Hasta Luego Puerto Vallarta!

Vallarta is home to a new Turkish bath, called Hamam, just down the road from us. While I haven’t tried the whole meal deal yet, I did get a tour of this wonderful new facility.

Below is a photo of the round heated marble slab upon which patrons lie to have a soap sud massage, a really unusual sensation. While in Turkey, on rainy and wet days after booting it around town for hours, I would occasionally treat myself to a hamam, and enjoy the saunas, baths, and massages they offer.

I hope to check this one out before we leave!

My plein air painting group continues to meet weekly, one past week at Amapas Beach, the so-called “hidden beach” just past the end of Los Muertos, with its interesting rock formations and wonderful high surf.

Most of us use oils or acrylics but Patricia is a master of the soft pastel medium – it’s amazing the subtle variations of colour you can get with these.

I always find it intriguing how everyone approaches the same scene differently; some are more realistic, others more fanciful, especially in coloration.

While it looks relatively calm this day, there can be high surf and bad currents along this coast. On one visit a couple of years ago, we saw two young men save an older guy who couldn’t get back into shore on his own from drowning – very frightening. I never swim here.

Every second Friday night during the high season Lazaro Cardenas Park is host to food tents offering gastronomic delights from various corners of Mexico. This night we tried Chiles en Nogada, chili peppers stuffed with meat and dried fruits. Lots of folks like this local treat but it’s not my favourite. Beatrice fought off the crowds to save seats for us at these nicely-decorated tables.

The Rat Man and his ladies – Ty enjoying his moment in the photographic sun on one of the last Southside Shuffles of the season.

Angie and I in Galeria Dante, variations on a theme of blonde (or semi-grey in my case). The open air courtyard here is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy a beverage and view art.

Below is the studio of Kathleen Carillo, an American artist with a gallery here. She teaches painting from this space on Constitution, around the corner from Galeria Dante.

So many beautiful trees are in bloom here: bougainvilleas and primaveras, especially.

Recently there was a sewage leak here from an overloaded pipe, and, instead of allowing the sewage to run throught the streets in the north of town, the powers that be deliberately pumped it into El Salado estuary, a marine habitat, draining it of oxygen and killing many animals. Apparently, the government had been warned months earlier that this was likely to happen because of overloaded infrastracture and too much new condo building. The mayor actually asked the press here not to report on it because of the potential impact on tourism. No bueno!! Below you can just see the red flag on the beach indicating that it was not yet swimmable on this day. Now, a few weeks later, we are told that testing goes on daily and that the waters are safe for swimming – I’m not sure, though.

Friends Ken and Linda, who have a house in the 5th of December colonia, purchased the empty lot next door and have been busy creating a small ranchito chill-out space, with gigantic fruit trees and a chicken coop, where four hens produce four eggs daily for breakfast.

We enjoyed an afternoon here under the huge avacado and banana trees.

There are many waterfalls in the hills around the bay and one recent sunny Sunday saw nine of us head upriver to the Palo Maria waterfall near the Garza Blanca resort. “Upriver” mostly designates the direction, since the “river” in question is actually mostly a dry riverbed filled with boulders large and small this time of year.

Our intrepid group of explorers made its way along the fence, through the trees, across the riverbed and back several times, jumping from rock to rock and clambering up hill and down.

Our reward for the punishing hour walk upstream was this beautiful deep fresh emerald green pool, into which three of us decided to plunge to cool off from the hike. Breathtaking! Cold!

Up above the first waterfall, accessed by climbing up the rocks on the lefthand side of the pool, is a series of seven further waterfalls. We’ve never been past the first one because the climb is so dangerous but today young barefoot boys were clambering. Hard to watch because we were afraid they might fall in!

That evening I joined Pam and Cec at Act II Stages for the Abba and Elton John show by Us Two and the Band. It was great fun – both singers had excellent voices and the band was great.

Although we were one of the last groups allowed into the small theatre we actually got great seats, right at the front of the second floor balcony – huzzah!

Another day, another waterfall! Ty, Kate, and I headed south on a panga to Quimixto, a small coastal village accessible by boat or hiking trail, to check out the falls in that part of the world. Along the way we were lucky enough to see a beautiful pod of six dolpins frolicking in the ocean.

This morning it was quiet in the village but as we rounded a corner we encountered a tourist group from Vallarta Adventures who were saddling up for a horse ride to the falls.

After leaving the village proper, we crossed the river twice and headed upwards along a narrow sandy path inland.

Lost of horses, burros, and their dog buddies were tied up in the shade waiting for potential riders. The walk to the waterfall took only about half an hour or so and was much less strenuous than the Palo Maria escapade.

At trail’s end a restaurant, bar, and small store await the visitor, as well as the cooling waterfall pool and swim.

On the way back we passed the Vallarta Adventures group who had finally gotten underway.

As you can see the Fall is quite far upriver from the Bay.

After our hike we spent a quiet afternoon on the beach at Coco’s, with a swim in the ocean and a lovely lunch.

We were amused by a crazy beach dog who kept burying and uncovering his piece of driftwood and dragging it along the sand.

A recent Friday saw several of the plein air painters out at Kathleen’s palatial home above Mismaloya for a painting session.

After a bus ride south and a lift from Patricia up the hill, we arrived to an amazing hillside villa, more luxurious and larger than many of the boutique hotels in these parts, and were presented with a breakfast buffet, coffee, and mismosas.

With many different seating and chill-out areas, there was lots to choose from in terms of painting locations and subject matter.

After checking out the entire abode, most of us set up shop on the top terrace with a commanding view out over the ocean and Mismaloya beach.

While many of these folks are experienced outdoor painters and have all the gear, I don’t. If I’m going to do much of this I will need to get a collapsible easel and a paint box – this will make it much easier to find a place to paint. At the moment I am balancing my painting on my knees much of the time – not optimal.

We had heard from a few people that Layla’s Restaurant in 5th of December was a good one so we decided to give it a whirl that Friday evening, getting a seat on the top floor to enjoy the live music as well as the great food.

Ty had the filet mignon, his first beef in ages, and I tried the pork – his was great, mine was ok.

I enjoyed watching this caricaturist at work on the Malecon on the way back – his “victim” looked a bit apprehensive about what was transpiring.

Below are some random photos of art in the city: the iguana mural on the side of Yoga Vallarta.

This chihuahua dog and flowers in 5th of December.

A tropical fish on the side of one of the cultural buildings on Isla Cuale.

Art classes at the Cultural Centre with a local painting instructor, well-attended by visitors and locals alike.

A show of surrealist art by a Guadalajara painter whose name escapes me at the Cuale Cultural Centre Gallery.

Music is everywhere: a large mariachi band just down the street from us on the Malecon.

The annual Cuates y Cuetes Jazz Festival on the beach by the pier; below Media Luna is in performance.

A local group of Aztec dancers perfoms on the beach for the solstice and return of the sun (well, the sun doesn’t go away here in the south but the solstice welcomes the sun back for us in the north).

Cuates y Cuetes was jam packed for the festival but I was lucky enough to be able to share a table with a couple of women with a great view of the stage.

A group of nine guitarists playing romantic Mexican music at the park.

The plein air group painting on Barbara’s terrace in Conchas Chinas.

Image result for teatro vallarta

Kate and I attended a stunning projected performance of La Traviata live from the Royal Opera House in London, starring Ermonela Jaho, Charles Castronovo, and Placido Domingo. Jaho was a standout as Violetta, a superb performance. The theatre itself is huge and, since the crowd for opera here is a smallish and old one, we were all clustered in the bottom centre of it. Our seats were great, in the centre just below the projector.

Rght next door to the theatre we spotted these large skeletal Virgins of Guadalupe looking for a home …

See more here.

The last 10 days or so both Ty and I have been sick; first I picked up the cold or flu that’s been going around and then Ty got a worse version of it. I think we’re on the mend now but we are moving slowly! As a consequence this will likely be my last post from Vallarta; we will be back home on April 1. Hasta Luego!

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.

Art and Hiking in and around Puerto Vallarta

Love is all around! A view at night from our balcony.

Friday mornings are painting mornings and Paulette, Angie and I decided we would paint in the Old Town neighbourhood this week, meeting at Dee’s Coffee for some java to fuel the creativity.

There are many interesting places to paint around here, pictures on every corner. We decided to set up shop on the shady terrace of a restaurant that does not open until 6 pm and paint the complex of Italian restaurants across the street.

This is actually probably the busiest intersection in Old Town, with vehicles zipping by day and night.

Angie and Paulette both use oils and sketch in the shapes and values before getting down to the business of the details.

I’m using acrylics, which are easier in some ways and harder in others. As usual, I was not happy with my efforts.

A new discovery for us this year is the Babel Bar, a restaurant on the banks of the River Cuale, which has hammocks and lounge seating under the trees. It also has a language exchange program every Friday night, where people get together and discuss a particular theme; this night it was “What if?”.

I was super happy to have my film Awash included in Art Vallarta’s Magical Mar show, featuring paintings, ceramics, glass works and mixed media pieces about water and the ocean.

Image result for magical mar art vallarta

Nathalie Herling, Art Vallarta’s Director and a beautiful human, put together a great show and wonderful evening of music and refreshments for the opening. Ty and I were able to assist a little bit on the show hanging, with Ty helping put together the ceiling projections and me assisting artist Miguel Jarra on aspects of his aquarium installation in the theatre.

Miguel is originally from Colombia and now lives in San Miguel de Allende. He had put together an ocean themed installation in San Pancho, just up the coast from here, at a place called Entre Amigos, a facility for children which also houses an eco and recycling depot. Using all found and recycled materials, Miguel created a wonderful installation of sea creatures, including a gigantic octopus suspended from the ceiling.

He recreated this installation in Art Vallarta’s Bamboo Theatre, adding a “kelp forest” of recycled video tape to each door. I helped tie the pieces of tape to the metal frame that was affixed to each door.

Before heading to the opening the six of us had dinner at Pasta Fresco, a cute small Italian restaurant in the neighbourhood.

Music, refreshments, and dancing were all part of the fun at the show’s opening reception on Friday night, attended by about 350 artists and art-lovers. Below are a couple of stills from my film Awash, an experimental short about the rising seas and warming oceans in which the future Vancouver shoreline becomes home to foreign lifeforms and kelp forests. Nathalie and her assistant set the work up in a small, semi-dark alcove just off the main gallery.

A guitarist and drummer provided Cuban music to dance to and the throngs of visitors grooved to the beat.

Angie, Rob, Paulette and Rod also attended the reception; Angie has two beautiful oil paintings in the show.

My film played in the darkened alcove situated just behind us, shown in the photos below.

Ty and I even managed to do a little two-step dancing, which was fun!

Nathalie’s events are always so great: she really goes to a lot of trouble organising everything. Such a great venue!

Maggie had not been to the Botanical Gardens, some miles south of PV past Boca into the hills, so we decided to get the bus out there on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, the bus that arrived to take us there was really a wreck, the oldest and crappiest bus I’ve been on here. Some of the seats had no backs, in others the seats were ruined, and a gigantic tire took up much of the space in the back here we ended up sitting, since there was no room at the front. The early bird gets the good seat on the PV bus and we had been waiting at the wrong corner for quite a bit of time (the bus stop had been changed from the year before) as the other riders filed on and got the good seats at the front. Although the site I consulted online said that the cost for the bus was 20 pesos, the young boy who served as a conductor wanted between 22 and 24, depending on who he was talking to. We insisted in giving him only 20 but we later found out, via a sign on the mirror of the Garden’s washroom, that the bus actually costs between 25 and 30 pesos back and forth to Vallarta, depending on the driver’s whim and the relative newness of the bus. For anyone out there who is interested in going, the bus leaves from the northwest corner of V Carranza and Aguacate in Old Town every half hour or so.

The ride down the coast was shake, rattle, and roll, and all of us were very glad to exit the vehicle at the Gardens, upon which we doused ourselves in bug spray and sunscreen for our visit.

Many different trails and pavillions are at the Gardens, including a small pet cemetery (one of the headstones below),

and a peace chapel, as well as a decorative bridge that has been put in since I last visited.

Maggie spent some time examining, in addition to the plants, all the rocks, including a plethora of lava rock used for decorative purposes.

I find it fascinating to see the cactuses flowering, so many different colours and shapes of blooms. Some of these flowers only last a single day.

Below is the interior of the Peace Chapel; I was thinking that it would make a fabulous venue for a gigantic projection one evening in the dark …

There are many beautiful tropical plants and especially orchids.

For me, the most beautiful part of the garden is the koi ponds and orchid house, as well as the two-level restaurant and shop pavillion.

Since I have been to the Gardens many times, I sat near the pavillion and painted it and the pond while the others explored. Maggie took a picture of me painting – Where’s Waldo in the picture below?

Here is the beginning stage of my painting of the fishpond and bougainvillea outside the Golden Pavillion.

The cactus house, below, is also new since my last trip out here.

Upstairs, on the landing outside the restaurant, is a display of artifacts celebrating the Swedish explorer and naturalist Linneaus, including shells, rocks and minerals, beetles (including enormous horned rhinocerous beetles), butterflies, and a large stuffed capybara, looking very startled to find himself here, the world’s largest rodent.

We do enjoy breakfast on our penthouse patio here at the Lily, especially before the grinding and banging gets going next door!

Every second day we walk, walk, walk, and one of our favourite places is the Isla Cuale, especially down at the cultural end where the artist studios, gallery, and restaurant/bars are. Babel Bar is a very pleasant venue for a mid-morning coffee riverside.

We thought that all the big iguanas had disappeared from this small part of the world but lo and below, Ty spotted one sunning itself riverside the other day.

Underneath the car bridge running over the river several artists set up shop. The fellow below, Hector, was creating pictures using an innovative technique that he said his brother-in-law had invented, scratching into expired film with a sharp exacto knife. Each level of the film has a different colour, as can be seen in the images below.

We love watching the birds from one of the beach restaurants down by the Hotel Rosita. The fishermen clean out their catch nets and buckets here and pelicans and frigate birds wait patiently each day for the man to come down to the water’s edge. They swoop and whirl and feast on the remains of the day’s catch.

Also flying through the air down here are the Huichol Indians, five of whom do a pole twirl to flute accompaniment several times a day for tips.

Every Tuesday morning a group of folks, led by Doug and Dan, meet at 10:30 for the bus trip down to Boca de Tomatlan and the hike to Las Animas, a beach on Banderas Bay south of PV. This day there were 52 of us, mostly Canadians escaping winter. Upon arriving in Boca, the group split into 2, with one pack hiking from Boca to Las Animas, and the other group, including Ty and I, taking a boat to Quimixto and hiking from there back to Boca. Below is a view of Boca from the pier.

Along with the humans come three dogs, including Dutch, the brown poodle in the photo below. These dogs are excellent travellers and do the hike without difficulty.

Quimixto is a tiny town, only accessible by boat, in which we played baseball with the villagers last year and got crushed 12 to 1.

At one time there may have been more tourist activities here but the few beach restaurant facilities have been shuttered for a while.

Our group of 22 walked through the town, past the school where we played ball, across a river, along a neatly swept path between local houses and onto the trail proper.

Burros are still used here as work horses; this guy was enjoying a rest in the shade before getting back at it.

Even though this area is quite remote, there are several luxurious homes and resorts along this strip of coast.

Our route took us from the village down to the beach then up again into the hills on sandy switchbacks.

A few of our party were not well-prepared for the hike, lacking sufficient water and perhaps not fit enough, and suffered some heatstroke on the uphill climb. Dan, who is a retired Calgary firefighter, stayed back with them and brought them in at a slow pace while the rest of us carried on.

The ground is very sandy here and I had to keep an eye on the placement of my feet so as not to slip down the cliff edge. Beautiful trees line this coast; I’m not sure of their name but they are the same family as Arbutus and Eucalyptus trees with reddish bark that sheds.

Just before we arrived at our destination we passed one more resort, with swimming pool, tennis court, shuffleboard court, and multi-terraces overlooking the ocean. Around the corner from this place we saw a burro on a long rope which was caught up in some brush, such that the animal was stuck in the blazing sun. Ty unhitched the rope from where it was tangled and the happy donkey headed straight for the nearest shade.

I’m not sure how long the hike was, maybe an hour (shorter than the Boca to Animas hike, which takes us about 2 hours) but the reward for our exertions was a nice cold facecloth, a bucket of ice-cold beer, and plates of chips and salsa for all, on the house. El Caracol is the restaurant which hosts our group and they really go all out with the hospitality. (We do spent a fair bit on food and drink there and they appreciate the business).

In the photo below you can see Doug’s dog Chester resting in the shade, another of the dogs who accompany the group.

After lunch, the restaurant provides everyone with a shot of raicilla and a slice of orange. This drink, a local moonshine, is, like tequila and mescal, from the agave plant, and packs a punch.

The whole group took part in a video promo for the beach and restaurant, with video taken by a drone overhead.

A super-fun day, capped by a boat ride back to the pier in Old Town PV, with a stop to feed the fish at Los Arcos.

And, finally, for this post, Maggie, Ty and I did the Centro Art Walk on Wednesday night, a cultural extravaganza at 12 galleries and several other shops located in the streets above the Malecon.

Upon getting off the bus to begin the walk, we looked up the street and lo and behold we spied a restaurant/bar up the road with what looked like a great view terrace. Barcelona Tapas it was and we enjoyed a drink on the patio as the sun set over PV.

Our first stop was Colektica, a gallery of Indigenous art, with a beautiful courtyard of art and artifacts.

We watched one of the artists making a beaded work, like the piece on the wall below. These kind of pieces always remind me of the cover of a magic-realist novel I read a million years ago, Terra Nostra, by the Mexian writer Carlos Fuentes – I must read it again while here.

Since the city is so busy this year, the streets were pretty packed with art-lovers roving from gallery to restaurant to gallery.

I always enjoy Galeria Corsica; for the last couple of years, it has featured, among many others, an artist who does lively dog portraits, examples below.

I dream of having a hacienda like this one, with an open air courtyard and sculpture garden. Maybe in my next life!

Galeria Nord South, kitty corner to the Corsica, had a full mariachi band playing for its opening, well appreciated by the crowd.

New to us this year was this strip of studios, not “officially” part of the walk, but very interesting spaces that reminded me of bodegas in Italy.

Each of the participating venues offers alcholic drinks to the throngs, and I did sample rather more than I usually do …

An interesting venue featuring younger, local artists is the Starving Artist Gallery, whose balcony is in the foreground of this photo.

While most of the commercial galleries here carry a surrealist-inflected selection of works, there is one non-commercial contemporary art space, Oficina de Proyectos Culturales, that offers some insight into contemporary Latin American photography, video, and installation works. This month’s exhibition displays The End of the Great Tale which investigates how Cuba is defined in 2018 from both inside and outside the country.

The rocking metal birds that Maggie admired the last time she was here were still there at Galerie Uno and she is still tempted, I think!

After a hard few hours of art-viewing we had worked up a powerful hunger and finished our evening with a delicious dinner at the rooftop terrace of Florio’s.

For more info about the art walk, and a map of participating galleries, click here.

See more photos here, here and here.

January snow and sun

As some of you know, I was down in Vancouver in January and it seemed that I brought the northern winter with me! It was sunny, cold, and icy for much of the time but was it ever beautiful! After being up north for six months in a landscape that is somewhat barren, although beautiful in its own way, everything about Vancouver seemed gorgeous: the trees, the mountains, the plants, the people, the architecture … I think I must have been starved for aesthetic experiences!

Especially the snow-covered mountains – I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them.

Here’s a mural message that hits home on a building at Main and 10th: the Present is a Gift. After a very stressful January, that really resonates for me!

I was happy to be able to connect with some of my dear friends while I was there – these two cuties:

And these three:

Others I don’t have any pictures of, but it was so wonderful to be able to spend time with friends that I hadn’t seen for a while.

I signed up for an introductory month of yoga at the YYoga studio in Kits and captured this fabulous end of day burst of golden glory after class one day.

Even just walking around Granville Island, which I’ve spent so much time on over the years, was like something new and wonderful after having been away.

While out walking I stopped in the middle of intersections to take yet more pictures of those fabulous mountains.

Ty & I caught the Collectors show at the Vancouver Museum, a display of the wild and wacky stuff that some people are compelled to accumulate – made me feel like not so much of a hoarder!

If I think about the psychology of collecting curiosities, it seems partly linked with acquisition and consumption; finding something “other”, alien, or exotic fascinating and wanting to absorb it into one’s own psychological or physical environment. Placing such an object in a collection or curiosity cabinet immobilises it, but also leaves it accessible to scrutiny or wondering about or appreciating (in that old sense of art or music “appreciation”). It may be that collecting objects is a way of filling a gap or fulfilling a lack … It is true that the historical curiosity cabinets or Wunderkammer did focus on the exotic and unfamiliar, at a time when everything seemed to be available for gathering and containing.

Back in 2009 when Ty & I were on Libong island in the Andaman Sea south of Trang, Thailand, I gathered up quite a lot of shells from the beach one night, making sure that they were empty. I put them on our deck, lined up in order of size – I was going to do a painting of them. The next morning, I was quite disappointed that several of them were gone and I thought that someone had come by in the night and taken them away. Later that morning I saw the line of missing shells, not empty as it happened but occupied by hermit crabs, making their stately way back to the beach – the flow of the marvellous is all around us.

I was happy to have been able to participate in the Vancouver Women’s March while I was there, a large and lively gathering of folks from all walks of life. After having been passed by while standing at the bus stop to go downtown to the march by several packed-to-the-rafters buses, one finally stopped for us – it was absolutely full of pink-hatted protestors heading to the march. I felt a bit underdressed without a pink pussyhat.

We all gathered at the Olympic Plaza waterfront and, after waiting for quite a while, headed off for the Trump Tower on Georgia.

I loved the sign below, a riff on the now-famous Baroque painting of Judith slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.

I knew my friend Beatrice had also gone to the march, but hadn’t seen her there. When I downloaded my photos, there she was in the middle of the picture below.

Before heading back up to the frozen north, Ty and I took the opportunity of relaxing and decompressing in Puerto Vallarta for a quick, much too short, hit of sun and warmth. Since we went at the absolute last moment without having planned anything, we weren’t able to find any suitable accommodation to book on line. So we hit the road and just walked in to several hotels in old town, where, on our third try, we found a great room on the top floor of the Posada Lily with a wrap around balcony. A great location at the epicentre of old town at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas, the Lily is half a block from the beach and across the street from a coffee shop with great java – perfect!

Here Ty is enjoying his morning coffee on our balcony facing out over the city and watching the sun rise over the hills behind – beautiful!

We had a very low-key and relaxing time, mosieing (sp?) along the malecon

sipping cervesas and margaritas (pro tip: for a killer margarita, try the Redneck Bar at the north end of the malecon – deadly).

Some evenings saw us strolling along the beach, taking in the light show from the pier and all the sights and sounds of merry-making in the Zona Romantica.

One of our favourite places is the Isla Cuale, a green oasis of quiet, at least at the eastern end where the city cultural centre is located, and the Las Brazzas bar. This place is never busy; I really don’t know how they stay in business, but is a very pleasant place to rest on a hot day.

Behind one of the small galleries here a paper mache sculpture of the Donald as a giant pig was strung up to a lamp post.

We enjoy seeing the wares of local artists on display on the Isla; this woman is a watercolour painter specialising in images of black cats in compromising situations. We commisioned her to do a special orange cat for a dear friend.

Of course, we had to take in the South Side Shuffle, the every second Friday extravaganza of art and music in Old Town just down the road from the Posada Lily.

We had a nice chat with Nathalie, the fabulous proprietor of Art Vallarta, and her helper Michael, a performance artist, at their pop-up gallery in what used to be the ceramic studio of Patricia Gawle.

Nathalie is a great supporter of local artists and does a tremendous amount for the arts in Vallarta. In addition to the pop-up gallery and the Art Vallarta studio and gallery, another of her initiatives this year was a house installation of Tony Collantez’ work, an incredible collection of works on canvas and murals in a dizzying array of styles.

We took in the Tuesday hike from Boca to Las Animas organised by Calgarian Doug, along with about 35 other people who packed the bus heading south to the trailhead.

Some folks like to do this hike at super-speed; others, like us, at a more leisurely pace. After the first half hour, the crowd thinned out and spread out along the route.

While we were hiking the day was slightly overcast, which made the walk a bit more pleasant than doing it in the blazing sun.

Since I was now familiar with the route, it did not seem as onerous as the first few times I walked it.

Here Ty is happy that after two hours the end is in sight!

We enjoyed a great lunch at the usual spot, the Caracol restaurant, with the rest of the crew.

A surprise addition to the day was a late afternoon baseball game with the locals at Quimixto, the next village south along the bay where the folks from the restaurant live. Some of the hikers had brought down and donated baseball equipment to the village, including uniforms, bats, balls, and gloves, and had challenged the locals to a game. After lunch and a rest on the beach we all piled back into a panga and headed south for the 15 minute ride to the village.

The game took place at the elementary school field, an expanse of dirt with a view of the ocean.

Before the game proper got going, Ty played a bit of ball with the kids.

Since at this point there were about 30 people for “our” side, not all of us played; I sat it out and Ty played for the local team instead.

While it was a casual, pickup game, all of a sudden when things got going, the Canadians got quite competitive, practicing their most blazing throws in the late afternoon sun. Unfortunately, while everyone could throw pretty well, no one seemed to be able to catch …

All the local guys were heavy hitters, belting the ball into the far distance where our team scrambled without much success to catch and throw it back in.

After a few foul balls, Ty blasted one out to left field and got on base.

Even though we lost 12 to 1, the team were good sports, buying the happy winners a beer before we hopped back on the boat for the return journey to town.

By this time, it was early evening and the sun was setting, not the most optimum time to be on the water without lights or life vests …

We were luck enough to see two humpback whales frolicing on the way back.

I also had the opportunity to plein air paint with Angie, an artist from Penticton who spends much of the winter in PV.

Angie and her husband Rob have a place in old town, and Angie now has her own studio on the main floor of the building where she can paint and display her work.

We also enjoyed spending some time with friends Beatrice and Bev, in town for a few weeks from Vancouver.

One of the most fun things to do in the evening in high season PV is the Wednesday Night Centro Art Walk. Here are a few tidbits of artistic goodies that we saw:

This little guy reminded me of our beautiful departed dog Brubin:

Beatrice taking notes:

See more PV photos here.

One thing I have had reinforced this winter is that we must savour every moment and be thankful and grateful for good friends and family. Carpe diem everyone!