Summer Road Trip I: Saskatoon

For Ty’s August holiday we decided to cruise 14.5 hours east down the road in the wheels to the Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites, a 5 star establishment half an hour south of Saskatoon in beautiful Dundurn, Saskatchewan, pop 500. Its proprietors, Tracey, Darrin, Tango, and Molly, really rolled out the red carpet for us for the 4 days we were there.

One of the very beautiful features of this hacienda is the Tradar Trail (est. 2010), a tree-lined path around the perimeter of the estate, created by Tracey and Darrin and walked by them and their faithful beast Tango twice a day, summer and winter.

From the trail a walker can gaze out over the vast fields of wheat, canola, and peas.

Tango enjoys his daily jaunts, when he’s not hunkered down eating fallen apples from the laden apple trees close to the house.

This view from the homestead shows, on the left, the original farmhouse, now a tractor garage and nesting area for local swallows, the 100 year old barn, used for storage and the odd barn dance, the solar panel array, and the water pump.

Our first day was cloudy, with the odd bit of torrential rain, a perfect day for gallery-going in the city.

Art Placement Gallery, one of the art spaces downtown, had an expansive show of prairie landscapes by a doyen of the prairie painting scene, Dorothy Knowles, who celebrated her 90th birthday in April.

There are still a few old early twentieth century buildings downtown with nice facades and elaborately decorated lobbies, such as the one below. Saskatoon does not have many highrises and the ones that do exist are not very tall. Most of the buildings are no higher than the one below. It has a pleasant, compact downtown area.

Tracey and Darrin were very good tour guides, showing us around the cool parts of town where galleries, studios, pubs, and coffee shops abound.

Ty fired up his holiday fedora, a newish travelling hat that replaced his previous short stovepipe straw hat; with it on, he can always be found in a crowd.

We didn’t see a lot of street art, but a few murals caught my eye.

Seeking out galleries was thristy work so naturally we had to duck into one of the local coffeehouses, which just happened to house the remnants of the Void Gallery’s art collection on its walls.

Initially we sat outside but spitting rain chased us inside, where we watched a chalk artist cum barista execute some underwater images on the blackboard.

While waiting for the rain to subside, we had a fantastic lunch at the Seoul Koren Restaurant just down the block, big bowls of spicy seafood soup for Ty & I, beef, egg, and noodles for Darrin, and veg for Tracey – really great if you like red chilies, which we do! (The below picture shows Darrin and I discombobulated, not sure whether we would actually be getting a feed anytime soon).

 

Sufficiently sufonsified (sp?), in other words stuffed with shrimp, mussels, and noodles, we headed over to the Craft Council gallery to check out the exhibit of ceramic artist Jack Surs, a senior artist from Regina who, to celebrate his 82 birthday, had 82 pieces on display, some of which were enormous.

I was very impressed with his work, especially some of the larger vessels, and many of them had very intricate surfaces designs and glazing. If I had untold money and room space, I would certainly have purchased a few.

He made a number of quirky vessels with tiny animals on top.

I have done a small bit of ceramics and was only able to create tiny candy dishes on the wheel; it takes a lot of upper body and arm strength to throw pots. I am amazed that an 82 year old man was able to make these vessels – they really are incredible (although possibly the huge ones were created earlier …).

The second day dawned sunny and warm – huzzah! – so a bike ride along the river was in order. The Bike Doctor, from whom we had previously rented our steeds, didn’t have any rental bikes available – a brief moment of devastation ensued, and the 5 star rating of Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites was in jeopardy – but Darrin made a quick call to the Bike Universe and lo and behold, they came through for us with 4 bikes from their 7 bike rental stock.

Suitably set up, we rolled river-wards onto the north path which took us through rolling grassy knolls on the path along the water, past a beautiful, but closed, public pool, and the grounds of the former Saskatoon Sanatorium.

After cruising across one bridge with a pedestrian and bike path running beneath the cars, a great innovation that Vancouver should adopt, we eventually headed back over another bridge with a great view of the river and the Bessborough hotel and downtown.

We passed through Saskatoon’s equivalent of Shaughnessy, with its stately homes and tree-lined streets.

Back along the river we had a great view of the new Remai Modern Gallery, a vast new emporium of art slated to open in October: I was a bit disappointed not to be able to visit it on this trip.

The park areas along the river are beautiful but we were working up a powerful hunger from our cycling explorations, and getting a bit saddle-sore, so pulled into the Cut Restaurant just around the corner from the Bessborough for some sustenance.

Much of downtown is in the midst of roadworks, not surprising since summer is the only time that’s possible here, and orange tape was up many places around the city.

We had a tasty snack on the patio after Darrin had helped the wait staff erect the umbrellas necessary to keep us out of what turned out to be quite a hot sun.

After a quick zip through the Bessborough Hotel to check out the decor, we returned the bikes and returned to Dundurn to rest and recuperate.

The two old farm houses across from Tracey and Darrin’s place are even more rickety than the last time I was here, leaning ever more groundward – not sure how much longer they’ll be able to stay erect. If there weren’t such a tangle of underbrush in the field making it very difficult to get out to them, I would love a closer look.

Just off the Tradar Trail Tracey and Darrin have created a pet cemetery, where the remains of animal friends rest under carved wooden headstones. At certain times of day, the sunlight comes through the tree leaves at just the right angle and  strikes the glade with a golden glow.

Every angle of view across the fields from each corner of the property is interesting, especially with the different crops each being a distinct colour.

I remember thinking when I first came out to the farm from Vancouver that it was a little spartan in terms of vegetation and greenery. Well, after living in northern BC for a year, it seems incredibly lush and diverse here. All depends on perspective!

Below, surrounded by green, you can see the main house in which Darrin grew up, the Qualityman 5 star hacienda.

Tracey is currently researching the history of the big red barn; it’s more than one hundred years old and was the biggest barn built in these parts. On the main floor various treasures are stored; a tractor, Darrin’s first car, below, a Lincoln Continental, old windows, and other farm paraphernalia. Farmers never throw anything out because you never know when it might come in handy.

The upper floor is cathedral-like and is the venue for barn dances, the last of which will be coming sometime soon. The bathtub finds a new use as a cooling tub for drinks when the dance is on.

This would be an incredible space for an art installation – I will have to ponder the possibilities …

The booming metropolis of Dundurn is about 5 kilometers south of the Qualityman hacienda and houses about 500 souls; it also has a cemetery in which rest the pioneer families who tilled this land in the past. We stopped to pay our respects on a windy, sunny day.

Some of the headstones are quite eroded and covered in an orange organic material that is slowly obliterating the surface lettering.

When I was last here with the ladies in 2013 we had walked the Dundurn labyrinth and I was interested to see whether it was still intact – well, it sortta is …

In a park area next to the village’s church, the labyrinth was finished in 2003 and over the years has slowly started to disappear back into the grass from whence it came. I suppose not enough people are walking it to keep the path from becoming overgrown.

Speaking of walking, Tracey took Tango around the block to let him have a good sniff of the area.

Some of the houses here are from the beginning of the 20th century and remind me of the older houses in lower Lonsdale where my grandmother lived.

The garden of the house below looked fabulously full of blooming flowers; upon closer inspection we realised that almost all of them were fake. Odd.

The robin in the bird bath isn’t fake, though – definitely the real deal.

Below is a photo of the road back to the Qualman farm, past several very shallow bodies of water that host many duck families.

On the way back to the city one day we passed by the homestead and studio of a very well-know Saskatoon sculptor (so well-known that I can’t remember his name at the moment) who seems to be an avid airstream trailer collector.

Also in the area are several new mega-house subdivisions, products of the recent and now bust Saskatoom boom.

We saw a beautiful white horse in a brilliant red barn.

Darrin’s sister Lori and kids from Houston were also visiting and we spent some time at the fair with them one afternoon. Of course, Ty was bugging me to go on the ferris wheel but I declined firmly; a fear of heights makes these rides not at all enjoyable to me.

Ty, Darrin, and the kids enjoyed the ride below, being whipped around at about 200 miles an hour.

Tracey the hat lady wisely decided to pass and kept cool in the shade with her many chapeaux.

Very foolishly, I suggested that we all try the Octopus – it looked relatively tame from the ground but was definitely a different story once it got going.

I was utterly terrified, which Ty and everyone else found quite amusing.

And, once again, Darrin emerged victorious at Whack-a-Mole, keeping his crown and adding a Nemo to his collection.

I took several infrared photos of the farm and am starting to play around with them. Below is a picture of Frankie in the Field, the metal sculpture that Barb, Christine, and I created the last time we were here.

Good times! Thanks so much to Tracey and Darrin for their generous hospitality! See more photos here. Stay tuned for Part Two of the summer road trip.

Arrivederci New York – Hasta Luego!

Saturday dawned blue sky and sun so another walk through Central Park was in order to get to our destination of the American Museum of Natural History on the west side of the park.

Unlike the previous day, when there had been few takers for the horse rides, this sunny day attracted a lot of patrons for both the horses and the bike chariots.

We saw some beautiful blue birds being fed, and a fellow stroking a pigeon.

Strangely, to us, most of the green space is fenced off here. Some areas have signs advertising the space for “passive recreation” only. There are also a number of interestingly-designed children’s playgrounds fenced off from the rest of the park.

It was a pleasant walk up to 77th St and we saw a grand parade of walkers for a Children’s Cancer Cure procession wind their way along the road, along with the plumed horses, rocket racer cyclists, and bike chariots.

We also caught a few minutes of a couple of different Little League games, one with boys and the other with girls, all playing at more or less the same level.

There are quite a few dining and drinking pavilions in the park; in the sun, they look very pleasant.

Our route took us across the park and up the West Side to the Museum, whose lobby contains a couple of gigantic dinosaur skeletons. The lobby was packed with families and kids, all excited about the visit.

Our favourite rooms on this visit were the gem and mineral repositories, with their collections of fantastic crystals and meteorites.

We also saw a magnificent multi-coloured ammonite in one of the museum’s lobbies.

Museums are hot, hard work and we were dying for a beer on a sunny patio but that was not the easiest thing to find in this neck of the woods. We walked over to Broadway and finally found one patio that would sell us a beer at a Mediterranean food joint.

On the way back we paused briefly to people watch at Columbus Circle, crowded with both locals and tourists, all clusters around the many food trucks and trailers. Lots of halal meals here.

For our final evening in the big city we decided to have dinner Midtown and walk around the streets in the area.

Times Square was hopping as usual as we tried to find a place to eat.

We finally found a seat at Serafini’s on 49th and enjoyed some really great Italian food.

We capped off the evening by exploring Rockefeller Center, including the fantastic murals on the interior walls and ceilings, the art deco wall reliefs, the gardens, and the dry ice arena angel.

We found out that Sunday, our departure day, the Five Boro Bike Ride was taking over the streets of Manhattan so we were up and out of the Y early to make sure that we would not get caught in some kind of transit nightmare. Backtracking our trail on the subway and bus was pretty straightforward and we had no difficulty in arriving at La Guardia in plenty of time for our flight.

So long New York – It was a great trip! Who knows if we will see you again. Cheers!

Morgan Library, Whitney Museum and Broadway Theater

One of the great things I remembered from my last, long ago visit to New York City, was the JP Morgan Library, a repository of rare books, manuscripts, and art which we decided to check out on our second day in the city.

Since I had been here last, the Library has gained a fantastic new addition to its premises, greatly expanding the exhibition space.

I find smaller venues like this one much easier to take than the vast expanse of, say, the Met; the viewing experience is more manageable.

The entrance to the Library proper reminds me of a Renaissance villa or chapel with its beautiful harmonious architecture and marble cladding.

In one of the rooms is a collection of Mesopotamian cylinder seals and Egyptian cuneiform and hieroglyphs; the seals are the earliest form of printmaking, used to mark ownership or affirm identity.

In another section of the library is the Morgan’s collection of rare books, including three copies of the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible, below.

And several rare Books of Hours are also on display. The Book of Hours is designed for prayer and contemplation, with images and text used for each specific hour of the canonical day.

Several of the rooms also have priceless paintings, such as this Madonna and Child tondo by Botticelli.

In addition to the permanent collection, the Library also hosts temporary exhibitions; on display now are books by Andy Warhol

and an exhibition of photographs entitled Sight Reading, with both historical and contemporary photos of the natural world.

We then made our way by subway down to Greenwich Village to check out the new Whitney Museum, riverside on Gansevoort. It was a bit tricky to find, since we’d inadvertently gone too far south on the train and had to backtrack through a somewhat confusing maze of streets. Ty decided he was not up for this particular viewing experience, so he staked out a resting spot outside on one of the metal chairs.

The museum is a large cement and metal structure, with outside viewing platforms and sculpture displays on the top three floors. Since the lineup for the elevators was huge, I elected to make my way to the top 8th floor via the staircases.

From the top floors, there is a commanding view out over the river and city below, including the High Line, a mile long park stretched along a disused rail line just below the museum.

Among the exhibitions was an interesting multi-media show about the post 9-11 state by Laura Poitras, including an installation in a darkened room in which visitors lay on a large bed-like couch to view the video screening on the room’s ceiling.

Several floors were taken up with a portrait exhibition drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection.

In one of the rooms, I spotted a fellow that we’d seen at the Met the other day with an unusual tie … he told me that it was part of a limited collection.

After rejoining Ty on the ground, we headed to a packed Bubby’s, right across the street, for some fried chicken.

After seeing the film the night before, we had to check out the High Line and walked part way along its length before strolling to a nearby subway station for the ride back.

Miles of walking required an hour of feets-up rest before we hit the road again for my first Broadway show at the Samuel J Friedman Theater for the just-opened critically acclaimed The Father, starring Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe, her of Law and Order fame.

We elected to have a drink across the street at the Glass House Tavern, a standing-room only bar in which, when we appeared at the back of the room, a waiter quickly brought out and assembled a table for us to sit at – that’s service! In general, I found the service everywhere we went to be excellent here.

We arrived at the theater early, taking our seats near the front. The show was great, but grim, an account of the descent into dementia of the titular character played by Langella. The audience, not surprisingly considering both the subject matter of the play and the cost of the tickets, was old, very old, and some were very upset, crying as they left the theater.

Thus ended another wonderful day in the city.

See more pics here.

7th NYC Independent Film Festival 2016 here we come!

The raison d’etre for our being in New York, the 7th NYC Independent Film Festival, was held from April 27 – May 1, 2016, with my film, The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, being screened twice in the Art/Experimental category during the run. We were very excited about being there for the show and headed out on foot on Thursday evening for the premiere.

The venue, the Producer’s Club on 44th Street, looked as though it was only a few short blocks away on our map, so we decided that we’d eat dinner somewhere near it before the show. Carmine’s, an Italian place we’d chosen, was absolutely packed, so, after waiting for a bit, we decided to bail and find another, less-crowded place to eat, as the clock was ticking away. The Midtown theater district has a million places to eat and all of them are packed but we were able to secure a table at Mama Mia on the corner of 9th Avenue, just down from the Producer’s Club – huzzah!

We weren’t able to linger over a leisurely dinner, though, if we wanted to make the premiere, so it was dine and dash to the venue, right across the street from the eternally playing Phantom of the Opera, for which people were lined up down the block day and night.

Once inside, Ty and I received our official participant tags and tickets for free drinks.

It was fun meeting some of the other filmmakers before the show, including Peter Meng from New Jersey, director of Take the High Line,

and Dominik Pagacz from Montreal, director of Baleful Sloth.

Here are a few shots of my film from the Thursday night screening.

See more pics here. I was really pleased and proud to have had my film selected for the Festival and it was so great to be able to sit in the audience and watch the screening – good times!

NYC Independent Film Festival 2016 Program excerpt

Taking a Small Bite Out of the Big Apple

laurel_Official_selection

New York City in the Spring! Ty and I were very excited to be going to the Big Apple for the screening of my film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis at the NYC Independent Film festival. Since the rates for hotel rooms in Midtown Manhattan are outrageous, we decided to stay at the same place I’d stayed when I was last in New York exactly 30 years ago, the Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th St.

Ty and I got a room on the “deluxe” floor, a prison-cell-sized closet with bunk beds for $160. a night. In addition to the bunk beds, the room had a small desk, one chair, and a tiny fridge (possibly that’s what made it deluxe …). On our floor there were about 10 shared bedrooms with shower; these were newly-renovated and very clean.

I had the top bunk, naturally, since if Ty had fallen through, he would have crushed me in my sleep. Climbing the ladder to get up every night was not for the faint-hearted and helped me with my weight-bearing exercise program.

After arriving at about 8 pm we threw down our bags and headed out on the mid-town, passing the blue-lit Helmsley Building,

stopping first at Blackwell’s Pub for a hot and tasty dinner of chicken curry and calamari. There are innumerable Irish pubs in Midtown and this is just one of them.

Our destination  was Times Square, just down a few very long colourfully-lit blocks …

Here I am blinded by the light of a gazillion LED advertising screens on every building surface, pumping out images and text all night every night.

Along with boat-loads of tourists, the square is also home to a vast cast of cartoon characters wandering around with whom one can have one’s picture taken, presumably for a tip.

I look a bit bemused because I was exhausted, having just gotten home from Mexico only to be whisked off again to NYC within 20 hours without much in the way of sleep.

Time Square was also the destination for scores of bicycle chariot peddlers; I was interested in taking a ride until I saw the price, an exorbitant $5.99 to $7.99 a MINUTE.

We took a minute to admire these beauties.

On the way back to the ranch, we passed the Radio City Music Hall.

Such was our first evening in NYC. Next morning we were up and out the door towards Grand Central Station to check out the scene there. It was full of people taking pictures of themselves in its vast golden space.

Next stop on the Midtown tour was St Patrick’s Cathedral, currently being worked on by construction crews. There is construction everywhere in Midtown and traffic jams day and night.

The church is beautiful and spotless inside, a testament to the wealth of its parishioners.

Right across Fifth Avenue is the Rockefeller Center Atlas sculpture, eternally holding up the world.

I was pretty impressed with how clean in general the streets are; I don’t remember the city being this clean in the 80s. Beautiful gilt statues and reliefs adorn many of the building facades.

Our destination was the Metropolitan Museum and we walked there through Central Park, stopping for a moment to watch the horses, puppet master, and animal life.

I was interested in seeing the Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Pergamum shows currently on display here. We strolled through the fantastic Greek and Roman sculpture rooms on our way.

I love seeing the highly decorated rooms of the wealthy, such as this one. Unfortunately, with the dim lighting, it’s difficult to take a picture that’s in focus.

It was also interesting to see the art students at working copying from the masters. Apparently these folks get special permission to do this and are given all the supplies, including the paint and easels, from the Museum.

The Pergamum show, featuring works from the site on the west coast of what is now Turkey, formerly Asia Minor, includes some important sculpture which I had only seen in reproduction before.

The Met has a small selection of contemporary art on display here, including this wall piece by Kiki Smith which I loved.

And this Anselm Kiefer painting and Thomas Hart Benton mural.

Ty had had the foresight to download a NYC subway map to my smartphone, and we made great use of it navigating around the city, a good thing because all the walking was making our feet very, very tired. It was nice to be able to just hop on a train and be whisked back to the room (well, at least back to within four blocks of it, rather than 20 or so!).

See more pics here.

Random PV Moments

The upstairs amigas getting ready for the day.

An old town bug.

At the Three Hens and a Rooster Saturday Artists’ Market.

This small market is held in what was formerly a restaurant whose proprietors apparently had to get out of town fast.

Katrina guarding a selection of books.

Barb teaching the coffee shop man some moves.

Another larger Farmers’ Market in Old Town at Lazaro Cardenas Park is also on Saturdays; these two young female mariachis serenaded us with song and violins.

Right across the street is Page in the Sun, one of my favourite coffee places in old town.

There’s a beautiful glass and ceramic mosaic on the wall of the elementary school here.

Another day, another early morning coffee on the Loma Linda deck. Maggie blows out her 21st birthday candle.

Maggie watercolourised Barb and I.

The artist at work – Maggie painted lots of acrylic on canvas works on the deck here.

Another day, another coffee at Page in the Sun, here with Penticton artist and plein air master Angie McIntosh, who has a condo and studio here.

We saw lots of local women getting ready for some kind of performance at Los Arcos amphitheatre.

Janet had her photo taken with some Aztec dancers on the malecon.

Janet and Kathy took some classes with Douglas Simonson at Art Vallarta called Harnessing the Power of Painting and were very impressed with his teaching methods. Below is one of the exercises they did, learning how to mix and blend colours by painting what look like spheres.

See you next time, Puerto Vallarta!

Exploring Bucerias and Los Muertos Beach

Bucerias! Never having visited this beach town before, Barb, Janet, and I made the treck out on a Saturday, first grabbing a cab to the Walmart bus stop and then the ATM green bus along the highway in the direction of Sayulita. The bus, whose driver had affixed an enormous metal crucifix to his windshield, deposited us at the Centro intersection and we rolled down towards the water, stopping first at the church, whose cement fence was topped by interesting cement animals.

Inside the church scores of local kids were running around, playing games, eating lunch, and just generally having a good time. It was nice to see the space being so well used, courtesy of the priest who allows them to use the nave because they have no other public place to congregate.

One of the interior statues features Christ with a large wooden flame in the middle of his head.

The plaza in which the church is located is lovely and green and only a block from the water.

At the bottom of the lamp stands are a variety of shells embedded in concrete, attesting to the fact that one used to be able to find such shells locally, even though I’ve never seen anything larger than a tiny clam shell in the years I’ve been coming here.

The beach is quite nice, long and sandy, although narrow and steeply dropping off, as all the beaches here seem to be now. We decided to set up shop at El Gordo seafood restaurant, drawn by the welcoming Canadian flag.

Even though it was a Saturday there were not very many people at the beach; this meant that the parade of vendors, mostly jewelry salespeople, paid us more attention that ideally I would have wanted.

A small crowd of kids flocked around us, trying to tempt us with rubber toy animals. They expressed interest in the pins attached to my hat so I gave one to each of the four of them. The boy below, a pretty shrewd operator, wanted the small pin that had been my Dad’s, the only one that I was unwilling to part with.

Two cowboys with three small horses cantered by and tried to get us to go for a ride; Janet, a horsewoman, had a look at one of them, a lovely white boy, but decided against it.

After purchasing some fake silver rings from one of the vendors (I’m sure mine are fake but Janet’s seemed real – if I get a rash on my fingers after wearing them, I will know for sure), our day at the beach concluded with small shots of kahlua on the house.

For our final full day in PV, we had breakfast on the beach at La Palapa in very pleasant beachside seats. Unfortunately, my pancakes were cold; the huevos rancheros looked pretty good, though.

After settling ourselves at the Swell Beach Club for the day, we watched a high flyer show off on his flyboard, dipping and diving like a sea serpent.

Barb and Janet each took home Frida sarongs, while Maggie and Kathy purchased tablecloths and a woven rug.

So long, Puerto Vallarta! Thanks for another great time – hasta luego!

 

Urban Hike in PV – to the Cross!

I had read about an urban hike up to the cross above the hills in Puerto Vallarta and four of us decided to attempt it. After all, it could not possibly be as onerous as our first trip out to Las Animas, on which we bushwacked up the side of a mountain. It was a bit difficult to find the route, but after a bit of searching, I was able to find a map that showed the way up.

The best place to begin the hike is at the foot bridge to Gringo Gultch from the Isla Cuale. Passing by the buildings on the island, you can see all the murals painted by local artists on the walls of now-disused former retail shops.

We met a fellow out walking his dog there who told us that the city was planning to turn this island into a casino – I really hope that’s not the case! Although the island seems to be pretty depressed, in that there’s not much commercial activity there anymore, it is such a lovely green space in a city that doesn’t really have much of that downtown. And casinos have zero interest for me.

On the trees are quite a few signs warning people not to dump their animals here; however, there are still lots of cats roaming around from illegal dumping – people here do feed them, though. They are all pretty fat and sassy.

Once up and over the footbridge, we made a left turn and walked up past Casa Kimberley, now the Iguana Restaurant,

and then a right onto Calle Miramar past Hacienda San Angel, pausing to admire the angel statuary on the facade.

Past the Hacienda our route took us right for one black on Iturbide, then left along Emiliano Carranza to a steep narrow unnamed lane one block past Corona.

There are quite a few barking dogs and friendly cats here. We walked probably the equivalent of four or so blocks up this small street before the pavement, such as it was, petered out into scrub forest. Luckily, an old man just happened to poke his head out his door so I asked him about the best way to get to the cross. He told us to take the set of stairs just in front of his building, good thing because otherwise we would likely have missed the correct route.

The stairs took us up past several local houses, and a lovely friendly pup, as they wound up the hill.

The last bit of the route is steep, but recently paved.

At the top of this path is the electrical tower and it’s not at all obvious how to get to the cross from there. Around the tower is a metal fence and inside is a pit bull …

… but I saw a young man digging in the sand and he directed us across his work area to the new observation platform and cross.

This area is still a construction site and one of the older workers took a moment to wipe the sweat off Janet’s feet as she walked past. Update from Janet: “The sandal cleaning was much more than sweat. I had stepped into a pile of the workers’ mixed, wet cement. Deep enough to feel it between my toes. Smile. The younger workers just laughed. The older man came over and tried to clean off the drying cement. Chivalry is not dead.”

From the platform we had a panoramic view out over Banderas Bay and a gentle cooling breeze.

After hanging out on top for a while, we made our descent down the newly constructed cement stairs, watching as the workers continued to build a second set of very steep stairs.

Possibly once this project is completed there will be sign posts to the cross. At the moment, without a map it’s a bit tricky to get here. Since the path is so narrow, we were wondering how all the construction materials found their way up here. That question was answered when we saw the burro train passing by.

Although the path back down is paved, it was a bit slippery with dry soil and dust.

Back down on Calle Carranza, we saw one of the burros being loaded for a return trip up the hill. Poor beasts, I wonder how well they are treated.

See more pics here.

Here is a map of the route.

 

 

Hike to Las Animas Take Two

Barb and I decided to do the Monday hike to Las Animas again, except this time taking the low ocean-front route rather than the stairs up the mountain. We met Doug, Judith, John, and Charlie at the Boca bus stop on Constitucion, boarding the first bus to leave after 10:30 am. Doug had to sneak his dog Chester on board, since only dogs who are small enough to sit on their owner’s lap are really allowed on the bus.

Often on Mexican buses there is entertainment provided by people who travel along with the bus for a bit; this day it was two clowns doing some sort of comedy routine but my Spanish was not up to it.

After a quick pit stop at the Boca beachside washrooms, we headed across the bridge and onto the trail, passing several horses on the way.

We picked up a group of six young Argentinians on the trail and hiked with them to Los Colomitos, the first bay along the trail. The young woman ahead of me was wearing flip-flops, not a very good choice for this trail.

Charlie’s dog Dutch, an older poodle, did a very good job of keeping up with the group.

Dutch and Chester had a little encounter with Wilson, the great Dane who lives at the Ocean Grill.

So after that, it was time to move on …

The lower trail is very narrow and without handrails for the most part so we had to be careful and watch our steps.

It’s a very scenic route. Luckily, we were walking in shade for most of the way.

Along the whole route dogs started barking furiously as soon as they noticed Chester and Dutch; two looked like they were going to chase after us but didn’t in the end.

Maggie and Janet had planned to join us by boat for lunch. As the minutes ticked past, we figured that they weren’t coming but lo and behold, we saw a flash of white hair, and there they were on the last boat to Yelapa pulling onto the beach.

Once again, a great day out! Cheers! See more here.

Birthday Dinner at Le Bistro

Happy 21st Birthday again, Maggie! The gang of six strolled down the hill to Le Bistro on Isla Cuale to celebrate Maggie’s birthday with what we thought would be a Cuban music-inspired evening riverside. Well, the cubans were a no show but the local pianist on the restaurant’s white grand piano was good, and his entourage of young women in long lacy gowns was also interesting.

The restaurant makes a great setting for art exhibitions, and at the moment has quite a few local scenes on display, one of which, the cathedral piece here, looks a lot like the one I’m attempting to finish right now.

When we arrived the place was aglow with candle light and lots of people enjoying their dinner.

It was nice the see the place busy, since it had been pretty much a ghost town at lunch.

Our meal began with an amouse bouche of chicken on a tiny cracker, down the hatch in one bite. As you can see Maggie was happy with her lobster bisque.

And Barb with her spinach salad.

Everything was beautifully presented (and very expensive). Barb and I had a pepper encrusted beef medallion (not the dinner below but one like it – this is Christine’s steak).

Janet and Kathy decided on the catch of the day, red snapper.

After the main course, I wandered around the restaurant, taking a few pictures of the eclectic decor.

I had told the waiter the other day when making our reservation that it would be Maggie’s birthday, so for desert they brought out a lovely birthday platter and several servers sang Happy Birthday to the Queen of the Evening.

Everyone but me decided to be Frida for the evening, taking turns going to the washroom and returning with a black unibrow, courtesy of Barb’s eyebrow makeup.

Janet was the best incarnation, since she also has the Frida hairstyle.

Maggie’s brow made her look a bit crazed.

After dinner, Janet the cat whisperer saw a kitty cat in the distance, made the call, and lo and behold, from all corners of the island, they streamed toward us.

Here are the five unibrows on the way home – Cheers!

See more pics here.