Wednesday, March 11, 2015

San Sebastian

During our first few days after our arrival here we found this company, Vallarta Adventures where we booked 3 (for the price of 2) activities. The first one on our list was Rhythm of the Night which you can read in a previous post by clicking here. Our second excursion was a bus tour to a quaint little village about 50 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. 

“San Sebastian del Oeste - Buried deep in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains, The very quaint, remote setting has made it one of Mexico's last remaining secrets. While this tiny mountain enclave (elevation 4500 ft) isn't far from Puerto Vallarta, it's still a world away from the usual tourist haunts.”

These trips are a full day’s adventure and we depart around 8 am from the Marina Vallarta. The downside for us is that it takes us about 3 different bus rides to get us there so we usually opt for a taxi – 80 pesos or $6.00 USD.

The upside is that we get to view the sunrise at the marina while they serve up a delicious continental-style breakfast – coffee, tea, juices, fresh fruit, muffins and loaves. They even include a toaster for their breads along with peanut butter, jams and different marmalades.

07-DSCN1333Our destination is about 90 minutes from PV but the time passes quickly as we sit in the comfort of air conditioning winding our way through impressive mountain scenery and everyday scenes of rural life and some of the most breathtaking views.

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Our first stop at a rest area offered up some majestic views near a recently constructed expansive bridge. Our tour guide told us that the trip down the valley and back up the other side would have taken at least a half day before this bridge was erected. It was impossible to see the bottom of this gorge.

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Our second stop, which ended up being about 11 am, was at a roadside tequila factory. Yup, another one!

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The buildings and grounds were lovely – look at the size of these bougainvillea plants! These beautiful flowers are a common sight down here and are one of our favorites . . . the petals are so delicate and there are so many wonderful colors.

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We found our next stop extremely interesting – Hacienda Jalisco.

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“Hacienda Jalisco’s silver mining history came to an abrupt end with the Revolution of 1910 but another type of silver, the silver screen, awaited its future. Discovered and restored by the American expatriate Bud Acord in the 1960s, the hacienda was to become a favorite hangout of John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during and after the filming of the Night of the Iguana.”

Hacienda Jalisco

“Today it happily continues to serve as a B&B. Brochures describe it as romantic. There is no electricity and rooms are lit by lantern at night. You might sleep in the same room where Burton and Taylor pursued their scandalous, extramarital affair.”

Steeped in history this property was the headquarters for the area mining industry. Sitting in the lush gardens I almost felt like Liz Taylor . . . well, if you think about it, we married the same man twice. Well, not the same man of course, she married Richard Burton twice and . . .why am I explaining this? Next stop was a coffee plantation where we learned the whole process from the bean to the pot.  This was where the Cowboy was asked to go back to the bus to sit and wait for the rest of us. He had our tour guide just shaking his head in disbelief when he asked where they grew the decaffeinated coffee beans.

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We not only sampled some amazing fresh coffee but also a wonderful fruit that was a cross between an orange and a lemon called a Rangpur (I think). Incredible flavor!

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The Cowboy managed to talk his way out of his ‘’time out” and was later caught here with his partner in crime picking some of the not-so-low hanging fruit.

 

By this time we had worked up an appetite and we hiked in to the very heart of this quiet little village for lunch at this charming bistro.

Full of antiques and artifacts with amazing food that tasted even better in the lush outside dining area. Everything tastes better when you eat outdoors!

After lunch we sauntered over to an old school which has become a museum. The tour guide there was actually a great granddaughter of one of the three founders of the town. She made the tour very personal so, out of respect, I didn’t take any photos.

“Originally settled in 1605, this secluded 17th century mining town reached its peak of prosperity in the 1700s, when over 30,000 people inhabited the area. Over the years, the town's population fluctuated wildly as gold and silver were mined intermittently between the 1600's and the 1930's.”

This post has become quite lengthy but we have one more stop at this wonderful ancient church:

This was a very busy and wonderful day’s experience being in touch with culture as well as a way of life in a most picturesque remote part of Mexico.

Thanks for coming along with us. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stretching in Sayulita

Who ever said---you past has a way of catching up to you must have known what they were talking about; fifty two years later and twenty six hundred miles from home what do I run into----MY PAST.

I played football for the Tillsonburg high school, The Glendale Griffins. On the same team was a little guy by the name of Ron Hopper. Well he was little back then—times have changed---and sometimes change is not good. A few months ago while I sat back quietly on Facebook, this Ron Hopper friended me. Whatever that means. A discovery was made that we would both be in Mexico this winter. Well what to do---tilt at fate or make plans. Last week Sharon and I rode the bus about 30 miles up to Sayulita, Mexico and down the street walks this furry face, Grinnin’ ear to ear, with his lovely wife in tow. Boy I sure gained a whole new respect for her. Puttin’ up with “Hoppy” for over 42 years. Patience of Job comes to mind (that will be another story). We had not seen each other for 52 years but we sat for hours---Swapping Lies---Hoppy was always---a stretcher.

They took us on a tour of this sweet little hidden Mexico fishing village that has gained popularity as a surfing town. Beautiful beaches, right on the ocean.

We found a nice beach front restaurant and had a nice leisurely and delicious lunch and, of course, swapped lies.

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Then we went way up the mountainous hill to the Villa they’ve rented for the month. BEAUTIFUL---the view---thatched roof---Private pool with huge patio that we sat on and swapped lies.

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All in all what a GREAT day, ending with meeting another friend at the local pub---imagine! Promises both ways about a summer plan for Ontario. Then where did the day go, on the bus and home again.

You may wonder what two quiet guy’s that hadn’t seen each other for over 50 years would possibly have to talk about. Well I didn’t have much to say but Hoppy has quite the gift to gab and there were a few—Stretchers told.

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For those of you that have low regard for Facebook, I would have never made this connection without it and wouldn’t that be just too bad. I would have missed the opportunity to listen to all those STRECHERS I remember from my youth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Puerto Vallarta City Cemetery

My Lovely wife Sharon doesn’t often make a mistake, but when she does it is usually a doozy. A few days ago she made a huge error in judgment and asked if perhaps I could write some material for our blog.

Well here goes: Since we have been down to Mexico for our first time we pass the City Cemetery as we ride the bus and have often talked about a visit. We went the other day for a few hours and I noted some major differences in Canadian and Mexican culture.

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The Mexican people are VERY family oriented and death is considered just part of life’s journey. The Dead have just pasted to a different phase of life. The event is to be celebrated as well as the HONOR of knowing or being connected to the person. Their loved ones live on in spirit and are very much a part of the family, even if they are no longer in this realm.

Their cemeteries are very different than ours. Very close together, very elaborate and mostly built by hand from the family members.

In this cemetery there is NO equipment used. You can’t get it in. There is no room. This means that EVERYTHING must be done by hand. From the digging and brick lining of the hole, the removal of all the dirt, the carrying in of the casket to the building of the monument.

Most of the onuments are massive. Some are actually like small cottages, complete with small patio doors and windows.

If you spend any time focusing on the pictures you can get an impression of what may be involved. Look at what was done---BY HAND---in 100 degree weather---With hand tools. The Mexican people have whole heartedly earned my deepest respect.

They have great reverence for their ancestry. It is not uncommon to have the whole family show up on any given day to have a picnic with the friend or relative. They bring drink, food and music and have a Fiesta with their loved one close at hand.

Of course we have all heard about the “Day of the Dead” November 2. The largest of all Mexican Fiestas. It can last a week at a time with many preparing the site, staying all night while celebrating the calling of a loved one to the next phase of life.

I am ending here before my lovely bride accuses me of being---Long-winded----again. Not sure why she chose this as my first post to our blog----You don’t suppose she is hinting at something-----DO YOU?????

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love & Queso Fundido XOXOXO

It’s a whole year later since these shots were taken but I still LOVE and MISS these wonderful friends  . . .  They are keeping (somewhat) warm this winter in Florida.

Plus these are just fun shots that need to be shared . . .

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This is what Valentine’s Day looked like for us this year – Lots of tourists and locals out today enjoying the sunshine.

 

We chose a little more casual beach front dining spot with a spectacular view. As like most tourist areas you will always find the vendors peddling their goods.

As it turns out the food was pretty amazing! The Cowboy pretty much sticks to his chicken fajitas wherever we go and today was no exception. He enjoys the refried beans, rice and guacamole served as sides.

My choices are a little more adventurous but lately I’ve been ordering appetizers instead of large meals. Well today I was introduced to this wonderful dish – Queso Fundido or Cheese Fondue.

All I can say is OH! MY! GOSH!!!

My first thought was that this wonderfully decadent dish must be illegal. This one was served with perfectly cooked shrimp over a delicious deep dish of melted cheese. Sinful!

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We have since tried this at home and it was just as awesome.

Plus this photo is another restaurant’s version which was great too – served with chorizo – garlic sausage, caramelized red onions, mushrooms and topped with feta and cilantro. YUM!

This can be served with just simple tortilla wraps or on a nice toasted or crunchy garlic bread. Or just straight out of the bowl but be warned – you’ll look guilty trying to get all that stringy cheese into your mouth while you keep looking over your shoulder.

So while we are on the topic of food  . . .  this is a shot of a dish (full size dinner plate) that I fixed for my ever-bacon-lovin’ Cowboy:

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It’s just a spin-off of one of our all time favorites – Jalapeno Poppers.

Cream cheese and diced jalapeno’s cooled and shaped – I added a bit of ranch dressing and minced garlic for an added kick.  A dozen bacon roses and bacon petals topped this off perfectly. It was definitely a big hit with my Sweetheart!

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Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. We sure did.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Elvis Sighting

We happened to scoop half price tickets for an Elvis impersonator show through an online coupon deal www.cupocity.com and set out for dinner & theatre at the Stage & Forum in Nuevo Vallarta.

It rained off & on all day today – actually it’s the first rain we’ve had other than the day we arrived down here back in November. The weather experts call this ‘cloudy’.

Armed with several recommendations of others we enjoyed a really nice dinner at Eddie's Place, again, with our friends Cliff & Helen. Offering a great selection of food including Mexican, Lebanese & Mediterranean with the traditional warm nachos with pico, guacamole & hot sauce dips served as soon as we were seated. Well, since we didn’t come to Mexico to eat Lebanese – between us we opted for sizzling fajitas, coconut (huge!) shrimp, pollo (chicken) enchiladas, arrachera (beef steak) burritos. For the last 3 years this restaurant has earned the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor – justifiably so! Great food, excellent staff and super friends – All thumbs up!

The show started at 7:30 and was well attended – amazingly about 99% Canadians so we got to meet and chat with a lot of new faces. The entertainer himself is from Toronto altho’ he has toured all over the world.

The theatre itself isn’t very big, only seating about 130 but we did manage to nab the best seats in the house – front and center!

In hindsight I guess we should have warned them not to seat The Cowboy that close to the stage but we’ve been down here almost 3 months now so they either haven’t been listening to the rumors or word hasn’t spread this far. The Cowboy’s first request ‘do ya do any Willie?’ almost brought Elvis to his knees. They bonded immediately and at one time during a love song Elvis was actually sitting on the Cowboy’s lap. We enjoyed the show so much there were many times I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard. Being the small venue it was, this great entertainer was able to include and connect with a lot of people in the audience. He had a lot of ladies swooning with his lip curls and charm – just like the real Elvis!

He truly took us on a wonderful walk down memory lane with his lively  performance – encouraging us – the more noise we made the more Elvis moves he would perform.

I would recommend this show to anyone if you get a chance to see him.

It was a wonderful date night and we ended the evening back at our place for coffee and dessert – Lemon pudding over a cream cheese base on graham cracker crust topped with a ton of strawberry flavored cool whip – decorated with strawberries & crushed almonds – Si, Si, Si, it was Muchos Buenos!

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I try to include some of the costs for those of you who are thinking about coming down here . . . and we would whole-heartedly encourage you to do so! Or if you are just curious:

Cost of our dinner for the 2 of us $301.00 pesos (+tip) and theatre tickets $400 pesos = $47.39 USD