Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Persistence = Success !! Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

As town begins to wake up, shops, restaurants, bars, live music, live shows, cruise ships, snow birds, and FaceBook friends enter our lives!! We're hitting a groove that feels so incredibly comfortable!! Home, it truly feels like HOME !

The last couple of weeks have been full of friendship and love for us. It began with friends, Tammie & Jimmy McDowell, that we met in Cuenca, Ecuador, coming to visit PV to consider moving here. This was after following my blog since we met in September, 2013 while they were living in Cuenca and we were there for a visit. 

Our visit began by meeting at Nacho Daddy for some Sunday football. We picked up right where we had left off, exchanging funny stories. So incredible that it had been a full year already since that night at San Blas for "singles" night. LOL

We went out looking at apartments with the McDowell's and saw some great places. After looking at several with a terrific rental agent, we showed them an apartment in another building on our street and then invited them to look at one in our building. Long story short, they will now be our neighbors starting in December in the unit above us. Love being able to choose our neighbors!!

As their 10 days here unfolded, the McDowell's shadowed us on many errands, taking the local busses, learning where the most economical places were to eat, drink, and be merry! In general, getting a feel for what it's really like to live here. 

Dinner at Fusion Gourmet on their 50% off night.
Tammie, Jimmy, Me & Mike.

Happy Hour at Signature Lounge with another couple that live in Ecuador & are considering PV that knew Tammie & Jimmy.  Me, Tammie, Bill & JoAnn.

Jimmy & Me enjoying the music & a dance at Nacho Daddy.

Tammie got "touristized" !!!

Expat Happy Hour at Langostino's. Tim, Georgina, Jan, ?, Nelson & Me.

A great photo of Tammie & Jimmy.
We had been searching FaceBook for a small dog for our property caretaker, Reuben, to adopt for many weeks. Rueben is a wonderful man with a wonderful soul and lots of love to be given out. His previous companion had passed and he was a very lonely. 

The stars aligned for him finally after several false attempts by us. A post came on FB that presented a perfect opportunity! After speaking with the owners several times, they came to bring Zsa Zsa to our home for Rueben to meet her and for them to meet him. 

All I can say is that it was love at first sight for Rueben. Zsa Zsa not so much except she did eat out of his hand a couple of times before snarling and barking at him. Little miss is a very spoiled, one owner dog. All others stay away until she gets to know you. 

But it was agreed that Rueben was a good person and he would take her home to see how things would go. Suffice it to say, there is now lots of love going around. They are both smitten with each other and Zsa Zsa has control of the bed. It's absolutely endearing to see Rueben's face light up when talking about her and, as you can see, Zsa Zsa is one happy dog!!  We are thrilled to have a part in this pairing. 

Zsa Zsa

A happy baby going for a ride on the bike.  He takes her everywhere!
A week ago Sunday, Mike and I headed out by bus to Bucerias, about an hour north via 2 bus rides up the Bay. We were invited to our new friends, Tessa & Jim Armstead's, new home. They moved here from the west side of WA and we're all Seahawks fans. So a fun day spent at their home watching the Hawks not play well enough and a good BBQ meal of cheese burgers, my deviled eggs, and luscious homemade baked beans. 

Tessa, Jim & Me.
On Monday evening, we had made plans to have dinner at other friends' home in Gringo Gulch, Judy Snow & David Kamp. As it's more than a comfortable walking distance if you want to arrive without being drenched in sweat, we took a cab. Since another couple, Georgina & Tim Drummond, that live more in our area were also going, we made arrangements to meet and share a cab. Another fabulous evening of sharing and having good conversation. 

Georgina, Me & Tim. 

Beautiful sunset from the terrace.

We had to say "Hasta Luego" to the McDowell's on Wednesday morning knowing that it would be a short  period of time before they'll be back to begin their full time life in PV. 

We then quickly grabbed a bus and headed to the dentist's office for Mike to get his permanent crown on the tooth that broke. To get to the office, we must take a bus to the Costco stop and then walk about 2/3 mile. We've really gotten used to these walks and believe, even in the heat, that they are good for us. 

That evening, we met up with other FB friends, Linda & Manuel Orozco, who were on vacation in PV. Linda and I had been fb friends for quite awhile and they are also from WA. They, too, have been following my blog and are making plans to move here when the time is right for them. 

Mike, Me, Manuel & Linda at CC's.
No, THANK YOU, Linda & Manuel!!
One of the wonderful things about having friends visit from the states is that they can "mule" items for you that you just can't get here. I had purchased a new/used iPhone 5s off of EBay and Linda was gracious enough to let me have it shipped to her in the states for delivery to me. The duty to have it shipped to me here is quite expensive. THANK YOU, Linda & Manuel!

Again, we have been delighted to meet such wonderful people who we now call "friends"!!! Sharing good places to eat, drink, and be merry plus having them visit us in our home is tremendously fulfilling for us. It's going to be awhile before they're ready for the move but we know we'll see them on their return visits, hopefully, every year.

Mike needed to go back to the dentist for a minor adjustment last Thursday, so we decided to use the opportunity to go to the movies. Albeit, a little bit of a hike at the height of the day's heat especially when you walk about 8 blocks out of your way trying to find a shortcut. It put a strain on my patience. But, oh so worth it in the end!!  We saw The 100 Foot Journey with Helen Mirren and it was exquisite!!  Highly recommend it to all. 

BUT, the most wonderful thing that happened a week ago was that we FINALLY and successfully received our security deposit back from our previous landlord!!!  This was 7 months of being persistent, a pain in the butt to anyone we could find, and just stubborn gringos!! It took us finally finding the "right" person to talk to that had a real connection to the true owner of the property. I can't tell you how incredibly satisfying it feels to WIN !!

In addition to getting our security deposit back, which was a full month's rent of $1,050, I also received out of the blue a couple of commission checks from my real estate business that I left in the hands of other REALTORS 2 years ago!! 

With these few extra pay checks, we decided to buy 4 Mexican Talavera dinner plates and a serving platter, that we use as a wall decoration also.  We had been wanting them but just couldn't justify the cost even though they were truly quite inexpensive considering.

Large serving platter.

Dinner Plates.

It's been a great month all around and it's not over! So looking forward to Halloween this coming Friday, which is highly celebrated here along with Day of the Dead on November 1.  Plus, our good friends Shauna and Rob will be returning from their month in the states. And, we have more people coming to visit PV wanting to meet up with us that have been reading my blog.

Of course, we continue to enjoy the beautiful sunsets!!

Hasta Luego, amigos!! Have a GREAT week everyone!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Beauty of Copper Canyon, Mexico

You'd better grab something to drink because this ones long, very long and has probably more pictures than you want to look at.  That's ok, just skip over them.

Our adventure started out with a raining deluge just about the time we needed to catch a cab at the end of our street to get to the bus station!! We had actually toyed with walking the 5 blocks to catch a local bus to take us to the station but I sort of nixed that idea early on.

So when the heavens opened up about 5:30pm, our goal was to stay as dry as possible getting from our front door down 2 flights of stairs to get into the cab with luggage. Yea, right!! Not so dry!

We have gotten quite used to getting wet, if not soaked, during rainy season here. You just give up on your vanity because everyone is in the same boat. The rain is warm and very refreshing and it makes you feel like a kid again!  We won't melt and we will most certainly dry pretty quickly. 

As this was our first long distance bus ride here in Mexico, we really didn't know what to expect but thought it would be similar to all of our other excursions in other Latin American countries. And, we were right. Nice modern bus station with actual waiting room seats. It's very organized, which isn't always the case elsewhere. 



Once the bus arrives, you're allowed to exit the inside station to go stand in line to deposit your luggage to be stored under the bus.  We haven't lost our efficient packing abilities as we each only had one small overnight piece and Mike carried a backpack. That was it for a full week of vacation that included warmer clothes for the mountains and our normal hot weather clothes for the days in the hotter climate areas. 

Our seats were assigned for our 14 hour overnight journey that would deposit us in Los Mochis, a very bustling metropolis way north of PV and inland a bit.  The seats were quite large with leg rests and good reclining for sleeping. And, we were very happy that they didn't have the AC on full blast but we still zipped on our legs to our shorts, put on footies, and had long sleeved jackets. 

The bus made stops in Tepic, Mazatlan, Culican, and finally our destination of Los Mochis at 8:30 am the next morning. Our sleeping was ok but interrupted at each stop. And, this older body got way too many kinks in it.  Will have to rethink overnight rides in the future. However, because we are certified Senior Citizens in Mexico, our ticket fare was half price. So our total roundtrip cost was only $75 each. That will be a consideration factor also in the future. Way less than airplane tickets, if the airlines aren't running specials. 

So once we arrived in Los Mochis, we caught a cab to take us to our first pickup point, Hotel Santa Anita. Let me digress a bit and explain that Superior Tours, with headquarters in PV, put together a private tour for us. They made all the arrangements for all tickets, cabs, vans, trains, hotels, a few tours, and some meals.  Thalia Martinez, our agent, is fantastic!! So, if you're coming to PV and need airport transportation (at the same price as a cab), day tours, overnight tours, plane reservations and anything else you might think of, they're terrific and I highly recommend them!!  Thank You, Thalia and Astrid, for all you do for us!  Www.SuperiorToursVallarta.com. 

We arrived at the hotel, where they paid for our cab, with enough time for breakfast in their lovely restaurant. It's quite the place for lots of local business people to have breakfast and conduct business. At 10am, our private van driver, Juan, settled us in his van and drove us an hour and a half to the town of El Fuerte, home of Zorro!  Juan gave us quite the verbal tour of the area and its history along the route. The area is quite a major agricultural center.

Hotel Santa Anita restaurant

Arriving in El Fuerte, we discovered that it's a beautiful old Colonial town that reminded us a bit of Granada, Nicaragua with all of its charm, history, and color. Our Hotel, the Posada del Hidalgo, is rich in its own history and encompasses the home where Zorro was born and lived in until he was 15 when his father relocated the family to what is now Los Angeles. Our room was a fabulous suite with very high ceilings, king sized bed, living area, and full bathroom. Everything was charming and keeping with its history but with modern upgrades. Just the way we like it!

Original Entry to Hotel with painted murals.


Bar area


The legend of Zorro.

They tiled around the tree's roots.

Town Square

Church on the square.

Old Haciendas turned into shop/restaurants.

Courtyard of Municipal building.

The Fort.

We walked the main part of town around the city square, climbed up to the old fort, swam in the pool to cool off, watched wedding pictures being taken, then after a nice nap, watched Monday night football and had dinner at the bar. I went back to our room a little too early but Mike was there when Zorro appeared!! A perfect day!

Awoke to the alarm the next morning in time to enjoy the wonderful breakfast in the garden and be driven to the train station by 8:30am. The Chepe train runs from Los Mochis to the city of Chihuahua. So on we went sitting in the first car behind the dining car. We had first class tickets but there are economy seats, as well. A beautiful 4 hour ride up into the mountains of Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon is really 5 valleys with surrounding mountains. It's 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon and some of the valleys are much deeper than the Grand Canyon. 



                                                   New natural gas pipeline being installed

   One of 89 tunnels on the route

                                         Great wildflower displays
Our first stop was at Bahuichivo, where we were met by our driver and shuttled 40 minutes into the mountains to the village of Cerocahui and our Hotel Mission. A beautiful hotel where they also have a vineyard. The village was originally founded in 1694 by Jessuit missionaries.

We had to get off the train and walk between the 2 trains.

The national solders in town.

After a delicious huge lunch, Mike and I took a walk around town. The meals are included on a set menu, but they accommodated my no sea food diet. We were also able to meet several Mexican couples traveling the same itinerary that became friends, between their generally good English and  our weaker Spanish we got along fine. Literally, we walked around the town. It's a very small community with a wonderful population of the Tarahumara indigenous tribe. These beautiful small people sometimes still live in caves without water and electricity and they walk everywhere throughout the mountains and canyons. As a result, they are wonderful long distance runners but are not allowed to compete because they refuse to wear shoes. 



The Mission church.

The market in the square.

My new buddy!

The vineyard & river in the valley.

Front of Hotel Mission.

After a short nap, we took a walking tour that turned out to be the same route Mike and I had just done earlier. Except we did get a tour of the all girl's school right next to the hotel. Here 104 girls from the age of 4-14 live on site. Their parents don't have the means to care for them and bring them to the sisters to be raised and schooled. They're hoping to give them a good education so that they won't continue the follow the tradition of getting married at 14 and having children. A wonderful experience to be with these happy, well cared for children!

This dog found a cool place to do siesta.

Entry to vineyard.

The next morning, after another wonderful breakfast, off we went on a 3 hour excursion further into the mountains and the Cerro del Gallegos overlook of the Urique Canyon. The overlook is at 7,500 ft and the canyon is the deepest of the canyons. After enjoying the views, we walked to the Little Virgin spring, and a visit to a typical Tarahumara home. A beautiful drive!


The morning fog engulfing the valley. Stunning!


Urique Canyon at 6,900' deep. Deeper than Grand Canyon.


The Spring.

The stove/oven.

Hand made wood stove.
A friendly rattler crossing the road.

The village of Cerocahui.

We were then driven back to the train station where we boarded for a short hour and a half ride deeper into the Canyon to Posada Barrancas and our overnight stay at Posada Mirador Hotel. The hotel is nestled into the mountain side and surrounded by a pine tree forest. Our room was generous in size with a terrace overlooking the spectacular canyon. Staying at this hotel was truly a wonderful experience all by itself!!

Friendly federales at one of the stops.

Bag of apples anyone?? Several people got off & bought them from him.

Children playing between the cars.

Typical Tarahumara woman's clothing.

Entry to Hotel Mirador.

Huge fireplace that we thankfully didn't need.
Bar area.
Walkway to our room. If you look closely, you can see that it is leaning to the right for rain runoff. Trippy to walk even when sober!
View of the rest of the hotel from our room terrace.  We were up there hanging over the cliff.

Wood stove now just for show. Didn't need heat at all at night.

View from our terrace overlooking the Canyon. Spectacular!

Looking down from the terrace to Tarahumara cliff homes.  We took a hike down there later.


More views!!

A walking tour that included more spectacular overlooks, walking out to the balancing rock, a hike down into the cave/cliff homes of the Tarahumara, an opportunity to buy hand made baskets and hand beaded jewelry, then hiking back up to the hotel, was certainly enjoyed. Fabulous exercise at 7,000 ft.

View of the hotel while on the hike. Our room is almost to the end on up

This is looking down on the Divisadero Overlook where we went the next morning.

Our friend Rene on the balancing rock.

All handmade baskets & beaded jewelry.  I bought a sweet bracelet.

This cliff home we can see from our terrace.  It only has a hole in the roof for the chimney & you can see the black soot on the rock. But, then you see a solar panel that they now use for lights. Quite the dichotomy!!

Their water supply.

I bought several baskets from this sweet woman who I got to smile.  Her whole face lit up!

The tour that had been arranged for the next morning began with a short van ride to the Adventure Park overlooking the Canyon. In the park is a Tram that travels over the Canyon to a mountain peak over a mile away. There is also a 12 line zip line run AND the world's longest and fastest zip line at over one mile and achieving speeds up to 90 mph.

Mike and I chose to experience the longest and fastest zip line over the canyon then climb 700 verticle meters up to the tram station and ride it back. There are no words to describe the rush and exhilaration we both felt!! So the only way to share it with you is for you to witness the video that Mike took of his whole ride and one taken by another tourist that we met. So click on the links and have the ride of your life!!

Short video of our take off: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_91069994_085836
Full video taken by Mike: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10204859916319101

The zip line starting point.

Looking through the glass floor of the visitor center to a precarious walking bridge below & the valley even further below. If you don't like heights, don't look.

Our guides.

This is a picture of 2 others just leaving the start gate.

Our turn!

This is after we finished the zip line from that plateau way up there in the distance.

The plateau/mainland starting point.

Our friend Jacobo as he is finishing.

And Randy.

Looking down into the canyon.

The Tram that you take to return or you can just take the tram both ways.

Almost to the top after our 700 vertical meter climb.

Tram station for return.

Again back on the train by 2 pm to return to El Fuerte where we would be picked up again by Juan for our ride back to Los Mochis for the night.

Our track as seen from above.

Mike was able to catch the waterfalls coming down from the mountains.

The next day, our bus ride was only 7 hours because we were going to Mazatlan for 2 nights. I had never been there and Mike, not since 1972. Early on in our thoughts and plans to come back to Mexico, we considered a month in Mazatlan to see if we might want to settle there. So we were looking forward to our visit. 

Friends of ours, who had recently stayed in Mazatlan, recommended a gentleman by the name of Freddy as a tour guide. There are many many Pulmonia's, which are jazzed up golf carts that will give you tours for about $25/hour. We got quite the 3 hour tour and saw much more than we had anticipated. Freddy was terrific!! So if you're going to Mazatlan, be sure to contact him for one of his tours. He's on FaceBook at city tours Pulmonia's. He actually was born and grew up in San Diego, so he's perfect for Gringos. 

We enjoyed many beautiful view points of the ocean and the city. It has an Old Town area with a city square. In the evenings, the car traffic is stopped and the many restaurants on the square pull out tables and chairs and the streets become outdoor cafes. Quite charming. And, we did enjoy our Saturday night meal at one of them. And, of course, there's the "Gold Coast" where most of the hotels and resorts are. It reminded us of Nuevo Vallarta here where everything was built new for tourists.

Mike & Me in front of one of the 6 cannons used to defend Mazatlán against the French in the 1800's.

An old original street in Old Town.

Part of City Square. 

Shrimp, shrimp & more shrimp.

A view of the waterfront.

Lots of statues & fountains.

This is Freddy & his Pulmonia with me in the back.

A huge nightclub on the waterfront.

Old Town.

Restaurant Row.

The city has been hit hard by the lack of tourists and the cruise ships that stopped coming in spring, 2011. Unemployment is very high and the city looks worn. With a population of 1 million, it's not as walkable as PV and feels disjointed to us. We also noticed that even though there's a very long, several mile long Malecon, we didn't witness many locals enjoying it like they do here in PV. 

Our trip was completed after another 7 hour bus ride back to PV just in time for Sunday night football. And, even though we thoroughly enjoyed our trip, it was good to be going home. And, sleeping in our own bed!

This little blue dyed Chihuahua puppy was just precious!

This last week was mostly spent by me trying to get well since I had come down with a bad head cold on our bus ride to Mazatlan. The air conditioning had been extremely cold on that ride. Plus I needed to be well enough to celebrate my 63rd birthday on the 9th. 

On Monday, while biting into a piece of bacon, Mike broke off his front tooth crown. Really. So he spent Tuesday going to the dentist. And then again on Thursday after he it broke off again. So our unexpected expense this month will be a new $600 crown. But, that's way less expensive than it would be in the states!!

On my birthday, we met up with friends, David & Judy, who've just returned after their summer hyatis in the states, and friends who we met due to this blog, Tim & Georgina, who have decided to live here now. After drinks at the Signature Lounge happy hour, off we went to Bravos for dinner. What was fun was that none of us had eaten there before. Let me tell you how wonderful it was!! Outstanding would be a fair word!  So, if you're looking for great food at a moderate price with a cozy bistro atmosphere and excellent service, you must eat here in Old Town. 

Happy Hour at Signature Lounge with Me, David, Tim, Georgina, & Judy.



Surprise BD cake!!
My wish!
The evening continued for Mike and me by dropping by Nacho Daddy's that just reopened this past week and running into another friend, Mel Enge, who just returned from Canada. And, a final night cap drink at Andales with Mel. A wonderful birthday!

And, on Friday, we got to help celebrate another birthday for Christie DuChateau. She decided to throw herself a pool party and we got an invite!  So much fun getting together with friends to have fun!

The Los Muertos Pier from her rooftop.

Christie with some chocolate frosting on her face.  Happy Birthday sweet girl!

Town is beginning to wake up after many shops and restaurants closed down during August and September. They take this time to do any renovations that are needed and to take vacations. October is used to iron out any kinks with opening in anticipation for high season that begins in earnest in November. It's also a time when the live music revs up at venues that begin to open. We took advantage of going out Saturday night to hear Chris Kenny and her band playing at Nacho Daddy. But I'll tell those stories in the next blog.

That's quite enough for now, amigos!  Hope you've enjoyed taking this journey with us. Mike apologizes for the "hair" that got onto his lens and he couldn't get it off. 

And, our life in PV just gets better and better!