Mexico 2020

This website is a quick and dirty description of Doug & Johanne's Mexican adventure in January of 2020.

It's all Dorothy and Bennoe's fault. Doug was initially very reluctant to vacation in Mexico, having read lots of media reports about drug cartels, corruption and violence. However, after meeting and talking with a large number of their friends who not only vacation in Mexico, but have bought property and live here half the year, we were convinced. (Missing part of a Canadian winter isn't too much of a hardship, either.) Puerto Vallarta in particular seems pretty safe, and has a great reputation. D & B go on and on about how the weather is great, the local people are extremely friendly, and the cost of things is lower than we're used to.

And so it was that we left London a little after 4 AM on our way to Hamilton and a direct Swoop flight to Puerto Vallarta. Parked the van about 7 miles from the terminal (seemed like that when I walked back) and got right into the slow moving checkin line. We lucked out, and one of the few empty seats on the 767-800 was beside us in row 4, so we had lots of extra room and a short trip to the bathroom. We dozed, snacked, and read books. No movies on the discount Swoop airline, but not a big deal. I was planning on starting to read more, and I read 100 pages of "Crow Lake" during the flight.

This is going to turn into a chronology of events, so I might as well start the timestamps. If there are small photos, try clicking on them to see if I followed through on my grand intentions of zoomability:

Date Activities
Friday Jan 3, noonish Mexico looks pretty wrinkled from the plane window, or maybe those are mountains.Lots of valleys,and roads that would be awful in the winter if they had snow.Little patches of civilization in valleys started growing in size. The landing was uneventful, and we followed our standard procedure: Jo had to smoke, and Doug had to pee. Almost caused an international incident when we got bad advice from an airport official on the best route to the bathroom, but recovered without any incarceration. Took forever to get a taxi to take us to where we're staying, but that's probably not surprising. We're not staying at an all exclusive resort, or any kind of resort. We're in a hotel apartment ( D & B are in a nearby condo) in a non-tourist part of old Puerto Vallarta. The streets are cobblestones (must shake the cars apart), the accommodations are quite nice, but far from luxury, and very few of the Mexican people we deal with speak fluent English. It's going to be an adventure for sure!
2:30 ish Managed to turn my watch back an hour, but wasn't quite sure what to do when my spiffy new Samsung Galaxy S-10 (expecting awesome photos) didn't automatically switch. That was solved the next day, but back to our arrival. After shaking the daylights out of us for the last 10 minutes on cobblestome hills, our taxi delivered us to our hotel. None of the people at the front desk spoke much English, but we managed to connect with previously made informal plans. Didn't seem to be any need for money or a credit card, and they asked one of their guys to show us to our apartment. Good thing they did, as we went out the front door, turned left, up to the next cross street, turned right, crossed over the street and went down half a block. Saw Dorothy and Bennoe greeting us from their balcony along the way, but in a different building. Then used our keys to get through 2 large locked gates, up 2 flights of stairs, (no elevator, with luggage) and to our place. Pretty nice, and roomy: full kitchen with table, 3 closets plus lots of shelves, bedroom with king bed, sitting room with TV (that gets NHL games), and a small balcony with a view of the ocean
  Interesting electrical pole next to balcony, with birds nest containing babies in the middle of the insulators. Photo later.
3:30 B & D invited us to join them for supper / evening at El Rio BBQ ( ) Met Dorothy's cousin Darleen who is also staying in our building and set out in two Ubers. Met Gary (Darleen's brother) who owns property in PV there - yet another character. Had a blast - great food, and an energetic 2 man band that kept the oldies coming all night. Audience tended towards grey hair and ex-hippies, with lots of flailing on the dance floor.
9:00 Got "home" pretty tired. Long day - both in bed by 9 PM. Johanne's concerned that she can't find any cutlery, and more critical, the coffee maker doesn't seem to work, but we'll worry about that tomorrow.
Saturday Jan 4 Doug finds cutlery, in the drawer over the huge rotating water bottle.
  Breakfast at Vegan restaurant at the Green Place. Excellent: omeletes and French toast (and coffee)

Long walk Southward along the Malecon (description), with intermittent shopping & sight seeing.
This button should give you a glimpse of the Malecon's ocean edge:  Malecon
  The Malecon is a long pedestrian mall along the ocean.
  Spotted some dolphins in the bay, but hoping for whales
Band 80 feet in the air - the-papantla-birdmen

xall sorts of entertainment. This guy looks like a sand statue, but he moves occasionally

We evntually got to the outdoor market - big and busy, shoulder to shoulder, with anything you could want. Cinnamon buns were awesome.
Ran in to Mike the pool player and Sandy his wife, then Claire from London and a few other cronies
Dorothey and Darlene going for pedicures,
Saturday Jan 4
beach bevviesDoug, Bennoe & Johanne going for beers on the beach. It's not entirely the beers that got the photo tilted - I was trying to include the parasail above the umbrella.

DB&J spend a couple of hours swilling beer, and eating gucamole & chips while watching various kinds of boats, parasailing, and an endless stream of immaculately dressed beach vendors selling: tattoos, jewelry, snack food, sculptures, hats, rugs, donuts (we called him Tim Hortonez) cigars, paintings, clothing, etc, etc. Saw a Tshirt for sale near the beach yesterday: "Fuck Trump. If you like him, Fuck you too" Not too surprising.
  Parasails being towed behind boats brought back memories of my skydiving days. The second parachute I owned was exactly the same design ("para-commander").
  Marathon hike back, with more entertainment along the way.
  ...and then even further to the Cell Phone company to get Mexican SIM cards for Doug & Jo's phones. Bennoe has thoughtfully come along to help us with the process, and at one point he shows Doug his phone and says, congratulations, you've done 10,500 steps. Not the planned gradual ramp up to the fanatical walking the rest of these crazy people do, but we got to the phone store just in time to prevent Doug from collapsing. After a couple of tries, we got working SIM cards - will email phone numbers out.
needless to add, took an Uber back "home".
6:30 Had supper at the recommended Italian place at the top of the building where we checked in. Beautiful restaurant, with view of the sunset over the ocean, and great Italian food and wine. Overheard a number of French Canadians in that building, and checked out the pool when we left. Johanne think's the one in D & B's building is warmer, and we can probably drink their beer for free. I was going to try to keep it to one or 2 beers a day, but according to that plan, I'm already up to late February's consumption.
  On the walk back, we noticed the Mexican approach to garbage collection, at least in this area. There's no door to door pickup. Instead, garbage is placed in the middle of intersections in the evening and is picked up overnight. In the meantime, the intersections turn into round-abouts. A little further on we came across a group of people spilling out of a doorway and sitting on the sidewalk, singing slow Spanish hymns. We figure it was a prayer meeting.
  Easy evening, with reading, drinking, and website start up. Doug figured out why the coffee maker wasn't working, reconnected an internal hose, and it now works like a charm. Life is good.
I'm too lazy to embed the photo's and video's I've been taking into this website. Seems crazy, but I think I'm going to go to bed at 10PM.
Sunday Jan 5 Roosters crowing in the morning, according to Jo, and the waved crashing on the beach clearly audible. Bennoe says they're extra big in the morning, and crash over the sea wall, leaving a layer of sand which is swept up early. Sounds like a good photo opportunity, but not sure I can get up that early. Jo wandered off to find coffee sometime before I woke up, and found that people here don't put milk or cream in their coffee, but were willing to accommodate her weird request.
The place we ate at last night has a big buffet on Sunday mornings, so off we went around 08:30. Delicious, but different - didn't recognize a lot of stuff on the buffet, but had some of it anyway. Another gorgeous view of the ocean from table in photo, calm and flat (the ocean, not the table. well, it was flat, too). Wondering how the sailboats out their are able to navigate. Guess they're not in a hurry. Email from Bennoe inviting me to a local bar to watch a hockey game with a bunch of Canadians & have refreshments. Not surprisingly, the women will be shopping. Doing this quick web update, pulling photos and videos from my phone, and then off to the hockey game.
  The Canada/Russia gold metal hockey game was incredible, especially in a bar crowded with energetic Canadians. I think about 90 percent of the tourists in old PV are Canadians, and Bennoe and Dorothy and their cronies know about half of them. We met up with Vinny, from London who owns a place in PV, and Tony, who hosted the New Years Eve party for Canucks here. The sounds of O Canada from the bar patrons after the medal ceremony are still ringing in my ears. We get free wings next time we're in that bar, but that's another story.
After the game, Bennoe, Vinny and I wandered up the street while messages were shooting back and forth to various wives about supper plans. Stopped at a sidewalk stand for my first taco. This is a large booth covering a 4 x 10 foot part of the sidewalk, next to a 2 foot wide sidewalk, next to a store where they have supplies and refrigeration. They're all specialized, and this guy serves beef tacos pretty well non stop for 16 hours a day, and they are delicious.
  Ended up spending the afternoon sitting in and around the infinity pool on the roof of B & D's building. Beautiful view of the ocean, and city below, pool at perfect temperature, and once again, drinking Bennoe's beer (gotta quit doing that). Laid out on fancy deck chairs and absorbed the 30 degree sun. A few other residents of the building wandered in and out, and of course, B & D knew them.
Decided to head for a local restaurant for supper after tentative plans to meet Vinny & Claire got cancelled. Unfortunately, Dorothy tripped and fell, which is really easy to do on hilly cobblestone streets. No serious injury, but we decided to grab food supplies and eat in our apartments while Dorothey got rest and ice on her ankle and in her drink. Johanne was able to communicate to the store owner that she wanted ham slices by oinking like a pig. Wish I had video of that.
The place a few doors down from us that we thought was a prayer meeting was setting up again this evening when we passed it on the way home. Our current theory is that someone passed away, and this is a grieving ceremony of sorts.
Put together a tasty supper from our supplies. Warning: Mexican Doritos are higher octane that what we get in Canada. The dark brown mottled colour should be a warning.
Finished reading that book I started, and I think I may be turning into a reader.
There always seems to be a single source of music outside in the late evening. I've heard guitar, an opera-like singer, and tonight it's trumpet music. I've sure the singer was a live person, but the others might have been recordings. During the day there's great music coming from a construction site up the street.
OK, I have to see if I can get some photos onto this site.
Monday Jan 6 Had to check something electronic to see what the day and date are for this entry - I've completely lost track of time. I guess the hockey game yesterday was a Canadian religious service. Finished off my book this morning so it's a good thing I brought 2 more.
Had a fairly normal breakfast this morning of instant oatmeal, coffee and mango juice.
Monday Jan 6 Johanne's out walking with the women again (suspect it's really shopping) so I thought I'd take a few photo's of our room / apartment. First photo is our kitchen, with front door to cameraman's back.
  Place is long and one room wide. Here's the view down the hall from kitchen, past the 3 closets on left, and bathroom on the right, past bedroom then sitting room, to door to balcony which faces the street. 
  King size bed. looks small in photo for some reason. I could probably sleep sideways in it.
  Sitting room, with TV in cabinet on left. We get CBC, and NHL hockey on it, but haven't watched it much. 
  and the balcony. small, but with ocean view, and really nice if there's a breeze. You can just feel mexican life proceeding as usual when you're out there. Kids, dogs, roosters, music for the construction workers up the street, occasional loud motorbike negotiating the uphill cobblestones, spanish conversations of passers by...

next nerd challenge is to get some of the video I've been taking onto this site. New cell phone takes stunning video, but the files are huge. 
  This evening website update is starting to feel like a regular confession of transgressions committed during the day. Dorothy seems to have recovered completely from her cobblestone gymnastics, which is a relief. Bennoe and I met a bunch of Canadians for their regular pool game at 11:00. I met Dan, Mike, Grant and Vinny there in a quiet local pool hall with about a dozen tables. Played a weird game called "golf" which apparently I'm no good at, but had a great time for 4 hours. Officially, this is referred to as Monday Therapy.  Beverages were consumed. There wasn't any wagering, which probably saved my retirement, as some of these guys have played pool several times before. At the end we each chipped in about $1.40 CDN to cover everything. Others in the hall were playing a pool variation on tables that don't have any pockets, and I saw little pegs like miniature bowling pins near the center of other tables.
  Wandered back to Bennoe's place for more beverages and philosophizing. Dinner plans were made and remade several times around doctor's appointment, and the discovery that our first choice of resturant, El Patron, is closed today. Eventually we herded everyone together (Bennoe, Dorothy, Doug, Johanne, Vinny, Claire and Darlene) and went down the road a couple of blocks to PePe's Tacos . Quite informal, but incredibly good food. I'm sure we'll be back there again.

The ladies went off on some errands by car, and D, B & V returned to B & D's place to continue beverages and philosophizing. Almost had the world's problems solved when the ladies returned and distracted us. Eventually we finally quit abusing B & D's hospitality, and left them in peace and quiet.

(Vinny has a better photo.)
Tuesday Jan 7 Did a restorative yoga class with Dorothy's cousin Gary's wife Barb in second floor studio along the Malecon at 11 AM. It was crowded but a great class - inspiring philosophy as well as vigourous wokout. We'll be back for more. Photo is view from studio across the Malecon to the ocean. Heard birds and waves throughout the class.
  Had nice lunch at PiPi's (wings, gucamole and a few beverages) before women went off for massages. Bennoe & Doug went in search of a bank for Doug to convert some US$. It was a pretty pathetic search, demonstrating why you shouldn't depend on cell phones for navigation. Bennoe's wouldn't access any web sites (turned out he had used up all his data) and Doug's new one was being flakey (might have got into airplane mode accidentally). We orbitted old PV for a while and eventually found a HSBC branch. Turns out that HSBC doesn't do currency conversions. We addressed this by going across the street for a couple of beers, at a place that also specialized in cigars and chocolate. Wandered through a market, and accidentally found a branch of the bank that HSBC had recommended for US$ exchange, Elektra. They would only convert US$ if you showed your passport. Since I'm not allowed to carry my passport, that was another no-go. Somewhere in there we asked for a second set of keys to D & J's apartment. This resulted in a frantic search, admission that they didn't have a second set, and a promise to get one made if we surrendered the original set. I bravely did so, since no passport was required, and a couple of hours later, we did indeed get the old set, and a new set back.
Supper was Italian food at La Triviata on 5th floor of Paloma del Mar Hotel. Excellent food & great service. Photo shows a cruise ship leaving port as we ate, in about the middle of the shot.
  Had this incredible chocolate cake fondant dessert. They bake it to order, and it comes with vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries. This alone pretty well guaranteed that we'd be returning to La Triviata.
Wednesday Jan 8 Not sure I have the order right, but there was another attempt at currency conversion. Bennoe and I walked towards town again. Yesterday we walked by an Elektra branch fairly close to us that had construction in progres and didn't seem to be open yet. Today there still seemed to be construction, but a couple of wickets had people at them. They would only convert $300, and they did need to scan my passport, but I was very happy to get about 5,500 pesos. Probably made Bennoe happy too, since he no longer has to pay for everything. Went for a couplel of beers to celebrate, and had a mediocre lunch. Having noticed that his phone's data usage was about what his package covered, Bennoe topped up his phone at an OXXO store. (Mexican corner store, nothing to do with soup). Phone started working better after that, and taking mine out of airplane mode was helpful too. Still can't get darn Uber App to send me the required code via text message, though.
  Think the women went shopping. Not sure, but I know that Bennoe and I did. Armed with lists, Bennoe and I headed for the main drag to catch a bus to Walmart. Had flashbacks to the earlier marathon walk to the TelCel store for SIM cards, but managed to keep it together. We got off the bus near the harbour, where there were 2 cruise ships, and a yacht with a helicopter on the back of it
  We split up for the shopping, and it wasn't going to badly while I could use my phone to translate the shopping list items to the spanish names on the shelves. Then my phone went flakey again, and things went downhill. Could have sworn avacados were on my list, but apparently not. Luckily, Dorothy has enough supplies to make guacamole out of them. I managed to translate bathroom to "bano" (with a wiggly n) before my phone weirded out, which turned out to be very handy. Made it through the checkout, using a credit card, due to my lack of success with currency conversion. Our cell phone prowess was once again demonstrated when neither one of us was able to order an Uber due to technical difficulties (don't ask) but we were able to take a taxi, which was already there. Way too much booze and water to carry to take a bus back.
  Didn't take long to get ourselves, some sunscreen, and several beverages out to Bennoe's swimming pool, where we basked and tried to forget the day's technical traumas. Realized we'd also forgotten about our wives, but in a stunning feat of communications, managed to text them and confim they were still shopping.
  We could look down from the pool on the top of B & D's building to the terrace on the top of D & J's. No pool on the terrace, so we haven't spent any time there.
  While I was surveying views from the pool, I realized how good the Mexicans are at passive air conditioning. I think these roofs that resemble something from the Middle East gather rising heated air and direct it to the opening at the top, where it's moved away by any wind, or just convection. There's another variation in our buildings. The building design incorporates open ended vertical shafts that are 5 to 10 feet square, and, say, 7 stories tall. Windows allow air from living quarters (notably steamy bathrooms) to enter the shaft and rise, creating another kind of convection air flow.
  We sat around the pool for while, absorbing the hot sun, and eventually made dinner plans. Took the easy choice and went back to the excellent Italian place nearby for a late supper. Played musical entrees, generally choosing something that someone else had and liked the previous night. Once again, the food was just great, with lots of sharing across the table. Beautiful orange sunset despite lack of clouds. Rumours of yoga class tomorrow morning..
Thursday Jan 9   Was lazy and didn't do nightly website update last night, so I'm going by my gray cell starved memories here. Bennoe's not feeling well, and spent most of the day taking it easy at home. We did indeed have a 11:00 AM yoga class. On the way, we saw the aerial performers doing their daily vertical commute. Got some video of them later. Once again yoga was inspiring, but vigourous. Think I may have aggravated a pumpkin-tossing injury to my left shoulder because it's a bit painful.
  After yoga we wandered over to Pepe's for a lunch break. The Mariache band was in full swing, but when we told them we weren't interested, they left us alone.
  But of course, the table right behind us wanted the full treatment, including the kids joining in using hand rattles (or whatever you call those things)
  The ladies headed off for more massages. Not sure what they're doing that causes the need for all these masages.
  I expected my ball cap with the name of a Japanese Ham Radio manufacturer to attract all sorts of female ham operators on vacation. Not only did it fail to do that, but it didn't cover my ears, which were in danger of being broiled during the 17 hours a day we spend walking outside. So, I broke down and bought a touristy Panama hat. It hasn't attracted any ladies from Panama yet, either. We also bought other critical supplies we'd managed to forget: playing cards and a bottle opener.

When we headed back home, Johanne did a little pirouette half way up the 2 flights of stairs. Apparently she get dizzy if she keeps turning in the same direction, so she twirls in the opposite direction to counteract that. I suppose you have to expect anyone who would marry me to be a bit weird.
  Memory's a bit weak here, but Johanne and I ended up at an Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita on the Malecon for supper. Food was pretty good, but not as good as the Triviata. We sat next to a young family with extremely well behaved kids. Come to think of it, that's happened a couple of times. Or maybe it's just that we're used to our kids being brats? This was the view from our 2nd story table after we finished our meal.
  Went over to D & B's place to do laundry, drink their booze, and play 65. Claire and Vinny had warned us that if a truck comes around making a lot of hissing noise we should get in the house quick and close the door. Sure enough, before we could start our card game on the balcony, a noisy pickup truck went by, so we rapidly redeployed inside. Turns out they spray regularly for the mosquitoes that carry Dengue fever, and the spray smells terrible. Internet research confirmed it's a risk here, and the cause of at least a week in hospital if you get it. Dorothy won the card game handily, although we discovered in a recount that she uses a more generous method that the rest of us do to score the points in her hand.
Friday Jan 10 Bennoe's feeling better today, so once again, we're a fairly healthy bunch. Today's adventure is a trip to the Botanical Gardens (or "BOO-tanical Gardens, if you prefer), which is quite a ways South of PV. After last nights Dengue scare, we dug out the insect repellent we'd brought, along with sunscreen and sun hats. Took an Uber to the bus "terminal" and exchanged vocabulary lessons with him on the way. Boarded the "bus" and it rattled to life after a brief wait. It had a broken windshield, and a quarter of the door was a solid duct tape panel. It was a bit shaky, and laboured on the never ending steep hills, but did deliver us intact to the Botanical Gardens after being stuck behind a slow truck for half an hour. Ate a tasty lunch there and then headed out to explore.
 The B G wasn't as extensive as we expected, but interesting in any case. Had a nice chat with a long time PV resident who produces coffee and sells it locally and in the markets.
  Went across the swinging bridge, but it turns out Johanne is a bit timid, and not a swinger after all. Took a couple dozen plant photos which I'll put on a separate page and link in here later.
  Visited the chapel where our yoga teached Barb does some special classes, and a vanilla plantation, and cactus collection.
  Decided to splurge on a taxi on the way back, but it wasn't a whole lot better than the incoming ride. We were a bit wedged into the back seat, and the frequent high speed corners caused some unintended coziness. We cut the ride short at Lindamar, a resort that the ladies had visited on Monday on a tour while the guys were at Therapy. Gorgeous ocean front view of beach, rocks and ocean, with a waitress serving beverages. Life is good! Only downside was that it became overcast for the first time since we arrived. Still warm and pleasant, though.
  Took an Uber back to "home" and goofed off while Dorothy went to an appointment. Met some more Canadians from Vancouver, Don & Bev, while absorbing sunshine on the terrace. Headed out for a late supper at a local taco place on Honduras with Claire and Vinny. It had about equal seating for restaurant service, and people waiting for take out orders. Pork was being continuously cooked and carved off a Donair-style vertical meat spindle on a counter on the sidewalk. Probably ate more than we should have, but it was soooo good.
Saturday Jan 11 Another lazy morning - didn't get out of bed until after 9. Even Johanne is sleeping in a bit (until 6). Eventually wandered down the street to to the Calmate Cafe. Delicious food to start the day: omelete and a cold tropical drink.
  Had a nice chat with the friendly Canadian lady who runs the place. She even agreed that they should have ketchup available. Think we'll be returning here several more times.
  Johanne got ready to join the ladies for a charity fashion show and more shopping. Not a high priority on my list, so I stayed home to take it easy. Caught up on Ham radio email: had three inquiries from people who want to become hams, and interest from a UWO High Altitude Balloon team in getting ham assistance to track and communicate with their payload. Did a little shopping at the corner store, then spent some time evening up my sun tan on the roof top terrace. Would have started my second book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, but the text was too small for my flakey contact lenses. Good thing I didn't fall asleep, as Johanne had forgotten her keys, and needed to be let in.
  B & D are Picking up Kim (B's daughter) and boyfriend Mark at the airport. Kim has a broken foot and has a big boot clamped on it. We're a little worried about how she's going to navigate the hilly cobblestone roads around our rooms. There's talk of getting her a wheelchair.
  Walked over to La Triviata to make a dinner reservation, which I did entirely in well rehearsed Spanish. It seemed to go well, but we'll see if they actually have a table for us at the appointed time. I've since downloaded Google Translate for my spiffy new phone. Dorothy's off helping Darlene move to different accommodations, which seemed to take a lot longer than it should have.
  Met B & Kim & Mark for supper, early enough to see the sun set over the South end of the bay. Kim seems to be getting around fine, although they're both at the end of a long travel day. Quite disappointed that the salmon they ordered that I had enjoyed previously was very undercooked, giving K & M a less than stellar impression of their first meal in PV. The restaurant was hopping, and loud, probably because of all the tourists out on a Saturday night.
  Bennoe and the newcomers took an Uber to an entertainment area on the Malecon for some initial exploration. Doug & Jo acted like old fogeys, and headed back for an early night. (Gotta remember to take more photos tomorrow.)
Sunday Jan 12 Another lazy morning for me, but Jo was up around the crack of dawn, fetching coffee from the vegetarian Green Place near the Paloma del Mar lobby. She's such a regular that they start making her coffee as soon as they see her. Jo got the urge for MacDonalds food around mid morning, so off we went on the first hike of the day. Photo shows the breakfast specials. I had the one on the left, and Jo had the one on the right. My scrambled eggs were quite spicy, with peppers, onions and a couple of unidentified ingredients.The things at the back of the picture are biscuit slices with bean paste and melted cheese. And the same old McD's sausage pattie we know and love. The prices aren't as bad as they look. The dollar sign is also used for pesos, and 100 pesos is about 7 Canadian dollars, so a $79 breakfast is about 5.60 CDN$.
  Looked out the front window towards the ocean at one point, and noticed pelicans on the roof across the Malecon
  The pelicans also seemed to have taken over a small boat anchored just off-shore
  We walked back along the beach which was sometimes sandy, and sometimes rocky. There was one weird spot where the rocks on top of sand made a rattling sound when a receding wave moved them around. At the ends of streets there are stairwells, restaurants, or artwork like this sculpture. (After overhearing a converation, I think this may be a sundial.)
  This one's for Larry. A guy fishing in the ocean from a rocky part of the beach. Seemed to be using pretty light gear. Especially considering that later, we saw dolphins and whales in this bay.
  We continued wandering along the beach, picking up the mandatory interesting souvenir stones. As we walk by the back of a restaurant, where there beach chairs were arranged, a voice said "Johanne?". It was a Canadian lady Georgette that Johnne had met on her Monday tour to the South. She recommended both the restaurant we were behind, and a day trip from Boca de Tomatoes via water taxi to a beach area up the coast. Took this photo so we'd remember the restaurant.
  Eventully got back home, and soon headed to the Paloma del Mar lobby, where we expected Martha to arrive between 1 and 2. Had long conversations with Linette from Calgary, and a lady from the hotel who was very friendly, helpful, and spoke excellent English. Martha arrived around 2, after her plane's departure had been delayed due to a sick person on board and a need for extra de-icing. She's pretty tired, but we got her through the minimal check in paperwork (again, no money required) and showed her to her room, which is quite close to ours. Invited her to our place for relaxation, chips and a beverage.
  Eventually while enjoying the view from our tiny balcony, we noticed the approach of what we ended up referring to as the wheelchair gang. Kim riding in the wheelchair with her booted foot, Mark pushing from behind, and Bennoe trying to keep the the front wheels from getting wedged as they manoeuvered across the uphill cobblestones. Kept a straight face as we reconvened at B & D's place for more beverages. A source of Sauvignon Blanc wine seems to have been discovered, which may come back to haunt us.
  We eventually headed out for supper at the restaurant recommended earlier, El Barracuda, a had a great meal, with more worrisome Sauv Blanc. Meals included ribs, fish tacos, shrimp, mushroom soup, etc. While we ate, entertainers on the beach were juggling flaming torches.
  After the meal a magician came around and did slight of hand and card tricks that were pretty amazing. At one point he transported a coin from his own hand to behind Bennoe's watch. He did some really good card tricks, including one where he used my camera to take this picture of what seemed to be the fanned deck of cards, but was actually showing the exact card that had been previously secretly selected. Really entertaining.
  Also entertaining was watching the ladies who had been sampling the Sauv Blanc all night attempt to walk from restaurant.They managed to keep from falling over by holding on to each other and giggling very loudly.
  Even more entertaining was the effort to portage Kim back home in her wheelchair. Relenting only for oncoming cars which we pretty well had to give the right of way, we manhandled that wheelchair up and down curbs, over cobblestone moguls, and up the hill to our final resting place. Evidently Kim enjoyed the convoluted conveyance, as her giggling rivalled the three amigas. I think it would be a lot easier if Mark just threw her over his shoulder, but that's just my opinion. If he keeps doing the bulk of the uphill pushing, he's going to have the physique of a body before he leaves here. Things were pretty quiet in the Elliott household when we got there, and that may be the case in the morning as well (but that's just my opinion, too).
Monday Jan 13 It was a slow morning, but we managed to get together with Martha and head to the Green Place for civilized breakfasts of omelets and French toast. Watched the taco vendor just outside the window with his steady stream of customers, some in suits, some coming by car. Washup station was a plastic bucket with a spigot, wedged in tree branches. We're not ready for breakfast tacos yet, but they're candidates for all other meals.
  Martha thought she was picking up some Fosters beer, but her eyesight's not too good, and it was in fact Kloster beer, which is lousy stuff. So it seems we're Kloster-phobic.
  Mark, Bennoe and Doug headed off for Therapy. Had a total of 8 guys at the pool hall, but it looks like Doug is still the worst player. Might wear glasses instead of contacts for next session. After a while, guys started giving me suggestions out of pity.
  On the way back, we stopped by the garage where Vinny's car was being repaired. His suspension (well, his car's) seems to be suffering from cobblestone-itis.
  Stopped to get a plate of taco's each at a road side stand after that, then took them across the street to a bar to add beers to our snack time. You can never have too many tacos, or too much beer.
  Once back at the home front, we lazed around B & D's pool, solving the world's problems and absorbing sunshine until sunset.
  We recognized that we hadn't had any taco's for several hours, so a dinner expedition was mounted to Pepe's up the street. Johanne wasn't that keen, and opted for supper of toast & cream cheese in our apartment, followed by restorative reclining.
  Kim was more spry, apparently due to powering down a beer before we left. Or it could be that taking it easy earlier was helping her foot heal. She made it to the restaurant without use of the wheelchair, although we brought it along as a fallback.
  Another delicious feast. We calculated that we averaged 7 tacos and 2 beers per person, with various hot sauses and limes thrown in for good measure. Met up with Tony and Sheila in the restaurant. Once again, KIm made it back without wheeled assistance over the more challenging uphill route.
  Doug left the wheelchair gang (plus his little sister) to party it up at B & D's, and headed home to confirm that Johanne's still healthy, and do a little computer work. Another day in paradise.
Tuesday Jan14 Wow, we're more than half way through or vacation. Seems like we just got here a few days ago. Doug had reverted to his old habits, and was up until the wee hours of the morning working on some nerdy robot project. Still managed to get him up in time for 11 AM yoga, although he didn't get any coffee all day. Partly because he chose other beverages. Jo & Dorothy nice and relaxed before the hard work started
  Kim and Mark joined in as well, and fortunately, no further damage was done to Kim's broken foot. Martha's there too, limbering up in a pink moose Tshirt. Great restorative class as usual, and Barb had intriguing comments on resilience, what it means and how it helps you enjoy life. Will have to find out if she has published anything - it would be worth reading.
  After a workout, it's important to re-hydrate, so as usual we headed to Pipi's, for refreshments and food. The margaritas were roughly the size of a wading pool, and the conversation got more animated during re-hydration. Should have got a photo of the guy making guacamole frm scratch at our table - he was awesome, and did an encore for another round of spicy guac.
  When the Mariachi band came around, we decided to go all in, and soon the whole restaurant was treated to our bellowing of Johhny Cash songs with a Mexican flavour. The musicians were actually quite talented as well as amusing. The 2 guys in the photo were joined by a bass player in another corner and a guy that played the pan pipes as well as a guitar, simultaneously. I think at some point someone was fondling my spine checking for scoliosis, but I could be mistaken.

We ate a ton of food, and brought some home as well. Mark wisely got Kim into the ever present wheelchair, as she was too busy enjoying life to be bothered with trivial stuff like safely navigating with a broken foot.

  Eventually the massage group headed over to "Healing Hands" for the ritual massage treatments, and shopping followed. Mark attempted to look for shoes but was stymied by Mexican shoe sizes, which are different from Canadian, American, British and European sizes.
  Doug & Martha weren't interested in either of these activities, and headed home via the Malecon. Enjoyed ice cream cones, which were melting as fast as we could eat them. Did a little window shopping, but the sun was brutal, and we were tired from yoga. Trudged home, cranked up the air conditioning, and continued re-hydration. At some point we both fell asleep.
  A meeting was called at B & D's pool, for serious relaxation and sun bathing (and continued re-hydration) We eventually realized that the sunset we were waiting for wasn't going to happen due to layers of cloud near the horizon.

  Once again B & D were the hosts of a following get together with supper plans being bandied about. I was beat, due to lack of coffee, or sleep, or maybe because I was still digesting lunch, and opted out to take it easy at home. So I have no idea what happened after that point, and maybe that's a good thing. Early morning ahead for a boating adventure to a hidden beach, so I better resist my habits and shut down the computer.
Wednesday Jan 15 Awoke to the sounds of Johanne and Martha cackling on the balcony, and the sound of a large diesel engine working hard. We'd suspected the top floor of the building under construction was ready for concrete, and sure enough, the street was blocked off by this giant concrete pump. Naturally, I took a lot of pictures and video, but I'll put them on another page so people don't poke fun at me.
  Well, OK, one or two more. They had the boom extended, but it wasn't quite long enough so they had to bring it back to the ground to add a 20 foot entension hose. In the process, they almost put it onto our balcony, or it seemed like that.. Eventually a concrete mixer backed up the block, around parked cars, and started feeding the pump.It's hard to see the truck through the trees and "free-form" Mexican overhead cabling.
  After that we entered 2 Ubers on our way to Bocha de Tomatlan (river mouth of tomatoes), a charming little harbour south of Puerto Vallarta.This picture shows the dock where we would leave by water taxi. It's taken from where the Uber actully dropped it off, on the wrong side of the bay. It was a little dicey for gimpy Kim, but we made it over there.
  Fortunately, this boat, capsized and half blocking the river mouth, wasn't our water taxi.
  We made it into the open water taxi after negotiaging with skinny Albert, who insisted on prepayment of the return fare. Off we go to Playa des Animas, which is only reachable via water.
  Lots of interesting places built into the hills along the way, including resorts, high end residences, and the open air platform that Barb teaches yoga classes on occasionally.

Doug, zoom in on this one.
  We landed at a concrete pier which, like almost all the sidewalks in Puerto Vallarta, has a serpentine stripe composed on beach pebbles on their sides, embedded in the concrete. The sky looks cloudy in the photo, but it was only slightly overcast. This was probably a good thing as it kept the heat down a little. Skinny Albert, or boat driver, was insistent to the point of rudeness that we should go to the restaurant on the left. We found out later that the restaurant on the right offers free water taxi pickup to and from Boca de Tomatlin, which explains his insistance on round trip prepayment, and his direction away from the generous restaurant.
  The restaurant on the left (north) which we never visited.
  We got about 20 meters to the right, and found this place with free lawn chairs, and restaurant service. This was our base of operations for the afternoon.
  There were occasional beach vendors, quite polite, including this guy who invited you to play with and photograph his large iguana. Sometims its for tips, sometimes you pay 20 pesos ( $1.40 CDN).
  We took one end of a long table for lunch, and found that Barb the yoga teacher and her husband Gary (who someone is related to, maybe Dorothy?) were right next to us. Many of us had half an avacado with jumbo shrimp and guacamole in it. Might have been the best shrimp I had on the trip. A Mariachi band with a sousaphone player came by, and we ate to the strains of La Cucaracha, and Jun ta da Medo.
  We lounged in the lounge chairs, and generally took it easy. Doug and Martha even went in swimming, but it's tricky due to the uneven sandy bottom, and marginal undertow.
  (nerd antenna timeout). The vertical at bottom left looks like a 2 meter VHF antenna, but I can't figure out the 7 enclosures. They look a bit like the radomes that ships use for navigational radar? I've seen them in other places as well.
  The local people weren't as worried about going in the water as we were, and there was always a collection of boats of various sizes nearby.

Eventually skinny Albert took us back to B de T, and was apologetic about his earlier attitude. I'm guessing he was hoping that we hadn't found out about the free water shuttle. Once we were back we found that Ubers weren't available, but that turned out to be a good thing. Instead, we took a taxi/van that was about the same price, but much more comfortable and convenient.
  As we left for supper we noticed that a patch of the cobblestome road in front of our building had been repaired/covered with fresh concrete, perhaps left over from the pump this morning. There were small pails at either end, and no one seemed to mind that one lane was informally closed. Our supper venue was Archie's, an Asian restaurant. It's well known and popular, an as expected we had to wait in line. Unfortunately the excellent taco place up the street, which is where you normally go to wait, was closed.
  It's going to be so disappointing to go home to regular food. This was another feast for the taste buds - I had Singapore Shrimp, and there were satisfied smiles all around. (bonus points if you can find me in the photo.)

Doug was temporarily deafened when he accidentally got caught between bellowing singers outside a Karaoke bar next to Archies. Everyone was enjoying themselves enthusiasticly, and most of my hearing came back during the Uber ride home.
Thursday Jan 16 I'm falling behind in my web work, but we spent a long day on a sailboat today (Friday), drinking, watching whales, drinking, being served delicious meals, singing along to the music, drinking, going for a swim in the ocean beside the boat, and drinking. I'll try to get all the photos processed and inserted here, but I'm not sure I'm up to providing the descriptions yet.
  OK, back to Thursday. This is one of many sculptures along the Malecon which we went by on the way to yoga. We're regulars at yoga now, and it's a shame we won't be here for some of the yoga adventures Barb teaches in locations outside of Puerto Vallarta.
  After yoga, a group went off to get massaged, and Bennoe, Claire and I ended up at a patio in front of the Cheeky Monkey for lunch and beverages.
  It turns out we weren't actually at the C M, but some other place with Oyster in it's name, but it's all good. Claire went off to meet with some of her pals, and Bennoe and I headed homeward. He found the watch repair place he had heard of, which was about 6 feet wide with a large inventory on display, including Rolex watches for 500 peso ( $35 CDN). Wasn't able to find the replacement watch band he was looking for despite measurements, trial and error, and occasional exchanges of Spanish phrases. I think it would be hilarious to see some of our Spanish conversations with accurately translated subtitles, although to be fair, Bennoe's Spanish seems to be quite workable. Then again, how the hell would I know?
  We decided to to follow recommendations we had from multiple sources, and go to El Patron for supper. The way there was a bit of a hike, and one of the streets was completely blocked for a while by trucks unloaded something into a warehouse. After that we crossed a huge sports park, with numerous pick up and organized sporting activities under way. Got to the restaurant, and there was a table immediately available for our group of 7, right against the street. Another case of outstanding food, well worth the walk.
  The Sauv Blanc was popular, so I took a photo to document it for research purposes once we get home.
  BY the time we left, it was dark, and much of the sports park was lit up. This photo is a boxing ring, with various punching bags around it. A bit earlier we paused our walk to watch what looked like a religious ceremony taking place on a basketball court. A circle of people in street clothes surrounding a drummer and a collection of smoking conch cells. At seemingly random times, people would leave the circle and come to the centre to deposit items, or to have a priestess lady annoint them with conch smoke. Weird, but fascinating, a sombre ceremony in the middle of all the sports action.
  As we continued, we tried to warn gimpy Kim about any uneven footing in the darkened path, as we didn't want her doing any as hoc gymnastics (Kim-nastics?). we left the park with a basketball game in progress on our left.

We decided to return on a different street, avoiding the warehouse. I love seeing the variety of the backstreets - a bar, next to a variety store, next to a residence, next to a vacant lot... It was going well until we encountered an ultra-modern OXXO corner store, which enticed some walkers in for a look see. I hadn't accounted for this in my bladder budget, so I continued ahead while the others loitered. Saw the place where we play pool go by, but it was a blur because I was in a hurry.
Friday Jan 17 This is the day of the much anticipated sailboat ride. ( Claire has done all the organizing, and warned us not to eat a big breakfast because they will be serving us great food on board. While we were waiting to board I noticed this pelican, perched on the stern of a small nearby boat...
  ... this view of part of the harbour...
  ...and iguanas sunning themselves in the trees.
  We soon boarded the 45 foot sailboat, removing our footware on the dock for safety - boat gets slippery sometimes. 13 passengers, plus a crew of 6: grizzled captain, lady that runs the tours, galley cook, and 3 "waiters" who continuously patrol the deck, offering beverages and delicasies to eat. It's hard to believe how they created the food in the tiny galley, but we were treated to fresh fruit skewers, honey/nuts/goats cheese balls, stuffed mushroom caps, and a tasty chocolate dessert served in large plastic spoons. We had all preordered entrees, and I can say that the red snapper was excellent. Probably doesn't sound anywhere near as good as it tasted.
  The lady who runs the show. She gave us a briefing on shore, and introduced all of the crew including herself, by name. However, once we were on board, they very very generous with offering us drinks, and delivering them while the ship was rocking and rolling over the ocean. As a result, we soon were unable to remember our own names, leave alone the crews' names.
  US Navy ship that had broken down, and was anchored. It was being repaired with Mexican help. It would be a huge understatement to say Mr. Trump is extremely unpopular down here, and it was amusing to see that the Mexicans were bailing out the American navy.
  Doug - zoom in on whale

On our way out we came across a couple of small whales playing in the bay. Didn't see any breaching, but the tails were appearing and disappearing above the surface. It went on for quite a while, and then we resumed our voyage.
  That's one of our sure-footed waiters on the right, and some of our semi-imobilized wale watchers on the left.
  Doug - zoom in on whale

looking roughly North?
   Doug - zoom in on whale
   The back of the boat was clearly the party place. The seating consisted of cushions about 5 inches thick, and the outer railing as a backstock. This prevented people from falling down, because we were already down. From the left, Dan, who is also part of the Monday morning billiards therapy group, Bennoe, Martha, and Johanne.
   Dorothy giving Bennoe a knee yoga massage. Or maybe she was just falling off the cabin we were sitting on.
   nope - she seems to be still under control at this point.That's part of Vinny on the right edge of the photo, who was his normal crazy self. I think the poop deck party scared him a bit as he stayed at the front of the ship for most of the trip.
   That's Claire on the left. Not sure what Dan and Bennoe were doing with their hands. May have been some ad lib yoga move. Nah.. more likely that they're simultaneously summoning one of the waiters for more booze.

By this point, the boat was rocking and rolling in more ways than one.
   Bennoe and Doug sent this photo back to our buddies in snowy London who were attending our traditional Friday afternoon drinking session without us. Wanted to let them know we were continuing the tradition, in much more enjoyable surroundings.
   70's music playing over the speakers, gorgeous scenery going by, waiters constantly offering beverages, it was awesome. The only challenge was getting to the head (nautical talk for the bathroom) which was below deck, down a steep ladder. There were always helping hands along the narrow walkway on the outside of the ship, and we didn't lose anyone overboard, although we came close a few times. The singing and laughter got louder as the trip went on, and everyone made a bunch of new friends. I wish I'd taken photos when we stopped to swim in the ocean. Turns out I've been wearing a life preserver wrong all my life - if you connect the belt and wear it backwards, it's a floating chair. Although climbing up and down the ladder on the side of the ship was a bit challenging, I think all of the passengers went out for a swim, bobbing in the ocean along side the anchored sailboat. Despite being a bit reluctant at first, Johanne was right out there too, with a big grin on her face.
   We'd seen whales near the horizon off the starboard bow. They seemed to be jumping continuously, and it was so frequent that we figured it had to be multiple whales. One of the passengers explained that whale families born in this area often return, and play together, like what we'd seen. Again, this happened for quite a while, but it was too far away for pictures, near the horizon. Whales have sensitive hearing, and their location near the horizon may have had something to do with Martha's singing.
  Claire had asked the captain to cruise along the Malecon / beach before we went ot the harbour to disembark. This is is Le Barracuda, and the beach chairs behind it (with blue umbrellas), as seen from the water.
   I took a picture when we were even with Honduras Street, which leads to our hotel. I can't recognize it now, so I may have had alcohol induced confusion when I took the photo, or I may have selected the wrong picture. Will have to review them.

As we approached the harbour, a feeling of sadness descended, as we realized that this adventure was coming to a close. It's easy to understand why many of the passengers have taken this tour multiple times. We heard of a lady who has done it 80 times, and once you've done the tour, that is completely believable.
   On the way back, I noticed that the dock, which is largely concrete, is floating, and "attached" to these vertical posts by rollers. As the water level rises or lowers (there must be tides here?) the dock rolls up or down the posts.

Doug: photoshop out your finger!
   After the sailing adventure, we visited Claire & Vinny's home, high on a hill in the south end of town. There are 2 approaches to going up the hill. The one from town is a fairly good, but steep road, mostly cobblestone. The one from the South is extremely rugged, and it looks like parts of it were last visited by a bulldozer. Guess which way our Uber driver went.

At C&V's, some folks swam in the pool, and some just admired the view.
   Apparently they've spotted whales from their balcony in the past.
  Another delicious Italian supper at La Treviata, although Jo wasn't feeling well, and headed home early, clutching a pizza box. Seems like the motion of the boat throughout the day has her system upset. Hopefully some sleep will cure that. 
Saturday Jan 18 Jo's feeling better, although she and a few others still occasionally feel like they're on a rocking ship. Martha's getting anxious for a good old fashioned breakfast. It turns out that if you Google "bacon and eggs Puerto Vallarta", you get Daiquiri Dicks, which is next to the Saturday morning market, another destination on the vague plan for today. Since it's Martha's last full day, we humoured her, and off we go to Daiquiri Dicks. They have generous breakfast servings, but every item came on a separate plate While we ate we watched parasail launches on beach right in front of D D's. Met D & B therend returned their key, so they're no longer homeless.

D & B departed, and M & J shopped at the market while Doug wandered aimlessly. Jo actually bought a top. Our ability to walk for hours on end seems to be diminishing, and we were soon in an Uber on the way home. It followed a weird route, half way up the hill, but we made it back. The ladies dozed, Doiug did website updates.

  Martha leaves the next day, but couldn't get the Swoop app on her iPad to let her check in. We managed to get that done by letting some time pass, and switching over to Swoop's website using Doug's laptop. Weather forecasts for London look quite winterish, and Martha is trying to plan how she's going to transition from Mexican clothing to the small amount of warm Canadian clothing she has, in order to survive her return home. (see weather forecast below)
  Tried out the pool at the Paloma del Mar hotel around the corner, and it wasn't too bad. Not quite as warm or as luxurious as D & B's but the ladies got some swimming in. Strange pool design with a shallow end 2 feet deep, then a drop off to a deep end where we couldn't touch bottom. Doug mainly worked on perfecting his tan while surveying the adjacent streets from the edge of the building.
  After we retreated to our place for beverages, Jo heard the sounds of horseshoes on cobblestones. When we rushed to the balcony, sure enough there were tourists riding down our street. The old fashioned transportation was thwarted by modern cartage, when they were blocked by a Coca-Cola truck in the intersection. Think we may need to find where those horse back rides start from, and get Jo onto a horse.
  For Martha's last supper,we went back to the trusty La Triviata on the top floor of the Paloma del Mar hotel, which has to be one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.. There was a nice breeze, and a beautiful sunset. The food didn't let us down, and everyone loved their meal. Once again, there seemed to be an influx of families with small children for a late supper, after 9 PM. Maybe they all had siestas earlier.

After supper we all visited Martha's room, which D & B hadn't seen yet. Although smaller than D & J's place, it's highly functional with lots of colour and art. Martha officially gave up hope of retrieving the top to her contact lense solution, which was part way down the stopper-less drain of her bathroom sink. Lots of McGuiver-esk recovery methods were discussed, but none were actually attempted.
Might be a driving adventure for Martha when she gets home tomorrow. There's currently a snow squall watch for the area in the weather forecast:

Sun, 19 Jan Local snow squalls and flurries. Local blowing snow. Local amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind west 40 km/h gusting to 60. High minus 4. Wind chill near minus 14. UV index 1 or low.
Sunday Jan 19