Sunday, April 19, 2015

There's Always Something To Do - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It amazes me how quickly my days and weeks go by. I think to myself, how is what I do everyday interesting to others?

Mike's and my life has settled into a comfortable routine. Sleep until the construction next door makes it no longer enjoyable to linger in bed in a semi awake state; make coffee for me while Mike makes his juice concoction; we both sit on the sofa while being able to gaze out at the Bay sometimes witnessing a cruise ship entering the port; we both pick up our iPads and begin to catch up with our cyber world, reading the local and world news; Mike doing his every morning excercise routine; and, voila it's time for lunch!

Most of the time, we do all of our errands after lunch, which may take us all over town either by walking or taking a bus. Sometimes it's only Mike while I stay behind to do errands at home.

Or, if no errands, we work on doing research for our upcoming travels. A dip in the pool might even make it in. We seem to rarely go to the beach even though we only live a half block away. OMG, what sacrilege!

Our evening routine depends on who's in town, what our other friends are doing, whether we feel like going out or do we want to just spend an evening at home watching TV and eating popcorn.

But then I look at our pictures over the last couple of weeks and I realize what an active life we really do live.

Meeting up with people who are following the blog wanting to pick our brain on why we like it here in PV and what our life is like.
Mike & Janice Griffin

Shannon Wallace & James Heintz. I worked with James back in WA state. Mike & our good friend, Jack.

Randy, Clara, Me, Mike, Merrikay & Rob

Lucretia & Thad

Meeting up with friends to just enjoy Happy Hour and the sunset at a few of our different venues. Or dinner at a new restaurant that opened, or enjoying a 50% off special dinner promotion with friends.

And, then there are the really nice unexpected surprises. Meeting up with friends, Shauna & Rob, and they bring along a friend of theirs, Andre, whose on vacation and we decide to make a day trip jaunt over to Yelapa.


Shauna, Rob, Andre & Mike

The waterfall in town. An easy meandering up.

Don't miss the beautiful butterfly on the flip flop!

A view of the Cove from up above in town.

The beautiful beach of Yelapa.

Paragliders being pulled out to the Bay. He will be released once he reaches a certain height.

The Paraglider gracefully landing on the beach. The river that cuts through Yelapa is on the right side of the beach.

Friends, Jim & Tessa Armstead, inviting us to join them for a private tour of the USS-Lake Champlain missile cruiser moored out in the Bay for several days.

Attending a fabulous one man show on the life and times of Woody Guthrie performed by Randy Noojin. An incredible show! You might enjoy the review article I wrote for one of the local online newspapers.

Randy Noojin

And, in between, I wrote an article for International Living and we were interviewed for another article that will be published in July. As each is published, I will share.

This keeps me very busy, as I try not to let things go sideways or get hijacked. It can happen in the blink of an eye and seems to always happen when I'm involved with something else. No complaints though. I brought this on myself by creating them.

Then there are the mundane daily things like having to go by bus out to the TelMex office to get our internet turned back on. We didn't receive the hand delivered invoice here at the condo this month, so they turned it off. Once that happens, you can't just go down to the local convenience store (Oxxo) to pay it.

Or, running out of propane on a Saturday morning. Seems like it didn't last as long this time before it needed refilling. Fortunately, they were here within an hour from calling.

Or, finding out as you're ready to go to bed that the plastic accordion piping under the sink had somehow come out of the wall pipe, so all the drain water from the sink was running into the cabinet while brushing your teeth. Mike got to deal with this one since I was already asleep.

Or, you're ready to head out for the evening and you discover termites have been having a field day in your bathroom cabinets! Mike to the rescue! Termites are quite a common element here and you have to be vigilant about them. Usually, they leave evidence. This time they didn't, so it wasn't caught as quickly.

But, hey, shit happens no matter where you live including paradise! Lol

So keep enjoying your life's journey, as will we. Hasta Luego!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

BUDGET UPDATE - March, 2015

In 2014, we showed that you could live a very good life style for $25,000/year, if you weren't lavish and chose where you eat and drink out.  We took advantage of Cupocity discounts on meals, tours, massages, etc. We also determined where we get the best bang for our buck, which allows us to eat and drink out with our friends. We are social people and gathering with friends is very important to us. (See Year End Budget posted in mid December, 2014 located in Archives)

As we also knew would happen, our family and friends would start visiting us and the winter months would see us eating out and going on excursions more with them. My daughter and her family were here for 16 days in January, and several friends came to town to spend time with us. It definitely shows in our expenditures for these 2 month!

We also had the opportunity to meet up with friends from Nicaragua in Mexico City for a week in February and while we were already up in the "highlands" of Mexico, we decided to come back by bus and visit San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Leon. A beautiful part of this wonderful country!

The month of January also brought us the expenditures of washing machine repair ($232), camera repairs ($10), more of Mike's dental woes (a new crown & a tooth pulled $742), and Mike needing to visit a chiropractor twice for adjustments that couldn't be dealt with in a massage ($73). We also took a 3 day side excursion to Yelapa with family and incurred hotel expenses and a more expensive water taxi ride plus all meals out.

But, we are extremely happy that everyone wants to come see us!!  This was part of our decision to live here. We knew it was easier and more alluring for them to come here to PV than any other location we considered. So it is what it is and we make no apologies for enjoying our family and friends.

In March, our expenditures went back to normal. EXCEPT we had decided back in December, 2014 to purchase excellent seat tickets ($300) to the Santana/Journey concert in Guadalajara for March 26. The total of the expenditures including the tickets, tours of Guadalajara, meals out, our stay in a B&B, gas, taxes, busses, etc. are all accounted for.

I'm continually asked how can we do all we do on what we actually show in our posted budget. I must admit, that the times when we meet up with people who I've helped through my blog, they have been very gracious in treating us as their guests for meals and drinks in appreciation for our time and sharing of our experiences. We do this gladly without expectation of this!!

Living Expenses: January February March
Rent w/util  $    1,000  $      1,000  $      1,000
Electric  $          24  $               -  $            23
Cell Phone  $          42  $            40  $            39
Groceries  $       227  $          219  $          249
Meals Out  $       448  $          292  $          240
Drinks Only  $       161  $          154  $            95
Entertainment  $          60  $            57  $          105
Massages  $       101  $            20  $            40
Bus/Taxi  $          64  $            55  $            15
Dental Cleaning  $          33  $            80
Incidentals  $          25  $            18  $            82
TOTAL  $    2,185  $      1,935  $      1,888

TOTAL W/O RENT  $    1,185  $          935  $          888

Discr Spending:

Visas/Legal  $             -  $               -
Clothes/Shoes/Gifts  $          13  $            32  $            27
Medical/Life Ins.  $       211  $          211  $          211
Tours  $          87  $            60
Home Improve  $       420  $          171  $            57
Medical  $       237

Dental  $       742

Air Travel

Trips/Vacations  $       180  $      2,459  $          684
Car Rental/Gas

Spanish Lessons

TOTAL Discr.  $    1,890  $      2,933  $          979

TOTAL ALL  $    4,075  $      4,868  $      2,867

*Drinks Only (in PV only): January 11x; February 9x; March 7x
*Meals Out (in PV only): January 12x; February 10x; March 9x
*Our Rent includes 1br/1ba; dipping pool; view of Bay; fully furnished with everything you need; cable TV, internet, water; excludes electric.
*I do not include health insurance as a Living Expense because many expats choose not to have insurance. It was our choice to have it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Times in Guadalajara !

This past week was all about our journey to and from Guadalajara with good friends Jim & Tessa Armstead.

Back on December 12, the first day I was busy covering the Rock Fest, Jim bought our tickets to see Santana & Journey in concert for March 26th in Guadalajara. Can't believe that was 3 full months ago!

So last Tuesday, Mike and I packed our bags and headed by bus first to Bucerias where Jim and Tessa live. After a lovely dinner and sunset on the beach at El Brujo with other friends, Carrie and Abe, we hit the bed early in anticipation of an earlier than normal rise to get on the road to Guadalajara.

The 5 hour trip went beautifully. Not much traffic on the 2 lane highway part so we made good time. Along the way, we decided to take the opportunity of going up to Chapala and Ajijic before heading into the bowls of Guadalajara.

Along the way, we were able to see the VFG Arena, where the concert was going to be on Thursday evening. We tried to see if we could pick up our tickets but they said no, we had to wait until the night of the concert. So we continued on up the mountain. We had a nice lunch in Ajijic followed b a stroll through the tiangus (market), along the lake, and a bit through town. I must say that the lake certainly looked much better than it did when I was there in 2007. 

Jim's trusty Garmin (Carmen, as they call her) navigated us right to the front door of our host and accommodations for the next 3 nights, Casa Venezuela. George Zookey, our host, had contacted me on Facebook after I had posted we were going to the concert way back before Christmas. He invited us to stay with him and his partner, Gabrielle. After looking at his site, we excitedly accepted. These are the gems that keep giving back to us during our travels!!

After a tour of the stunningly beautiful home and a chance to drop our bags in our rooms, we were treated to evening wine out in the garden patio where we began to truly get to know each other. George and I had been communicating the whole 3 months and felt like we did already know each other but the others didn't have that background. Conversation was easy and comfortable, which is important when you're sharing someone's home. Their awesome 2 pups were also a delight to get to spend time with. 

I can't recommend this B&B a highly enough!! And, if you're looking for a personal guided shopping tour in Tonala, then look no further than George himself. He knows the ins and outs and can custom create your tour to fit your wants and needs.

Casa Venezuela

George Zookey, Noelle, & Sid Lally

After a nice walk of several blocks, we chose to have dinner at La Hambergesa, a quaint very casual little bar/restaurant on Libertad. I actually had a bacon cheese wrapped hot dog while the others had hamburgers. A low key evening after a long day of driving and touring.

We were able to have a slow paced morning. Luscious hearty coffee was ready when we woke and by the time we had all truly woken up and caught up with the cyber world, Francisco had prepared the most incredible breakfast. Francisco is a gem! He has worked with George and Gabrielle from the beginning 9 years ago. 

As our day would be limited by time needing to get to the Arena for the concert, we decided to take the city tour via the Tapatio Hop On Hop Off bus. So after a short but nice walk to the Basilica El Expiatorio, we hopped on and took a 2 hour bus ride through the city. Once deposited in the City Center, we decided to continue our ride by catching the Tapatio to Talaquepaque. This area of town is a labyrinth of wonderful shops and restaurants.

Needing to fortify our bodies, we had cold drinks and a tapa before walking into the heart of the village. My eye first caught a typical hand embroidered top, something I've been wanting to purchase for quite awhile. Upon asking what the cost was, I immediately made the decision to buy along with the matching woven belt. I do think this will be my wardrobe for our speaking engagement at the International Living Conference in June.

Mike and I went in our own direction to see and photograph what interested us during our final hour there. Even though we were there back in 2007, we could easily spend much more time there. Lots to explore.

Taking the bus back into the City Center, we decided it was time to catch a cab to get back to the Casa and get ready for the concert. Our taxi was picking us up at 5pm and we certainly didn't want to be late since that's the whole reason we were there.

As requested, they were there right at 5pm to take us out to the suburbs where the Arena was. Upon arriving, our first order of business was to pick up our tickets from Will Call. So excited to finally have those tickets in hand!

Since they weren't letting anyone into the venue until 6:30, we decided to have a small bite to eat and some drinks to wet our whistle. While doing that we ran into a friend from PV, Tracy Lee Gehue, and her friends. Somehow we didn't feel so far away from home.

At 6:30pm we lined up at our entry. Everywhere you looked, it felt like a cattle call. But when they finally started letting us in, they separated the men from the women to go through security. This way the women were patted down and cursorily searched by women and the men by men. Mike was concerned that they would take away his pocket knife so I had put it in the bottom of my small purse. It made it through without a hitch and stayed there until I gave it back to him the next day.

Our seats were right down on the floor and supposed to be 3rd row, stage left. However, they had added a new section for "Platinum" level ticket holders and so our seats were given away to them. This meant that those holding tickets in our Section were told to just take the first seats open in that Section, which we did. This was when we realized how important it was to have gotten there early. Those that showed up later or even after the show had started were SOL.

Unfortunately, it also meant that many of them conducted themselves in an extremely rude manner. This is when I coined the phrase "being short at a rock concert sucks!" Many people who were taller than me insisted on filling up the isles where they weren't supposed to be. I even had words with a few who seemed to think they were more important than me. No matter the language, it was rude! Fortunately, crowd control decided to agree with me and started patrolling the isles. So between all of the vendors and the rude people, I was stepped on, yelled at, spilled on, and pushed many times. Yes, being short and small wasn't an advantage at this venue.

The concert didn't start until 8:30pm, which was an hour and a half late. Everyone was more than ready for it to begin. So when it did, everyone went into a frenzy. And, we were certainly not disappointed with the performance of Journey. An amazing group of musicians! Everyone was on their feet from the get go and didn't sit down until the break between groups.

When Santana took the stage, the energy level increased beyond belief. The stage was covered with 2 huge sets of drum and 2 sets of congas and percussion's, plus the keyboard/organ stand. The rest of the stage was for the vocals, guitarists, and horns. Of course, Santana was... well, Santana! What a performance. Simply awesome! And, we totally enjoyed his wife, Cindy Blackman-Santana's incredible solo drum feature. Boy, can that lady make those drums sing!

Roxann !!
Article written for Puerto Vallarta Daily News:

Videos: (Journey); (Santana)

Regardless of all the "stuff" that went on during the concert, I still totally enjoyed every moment. There's nothing like going to a Santana concert, who was born right here in the Mexican state of Jalisco, with an almost totally Latin crowd. Now that's a whole different level of concert!

More than ample taxis available for the ride back to town after the concert. Albeit, they tried to way overcharge us. So the first taxi driver lost out when the 2nd accepted our offer of 500 pesos rather than the 700 the other driver wanted. We expected to pay more than the 330 pesos it cost us to get there because of the late hour and the fact that there's a different rate for gringos, but please don't insult. This is where our experience of living in Mexico (or any other foreign country) pays off. We aren't tourists any more.

By the time we arrived back at the Casa it was 1:30am and after posting pictures, it was 2am before I hit the bed hard and didn't move until 8:30am. If we didn't need to make the most of our time as a tourist, I would have gladly rolled over for another couple of hours. But since we're retired, there's always time later to catch up on sleep. LOL

After another glorious and hearty breakfast prepared and served by Francisco and George, off we went back to the Basilica El Expiatorio to see the church and to catch the next Tapatio. We all agreed that we would catch the next bus from the City Center to head out to Tonala. This is another town where much of the goods sold in other parts of Mexico are made so everything is way less expensive. Even so, we didn't buy anything more than a small wind chime because we didn't want to have to carry it for the rest of the day.

What do you think? Are these wine glasses large enough for me??

Back on the bus to take us back to the City Center at 3:50pm arriving in GDL at 5:15pm. After meandering around awhile, we sat our tired buns down at a sidewalk cafe and had dinner and drinks. Our goal was to try and last until dark when we planned to take a horse & buggy ride through town with all of the beautiful buildings lit up.

After keeping ourselves amused and occupied for an hour, we found our buggy just as the lights started being lit up on all of the buildings. A one hour ride cost us 300 pesos for the 4 of us - $10US per couple! As it turned out, we ended up getting off right at the end of our street so we didn't have to go all the way back into the center and catching a cab back.  A lovely ride!

Chiropractic students practicing by giving out free adjustments right there on the square.
The Tequila Tour Bus.

Wanting to get a fairly early start in the morning, we called it a night after a bit of down time on the garden patio at about 10pm. A good night's sleep, quick fruit breakfast and coffee, and we were on the road by 9:15am after saying our fond farewells to George and Francisco. Didn't really get to know Gabrielle well because he was working so much. I'm sure we'll get a chance during our next visit, which will definitely happen!!

As Saturday was the beginning of Samana Santa (Holy Week), we expected huge amounts of traffic because everyone leaves the cities to head to the beaches for vacation.  It took us 2 hours to get out of town but that really seemed to be more due to construction. Once outside the city, things went quite well. And, after making it over the mountain pass, we stopped for lunch at the small beach village of Chacala. A lovely lunch on the beach and a bit of window shopping with nothing purchased at the street vendors.

Jim and Tessa were truly wonderful and took us all the way home into PV (an extra 2 hours for them) so we didn't have to take the local busses with our luggage when we were already exhausted from the long trip.  It felt wonderful to be home! Yes, even when traveling is such a magical and stimulating thing to do, it's always fantabulous to come home and sleep in your own bed.

Several couples coming into town this week that we'll be meeting up with but mainly I'm looking forward to some pool time and chillin.

Happy Easter to everyone! Talk soon....