San Sebastian del Oeste, Jalisco, Mexico

Originally settled in 1605, San Sebastian del Oeste is a secluded 17th century mining town which 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; it now has around 600 permanent residents. Located at the foot of the Western Sierra Madre in West Jalisco, San Sebastian del Oeste, designated one of Mexico’s Magical Towns, is an hour and a half drive into the hills along winding country roads from Puerto Vallarta. The town is located in a pine forest and the air is crisp and clear.

By 1785 there were 10 gold and silver reduction haciendas and almost 30 mines in the area; the town became a city in 1812 and reached its peak in 1830. The mines stopped working during the 1910 revolution and the foreign companies moved elsewhere. The last mine stopped working in 1921. (

“The mines were, in part, responsible for the start of Puerto Vallarta. Then know as Las Peñas and consisting of just a few huts at the mouth of the Rio Cuale, it was used to supply the mines with salt which was taken by mules up to San Sebastian and other mines in the High Sierras and used in the smelting process. The silver and gold from the mines was sent, again by mule train, through Guadalajara and Mexico City to Veracruz, where it was sent, once a year, to Spain” (from PV Insider website).

Our driver picked us up from our casa at 10 am for our trip up to San Sebastian, and, after passing many mountain bikers panting slowly up the hills,

we stopped for breakfast at a local family restaurant in tiny Estancia to sample home-made quesadillas cooked on a fire in front of us.

Our next stop, just outside the town, was the Hacienda Jalisco, “built 225 years ago by the Spanish to hold and guard the returns of the myriads of mines of San Sebastian, in preparation for shipments to Spain”, as their website explains.

Now a guesthouse, the hacienda has a small museum of artifacts from its mining days on the first floor, as well as old photos of Elizabeth Taylor and John Huston, the luminaries whose presence here in the 1960s really kicked off Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area as a tourist haven.

We strolled around the premises, snuck a look at one of the guest bedrooms, a high-ceilinged room with wooden ceilings and a big stone fireplace, and saw the aquaduct system and the remains of smelting chimneys still standing on the edge of the property.

Avocado trees, bougainvillea, and coffee are all grown here. There is no electricity, evenings are lit by oil lamps and candles, and there’s no telephone, life as it was in the Colonial era.

From the hacienda we made our way into the small town, currently in the process of being modernised, much to the chagrin of the older inhabitants, who are not interested in change.

Innovations such as a new entrance gate, newly paved sidewalks, new brick walls, and an entirely renovated town square, are evidence of the money the Mexican government is putting into its Pueblos Magicos program, designed to encourage and capitalise on tourism.

We had a look at the Hotel del Puente, purchased some churros pastry at a local bakery, then drove up to a local raicilla distillery.

Raicilla, home-grown moonshine, sort of a cross between scotch and tequila, is made from the agave plant, which distillers harvest from the surrounding hills and then process in what is essentially a small home alcohol still, consisting of clay ovens, big blue plastic barrels, copper pipes, and hoses.

Nothing was being cooked this day but I could smell the remnants of previous batches in the air. Home distilleries such as these have to be careful to pour off the first litre of distilled alcohol, since it is pure ethanol and will blind the drinker. Provided that the distiller only makes a certain small amount, this home production is legal.

Back in town, we sampled a draught of raicilla at the only cantina in town, located at one corner of the town square and full of local guys quaffing shrimp micheladas who had ridden in on bicycles and motorcycles.

From there we checked out the town church, the Town Hall with its still-functioning jail and graffiti-scratched walls, a jewelry shop with work by local artisans, and then had some delicious fajitas at a Mexican restaurant around the corner.

Full of fajitas, we then drove to the Quinta Mary coffee plantation, another former hacienda restored to a shadow of its former glory,

with two beautiful African blue parrots in a gigantic metal cage snacking on sunflower seeds,

and finally to the local cemetery, where colourful graves and a gigantic bougainvillea bush rest quietly on a hillside to the accompaniment of cattle lowing in the shade.

The experience of being in this town was a strange one. In a way it felt more like Switzerland than Mexico, with the cool temperatures, the mountains and the white of the buildings against the green hills.

For a town of 600 permanent residents, it has an quite a few restaurants and hotels, testaments to the increasing number of tourists who make their way here on day trips and overnighters. Like that strange Greek island I went to off the coast of Turkey, Castellorizo, this place, too, feels like a stage set, on which people are wandering about waiting for something to happen, something that is just around the corner but that actually never seems to arrive.

See more photos here.

Moroccan Cooking in Mexico

Ty and I joined Nathalie and eight other food lovers to create a wonderful Moroccan dinner, led by clay-cooking Maestra Nathalie, in the kitchen high in the sky above the Art Vallarta studio. Photo below by Debbie Berlin.

Here’s the description from Nathalie’s website:

Food is Art when prepared with heart and soul. We will explore every aspect of la comida international. Down to the vessel it is prepared in, selection of ingredients, how the sauce is stirred and the moments of presentation & enjoyment.

Cooking Classes and Events will be held in an handcrafted Mexican tile ART Kitchen in the Romantic Zone. Puerto Vallarta on the 8th Floor of the San Franciscan complex over looking the fabulous Bay of Vallarta. 213 Calle Pilitas, Emiliano Zapata, half a block off Olas Altas in the heart of the Romantic Zone.

Holy Mole Moroccan Cooking Class – The Menu:

Pomegranate Mint Cocktail

Moroccan Meatballs with dipping sauce

Chicken Almond Bastilla

Dried salted tomatoes, olives, preserved lemons and vegetable fish Tagine

Traditional Vegetable Tagine with Lamb Merguez Sausage and Ras El Hanout spice

Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate Molasses

Rose water and spices steamed couscous grain

Traditional Yogurt Cake, orange blossom ice cream with fruits (Photo below by Debbie Berlin)

Wine, Mint Tea and Coffee

Each of us contributed to making the dinner, from slicing the tomatoes, to grilling the meatballs and chicken, to preparing the fillo pastry, to slicing the fish and preparing the shrimp, to grinding the spices with mortar and pestle.

While we worked the multi-talented Froylan Hernandez serenaded us on his guitar.

All the dishes were cooked on the gas stove-top in clay vessels, including a beautiful tagine made by Froylan, topped with a delightful little ceramic blowfish.

After everything was prepared and cooked, we sat down to dinner on Nathalie’s delightful terrace overlooking Banderas Bay to enjoy the fruits of our labours – fantastic!

See more here.

For more info about Art Vallarta click here.

Ceramics and other Fun in the Sun

While I wait for El Diablo to be dry enough to fire and glaze, I am working on a new creation.  This piece began life as an alien with three eyeballs and five tentacles, inspired by the octopus piece Froylan is helping Andy build.

First El Maestro threw a pot on the wheel which then became the rock on which the octopus sits. Then he and Andy crafted a hollow head for the beast and eight curling tentacles which I greatly admired.

I decided that my alien, too, would have curling tentacles; however, I didn’t have the skill to create as beautiful ones as those on the octopus.

The first two smaller tentacles I adhered in place of eyebrows, while three others were attached below the nose. These ended up looked like moustache whiskers. A further larger couple I initially intended to attach below the mouth but, upon further thought, I decided against it.

After asking me whether my creation was a predator or a vegetarian – vegetarian – Froylan had an idea for the mouth, based on a trumpet fish he’d seen while diving. He crafted me a very nice small mouthpiece on the wheel; subsequently, we decided that one of the smaller tentacles would be best placed coming out of the mouth for feeding purposes.

As I continued to work on the piece, it mutated from an alien into the Vegetarian Sea Santa you see here. The shape of the mask suggested a beard, so I carved wiggly lines into the clay to indicate wavy hair.

Scales were cut into the cheeks and algae into the area around the forehead; if I had time, I’d probably have made the algae hair more three dimensional by attaching separate fronds and leaves. Given that there’s not much time left to complete the piece, that will have to wait for another opportunity.

The other night Ty and I made our way down to the Sea Monkey beach bar to watch the pelicans swim and wait for the sunset.

While there we enjoyed watching a pair of golden long-haired dachshunds play on the sand, running and digging holes.

Other than that, we have drunk cups of coffee at various outdoor cafes – Caffe del Mar, also an art gallery containing the ceramic work of Rodo Padillo and the paintings of Angie McIntosh –  is a good one,

as is A Page in the Sun, a combo bookstore and coffee shop,

played a few games of pool at the Crowbar in our neighbourhood, run by a woman from Chilliwack,

had a few lunches at Mi Cafe, a fantastic spot around the corner from us,

and spent Sunday evening at a potluck film fest put on by Nathalie at Art VallARTa, watching Birdman and Gone Girl, while sampling some spicy chili, pasta salad (made by me from scratch), pizza, and lots of baked goodies – fun!

I really love the colourful streets here, with fabrics of many colours and stripes, beautiful flowers, and vibrantly painted cement buildings.

See more here and here.

From Boca to Colomitos

Ty and I decided to spend the day in Boca de Tomatlan, about 30 minutes by bus south of Puerto Vallarta, a small fishing village which is the jumping off point for water taxis to points further south not accessible by road. After a busy, full bus ride of folks who mostly got off in Mismaloya, we were deposited on the highway near Boca and walked down the cement staircase to the town, accompanied by the sounds of the grader and workers fixing the road into town, obviously from having been washed out in the recent torrential rain storm. Noisy! And hot!

The town itself is unremarkable, a small burg of a few stores, some cement houses, a couple of rental apartments, and lots of baying dogs. The folks you see walking away behind Ty we later saw in Puerto Vallarta with several dogs which they take around every day as volunteer dog walkers for a rescue organisation.

Boca is located on a lovely small bay at the mouth of the Horcones river, in which lots of water taxis and other boats are parked. We saw some beautiful tiny white wading birds with very long legs hunting fish.

Although we hadn’t really planned on it when we set out this morning, we decided to hike around the point to the next beach over, since the noise of the working machinery was unappealing.

I had researched the hike from Boca to Las Animas, a beach further down the coast about halfway between Boca and Yelapa, and we had mused about doing it. Today’s walk, though, was spur of the moment.

After wading across the waterway, we found the trail on the far side of the bay and clambered up onto a cement walkway that passed along beside the houses and rental casitas of the far side of the bay.

Some of the houses along here are enormous, white-painted, and many-leveled, with beautiful flowers. We passed a gigantic Banyan-like tree with a huge canopy of branches and several cement terraces with diving platforms.

The trail then became a bit steep as we climbed up and up into the forest and skirted around the headland. Up along the ridge are several abandoned houses whose shells have been picked clean, possibly by vagrants.

After reaching the top we then carefully made our way down the far side of the ridge to a lovely small, secluded beach called Colomitos.

We were drawn like moths to light by the sign advertising “Beach Club” along the rocky cliff side. However, when we got there, the host told us the place was reservation only and that it was full. No room at the inn for these travellers and no beer to be had at the bar. We could, however, do take out. I bought 2 beers and asked for a bag of ice which the barkeep gave us. Apparently, there are three seatings a day at this place and folks are ferried over by water taxi from Boca. If we had wanted to take a boat back, we could have done so for 50 pesos each.

Once down on the beach and settled into a little patch of shade next to the rocks, I asked a few folks already there about the difficulty of the remainder of the hike to Las Animas and we decided that it was not for us this day – perhaps mas tarde.

We enjoyed our beers and the visit of a gigantic black Great Dane named Wilson. After an hour or so, we decided against the boat back and trudged our way back to Boca along the trail again. Then walk back was significantly easier than coming, with the exception of the steep hike back up the hill from the beach.

Being thirsty and a bit tired, we plopped ourselves down on Boca’s beach under an umbrella and toasted the afternoon with coronas and french fries before grabbing the bus back again. Good Times!

See a few more pics here.

More info about this hike and other beaches in the area surrounding PV here.

More info about Boca itself and the surrounding area here.

Centro Art Walking

Here I am wearing the approved art opening outfit, on the foot bridge over the Rio Cuale on the way to Angeline Kyba’s art studio opening in Gringo Gultch. Her place is the last house on the street that runs right along the river and has a commanding view out over the town and mountains south of it.

There are many beautiful houses, and especially beautiful bougainvilleas, in this part of the world.

The studio is accessed up a fairly long, steep set of stairs to the top floor. Below is a photo of the artist.

After spending a bit of time inhaling the ambience, we headed back down the road to Centro for the Wednesday night Art Walk in the area past the main Cathedral.

I really love photographing the Cathedral, but its odd location makes it difficult. Unlike other cities here, in which the main Cathedrals are situated in expansive plazas, PV’s is off on a side street in a position that hides it from being seen in its totality.

We passed an interesting looking restaurant/ bar on the way and so stopped in for a glass of vino on the balcony. Florio’s is its name and it also has a lovely little brightly-decorated patio in the back.

Our first stop, just around the corner, is a new artists collective gallery operated by a woman from Vancouver, Nina I think is her name. I really like the painted wood free-standing devils and masks from Oaxaca made of wood and boar’s bristles. Fabulous! Now that I am a ceramicist (ha!) (not), I can really appreciate the skill that it takes to make these pieces.

Galeria Corsica, billed as containing “museum quality fine art”, was next on the route. This place, on several levels, occupies the former house of a famous old-time Puerto Vallarta artist.

It has a lovely sculpture courtyard, which looked beautiful in the light of the early evening.

Kitty-corner to the Corsica is the Galeria des Artistes (at least I think that’s the name), which had an interesting juxtaposition of abstract steel sculpture and semi-surrealist painting.

Ty always manages to find a good place to sit while indulging me in my art fetish.

One of the galleries that I find most interesting is the Galerie Omar Alonso; it often has good installation and contemporary sculpture.

This night they were setting up the work of Ireri Topete, the printmaking maestra I met last year. She runs the studio on Isla Cuale. Her beautiful mixed media works on paper deal with the environment and the sea and sky scapes of Puerto Vallarta.

Galerie Whitlow features the work of Michael Whitlow, a realist painter of still lifes.

Calle Aldama was partially blocked off for a piano recital by local teenagers, presided over by the ubiquitous skeletons found around here.

The Pacifico was one of the more crowded spaces, possibly because the drinks and nibblies are more lavish here than in some places.

This puppy dog, exhausted from a strenuous art day, could barely move to acknowledge visitors.

See more here. More information about the art walk can be found here.

El Diablo Rises

Another day, another beautiful walk to Art VallARTa to continue my work on El Diablo.

The devil was covered in a plastic bag overnight to be kept flexible for further operations this morning. The first order of business was to add a protruding chin to the face, using a separate piece of clay which was then massaged into the correct shape.

I cut lines into the forehead to prepare the surface for eyebrows. After rolling out two small amounts of clay to the correct size, the eyebrows were attached and Froyland helped me to shape and mold them.

We added lines to indicate the brow and wrinkles between the eyes.

El Maestro seems to have been pleased so far!

The next step was to affix the horns; first small holes had to be pierced in the temples of the mask, then the horns attached with slip.

Froyland demonstrated how to attach the horns, holding the mask so that it would not crack as the heavy material was added. I also added cheekbones.

So far, so good. Froyland is working on a couple of vessels featuring imaginary undersea creatures.

As we were working, others continued with their projects, scarves and silk paintings and glazing ceramics.

Since the devil is a master of the art of temptation, Froyland thought that he needed a cigarette …

Small towers of clay were placed under the horns to support them as I worked on the finishing details of El Diablo’s face.


The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I really enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. These pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

Greetings from Puerto Vallarta!

After a 2:30 am wake-up for trip to the airport, Ty and I were out on the sidewalk at 3:20 waiting for our pre-booked-the-night-before yellow cab; as time ticked past and still the taxi did not appear, we were starting to get very anxious. A passing driver, seeing me pacing along the sidewalk, had the presence of mind to realise that we were waiting for a ride that hadn’t come, picked us up and whisked us off for an on-time the Air Canada desk for our early morning departure.


We are staying in the Zona Romantica, Old Town Puerto Vallarta, in a great local neighbourhood right next to the river and the Cuale Cultural Center. “Our” street, Aquiles Serdan, is one of the only streets in the old city on which the great rumbling buses do not run, so it is quieter than other areas.

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That it not to say that it is quiet, though; since we are in a typical Mexican neighbourhood, we are treated to the sounds of loud TV shows emanating from the neighbours’ apartments, the yells and car honks of the passing gas man, the cries of the water vendor, the barking of the many dogs, and the strenuous crowing and cock-a-doodle-doing of the next door rooster. We have not yet had a night of uninterrupted sleep but perhaps it will happen as we get used to the various noises of the city.


Our studio apartment is on the second floor of a small three storey building; it is cute and clean, with a couple of large easy chairs, the tiniest ever wall-mounted flat screen TV (which I don’t watch) and a very hard bed. The kitchen is fully-equipped with everything we need to cook our usual fare. On the roof is a shared deck with a table and four worse for wear leather bucket chairs which offers nice views out over the neighbourhood. Just across the street, on the neighbour’s rooftop, is a very funny small black dog who patrols the deck, rushing to and fro barking at anyone who comes along the street, a very officious beast.

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In this area are many small tiendas, bars, local eateries and food stalls, including our favourite roast chicken stand, and the farmers market, with several butchers and vegetable and fruit vendors. We are slowly easing into the daily life here and really enjoying getting to know the area. It is a balmy 25 degrees with a gentle breeze most days – yippee!

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Hasta Luego, Puerto Vallarta!

Well, we are back in Vancouver after a wonderful trip, luckily to some beautiful sunny, albeit cold, weather. Here are some photos and thoughts from our last couple of days in and around Puerto Vallarta.

The beach vendors have a tough job, trying to sell stuff to vacationers who, in many cases, have been here many times and already have all the trinkets and Mexican clothing they want. These pictures are from Playa de los Camarones just past the north end of the Malecon.

These black and yellow birds are beautiful.

This little guy hopped up onto my umbrella just as I was trying to take another picture of him.

The banana boat didn’t see much action in these parts but this day a group of young men decided to give it a go. With the high waves, it was a bit difficult for the operators to get the banana to the beach so that they could jump on.

Coming back in after the ride was tricky, too; the waves were still high, some of them couldn’t swim, and one of the beach folks had to go out on the paddle board and bring them in.

This sculpture of sea gods near Rosita’s Hotel is a favourite roosting place for the pelicans that hang around here.

Pelicans are large! And have attitude in keeping with their size. This beast, who obviously considered this patch of sidewalk his turf, gave Ty a run for his money, coming after us with his beak open.

These two, dressed all in black under a black umbrella, were an interesting sight on the beach.

We took one last stroll down the Malecon to admire the sculptures and the roof top line-up of chubby aging rock gods.

Feeling the need for something cold after a hard day on the beach, we stopped in at Da Vino Dante, the wine and tapas bar upstairs from Gallery Dante – great spot!

Our very last day was spent at Swell Beach Bar on Playa Los Muertos; everyone was commenting on the condition of the beach; just as we saw elsewhere in the world, rising sea levels are eroding the playa here, leaving a smaller expanse of sand and an abrupt tide’s edge cliff of sand.

On our way back to the ranch the Pope blessed us from his balcony.

Last supper at the Blue Shrimp on the beach was just OK in terms of food but the guitarist, a Gypsy King’s tribute artist, was fantastic.

Micro dogs!

Coronas with ice!

Cemetery sculpture!



Colourful paintings!


Tiny parrots!

Big pelicans!

Sayonara, PV – Hasta Luego!

See more photos here.

Centro Art Walkin’

Every Wednesday night in Centro an Art Walk happens from 6 until 10 in the evening. Good ol’ Ty humours me by indulging my mania for both art and walking; rather than going home from the beach after an afternoon’s strenuous lounging we headed straight downtown for the walk, with only the briefest of pauses to flag down the donut man  and scarf down two huge donuts for sustenance.

The dozen or so art walk galleries are found just north of the main church and east of the  Malecon. Helping to encourage folks to come out are the small glasses of vino served by each, the better to attract eager, and thirsty, art patrons. We began our art journey at the Peyote People gallery of folk art, mostly from Oaxaca and Chiapas, where the attendant showed us some Catrina skeletons, full torso female figures in fancy clothing designed to mock the pretensions of the rich, who, like everyone else, irrespective of their wealth, end up as bones. We also saw some incredibly intricate beaded skulls with tiny insects atop them – really fabulous.

From there we pounded the pavement to the galleries further north, stopping at a cluster of three selling beautifully decorated ceramics and the Loft Gallery, a three storey emporium of mostly realist painting. It had a wonderful view out over the rooftops of PV and the setting sun. Around the corner was Galeria Uno, packed with art lovers consuming tiny margaritas. Ty lurked in the shadows, practising his best travelling incognito mode.

A few blocks farther north are five of what I consider to be the most interesting spaces, Gallery Corsica, Gallery Omar Alonzo, Gallery Pacifica, Galeria des Artistes, and La Pulga, all of which have wonderful architecture and good art, especially the sculpture.

I particularly enjoyed the mixed media portraits at Omar Alonzo by Rogelio Mango, which incorporate silk and oil paint.

After a few hours of dedicated art viewing, hunger overcame us, necessitating a hasty hike to Old Town and grilled shrimp at a packed Joe Jack’s Fish Shack.

See more Art Walk photos here.

I really love walking around the old town area and Isla Cuale is one of my favorite spots. Oscar’s restaurant near the beach has a second floor gallery that right now is showing portraits of Indigenous people by local artist Marta Gilbert. At the studios on the other end of the island, I ran into (not literally) one of the artist patrons of Barclay Manor in the West End, Tavia, who looked very startled to see me. I think it was the hat that did it. She, and lots of others, both locals and visitors, was painting up a storm under guidance of maestro Hector.

Yesterday we decided to spend our beach day at Conchas Chinas Beach, the next bay south of Los Muertos where we usually go. It is accessed by a path that runs along the high tide line at the beach’s edge, over a rocky point and along the waterfront homes south of here.

We did not make it all the way but chose to set up our stuff in the shade of a rocky outcrop between two small rocky bays.

The current is very strong here and the waves high; we had to relocate from our first spot because the waves inundated it.

Just after we had been  talking about what we would do if someone got into trouble in the water, it happened. An older man had decided to go out swimming in this very dangerous place and couldn’t get back in; the current was dragging him out to sea. It became quickly apparent that he needed help and his wife was rushing back and forth on the beach, trying to call for help on her cell phone. Two young tourist guys just happened to be there, saw what was happening, and saved him by running up to a nearby hotel, grabbing a life preserver, swimming out to him, putting it on him, and towing him back in to the thunderous applause of everyone watching from the shore. Lucky man.

See more photos here.