Why We Like Sonigas!

Every once in awhile, and often when least expected, someone in the business of Customer Service will absolutely blow my socks off with a standard of care far above and beyond my wildest expectations.   Such has been our experience with Sonigas and this is my opportunity to publicly thank them for their excellent service.

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Street view from a truck!

Our propane (el gas) is delivered to our house by truck.  Getting the tank filled is as simple as flagging down a passing gas truck.  Many of our visitors have experienced Kevin or I suddenly yelling “GAS!!” and racing out the front door to stop the truck as it passes our casa.   Yeah, we could just call the office, but where would the fun be in that?

Our propane consumption has been increasing at an alarming rate over  the past 6 months.  Where $500 pesos used to last us 6 weeks or longer, the last $1000 pesos we added was gone in less than 3 weeks.  A week later, another $500 pesos worth of gas – gone!!

Even with a house full of guests, this is a LOT of gas!

We checked all our lines for leaks several times, and found none.  When we bought the last batch of gas, we asked the guys from the Sonigas truck for their recommendation.   They suggested we call their office and ask them to send a technician out to have a look.

So, I did, and they promised to send someone out that afternoon to have a look.   I admit, I was skeptical.  We have heard that promise many times  before, and “this afternoon” often means “tomorrow”.    Sometimes it actually means “call us again next week”.    You can imagine, then, how delighted we were to have a technician at our door just a couple of hours later!

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Our propane tank, catching some rays.

The technicians name was Gabriel.  He was polite and thoroughly professional.  I really did think he was an angel!  He checked all our connections, lines and appliances for leaks.  He found one small leak, which he fixed.  He was not convinced that one tiny leak could be the source of our problems, so he marked the gas meter and left strict instructions to call again in a few days if the gas dropped more than a couple of points.

Which I did, our meter having fallen from 30 to 15 in just 7 days.   We and our guests do love to cook, but not THAT much!

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Our rooms have the cutest stoves.

A different technician this time,  just as professional and thorough in checking as Gabriel was.  Every stove was pulled (we have 4), all the lines checked and again, a miniscule leak was found.  He fixed that, but questioned that this tiny leak would cause that much propane loss.  He also gave us a quick lesson in the care of our propane tank.  Did you know it likes to be in the sun?  We didn’t, and had allowed our trees to grow quite wild around it.  He suggested that we cut all the branches back and allow the sun to reach it to prevent premature rust issues.  Ok.  Done.

 

With the second small leak now fixed, we flagged the truck down on its way past the other morning.   I was surprised when the  drivers asked if the leak issue had been solved.  I told them that the technicians had checked everything, but were unable to find the reason for our disappearing propane.  I joked that Kevin would just have to take me out to dinner more often so I wouldn’t be using our gas stove so much.

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Eatng out… no cooking, no dishes!

The next day, we received a phone call from the Sonigas office telling us they were not completely satisfied that our problem had been dealt with and they were sending an independent contractor with additional technical equipment to search for our leak.  I had to repeat all this back to her to be sure I understood because this NEVER happens, but yes, she confirmed that THEY wanted to send someone else out to check for us, if it was alright with us.  UMmmm, ok.

Sergio Martinez arrived that very afternoon with the usual  tricks of the trade designed to find and repair gas leaks, plus several more.  He was here a couple of hours and found no new leaks.  He even went so far as to call the office, to confirm the last couple of deliveries, thinking that the pump on the gas truck may be improperly calibrated.  Wow.

He taught us the calculation so we can be sure that we are getting all the gas we are paying for and told us to do the calculation BEFORE we pay for the gas each and EVERY time!   I asked if the drivers would not be offended that we were checking on them, and he said “no,  they are probably wondering why you aren’t already doing it.”  Ok, I will do it, but it will feel weird.  He just smiled.

The Calculation:  read your meter before gas goes in and after.  Subtract one from the other and multipy that number by how many litres your tank holds.  That will give you the number of litres pumped into your tank, which should match the number of litres on your bill.  Simple.  

We are leak free, by the way, and the calculation has confirmed the truck is pumping the correct amount of gas into our tank.  After much frustration and discussion, we have narrowed the source of our disappearing gas to our hot water heater.  It works well, but it is old, and perhaps inefficient.  So, we have drained and cleaned it and if that doesn’t work, we could be calling  Sr Martinez  (soinstalaciones@yahoo.com) to install a new  hot water tank.

Sonigas has won us over as loyal clients and I can promise that we will be calling Sergio Martinez for any future gas/pluming/electrical work.

I should also mention that ALL of this care and attention we have received from Sonigas has been free of charge and always with a smile.  In a world where the negative often overshadows the positive, I could not allow the opportunity to tell a happy story and to say THANK YOU to a business that offers such excellent customer service slip by me.

Thank you, Sonigas!!
Thank you, Sonigas!!

Semana Pasqua

We are half way thru the second week of Easter, or, as they call it here, Semana Pasqua, which means the Easter holidays are drawing to a close.

I cannot describe the crush of people who come to Puerto Vallarta during this time.  Here, in Riviera Nayarit, our beaches go from something that normally looks like this

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to this

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There is almost an electrical charge in the air as the mood in the entire bay shifts to a slightly happier albeit busier plane.  Yes, it is true, traffic picks up, or grinds to a complete halt, depending on how one wants to view it and that table at our favourite restaurant may not be quite so easy to get.   There are waits at gas stations.  Grocery stores tend to be out of a few, (or a lot of!) things.   You know, all the stuff one would normally associate with the sudden influx of an enormous amount of people.   Think Summer Rental with John Candy.

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Visitors to the bay, naturally, are all in high spirits.  They are on vacation after all.  As locals, we have learned to embrace rather than dread the crowds knowing that they are helping our economy perk along.  (Though, I must admit I have found it easier to embrace the crowds when we make sure to have purchased anything we think we might need in advance).

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We were blessed again this year, to have had a full house over Easter, and our guests truly appreciated our quiet oasis after a full day of being entertained by all that Vallarta has to offer.

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Today, our Easter guests have all headed back to Guadalajara and Mexico City and the house is quiet, for a few minutes, while we are in between check-outs and check-ins.

I can say with certainty that since we started in this business, life has never been dull, and without exception, the people we have met are exceptional!  The season will come to an end in a few weeks and we will spend the summer doing the usual maintenance, getting ready for what is already shaping up to be an even busier season than this year.

 

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The Journey to Casa Madera – A pineapple! We finally have a pineapple!

February 24, 2013 – It is a muggy day today at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  Warming up but a little cloudy which keeps the humidity up.  Normally by this time of day the sun has burned off any cloud cover and the day is bright, sunny and warm.  Its warm, now all we need is sun!  Being Vallarta, it will be here soon.

As I mentioned in the last post I seem to have writers block occasionally trying to come up with things to write.  I start to wonder if what is interesting to me is interesting to those who read my dissertations.  I have been assured by our friend Elaine that it is all interesting and unique so if that is the case here goes!

We have been trying to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables over the 4 years we have been in the house.  Most have been a total disaster.

The tomatoes we planted came up, bore two fruit and died.   The corn came up, grew to 2 and a half feet, sprung an ear the size of pea pod and died.  The list is longer but frankly it is depressing so I cannot remember all of the total failures.

However there was one item that grew like wildfire.  Watermelon.  We did not plant it.  It was planted by Oswaldo when he was working here.  The plant went crazy once it started to grow.  It spread out like it should and flowered like it should.  We know the flowers had insect traffic but the fruit never set.  It was then we found out that most of the watermelons you buy are hybrids and won’t actually finish fruit.  So as they too died we took them out and were once again fruitless.

And then there were pineapples.  We had been told that when you cut the top off of your pineapple just plant the top and it will grow.   So Heather did that with a few of the pineapples we bought.

The first one she planted took to ground well and started to grow almost immediately.  She diligently watered it and watched it grow wider and taller.  This inspired her to plant more.  However they were not as successful.  Some died or rotted in the ground.  Others grew but were not happy about it.

The original one was still growing and doing well but it was kind of lost in the front garden with the other plants that were overgrown and blocking its light and our view of it.  I had even forgotten it was there.

We have noted that others that we have planted in our yard are not as happy as the one in the front flower bed.  We are guessing it is getting the right amount of sun and shade whereas some of the others get maybe too much sun.

After all of the frustration of things we have planted today was a special day.  Today in our garden an actual pineapple has sprouted on top of our plant.  We knew they took two years to produce fruit and I am pretty sure that one has been in there for 3 years or more but my bet is that the plant is now happy that Ramon comes once a week and trims the plants, fertilizes and takes care of the garden.  Somehow I think that the fruit on our pineapple plant showing up 6 months after Ramon started here is not a coincidence.

Either way, it does not matter.  I am looking forward to putting a few slices of this on my plate one morning.  Not sure how long they take to mature but hopefully it won’t take too long because it will be hard to wait.

The good thing is they are so easy to start that we have 7 more plants growing across the street.

Our first little pineapple
Our first little pineapple

For more garden photos check out our photo albums on our facebook page.   https://www.facebook.com/CasaMadera

 

 

The Journey to Casa Madera – Moon over Vallarta

October 27, 2012  –

We are often asked about medical care here in Mexico.   Most ask out of curiosity or concern for our well-being.  Some ask out of disbelief – as in “Really ,they have doctors in Mexico?”.  The truth is yes, there are a lot of doctors here.     Many have studied not only here in Mexico, but in the US, Canada and even Europe in some cases.    It is also true that just like home, some are better than others and it is our job as a patient to find a doctor that works for us.

After 4 years of living here, I had an opportunity to experience Mexican medical care first hand.  That is not to say it is the first time I have seen a doctor here, we do have our annual physicals and blood tests; but my first experience with the Mexican “drop-in” health care system because I had a health issue that needed a doctor’s care.

I had an earache.

I think I can best describe the set up as a version of a Canadian Medi-centre.   The idea is the same, people drop in to see the doctor on call.  The difference is that these “drop-in” places, called Consultorias, are attached to a drug store.  Actually, ina drug store attached to the medi-centre, so in actual fact, there really is no difference.

The doctor is either in or out, and he or she will take patients on a first come first served basis.    Just like Canada, one could wait a long time in that hot little room while waiting to see the doctor.   But, here, happily, that does not have to be the case.  There is, literally, a drug store on nearly every corner, and most have a Consultoria.    So, if the waiting room in one is too busy, we can simply drive down the street to the next one.

We do have a favourite doctor we see, but he is a whole 10 minutes away in Mezcales, so we decided today, to take our chances in Valle Dorado, which is much closer to us.  The waiting room at the Farmacias Medism was empty when we pulled up!   What a stroke of luck.  NO waiting at all today!!  Within 2 minutes of getting out of the car,  I was ushered into the examining room by the doctor himself.   The good doctor also invited Kevin to sit in on the consultation.

I speak some Spanish, the doctor spoke some English, so between us, we were able to communicate very well.

I told him I had an  earache and he promptly plopped me on the examining table and told me to open my mouth.  Whaaat??     He was very happy to tell me that my ear problem was related to a throat infection I did not know I had.  He continued to explain that the ear, nose and throat were all related. . . .  and did I want meds or a shot?

A shot? For a throat infection?  I have not had a shot since I was vaccinated in high school!  My efforts at asking questions to determine if this was a better option than 5 days of pills were totally drowned out by my ever loving husband, Kevin.   It was as if he had suddenly turned into a contestant on a game show, and be began yelling out   “Shot!  Take the shot?  Just take the shot!”  I could barely hear the doctors answers over Kevin’s’ encouragement to opt for the needle instead of the pills.  Naturally,  the doctor was very amused by all of this, and though he tried to remain as professional as possible,  I could see he was siding with my husband.  Must be a male thing.   How bad could it be, I thought.  One shot or a weeks worth of meds.   Really, the shot did sound like the better option.

Then the medication came out.  3 vials of stuff, all mixed together, my “shot” turned out to be 5 cc’s of meds.  if you are not sure what 5 cc’s looks like, it pretty much filled the needle.   The old joke about horse tranquilizers leapt to mind.   In my arm, right?  Oh, no, lie on the table, face down.  Oops, I forgot to ask, can you inch your waistband down just a little.

I don’t think I need to mention that as I hopped off the table to undo my pants and peel them down far enough to reveal the target for the needle that my loving husband and best friend, Kevin, was doubled over with laughter and would have suffered serious injury from falling on the floor laughing had he not already been sitting down.

I hopped back up onto the table, target side facing the ceiling.  By now, the doctor, being egged on by my husband, was also laughing.  Lucky for me, his mirth did not affect his steady hand, so he hit the “target” on the first attempt.

Slightly embarrassing, but nothing I would not live thru.  Then he said “this is a series of 3 shots”.    I need to find looser pants to wear to his office tomorrow.

I should also mention that the cost of this afternoons entertainment, aside from my eternal embarrassment was $211 pesos and my ear ache will be gone in a day or 2.   We shall see…..

The Journey to Casa Madera – Technology and useless twits….

A couple of months ago our Facebook fan page, www.facebook.com/CasaMadera started to get likes from a lot of people we did not know.  We have found over time that this does happen sometimes but we can generally follow the trail as to how they found us.  A friend, relative or a surfer who saw a picture of great looking food.

This time we could not discern where they came from.  However, we liked seeing the amount of likes go up higher so we did not think too much about it.

We are not techies.  I have enough computer intelligence to get by but if things go south I am screwed.

I had just arrived back in Canada at the beginning of September for a visit when Heather, who was still at home, let me know that people were not able to access our website.  They were being redirected to either Google or a page full of Malware.  Now there is a great way to get clients!  Infect their computer.

This needed to be fixed.  I went to work and did what I could but it was not much as I had absolutely no idea what the problem was or where to find it.   We contacted our web designer to see what he could do.  He got the page working again and with people clearing their recent history the page was loading and operating correctly.  Yay!

Then last week it was happening again.   This time however I could not even get into the files, it was redirecting so quickly.  I contacted the host who were very helpful and deleted the appropriate files.  The website was working again except for a couple of minor glitches which I could fix.

An hour later, it was redirecting again.  I put in another support request and one more time they cleared the files.  The website is still working correctly but the source files need to be updated.  This involves a lot of stuff that should wear the brain of this useless twit out.   I could ask our tech to do it and pay the fee but I am stubborn.

I have to for the same reason people climb mountains.  Because it’s there.  Technology is not going away and it is Heather’s and my lifeline.  Most of what we do here revolves around the computer.   We look for clients on the computer.  We see the grandchildren on the computer.  We keep in touch with family and friends on the computer.

And for that reason I have to fix the website issue myself.  If I can do it, then it is one hurdle that the technologically challenged (aka useless twits) won over todays youth.  The question is can I get this old brain over the hurdle.

And the questionable Facebook likes, we deleted them all.  I cannot help but figure they were involved in this somehow.

The Journey to Casa Madera – Watching the Olympics!

August 5, 2012 – The skies are greying and the distant sound of thunder reminds us it is still rainy season here at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  Last night we had a doozy of a storm.  3 or 4 inches of rain and spectacular lightning.  It takes your breath away watching it and now it looks like we are going get to enjoy it again.

Today we decided to do something different with the blog and Heather has taken the time to put her thoughts into cyberspace.  We hope you enjoy it!

Watching the Olympics – Heather Wood

To say that we have felt removed from “real life” since we moved to Mexico would be an understatement.  We do listen to the daily news on CKUA radio, which gives us the highlights, and honestly that is about all I have ever really been interested in.  I have made it a habit since I began living on my own to not watch the evening news.   Call me silly, but I always felt it emphasized the negative, rather than the positive aspects of the world in which we live.  However, even without my daily dose of  the evening news, I was still able to have an idea of what was going on in the world, thanks to everyday conversations I would have with friends, co-workers and family.

Now, by our choice, we live in a different country whose first language is Spanish, not English.  We can watch the evening news, if we choose, and we can choose to buy several newspapers, in Spanish, at any street corner with a traffic light.  That does not mean that we will be able to understand everything spoken or printed.  Even though our language skills have improved 200% since moving here, we still have a long way to go.  Fully understanding a newspaper article or Television broadcast is still far into our future, I am afraid.

Which is why I was so surprised when my friend who lives in the UK started commenting about the Olympics in her Facebook posts.  I used to take major news events like this for granted.  Things like this were something everyone was talking about on every corner, in every newscast, and it was written somewhere in every newspaper for months leading up to the big event.

Perhaps it is the same way here.  I really don’t know, for reasons already stated.  🙂

I can tell you that we are watching the Olympics daily and that I am having a difficult time picking a country to cheer for.  I am torn.  Of course, I will always cheer for Canada, my homeland and where my heart lies.  But, I have a soft spot for Mexico as well.     I am and always will be, a proud Canadian. I  also remember that  Mexico accepted me and my husband when we decided to experience life away from the 9 – 5.  With that acceptance, comes  a certain pride in my adopted country and its achievements.

I am loving watching the  Olympics and consider myself very lucky that Mexico and Canada will not battle it out for the medal in  all events.

GO TEAM CANADA!!!

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…

 

The Journey to Casa Madera – Just where the heck did 2011 go?

December 31, 2011 – It is another beautiful morning in Nuevo Vallarta at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  The sun is coming up over the mountains, no clouds and a lovely 18 degrees.  It is sooooooo boring.  Everyday the same thing.  No clouds, sunshine, beautiful temperatures and an afternoon breeze off the bay.  Do I miss that old Alberta standard, “Don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes”, not a chance!

It has been quite some time since I posted a new entry to this blog and for my regular readers I apologize but I just could not decide what to write about.  A bit of writers block maybe, who knows.  Either way, it is time so I thought I would review the year and see where that takes us.

2011 was our first year of operation and like most new entities it was anything but spectacular.  Heather and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would grow this project organically without a big splash so we knew it will not happen overnight. It would all rely on us, success or failure.  Nothing like pressure.  Especially for me, an introvert, relying on my sparkling personality was not going to be easy!

It was with great trepidation that I went to the airport on January 6, 2011 to pick up Doug and Linda from Leamington, Ontario.  Our first guests staying longer than one night.  To say Heather and I were a bit nervous was an understatement.

We were terrified!  What if they don’t like my cooking, or the way the pressure pump comes on for no reason.  There were a multitude of things that were running through our heads and to top it off my old boss from Peace Hills Insurance and his wife, Bob and Susan were due to arrive 90 minutes after Doug and Linda.  Yikes!

My fears quickly dissipated as I saw Doug and Linda come through the arrivals gate.  It was not hard to pick them out as Doug had broken his leg 10 days before he came down, so I pretty sure the guy in the wheelchair with the full leg cast was my guest.  When they arrived at the house they could not say enough good things about it.  Their comments helped relieve a lot of the pressure we were feeling.

When Bob and Susan travel they always stay in bed and breakfasts’ so the nice comments from Doug and Linda aside, the litmus test was going to be the b and b pros!

We could not have asked for nicer guests to cut our teeth with.  Our fears were alleviated and everybody had a great time.  It was a sad day for Heather and I when they all went home.

Susan, Heather and I with that Vallarta specialty Pescado Zarandeado, quite simply the best fish you will ever eat!

Both couples are returning to stay with us again this year so we cannot ask for any more validation than that.

Heather and I have been in Mexico now for 3 full years and we learn or see something new almost every week.  Some of that knowledge comes from locals and some comes from tourists who have been coming here for years.  Either way, we are like sponges and take what we learn to try to give people the best time they can have with things they may never have done before.

In February we were visited by Don and Charlotte from Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Friends we met when we were still living in the Condo.  We had a great visit with them and look forward to seeing them again this year when they arrive in Puerto Vallarta.

March brought my son, Brendan, down for his 21st birthday with his buddy Ray.  They were quickly followed by Heather’s Aunt, Danny.  It was with the 3 of them that we ventured out into the wilderness to find a set of hot springs armed with directions that said, “take a left at the big road and keep left at the fork”.  Talk about a wing and a prayer.

However we got there and it was well worth the effort.  While rustic, the hot pools were spectacular and now on our list of regular places to visit.

Now this is life!

April was a busy month as Heather’s brother, Kevin and family arrived for 10 days.  A great time was had by all, though I think they really enjoyed the two days that Heather and I were away in Ajijic.

They really enjoyed having our dog Alexa to watch over them and keep the safe.  Alexa rarely sleeps outside at night but she did while we were away.  In front of the door to the kids room, nothing was getting by her there.  Of course they did have to figure out how she was getting out of the yard and following them when the went to the beach.  Only dog I know that weighs 60 pounds and can balance on a 5 and a half-foot high fence that is 4 inches wide while nosing her way through the barbed wire….

May was a very quiet month until the beautiful pine tree outside our yard came down on the roof of the car just as we were about to leave for Guadalajara.  I covered that in the post , “Julio we told you the tree had to come down“, so I will not go over that again.

June was spent trying to get a few things done outside before the rains began.  Mainly redoing the roof.  We had done it the year before but one of the workers working on our kitchen renovation in the winter had been trying to straighten a concrete cage by banging against the roof.  Needless to say the rubber seal did not stand up to the sharp wire edges.

I also took this time to try to paint the mirador.  Now that was work.  The mirador is basically a 2 storey structure on our roof.  While a great idea just for the view, it is virtually impossible to paint.    I think the only way to actually paint it properly would be with scaffolding or hanging off the structure by a rope.  Something that I am just not prepared to do nor let anybody else do though I suspect I could find a lot of volunteers if the price was right!

July I went back to Edmonton for a couple of weeks to remind myself how cold it is even in July.  As usual the weather sucked but seeing my family and friends was great.  How life was to change though as I was sitting around a camp fire with my brother, Al, my son, Brendan, and my brothers in law, Neil and Denis.  Neil had his iPhone out and was on Facebook when he said, “I just saw this post from Heather about finding 4 kittens at your doorstep.  Oops, I was not supposed to tell you!”

4 kittens.  It was a few days before I could actually ask Heather about these kittens.  She advised that yes, we do in fact have 4 kittens but they are cute we should have no problem giving them away.

4 of them, always looking for trouble!

As you can tell they are still here!

On September 2nd Lorne and Heather came down to celebrate their anniversary.  We had a great time while they were here but the highlight was taco night at Cessa’s.  A friend of our introduced us to his stand a few months previous and it has become a regular stopping point for us on the weekends.   I have eaten a lot of tacos in the last few years but there is no doubt, his are the best!  Their short visit was an absolute hoot and as before we were sorry to see them go home.

In October I was washing tile on the main floor prior to putting a new seal coat on it when Zorro went by with a lizard in his mouth.  It turned out to be the last time I saw him as he never came home again.  We don’t know what happened to him and never will I suspect but we miss him terribly and hope that maybe he just ran off on a great adventure.

Zorro taking command of Alexa as usual

In November we were joined by Keith, Sherry and Jordan who spent a few days with us before moving to the Rui Palace for a wedding.  Again we got to do the tourist thing, hanging out on beaches, going for tacos and then trying to find churros.  We love it!

December brought the Christmas season and we always have to go downtown to watch the processions to the main cathedral.  The dancing, the music, the bells and street food make it such an enjoyable night.  We loved being able to share it with my brother Larry this year. If you are ever thinking of coming down here or will be here between December 1st and 12th, you must take these in.

Yesterday I was faced with that trepidation again.  Two new guests we had never met were about to be picked up at the airport.  Dave and Shelly from Yakima.  As usual my fears were for no good reason and we had a lovely visit with them last night.

Tonight they are cooking us dinner and we will ring in the New Year on the beach watching the fireworks from around the bay. It will be a great time.

I love being a tourist in my town especially one with so much to offer.

To those that helped make this year special we thank you and for everybody….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

Happy New Year from both of us

The Journey to Casa Madera – What do you mean there is a Hurricane out there!

October 10, 2011 – Heather and I are sitting on our kitchen balcony this morning at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta enjoying our coffee wondering what the next 3 days will hold.  5 days ago a small disturbance formed out in the Pacific Ocean that over the days developed into a Category 3 Hurricane, Jova.

Puerto Vallarta has been threatened before this year but nothing has come close.   Jova has been listed as a potential direct hit for our beautiful part of the world now for 3 days.  Late yesterday that changed and it will probably hit land 150 miles down the coast near Manzanillo which is great for us but not so much for the poor people in Manzanillo and surrounding area.

When Heather and I moved here 3 years ago we knew that the area always had the potential for Hurricanes but it is rare for a Hurricane to hit land on the Pacific East Coast.  It does happen but not like the East Coast of Mexico or the United State and Canada.   However we are from Northern Alberta where you never knew when a Tornado might make an appearance so really what was the difference.  That and you just cannot let something limit you like weather or other natural events.  So we moved anyway.

This has been the closest we have been to having to deal with tropical weather.  Since we have been here we have dealt with a glancing blow from a tropical storm which hit Mazatlan and another that came in for 30 minutes (which we both slept through), downed trees and took off some roofs in Bucerias but otherwise nothing. Yes there is odd good storm during rainy season but nothing worse than Alberta would see.

We know the power that these storms punch but somehow I am disappointed that it is not going to hit us.  I don’t know why.  Is it the power of nature that I really wanted to see first hand?  Or did I want to see how the house stood up to it?  Either way, it is idiotic!

The storm was upgraded last night to a Category 3 Hurricane which would be devastating.  Major storm surge, houses damaged, trees blown down and a large amount of flooding.  You just cannot wish that on the other residents in the area, many who have no insurance on their belongings that they worked hard to obtain.  Not to mention that our deductible is 20% of any hurricane loss so do I really want to spend $8,000.00 if we suffer $40,000.00 in damage?

But that is only money and really money does not mean anything in the grand scheme of things.  Life is what it is all about.  A hurricane at this point in time would be bad for Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit.  The Pan American Games are about to start in Guadalajara this week with a couple of events taking place in our fair city.   The City of Puerto Vallarta just spent a ton of money rebuilding the jewel of the city, the Malecon, which is due to open this week with the games.  I would hate to see all of those pesos go to waste, especially considering that high season is only 4 weeks away.

This is a tourist area.  It thrives on tourist dollars.  All of our Canadian and American friends who live here year round make their living off of tourists as we do too.  None of us can afford to have a hurricane take that season away.  But that is just us.  The infringers, the expats, the ones who really don’t belong.

The real damage would be to our Mexican hosts who let us live here.  People whose entire year rests on the next 6 months.  A major hurricane would wipe out families.  Some kids would not be able to afford to go to school.  Families would be struggling to put food on the table.   Lives would change and not for the better.

The country is already struggling thanks to the American and Canadian media and their reporting on what happens here.  I will not deny that there are areas in Mexico that are not particularly safe however, most tourist areas and cities are very secure and a pleasure to be in and see.  Heather and I feel safer here than we did travelling through the United States to get here.

While I will admit to trepidation when we crossed the border in a car 3 years ago that was mainly due to language and not knowing the customs.  In most places we stopped on the way down we were treated with respect and joy for being there.  That does not stop.  Whether we are driving in the middle of nowhere or in major centres, people are happy to see us and share their food and culture with us.  I would hate to see that change.

Though is it is currently pouring with rain, I am looking forward to spending a great day with some Canadian friends at Blakes Sports Bar to watch the Edmonton Eskimos beat the crap out of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  In reality who wins does not matter.  The fact is we got to spend the day with friends and all of us will be hopeful that nothing develops out of this hurricane.  If not for us but for the people who grew up in this great country.

I have only one message to say, don’t believe everything you read in the papers or hear on the 5:00, 6:00 or 7:00 newscast.  Mexico is truly a great place, the people will love you, feed you well and make sure your cerveza is cold.  But most of all you will be making sure that our Mexican hosts can eat.  They are good people and they deserve it.

So on Canadian Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have two healthy children, a healthy granddaughter, a grandson on the way and many, many Mexican friends who have allowed me to partake in their customs, their way of life and helped me to discover the joy of being myself.

This is truly a great place and Hurricane Jova, where ever you hit, YOU CANNOT CHANGE IT!

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!