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One of the joys of travel is to experience it with friends and family from home.  This year in Mexico we have been blessed with the presence of some friends visiting.  It is so great to get together in perennial summer weather to share a meal, a laugh and talk about the weather back home!  Here are a few images of our recent get togethers with our amigos from home.


Bruce and Judy from Barrie – long time friends


Bob and Carol of Arnprior – Bob and Dave back play golf together



Michelle of Arnprior and daughter from NYC – it was Michelle’s birthday


Mike and Sharon of Arnprior – good friends for many years

And here are photos of some group get togethers we have had recently.


On the Riviera Nayarit Beach


Another perfect sunset right from our table in PV


Happy Hour by the pool


At Fajita Republic


Return engagement at the Encore in Bucerias


With Deacon Mike on Ash Wednesday

Mexico is as safe as anywhere with welcoming people, great weather and wonderful food.  So what are you waiting for…?…come on down amigos!

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The Rhythm of Bucerias


Bucerias (pronounced” buusaireeus”) is a pretty beach resort town on the NW shore of Banderas Bay.  It is the next town over from Nuevo Vallarta, so not too far from us.  The other night we decided to meet Judy and Bruce there for some live music over dinner.


Looking back towards our place from Bucerias beach

We took a cab as it was our first time getting there but next time, we can take a bus and walk the last 20 minutes, we learned.  We arrived early and took a stroll through the beautiful cobblestone streets, dotted with boutique hotels, shops and restaurants.  It was very relaxed and interesting.


We found the local artisan market and Dave bought a buffalo carved out of ironstone wood.  We wandered through the stalls chuckling at some of the tee-shirt and licence plate messages.



The highlight was going to the Encore for some great live music.  A kick-ass blues band from Vancouver was playing.  One of the members had been in the Downchild Blues Band and two in the Powder Blues band which Dave had enjoyed seeing in Vancouver several times in the early 80s.




The hostess was most engaging and fitted us in nicely.  We had some great food and the band took the stage at 7 PM.  Well the singer/trumpet player Will Ward sounded like David Clayton Thomas (of Blood, Sweat and Tears fame) and the rest of the band players – bass, keyboards, sax and drums were all professional musicians.  It was a fantastic sound to behold and we enjoyed every minute of their 2 hour+ concert in the warm open air.  Ms Armi Grand, owner of the restaurant is a talented jazz singer too and took the floor to sing a couple of beautiful numbers.




Judy and Marie enjoying the evening

It was indeed a superb evening, our kind of music, our kind of place.  We booked a front row table for March 6 when the Vancouver All Stars R&B Band returns.  I mentioned this to Will the singer on the way out and he said they will have some new material then.  Wow, got to love this place Bucerias!


Hasta luego amigos!


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The Kite Runner


Khaled Hosseini, 2003

A bestseller at the time, this is a story that puts a human face on the Afghanistan conflict in the words of an Afghan born American.

It is the story of Amir, his father Baba and his half-brother Hassan. It traces Amir’s privileged upbringing in an upscale neighbourhood in Kabul, starting in the early 70s. Baba, a lofty Pashtun, is a wealthy merchant and great man who raises his son after Amir’s mother dies in childbirth. Amir is great friends with Hassan, the son of their servant, a lowly Hasara. They fly kites together in competitions until one day, Hassan is sexually abused by the neighborhood bully, while unbeknownst to anyone,  Amir looks on, too fearful to intervene. He never tells anyone what happened to Hassan and carries this guilt for years.

Amir and Baba go about their lives as everything collapses, escaping to Pakistan and then emigrating to California. Years later Amir, now a successful writer,  is called back to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son from an orphanage. It is only then that he finds out that he and Hassaan were actually half-brothers, so he in fact is the half-uncle of little Sohrab.

After much violence and drama, Amir brings Sohrab to America where he too starts to fly kites.  An interesting read but a little too contrived a story in my view. I found myself wishing it would end about 100 pages sooner.

I liked Baba’s character development. He did his duty to everyone, built a orphange and was successful in business. However he never told Amir and Hassan about their brotherly relationship.  Family reputation and avoiding shame is everything in Afghan society. I liked the information about the Pashtuns who are culturally superior to the Shiite Hasaras. The references to the Soviet invasion, communist takeover, Northern Alliance regime and finally the Taliban tyranny, complete with beard police (all men must sport long beards) and public stonings, was indeed educational and gruesome.  I would have liked more information on this though to better understand the context in which the story is unfolding.

I found the series of Afghan names, types of food they eat and references to the Koran a little vexing to remember. Sometimes I could not remember who was who.  Afghans do like lamb kabob and spinach.

I would rate this book 7.5 out of 10 simply because it was a little overdone. I note Khaled’s later books (this was his first) seem to have been rated slightly higher. Nevertheless a  good read about a far off place that I had a little understanding of and would like to learn more about..



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Marie and I went out with our friends Judy and Bruce the other night for a great dinner at Casa Isabel on the hill overlooking PV‎. Their daughter and her friend were here for a visit too. Lisa brought us some incense which is almost impossible to find here. It was another perfect sunset and later a moonset evening.


IMG_2733The food, service, view and ambiance were exceptional including the flaming Mexican coffee service. One of the highlights was the bus ride home. There were crowds outside everywhere. We passed the fair grounds – packed with revelers. There were kids on the bus laughing, tourists like us and some people just coming home from work. We passed a barber shop with its doors wide open at 10 PM!



Later, Dave happened to get up at 4:40 AM and look out the window. He saw this huge orange globe setting in the low hills above La Cruz at the north end of the bay. It was the first moonset he remembers seeing that clearly. Stunning!


We have seen whales frolicking in the bay near sunset. There are iguanas in some trees and Angel brings his trained hawk everyday to keep the birds away from the open air restaurant. The sand on the beach as the waters recede reveals thousands of sparkling golden flecks. We have chatted with quite a few friendly Canadians and Mexicans and chaff at how fast the day goes by.  There have been about 6 weddings right outside our window, always fun to watch.


These kind of things are different from FL and make this place uniquely unique. Sorry to drone on about Banderas Bay, but it is starting to feel like home.


P.S. We went to Mass mostly in Spanish at the nearby Paradise Village community hall with 650 others.  On the back of the Sunday (English) Missals was printed “Donated by Rev. James L. Holland, OMI”, who is from Canada.



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The Rhythm of NV


We moved into our condo in Nuevo Vallarta not without incident. We met our agent Jesica, got the keys and checked things out. Needed some light bulbs, a stand for the water jug and an iron. Fine.  Jesica was very kind to take us to Walmart and Mega for grocery shopping.  Then we went to pay the rent.

Scotiabank had told us in Canada that we could walk into the local Scotiabank branch here‎ and withdraw cash from our account. Not true, totally different system here with no link to our accounts in Canada, the manager explained.  I had to request a 48 hour ATM limit increase to withdraw sufficient cash over 2 days.  Anyway, after 2 trips to the bank, we paid up – there were stacks of cash on the table to do this – this is Mexico.


With Arnprior golf buddy Bob and his wife Carol before we moved to NV

We are ‎very happy in the beautiful condo owned by a man in Guadalahara. It is on the 8th floor overlooking Banduras Bay. We are 250 steps from the beach and can hear the breakers crashing all day and night long. It is simply beautiful beyond belief here!


There is a resort hotel part of the complex so there are lots of people, families and younger children around the 3 huge swimming pools. We are able to grab a free beach umbrella and chairs as long as we go down early with our towels to reserve. There is a nice little poolside snack bar where we can get fish tacos and a great happy hour.


Local iguana (he likes the pool too!)

Bruce and Judy came over for dinner the other night and we caught up. The next day we met them on the “Directo” bus to PV and did a Costco run into town. All went well and we took a cab back. Their daughter and her friend are coming for a week so we are planning our next outing together.


Our biggest decision each day is which direction to walk on the beach. It is always sunny, comfortable and relaxed. The rhythm of NV is very agreeable to us. Feeling very appreciative for all God’s gifts. Hope he is good to you too.  God bless.


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The Rhythm of PV

Hola, we move out to our condo in Nuevo Vallarta today. We spent 5 great days in PV.

There are no clocks here – in the room, on the street. Time does not seem critical. There is no need for weather forecasts either – every day is sunny and pleasant. There is a daily rhythm here that is a pleasure to experience.

People are relaxed and friendly. Mexicans work hard, 6 or even 7 days a week. They are generally cheerful and happy. Yes, we are accosted everywhere to buy trinkets and time shares but you just smile and shake your head. They do not persist and do not seem disappointed.

‎Last night we returned from dinner with Bob and Carol and walked along the malencon. This is the people walkway along the ocean front here. There were thousands of people out enjoying the evening – families, seniors, tourists and young people. Today is a national holiday here – Constitution Day, so the crowds were bigger.

We have had nothing but good safe times here and highly recommend PV as a jumping off point for a Mexican adventurer.

PS We have met dozens of Canadians here and only 1 or 2 Americans. Seems Canadians have adopted Mexico as their 2nd country, at least in winter.

Saludos from the fun side of the Wall,

Dave and Marie

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A Harrowing Journey

Hola! We have acclimatized now in PV after a harrowing journey from the great white north. We drove to Michelle and Tim’s on Monday when it was clear and cold. That night the storm hit that had been forecast. Perhaps not as much snow as forecast, but our drive into the airport was on snow covered roads with thick snow showers. Tim was so kind to drive us at 5h00.

As we enter we look up at the screen and see flight cancellations. The 6h00 flight to Toronto is cancelled and the 8h00 too. We look for ours at 7h00 and incredibly, it shows as on time! We check in and there is no mention of a cancellation.

We get to Toronto about 30 min late but our flight to PV is delayed too. We finally board and after being deiced in parallel with 11 other planes, we take off from the snowiest January ever. We arrived at our hotel about 2 hrs late, but heh, we made it! Tha‎nks be to God, as several other southern flights that day were scrubbed or 10 hour delayed.

Our hotel is basic but is in a great location a half block from the beach with friendly people. We have everything we need. We are enjoying the Mexicans and their great food.
Especially at Pancho’s Tacos! There are a lot of fellow Canadians here.‎ We managed to get our phones working and visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Stay warm!

Saludos for now.

Dave and Marie

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Jericho and the Dead Sea

Jericho, Israel, is known as the City of Palm  It is the oldest city in the world dating from 9000 BCE.  This was the Neolithic age when man stopped being primarily a hunter and became a planter.  After the conquest of Bethel and Ai by Joshua’s Israelite forces, Jericho became his next city to conquer from the Canaanites.  It was here that the tax collector Zaccheus, touched by Jesus spirit gave half of his belongings to the poor.  It was also here that Bartemaus was cured of blindness by Jesus.  Jesus walked this way.  We passed through Jericho two times on our recent Holy Land pilgrimage.


The first time was a stop at the lookout to Temptation Mountain where Jesus was tempted by the Devil for 40 days after his baptism in the nearby Jordan River.  We marveled at the rugged desert landscape and gazed at a monastery high up on the mountain, now reachable by tramway.


A somewhat flamboyant Palestinian pilgrim let me take his photo and we bought some delicious dates after trying a sample.  Jericho, we were told is the “Florida” of Israel as the temperature is noticeably warmer here in the valley, than in the Judea hills.  Well-off Israeli and Palestinian families maintain a second home here.  We also saw the famous Tel “El Sultan” (hill) which reflects some 20 civilizations in its past history.

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On our second visit we celebrated Mass in the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd, maintained by the Franciscans.  I remember the pastor telling us that there were only 324 Catholics living in all Jericho out of a total population of 30,000.  Keeping the Church going financially was a real challenge.  Fittingly, as he talked, we could hear the call to worship emanating from the Mosque just down the street.  That night, our last, we stayed in one of the nicest hotels of the whole trip – the 5* Oasis hotel, owned and operated by Palestinians.  We were deep inside the West Bank.

The nearby Dead Sea is the lowest elevation on land in the whole world at 430.5 meters below sea level.  It is also 304 meter deep and has hypersalinity.   It is salt lake fed by the Jordan with no outlet as is too low for water to flow out of.  It is 9.6 times as salty as the oceans.  Plants and animals do not flourish here due to the harsh conditions – hence its name.

We were all keen to go for a “float” in the lake and most of us did.  We must say, other than the novelty of floating freely, it was awful – the water stung your eyes, nose and mouth and the sharp pure crystalline salt rocks cut at your feet on the way in and out.  There is mud everywhere and many people were smearing it on their bodies.  After we got out and showered, we were still itchy for an hour!

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Nevertheless, it remains and has been a popular tourist destination for thousands of years.  It was one of the world’s first health resorts under King Herod the Great.  It offers sunny skies, dry air and pleasant temperatures year round.  Everything from asphalt and potash to ingredients for cosmetics are extracted from its waters.  We enjoyed our visit there and will not soon forget the experience of  putting out into the Dead Sea – on our backs.

(There are 3 more Holy Land sites we intend to explore with you before leaving this extended theme: Jerusalem, Petra and Jerash. However, we are about to embark on our next adventure to Mexico so we will see how disciplined we are about this plan.)

As always, thinking of you.   Thanks for traveling with us.  XOX


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Trekking in Samaria

Samaria is a very ancient land situated north of Jerusalem between Judah and Galilee.  God gave this land to the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh after they had conquered Canaan.  This region later evolved into the Kingdom of Israel.  The ancient city of Samaria itself was known as Oholah meaning “her tent”.  For many years Samaritans and Jews were in conflict with each other here.

samaria 2We had the privilege of visiting ancient Shiloh and Jacob’s Well located in the city of Nablus.  Both of these sites are located in the West Bank Palestinian communities of  Samaria.

We all know the parable of the good Samaritan and Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. These stories were shocking to the Jews because of the ongoing conflict and lack of trust between these two peoples.  Jews travelling from Galilee to Judea would take the longer Jordan River route rather than travel through Samaria.

As we sensed during our recent visit there, not much has changed to resolve these tensions since that time.


The whole congregation of Israel assembled together at Shiloh and set up the tent (or tabernacle) of the congregation there.     (Joshua 18:1).


Shiloh (pronounced “sheelow”) was an interesting place.  We went on a tour there led by a young man who was toting a pistol.  Turns out he was a local Jewish settler who lived with his family nearby.  Upon probing, he stated you never know what might happen around here and the gun is needed for protection. We assumed by this that he was likely  living on “unceded” Palestinian land and hence subject to potential reprisal attacks.  The U.N. has recently condemned Israel for these settlement practices.

Shiloh was the major Israelite worship centre before Solomon’s temple was built in Jerusalem, in the mid tenth century BCE.  The Tent Shrine or Tabernacle contained the Ark of the Covenant here for hundreds of years until the region was conquered by the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant contained two sets of stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments.  Moses smashed the first set which God had written, because he was angered over the Children of God worshiping the Golden Calf.  He later rewrote these on the second stone set. Wow, what vivid Biblical history right in our view here!

Continuing on to Nablus, a Palestinian city of 125,000, we went to Jacob’s well.  Yes, it is deemed to be the original Jacob’s Well where Jesus met the Samaritan women and shocked the disciples by conversing with her.  Then, this was in the ancient biblical town of Shechem, also known a Sychar.


Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

The well is remarkably intact and situated in the crypt of a Greek Orthodox Church and small monastery consecrated to St. Photinia the Samaritan.  The depth of the well was measured at 41 meter.  There is a winch, small bucket and a cistern.  We all peered in and imagined Jesus talking with the Samaritan women right here so many years ago.  We marveled at the beauty of the Church above and icons as a worship service was underway.


Water of Life Discourse (A. Kaufmann, 1796)

We made our way back through Nablus where everything seemed to be under construction.  Suddenly our bus pulled over and we were told we were in for a treat.  We entered a Palestinian pastry shop and sampled the world-famous Arabic Kanafeh cheese pastry in a sweet honey sauce.  Yum!  Content, we headed home to our hotel in Jerusalem after another great day, this one in beautiful Samaria.





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As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.         MK 1:16-18

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Sea of Galilee

Jesus spent most of his short ministry on earth in rural Galilee. It was only at the very end of his time that he went to Jerusalem.  Hence it was very fitting that we spent about half of our time (5 days+) touring Galilee visiting the pilgrimage sites associated with Jesus on our recent pilgrimage.

The principal sites we visited were:

  • The Basilica of the Annunciation (in Nazareth which we have already reported on)
  • Sea of Galilee
  • Tabgha (Multiplication of the Loaves)
  • Capernaum (where Jesus lived)
  • Mt. Tabor (His Transfiguration)

ancient_galileeGalilee is a geographical region in north-eastern Israel that has existed since ancient times. It is generally rocky terrain. In Jesus time, there were many small towns and villages encircling the Sea of Galilee.  The lake contained many edible fish and was surrounded by fertile land.  It is a medium-sized by our standards, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and 2nd lowest lake anywhere after the Dead Sea further south. When we were there in November, the daily temperature was about 20 deg C and the birds were singing.  As of 2006, there were 1.2 million residents in Galilee, 47% of which were Jewish.


We celebrated Mass on the Sea of Galilee in a small covered boat that was larger and more comfortable than the simple open fishing boats of Jesus time.  It was the most unique place we have ever celebrated the Eucharist.  The water was calm as we drifted around among some other boats.   The sun came out after a few light showers.  We could hear others singing on their boats.  I think our chaplains enjoyed themselves too as after Mass we all danced together and sang the Havah Nagilah, (“Let us rejoice”) the traditional folk song at Jewish celebrations.  It was exhilarating and Maria recorded a video of it all – click here (message me if you can’t access)

Heptapegon means Seven Springs in Greek and is shortened to Tabgha in Arabic.  It is identified as the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the thousands.  This area is also associated with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s resurrection appearance where he rehabilitated Peter (John 21).  Each of these locations has a separate church (clockwise below from upper left):

  • Church of the Multiplication of Loaves
  • Church of the Beatitudes
  • Church of the Primacy of Peter

We enjoyed exploring Capernaum on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee.  It served as Jesus base during his Galilean ministry probable because his first disciples lived there.  The remains of a synagogue where Jesus taught and of Peter’s house are all   there.   An octagonal church built over the house represents the 6 days of creation, rest on the 7th and the completion of creation on the 8th day. We could see the inner layout of many ancient houses that have been excavated.  We posed for a group picture.

Mount Tabor is a steep conical shaped hill visible for miles around and the site of the Transfiguration.  We celebrated Mass in the Basilica of the Transfiguration and then explored the beautiful gardens.  Dave took a selfie in which he appears to be transfigured (not planned, this is the way it came out).

There is so much more to see in Israel and the Holy Land than Jerusalem.  We felt closer to Jesus spirit while visiting this beautiful quiet natural region of Galilee where Jesus chose to minister, teach and perform many miracles.




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