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.



Bye Bye Vallarta – Hasta La Proxima!

Road Trip!! On a recent Sunday Nathalie, the duena and powerhouse of Art Vallarta, took us two hours up the coast to the small beach town of Chacala, Nayarit to visit the printmaking studio of Grafica Chacala, owned and run by Miguel Perez.

Chacala is a tiny place on the coast home to about 400 permanent residents, a number that swells to about 1,000 in the winter when the snowbirds visit. But for such a small town, it has quite a lot going for it in the arts department.

We found parking at a beachfront campground, where a number of tents were encamped under the swaying palm trees on a glorious sunny, breezy day. The beach was busy with locals, whose families tend to spend Sundays, their only day of rest, on the beach.

Like all the beach towns we’ve been to along the Pacific coast, the bay here is large with a long sandy beach. At this one the beach is shallow, making water access and swimming easier than at Vallarta, where there can be dangerous currents and enormous waves at certain times.

While we waited to meet up with Miguel, the owner of Grafica Chacala, we had a beer at Chac Mool, one of the beachside restaurants and well-known for its support of the arts in this community.

While we were sitting under the palapa, we saw a small parade of people for a quinceanera (celebration when a girl turns 15) pass by under the trees.

The workshop is a quick ten minute drive from the beach up into the jungle surrounding the town; at this time of year it is hot and dusty, yet still lots of flowers and plants are abundant.

Miguel and his wife designed and built the home that contains the print studio, as well as another building with two rental apartments just above the house. Artists-in-residence can also use these places when working at the shop.

The print workshop is on the lower level of the house, and contains three presses and an electric piano, as well as the usual paraphernalia for making art.

Miguel is a well-known artist here and also collaborates with various American universities on classes and workshops in his space.

His studio is nice and bright and clean, with views out the window to the jungle beyond. It also has a nice little patio area out back where artists can rest and have refreshments.

He showed us his collection of monoprints, woodcuts, linocuts and collographs, all printed on his presses.

He was kind enough to let each of us try out the press with monoprints, a first for Ty and Nathalie.

None of us had prepared anything to print so we just “winged it” – my creation was a staple of Mexican iconography, a smiling skull. To make this sort of monoprint first you roll black ink on the plexiglass surface. Then you draw into it with different tools; a rag can also be used to wipe away the ink to create white areas.

Once the image is prepared, the plate is put onto the press bed, covered with paper (usually the paper is dampened with water ahead of time but Miguel sprayed the back of the page with water instead – the damp paper allows the ink to be released from the plate onto the page when pressure is applied), then covered with the blankets, and finally run through the press.

The most exciting part of the printing process is the big reveal, when the paper is lifted off the plate and the creation is exposed to the world.

Super fun! The skull and I have the same smile.

Nathalie gave it a whirl as well, drawing and printing a shrimp from memory.

Lastly Ty had his turn, creating a dragon and knight piece, complete with big puff of smoke emanating from the creature’s mouth.

Miguel has done many different kinds of prints over the years, and showed us several series of his figurative pieces, as well as relief prints done by visiting artists.

Miguel is also an arts powerhouse and runs a gallery in town as well, unfortunately closed for the season during our visit; he also hosts artist residencies during the winter and collaborates on cultural events with other organisations, including an art, music, and literary festival. For more information on the arts in Chacala, click here and here.

After our fun with printing, we returned to Chac Mool for some nourishment before rolling back down the road to Vallarta.

Chacala has one main drag, a sandy, unpaved road along the beach, with the usual shops and souvenir stalls.

The ride back down the highway was an adventure, much busier than in the morning, with many cars, buses, and large trucks all jockeying for position. For some unknown reason many white cars seemed to be driven by madmen who found it necessary to tailgate and then scream past us on blind corners at top speed. We did, however, arrive safely back in Vallarta in one piece. From my window the view included quite a few roadside churches.

Back in PV for our last few days, we have been eating out and taking taxis much more often. I continued to work away on my paintings at Art Vallarta, where they kindly set me up with a standing fan, as well as the two ceiling fans, in an effort to cool down the space. It does get warm there in the afternoons this time of year!

The other day two folks from Sayulita were in town to work on some small ceramic pieces for their retail store.

Lots of art pieces around the place – I enjoyed these two mixed media works which must have been created for the Frida Kahlo show a while back.

Painting teacher Doug has been working away in his downstairs space and will be painting and teaching there over the summer.

Below are a couple of the paintings that I’ve completed while here – I really enjoyed having the time and space to work on these – fun!

Since it is so hot and muggy here during the day, the evennings are even more pleasant once it has cooled down. Although we have not walked down the Malecon too often since we moved to the north, we did check it out the other weekend and as usual really enjoyed seeing all the action and colours along the boardwalk.

There have been what seems like non-stop evening free music and folkloric dance presentations here in May, some associated with Vallarta’s 100th anniversary as a city.

In addition to cultural events, the city has also hosted the 2nd annual Down Vallarta, a cyclocross mountain biking event in Centro, in which participants rance down the hill from the Cross lookout to the Malecon, dodging obstacles and zooming over jumps to the delight of the roaring crowd.

Here are a few everyday shots of our neighbourhood Palo Seco. There are a few murals in the neighbourhood.

And our usual route to Las Glorias Beach, across several busy roads.

Below are a few photos of the flowers blooming along the way of my walk through Old Town to the art studio. Bouganvillias never seem to stop pumping out blooms here in so many beautiful colours.

The mosaic decorations in Lazaro Cardenas Park, executed by many volunteers under the direction of local artists, are now complete and almost every cement surface here is covered with colourful designs.

All the trees are regaining their leaves with all the humidity in the air – beautiful!

Puerto Vallarta is in the middle of a construction boom right now, with 17 high rise condo buildings being erected, mostly in Old Town, all of which have 8-12 stories. People who know about such things have said that this will change the wind and weather patterns in this area, such that parts of the city away from the ocean will be heat sinks without the ocean breeze that they currently enjoy. Below are a couple of examples.

Below you can see the stack of air conditioners that run up the building, swinging in the breeze.

Vendors here are having a field day with the “F*ck Trump” Tshirts and paraphernalia.

Sometimes the most difficult part of the evening is deciding between the white and the red …

The last week in May is Pride Week here in Vallarta, the highlight of which is the Pride Parade which we took in after the theatre performance.

Lazaro Cardenas Street was closed to taffic for the big block party.

For the last several weeks we have been working on Torch Song with the Boutique Community Theatre in Old Town. The show runs from 6 – 8:15 pm and for the last week of its run, from Monday to Saturday night. After spending the afternoon painting at Art Vallarta, I would meet Ty at Page in the Sun for a coffee to generate some caffeine-energy for the production.

We both really enjoyed the experience of working on the play – here are Frank and Ty back stage left, Frank waiting to go onstage and Ty ready for his stint as crew.

The Boutique is a dinner theatre, so patrons can have a meal at the theatre before the show.

After our last performance on Saturday we had a cast party and surprise 50th wedding anniversary celebration for the Theatre’s founders, Ken and Karrie.

3 photos of theatre folk below by Colette Zarry.

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Small lizard skittering across the grass at the hotel pool.

Second to last night in Vallarta at the rooftop restaurant – La Traviata in 5th of Diciembre. Wonderful breeze and pretty good Italian food with Barb and Treni.

Well, that’s it from Vallarta! We fly out June 1 for Vancouver – hasta la proxima vez! See more pics here.

This and That in Vallarta

Just another day at Los Muertos Beach …

Early morning at Swell’s Beach Bar looking south towards Conchas Chinas; the high season crowds have dissipated and the snow birds have flown away home so it’s pretty quiet here until later in the afternoon. The Boca to Las animas group hikes are now over for the season; below Ty, Doug, and Larry drink a cold one at Langostino’s by the pier.

While there, we were visited by Diana and her beautiful Mexican hairless dog. I had never had a chance to see one up close and personal before – what a lovely beast with short tufts of hair on his head and ears.

Also, I did not realise that these dogs could be so large – photos that I’d seen suggested that they were a smaller species. Diana explained that, like Schnauzers, they come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. This one is large.

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Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican hairless dog): “Xoloitzcuintli is called “the first dog of the Americas” because it was one of the earliest dogs to be domesticated by human populations, and has existed in Mexico for more than 3,000 years.”(Photo credit to Diana Simmons and her dog, “Mee-too”. ARTIST: Tony Collantez)

We have been missing our time at the local beach this past while; Flamingos Day Club has been pretty quiet, except for the weekends and Mexican holidays.

We watched a fisherman bring this small catch in, including a trumpet fish, the long skinny one hanging here. We love this place! It’s usually pretty low key and relaxing under the palapa.

Most of the snowbirds that live in this area six months of the year tote their own gear down to the beach, rather than taking advantage of bar service or renting from vendors. However, this man took the prize for most elaborate set-up hauled down to the sand. All of this equipment was packed on his back from his car down to the waterfront. We were told that local vendors, when seeing this sort of thing, rub one elbow with a hand signalling one another, along with a meaningful head nod – the gesture means “cheap”.

Back in April Ty’s aunt Pat and several of her friends were in town for a week and we spent a day with them on the Isla Cuale, having lunch at the Babel Bar, watching them shop, and margaritas on the deck chairs at Oscar’s.

I keep saying to myself that I must try swiming in the river mouth here where all the locals go, but haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Every weekend it is crowded with kids and families picnicking down here.

Every season has beautiful flowers in Vallarta.

Except for the weekends the Malecon boardwalk is pretty quiet now, so the vendors are even more persistent than usual in trying to get our attention.

One of our favourite spots in Old Town is the Sofa Cafe on V Carranza, where we watched the proprietor dress her papier mache Katrina in a swanky new paper dress.

Street art proliferates around the city, with ever more murals popping up in different locations.

The images below, in Colonia Agua Azul, were painted by a group of students under the direction of local artists; the Frida below is by Adrian Rojas, a local favourite muralist who also teaches at Art Vallarta. He also has a huge acrylic on canvas version of this work.

We joined Ken and Linda for dinner at one of their neighbourhood seafood places one evening as a huge local family was having a birthday party.

This place specialises in whole grilled fish – yum!

Puerto Vallarta manages to support four local theatres, among them Incanto, a riverside venue with an outside dining area and two theatre spaces inside. This evening we were there to hear French Canadian chanteuse Sylvia sing Edith Piaf and the songs of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. She was great!

And more recently we went to hear the last in-town performance of the Media Luna band, who are now off on a tour through Canada. Below is the outdoor seating for Incanto, where you can have a full dinner if you wish before the show.

I love Media Luna, a group of relatives, two brothers and a cousin, plus friends, who play mostly Latin music of various kinds with enormous energy and verve. This night they were joined by singer Santiago Martin, all the way from Spain, who belted out Gipsy Kings songs with a fantastic voice.

One of the most beautiful springtime trees here is the Primavera tree, with its incredible yellow flowers.

We spend a lot – a lot! – of time on the buses here and I find it very interesting to see how these vehicles have been personalised by the drivers. Most have images of Jesus, the Virgin of Guadalupe, or the Cross …

but others have more secular messages, like the stencil below of a pig’s face with the injunction to put garbage where it belongs (not on the bus)

And, below, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”, “Today I go by Uber”, and “My little angel Jared”. These buses are not at all a comfortable ride and some of them are driven by what can only be described as maniacs who mistake their vehicles for Formula One race cars.

When we feel the need for more cardio exercise than that given by a stroll to the beach, we hike to the Cross, up through Centro’s hilly streets.

There are quite a few derelict “fixer-uppers” in this neck of the woods.

Work continues on the concrete steps leading up the last part of the trail.

While quite steep, the hike isn’t long. From the Malecon to the top is probably about 30 or 40 minutes.

While the South Side Shuffle has ended for the season, art continues to happen. Local trans artist Francine Peters (formerly Fred Peters of British Columbia) had a live painting show and sale of her artworks at the Act Two entertainment complex recently.

The beginning of May saw the Parroquia of Santa Cruz have a weeklong celebration for the Church’s birthday, consisting of music, dancing, and rides and games for the kids, blocking off the area around the church for the festivities.

We took in some of the dance performances and had hoped to hear some of the singing, but the volume of sound was just too much to bear (really screaming loud) and chased us out to the taco stands near the Guadalajara Farmacia.

Ty loves the quesadillas with everything, including piquante salsa. All the street taco stands include beans, onions, radishes, and cucumber slices with their food, gratis.

Another food favourite is tortas, portuguese-like buns with meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato, heated, with a variety of salsas. This place, near us on the main drag, has the best selection of condiments.

We’ve also discovered the Escondida Sports Bar a block from Santa Cruz church and have visited a few times to see a game or play pool.

Since the end of April the heat and humidity has increased here noticeably, from  a steady 28 degrees to about 32 with almost 100% humidity. The skies are not as clear and blue as before, with clouds forming in the afternoons. Today it was 32 in the shade (feels like 38 with the humidity, according to my weather app) and cumulous nimbus clouds forming over the mountains and around the bay periphery. No rain yet, though. Many of the local hotels offer day passes to use their pools and other facilities so we checked out the Plaza Santa Maria near our place for the day and I really enjoyed having their big pool to myself for some lap swimming.

The building in which the Art Guild had its co-op studio is being converted into condos and we all had to vacate the premises. Dauna was trying to finish her commissioned Notre Dame painting before she left.

I am amazed at folks who have the patience to do this kind of meticulous work.

Marg also managed to get a few more pieces done before leaving.

I have done a series of four acrylic on paper paintings at this studio, the last one below. All feature strange looking figures in a tropical landscape.

PV’s cathedral and main square downtown continues to hop on Sunday nights, with dancing to the Municipal Band and live music at the amphitheatre at Los Arcos.

This night we watched a hula hoop dancer doing her thing with several multi-coloured hoops to the joy of the sizable crowd. (Barb, I thought of you!)

And a live painting performance by local artists of works depicting the history of Puerto Vallarta for its 100th birthday this month.

Another beautiful sunset …

Ty contemplating life …

I am an Artist-in-Residence at Art Vallarta for the month of May and Nathalie and Alan were kind enough to set me up with a painting table in a prime spot. Below is the studio entrance with Frida murals by Tony Collantez and Quetzal, I think.

The facility is located near the end of a dead-end street in an Old Town apartment complex and has several studios, including clay and glass as well as painting, a gallery, and a theatre.

Below is my space in front of the window, facing east.

Below Tom takes a spin on the wheel in the pottery area. Clay classes with Rob continue all year round, as well as acrylic painting with Doug in the “cool room” downstairs.

I’m working on the piece below, acrylic on super-cheap paper that I got from the papeleria for 14 pesos each. I wanted to work large so this fills the bill.

I’m not sure whether this piece is finished or not – will have to think about it.

We’ve also gotten involved with the Boutique Community Theatre, located in Old Town above Nacho Daddy’s restaurant. The theatre and the restaurant share the building, with dinner theatre happening early in the evening and live music afterwards in the large upstairs venue. The director of their next production, Torch Song, put out a request for helpers on Facebook and we answered the call. The play, the story of a drag queen, his bisexual lover, and his disapproving mom, opens next week and runs for three weeks, right into Pride Week here in PV.

Since there was a pretty short timeline for the set, we decided to leave a couple of the potted plants that Dauna had done for the last production, paint around them, and add some abstract geometrical deigns to what is meant to be the wall of Arnold’s apartment. Ken built a new door and voila – the set is complete.

Once we decided upon the design, it took Ty and I three mornings to complete the painting, first rolling over the previous backdrop twice with white to cover it up. Ty’s Dad was an industrial painter and he learned some tricks of the trade at his Dad’s knee, wielding the roller with aplomb. Below Tom, playing Arnold, and Ralph, the director, check out the proceedings.

Ty has his moment in the sun, or at least in the spotlight, for a light cue check.

Tom occupies the loft where the torch singer will be spotlit.

Co-star Frank sitting in the apartment’s living room for a light cue check.

After overpainting the wall in white, then adding a pale robin’s egg blue, we taped off the abstract designs that decorate the apartment’s walls, referred to by Arnold as “having stencilled them himself.” I was originally going to actually use stencils to create the scene but couldn’t find any here.

Below Ty works on painting in the design in colour.

Amazingly, the colours of the wall match the colours of Ty’s butterfly T-shirt.

Below is the completed wall, ready for the furniture to be added.

After a hard day’s work, we rolled down the stairs to Nacho Daddy’s bar to sample some Happy Hour refreshments.

The Three Hens and a Rooster market, with which the Art Guild used to share premises, has moved for the summer to Encanto Restaurant; we paid a visit on Saturday to check out the new digs.

The space is nice, although not as large and open as the old spot.

One of the cultural differences between Mexico and Vancouver is that here, doggies are welcome many more places: they can come into many hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, etc, although prohibited in some. Many of the snowbirds and expats have pets, and the businesses that cater to this segment of the community are most accommodating. Most have smaller dogs, such as the lovely girl below.

Below Ty discusses jewellery with Marcia, a local designer who works with found materials and fabrics to create one of a kind pieces.

Another day, another taco stand … there are so many taco stands on the streets here that we would need another year to sample them all.

Another cultural difference relates to freedom, or libertarianism: the individual fends for him or herself more here and there are fewer regulations, especially in the area of safety and health. For example, people riding in the backs of pickup trucks. I haven’t seen that since I was a kid in North Vancouver but it’s the norm here. Smoking in bars and restaurants is still allowed in some venues. Riding a skooter or motorcycle without a helmet on old, unmaintained, and cobblestoned roads, also the norm. Pedestrians have no rights, it seems; the car really is king here and trying to cross the roads, especially busy multi-laned ones, is a trial. You have to be quick and nimble because the cars will not stop for you.

The only day when it’s not a death wish trying to cross the road is Sunday:

Hasta le vista from PV for now! See more pictures here.