The Journey to Casa Madera – Guadalajara, It took a year but we finally got there!

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 Madera Bed 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!

The view from the 16th floor

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.

One of about 15 stores where you could buy a wedding dress

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.

Could walk this all day long

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.

Refreshment time in Tlaquepaque

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.

Great way to spend the day!

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.

Beautiful cathedral just outside of downtown

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.

There are 6 traffic lanes in this traffic circle, there are at least 6 of these in town. Fun to drive in! Really!

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.

Just a tiny, tiny bit of the Tonala market.

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.

Monday morning rush hour in Guadalajara. All this for Krispy Kremes…..

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…


Good things can come from dirty laundry! Part 1

We had just poured a glass of wine one night last week when a red Jeep drove by our house, Casa Madera.  It went a few feet past, turned around and parked at the end of our driveway.  There are an awful lot of Jeeps in Mexico but we did not know anybody with one so we thought they were going to the Senora’s house next door.

It was then that the gate rattled so I looked over the balcony and there were Mary and Lore.  They had dropped by to say Hi.  It was nice to see them.  We had a great visit as it had been a couple of months since we had talked.

It was a good conversation.  As a matter of fact I would have to rate it as one of the best conversations the 4 of us had ever had.  It took place in Spanish and we understood most of it.  It was later that I got to thinking about how far all of us have come from the first day we walked into Mary’s laundry 2 and a half years ago…

December 2008 – We have discovered that regardless of where you live, you will always have laundry!  Our condo does not have a washer and dryer nor does it have the space or hookups for them.  This means we have to find a place to do our laundry.  There are 2 to choose from in the complex.  This was new.

Heather says she went to Mary’s because she liked the painting of the Smiling washing machine on the front but really it was because the other laundry just never seemed very friendly.  Something that Mary had no issues with.

The first visit was difficult as Mary spoke virtually no english and we spoke very poor spanish but we managed to get through it.  The first load of clothes were returned in fine shape so we continued to take our dirty laundry to her.  Well except for the day that Heather thought that maybe we should visit a laundromat that we had noticed about 5 blocks up the street.

The laundromat was like any other, lines of washers and dryers, folding tables and a bench out front for sitting on and reading.  The problem was there was no real place to park so we either had to walk down with our clothes or take the bus.  Now there is lots of fun, riding a bus with a big bag of your sweaty, smelly clothes.  We did this twice at 30 pesos per wash and 30 pesos per dry.

It was then that we realized that Mary would do it for basically the same price as the laundromat and we only had to drop it off and pick it up.  So no more visits to the laundromat.

One day Heather came back to the condo announcing that she had made us pedicure appointments with a woman around the corner who was looking for clients.  Ok, why not.  So off we went.

There were two women there, one to work on Heather and one to work on me.  The name of the woman who had the lovely pleasure of working on my spectacularly abused feet was Lore.

Again conversation for me was virtually non-existent but Heather seemed to be holding her own.  This became a twice monthly event for us as it was actually quite nice.  It was the second time we were there that the woman who worked on Heather’s feet asked her about learning english.  It was decided that we would return tomorrow afternoon and attempt to give them some insight into the english language.

The appointed time came and we went to their store to find 3 of them eager to learn.  Lore, Mary and the other woman whose name is escaping me.  This became a regular event for us.  We would get together a couple a times a week to at least try to show them the words and the sentences they needed to attract tourists into their shop.

The problem was that the complex had at least 6 shops that did massages, manicures and pedicures.  In the economy we were in at the time, there was just not enough tourists to go around.  It was getting very difficult for them to eek out a living.

The lessons were a major hit.  Whether or not we made a difference to their english learning is anybody’s guess but we had fun.  The lessons also became the catalyst to friendship. 

We had been going for pedicures and trying to teach them english for about 3 months when Mary asked us if we wanted to come with them to fiesta for a friends son’s first communion.  She was very persuasive and said that her friends would love it if we would come.  Okay, we will attend.

Heather and I were now in a quandary.  This is an important event in a young persons life and we were invited.   While we knew Mary and Lore we did not know the hosts nor the child in question.  How do we dress? Do we buy him a gift? 

We eventually settled on giving him a card and some money.  But then, how much?  He was 8 so we decided to go with 70 pesos. 

The day arrived and Mary told us to meet them at the laundry at 2:30 and we would take the bus.  Heather and I decided that being a religious but festive event we would not wear shorts.  This was in June when the temperatures hover around 33 degrees celsius and the humidity makes it feel like 40.  Needless to say, it was hot and sticky. 

We hopped on the bus and headed into a part of town we had never been in before, Cuoapinole.  The road was not in what one would call primo condition but we made it.  We were hot and sweaty so we were using what ever we had to try to dry our faces and necks before we met these people.  Heather had kleenex in her purse so that was our only choice. 

We finally arrived at our destination and walked up to the house where the party was already going on.  Needless to say Heather and I kind of stood out in the crowd.  We were the only white people there.  Now that should not be unusual when you live in Mexico but when it happens the first time it kind of unsettles you. 

Mary introduced us to her friends, Bertha and Carlos and their son, Juan who looked sparkling in his pristine white communion clothes.    Mary immediately wanted us to eat.  The food today was Pozole.  A soup made from pork meat broth with hominy in it. 

Bertha was dishing it out and I had my choice of meat, pork shoulder, tongue or other parts.  I asked for the shoulder and just a little tongue.  I took it out to the table outside where there was cilantro, jalapeños, onions, radishes and of course, limes.  It was delightful.  Full of flavour, wonderfully cooked,  it was great.

Beer was offered, accepted and more pozole was requested.  We were introduced to the people around the table who were gracious and very nice.  We met Bertha’s brother who is a monk and spoke english.  The day was good but being able to converse with somebody easily was great.

We were still sweating and using the kleenex to dry our foreheads and necks when Heather looked at me and said that we must get cloths for this chore as for the last hour I had been wandering around with little bits of kleenex attached to my neck and beard.  Nothing like making a good impression on new friends!

All in all it was a great day.  We made some new friends and had a great time.  It was a life lesson for both of us coming from a culture where people are more closely guarded and not as free with their affections, and I was definitely one of those types of people.  Mary and Lore did our laundry and now we are proud to count them among our dearest friends. 

It just goes to show that if you go around within your own little world the rest of it just passes you by.

Without meeting Mary & Lore there are so many things we would have never experienced.  Wait until you hear about the trip to Guadalajara….

Julio, We Told You the Tree had to Come DOWN!

May 27, 2011 – It has been quite the eventful day here at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  We have a mirador or in english a lookout tower.  We have always wondered why.  The view is spectacular but really it performs no other use and we are really not sure how they got it built anyway as it seems to break every rule the homeowner’s association has.

Mirador up at the top and the TREE!

The previous owners of the house which became Casa Madera had not kept the maintenance which has required a fair amount of work on our part but that is a story for another day.  Today we are talking about the mirador.  It was in severe need of painting probably about 4 years ago.  It was also something that Heather and I debated about for quite a while.  Do we really want to keep it?  What do we do with it.  Either way it needed paint.

How the heck are we going to do that?  At the top it is 4 stories high.  There are areas that will probably require scaffolding.  Where are we going to get that?  There are areas that are not the easiest to reach even with scaffolding.  Either way we had to do something about it.

So today I had nothing better to do that would pay me money so I decided to paint it.  It was a good idea at the time.  It was cloudy and not too hot so I set up gear and went to work.  What a pain in the butt.  The stucco covering is streaked with gaps that make it extremely difficult to fill with paint.  Oh well it is not perfect but I did the best I could with a pole that could reach 18 feet.

The problem is the sun came out so after 3 hours I had to pack it in.  I had drunk 5 16 ounce glasses of water and a liter is rehydrating liquid (not sport drinks but actual medicinal rehydrater) and was dying up there.  I was half done so I was reasonably happy with what I saw and cleaned everything up.

The rest of the day was to be spent lounging in the pool with a cold beer and a good book.  That was going to be after we went to the print shop to print off a letter for the homeowners association about things that needed to be done to the lot next door and the farm land behind us as we have some tree issues.

I got myself cleaned up and ready to go but Heather was still tweaking the letter so she was not ready.  I sat myself down at the computer to deal with my email and check twitter and Facebook.  About 4 minutes in to that I heard an odd noise.  I did not think much about it as we hear lots of odd noises throughout the day with the various work that goes on throughout the neighbourhood during the day.  I kept reviewing the days events on the computer.

It was then I heard a much louder odd noise that sounded like a crack and then the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass.  That was enough to get me out of my seat.  I made the 3 steps to the balcony to see the pine tree that we had asked the agricultural engineer from the Homeowner’s association to remove 3 weeks ago lying overtop of our Jeep Grand Cherokee.


We were heading to Guadalajara for 5 days to do some shopping, some sightseeing and reconnect with our friend Marco who is living there.  Well so much for that.  Glass was all over the ground, I could see the roof was caved in, we were not going anywhere.

So while Heather called the Homeowner’s association I emailed the hotel, the kennel for the cat, the friends who were taking the dog and Marco to tell them that fate is not allowing us to travel tomorrow.

Once Heather was done with the Homeowner’s association we called our insurance broker, Juan Pablo.  I explained our problem and he said I needed to call the company in my best Spanish and he would call the adjuster and let him know what was happening.

I know we never used air conditioning but it would nice to be able to close the window every once and a while!

My best Spanish is just like my best French so I deferred the call to Heather who is better at it than I am.  She did the report and we went back outside to survey the damage.

While we were on the phone the Tourist Police drove by doing their usual rounds.  They slowed a bit and had quite the look at the car but did not stop.  I found it quite funny when a second set came through about 5 minutes later and again slowed to get a good look but did not stop.  What, were they thinking it was a new accessory?

The best was when the school bus driver brought the boy from down the street home after school.  He dropped the boy off and was coming back, he slowed to an absolute crawl…and then stopped about 30 feet past the house and I am pretty sure got out his phone to take a picture.  He could have backed up we really would not have cared!

It was about 5 minutes later the workers from the Homeowners association showed up.  Looked at the tree and started cutting.  They were then faced with the task of how to get it off the car without damaging the garage door or the palapa.  That was when the insurance adjuster showed up.

The insurance adjuster showed up!  One hour after the tree had fallen the adjuster was at our house.  I was involved in insurance claims for 20 years when Heather and I started this odessy and we always strived for excellent customer service but this was something else!

He looked at the Jeep and told me what was going to happen.  Did I have the policy?  I explained it was in the car as we have been told to do.  Until they moved the tree I could not get it at it.  It was then the workers motioned us over to get the tree out of the way.

One guy on the front end loader and two Fibba (homeowner’s association) workers and the adjuster were on the tree.  They lifted it up enough for me to get into the Jeep and back it out in the street.

No, the Christmas tree should be centered on the roof!

The Fibba men started cutting the rest of the tree up while the adjuster and I looked over the mangled vehicle.  He announced it could be repaired!  Damn.  In Canada it would have been a write off for sure which would have made us both happy.

This is a problem with low labour rates ( we like them everywhere else, our problem I guess).  Oh well.  He wrote the appraisal sheet, told me where to take it.  They would order the parts and it would be repaired, I only had to pay my deductible.  5% of the value of the vehicle.

So tomorrow we will take the car to the repair shop, they can see the appraisal, order the parts and the car will be repaired.

The interesting point in the entire dissertation is that the tree fell at 3:00 pm this afternoon.  The tree was cut and in a pile by our house and the repair order was done by the adjuster by 4:30 pm.

90 minutes.  Unbelievable.  I love this country!