The Journey to Casa Madera – Replacing The Palapa

September 24, 2011 – It’s hot, very hot today at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  32 degrees with humidity so it feels like 39.  You move, you sweat.  It’s that simple. You cannot escape it unless you lock yourself in the house with your air conditioner on.  We don’t use the air conditioning so we pay the price.

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!

I don't think this will keep the rain out anymore!

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.

Glad it's him and not me!

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.

Bare feet!

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.

Looks just a little different

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.

The first truck load of grass with the support poles.

We chatted a few minutes when they were done in Spanish and our take was they would be back in the morning to start.

Angel is sitting on the lower beam

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.

One side done!

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.

Almost finished!

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…

Now that's a nice 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….

We have the fans now we just need the Corona!

The Journey to Casa Madera – The tale of Oswaldo

September 2011 – It’s a hot one today at Casa Madera Bed 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?

Kitchen and Wall unit in Room number 1

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.

Hole in the wall

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.

Room number 2 after the removal of it's wall unit

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.

After the demolition of the shower in room number 1

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!

2 Days of Oswaldo, hole fixed and just needs paint

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!

The New Shower in room number 1

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.

The finished kitchen in room number 1 and the bathroom sink, all Oswaldo's handiwork

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.

Oswaldo standing beside his first finished kitchen in room number 1

 

 

The Journey to Casa Madera – We have the house….what the heck do we do now?

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!

Signing the papers. Are those smiles of joy or trepidation?

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.

The house that would become Casa Madera

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.

A rare sight, me with a mop!

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.

Tearing out the kitchen in room number 1

Do we deal with the green pool first?  Do we deal with a bedroom?  We just had no idea.

The pool, what a lovely colour

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.

Bathroom sink and vanity

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?

The first bedroom after the kitchen tear out

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.

And thus began the tale the Oswaldo…..

Good things come from dirty laundry, part 3 – Tonala

 

September 2009 – We had heard many things about the City of Tonala and were very interested to see what it was all about.  Tonala is a suburb of Guadalajara which is similar to many of the other great city’s in the world with a small central core and many other separate cities or boroughs attached making up its mammoth size.  We had been looking forward to this trip for quite a while….

After a delicious breakfast of fresh papaya the four of us, Mary, Lore, Heather and I headed to the city bus stop a few blocks away.  The bus was crowded and it was every person for themselves when it came to getting a seat.  This lead to us getting separated on the bus but from what I could see is we were in for a long ride so sooner or later seats would open up closer together. 

Heather and I at one of the many fountains in downtown Guadalajara

Well that was a great thought.  Never happened, people would get off but another load would get on so any extra seats never came available.  Oh well, we were adults so I was pretty sure we would figure it out.  It was a typical bus ride.  Quick, lots of stops and lots of things to look at.  It was an entertaining ride.

As we crested a hill there was a lot of movement on the bus, people were making their way towards the doors.  A lot of people.  It was then that I heard a cry that would become familiar over the next few days, KEVIN!, in accented spanish was called by Mary and I am pretty sure it could have been heard 6 buses away but it got my attention.  Apparently it was time to get off.

As the bus pulled away all we could see stretching for blocks was blue tarps.  This was it.  The Tonala street market.  Every Thursday and Sunday people came and sold their wares along about countless city blocks on this road.   But that was not all, it went down alleyways and other cross streets.  It was literally amazing.

Fountain in pedestrian walk in Guadalajara

Enough looking, let’s get across the street and see what they have!  They had everything.   Heather and I were in awe.  Pottery, glassware, leather, flowers, artwork, household items, religious items, lights, clothing, furniture, pets, herbs, candy and of course, food.

Our plan was to wander through today and if we saw something we liked Mary and Lore would find out what the cost was as in most cases it was thought that if Heather or I asked, it would be more.  So we wandered, we stopped, we looked, we bought.  2 sets of 2 round paper lamps for 10 bucks.  6 coffee mugs and a stand 5 bucks.  The same mugs in Puerto Vallarta were 5 bucks each!

Me, Mary and Lore in front of a store in Tonala

As we found out through out the day, everything was much cheaper there than here but there was a good reason.  Tonala was the factory town.  Everything was made there and shipped out. 

We loaded ourselves up and about 3:00 we thought we should head for home.  As we had a great deal of stuff Mary called her brother and asked him to come and pick us up. 

We packed as much as we could into the trunk of their Nissan Tsuru but we still had stuff on our laps.  Apparently we bought more than we thought but we got it home.

After a nice visit with Mary’s family Mary and Lore decided they should take us downtown so back to the bus we went. 

Downtown Guadalajara is something to behold.  What a beautiful city.  They lead us to all the highlights.  The place was bustling.  The Cathedral, the government buildings, the central market which is absolutely huge.  It was spectacular. 

Fountain and orphanage in the background

We were walking down a pedestrian walkway in jewellery section of town when we came across a building that was originally an orphanage many years ago.  Lore wanted us to see inside as apparently it is special.  We wandered around the square while she went in search of someone she knew to see if she could arrange a tour. 

The building it turned out was closed that night for a special function but if we come back tomorrow at 10:oo am he will give us a tour.  We agreed to that and wandered around a bit more before Mary said we needed to see this one cathedral so off we went to find that one.

It was about 6 or 7 blocks away but it was a beautiful night so we wandered towards this cathedral.  When we arrived it was really busy.  Wedding central.  One wedding was going on inside and another wedding party was waiting out in front of the doors.  It was something else. 

The square in front of it was hopping too.  Vendors selling all kinds of things and people just out enjoying the night in a pretty place.   It was then that what they wanted us to see happened. 

It was 9:00 pm and the church bells chimed.  That was not all there was though, this church had a glockenspiel which started to work as the bells started to toll.  All the Mexican Catholic Saints started to come out of the doors and go down their track.  It was really cool and something we are really glad we saw. 

Heather and Mary on some of the coolest sculptures ever. They could be in the hot sun all day and never get hot!

Mary and Lore were not done yet though.  As the one wedding was emptying out and the other was still getting itself in order they hustled us into the church to see it.  It was beautiful.  The woodwork in it was amazing as were most things.  It was a sight to behold.

After that I could not imagine that the orphanage could be anymore beautiful but as usual I was wrong….

Good things come from dirty laundry, Part 2

June 22, 2011 – I am sitting on our balcony at Casa Madera watching the rain drop from the sky.  It is intense for our first real rain of the season.  Rain.  Never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do here.  It probably has something to do with the fact that it is still 26 degrees and the water falling is warm not cold like it is in Canada

When it comes like this it is nice.  However yesterday we were on a hurricane watch as Hurricane Beatriz was working her way up the Mexican coast and while it would most likely not hit us directly we would probably get tropical storm winds and lots and lots of rain.  Beatriz though was just like the latest Canadian political landscape, it took a straight left turn and wandered out into the ocean.

Hurricanes.  Never had to worry about hurricanes in Edmonton however if you want warm weather you take the little side extras that comes with it.

Our first experience with a hurricane like event was in September 2009 and it came from the most unlikely source…..

September 2009 – We had made the deal on the house that was to become Casa Madera and were patiently waiting for it to close.  There were many delays but we were told don’t worry it will close, we just don’t know when. 

We had told Mary and Lore about the house purchase prior to returning to Canada for a vacation at the end of July.  They were very excited for us.   They were well aware of what we had in the condo and it was not going to go far in a 3000 square foot house.  It was then that they suggested we should all go to Guadalajara to shop for items for the house.

This was a great idea.  Heather and I always wanted to go to Guadalajara but had not been able to fit it in yet.  So we agreed that when returned from Canada we would set it up for the end of September after my kids had returned home (they were coming back with us for a vacation).

We returned and the dates were set.  We would leave Thursday morning on the midnight bus so we could hit the market in Tonala which runs Thursdays and Sundays.  We would stay at Mary’s parents house.  Ok, this will be interesting but really who better to haul you around a city of 8,000,000 people than a couple of people who lived there!

To do this though we would have to get over our fear of being on the highway at night.  The one main rule we had always been told was to never, ever drive at night.  The roads are narrow, twisty and there is always the possibility of running into a cow as they sometimes graze on the side of the highways.  However, it made the most sense to do this so we said ok.

On the day we were to leave Mary said she would come by the condo and pick us up around 8:00 pm.  From our condo we went over to her friends Carlos and Bertha’s house Bertha was determined to feed us and feed us she did.  Tacos dorado (deep-fried with potatoes, yummy), beans, rice, guacamole, it was endless and very, very good.

After she filled us with food we were off to the bus depot where we purchased tickets to Guadalajara which included a snack on board.  In minutes we were on the bus and on our way.  A big adventure for Heather and I who really did not know what to expect.  Mary and Lore were in total control.

The bus ride was non eventful.  There was a movie if you wanted to watch but I was more interested in trying to sleep.  Sleep, now that would have been nice.  I don’t sleep well in moving vehicles, never have but I did manage to catch an hour of shut-eye on the 4 hour trip.

We rolled into Guadalajara at 4:00 am and took a cab to Mary’s parents house.  It was 4:45 am and we were greeted by Mary’s mother who had the biggest grin on her  face for someone who was awakened at this ungodly hour to let her daughter, her daughter’s best friend and two middle-aged deer in the headlights white people into her house.  After the introductions we were shown to our bedroom and laid down to try to get a little sleep before the big shopping day.

We were up at 7:30 and went downstairs to actually say hello.  Or try.  We spoke very little spanish at this point and they spoke no english so we did what we could.  While we were talking I noticed in the corner of the living room there was a mountain made of Papaya’s.  No one offered any explanation for them being there and we did not ask as we were just trying to fit in.

At that point Mary’s mother, her sister Maggie, and Maggie’s son were up.  Then two of the largest men I had ever seen walked into the living room.  Mary’s brothers, Fernando and Victor.  Identical twins, great.  I will have enough problems getting know everybody’s name without dealing with identical twins

Victor and Fernando started loading the papaya‘s into the back of their pick up.  Once loaded they were off and as far as we could tell were selling them door to door for 10 pesos each. 

Then more people came out of the back of the house.  Where were they all coming from?  This house is huge.  It turned out that 3 families were living in the house though we found out later that one was moving out on the weekend to their own apartment.

Heather and I were suffering from severe culture shock.   We were definitely fish out of water and were really never sure what was going to happen next. 

Breakfast, that’s what happened next.  Papaya, now there was a surprise.  I was never a big fan of papaya but this was really good and we enjoyed it thoroughly.  Full of papaya we picked up our stuff and headed out to catch the bus to Tonala.

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….

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

The Quest to get a Mexican Driver’s License

When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta to start the quest of finding a house that would be suitable to turn into Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast we were driving a brand new Toyota Rav 4.  We loved that vehicle.  It was great to drive, good on gas and the air conditioning worked which was a BIG plus for those of us trying to get accustomed to warmer weather.

Unfortunately the fact that a good many of the roads are cobblestone caused us to think that this was not the place to have a new vehicle so we decided to drive it back to Canada in August 2009 and sell it while we were visiting family.  It hurt to sell it but it was for the best.

When we returned to Puerto Vallarta at the beginning of September we set about looking for a vehicle.  That was lots of fun as the main car dealers do not sell a lot of Semi-Nuevos as they call them here.  This meant that we were forced to go to the used car lots which was always so much fun in Canada.  Well its double the fun here when your Spanish is limited.

We did eventually find 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee that we could live with at a reasonable price and did the deal.  The car dealer was gracious enough to send his wife with us when we went to go register it and that was a good thing as the original bill of sale was written on a form that was 2 days past its valid dates of use.  This meant they had to procure another bill of sale that was valid before the state would transfer ownership of the car.  Without the sellers wife, we would have had nothing but frustration.

While there we saw that the driver’s license bureau was right across the hall.  Now we had noticed that driving in Mexico was unique at best but we figured they all had to have driver’s licenses, didn’t they?  So we asked our helper about getting Mexican driver’s licenses.

We wandered across the hall and spoke to the receptionist who said to come back at 4:00 that afternoon for the test.  Our helper said that we would take a written test and then an actual driving test!  Cripes, I had not taken a practical drivers test since I was 16, neither had Heather.  Well that will be fun.  Sure hope the examiner speaks english!

We arrived at 4:00 and were ushered into the room at the back and told to take seats.  We did and more people arrived so soon we were sitting with about 20 other people, all Mexicans, of ages from 16 to 35.

The instruction welcomed us and then proceeded to lecture us in Spanish for 90 minutes on the rules of road.  Heather and I looked at each other and laughed silently…RULES!  Get out-of-town.  There are no rules.  The only rule we could see that when the light phase was about to change from red to green someone was going to be honking at the front vehicles to get their collective butts in gear and get moving.

Apparently though, there are rules.  The driver must wear a seat belt.  You must not follow the vehicle ahead of you too close.  Speeding kills. etc.  All rules we knew from driving for 35 years.

This lecture took place in Spanish, of course, but we both found that we were able to understand a good part of what the officer was saying.  It became totally apparent that we did because he looked at Heather and asked her how long she had been driving.  35 years she responded and he looked to me for an answer to the same question.  I repeated the same answer and on he went through the room getting answers like 1, 2 or 5 years throughout most of the room.  He then said that because of the two people in the front row, gesturing to Heather and I, that no one would have to take the practical driving test because we brought the class average up to 15 years driving experience!  You have to be kidding me!  It was a little shocking but neither one of us was upset about not having to take a practical exam.

It was then he told us to come back tomorrow after 9:30 and do the written test.

We arrived right at the appointed time and got checked in.  The instructor from the night before motioned me over to the computer and gave me a demonstration on how the system works.  I had 20 questions to answer.  He did not tell me what the fail mark was  but during the course of the demonstration he answered the first question for me.  I wondered if it was my sparkling blue eyes or the fact that sitting in my hands was a Spanish/English dictionary.

We had been told that the test was in Spanish but we would be allowed a translation dictionary for help.  So there I was, facing my first real question that I had to answer and looking up words like there was no tomorrow.  We had taken 3 semesters of Spanish but you only learn so much and we found that out in spades.

After about 3 minutes I thought I had a grasp on what the question was about and then looked at the answers.  I caught a break as the answer was obvious even in a different language.  On to question 3.  I was rifling through the dictionary like my life depended on it.  And really it did.  What good are you at 51 when you cannot pass a drivers test after driving for 35 years?

After answering question 3 I was reading question 4 when I sensed a presence beside me.  It was a security guard.  I looked up at him and he said in English, “Do you understand Spanish?”  I replied that I could understand a little and words I did not know I was looking up and so far things were going ok.  I thought that was a little odd that he would come in and talk to me while I was working on the exam but quickly forgot about it.

For 35 minutes I flipped pages, tried to figure out words and gave what I could not get my best guess.  The people there were quite amused with the gringo trying to do this test.

I finished the test and called the instructor over who came over and scored the exam.  The look on his face when 90% came up was priceless.  Of course I could not stop beaming!

At that point it was quick, he took my picture and printed off my secure license right there.  No need to wait 15 days for it show up like in a Canadian province that I know.

They had a lot of people waiting to take this test and they had two computers.  After they got Heather sat down at the one I had been working on they put a 16-year-old boy at the other computer.  Heather was working diligently at her test and completed it faster than me and passed it as well.  It was a happy day for both of us!

And then we ran into a glitch.  The computer they were printing Heather’s license on froze.  The license would not print so they told us to wait while they called someone.  We were hanging around the door waiting when the sister of the boy at the other computer asked Heather what she put for this particular question.  WTF??  You don’t ask someone what they put for an answer on an exam question???

Heather went over and looked at the question figuring what the hell, the woman who acted as a proctor was sitting right there and did not bat an eye when the woman asked Heather for help.  Heather said “I put C”.  It was then that the proctor piped and said (without a word of a lie), “That is not the right answer, it is B”.  huh….You mean we could have asked you for help!  Give me a break!

I cannot speak for Heather but for 35 minutes I sweated over that test.  The Old Spice was working hard keeping me fresh during that time and my brain was tired.  What really irritates me is it did not need to be!  For a small fee, it turns out the security guard would have written test for both of us and we would have walked away as fresh as a daisy with no problems what so ever.  And from what we understand now many people we know have taken the small fee route which worked for them but I can tell all of you this.  They don’t have the sense of pride and accomplishment that Heather and I did walking out of the Motor Vehicles office, getting into our car and driving to Victor’s for a Corona and a shot to celebrate.

Where is Home Hardware when you really need it?

May 16, 2011 – It’s another spectacular day at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta!  I never get tired of saying that.  I don’t know why.  Is it the weather?  The fact that the sun shines virtually every day?  The fact that the air temperature is at least 28C (82.4 F for those who follow the real temperature)  for 8 months of the year? Possibly, but I really think it is because we just having too much fun!

I am not now, nor have ever been what one would call “a handy kind of guy”.  My friends never invited me over to help fix something, build a deck or help with any other home improvement project.  Realistically I was eternally grateful for the fact that I had no idea what most particular tools were called.

Unfortunately since moving to Puerto Vallarta this has changed.  Since we bought the house which would become Casa Madera, it has changed even more.  It became necessary to learn what this tool is called and what it did.  This may seem like a simple concept for many people out there.  But imagine having to learn the English name and then figuring out what the heck it is called in Spanish.  It is entertaining for all, us who are trying to figure it all out and the poor guy behind the counter who is trying to decipher what spanish word we are trying to say.

Over the last few days Heather has been painting furniture to add colour to the rooms.  We decided that we really liked the Mexican painted furniture that we had seen around but being as we are inherently cheap did not want to pay what they wanted for it.  So we decided to paint it ourselves.

Unfinished Headboard

We went to the Berel paint store in Mezcales and explained to them what we wanted to do (in Spanish) and they set about putting together the best paint for the job.  We go to this store a lot since moving into Casa Madera so they know us now and are very good about taking the time to deal with the two home improvement rookies.  They have helped us immensely over the last year.

It does get easier every time we go to the paint, hardware, or plumbing store.  We have learned what to ask for and when to ask for help on how to use a particular item.  Those who work behind those counters have been great.  However it does remind of the first time I needed to go to plumbing store in Puerto Vallarta.

Heather painting the headboard

February 2009 – As usual we got up in the morning, made some coffee and headed for the beach to sit and enjoy the view.  We are still pinching ourselves everyday.  It is not cold, there is no snow and no threat of a winter storm warning.  Every day it is the same.  Sunny and warm.  Some might call that boring but I just call them jealous.

We only stay out there for 30 – 45 minutes as we do have work to do and like to get it done early so we can enjoy the rest of the day.  We return to the condo and find out that a water main let go and we have no water.  It will be a couple of hours before it will be fixed.  Oh well late showers today, no big deal.

It was then that Heather said, “you should fix the shower taps while the water is off”.  We had one tap that dripped continually.  We had already paid once to have it repaired which apparently did not work.  It was time to take it into our own hands.

We had looked at trying to fix this ourselves before but could not find a water shut off for the condo.  We saw the water main breaking as a good omen so I quickly grabbed my 3 tools, screwdriver, crescent wrench, vise grips and proceeded to take apart the taps to get at the “seat” of the tap.

We had decided it was the seat that had worn out over time and was no longer sealing allowing water to leak through.

I grabbed the piece and ran across the street to Groupo Amutio to see if they had a part.  I asked them in my best Spanglish and showed them what I was looking for.  The one man in the store who spoke English told me I would have to go to a plumbing store.  He told me that the closest one was 3 blocks away and how to get to it.

I took off towards the plumbing store and got there in record time for an old fat guy.  I showed them what I had and tried to make myself understood.  He looked at the piece and went to see what he had.  After about 10 minutes of going through every bag he had he finally said something in Spanish that I did not understand.  Luckily there was a man there who spoke English who said that the part is too old you will have to replace the whole thing.

Okay, I will take not one but two.  I might as well replace both while I have the chance.  It was then that I realized that I did not have enough money.  I had just put some pesos in my pocket and ran out the door.  I had left my wallet at home.  So, I told to hold those items there and I will be right back.

Off I ran back to the condo.   Ran in, got some more money and ran back.  This took about 15 minutes.  Now I was getting worried.  The water was off but really how long is it going to take them to fix this pipe.  I had nothing in the taps to stop the flow of water should the water come back on.  This was causing me great concern!

I made it back to the store picked the parts and ran back to the condo to get the repairs done.  I got the parts ready and reinstalled them in the way I took the out or so I thought.  I put the handles back on and gave them a test.  The water was still off but I could see that the handles were not moving the same as before.  They had way too much play, that and they were turning the wrong way.

The finished headboard

I took them apart again and tried to figure out what I had done wrong.  Good luck with that.  Where was Shell Busey when you needed him? For 20 minutes I sweated over the taps and finally thought I had it figured out.  I put in the hot water stem, put on the handle and it moved the way it should have so I did the same with the cold.

Just as I was starting to put the nut on to hold the cold water stem in the pipe the maintenance people pressurized the water system.  Muddy water was spraying everywhere!  I kept working the nut and finally the spraying water subsided. Heather was killing herself at the bathroom door.  I was totally soaked and covered with muddy water.

Between guffaws I managed to get the handle on the cold water tap and everything worked properly.  Water came out where it was supposed to, turned off when it was supposed to.  I had managed to replace the tap stems.  I was rather impressed with myself.

I figured I was already wet I might as well have a shower.  As I was drying off I looked up at the shower head.  Drip, drip, drip……

The Offal Truth!

May 1, 2011 – April was quite a month at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast!  We were inundated with family!  Heather’s brother Kevin & family were here for 10 days leaving last Saturday.  It was a hoot.  We got to show them the real Mexico outside of the all-inclusive resorts.  Dinners at taco stands, trips to fruit markets, hot springs, surfing…you name it, we did it!  It was lots of fun with great food, great company & great sun!

Kevin, Laura, Megan, Joshua and us at Las Caletas!

Prior to their arrival Heather’s cousin, twice removed, Danny, was here for 10 days.  To us she is Heather’s aunt.  It was great having her here as it made Heather finally drag the sewing machine out of its purgatory and start to make curtains for our upstairs windows.  This will be a challenge but the material is bought, the sewing machine works, all we need now is curtain rods to span the size of the windows!  That could be fun but hey it’s Mexico, if you cannot find it at Home Depot there is some enterprising soul out there who will make it for you in iron! 

Danny got the same treatment, hot springs, dinners at taco stands, fruit markets and with the sewing angle, lots of visits to the material stores!  Heather quite enjoyed that as the writer’s attention span starts to waver in material stores after about 2 minutes.  So much so, I stayed home the day the two of them went into the big stores in downtown Puerto Vallarta

And then there was the biggest visit of all, my son Brendan came down with his buddy Ray to celebrate his 21st birthday!  21?  Crap!  I am getting old.  It seems just like yesterday he was sitting in a small wooden block trailer….and now he is an underwriter at Peace Hills Insurance!  Where did the time go? 

A 21st birthday only comes once so it needed to be celebrated in style.  Brendan and Ray were the guinea pigs for the family soon to arrive.  We took them to the taco stand we found in Valle Dorado one night after a wine reception Casa Madera catered at Vallarta Escapes

That was the night we met a Westjet flight attendant who is a Mexican married to a Canadian in the Armed Forces but has lots of vacation time and spends a month down here at time.  She was fun to talk to and was very vocal in how good this stand was.  And how right she was!  It was great, but I digress….

There were many things we did with Brendan & Ray but the big event was his birthday.  We needed to do something special.  Not your normal birthday experience.  Everybody can go to Montana’s, the Outback Steakhouse, or Bubba Gumps and wear a funny hat, but only here can you go to Naty’s Cantina!  As luck would have it Brendan’s birthday as on a Thursday, which is pork day at Naty’s. 

Heading into Naty's!

On Thursday’s they roast a whole pig.  Slow roasted, it is delightful but you have to work to get to the real good meat.  We go to Naty’s once a year, generally with Marni and Tony and this year was no exception.  They cleared their schedule to attend the birthday extravaganza!

It was walking into Naty’s this year that reminded me of our first trip to Naty’s in 2009.

February 26, 2009 – We have been in town for three and a half months.  In this short time we have heard about Naty’s Cantina from many people.  They all talk about going on Thursday, pork day.  We had heard about how good the pork was and how much fun the place was.  We had discussed this with Marni and Tony and decided that today was the day.  They had been there before but it had been quite a few years and could not quite remember where it was so we took a taxi.

The taxi dropped us outside of the cantina on a hill in a true Mexican neighbourhood.  It was a little daunting as we looked at the swinging doors, I know Heather and I were a little apprehensive as we approached the doors and pushed them open.  The doors opened up to a large concrete room with the standard plastic Corona tables and chairs.  Juke box playing Mariachi in the corner, we were uncertain whether they still did the pork so we asked.  The waitress said yes and to sit anywhere we liked.

Heather and I at Naty's the first time, note the empties behind us!

After taking our seats she asked what we wanted to drink.  Heather, Tony and I asked for Corona and Marni order a Coke.  The drinks arrived and we set about to taking in the surroundings.  Lots of concrete,  a couple of tv screens, curtains over the bathrooms with the sink outside the curtains.  Interesting place. 

We soon found that we would never go thirsty as the waitress brought our beer to us in a mop bucket filled with ice and 15 Corona complete with its own opener.  As we finished a beer the waitress would take the empties and put them on the table behind us.  

At this point they came around with a raffle that they had.  20 pesos got you into their reverse draw for a good bottle of brandy.  After the 25 tickets were sold, they started pulling numbers, last one in wins.  We were close, but no winner both times we did it.

After we were on our second beer around the table a plate of “offal” showed up.  Pork heart, liver, skin and intestines.  Complete with salsa and tortilla chips.  A plate that Anthony Bourdain would be pleased to see!  Us, not so much.  Sorry Anthony, none of us are big organ meat eaters so we picked over that plate.  However we did eat it so as not to be rude.  I noticed that the Mexicans in the place were not exactly attacking it with gusto either. 

Which "offal" piece would you like?

We had that on the table until we got to beer number 4 which is when the plate of shredded pork, chicharron (deep-fried pork skin and fat), beans and hot tortillas showed up.  It was delightful.  Hot, full of flavor and the chicharron was so good we asked for more which they readily supplied. 

What we really came for! Spectacular!

We had just finished eating when the Mariachi band came in the front door.  After a few minutes of wandering around they parked themselves and played.  Now, I like Mariachi music.  It’s just great.  However, when played in an enclosed concrete space it leaves something to be desired.  It is like being trapped in a car with a car stereo that could fill most stadiums playing the latest hot hip hop cd.  I believe it was louder than when I saw The Who at Northlands in Edmonton in 1976 and trust me that is saying something as my ears hurt for days after that concert.

Anyhow, back to Naty’s.  The beer bucket was empty.  We were full of pork and we were happy.  The food had been excellent but it was time that we wandered off.  We asked for the bill.  18 beer, 3 bottles of coke, big plate of pork, 380 pesos including tip.   A great meal and a great deal. 

Guess we are going to need another empty case....

March 31, 2011 – Brendan’s birthday.  Not much had changed at Naty’s except that they now counted the beer by the person regardless whether they were drinking beer or not.  There were 6 of us so we had to drink 36 beer and also because there were 6 of us we were the lucky recipients of 2, count em, 2 plates of offal.   Needless our cat and dog got extra treats that week.

Brendan & Ray, we have Pacifico where is the pork!

Try as we might, we did not make it to 36 beer.  We were just too full.  We just told them to charge us for the food, however they were good to us probably because we did make it to 26 and only charged us for what we had.  All in all a great afternoon that was complete with the prerequisite Mariachi band who did a lovely interpretation of Happy Birthday for Brendan!