Monday, December 8, 2014

Just When I Think It Can't Get Any Better.....It Does!! Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The week before Thanksgiving was filled with errands to make sure we had all the fixings for the Thanksgiving dinner we were hosting for 9 of us in our home. Our first big dinner party! Nothing like it to make you feel like you are truly home!

But, in between, Mike and I each had another preventative doctor's appointment set up through Pam Thompson-Webb's www.HealthResourcesPV.com. A wonderful health service for all of us expats. 

I made the trek by bus out to Amerimed Hospital for my annual female checkup with an OB/GYN woman doctor that includes a Pap smear, internal pelvic sonogram (wow, just TMI), and an external breast exam. I'm all clear for the next year and the whole exam was a whopping $54 US!!

Mike's skin from head to toe exam with an oncologist was the next day and he was deemed to not have any issues for skin cancer. Being in a tropical climate where we're out in the sun allot, it's always good to be proactive. This exam was a bargain at $28 US!

Since Mike's exam took us to a area where there's a nice nursery that we'd always wanted to stop in at, we took the opportunity of walking over. Of course, since both of us are plant lovers, we took advantage of the wonderful rooster talavera planters coupled with a Christmas cactus. A perfect addition to our dining table!



And, to add some flavor to our week, David & Tere Appleby, now retired in FL, came back to see us.  We had first met them at the International Living Conference back in June.  We enjoyed a fabulous evening of sunset cocktails at Signature Lounge before we headed down the 104 steps for a wonderful meal at Michel's, here in Old Town.  Again, another successful expat exploration evening!!


Me, Tere, & David



 
On Tuesday evening of that week, I had made arrangements for us to meet up with a fb friend, Beth Piper and her husband, Tim, for dinner out in Nuevo because she had been kind enough to bring a new oven thermometer and silicone pot holders.  We had to take two different busses and over an hour to get there but we enjoyed a truly spectacular sunset along the way!  Thank You, Beth!!

A cruise ship leaving PV during this spectacular sunset.

A silhouette of the pirate ship, Margaliante. 

Beth's mom, Tim, Beth, & Me.

Thanksgiving dawned another beautiful day.  And, we were lucky that there was not going to be any concrete pouring on the construction next door. This meant we would have relative peace and quiet for our entertaining. 

The challenges that I faced with cooking were definitely minimized by having my new oven thermometer brought to me by my fb friend, now face to face friend, Beth Piper!! I was able to determine that my oven definitely cooked at a higher temperature than what I was calculating on the 1-5 number system shown on the oven gauge. To get to a steady 325*, the setting was no more than 2.25. Regardless, the ham and all oven cooking went well because of the new thermometer. And, I definitely enjoyed using my new colorful silicone potholders. Awesomeness!!

I do think our guests enjoyed their meal with us and I know we enjoyed all of the meal contributions by them!  Love sharing a meal with friends in our home!  A highlight was knowing that one couple, Tim & Georgina Drummond, were sharing their first family style Thanksgiving meal in 16 years.

Tim & David

Tessa & Jim Armstead, & Georgina

David, Rob & Shauna

9 of us for Thanksgiving dinner
 
We've been very fortunate that in our 2 previous years out of the USA, we have been able to share a family style meal with new friends - once in Boquete, Panama with Susan and Kerry Frank in 2012 at their home and in 2013 with our apartment mates in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. You have no idea how meaningful it is to share holidays with other expats when you're away from the states. 

The day was capped off for us by the Seahawks winning their Thanksgiving day game. It's starting to look like they're getting their mojo back and we couldn't be more thrilled!!

On Friday night, Mike and I enjoyed an evening alone just strolling Basilio Badillo. We were able to leisurely view the art in several galleries, sip some wine, and enjoy the street music and pulse of the area. The event is called the Southside Shuffle and it is held every 2 weeks during high season. 

By 9pm, we found ourselves at Nacho Daddy's to enjoy the music of the Texas Embasy Blues Band. A great venue with a wonderful band and dance music. And since we love to dance, it's become a real favorite of ours!

The next night found us meeting up with returning snowbird Canadian friends, Mitch and Stephanie. As they had never been to Signature Lounge, that's where we decided to meet. While visiting, they asked if we would like to join them the next day to drive out to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle out on the north side of the Bay for the Sunday Farmer's Market. Of course, we said YES!!!

Stephanie & Mitch, Mike

Mike and I had been keeping a list of a few things we wanted but hadn't quite found the "right" ones. But let me tell you, we found them all at this Farmer's Market! A wonderful venue with at least 100 vendors and a fish market right at the marina.  A fabulous successful day!

 



Our 2 new embroidered pillows

My new Seahawks PV style T



And, it's brought us good luck!

Disappointment set in on Tuesday morning when we found out that our good friends, Tammy & Jimmy McDowell, would not be moving to PV and into the apartment above us, after all.  A difficult situation in the states arose that they need to take care.  I wish them well.

As I was coming down with another head cold (3rd one in 2 months), we laid low at home until Tuesday, December 2.  It's really nice actually to just kick back, read, nap, catch up on TV shows missed, lay in the sun trying to bake out the cold, and generally just do nothing of any real importance.

I had been corresponding over the last couple of weeks with a wonderful lady and local musician, Sylvie Scopazzo.  She is the creator/organizer of two different hiking groups in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding areas that can be found on FaceBook by searching the following - L.O.C.A - LADIES OUTDOOR CLUB ADVENTURES P.V. and "Power Walk the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta"

I had been unable to make the last ladies hike to Quimixto, a small village accessed only by boat on the southern shore of the Bay of Banderas.  So Sylvie asked me if I'd like to take the Power Walk tour/hike on Tuesday and, of course, Mike could go on this one too.  So off we went. 

There was another couple, Cathy & Kevin Barrett, and a brother/sister, Vicky & Mike Weiler, all from parts of Canada.  Well, let's just say by the time the incredible hike was over, we were well on our way to becoming good friends!!

Vicky, Mike, Cathy, Kevin, Mike & Me at the top

The hike is so well done with fabulous energy, experience, and knowledge shared by Sylvie.  Having lived here for 17 years, she certainly knows how to share her town!  We meandered along the back streets while gaining an education on different sites and buildings along the way.  We were filled with the feel of old Mexico through visual, hearing, and our smell senses!!

One of the cruise ships coming into port as we began our walk.

One of the many mural paintings throughout town.


Steps in Gringo Gulch


A private home built like a castle, now a B&B

Restaurant Café de Artiste with their Huichol mural painting


An old typical street

El Arrayan Restaurant
 
Our journey kept us on an upward route as our ultimate goal was to reach the cross at the top of hill where the TV tower is.  Our path took us into the neighborhoods not accessible by car, only by foot or donkey.  The pace was perfect!  No one felt pushed or over winded and reaching the top was so spectacular!!  The views simply incredible!

 
Up we go!

We met up with the donkeys doing their work.

 
 
Sylvie

 
Sylvie making nice with the "guard" dog at the TV tower.
 

We made it!
 



 
After a snack of tangerines and time to enjoy the views and many photo ops, we made our way back down only to branch off in another direction heading into Gringo Gulch for more education on the beautiful homes in the area.


 

 

An old bicycle shop now a home.

 
Hacienda San Angel


The bridge connecting Elizabeth Taylor's home to Richard Burton's home. Legend has it that the bridge was torn down & rebuilt several times when they had fights.
 
Elizabeth Taylor's home is being renovated to be an exclusive hotel.


Another mural.

And, another mural.
 
Rather than take the true public foot bridge over the Rio Cuale, Sylvie lead us down a set of stairs to the river where we made our way wadding across to the Isla Cuale.  Lunch was waiting for us when we arrived at La Brassas and it was mouth smacking good!!

Rio Cuale

A pause to enjoy the views up & down plus the very refreshing water.
 
Lunch.

By the end of lunch, we had all agreed that we wanted to do another hike before our Canadian friends headed back to the cold tundra of Canada.  The decision was to meet up on Thursday for the Quimixto hike that I had missed the week before. 

Wednesday nights for the month of December, Mike is running the projector for the movie night held by Democrats Abroad at the International Friendship Club.  So off he went while I continued enjoying a day of rest.  I was rewarded for my laziness by a fabulous fireworks display right in front of our building on the beach.  It just seemed to go on and on.

We awoke by alarm clock Thursday morning in the pitch dark at 7am.  It really has to be something we want to do bad in order for us to get up in the dark. But we wanted to get our morning routine out of the way before meeting everyone on the Pier at 8:30am.

Our destination entailed us taking David's ponga for a 45 minute boat ride to the south beach and village of Quimixto.  But first we did a leisure tour around the Los Arcos rocks and sanctuary where we saw beautiful blue angel fish and other silver ones.  The ride was a bit chilly that early in the morning at this time of year but very enjoyable with the gorgeous sun just shining its daily greeting. We also had other sightings of dolphins and turtles but, alas, no whales.












The pier at Quimixto

Upon disembarking the ponga at the pier, we set off for a delightful walk through this quaint village of only 300-400 indigenous people.  The land can only be leased not owned by non indigenous, as is the case with most of the land on the southern shores of Banderas Bay.

We were all quite taken with the cleanliness and newer well laid cobblestone streets.  Here, too, as in all other southern villages, there are no cars only walking, horse or donkey.  Everyone has real pride in their homes and everyone was happy and delightful, especially the children.

After crossing 3 rivers and hiking through the jungle, we arrived at our ultimate destination - a beautiful waterfall with a swimming hole.  Some went swimming, some of us did not.  But we all enjoyed a libation and parked our behinds down to capture the moment.





















I fell in love!



The church.



We had decided that we would eat on the beach, so after a short boat ride further down the beach, we found ourselves in a quaint rancho with delicious food.  Everything on the menu was fish or seafood except for a hamburger.  Needless to say, I wasn't holding much hope that it would taste like much. But, I was sure wrong!!  It was just as yummy as everyone else's fish dishes.

It was almost 4pm by the time we were deposited back at the Los Muertos Pier in Old Town.  That didn't leave Mike and me much time before we headed inland in Old Town to meet up with Shauna and Rob for dinner at Magna Magna, a small authentic Italian bistro.  I'd been wanting to try their lasagna for some time and we had made these arrangements before we committed to the Quimixto excursion.

I was so not disappointed again!!  The food was outstanding and the byob red wine that I brought hit the spot!  For a total of $10, Mike and I had a fabulous meal!!

Our ultimate goal was to go hear a Portland Blues Band called the StrangeTones play at Roxy's.  We were told that they would start by 9pm, but frankly we had been given different times by several, so who knew.  Anyway, we had time for a drink first at Los Muertos Brewing, which definitely has the best beer in town.

Upon arriving at Roxy's, we found that they wouldn't even open up until 9pm, so off we went around the corner to Mochie's for another drink to idle the time away.  And, at 9, we were back only to find that the band wouldn't start playing until at least 10pm.  So, again, we went around the other corner to a place. Le Noche, that has the most wonderful rooftop patio that we had been wanting to enjoy.  It was divine!

Shauna, Rob, & Me



By the time we arrived back for the music, I was just a bit buzzed.  Adding one more glass of wine, I not only enjoyed dancing to the terrific music that brought back memories of being back in WA, I took advantage of the pole on the dance floor that was just calling my name.  Sorry if that's TMI but it's the truth and nothing but the whole truth.







 
My voice had completely left my body by the end of that night, so I spent the next 2 days nursing it along.  It's so hard to not talk!!

As the Pilgrimage's of Guadalupe had started on the 1st, Mike and I took advantage of no plans on Friday to walk down the Malecón to the Zocola or main square.  The pilgrimages are where groups of people, families, businesses, schools, etc. walk down the main street of Juarez carrying food offerings and finish with a blessing inside the church, where they leave the offerings.  At each blessing the bells ring loudly and long.

Mike and I found ourselves a table on the balcony of a restaurant we'd never been to before called The House of Omelets right at the corner where everyone turned to go up to the church.  We were given the corner table so our vantage point was absolutely perfect!  We truly enjoyed watching, especially the little ones, while they made their way.








 








 
Our Christmas piñata.

To broaden our new friend's experience here in Old Town, we met them all at Signature Lounge for Happy Hour before heading down to Nacho Daddy's to listen and enjoy Sylvie's rock band, The Zippers.  Yes, again, a good time had by all!!

The Zippers

Mike Weiler with Sylvie. She can really rock the house!
 
Memo, the drummer & our friend.

Our beloved Seahawks won again yesterday!  So we're feeling a bit better about playoffs. 

But to let you in on some FABULOUS news, I was invited by the Vallarta Daily News to be their reporter/correspondent for the 3 day huge Classic Rock Fest starting with the Opening Night Cocktail Party on Thursday this week.  And, Mike will be my photographer!  Since it's being held on the beach in Nuevo and I have to write a column every morning for the 4 mornings after, we decided we would get a room at Paradise Village in Nuevo.  This way there will be no hour long ride home each late night nor back by noon the next day plus my having to write the column.  Much better on these old classic rock bones.

Check out the line up at www.vallartanayaritclassicrockfest.com

I can't tell you how honored and humbled I am that they gave me the assignment!!  I was also humbled to find out that they have been following my blog all along.  Thanks, Sergio and Ian!!

Have a great week everyone!  I know we sure will!  Again, thanks to all for coming on this journey with us...
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