House hunting, frustration in any language!

Over the last couple of weeks we have been diligently working on improving Casa Madera.   When we bought the house, it needed work.  A lot of work.  But there were reasons we chose this house over the others we looked at and it was while I was painting our bedroom I started to think about some of the houses we looked a couple of years ago.

January 2009 – The condo was up for sale and attracting some interest.  This meant we should get our butts in gear and find a house that would be suitable for a bed and breakfast.  We called our friend and exclusive realtor, William Michael from Vallarta Escapes.  He knew what we wanted and set about to see what he could find in a reasonable price range that would meet our needs.

It was about a week later that he some houses to show us.  So off we went with the typical excitement you have when you are looking for a new house.  We were stoked!

Well we came down from that pretty fast.  Our problem was we were not really sure where we wanted to live.  We thought we wanted to live in Puerto Vallarta so that is where the houses that he had for us to see were located.  The first house was located back behind Fluvial which is a new district.  It was nice house but it was a little far away from all the tourist amenities which was going to be a problem.  That and there was just not enough room for a pool which had become a must have for me.

Sometimes pool's come in a variety of colours!

After the first day of looking Heather and I decided that we needed to make up our mind where we want to live.   Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Sayulita?  There were many choices so we started driving out to various areas just to try to get a feel for everything that they each had to offer.

Bucerias is a nice town.  It has all the services you would want and a great beach.  Ok, lets look there.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle was small fishing village that had started to grow up with large condo projects and had an interesting feel to it.  We thought we could look there too.

Nuevo Vallarta was a planned residential tourist community that gave us a Beverly Hills feel when we drove into.  We decided that we can look there but we were not sure about it.

Sayulita is a great town.  To me it had a sixties California feel to it.  A surfing beach, great waves that still allow you to swim.  It’s drawback was it was on the other side of the mountain.  We will think about it but it was just too far out for me.

That left us Puerto Vallarta.  The reason we moved here.  We loved the town.  Friendly people, all the services.  It is great.

After all the discussion between to the two us we told William Michael our preferences.  He did his best to come up with something that would meet our needs and make us happy.

The next house was a 3 storey affair next to the Rio Cuale in Old Town.  It was a nice place.  Currently being operated as a small hotel and doing reasonably well.  The rooms all had some kitchen facilities, they were comfortable and the house had a great view but there was just no room for a pool.  We decided to keep it in mind but I really wanted a pool.

Shade and sun at the same time!

There were many that day, some worth looking at, some not so much.  Some out of our price league but fun to look at anyhow.

The next day we went out we went to see a house in Bucerias which we quite liked but again there was just no room for a pool.  The other thing we found odd about Bucerias is that most of the houses were two bedrooms.   At least those were the ones which were for sale.

From there we went to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where there were two houses to see.  One was definitely a fixer upper according to William Micheal.  We walked into the house which was a one storey and it had the oddest feature.   A knee-high rock built into the floor.  WTF?  No one could tell us why it was there.  The house was being lived in at the time.  It was not finished.  No bedroom doors or jambs, just curtains.  They had not sprayed the house for bugs in a while as we were stepping over cockroaches to get into the house.  It was when we walked into the kitchen that William Michael calmly told us to step to the right as there was one coming right for us.  We both take direction well so we did and watch it stroll on by.

From there we went to a house which was actually set up for and being run as a bed and breakfast.  It was a nice place but was located across the street from the Sonic Gas propane station which played a whistle and shouted gas every few minutes.  We liked the house but not the location.

After 3 months of frustration of trying to find a house & setting up a pre-approved mortgage we were getting a little jaded.  It was a that point that William Michael reminded us that we had yet to look in Nuevo Vallarta.  Ok, let’s go see what Beverly Hills south has to offer.

Nice houses, that is what it has to offer.  Every house we looked at was gorgeous.  Immaculately kept, nice grounds.  They were beautiful.  Unfortunately they also had a nice price tag to go along with all that great stuff.  We were not going to denied though.  After 5 months in Puerto Vallarta we thought that living out in Nuevo might not be that bad.  It will be quiet and it really is not that far out from town.

It was then that he took us to what would become Casa Madera.  Wow.  It was perfect!  3 bedrooms downstairs with their own doors and livable space on the second floor for us.  A pool!  A nice size pool and a hot tub!  Man how could we be so lucky! And at a great price too.

However, we were still not sold on Nuevo Vallarta so we did not do anything that day.  We did talk about the house a lot though.  So we talked to our mortgage broker to make sure it would fit into our budget and he discussed it with the bank.  After a few days he came back and said that yes it would work.

We let it sit for a while because we were not going to rush into this one.  We did once already and were let down.  A couple of weeks went by and we decided we needed to look at it again.

The second viewing was not as good.  We then saw all the warts that the house had.  It needed a lot of work.  The bedrooms were going to have to be gutted.  The palapa over the garage was shot as was the one just outside of the kitchen.  And the kitchen, crap it was awful.  Well, now we are going to have to rethink this.

I have a screwdriver, we can fix it!

Again we discussed and discussed.  Can we do the repairs that it needs within a reasonable budget amount.  Especially since we are such handy kind of people.  Eventually it came down to one thing.  It was a perfect house for what we wanted to do.

So we jumped with both feet.  And then the fun began…..

Just think Steve Austin, you can rebuild it! Hopefully it won't cost you 6 million

You Want to Eat What???

February 8, 2011 – We had friends staying at Casa Madera a few weeks ago. Two couples, Doug and Linda who are Vallarta veterans and Bob and Susan who had never been to Mexico before. 

It was a great combination.  Doug and Linda were free with information and advice to the rookies who ate it up.  It was fun watching as Bob and Susan discovered what it was that caused us all to love Mexico so much. 

The highlight was the day that Doug suggested we all go to Tacos on the Street in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for dinner.  So we packed everybody into the Jeep with Doug riding in the luggage compartment as he had a broken leg that needed to be kept straight. 

We arrived early enough that we were able to get a table without lining up and I wandered down the street to the local store to buy a bottle of wine for dinner.  This is an excellent restaurant food wise but it is not much to look at and I am pretty sure Bob and Susan were wondering where in Gods name we had dragged them to eat.

The Crew at Tacos on the Street

That changed the moment the food arrived.  It was great, grilled rib eye tacos, tostadas and quesadillas, it just does not get better.  Everybody loved it.  A great evening out, good friends & good food.

It was the start of something great and the next evening Bob & Susan ate in a small little hole in the wall in Puerto Vallarta.  They told us they loved it too.  The two of them had come a long way in a few days.  It reminds me of Heather’s and my eyes being opened to the variety of food available on the street a few years back.

December 15, 2008 – Time for a walk.  We had just finished dinner and were feeling cooped up inside our little condo.  We were just locking the gate when a Mexican man came down the hall with his hands full of paint and other building materials and stopped at the door next door. 

He smiled and introduced himself as Marco and explained that he had bought the unit a few months ago and was here to renovate the unit and get it cleaned up.  I had heard working next door and knew someone was there but we had never seen him.

We chatted back and forth for the next little while getting the details of what he was doing, how he was doing it and his schedule for the next week.  He explained that he is a Mexican National who has been living in the US for 20 years.  He is an American Citizen living in the Bay area but has a lot of family in Mexico.

One of the things he had been doing on this trip was reliving his youth and enjoying the food that he used to eat but cannot get in the United States.  He was especially interested in Tacos de Sesos but had been unable to find them yet.  We said our good nights and continued on with our walk.

A couple of nights later we were relaxing in the condo watching some tv considering going to bed because it was after 9:00 when Marco yelled up to our patio windows.  He was going out to see if he could find some Tacos de Sesos and would we like to come with him.  We wrestled with that for a while as we had yet to beat the Canadian responsiblity gene out of ourselves yet but finally we decided what the hell, it sounds like fun let’s go. 

So into Marco’s car we got and we were off.  Marco had done his research and had found out that there was a stand down by Casa Ley, a supermarket so we headed downtown.  he drove slow through the area but could not find the stand. 

Marco was not going to be put off by this turn of events and decided to keep driving.  He knew there was one or more out there and he was going to find it! 

We continued driving around the northern end of el centro but we were not having any success.  It was at that point that he saw a young man standing at a bus stop.  He asked him in Spanish if he knew of any stands in the area that served Tacos de Sesos and he said maybe up the road and to the right.  That was enough so Marco asked him to get in.

Now there was something we were not quite ready for but Marco and passenger kept conversing in Spanish with Marco translating for us into English.  The man rode with us for a couple of minutes and then Marco let him out at another bus stop where he could catch his second bus.  He had pointed him in another direction so Marco had dropped him in a place where he would only have to pay one bus fare to get home.

We ended up in a part of town that Heather and I had never been in.  Marco was checking every stand for these tacos but no, not one of them had them.  He finally got to one that said that they had other types that interested Marco so we stopped. 

He ordered a taco whose name was indiscernable to me but it turned out to be breast of cow.  We agreed to try it and it was udderly fascinating.  Not quite up to my tastes, a little chewy but not overly offensive.  He liked the stand so he continued to sample the rest of their wares.

Next up, Tacos de Labia.  Cow lips.  Better than the udder ones, more flavour and not as chewy.  This was quickly followed by Tacos de Lengua or tongue.  I have never liked beef tongue so I let Heather have that one.  I stuck with a regular meat taco.  It was delightful, as was Heather’s tongue taco according to her.

Marco still obsessed with the Tacos de Sesos however and was questioning the stand owner about them.  We were in luck.  He had a brother who had a stand a couple of blocks away and he sold them.   

So back into the car we went and after starting to think we were going the wrong way we found the stand and yes, he had Tacos de Sesos.   Marco was like a child a Christmas, he was so excited.  Marco ordered two and only two because he had not had them for quite a while and was unsure about whether or not he would still like them.  After he liberally doused the first one in hot sauce he took a bite.  I watched with anticipation as he uttered the first words out of his mouth, “well these will be an acquired taste”.   

Immediately he added more hot sauce, salt , pepper, and offered a bite to us.  After his second bite he offered the other taco to us.  I passed  but Heather being the gamer that she is jumped right in with both feet.  Marco ordered a drink. Heather covered hers in hot sauce.  I steadfastly refused to touch it.

Heather ordered a drink.  I watched an Iraqi journalist throw a shoe at George Bush on the tv while trying not to gag at what they were eating.

Marco finally got his down.  Heather kept struggling.  Why you say did these two continue to struggle to eat these?  Well it would be an insult to the proud chef who was watching their every move to throw it out. 

So I ordered drink because they looked good.  Horchata, a drink made of rice water, sugar and cinnamon. Very tasty but somehow I doubt it would totally clear your taste buds of what was lingering there.

Heather was obviously struggling to keep the taco down but she was still working on it.  I kept expecting Jeff Probst to jump out of a truck, but no there were just a lot people wondering what the gringos were doing in their neighbourhood.

Marco may have had his Tacos de Sesos but he was not done yet.  He then a Taco de Ojo, which he explained was to get the taste out of his mouth of the Sesos.  Again he offered a bite to us but Heather after just managing to get the other one down chose not to.  Me, not a snowball’s chance in hell was I going to try Cow eyes.  So Marco finished his Ojo and paid the man.  4 tacos, 3 drinks, 40 pesos….we said goodnight to the man and off we went home. 

Marco was a revelation to us.  We owe him a ton.  Without him dragging us out on this adventure we would have taken forever to get over eating food off of a road side stand.  He showed us what Mexico really had to offer and that while you may not like all of it or want to try it all there is a ton of food out there that is very, very good.  You just have to look for it and you will find it.   

And for that Marco we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!  Though honestly, I still cannot figure out why you will try all of that stuff and not eat an escargot.

Enjoying a Sunset Cerveza with Marco on Playa Las Glorias

As far as what are Tacos de Sesos?  If any of you are game to try Cow brains come on down and we will be happy to show you where you can get them.  The stand is permanently ensconced in our brains.