying to get a few things done outside before the rains began. Mainly redoing the roof. We had done it the year before but one of the workers working on our kitchen renovation in the winter had been trying to straighten a concrete cage by banging against the roof. Needless to say the rubber seal did not stand up to the sharp wire edges.
I also took this time to try to paint the mirador. Now that was work. The mirador is basically a 2 storey structure on our roof. While a great idea just for the view, it is virtually impossible to paint. I think the only way to actually paint it properly would be with scaffolding or hanging off the structure by a rope. Something that I am just not prepared to do nor let anybody else do though I suspect I could find a lot of volunteers if the price was right!
July I went back to Edmonton for a couple of weeks to remind myself how cold it is even in July. As usual the weather sucked but seeing my family and friends was great. How life was to change though as I was sitting around a camp fire with my brother, Al, my son, Brendan, and my brothers in law, Neil and Denis. Neil had his iPhone out and was on Facebook when he said, “I just saw this post from Heather about finding 4 kittens at your doorstep. Oops, I was not supposed to tell you!”
4 kittens. It was a few days before I could actually ask Heather about these kittens. She advised that yes, we do in fact have 4 kittens but they are cute we should have no problem giving them away.
As you can tell they are still here!
On September 2nd Lorne and Heather came down to celebrate their anniversary. We had a great time while they were here but the highlight was taco night at Cessa’s. A friend of our introduced us to his stand a few months previous and it has become a regular stopping point for us on the weekends. I have eaten a lot of tacos in the last few years but there is no doubt, his are the best! Their short visit was an absolute hoot and as before we were sorry to see them go home.
In October I was washing tile on the main floor prior to putting a new seal coat on it when Zorro went by with a lizard in his mouth. It turned out to be the last time I saw him as he never came home again. We don’t know what happened to him and never will I suspect but we miss him terribly and hope that maybe he just ran off on a great adventure.
In November we were joined by Keith, Sherry and Jordan who spent a few days with us before moving to the Rui Palace for a wedding. Again we got to do the tourist thing, hanging out on beaches, going for tacos and then trying to find churros. We love it!
December brought the Christmas season and we always have to go downtown to watch the processions to the main cathedral. The dancing, the music, the bells and street food make it such an enjoyable night. We loved being able to share it with my brother Larry this year. If you are ever thinking of coming down here or will be here between December 1st and 12th, you must take these in.
Yesterday I was faced with that trepidation again. Two new guests we had never met were about to be picked up at the airport. Dave and Shelly from Yakima. As usual my fears were for no good reason and we had a lovely visit with them last night.
Tonight they are cooking us dinner and we will ring in the New Year on the beach watching the fireworks from around the bay. It will be a great time.
I love being a tourist in my town especially one with so much to offer.
To those that helped make this year special we thank you and for everybody….
Puerto Vallarta has been threatened before this year but nothing has come close. Jova has been listed as a potential direct hit for our beautiful part of the world now for 3 days. Late yesterday that changed and it will probably hit land 150 miles down the coast near Manzanillo which is great for us but not so much for the poor people in Manzanillo and surrounding area.
When Heather and I moved here 3 years ago we knew that the area always had the potential for Hurricanes but it is rare for a Hurricane to hit land on the Pacific East Coast. It does happen but not like the East Coast of Mexico or the United State and Canada. However we are from Northern Alberta where you never knew when a Tornado might make an appearance so really what was the difference. That and you just cannot let something limit you like weather or other natural events. So we moved anyway.
This has been the closest we have been to having to deal with tropical weather. Since we have been here we have dealt with a glancing blow from a tropical storm which hit Mazatlan and another that came in for 30 minutes (which we both slept through), downed trees and took off some roofs in Bucerias but otherwise nothing. Yes there is odd good storm during rainy season but nothing worse than Alberta would see.
We know the power that these storms punch but somehow I am disappointed that it is not going to hit us. I don’t know why. Is it the power of nature that I really wanted to see first hand? Or did I want to see how the house stood up to it? Either way, it is idiotic!
The storm was upgraded last night to a Category 3 Hurricane which would be devastating. Major storm surge, houses damaged, trees blown down and a large amount of flooding. You just cannot wish that on the other residents in the area, many who have no insurance on their belongings that they worked hard to obtain. Not to mention that our deductible is 20% of any hurricane loss so do I really want to spend $8,000.00 if we suffer $40,000.00 in damage?
But that is only money and really money does not mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Life is what it is all about. A hurricane at this point in time would be bad for Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit. The Pan American Games are about to start in Guadalajara this week with a couple of events taking place in our fair city. The City of Puerto Vallarta just spent a ton of money rebuilding the jewel of the city, the Malecon, which is due to open this week with the games. I would hate to see all of those pesos go to waste, especially considering that high season is only 4 weeks away.
This is a tourist area. It thrives on tourist dollars. All of our Canadian and American friends who live here year round make their living off of tourists as we do too. None of us can afford to have a hurricane take that season away. But that is just us. The infringers, the expats, the ones who really don’t belong.
The real damage would be to our Mexican hosts who let us live here. People whose entire year rests on the next 6 months. A major hurricane would wipe out families. Some kids would not be able to afford to go to school. Families would be struggling to put food on the table. Lives would change and not for the better.
The country is already struggling thanks to the American and Canadian media and their reporting on what happens here. I will not deny that there are areas in Mexico that are not particularly safe however, most tourist areas and cities are very secure and a pleasure to be in and see. Heather and I feel safer here than we did travelling through the United States to get here.
While I will admit to trepidation when we crossed the border in a car 3 years ago that was mainly due to language and not knowing the customs. In most places we stopped on the way down we were treated with respect and joy for being there. That does not stop. Whether we are driving in the middle of nowhere or in major centres, people are happy to see us and share their food and culture with us. I would hate to see that change.
Though is it is currently pouring with rain, I am looking forward to spending a great day with some Canadian friends at Blakes Sports Bar to watch the Edmonton Eskimos beat the crap out of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In reality who wins does not matter. The fact is we got to spend the day with friends and all of us will be hopeful that nothing develops out of this hurricane. If not for us but for the people who grew up in this great country.
I have only one message to say, don’t believe everything you read in the papers or hear on the 5:00, 6:00 or 7:00 newscast. Mexico is truly a great place, the people will love you, feed you well and make sure your cerveza is cold. But most of all you will be making sure that our Mexican hosts can eat. They are good people and they deserve it.
So on Canadian Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have two healthy children, a healthy granddaughter, a grandson on the way and many, many Mexican friends who have allowed me to partake in their customs, their way of life and helped me to discover the joy of being myself.
This is truly a great place and Hurricane Jova, where ever you hit, YOU CANNOT CHANGE IT!
Yes, the price. The average September day is a 3 shirt day. You wear one until it gets too heavy and you put on another. I had never had to stop typing to dry my keyboard in Alberta. Who knew that fingertips sweated!
That’s just the way it is in late summer in Vallarta. While our friends in Northern Alberta are trying to protect their tomato’s from frost, we are just trying to stay dry.
Heather and I spend a lot of time on our kitchen patio because of the breeze coming off the ocean or mountains but later in the day as the sun comes around it just is not the place to be. It is then we head downstairs to relax under the palapa.
The Palapa. Who knew that a whole bunch of grass that was not cut into fairways or greens would be so inviting. But it is. It is shady and cool when the sun is beating down. It keeps the rain out when it is in torrential downpour mode. It is a natural roofing material whose price does not go up because maybe half the town needs a new one due to a hail storm like an asphalt shingle.
We have since found out that a Palapa is made from the dried palms that are used in churchs throughout the world on Palm Sunday.
It’s beautiful and we think it is one of the most becoming features of our Bed and Breakfast. It is our favourite place to serve our guests breakfast. It was not always like that….
December 20, 2009 – Heather and I are sitting under the palapa enjoying a Corona while surveying the lower floor and deciding what we should do with what. It has been a long day what with doing insurance work in the morning and doing demolition in the back room in the afternoon. There was a small breeze coming off the ocean which was rattling the grass in the palapa and causing a great deal of it to fall on our heads!
There was no denying the fact that the palapa had to be replaced. Now! It was falling down around us so we vowed the next day we would look into getting it replaced.
Three company’s came out to quote on the job with 2 of them being the same price and one being way too high. The last man who came out to quote, Angel, walked into the area where the palapa was and you could tell that as far as he was concerned, he was going to rebuild this palapa. He looked at it and asked if we wanted dimension lumberor rustic. Same price either way. We said rustic. He said, give me $20,000.00 pesos and we will start tomorrow. We replied we will pay you the deposit when you arrive.
Angel (pronounced Anhel) was the a typical Mexican cowboy. Long and lanky he weighed maybe 120 pounds if he was lucky. Looked to be about 60 but who knows.
At 9:00 am the next day the truck pulled up and out jumped about 5 young guys who immediately started tearing down the old palapa. The grass was crumbling in their hands as they moved up the 2 x 4’s that were the trusses for the main support system. These guys had no fear, it was something to see. A good many of the 2 x 4’s were rotten after being exposed to the elements for a good many years.
That day they removed everything and cleaned up the site. Angel came by to pick up the deposit and said he would be back in a day or two with the grass.
2 days later, a Sunday morning, Heather and I were up on the roof enjoying our coffee when a truck full of palapa grass pulled up in the driveway. For the next 45 minutes they dumped the grass on the patio along with some tree trunks which were obviously the rustic supports.
We chatted a few minutes when they were done in Spanish and our take was they would be back in the morning to start.
And back they were. They were preparing the trees for use. The tree bark had been removed but they needed to be ground and cleaned for use. So for two days we listened to the sound of the hand grinder going up and down these logs.
The next day the whole crew arrived and started to build the support system. It was fascinating to watch these skinny guys and the old man toss these logs around. Heather and I would be lucky if we could lift an end of one. They were tossing them around like they were toothpicks.
Once the south side supports were up they started weaving the grass. It was amazing watching them do this. Taking a piece of grass and weaving it over the cross member. The worker would do a whole row and then go along with pruning shears clipping the edges to make sure they were even.
It is like watching performance art, except it makes sense and you get a reliable product at the end. However, the work takes time. Something neither Heather or I ever realized. It took a lot longer to do than we ever imagined it would.
It was about 10 days into construction when Angel told us he had got a job to do a very large palapa for a hotel in Yelapa. A small village only accessible by boat from Puerto Vallarta. The size of the palapa escapes me now but we worked it out based on the amount of grass that he needed that it was worth $30,000.00 us dollars.
And everything had to be transported by boat. We referred to it as the Yelapa Palapa…
It took just over 3 weeks start to finish for our palapa to be completed. It is beautiful. It provides shade when you want it. It keeps out the rain so you can sit in comfort while it is pouring outside. And most importantly, it has fans installed that help keep you cool when its 35 degrees outside in the shade….
September 2011 – It’s a hot one today at Casa MaderaBed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta. 35 degrees with a humidex of about 42. We have not had a good cooling rain for two weeks. Very unusual for that to happen in rainy season. Due to the heat there was not much going on today but trying not to sweat!
Labour day weekend was a treat. Casa Madera was visited by friends from Lacombe, Alberta to celebrate their 24th anniversary. It was a great weekend and too short a visit. We are happy they enjoyed their tour of “our Mexico“.
It’s during these visits that our memories go back to what this house looked like when we bought it and how far we have come in less than 2 years. The house was a mess. Plants were overgrown everywhere. The woodwork was termite infested, the fixtures were old and everything was in general disrepair. All this with two people who were office workers and one who spent virtually every waking summer moment on the golf course…..
December 2009 – We have been in the house for about 10 days. Still feeling our way around and trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. We were working on tearing out the kitchen and rotten woodwork in the back room. It was a long process as screws had to come out to get things apart. Most had been in place for 20 years in a humid environment which made them just a tad rusty.
It was frustrating. We thought that we finally had the last screw or nail and then when the unit still would not move we would find 6 more. It seemed to take us forever just get the counter and the kitchen cabinets out let alone the rotten pine wall unit. If we were having this much difficulty in the first room how hard were the next two going to be?
We were up to our necks in rotten wood when our friend Bill came by to see how we were doing. He had a man working at his house building a pizza oven and patio area and he was just about done so he thought maybe we would be interested in having him come to work for us. He could do tile, concrete and other general construction work. He would come for 2500 pesos a week and lunch everyday.
Heather and I thought this over for at least a nanosecond and said sure. Oswaldo would start on Thursday as he had one more day at Bill’s.
Thursday came and Oswaldo showed up at the appointed hour. We went through the house and showed him what was going on and what we wanted to do. The first order of business for him was to repair our outside wall where there was giant hole as neither Heather or I had ever mixed concrete in our lives.
Oswaldo looked at the hole, did some calculations and said we needed to get materials so off to the store we went. He ordered what he needed and said they would deliver it in a couple of hours.
Back at the house Oswaldo asked whether we would like him to work on the tear out. Sure I said. He asked a very important question, “are you keeping anything”? No. In the space of the next 30 minutes he had the wall unit that Heather and I worked so patiently on for two days in a pile outside of the house. Who cares about screws, just rip the thing out I can deal with the screws later.
From there he was into the bathroom ripping out the sink, the vanity, the toilet, and the shower doors. He was done it all by the time the materials for the wall showed up.
It was at that point when Heather and I realized how far in over our heads we were and boy did we feel like idiots.
With the materials there Oswaldo started on the wall. He could only do a little at a time as the mortar had to set before more weight could be added on top of it so he started on the second bedroom. He completed the tear out in that room while working on the wall and moved into the third bedroom.
By the time the wall was complete and stuccoed he had completed the tear out in all three rooms. Two and a half days. Heather and I spent 2 days in room number 1 and were not done when he joined us!
Monday morning came and Oswaldo was wondering what we wanted him to do today. We decided to start on the kitchen in the first bedroom. Heather and I had made up our minds that the kitchens would be Mexican without a stick of wood in sight so concrete had to be mixed, forms had to made and we needed to show him where everything would go.
It was a demanding task keeping up with him. While a great worker, he was not a great planner so there were many times when he came upstairs and said I need this or that before I can go on. This meant I spent a lot time going to the store to get more supplies.
It got to the point where I was always greeted by name at El Guero (our local hardware store). If Heather was with me, I am not sure they really noticed. They were only interested in the guy who kept buying tile, glue, grout, toilets, faucets, shower heads, and anything else they had on what seemed like a daily basis for a while. Every person who worked there would break away from what they were doing to say hi, how are you Kevin? I have to admit, I liked it!
Oswaldo did great work. He built all of our kitchens in our guest rooms, rebuilt all of the bathrooms and did a spectacular job. I thought they looked great then and I still do.
He was a god send to us. He had his quirks and at times he drove us absolutely nuts but his work ethic and the quality of his work was great.
We look back it now and realize that without him we would have been screwed. We had no idea of what we were getting into or how to fix it and were ripe for the picking. Thanks to him we were not picked. He handled our problems, sometimes well, sometimes not so much but we learned from it.
After 5 months Heather and I realized that it was time for us to start doing things for ourselves and taking ownership of our house. We owe Oswaldo a ton and I hate to think of where we would be if he had not come into our lives. Thank you.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Do we deal with the green pool first? Do we deal with a bedroom? We just had no idea.
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.
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?
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.