Puerto Vallarta: La Vida es Buena

Anka gave me this great picture of Ty and I walking down the road away from Boca de Tomates. For some reason I am reminded of Dorothy and Toto on the yellow brick road …

On a recent cloudless, sunny Monday afternoon I joined about 50 others on the grass at Oscar’s on Isla Cuale to participate in the ZuBaYoReDa fundraiser for the Las Animas trails, organised by Barb, Sharon, and Bobbi, local yogis and hikers.

We enjoyed an afternoon of Zumba, Barre, Yoga Dance and Restorative Yoga, followed by margaritas and dancing to DJ Isaac on the top deck at Oscar’s. In the image above you can see my pal Angie (blonde ponytail) shaking it in the yoga dance.

In the picture above, in the red shirt, you can see Dr Bob, my 80 year old fitness hero, dancing with Jessi, our new zumba teacher.

Tuesday’s walk from Quimixto to Las Animas, the last such walk for the season, was very enjoyable but our usually relaxing lunchtime session was a bust, as I’ll describe below.

Quimixto is a small immaculate village, always well-swept and clean.

Our route takes us through the village proper, across the elementary school grounds, and along the ocean. As an aside, once the village kids reach high school age they must travel by panga to Boca for their education, 50 pesos each way, a sum that means some children quit school at grade 7. The lucky ones boat back and forth each day, wearing life-jackets, the only life-jackets we ever see on the boats here, except when a dignitary is in town and the police are checking.

It’s interesting that the sand here is so white, in contrast with the dark grey sand at Boca de Tomates in the north. While this beach seems caribbean, Boca de Tomates is more like the west coast of Vancouver Island.

After a walk of about an hour and fifteen minutes myself and mi amigos Pam, Cec, and Eve rolled into our usual restaurant for a cold towel, beer, and lunch.

As we were sitting sipping our first beers, we saw a panga pull up with a brass band. It seemed a little odd but didn’t really register as meaning much to us – wrong! The band, a 10 piece group complete with drum set, bass drum, three trumpets, clarinets, a tuba, and a singer, set up right next to our group. Hired by some locals celebrating a birthday, they played at ear-splitting decibels the most horrendous off-key Latin band music, complete with the screaches and scratches of equipment feedback, also at a billion decibels. As as added bonus, the lead singer couldn’t carry a tune.

I could not continue to sit at the table to eat while they were playing so took my meal to a waterside lounger. The worst band in the world eventually chased all of us out of the restaurant and onto the beach to get away from the noise.

To top it off, only one of our six tables had received any food after being there two and a half hours. So we paid our drink bills and bailed – not sure whether we’ll be going back to that restaurant or not.

Another day, another hike – this time from Las Animas to Quimixto, once again on a lovely clear, sunny day at a relaxed pace with Anka and Eve.

The bay here is so beautiful and I love being on the water. Today’s panga travelled at a very sedate pace with its 11 passengers and the sea was calm so I really enjoyed the ride.

Our two boats disgorged 24 people onto the beach at Las Animas for the hike to Quimixto early enough in the day that only one guy with iguana was visible on the beach. (Usually there are at least three men with various sizes of lizard importuning people for pictures).

The path travels up from the beach and through the jungle where new hand railings have been installed, thanks to our fundraising contributions.

The water along the coast here is a glorious emerald green-blue – we wondered what causes this colour.

An easier hike than Boca to Las Animas, the trail is nevertheless steep and narrow in parts, as well as a bit slippery due to its sandyness. As we came down one of the switchbacks to the beach, a burro and rider passed us heading up the trail.

This is such a pretty spot; most of our group relaxed and had lunch, while a more active contingent hiked to the inland waterfall and back.

Today for the first time the beach restaurant in the village was open, with crowds from two tour boats on hand.

Upon our return, I passed this fountain near our place and watched for quite a while as a whole series of different species of bird enjoyed bath time.

Rob and Angie are celebrating their wedding anniversary so we decided to spend a day at Los Arroyos Verdes, an eco-resort near Bucerias, about an hour by bus north of Vallarta. We were really lucky with all our bus connections and arrived at the resort around 10 in the morning for a day of lounging poolside.

This place is spread over several lush acres and was built ten years ago by Guadalupe, the Mexican proprietor, an architect, designer, sail manufacturer, and award winning sailor – a woman of many talents indeed. Apparently she helicoptered in many full-grown, full-sized palm trees for the gardens.

The pool area is beautiful: on one side is an area of lush grass and vegetation, on another a restaurant, and on another a patio with loungers, as well as a herb garden and outdoor seating area outside the kitchen.

In the middle of the pool is an island of loungers and seating areas. And spread around the rest of the estate are 32 casitas of various sizes for short and long-term guests. The beehive structure below is for indigenous spiritual ceremonies that take place here periodically.

Luckily we staked out our poolside loungers as soon as we got here because the place filled up pretty quickly with Sunday day-trippers like us.

Here’s a picture of some of the casitas, one and two bedroom townhouses set in beautiful gardens of cacti and indigenous plants.

As you can see from the photo above, many of the cacti here are enormous.

The complex even has a huge dedicated art-making area, as well as several BBQ areas and a pickleball court.

Sunday is a great day to go because they have live music; this day it was the flamenco guitarist Esau, another guitarist from Tatewari and a wonderful singer with a great voice.

While listening to the music, all of us also enjoyed swimming in the huge pool, large enough to do many laps – I loved it! My first time in a pool this year.

Ty really enjoyed his time floating; however, sometimes good things need to be paid for and the next day, he had a sunburned torso and had to stay out of the sun.

At the end of the day we had the taxi drop us off at the Bucerias Beach, packed with local families enjoying their day off – it was still screaming hot at 6:30 at we walked along the beach.

A guy flew overhead in his own personal flying craft, comprising a sail and engine strapped on his back.

After a nice walk along the beach and up the hill, we caught our bus within a few minutes for the hour-long ride back to town, and even got seats – huzzah! Sunday night it was hopping at the square, with a huge crowd at the arches and dancing in the square – living la vida buena!

Here are a few random photos of us out and about, below at La Carretta Beach Bar.

Below at the Cenduria Celia, a local eatery in the barrio where Ty, to his delight, got an enormous chicken breast, with all the sides, for about $4.50.

At the Babel Bar for their second anniversary celebration (we didn’t actually sit inside because the restaurant was full but we enjoyed the music from a bench in the park).

That same evening the Vallarta Cultural Centre had an exhibition of its students’ work, as well as a film presentation.

On the malecon day and night

A stroll from Old Town down to the Mega to get our favourite caramel donuts, stopping for coffee and cervesas.

In between the Sharaton Buganvilias and the Mega there is still a large area of no-man’s-land, occuped only by a big flock of quail-like birds that I’ve never seen before, enjoying the ponds underneath the three palm trees that grace this strip of land.

In another undeveloped parcel a goatherd and two goats occupy a prime piece of beachfront acreage.

The sunsets are spectacular and a large group of sunset afficionados cluster at the end of our street each evening to watch the glowing orb sink into the sea.

We can relive the glory days of 1980s disco and John Travolta and the Bee Gees in their heday every night at this bar on the malecon, via their TV screens, still stayin’ alive after all these years.

We never know what we’ll see in the amphitheatre at the Arches – tonight it was a Zumba special and a blue clown blowing up balloon animals.

The pirate ship plys the waters of the bay every evening, carrying revelers out to sea, while farting out a few blasts of fireworks periodically.

Art Vallarta has a new show of mixed media art, featuring works in a dizzying array of mediums, as well as a workshop on felting in the downstairs cool room.

See more here and here.

Beaches, beaches, and more beaches … and art

We just can’t get enough of Boca de Tomatlan, apparently, the small fishing village 30 minutes south of Vallarta by bus. Last Friday a group of 32 of us took a panga to Las Animas from Boca and walked back across the beaches to Mariaka, an ocean-front resort on an isolated strip of land which has a yoga platform on the beach.

Barb led the group in a lovely 75 minute restorative yoga class, after which we had lunch at the resort.

As we practiced, we saw several whales breaching in the bay (I also saw a manta ray at the dock in Boca, with a school of small fish swimming beneath in its shadow). A young woman was posing for her boyfriend’s camera on the beach, doing a pole dance routine, when the pole came crashing down onto the rocks you can see in the middle of the picture below, along with her. Miraculously she wasn’t badly hurt – it could have been much, much worse!

After taking a boat back to Boca, we clambered onto one of the rickety old buses, only to find after 15 minutes of waiting, that it was out of gas. Unfortunately, there was also a small red car double-parked next to it, so when the next bus came along it could not get through. So this bus, onto which clambered everyone from the first bus, had to back up onto the highway and attempt to turn around in the middle of the street, while all the cars, impatient to get going, whizzed past it without stopping.

Jill’s sister Gail and her partner Stu, in town for a week to celebrate their mother’s birthday, joined Ty and I for the Tuesday Las Animas hike and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, amazed at the lushness of the vegetation and the remoteness of the beaches.

On the long strip of sand between Maraika and Las Animas, once again the beautiful solitary white egret was there to greet us as we walked past.

This day we did stay for Langostino’s happy hour, joining the happy throng of imbibers for a margarita.

Our plein air painting group decided to head upriver on Wednesday to Moro Paraiso, the last restaurant on the way up the Cuale River towards the mountain top. I had forgotten a key bit of information about this place when I suggested painting here for the day – it is the favoured destination of all the ATVers who roar up and down the mountain. This being the case, our idyllic nature spot was somewhat noisy rather than blissfully quiet.

Two hiking groups also decided to descend on Moro this afternoon as well, so the BBQ was going full steam ahead.

Even given these mild distractions, we were still able to complete our work, as you can see,

Pam, Cec, and Beatrice joined Jill’s family and us for the centro art walk on an overcast, somewhat rainy evening, weather which kept some art-lovers home. At Galeria Corsica the white grand piano was silent this night.

At Galeria des Artistes I was able to get some close-up photos of the contorted figurative sculptures on display. I hadn’t realised until now that the Eve figure had large buck teeth – that was a bit of a surprise!

A recent addition to the gallery ecosphere – can’t remember its name – has large parotta wood tables with resin inserts that look like agates.

At Mann Made Mexico (below): Jill has a fantastic app on her new phone that she was trying out on the various objects d’art.

We joined Jill’s group for a dinner at the Merida Grill, a relatively new and cavernous venue that specialises in Yucatecan cuisine – this fellow was making salsa right in front of us.

Valentine’s Day at Los Muertos beach in Vallarta is lots of fun, with many people dressing up and decorating their beach umbrellas. Below, John, a hiking friend from the Prairies, shows his heart.

We joined Barb’s hiking group on a Friday to hit the trail from Las Animas to Cocos, on the beach at Quimixto, after a panga ride down the bay.

Barb is spearheading a fundraising drive to take care of these trails and spends a lot of time directing the repairs and purchasing supplies to keep the paths safe.

Cocos is the ony beach bar here at Quimixto, on a pristine strip of sand north of the pier.

After lunch a 15 minute walk through the village takes us to the pier for the panga back to Boca and home.

We joined Rob and Angie on the beach at Rythmns beach club and later a group of us had dinner at CCs, planning to hear Media Luna who were scheduled to play but unfortunately weren’t there – too bad!

An evening stoll along the Malecon and watching the vendors at work – this fellow was making oil paintings on tile of Vallarta scenes with his hands, much to the intense interest of the two young people in the front row.

The Lazaro Cardenas mural project is proceeding – in the not-too-distant future every cement surface in the park will be covered with shimmering glass and tile.

We do very occasionally have overcast days here and on the last one Ty, Rob, Eve, and I hiked up to the cross.

As you can see we did get caught in a bit of a downpour.

Having decided to go to Babel Bar to hear Esau and Lobo, we took a different route down the hill past Casa Kimberley and it really started to pour just before we reached the sanctuary of the restaurant. The birds loved it, though, especially the egrets fishing in the river.

These musicians, flamenco guitarists, are fantastic: Lobo, the elder, was the teacher of Esau, who knocked on his door at age 8 asking for lessons. When the rain stopped we took in the second set from a great vantage point on the stage. Babel Bar has really taken off this year, packed to the gills with happy music lovers every day.

A few weeks back Eve had gone on a bike ride with Rip Rupinski’s group out to Boca de Tomates, a beautiful undeveloped local beach north of the airport. Having enjoyed the day, she led a small group of us out that way on a recent somewhat overcast day perfect for walking.

It’s pretty easy to get there by airport bus; we hopped off at the Pemex station just before the airport and walked past the American School, through a Marina Vallarta neighbourhood, along the golf course next to the Bayview Grand, out onto the beach then north to the beach restaurants near the lagoon. A large concrete wall along Albatross Street has been covered with beautiful murals almost all the way along.

Just after I took a photo of this mural, instead of stopping and looking where I was going, I started walking again right away, tripped over a raised sidewalk block, and went down hard, leaving a big patch of road rash on my left arm (reminders of skating days past!) Ty administered first aid and all is well; I just felt like someone had pummelled me all night long for a few days. Note to self: be more careful!

As you can see, the beach here is quite undeveloped; the chain link fence on the right fences off the airport runway and the planes take off right overhead. Below is a photo of Puerto Vallarta in the distance.

Along the way, heading north, we passed the turtle release station; although we didn’t see any turtles this day, we were greeted by a guard
Chihuahua in his winter sweater.

There was almost no-one on this stretch of beach this day, only a few walkers and a couple of people consuming cervesas. We had a delicious zarandeado BBQ’d Red Snapper, picked out by Eve and grilled over a large brick oven out back.

After our delicious fish feast we were surprised with a bottle of very smooth tequila, courtesy of the house – saludos!

Rather than walking back along the beach the way we had come, we decided to take the road inland past the crocodile sanctuary.

In this area are the remaining remnants of a huge mangrove forest that once covered the ground here. Some of the trees are host to gigantic termite nests.

Since it was a bit of a colder day, the 16 crocodiles that I could see were very quiet, barely moving, but thankfully behind a high chain link fence.

Just past the crocodiles we walked through a grove of enormous hardwood parotta trees, the favored wood for furniture here because it resists termite destruction.

Several properties along this road are for sale, including a large hacienda and horse ranch. We stopped to greet a beautiful horse here.

A couple of days later, and with more sun, we did the walk agan with Eve, Anka, Pam and Cec,

We saw a couple of local guys fishing with a circular net; they did not catch much, mostly small fry, some tiny manta rays, and a large blowfish. I was happy to see that the guys threw back the small rays and the blowfish to live another day.

We walked further north on the beach, past a cluster of local beach houses, to a lagoon with lots of bird life. We saw this guy perched and speculated that it might be a turkey vulture, but upon consulting the oracle, discovered that it was a male frigate bird with a deflated red whattle. During breeding season the whattle can be inflated to large dimensions to attract a mate.

Eve, Pam, Cec, and I walked to the croc sanctuary and, once again, there was little action until one of the giant beasts opened its mouth all the way to show us his teeth – at that, it was time to skedaddle!

Finally, for this report, here are a few photos from my most recent plein air painting day at the main square in Vallarta.

I was surprised to see that a couple of my colleagues were using me as a model!

Angie was kind enough to let me use her oil paints and supplies so that I could give that a whirl. I was pretty happy with the results and gave this painting to the guys who manage our apartment here.

See more photos here and here.

Puerto Vallarta This and That

Halleluiah! I guess enough people must have complained about the internet again that a technician has come over and rebooted the router and reconfigured the network. I now have internet again on my laptop, for who knows how long. The mixed media class continues to be good and people are producing some really interesting collage works. Above is a piece by Jan that has a dream-like 1001 Nights vibe. Below is a piece celebrating Candace’s love of the natural environment in Ontario, using decalomania, stenciling, collage, and acrylic paint.

Margie went quite abstract, using frottage rubbings from around the Art Vallarta building, stamping, collage and acrylic paint on plywood.

The linocut saw four happy printmakers making small 6 x 6 inch blocks which we then printed in black – everyone was pretty pleased by the results, and surprised that they came out so well after a bit of a struggle with the cutting. Luckily we did have a sharpening stone which helped since each of the tools needed frequent sharpening.

I really love the mixed media class, seeing the different ways in which each person engages with the varied materials. It’s really fun and no two are every even remotely the same.

Candace, who loved her first piece, struggled a bit with this one but I think it has great potential – putting the horns on the angel figure in the centre was a revelation – I hope she completes it.

We had very big waves again last week and many small sandpipers were playing in the waves near the mouth of the river Cuale and trying to catch a meal.

Pam, Cec, Beatrice, Joyce, Ty & I went to see the Tribute to Leonard Cohen show at the Boutique Theatre, a 2 person special with a guitarist and a Broadway actor. While I did enjoy it, I didn’t love the show and thought the lead actor was channelling the Fiddler on the Roof through Leonard. But the majority of the crowd obviously disagreed, giving the principals a standing ovation.

There are so many great places in Vallarta to hear live music and Cuates & Cuetes, to the right of the pier, is a favoured venue. Along with inside seating, the restaurant also has tables on the sand, giving patrons an openair experience.

We’ve seen several bands here, including an unnamed reggae band (below), Tatewari, a 4 person flamenco guitar group, Liliana and her jazz band, and crowd favourites, latin band Media Luna.

Media Luna always packs the house; when no seats are available inside, the overflow crowd stands on the sidewalk outside enjoying the fiery sounds.

Media Luna plays a few different venues; in addition to CCs, they also appear at the Babel Bar on Sunday afternoons. After a Conchas Chinas walk, Ty and I wanted to hear them, but didn’t realise that all the seats would be taken long before our arrival. So we improvised, carrying a plastic seating bench over to an unused rickety table in the restaurant’s spacious outside serving area to make our own spot behind the band. In the photo below you can see Ty behind a tree on the right.

Even the iguanas are music-loving here; below you can see one trying to sneak into the venue to have a listen.

There have been some spectacular sunsets lately, when clouds arrive at the end of the day and frame the bay and boats.

Since we are in such a great location right near the Malecon, we often take an evening stroll past the vendors and watch all the action oceanfront.

I made the ultimate sacrifice for Ty on Super Bowl Sunday, spending 6 hours at Steve’s Sports Bar (had to get there early to get a seat) watching the pre-game interviews and the game itelf with the roars of the bar crowd ringing in my ears as each team scored.

Jill and family have converged on Vallarta from far corners of the earth and we had a lovely dinner with them at Gaby’s in Centro on its outdoor patio.

For the first few days of her visit, Jill splurged and stayed at the Hacienda San Angel, a wonderful hotel in Gringo Gultch, on the hill with a beautiful view out over the city and the cathderal below.

After dinner we explored the public areas in the main hotel area, with lots of illuminated statuary, greenery and two pools, one outdoor and one indoor, both decorated with sculpture and fountains.

The hotel’s owner has brought in all the sculpture from various places around the globe and created a beautiful oasis here.

Every Saturday market day sees local favourite Rambo dancing along to the tunes of whoever happens to be playing on the main stage; this day it was Kim Kuzma, a songstress from Vancouver playing Tuesday nights at the Palm Cabaret.

This day, at the small stage, the Cheko Ruiz Band serenaded the crowd; below you can see that the drummer’s young daughter is already learning the musical ropes.

My well-dressed French Canadian zumba friend is often dancing to the band’s music wherever they happen to be playing.

Some days you just have to have Dee’s coffee …

Angie and Rob joined us for an evening of dining and walking and rainbow colours. I really love all the colour in this town!

Another Sunday, another Conchas Chinas walk with Eve and her housemate Anka.

I enjoy seeing the birdlife here, especially the pelicans which frequent the coast, diving for food.

On the way back from the Lindo Mar hotel, the endpoint of our walk, we picked up Rob who was also out for a stroll.

Along this stretch of beach there are many old Mexican mansions, in some spots dwarfed by the new towers being erected.

This past Tuesday’s hike, rather than doing the usual route, we took a panga to Quimixto with one half of the group and walked back on a shorter and easier route along the coast.

After docking at Quimixto bay, the route takes us through the village, across the school playing field, and across the river that opens out into the sea here.

Charlie is carrying Dutch the poodle here because the village dogs always take offense to a stranger coming into their territory and race out to challenge any other dogs.

Along the way are several resorts, one an eco-facility with a beachside pool and a beehive-shaped rock structure, possibly a steam room.

After travelling along the beach for a while, the path takes us up several sandy switchbacks and higher up along the coast.

Below the end is in sight; Las Animas can be seen in the distance.

The burro Ty rescued from the sun last year was here still, this time in enough shade that he seemed to be more comfortable.

This day the clouds rolled in in the later afternoon, giving a silver glow to the day. The ride back was a bit bumpy, especially through the area surrounding Los Arcos.

I have been spending Wednesdays with the plein air painting group and this past Wednesday Angie had arranged for us to paint on the deck of her friend Marisela’s waterfront home at Boca de Tomatlan. On our walk through the village we saw the fishermen gutting fish as the birds waited more or less patiently for their portion.

Marisela’s family has one cat and three dogs, all of whom joined us on the deck.

As we were painting, Robert Masla, an American artist and the owner of a villa right nearby that offers art vacations, came down and checked out what we were up to. Angie, in addition to working on her own painting, was giving a lesson to first-time painters Marisela and her sister Hortencia.

Paulette, below, and Bart in the distance worked on small oil sketches of the trees fronting the harbour.

Most people seemed pleased with their efforts. It was a lovely place to work, with lots of room and shade.

On the way back we stopped in at Robert’s villa and checked out the watercolour workshop going on on his top deck, led by a well-known American painter. He is very well set up, with many tables and two demo areas, one with a gigantic mirror overhead so that students can see the demos clearly.

Dan and Donna organised a Friday outing to Yelapa, the furthest village on the south edge of Banderas Bay, about 35 minutes from Boca by boat in choppy seas. One of the boat “men” was this young fellow at the prow – we wondered why he wasn’t in school.

Because of the big swells it was a bit tricky getting onto the pier; here RA helps Pam up the stairs.

We had a delicious seafood lunch at Beto’s place, after which he led the group through the village to the town waterfall about 40 minutes away.

As we rolled up through the concrete walking paths hillside, we stopped to look at a mural depicting some of the local Yelapa slang.

Walking through Yelapa reminded me quite a bit of Monterosso, one of the villages in Italy’s Cinqueterra, a series of 5 fishing villages along the north west coast that we walked many moons ago. But this village of 2,000 is smaller, with only ATVs and donkeys for transport and no ATMs for cash – bring as much as you’ll need for any visit.

The waterfall area was cool, green, and breezy, a nice oasis away from the heat of the beach.

Upon our return from Yelapa, I did get in a bit of an art shuffle and listened to the mariachi band performing in the park.

Ty & I enjoyed the hospitality of Jill’s family at their Conchas China villa, a great place right on the water with a beautiful large pool.

See more pics here and here.

On the Move in Puerto Vallarta

Larry and Fran’s last night and Barb’s first (a few weeks back – we have such crappy internet at our hotel that it has been a real trial trying to update this blog), we went for dinner to Nathalie’s new restaurant with her guy, Chef Ruben, and enjoyed a very tasty Greek dinner, a treat after all the Mexican food.

Friend Angie was kind enough to let me come over to her place and use her internet a couple of times. She and Rob have a very cute place on the pool deck of the Villa Santa Barbara, the view from which you can see below – nice and breezy. Here Angie is standing in her main floor studio, crammed to the rafters with all her lastest paintings.

Pam, Cec, and Beatrice are staying in a fabulous suite in Selva Romantica, a definitely far step up from our place. We have had a couple of lovely meals on their terrace, a beautiful leafy oasis.

Ty prepared a wonderful prime rib dinner at their place, since these folks have an oven, a rarity here. We purchased it from the butcher at the Emiliano Zapata Market, using google images of prime rib roasts to show the butcher what we wanted. Here Ty and Sous-chef Cecil express their approval of the roast.

After dinner one night at Warique just down the street from our place, we posed in front of this modernistic mural on the outside of one of the new condo tours that overlooks the restaurant’s back patio.

At the Saturday market, we saw this trio of tiny Chihuahua dogs in a carriage.

Barb, Eve, Ty, and I had a sunny Saturday walk up to El Rio BBQ, a riverside restaurant up the river from Vallarta, in Paso Ancho, a local suburb. We saw a colourful owl towel hanging on a clothesline outside one of the houses, and posed in front of it for Christine, a friend who loves owls.

There are several bridges crossing the River Cuale along the way, including this covered beauty between Colonia Remance and Colonia Beunos Aires.

After a walk of about 45 minutes we arrived at the restaurant and watched local kids play and swim in the river. It was pretty tempting to go in but I resisted the temptation since I had not brought my bathing suit.

The El Rio has live music every day from 4 to 7; this day the band was a reggae group.

We ordered the full rib rack which fed the four of us (I have to say, though, that it was not my meat cup of tea). After our meal Barb and Eve enjoyed dancing on the stage with other afficionados.

Since it’s Amercian football season, Ty has been taking the opportunity to watch a few games. We saw one of the SuperBowl semi-finals at Los Muertos Brewing Company from a primo seat on the second floor balcony. As you can see, Ty is focused mightily on the game in the photo below.

With the super blood wolf moon a couple of weeks back, Vallarta had super high tides that swamped the malecon and flooded the main floors of many of the ocean front restaurants. It was amazing to see the extremely high tides and gigantic waves washing onto the boardwalk.

The large colourful Puerto Vallarta sign, in front of which tourists have their pictures taken, has been moved in further away from the ocean.

While Barb was here, the four of us walked a lot, including up to the cross again, one of our local favourites.

The view from above is really spectacular.

For a special treat we headed up to the Sky Bar, on top of one of the new condo towers in Old Town, for Happy Hour from 5:30 to 8. The hotel has a lovely infinity pool and several very comfortable areas to relax while quaffing a beverage.

From this end of the roof top we could see Nathalie’s top terrace at Art Vallarta.

Below you can see us at our favourite taco stand; we sample the delights here about once a week. I always have a small taco and Ty has a quesadilla. When it comes time to pay for the food, Ty can never remember the name of his dish and inevitably says it was an enchilada, to which the proprietor always responds in Spanish, “We don’t serve enchiladas” … a bit of a comedy routine.

Eve, Barb, Pam, and Cec joined us on our most recent Tuesday hike, walking with 40 others on the trail to Las Animas. It was a beautiful day to walk, with many small boats in the Boca harbour.


While a number of our group race off immediately down the trail trying to beat their previous time, we strike a more leisurely pace.

This past week the tide was lower as we crossed the Colomitas Bay, so we did not have to race up onto the rocks to avoid getting our shoes soaked. Ty helped each of the walkers up onto the rocky steps on the other side of the bay.

Many of the walkers have been fundraising to repair the trail from rainy season damage and this week we noticed many new handrails and the signs adorning this somewhat rickety “Bridge of Joy”.


This beautiful white egret was strolling across the beach and seemed completely non-fazed by our presence; it is obviously used to human presence.

One of the dogs that accompanies us on our route is Dutch, below, a 13 year old poodle who has to take a long rest when he reaches the end of his hike. He’s a very gentle, lovely old beast.

Our plein air painting group has started up again on Wednesdays and we have had two painting sessions on and around the Isla Cuale, a shadyoasis of cool greenery in the heat of Vallarta. This year we seem to have a more active group, with 7 or 8 people making it out each week. Most of the painters work in oil, one in pastel, and I usually use acrylic. Below Angie works on an image of a gigantic banyen tree.

Bart specialises in portraits, painting one of the vendors this day.

Patricia, below, works exclusively in soft pastel, while Jan uses watercolour.

We do occasionally have a beach day; usually in the past we have frequented Swell beach bar but now all their seats are always reserved so we have taken our patronage next door to the Carretta. Note the gigantic breakfast of pancakes below – I couldn’t finish it all.

Barb is a bargainer par excellence and had all the jewellery vendors stopping at our umbrella; she did buy a lovely pair of silver earrings from one of them. Ty took the opportunity of selecting a couple of tiny decorations for his man-bag and another handwoven bracelet for his wrist.


While we don’t often ask the musicians on the beach for a song, this day, while sitting at OK beach bar with Ken and Linda, we did enjoy their rendition of Guadalajara. It’s a tough way to make a living, especially for the guys who carry around the large accoustic basses.

Below Barb and I are sampling a beverage from Starbucks at La Isla Mall while waiting to see Clint Eastwood’s The Mule at the cinema (not a very good movie, I might add).

After our Tuesday hikes periodically we enjoy the group at Langostino’s for Happy Hour.

One of the many beautiful things abut this city is its art and music scene; every night of the week there are so many options of art to see and music to listen to. Every second Friday the South Side Shuffle takes over the streets of Old Town and every Wednesday night the Centro Art Walk welcomes visitors to its many galleries.

After a tasty dinner at the Argentinian-Mexican venue Florios, Barb and I sampled the art delights at the Vallarta Art Festival on a Wednesday night.

These three gigantic plastic dogs, filled with aluminum cans, guarded the entrance to Corona Street, where musicians and artists performed outdoors to the delight of dining patrons.

Barb sampling the ring wares at Cassandr Shaw’s jewellery shop.

Thursdays at Art Vallarta in the cool room downstairs sees some happy people creating mixed media pieces and sampling the joys of linocut. It is so much fun to play around with collage and acrylic paint!

Elizabeth created the Goddess of Puerto Vallarta in collage while SuzAnne worked on a piece expressing a symbolic self-portrait, with a dancing female figure.

Mike, a science fiction fan who has just completed his first novel, finished a piece focusing on an alternative universe, with a creature worshipping its fish-like deity.

Another Wednesday, another plein air session, this time across from the Cafe Roma, near the municipal market, a great spot with shade and lots of passers-by.

Bart picked a riverside spot from which he could capture the light on the bridge and some of the shops on the other side of the river.

Below is Patricia’s pastel rendition of the riverside tree, a really beautiful piece.

I painted a small acrylic of the large tree, while Angie worked in oils. I am really enjoying the time with this group and it’s very interesting to see the varied aspects of the same scene each person focuses on, as well as the way they capture it – all very different.

See more here and here.

Puerto Vallarta Art and Walking, Walking, Walking


Art Vallarta is a humming hive of art activity right now, with ongoing renovations to expand the space and a stunning new exhibition of abstract art by Tony Collantez on view on the pool deck, installed in nooks and crannies, and gigantic murals on the walls of the San Franciscan apartment building housing the studio. After a tasty dinner of Italian food at Pasts Fresca Beatrice, Walter, Linda, Ty and I enjoyed the Cromosemiotica opening with a crowd of other art-lovers.

Tony’s works have been installed on the walls around the pool and on the several levels of deck on the 4th floor. He has also painted a stunning 8 floor high abstract mural on one of the building’s walls facing south.

Tony’s paintings look great arranged around the edges of the pool and in various nooks and crannies around the pool deck.

I didn’t realise it until Nathalie pointed it out that the colours in my outfit are the same as the ones in Tony’s gigantic mural – que bueno!

Here we are just lurking around in the bushes …


After soaking in the Collantez vibe we headed back to Basilio Badillo for the first South Side Shuffle of the season. The streets were packed – I have never seen the Shuffle this busy – and the galleries crowded, people drawn by both the art and the free wine, no doubt.

Kim Kuzma and Sylvie Scopazzo both played in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewelry store and really got the crowd hopping, especially an interesting French-Canadian woman, one of Eve’s Zumba people, who stunned the crowd with a lively jig in her huge sun hat.

On Saturday, after visiting the artisan market at Lazaro Cardenas Park, Eve, Ty, and I strolled south along the beach for our walk to Conchas Chinas, a suburb south of Vallarta, with steep hills and a rocky shoreline.

We walked up and over the rocky outcropping separating Los Muertos Beach from Amapas and along the shoreline fronting the large villas on the southern hills. Another gigantic condo building, the Orchid, is going up in this area and of course Ty had lots to say about the construction design, which he noted as being inappropriate for this earthquake zone location. Needlessly to say the building towers over all the other nearby villas.

Thinking that we couldn’t get through along the beach at this point, we walked back up to the highway and south to Lindo Mar Hotel, at which point we headed down to the beachside bar for lunch. It’s a beautiful location right on the water, with views out to both ends of Banderas Bay. Just below us on the terrace a resident parrot hung out on one of the metal chairs, preening itself.

After a not-bad tortilla soup, we rolled back to dodge, walking along the beach the entire way. The surf was really high, with many gigantic waves crashing against the rocks. Lots of local families and kids were out enjoying the day, including one family of several kids having the very first beach day. Imagine the excitement!

I did tell the family to be careful, given the high surf and the dangerous currents in this area. We finished our walk with gigantic glasses of lemonade at our favourite beach bar Swell, under the shade of a beautiful old tree.

Eve has gotten us into Zumba at the Park. It runs for an hour every morning between 8 and 9. When we stayed at the Lily last year, we could see and hear them from our balcony, an enthusiastic band of exercisers first thing in the morning. Fabiola is the instructor, a really lovely local woman, and Monday was her birthday.

Ty had a nice moment with a lovely white schnauzer while his master attempted the zumba class.

Here you can see us in action – the folks in the front two rows know what they’re doing; the rest of us are less adept, to say the least! Dr Bob in the front row in grey, from Vancouver, is a 79 year old miracle of nature who is non-stop action – he is my current role model in terms of physical fitness.

Fabiola’s boyfriend had ordered a gigantic bouquet of flowers and a mariachi band to be delivered to the Park, and they serenaded a big group of us to La Palapa on the beach for a fantastic breakfast to celebrate her big day.

About 22 of us helped Fabiola celebrate, two tables worth of people; while the mariachis played, she opened presents, and we ate some delicious food.

Every second Monday Quture, the arts venue that used to house the Vallarta Art Guild where I painted for a while last spring, has an open house art walk for their 22 resident artists, some of whom are the same folks who worked there last April. Eve, Ty, Larry, Fran, and I checked it out last Monday night.

Mari has her studio in the former co-op space upstairs, a nicely-expanded space from her previous one.


She’s very happy with her new situation and is painting up a storm. Edwige has the other half of the upstairs space and had a large canvas out for visitors to her gallery to add to a communal abstract painting, a great idea that I love.

Even Larry contributed his visual two cents to the piece, a thumbprint. We checked out all the studios and soaked in the artistic ambience.

Barb, below, is another of the Guild artists and had her studio full of new paintings.

Below you can see the new round bar in the centre of the courtyard, a nice innovation to provide drinks for the weary art lovers.

Tuesdays are our usual hike to Las Animas day and we joined 42 others for the bus ride south to Boca de Tomatlan on a slightly overcast day, great for walking. Due to the high surf for the last few days, a big wooden boat had been pushed onto the rocks in the bay, along with another smaller one.

The walk hasn’t got any easier since last year and the group strung out along the coast as we made our way south.

The trail is noticably deteriorated from last year, possibly due to storms during the rainy season. In many spots the handrails have been knocked off or broken, not enough to impede our progress, however; it just requires being careful with where one puts one’s foot. A couple of the groups who use the trail are fundraising for its repairs.

The beautiful thing about walking this year is that we know the trail well enough to know when we are nearing the end and this lizard rock is on the home stretch.

As usual, a cold towelette, cold beer, nachos, and salsa are waiting for us when we arrive, sweaty and tired from our exertions.

The ocean is noticeably higher this year than last; waves have taken away the lower level of the restaurant and the beach area that used to house loungers is no more. Big waves actually wash into the higher level of tables now. Who knows how much higher it will come – I’m sure that the business owners must be getting quite worried by now. If I owned waterfront property, I would have sold it by now …

After a tasty lunch and a few cervesas, we boarded the boats for our return journey; below you can see Alain attempting his entry with Chico the dog in hand.

After feeding the fish at Los Arcos, we landed at Langostino’s for happy hour and then dragged our tired carcasses home.


Below is a photo of the cool room downstairs at Art Vallarta where I am working on mixed media pieces, right next to Doug’s and Angelo’s painting areas.


Here’s a view of Mari in action on a mixed media piece in the cool room. She did an amazing job with collage, tissue paper, and acrylic paint on wood; interestingly, the artwork’s colour palette is the same as the clothes she’s wearing.

Below is Mari’s finished piece – great job!

See more pics here.

Buen Dia from Puerto Vallarta

We have been busy settling into our pad at the Vallarta Junior Suites, having arrived here on Jan 1, just in time to miss all the New Years craziness here in PV. Our first dinner in town saw us at a booth in Roberto’s, a seafood restaurant that we’ve walked past many times but never gone in, having a delicious seafood feast. After that, a walk through old town and onto the pier, to celebrate being here.

The first day or two was spent acquiring groceries for our hacienda, a studio suite at the back of a 5 storey walkup on Aquiles Serdan a few steps from the beach and Sea Monkey restaurant and bar ($1 beers on tap all day long … not that I would know).

Our studio room has a small kitchenette, a gigantic bed, and a small table and chairs set up outside the front door. The small fridge in the room stopped working within a couple of days, to be replaced by a newer, but not new, larger version that takes up a fair bit of space in our kitchen area. As one of our neighbours here said, in this place everything “sorta works”. But Pepe has been very good about getting us the things we need to keep us happy, like a working fridge. (Now, a few days later, we realise that this fridge is not exactly working properly either – sometimes we find a small stream of water snaking through our kitchen area when the fridge fails evaporate the thawed ice – sigh – at least it’s not a river).

Of course, one of the first things we did was walk the malecon and sample a redneck margarita on the deck, not recommended for those who are tequila connaisseurs – extremely weak. That’s fine for me, since I only ever have one anyway.

We had a beautiful curry dinner cooked by Beatrice at her shared condo in Centro, high on the hill, from whose balcony we had an amazing view out over the bay.

Friends Eve, Larry and Fran are in town and we have been spending some time with them hoofing it around the place. Saturday saw us up and on the roads in Gringo Gultch, heading up to the Cross, a lookout and viewpoint at the top of the hill behind the city. This walk isn’t long but is fairly steep. We saw them working on the new staircase and funicular up in 2016 and this year all is complete, except that the funicular isn’t working and may never be working – plant life is growing rapidly over the cables that hoist the cabin up. I don’t think the funicular has ever actually worked, as yet. From the top we had a panoramic view out over the bay.

On the way back down we stopped for a drink at a local lemonade stand and into the neighbourhood comida casera that we love for lunch, and, while there, the proprietor showed us his entry in Fodor’s – I had no idea that this restaurant was mentioned in that travel handbook. The food there is great and very inexpensive, 150 pesos for three of us to have a full meal. (Below you can see some of the three burros that were used to haul all the material up the hill to build the stairs; thankfully, now they can rest).

On Sunday, Eve, Ty and I went to the Boutique Theater’s Dinner and a Movie, this evening’s selection being The Wife, a film I had wanted to see but missed in Vancouver. The movie was introduced by Paco Oceda and watched as we consumed dinner provided by Nacho Daddy’s.

Eve and I enjoyed the film but Ty would rather have watched the football playoffs downstairs, I think. Later Eve and I shook our tailfeathers at the central plaza to the sounds of salsa music, along with a crowd of locals.

There are several small beach bars right near our place and we sampled one for a few hours, just to get acclimatised …

Monday Eve, Larry, Fran and I headed out on a hike up to Paso Guayabo, a local village in the hills up the river behind Puerto Vallarta, ten kilometers return.

On the way we passed by the Emiliano Zapata Market, several bridges, some extremely rickety, the Cuale Paradise restaurant, and Paso Ancho, before arriving at our destination, Moro Paraiso riverside restaurant just past Paso Guayabo, in Eijido territory (Eijido land is like First Nations territory in Canada).

Along the way we saw quite a few horses and many street dogs. Moro Paraiso serves a very strong margarita and great food and also has a swing that one can use to cruise out over the river.

While there we ran into the Three Kings, actually two kings and a queen, who were relaxing after having delivered huge sacks full of toys to local children at school for Epiphany, a holiday celebrating the Three Magi who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

After sampling these delights, we headed back into town, stopping to refuel at the Cuale Paradise riverside restaurant and Eve’s Alta Vista suite, before rolling back to the hacienda. A great day of walking!

Since then, I have been to Art Vallarta to set up my stuff for painting and Ty & I, plus Eve, Larry and Fran, checked out this year’s Centro Art Walk. Ty is more like a bodyguard on this jaunt, since not all the galleries actually have much new work on display.

He stations himself on the sidewalk outside the gallery and waits while the rest of us view the work on display. I always enjoy going into these spaces; even if the work isn’t new, I do like the feel of the buildings’ interiors, with their open courtyards and fountains, like grand haciendas of old.

A few new places are on the route this year, Café D’Eli and Browne Galleria among them.

This detail of a beautiful sphinx cat was in an oil painting at Galeria Uno.

As usual, lots of Surrealist-inflected art is on the walls – I asked one of the gallery owners why Mexicans seem to have so much Surrealist art but he wasn’t able to give me a satisfactory answer.

Many of the classic 20th century female Surrealists were Mexican or lived most of their lives in Mexico (Leonora Carrington, Leanor Fini, Remedios Varo, as well as Frida Kahlo) so the ambience here must be conducive to that mode. There are a couple of really nice small bodega-studios here amongst the art galleries, as well – I would love to have a place like these for a studio. In one, Mann Made Mexico, run by a woman named Mann, the proprietor is just as elegant as the works on display.

There are still remnants of Christmas 2018 on display, including a huge bright tree on the Malecon, a couple of shrines near the main cathedral, the lights of Los Arcos on the Malecon, and the tree in our building’s lobby, which I would bet will be up until Easter.

See more photos here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

We’re having a wonderful holiday season here in Vancouver, where so far we have had not too much precipitation and thankfully, no snow. I was lucky enough to get in a short visit with Maggie on the island before the gigantic wind storm took the power out and prevented the ferries from running.

Maggie showed me around the town and I was impressed at how much nicer the downtown area was than the last time I’d been there. We checked out the gingerbread houses, trees, and mural display in the convention centre.

The Nanaimo Art Gallery is much improved from its previous incarnation and has an interesting show fo work from the VAG collection at the moment.

I enjoyed seeing this photo by Christos Dikeakos of False Creek from way back in the day, especially since we walk past here all the time and I have hundreds of photos of this place.

As well as the Merrick Gallery downtown, we also visited the Vancouver Island Sculpture Studio, run by Joel Prevost, a fairly recent addition to Nanaimo’s art scene.

Ty, Tracey, and I checked out the Carol Battle in Gastown, in which 15 or so choirs from all over the Lower Mainland battle it out for Best Choir crown.

Christine helped us out with the tree decor this year.

We have had several king tides this December, just a hint of what is to come if the City of Vancouver doesn’t get going on raising the seawall or building a dike …

The Lights of Hope at St Paul’s Hospital are bigger and better than we remember them being the last time we saw them.

As we do most years, the girls headed downtown for a Christmas Tree, Lights, and Beverage walk, luckily without any precipitation.

The display at the Sutton Place Hotel is always great.

The gingerbread houses at the Hyatt were great, with some very elaborate structures and some new varieties this year.

Canada Place had both trees and the old Woodward’s window displays from the 1940s and 50s along the promenade.

The little dog in the foreground here reminded me of Brubin.

We also checked out the Georgia Hotel and the Four Seasons, where we saw this Nightmare Before Christmas special.

And, to cap it off, bevvies at the Hotel Vancouver Lobby Bar.

Marsha and I visited the Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza, with European treats and lots of food vendors.

Finally, we had a really lovely Christmas Eve dinner with friends and family, with amazing food contributions from everyone and a fantastic turkey and stuffing done by Chef Ty in his sports coat.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and wishing you all a wonderful New Year! See more pics here.

Life After Life a winner at the Senior Movie Film Festival, Szczecin, Poland

I’m very happy to announce that my short experimental film Life After Life, an official selection for the first edition of the Senior Movie Film Festival in Szczecin, Poland, has been awarded second prize, consisting of a statuette and cash prize. 

I grew up in the 70s and 80s in the shadow of the threat of nuclear war. TV shows and commercials depicted the various ways in which we would meet our collective end when the big fireball broke all hell loose. All that anxiety had drifted into the deeper background recesses of my mind until Trump was elected the 45th American president. Now the possibility of total nuclear annihilation is once again on the table and I despair that this unhinged man will destroy us all. Life After Life is a metaphorical examination of this possibility.

60 Seconds or Less Video Festival

 

I’m happy to announce that my short film An Accident of Being has been selected for the 60 Seconds or Less Video Festival in September 2018.

In addition to showcasing great works that are 60 seconds or less they also  screen Short Films that are longer than 60 seconds, but no longer than 30 minutes. The 60 Seconds or Less Video Festival embraces short-form videos in all genres. Sponsored by Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the festival offers awards and screening opportunities for an international audience.