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…..
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!
August 9, 2011 – It has been some time since I sat down at my computer at Casa MaderaBed 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
February 24, 2011 – I am sitting on our new Kitchen patio enjoying the afternoon sun here at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast. What a treat to be able to sit here with the breeze coming off the ocean and not have 14 year palapa grass fall on my head among other things.
It has been a long haul but the kitchen renovation is finally finished. Man does it look good. We put a lot of faith in Sergio, our architect and Chicho the cabinet-maker to do it right and they delivered. They took the most ridiculously designed 2 rooms I have ever seen and made them sparkle. They gave us actual usable space. It is a treat.
There are only so many people who saw the kitchens we had been living with for the last 28 months. The two kitchens were so small that most of the kitchen items we brought down from Canada with us in November 2008 did not get unpacked until a week ago.
The best part about the new kitchen is Heather is totally stoked to cook again with a real stove with burners that work and hey is that an oven! I am enjoying the rewards of having that stove and although my waistline may not approve I really don’t care!
Heather was making some appetizers she had never made before last Friday for a wine reception that our friends at Vallarta Escapes host during high season. Watching her chop and seed some dried chili’s reminded me of the night we decided to try to cook a new mexican recipe in the condo….
December 2008 – We have been in town for 3 weeks. We are getting tired of restaurant food and making easy to cook items on our one burner hot plate. The kitchen in the condo is what one would call non-existent. There is 3 feet of usable counter space. There is a small fridge, microwave and our pride and joy, the one burner hot plate.
The one burner hot plate we brought with us from Canada. It was purchased as a stand by for when we needed more burner space. It was never used until we moved into the condo in Puerto Vallarta.
It was in Vallarta that we discovered that the one burner hot plate was built with Canadian safety standards in mind. What a pain those were. You would just get a pot of water for pasta to start boiling and it would shut down! Can’t let the little sucker overheat I guess. Something bad might happen, like your food would cook in under 3 hours! Oh well, it threw up a challenge but we eventually got used to it.
Heather had brought a few cookbooks with her and one was Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. We found a marinade in the book that looked interesting and would translate well to meat that would have to be fried.
The recipe included dried Ancho Chiles and dried Guanjillos Chiles. It called for them to be stemmed, seeded and deveined. So we started on that project. Now this was Sunday and it was hot so we were enjoying a cerveza while we worked on the chiles. Now there is one thing about cerveza that is well-known, you only rent it. So once we had the chiles done I headed down the hall to use the facilities.
I did my business, washed my hands and returned to the kitchen to start pulverizing the remaining spices into a paste. It was about 3 minutes later that I started to get very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable changed in about 30 seconds to HOLY CRAP CERTAIN PARTS OF ME APPEAR TO BE ON FIRE!
It was at this point I blasted down the hall, ripped off my clothes and jumped into a very cold shower. It was not helping. I tried soap, nope. No staving off this burning sensation. It was at that point that Heather showed up outside the shower, laughing so hard with tears streaming down her face carrying a bowl of Lala Strawberry Yoghurt.
All I can say is thank god for Lala. Things cooled off in a hurry, so to speak. There was no permanent damage except to my ego. I knew better. How many times in your life to do you read, wear gloves when handling peppers. Well it applies to dry ones too folks. I learned the hard way.
The emergency over we went back to the marinade though Heather had a really hard time concentrating on what she was doing for some reason, why I have no idea.
Oh and through the pain of it all, the recipe was worth it!