El Pantheon and La Playa

I love pelicans and they are very plentiful here, especially down on Playa Marinero and Playa Zicatela, where they can get a sniff of the fish being caught around these parts. Apparently there are still plenty of fish in the sea here …

Along the main city beach here is also an inexpensive campground, right on the sand, which seems sort of unusual in a beach town. Between the campground and the ocean is a small “lagoon” of sorts, part of an estuary, I think, in which lots of birds enjoy spending the day, like this egret. We avoid walking through it; Pam thinks it must be boiling with mosquitoes.

On our way back from the Manialtepec Lagoon the other day I noticed that we had driven past a small cemetery and was interested in going back to take a look at it. I found a quiet shady route from the house to the pantheon “The Woods”, as it is called, through a hilly local neighbourhood. It is right near the beach and beside an elementary school.

Sometimes the graves in Mexico are very brightly painted; these, though, are mostly white, like the ones at the cemetery Ty and I visited in Progresso.

After a pleasant walk through the paths communing with the shades of the dead, I made my way back out to the street, past several houses for sale and rent (likely this is a nice place to live, given the silent neighbours), and down the stone steps to Playa Manzanillo, my favourite beach in P.E.

I had quite a long chat with the servers at the beach-side restaurant; it was a quiet day and they were likely bored with not very many customers to serve. I took the opportunity to practice my Spanish, which, if I do say so myself, is getting quite good.

Playa Manzanillo is on one half of a small curved bay, the other side of which is Playa Angelito. I’ve never set foot on Playa Angelito, simply because Manzanillo is so sweet that I just can’t seem to get over there. But this day I did at least walk over the small rocky point separating the two beaches to take a few pictures of it.

At the top of the steep steps that run down the beach is this shrine dedicated to Puerto Escondido’s black Madonna. It sits under a shady small palapa which also shelters the numerous taxi drivers who ply their trade here.

When I am out and about walking around the town, I like to take my own shade with me … in different styles.

Saturday is market day around here so Pam, Cec, and I hoofed it up the road with the clattering metal cart to purchase fruit and veggies for the coming week.

Some of the locals don’t even bother to look as we pass by …

Mexican markets have the best produce; huge beautiful veggies for about 1/10 Vancouver’s cost. I am fascinated with the enormous cauliflowers here.

Something we would never see a home is a doggie strolling through the meat section of the market, hoping to capture a little something something …

Saturday is also the day when fresh fish comes to the market; here Pam and Cec are discussing the possibilities presented by the sierra, a white fish available in P.E.

After agreeing that it looked good, the man expertly filleted it for us.

Just outside the market, I saw this car with a Madonna shrine on its front bumper.

and a San Francisco shrine on the wall “downtown”.

Almost every day Pam and Cec stride Playa Zicatela beach and stop either at Dan’s Cafe for breakfast or the Bar Fly for a lemonade with mineral water. Sometimes I join them on the march.

Some of the local hotels have the most beautiful bougainvillea flowers, enormous bunches of multi-coloured blossoms.

The other night we headed down to the Adoquin to Pascales, to enjoy a tasty grilled dinner and the music by a local duo with a pretty good virtual back-up band.

All in all,a pretty good place to spend some time.


Chillin’ in Gusmuluk


For the last few days of our trip, Maggie, Janet, and I are ensconced at the Otel Gumusluk a few feet from the ocean. After arriving Sunday, we had a short walk along the beach to the Club Gumusluk for dinner as the sun set over Rabbit Island and the bay.

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Along the beach the kabak lanterns adorned with pretty patterns and lights were lit as the sun sank lower in the sky to the delight of patrons of the Club’s ringside seats.


We ordered a modest dinner of cold meze appetisers and were presented with a dessert and a beautiful tray of flowers, lights, chocolate, with a heavily watered-down shot of liqueur gratis by waiter Orhan, a small man about 25 years old, who took a real shine to Maggie.

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The finale to the evening was the beautiful flower blossoms scattered randomly onto the table.


Our hotel is about one hundred meters from the beach; just in front of us is this empty lot with a beached fishing boat ready and waiting for some dedicated soul to refurbish it.


Our breakfast feast takes place in this tarp-covered open air dining room.

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The beach here is very pleasant, gently curved and somewhat narrow with coarse grey sand and warm water. Tides here are practically non-existent, only varying by about two feet from high to low.


Lots of energetic people were out on the water swimming, kayaking, and wind surfing.

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On our second evening we walked along the harbour checking out all the fish restaurants while being importuned by waiters as we passed, whispering the names of fish in our ears.

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Some of the restaurants are beautifully decorated. All have the same menu, variations on the theme of fish.


We chose the last restaurant on the strip; the food was ok but not great. (In retrospect, it was actually not very good and too much money for what we had. Also, unlike at Club Gumusluk and a few of the other beach spots, it had no soft felt blankets on the backs of chairs for patrons who get cold in the evening … like me). The waiter took the photo below and somehow managed to change the camera setting to sepia – oh well.

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However, I did enjoy the prawns cooked right at our table even though they were a bit tough.

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I really love all the great kabak gourd decorations. Each of them has a design poked out in little holes through which the LED lights inside shine.

Below are a few photos of our hotel; this place is really wonderful, the weather is 30 degrees, blue sky, and sun with a gentle breeze blowing off the sea – heavenly.

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Tuesday, after a long and lazy breakfast at the ranch, Janet and I walked from the Hotel Gumusluk up to the Gumusluk Academy, a wander that took us along the back roads that parallel the sea, past the old Myndos Gate and then up through mandarin fields and houses to the hillside site of the Academy. Just below the Academy property a bunch of new concrete villas are being constructed, slightly obstructing what had been the beautiful view out over the valley I had had from my room five years ago. These beasts were resting in the shade of a mandarin tree as we cruised by.



After a walk of about 45 minutes we arrived at the Academy, located on a hill above the village with an expansive view laid out in front of us. No one was visible around the place but we did see evidence of new artwork in the form of three clay sculptures which looked like a memorial to the victims of the Soma mine disaster.


The people I had known from my visit were no longer there but we met the grounds keeper Mehmet and his wife as we walked along one of the driveways; I tried to explain who I was but am not sure he understood. In any case, we were given permission to look around and poked our noses into several of the buildings, none of which seemed to be occupied at the moment.


The building housing the kitchen and dining room had been refurished and looked great; all the rest were more or less as I remembered them.

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Lots of frogs were jumping in the pond near the theatre and several were floating lazily on top of the water, sunning themselves.


We headed back down to hill and decided to pop into the Paradise Garden apartments just down the road from the Hotel Gumusluk, checking it out to see if it were a spot that possibly Maggie might want to return to one of these days, since obviously Turkey is the place for her. Although we had just wanted to have a little look around the place, the owner insisted that we come and see inside one of the apartments, seated us in the shade, and brought us water and a coffee. He spoke almost no English so we had an amusing and protracted pseudo-conversation in which I looked up word after word in my little Turkish phrasebook to compose sentences, a process that took so long that I am sure he had forgotten what the first word was by the time I uttered the last. His wife brought out the reservation book and they were ready to sign us up right then and there.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing by the pool, with a little lap swimming interspersed with a little glass of wine drinking.


Another night, another dinner, this time back at the Club Gumusluk, which, unlike the rest of the restaurants on the beach, had lots of patrons. There was no room in the main part of the restaurant so they seated us at a table on the beach, right at the water’s edge. Once again Orhan was super attentive, bringing us, on the house, three different desserts and a tray with chocolates and amaretto shots, all gratis, while he tried to persuade Maggie to go to the Halicarnas discoteque in Bodrum with him. Maggie didn’t bite this evening but we still have two nights left …

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Only one day left here in paradise before I return to the cold cloudiness of Vancouver, apparently not yet in summer. Yesterday the three of us walked up to the Gumusluk Market and emerged laden with bags of goodies, including pots and pans and clothing.

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After a hard few hours bargaining, a stop at the village teahouse was in order.

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This place is so beautiful – I will be very sorry to leave.

Out and About on the peninsula




After a hard morning of finishing up our oil paintings onsite, we rolled out in three vehicles in the direction of Ortakent for a visit to Dibeklihan in Yakakoy. This place is a modern building constructed in the form of an old Ottoman Palace – it is much like the Bodrum Castle except on a smaller scale, with towers, turrets, and terraces overlooking the valley.


On its premises are contained two contemporary art galleries, a small Ottoman Museum with artifacts from the sultan era, three café-bars, and several shops, including some very nice silver jewellery. We saw a very interesting exhibition of paintings by a local artist named Fatih Urunc, an alcoholic who died of booze poisoning at the age of 46.


Hikmet knew him and told us that he used to wander through Bodrum, paintings under his arm, and sell them for a few lire whenever he needed another drink. The work reminded me a bit of Basquiat, very colourful and full of crazy characters, including a smoking grey cat with blue eyes who resurfaces in several visual narratives.


In the other gallery an exhibition of work inspired by the Gezi Park demonstrations of last year and the Soma mine disaster was installed. Carnation images were used to memorialise the dead. After viewing the art, several of us had some lovely white wine in the Film Bar upstairs, seated in chairs inscribed with the names of various movie directors – I was John Ford.



Today the entire group took the dolmus down to Yalikavak Market where we wandered through the various stalls and sampled some of the local cuisine. I tried to bargain unsuccessfully for a few jewellery items and ended up with a small scarf instead. After a cup of tea at a ringside seat we hustled back to the otogar for the minibus home; unfortunately a couple of members of our group were kicked off the bus because the driver would not take any standing passengers, likely because the police were there and he was afraid of getting a ticket.




The afternoon’s life drawing exercise by the pool was a great success. We drew several 5 minute poses by Hikmet and Eljay, then a couple of ten minute ones using charcoal sticks. The improvement in everyone’s drawings from first to last was quite substantial.



Finally, to complete the day the ten of us were driven down to a seaside restaurant, where a beach table had been reserved for us for dinner. Unfortunately, the weather had changed and it was looking a bit dark so we opted for a table inside instead. Cold mezes, coban salata, and a main course of sea bass and shrimp was consumed along with copious quantities of red and white wine. Being the only people in the restaurant, we got quite raucous and gave the staff quite an interesting time, I’m sure. Janet played Mary Poppins on the beach with Maggie’s five lire Istanbul umbrella which blew inside out and broke after about ten seconds. After cavorting on the beach in the rain, we were escorted into two taxis for the ride back to the ranch.


While we were gone, Eljay had a terrible fall while running on the wet pavement to put our art work inside so it would not be damaged by the rain. Luckily, she was only bruised rather than broken, but it will take a few days for her to heal.

En Plein Air in Gokcebel

Lisa and palette

Gokcebel is a beautiful little village – I love it here. It is wonderful to be back in Turkey again after 4 years. The Old Stone House is a former castle or fort, likely about 250 years old, although it has older parts, such as bits of Roman column and pillars. The scent of jasmine and mint fills the air and the garden has lovely bougainvillea, palm trees, and grape vines winding over a huge wooden pergola underneath which is the breakfast table. Three levels of terraces surround the house, each of which has a lovely seating area. The main house has three bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and small dining room used in the winter when it’s too cold to sit outside. All the houses here are built for outside living because the weather is so beautiful here most of the year.

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Just outside the back gate is the Mulberry Cottage, a much newer two story building, with two twin bedrooms, one single, and a small kitchenette, as well as its own little terrace and upper deck with a view out over the valley. The town is located in a small valley surrounded by serrated hills, the caldera of a former volcano. Eljay and I are staying at an apartment across the valley, since there is no room at the Old Stone inn – all the bedrooms are full with our painting program guests who arrived in a series of waves yesterday. Altogether with Eljay and Hikmet, the local Turkish tutor, we are a group of 12 who will spend the next two weeks drawing and painting around the Bodrum peninsula.

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Before the guests arrived Eljay and I had a lovely sunset drink down by the harbour in Yalikavak, the closest big town just a few miles down the road from the house. I have not been in this part of the peninsula before; last time I was here we stayed in Bodrum and in 2009 I was in Gumusluk, west and south of here, for the month of May. This part of the peninsula is not too over-developed and is still quite charming. Yalikavak has a beautiful yacht harbour and a series of beaches along the coast towards Golturkbuku. Restaurants, bars, and shops line the harbour and the side streets next to it. As I recall there is some sort of regulation about the colour of the buildings here – they must be white or at least light in colour, giving a uniformity to the villages. Against this white background the purple, pink, and red flowers stand out in stark relief.

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As usual, since we are in a small village, the animal chorus gets going very early in the morning. The strangled cries of roosters, dogs, cows, bulls, and the odd donkey echo around the hills accompanying the 5 am call to prayer, sung by an imam with a terrific voice. Three of Eljay’s cats stroll around the garden, many skinny stray beasts wander through the yard, and a very large tan and black Turkish dog keeps guard outside the front gate. Today we are going to begin the program with an oil painting exercise around the village – each person will have her own set up of easel, stool, a bag of painting supplies, a pallet, and even an apron. Eljay plans to start people off with a thumbnail sketch of the local “colour” and then proceed to painting from there.

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Each member of our intrepid group grabbed her bag of supplies, a stool, and an easel and headed for the hills. We separated into two groups and stationed ourselves in shady spots overlooking the view, one group near the market and the other up above the mosque. The first order of business is oil painting in a realist manner so Monday saw us sketching our motif and transferring the drawing onto a small canvas for painting. On Tuesday, after visiting the tiny local market and purchasing some shalvar pants and scarves, our group returned to our respective spots to block in the lights and darks. I, being a crummy student, did not do the exercise as described but instead executed my piece in the hot colours of the American south west, making the Turkish village house look like something out of New Mexico.

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The local dog fell in love with Barb and sat down in her paints, refusing to leave her side. Everyone was able to do a piece with which they felt proud and Eljay was very complimentary about our efforts.

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Almost all of us took Eljay up on the optional hamam program, piling into the minibus for the Raschid Hamam in Ortakar (the third best Turkish Bath in all of Turkey, according to the owner’s daughter) where we were hosed down, scrubbed, and massaged for three hours of bliss. Su was delighted with her masseuse, a tall, dark-haired pony-tailed Russian man decked out in tight white speedos …

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Puerto Vallarta Markets and Beaches

Old Town Puerto Vallarta is lucky enough to have two Saturday markets, one at the Paradise Community Centre and the other at Lazaro Cardenas Park, just off the Malecon. We decided to hit them both, since the day was cloudy and a bit too cold for the beach (says she whose home town is only 5 degrees …).

The Paradise Community Centre market was packed with throngs of people and lots of vendors sending vintage clothes, jewellery, kids’ items, art, books, and especially, wonderful food and baked goods.

I sampled an apple square and Ty gobbled down a huge cinnamon bun as we pondered the wares for sale. A local artisan was selling some beautifully-made bracelets and necklaces; we bought one of each.

A few blocks north of Paradise is the Lazaro Cardenas Market, also busy, and I bought three little foot decorations – like earrings for feet – which, hopefully, one of these days when my left foot has healed from whatever is ailing it and I can walk in sandles again, I can wear.

After browsing, feeling some drops of rain hitting the top of our heads, we ducked into the nearby book cafe and had the good fortune of meeting Jay, a fellow from Iowa sitting at the next table with a group of ex-pat friends.

After a delightful chat, and telling him that we were looking around for long-stay accommodation, he told us the story of meeting Lily, their house’s owner, and how he and his wife Ardis came to be staying in an apartment in Conchas Chinas, the next colonia south of Amapas. Jay was kind enough to invite us over to see the place, thinking it might be a possibility for us in the future. (Apropos of nothing … below is another majestic Queen Death figure, this one on the steps of the Hotel Catedral downtown. I love these figures, even thought their implications are sobering …)

Back wandering around the old town again, this time looking for a barbecued chicken, we walked past the vegetable stand which had had few fresh veggies before. This day it was full of great looking fruits and vegetables, obviously just having been replenished by its suppliers. The key is to figure out which day the new shipment of goodies comes in and shop for vegetables on that day. We also saw the closed hulk of a former supermarket, which Jay told us had closed down after people stopped buying there when their fresh produce deteriorated.

Sunday saw a return of the sun and a trip to the beach was in order. We plopped ourselves down on the sun loungers at the Swell Beach Bar and whiled away the afternoon sipping and munching.

Puerto Vallarta is full of pelicans roosting on the fishing boats; they are wonderful animals and I love to see them fishing and diving in the waters here. Coming screaming down out of the skies, they easily scoop up fish in their gigantic beaks.

The picture above shows Los Muertos Beach, “our beach” at the foot of the hills where we’re staying.

Although we are, as usual, on a fairly tight budget here, we want to spread a little of our cash around the place so I indulged in a reflexology foot massage by Rosalie, whose hands were incredibly strong and left my old feet feeling very relaxed.


Monday we visited Jay and Ardis, and met Lily, a lovely Mexican woman who rents out the three story hillside house they stay in. She has the ground floor suite, a couple from Edmonton stay on the middle floor, and Jay and Ardis have the top. Their space is incredible, huge, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, and an enormous sunny roof-top deck with a view that lasts forever out over the Bay and the Marietas Islands.

While sitting and visiting on the deck, we could see, and hear, the many small green and yellow parrots flitting around in the treetops. Occasionally, when a gigantic frigate bird cruised by, they screeched and squawked up a storm – funny creatures. Many butterflies also fluttered about; one landed on my hand and stayed for quite a while, a very tiny, gentle presence.

Later, we hopped the orange bus to Mismaloya, the next settlement south of PV along the coast, made famous by the film Night of the Iguana, starring Liz and Dick, filmed there in the 60s. The beach there is accessed down a path that runs along the outside of a hotel compound and over a small wooden bridge across the creek.

Many small boats are docked here and pelicans roost on them hopefully. The bay is small, with a few beach bars, and was pretty quiet this day. The place felt a bit desperate and we wondered if the tourist trade here is much diminished because of the weakness of the North American economy. Likely, the tourists who visit Puerto Vallarta are not spending as much as in previous years. We hope that the ill effects of the economic downturn will not damage the economy of this city too much; it really is a beautiful place to be.

Today, back on the road again in Old Town, I headed back to Isla Cuale and the printmaking studio. Lo and behold, it was open and I had a chance to speak to the maestra, Ireri Topete.

She explained how the studio works and told me it would be possible to use the space, either by enrolling in classes or as a visiting artist. It’s a nice space with a good sized etching press and a small litho press not currently in use. Good to know for the future. This day there were about five students working on etchings in this space, and quite a few others in the painting and sculpture studios across the way. This will be a great place to work if we are successful in being able to come here for the winter in the future.

See more pictures here, here, and here.

Merida en Domingo

It is often hard to tell what’s behind the old walls here in the colonial town of Merida – could be a fabulous mansion, a car garage, a building supplies store, or a parking lot. And many of the houses in Centro are abandoned, decrepit, and falling down, perhaps waiting to be reclaimed.

Wanting to experience Merida en Domingo, the pedestrian friendly market and manifestation day in the historical centre of Merida, Ty and I jumped on one of the local buses down 61st.

After being dropped downtown, we waited while all the vendors set up their booths in the park.

Below is the Casa de Montejo, the house of the first governor of Merida, built in the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors.

Merida en Domingo sees all the local women out in their Yucatecan garb, illustrated in the photo below – very colourful, with floral patterns and lace.

Since the day was a bit overcast, it wasn’t as blazing hot as it otherwise might have been – only 40 rather than 45 degrees …

After having indulged ourselves in a couple of somewhat mediocre tortas, drawn by the outdoor sculpture display, we decided to check out the Macay Gallery, Merida’s modern and contemporary art gallery, featuring work by contemporary Yucatecan artists, none of whom I was familiar with.

The gallery is housed in a beautiful colonial building, with a sculpture courtyard in its centre.

We saw some interesting acrylic on paper works by a German artist depicting his vists to North Africa.

Some of the art pieces on permanent display were vaguely reminiscent of West Coast First Nations artists,

while others could have illustrated a science fiction novel.

I quite liked the work of the artist below, especially this mobile of tiny ceramic figures.

For Merida en Domingo, the streets downtown are blocked to traffic and people are encouraged to cycle; the family below took advantage of the opportunity to pile all five of them on a single stretch bike.

All that art viewing in the heat makes for a very thirsty couple of Canadians; naturally we had to stop for a cervesa or two.

After watching locals dance to Yucatecan trova music performed by an excellent one man band in the Santa Ana park, we finished off our Sunday enjoying the spectacle of Merida’s well-known troupe perform folkloric dances in the Zocalo.

Amazingly, even in the 40 degree heat, these folks looked cool and dry … unlike us.

See more pics here.







Puerto Walkin’: Camino al Mirador and Playa Manzanillo

I had a vision of colourful flowers in the small pool here at the Swiss Oasis so, a couple of nights ago, when all the other guests were out, Ty and I set up the camera and I had some fun playing Ophelia floating amongst the flowers.

See more pics of this project here.

Puerto is still very much a fishing town, and lately the fishing seems pretty good, at least judging from the catch brought up on the Playa Principal, the main beach.

You just never know when you’ll run into a juggling clown …

or a piggie at the market.

On the weekend the beaches here at Puerto Escondido are packed out with local families, all laughing, having fun, and playing in the surf.

The kids here get introduced to the water very young; many of the families with tiny babies were in the waves with these little cuties, enjoying jumping in the big surf.

One couple had their very small child quite far out in the water on a tiny inflatable device.

At Playa Manzanillo the waves have been high for the last few days – olas altas took a number of people off guard, including one granny sitting on a walk who was completely engulfed, and the oyster lady, who suffered a gigantic wave up her shorts and jumped up laughing.

The Babylon Cafe near us has a fabulous collection of painted wooden masks – I am coveting all of them … (click on the link below to see more of them).

And we discovered a sushi restaurant on the beach … not as good as the one we go to in Vancouver, but not bad (don’t order a tequila drink, though – just juice, no juice).

Just a couple of days ago we discovered the Camino al Mirador, a walkway along the sea travelling from the Playa Principal to near the Playa Manzanillo.

It reminds me quite a bit of the Lovers Walk section of Italy’s Cinque Terre hike, with the same concrete and stone walkways along a steep rocky shore.The cacti here are absolutely enormous – like trees, and some have very soft brown fluffy attachments, flowers, I suppose.

In spots, this walkway has broken down and bits of it can be seen in the ocean; in other areas, the concrete is starting to crack and deteriorate – Ty figures that it will only last another few years before it drops into the ocean.

Along its length anonymous artists have tagged the shoreline and street philosophers have inscribed their thoughts into and onto the rock.

On today’s walk I floated some flowers on a small seaside pond,

while the female dog who joined us sat panting in the shade,

and installed 20 strands of coloured ribbon on a promontory viewpoint to watch them dance in the stiff breeze. These we left behind for passersby to enjoy.

Just another hard day at the office … Puerto Escondido is great – highly recommended!

See more pics here.

Puerto Escondido: Markets, Turtles, and Phosphorescence

Needing groceries (the hotel has a community kitchen), Ty and I, accompanied by Helen and Belinda, two Aussies also staying at the Swiss Oasis, hopped aboard the camionetta (a small pickup truck with bench seating in the back like Thai songthaews) to the market.

Puerto Escondido’s market is very clean and well maintained, with a good selection of food and small restaurants. We had a jugo verde at Myrna’s juice stand and tortas (for which Ty developed a taste in Guanajuato) for lunch,

bought a big bag full of produce, did a small walkabout downtown, and jumped on the camionetta once again for the trip back. Back at the ranch, I enjoyed a swim in the pool. Puerto Escondido is hot – the day after we arrived the temperature hit 38 degrees.

The Hotelito Swiss Oasis supports the Escondido economy by recommending local people with whom to do eco-tours. Brandy had done a turtle release and lagoon tour and highly recommended it, so yesterday evening was the moment to give it a go. Chop (not sure about the spelling), a fellow who lives at the lagoon, arrived to pick us up at 6:40 and we were off in his car to Playa Delfin (Dolphin Beach), a twenty five kilometer long beach a ways north of Escondido, to release turtles.

This beach is almost deserted along its length; a few housing developments, most shuttered or unfinished, dot the area, and one small town lies near its middle but other than that, the beach is undeveloped.

It is home to a couple of species of endangered sea turtles, the Green Turtle and the Leatherback (although leatherbacks are rare in this part of the world, apparently). We were driven to the turtle release area, which consists of a couple of small camping tents, a wooden lean-to, two quad motorcycles, three nesting areas, and one crazy dog who keeps the fellow who looks after the area company.

This place is a one man operation; the caretaker works here alone, without pay, subsisting on the tips of people who visit to participate in the turtle release. He live here all year round in one of the small tents.

This evening, in addition to Ty, myself, and Coco, there was a van load of Mexican tourists for the release of four baby turtles, three tiny greens and one larger leatherback, born that morning and ready to start their life in the ocean. The four turtles were kept in a small pink plastic tub and, after we washed our hands, we were allowed to pick up and examine them (I wasn’t sure about the merits of handling them …).

After waiting for a while to watch the sun descend in the sky, and watching a couple of kids pretend to be turtles crossing the sand, the moment for the release arrived. The caretaker drew a line in the sand and told us that we weren’t allowed to go beyond it.

I had thought that we would guide the turtles down the beach but that wasn’t the case; once released from the tub, they must make their own way down the beach to the water without human help. This enables their location to imprint and helps to ensure that they can return to this beach later on; if we simply put them into the water, or helped them out, they would likely die.

All of us lined up and each small group was given one turtle; we received the leatherback and I put it on the ground facing in the direction of the ocean. It started moving towards the water but then got disoriented and headed back up to us again. I really wanted to pick it up and turn it around but the guide said that we must leave it to make its own way. It was painful to watch the four tiny beasts attempt to crawl towards the ocean and life.

“Our” turtle, the largest and strongest of the bunch, figured out the correct direction and headed off at a fast crawl towards the huge waves; finally, after a couple of false starts, a large wave caught it, and lifted it out to sea – we all clapped.

This same process was repeated for each of the other three, one of whom was particularly weak. Although they all reached the sea eventually, the weakest one had to be helped out a couple of times by being lifted down towards the water (I don’t think that it will survive, unfortunately).

After it was washed out to sea by a wave, one of the tiny turtles was washed in again farther down the beach by another wave; Ty saw it struggling and gently put it back in the water again – hopefully it will live.

I found the whole experience very moving; it’s hard to believe that these creatures, only one day old, have to go through that onerous process in order to begin their lives. Very few turtles survive; many die on their way to the ocean, picked off by predators, and many die in the ocean from ingesting plastics they mistake for jellyfish. Cut up all plastics before disposing of them and don’t dump plastic – better still, don’t use plastic.

After the turtle release, which probably took about two hours or so, we were off north again to the six kilometer long Manialtepec Lagoon, a body of water surrounded by mangrove swamp vegetation, its tropical climate lending itself to a diverse ecosystem. Dozens of migratory bird species such as herons and ducks make Manialtepec lagoon their home at various times of the year. Chop told us that, in addition to birds and fish, crocodiles live here.

We, and six other people, boarded the small tour boat and headed out on the cloudless night to tour the lagoon and see the phosphorescence created by the water’s phytoplankton. Beside the boat, we could see streaks of bright silver zipping hither and yon; these were fish. Running our hands through the water produced long streaks of brilliant white and silver; resting in the lagoon, our hands appeared white and skeletal because of the phosporescence. Encouraged by Chop, several people, including Coco, jumped in and swam,

their bodies making white and silver patterns in the dark – fabulous (unfortunately, it was impossible to get a decent picture of the phosphorescence). We were told that, in the rainy season, the area is completely dark and the falling rain makes the entire lagoon shine brilliantly against the black background. That would be amazing to see.

See more pics here.

Puerto Vallarta South Side: Zona Romantica, Old Town … art and culture

The Paradise Community Center right near us was started by two expats and is a bustling hive of activity.

We spent some time there this morning while the Artisans Co-op Market was on and sampled some great Thai food as we watched the crowd come and go. Kitten adoptions, chair massage (by our condo neighbour Sunny), jewellery, food, clothes … it’s all there every week.

Sitting under an umbrella in the courtyard was a very pleasant way to pass some time on a warm and sunny day.

Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town isn’t really all that old but it has the atmosphere of old: cobbled streets, three story walkup concrete apartments, lots of multi-coloured bougainvillea winding itself around poles and up walls.

It also has a fair number of abandoned, vacant, and condemned properties, some of which are huge and cavernous.

I’m not sure whether this is a result of the recent harsh economic conditions or local conditions but it’s an interesting juxtaposition with the evident liveliness of the art scene.

Old Town also has lots of restaurants and bars and a Saturday morning market. And it has art. As in the Centro area further north, here, too, are a cluster of galleries and shops selling contemporary and Mexican folk art. This area also has an Art Walk, every second Friday, centred on Basillio Badillo Boulevard, but it ends the first week in April. So, we strolled around the area without the benefit of a map, trying to find the galleries hidden on shady streets, as well as those out in full view in the blaze of sun.

Galeria Contempo is one of the newest, and largest, spaces on the South Side. The work here is eclectic, comprising abstract painting and figurative bronze sculpture.

And the space is wonderful, two storeys with a wraparound balcony on the second floor, perfect for plants and sculpture.

Galeria Dante bills itself as the largest gallery in PV; the first two times we came by, it was closed; we finally we able to see it on Monday.

The space occupies almost an entire block and consists of several rooms and some outdoor areas, every inch of which, it seems, is packed with art. Paintings and sculpture, mostly, and very colourful. The nicest space is the outdoor sculpture garden, with a variety of figurative bronzes and a lovely fish pond sans fish.

The problem with many of the galleries here is the same problem I found with almost every shop I entered in Turkey – horror vacui! Fear of vacant space – seemingly, everything in the place must be on display. It’s hard to concentrate on any one thing because everything else impinges on one’s consciousness – there’s simply too much stuff!

However, even given that problem, this gallery is an enjoyable experience with the grand variety of art on display, some of it excellent.

We spend an interesting bit of time in the Jose Marca Studio and Gallery on Lazaro Cardenas. Jose was kind enough to show us around his studio space and explain the artistic philosophy behind his neo-expressionist primitivism, telling us that early on in his career other artists and galleries had told him that his work was “good for nothing”. I guess he’s proven them wrong, in that he’s been doing his thing in PV for over twenty-five years and looks at least 15 years younger than his 70.

His good for nothing art has been good for him.

Galeria Puerco Azul features folk art; it used to be a family house and the place is huge, with many rooms full of sculpture, jewellery, painting, and other objets d’art.

They also have a few paintings of archangels done by Peruvian artists – I was really tempted by one of a sword-wielding Michael … still thinking about it.

We also visited several shops which sold masks of all sorts, wooden, beaded (a parrot-headed one was especially cool), papier mache, and more coil pottery.

Puerto Vallarta: if you did nothing but go to the beach and walk the malecon, you’d have one kind of experience – just like anywhere in the world, really, sun, sand, sea – but two blocks off the strip and away from the water, there’s a whole much more interesting world out there. This city is moving up our “Place to Stay in the Sun When We’re Old” list fast, for several reasons: it’s beautiful, it’s on the ocean, the climate in winter is fantastic, it’s got a lively cultural scene and lots of artists;

it has a big English-speaking community and most of the locals speak English well enough (this is a plus and minus; I wanted to improve my Spanish but, whenever I speak it, the local respondent speaks back in English, making me think that my accent is execrable! However, I continue to persist); it is drivable from Vancouver (we could bring the dog and cat with us).

See more pics here.

For more information, click on the links below:

Paradise Community Center

Galeria Contempo

Galleria Dante

South Side Shuffle

Jose Marco

Art scene in PV

Turgutreis and Kadikalesi

Large format printing

Saturday – market day in Turgutreis. After breakfast with Seray, I grabbed my bike and rode up the hill towards the gumbet – disused cistern – at the top of the hill and took the opportunity to take a few pictures of my little Styrofoam lily pad koreks, still floating around on the water along with the discarded pop and water bottles and other assorted junk. Whitewashed the last time I’d seen it, between now and then the cistern has been spray painted with graffiti once again. I rode up and over the hill behind the Academy, pausing briefly at the top to take a few pictures of the ten day homes. Someone was telling Ilknur that the Greeks living on Kos, the nearest Greek island to here, mock the Turks for having sold off all their land for these ghastly housing developments. I zoomed down the hill, bouncing over the many speed bumps, and rode along the main road to the Turgutreis market where I spent some time looking at textiles and long summery dresses without buying anything.

Earlier this week, I received an email from the President of the Cracow International Print Triennial informing me that my works had qualified to the Phase 2 of selection of the International Print Triennial Krakow 2009. The deadline for submission is June 15 – not very far away – and so I needed to get my work printed so it can be sent off tout suite. Asking around the market area for large format printing, a restaurateur took me to a tiny stationery and art supplies shop which, lo and behold, had a large format printer. Amazingly, I had my flash drive in my purse with two of the images on it (this without any planning at all on my part) – what are the chances of that, I thought to myself. Anyway, I watched and waited as the guy and his helper printed out my pictures in between helping what seemed like a million people with photocopy jobs. With my two rolled prints in hand, I then hunted around for a big plastic tube, finally finding one at a hardware store. I inserted the prints into the tube, taped up the ends with plastic and strapped the whole thing to my bike’s crossbar with two luggage straps bought at the dollar store. Because the tube is quite big around, it was difficult to ride since my left knee was pointed out at an awkward angle. Anyway, I managed to make my way out of town back along the main road and decided to stop at the Kadikalesi beach for a break.

Seray had told me about Kekik Beach Bar so I rolled down the laneway, onto the beach and found Kekik without any trouble. A somewhat laissez-faire structure greeted me, with two chillout areas and a covering of very dry, old palm fronds, rickety old chairs and tables, and sun beds out front. I felt right at home. The place was very pleasant, patronized by Turks on holiday; families with several generations of people played and lounged. One granny dressed in a stylish brown Turban and lacy knee socks was knitting a sweater while her daughter made a sand castle. Two men gutted fish and threw the guts into the water. Four kids floated on bits of Styrofoam and tossed small fish at one another. Two dogs lounged lazily. I lay down on a sun bed and just about fell asleep in the very warm sun; waking up with a snort, I decided to go for a swim. I have not swum in the ocean since Kas – it was very nice, cool but refreshing. After, I sampled some fries – good – and lemonade – not so good, before rearranging my tube on my handlebars and pedaling back along the main drag.

On the way back, I stopped briefly at the municipal cemetery. I have been riding past this gravesite for three weeks and not stopped so now was the moment. I looked around at the carvings on display, a strange variety of subjects and styles – lots of lions, for some reason. And the graveyard itself was peaceful as the sun’s rays were slanting across it. I remember when I first visited Turkish graveyards, I thought to myself, “Wow – there sure are a lot of R. Fatiha’s in this town”, since many of the headstones had this inscription. It took me a bit of time to realize that “Ruhuna Fatiha” must mean something like “Rest in Peace” … sheesh.

Back at the ranch, I was still a bit peckish so I strolled over to the Foundation dining hall where pots of food are usually waiting on the counters. Tonight – o joy! – chicken. I have not been eating much meat for the last while, with the occasional exception of what the Turks call sausage, and I would call bologna, put in borek or mixed toast. Most often, there is a starch dish, pasta, rice or cous cous, some kind of mostly vegetable stew, and, often, salad. Today, for the first time, there was roast chicken and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

See a few pictures here.