Lonely Days

Lonely.  Now there is a word.  How many pop songs used it over the years?   Hundreds, many of them my favourites because they were just great songs.   The allmusic.com website lists over 1300 occurrences of the word in a song title.  Song writers love it and for good reason.  We can all identify with being lonely. 

For Heather and I at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast, it hits us every once in a while but very rarely.  When it hits though, it hits.

 The nice thing is that family does come to visit.  My son, Brendan is coming next weekend with a buddy to celebrate his 21st birthday.  I cannot tell you how excited we are over that.  Not that we don’t have friends here.  We do, and they make sure we are never lonely. 

Christmas this winter was a special treat.  My brother, Larry and Heather’s mother, Barbara were here.  That made Christmas extra special this year.  Christmas for both of us revolves around family and having family here this year was wonderful. 

That and our friends kept us busy. 

Christmas Eve at Robert & William Michael’s, Christmas Day dinner at Bill & April’s.  To be surrounded by good friends and family makes it so special.  It was so far removed from our first Christmas in Vallarta.

December 24, 2008 – Christmas Eve.  A totally different Christmas Eve than either one of us has ever experienced.  One it was 26 degrees and there was no snow, ice or threat of slush.  Two, our families were 2ooo miles north of us.  This was the first Christmas either one of us had ever spent alone.  Ok, so we were not really alone but I am sure you get the idea.

We decided that we were going to do the day up right.  Christmas Eve was the day that my family had dinner.  It developed a long time ago as the family grew, people got married and had their spouse’s family to satisfy as well.  That and the 24th of December was my parents anniversary.  It just became THE day. 

This Christmas Eve was going to be obviously different.  We knew three people in town.  Robert and William Michael who were gracious enough to invite us to their Christmas Day dinner the next day.   We knew Marco, but he was in Guadalajara with his Mother and Father.  Other than them we were alone. 

The strangest part of the whole experience was that we were having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit.  For one, it was warm.  The air conditioner was running in the condo.  We were sweating when we went outside.  Where was the snow?  For many of us, even though we hate it, the first snowfall was what jump started us into Christmas mode.  Well no snow here except for the frost layer in our freezer. 

We noticed when we first arrived in town 6 weeks before that Christmas trees were for sale.  It seemed odd to see all of these trees basking in sunshine.  If you took one home you did not have to wait for it to thaw before cutting the trunk and sticking it in water.  Crazy.

We did not buy a tree.  One, where the hell would we put it.  No space in the condo.  We settled for a couple of artificial trees about 18 inches tall and decorated them with some small glass balls that we bought from Mega.  They got set up in the stairway.  There, we were decorated for Christmas. 

Our trees

This brought us to dinner.  What were we going to have?  We did not have a proper stove or oven so we could not cook a turkey.  We could go out but what is open on Christmas eve?  We had never been here before at that time so we had no idea what would be open or closed.  We finally decided on an old favourite as they were just down the street.

Christmas Eve Dinner 2008

Yep, that’s right.  KFC.  The Colonel.  It was a taste of home, what can we say.  I can say, it was freaking great!  It was without a doubt the best KFC I had tasted in years.  Well cooked fresh Mexican chicken done with the 11 herbs and spices.  I could go on and on but lets just say we ate there more than once because it was so good. 

Christmas morning for anybody with children always starts early.  We had been lucky as my children were old enough that they were past the getting up at 5:00 am stuff.   So I was looking forward to a nice relaxing sleep filled morning on Christmas Day.  I could not have been more wrong.

6:00 am I awake with a start to the sound of a bang.  What the hell was that?  Then there was another bang, followed quickly by another.  Well I had to go see what was going on.  I had noticed that Heather was no longer lying beside me so somehow she was involved.  And involved she was, chasing a cockroach around the floor with a hammer!  Bang, missed, bang, missed, bang, missed.  Needless to say she eventually got it but by then I was up for the day.  So much for the sleep in.

Coca Cola Christmas Tree

We had been invited Robert & William Michael’s for dinner Christmas Day and asked to bring a green salad.  We had the lettuce but Heather wanted a salad spinner, something that did not fit in the car when we moved.  It was christmas day but to our surprise all the major stores were open so after we made all of the phone calls home we ventured out to see what we could find.

Nothing, that’s what we found.  No such thing as a salad spinner in Mexico.  One of the stores, Mega, has helpers who double as time share salespeople.  Well the gentleman we talked to that day told Heather she needed to become more Mexican and just whip the lettuce around in a towel like everybody else! 

Two months later we found one in Lans Department store.  It has been followed by many others.  Apparently not all Mexican women want to whip their lettuce around in a towel either!

Dinner at Robert and William Michael’s was divine.  The food was excellent and the post dinner entertainment provided by Los Bambinos was phenomenal.  If you are ever here and get the chance to see them it is well worth the price of admission!  We thank them for making that Christmas special.

Our Christmas presents from home arrived on Boxing day.  It was a nice way to finish the Christmas season and promptly caused Heather to cry. 

Were we lonely.  Yes we were lonely but fate was going to change that very quickly the next day when our doorbell would ring….

Ok, We are in Mexico, Let’s Cook Mexican!


February 24, 2011 – I am sitting on our new Kitchen patio enjoying the afternoon sun here at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  What a treat to be able to sit here with the breeze coming off the ocean and not have 14 year palapa grass fall on my head among other things. 

The original kitchen patio and very old palapa

It has been a long haul but the kitchen renovation is finally finished.  Man does it look good.  We put a lot of faith in Sergio, our architect and Chicho the cabinet-maker to do it right and they delivered.  They took the most ridiculously designed 2 rooms I have ever seen and made them sparkle.  They gave us actual usable space.  It is a treat.

The Original Kitchen

There are only so many people who saw the kitchens we had been living with for the last 28 months.   The two kitchens were so small that most of the kitchen items we brought down from Canada with us in November 2008 did not get unpacked until a week ago.  

The New Kitchen and the view to the patio

The best part about the new kitchen is Heather is totally stoked to cook again with a real stove with burners that work and hey is that an oven!  I am enjoying the rewards of having that stove and although my waistline may not approve I really don’t care!

Side view

Heather was making some appetizers she had never made before last Friday for a wine reception that our friends at Vallarta Escapes host during high season.  Watching her chop and seed some dried chili’s reminded me of the night we decided to try to cook a new mexican recipe in the condo….

December 2008 – We have been in town for 3 weeks.  We are getting tired of restaurant food and making easy to cook items on our one burner hot plate.  The kitchen in the condo is what one would call non-existent.  There is 3 feet of usable counter space.  There is a small fridge, microwave and our pride and joy, the one burner hot plate.

The one burner hot plate we brought with us from Canada.  It was purchased as a stand by for when we needed more burner space.  It was never used until we moved into the condo in Puerto Vallarta

It was in Vallarta that we discovered that the one burner hot plate was built with Canadian safety standards in mind.  What a pain those were.  You would just get a pot of water for pasta to start boiling and it would shut down!  Can’t let the little sucker overheat I guess.  Something bad might happen, like your food would cook in under 3 hours!  Oh well, it threw up a challenge but we eventually got used to it.

The condo kitchen and the one burner hot plate

Heather had brought a few cookbooks with her and one was Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless.  We found a marinade in the book that looked interesting and would translate well to meat that would have to be fried.  

The recipe included dried Ancho Chiles and dried Guanjillos Chiles.  It called for them to be stemmed, seeded and deveined.  So we started on that project.  Now this was Sunday and it was hot so we were enjoying a cerveza while we worked on the chiles.  Now there is one thing about cerveza that is well-known, you only rent it.  So once we had the chiles done I headed down the hall to use the facilities. 

I did my business, washed my hands and returned to the kitchen to start pulverizing the remaining spices into a paste.  It was about 3 minutes later that I started to get very uncomfortable.   Uncomfortable changed in about 30 seconds to HOLY CRAP CERTAIN PARTS OF ME APPEAR TO BE ON FIRE!

It was at this point I blasted down the hall, ripped off my clothes and jumped into a very cold shower.  It was not helping.  I tried soap, nope.  No staving off this burning sensation.  It was at that point that Heather showed up outside the shower, laughing so hard with tears streaming down her face carrying a bowl of Lala Strawberry Yoghurt. 

All I can say is thank god for Lala.  Things cooled off in a hurry, so to speak.  There was no permanent damage except to my ego.  I knew better.  How many times in your life to do you read, wear gloves when handling peppers.  Well it applies to dry ones too folks.  I learned the hard way.

The emergency over we went back to the marinade though Heather had a really hard time concentrating on what she was doing for some reason, why I have no idea.

Oh and through the pain of it all, the recipe was worth it!

The Journey to Casa Madera – Ok, We’re Here, Now what do we do?

December 13, 2010 – Heather and her mother Barbara, who is visiting from Wetaskiwin, just went into town to see Berta, our seamstress who will be making some curtains for us.   After that they will be off to the printer to agree or disagree with the new business card design, hit Colchorama to buy a new mattress, and stop at the store to pick up a few necessities.

The Malecon bridge over the Rio Cuale

Everyday life here in Vallarta.  Not much different from Canada, NOW!  When I think back to that first day after we arrived and realized we had absolutely no idea what to do about anything I marvel at how far we have come in such a short time….

November 17, 2008 – First morning in our new home.  We had hit the grocery store the night before to get a few groceries so we would have the some of the important things in life like food and of course, coffee!  So we made some coffee and Heather set about trying to make breakfast.

The condo we owned was not the largest, about 450 square feet, but it was purchased with retirement vacations in mind and was mainly an investment.  When we bought it we had no idea we would be living in it full-time 2 years later.  So of the 450 square feet, about 10 of it was the kitchen.

The Kitchen

There was no stove, only a hot plate so Heather plugged it in and started trying to fry some eggs.  She put the pan on the burner and cracked the first egg.  She then felt her right hand go numb.  Figuring that she had hit it on the side of the counter she cracked another egg and then as she her hands got close to the frying pan both arms went numb.  It was then that we realized that there was something seriously wrong with this appliance so she got a plastic spatula and removed the plug from the wall.  I carried the offending item outside to the garbage.

Well ok, what do we do now?  We had brought a new hot plate with us from Canada so it was unpacked and put into use.  Well we at least tried to put it to use.  It was a three prong plug.  There were no three prong outlets in the entire condo.  They were all two.  Apparently grounding was not big in Mexico in the eighties when the condo was built so we were going to require an adapter to plug the hot plate in.  Microwaved eggs it was and they were delightful.  Well not really but hey when you are hungry you make do.

The Beach by our condo

After breakfast we thought we should head out and see our property manager who had been taking care of the condo for us.  His office was on the other side of old town.  It was a nice day, the sun was shining so we decided to walk.  We were noticing that a lot of the small family run stores that we passed were closed.  It was then we found out that it was a holiday celebrating the Mexican Revolution.  Well we were three-quarters of the way to his office so we kept going only to find it locked up tight.

Street in Old Town on the way to Ted's office

That took us 2 hours and we were soaking wet and wilted from the heat.  Just not used to it.  So down the hill from his office to a sandwich shop for something cold to drink and a snack.   We hopped on a bus from there and hit Wal-Mart to pick up some converter plugs so we could plug in the hot plate and few other things that we needed.

The next day we returned to the property managers office, however this time we went by bus, so we smelled a lot better!  Not in today.  Oh well at least we could get an appointment.

As we were standing outside of his office enjoying the view of the Bay of Banderas below us I noticed that across the street was the realty company that our favourite rental agent had gone to work for so we thought we would drop by and see if he was in.  Nope, out.  Well, 2 for 2.  Well what shall we do now?

One of the many beautiful views in the Bay

We were standing the company’s parking lot deciding that, when a car backed in and two people got out.  I recognized one, William Michael, who had shown us the condo next door to ours when he had it listed for sale.  He had been sending me email since then which always had his picture attached.  As I asked if it was him, the other man said I know that voice, that’s Kevin.  I had spoken to Robert about 5 times the last time we were in town about rentals and I was kind of surprised, I never thought of my voice as distinct.

Either way it was nice to see faces we knew and to finally make a connection with someone.  We made dinner plans for the following week and let them get back to work.  Since that time they have become some of our very dear and close friends.  And they still handle real estate and rentals for us through Vallarta Escapes.

Fishermen pulling their nets at dawn
Fishermen pulling their nets at dawn

Later that night we were sitting in our living room watching the movie SWAT on TV in spanish.   It was warm in the condo, 24 degrees, and no breeze so we were both sitting there waiting for the oscillating fan to blow our way.  Our condo had absolutely no flow through ventilation so a fan or air conditioning was in order.  We could not use the living room a/c unit as we used it on Sunday night and after 20 minutes water started pouring out of the unit.  That was a little frustrating so it was at this moment unusable and one of the items on our list of things to talk to the Property Manager about.

We had hired the Property Manager very quickly after buying the condo as we needed someone to pay the bills and look after the rentals.  We had already decided that we would relieve ourselves of him at the end of the year but there were a few things we needed done first.  The air conditioner needed repair, we needed a new toilet as the old one just was not working properly and we needed internet.

He is a nice man and was good at his job, bills were paid and things were looked after.  He was hard to get to see sometimes when we were in town but we always did get to see him.  He loved to talk and we got a lot out of those talks.  We listened and realized that it may take persistence but we could do a lot things our selves it would just take time.  We look back on those times fondly because without him we would not be where we are today.  He introduced us to Robert, the best rental agent in the bay (and the only one who could rent our condo) and Lupe, the fastest and best damn housekeeper we have ever seen.

We met with him the next day at the appointed hour, 10:00 Am for our usual 3 hour appointment.  We discussed the state of the economy, what it is doing to business in Mexico, what is happening with our condo, what needs to be repaired and what needs to be paid.

He asked if we had gone to immigration here in town to register and let them know we were here.  We had not but we said we would.   We left his office at 12:30 and headed for our favourite beach restaurant, The Lazy Lizard.

Los Muertos Beach, PV

We got there and it was closed and the space was for rent.  For rent?  Many times we had sat under their palapa’s and talked about how we would run the place as it was rarely busy which always seemed odd to us as it had the cheapest drinks on the beach, reasonable food and fun waiters.  Maybe we want to open a bar instead?  This was something that was going require some thought.  We wandered on down the beach in search of a cheap bucket of Corona to enjoy our afternoon with thoughts of bar ownership in our heads……


Next up….the visit to immigration….ugh