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Mexico 2020

It has been quite a season down here. Up until about March 1 everything was as usual – fun in the sun, family visit, great friends, good food, yoga and golf. Then we started to hear about the Corona virus. You know the rest – and we all have no idea where this will go next or when it will end.

We are safely home now two weeks early and glad off it. The declaration of the Global International Travel Advisory by Canada on March 13 triggered a 10 day clause in our travel insurance policy. Our coverage would be terminated on March 23. I won’t go into the mad scramble this caused as we all started searching for earlier flights home. Thank you Air Canada for enabling us to make the necessary arrangements on line – without the need to talk to an agent as phone queues were 24 hrs or more! However the price went up, up and up.

We are both fine, laying low and self-isolating indefinitely now. Thanks for your support, prayers and understanding. We are all journeying together during this pandemic. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Stay well!

A few pic highlights from our season until we meet again.

Update March 30 day 8. We are feeling fine. We are now officially “quarantined” until Apr 6 as the government upgraded its instructions to anyone returning from international travel within the past 14 days. Means we cannot go for walks or drives anymore. Indoor pacing will have to do. Can still go out in the backyard for fresh air. Stay healthy!

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Self Isolating in Mexico

We have been home safely in Canada for a week now and in self-isolation. During our last week in Nuevo Vallarta we were self-isolating as were many others. It was quite easy to do there and not an imposition. Here are some pics of this. Enjoy your self-isolation too and stay healthy.

Update March 31. Received word from our next door neighbour in Nuevo Vallarta about the closure of Dreams Villamagna Hotel until June 1, the building of a wall along the beach front (hopefully temporary!) and how trying their return to Toronto was on March 21 at the PV airport. Click here for the story about similar chaos at the Cancun airport for Canadians trying to get home. Really feel for the laid off staff as many have little or no savings and there is little their government can do for them.

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Playa San Pancho Adventure

Marie in her research heard about this place, so we decided to go to San Pancho for the music festival. San Francisco, referred to as San Pancho by locals, is a sleepy little beach town about an hour north of our place here in Nuevo Vallarta.

Dos amigos on Sayulita Beach
Los Chicos a la Playa Sayulita

We took an Uber to the Bucerias highway bus stop and then caught the Compostella bus to Sayulita Beach, the so called surf capital of Nayarit. We were dropped off downtown at the bus station and then walked down the busy street a few blocks to the beach. Wow, lot’s of surf, young surfers, not so young surfers, hotels, bars, restaurants, etc. Very nice but a bit on the busy side. After visiting the yummy outdoor food market, we took an Uber from there to San Pancho for $75MX ($6CDN).

On Playa San Pancho

San Pancho bills itself as the cultural capital of Nayarit. We were immediately impressed with its sleepiness and quiet streets. The beach has even bigger waves than Sayulita which can be somewhat dangerous with rip tides. White surf was everywhere and absolutely gorgeous sand with very few buildings around. We had time for some Pacifico before checking into the Pal.Mar boutique hotel. Our small room right beside the lobby was perfect. We relaxed in the pool a bit, sipping some more Pacificos – after all we are on the Pacific Ocean.

About 5PM, we wandered a block over to the Plaza do Sul where the (free) music festival took place. There were hundreds of smiling faces of all ages ready for a good time. We saw half a dozen talented bands from rock, to flamengo, to classical, jazz and finally traditional Mexican.

We sampled the delicious food – paella and tamales – yum. A few glasses of wine later we were ‎most satisfied. After carrot cake and coffee we called it a night – a great one for sure.

Even the dogs here are happy and calm! They wander freely with their master everywhere and never act territorily. Kids are everywhere playing as their parents operate small shops. The hotel was absolutely superb – German owned – everything worked well and was in mint condition.

Only complaint – roosters calling out all night long in the street. We figure they were happy too.‎ We are coming back next year for sure but it’s a secret, don’t spread the word.

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Ocean Grill Outing

We went on a delightful outing for lunch at the Ocean Grill restaurant in Boca de Tomatlan, a sleepy little fishing village. The map above shows the routing. We took 3 buses to get there taking about 2.5 hours. You may recall last year we had an aborted outing there as they closed the restaurant due to high waves after we had taken all those buses, lol.

Bus on the way back was not as crowded

It was a perfect day – unusually calm and warm sun. We arrived in Boca and met our friends Judy, Bruce and Lisa. Dozens of pelicans were dive bombing for lunch as we enjoyed a Pacifico. Then we boarded a small open motor boat for a short ride around the point to the iconic restaurant.

As we approached the restaurant built solidly on stilts over the water and clinging to a steep hill, we knew we were in a for a good time. We climbed out of the boat and headed up the stairway. We were greeted by a huge friendly dog named Wilson who then promptly went back to sleep.

We were there for the 1 PM seating and the place was already full. We ordered drinks and appetizers. I decided to order a Mexcal cocktail. Mezcal is an iconic Mexican liquor made from a special kind of agave plant that grows in the southern state of Oaxaca. It has a very rich flavour. I enjoyed it and the fruit and seasoned salt lining the rim.

Our appetizers arrived and suddenly a strong tenor voice broke out. A man who had ridden the boat with us was visiting from Argentina and sang his heart out to much appreciation and applause. This is a class place and we were having a great time.

But the fun was just beginning. I noticed that they had pulpo (octopus) on the menu and it was their signature dish. While the others enjoyed delicious ribs, shrimp, beef, I went for the pulpo. It has a delicate taste like mild filet mignon and is not at all rubbery. I ate the whole thing tentacles and all and survived!

We were relaxing after the great lunch when the tenor came over to serenade Lisa. Before calling it a day, we took a group photo and went for a quick swim at the beach.

It was indeed a delightful outing, probably one of the nicest places we have ever been period. Highly recommend the Ocean Grill for lunch if you are ever down this way. Thanks Judy, Bruce and Lisa for another great day! Happy Valentine’s day everyone.

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Lot’s to Blog About in Mexico

Family Dinner on the Beach

Fireworks every Saturday night, a wedding by the beach every second week or so, warm sea temperatures, endless sun, friendly people, visiting good friends, weekly Mass with Padre Miguel at the Paradise Village Parish, Salve Regina following, great food, eating out, drinks, Marachi bands.

Ashley, Elias and Kyle

We are absolutely enjoying our stay in Mexico! 

Felize Complianos to Marie!

But the best part is that our son and family were here for a week to help celebrate Marie’s birthday. We all had so much fun together.  From beach time, boogie boarding, zip lining, lot’s of bonding time with our grandson, the iconic Pancho’s Tacos, long walks, pool time, Fajita Republic, family dinner on the beach – it does not get better than this!

The only disappointments are how fast the week went with Kyle, a day of rain (hey they went zip lining that day anyway) and for Dave at least, no golf yet.  We welcome Michelle and her family here anytime soon too.

Elias with Humphrey and his remote

We are truly grateful for our time here and all God’s gifts to us. Hope you saw the super moon too!  God bless and hope to see you soon.

Play time at the Riviera Grill
In Bucerias with friends
…is all you need
Super Moon

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Our El Rio BBQ Experience

This was funny. Our friends Bob and Carol made a reservation at the El Rio BBQ in Puerto Vallarta. It is a large outdoor venue with live music and the best pork ribs on the west coast.

We bussed it to Bob and Carol’s condo in PV for a pre-drink and then took another long ride bus up the steep winding road‎ that follows the Cuale River into the hills here. Arriving at 4 PM‎, the place was already packed as the popular Quatro Amigos were playing today. Well our reserved table no. 30 had been given to another group. So after squabbling a bit, they set up a new table for us but it had no number.

We ordered beer and food – ribs of course. Our beer came and we enjoyed it – Pacifico is light delicious with a hint of molasses! We danced a bit and really enjoyed the band who played familiar Boomer hits from our youth.  

We were getting hungry and after more than a 90 minute wait, our food orders never arrived. Bob calls the manager over and he promises to look into it. After another 10 mins or so we get up and decide to leave. On the way out Bob expresses his displeasure to the manager about the mix-up and that we are not paying for the beer.  

So we left after having free beer and dancing outside to live music on a beautiful day in the mountains by a beautiful river. We also hed met Bob and Carol’s friends from Calgary and Winnipeg and all had a great time. (We eventually did have fantastic dinner of shrimp fajitas with more Pacifico of course, once we got back to PV.)

So in the moment, we learned to go with the Pacifico flow!

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Spain in our Hearts

This is an excellent read. I had very little understanding of the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 when a friend leant me a copy of this book.

Who were the good guys? Who were the bad guys? What happened? What was Canada’s position. How about the Church? Best selling author Adam Hochschild takes us through the very sad and brutal story of all this with some great prose. His 2016 book is well documented with maps, notes and photos.

Due to rising popular pressure, King Alphonso XIII abdicates in 1931 and the 2nd Spanish Republic is proclaimed. In the feudal system that had prevailed up to then, no one other than the existing land owning class was permitted to buy or own any land. In January 1936 the Socialists, Communists and Republicans work together under the name the Popular Front. They win the election, defeating the National Front consisting of monarchists, landowners and the Catholic Church hierarchy. It is the overthrow of the feudal system in Spain. Unwilling to accept this outcome, monarchist General Francisco Franco launches a coup. When the coup fails, a civil war erupts and he quickly becomes leader.

The Nationalists (led by Franco) are supported by fascists Adolf Hitler and Benito Musolini with troops, planes, bombs and guns. The Republicans are supported only by Joseph Stalin. The United States, Canada, Britain and France decide to remain neutral, refusing to supply arms to either side. The Nationalists win the ugly war and over 200,000 civilians are killed making it one of the most brutal wars of all times. Thousands of Americans, Canadians and Brits volunteer in several international brigades fighting on the Republican side and are in the end decimated. The Vatican surprisingly to me, aligns itself with the Nationalists as it is strongly opposed to the secular Republican state. Hence it is a war of the rich and privileged against the meek, poor and destitute.

In the book we learn about the key role of journalists such as Ernest Hemingway and authors like John Dos Passos and George Orwell in getting the word out about what is happening. Also about volunteer leftist American fighters like Bob Merriman who commands the volunteer Lincoln-Washington Battalion for the Republicans. Some 1500 volunteers from Canada join the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (the Mac-Paps). However, Texaco supplies oil for Franco’s war machine while the U.S government looks the other way. Hitler and Mussolini’s arms, planes, bombs and troops turn the tide for the Nationalists.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, a small town in the Basque country in northern Spain is carpet bombed by the Nationalists killing over 200 civilians. It takes 40 years for the truth of this and many other like events to get out. Prisoners are routinely shot on the spot, thousands of priests are murdered by the Republicans. Later the Catholic Church would canonize many of these martyrs but still refuse to officially recognize the hundreds of priests in the Basque country who supported the Republican side, many of whom were murdered by the Nationalists. You can see how poisoned these times were. It seems the western allies were paralysed by their fear of communists on one side vs. fascists on the other, and consequently did nothing.

While the book is more a rendition of American volunteer participation on the Republican (democratic) side and the nasty role Texaco played in fueling the Nationalist (fascist) side, it makes for a good introduction to these troubling times. I rate it 9.5 out of 10, a great read.

Spanish Cardinal making the fascist salute
Ernest Hemingway reporting from Sapin

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Settling Into Mexico

Our home for the next 3 months
The forecast was bad – freezing rain, snow and cold – on the very day we were to fly to Mexico. Darn!  More than 19 fl​ights out of Ottawa were to be cancelled that day including ours to Toronto. So we called Air Canada the day before after they had declared a travel advisory. They put us on a flight to Toronto the day before we were to leave for Puerto Vallarta. Thanks AC. We spent a short night at the Hilton Garden Inn at Toronto airport rather than at Ottawa. However it was hectic, bags checked, off the plane, on the shuttle, off the shuttle at the wrong Hilton, back on the shuttle, off at the right hotel, back on the shuttle, off the shuttle and finally checked in on AC to PV. Travel is not for the faint hearted! lol!
New Years Eve Party
Checking into our condo a little early, we surprised the cleaning and maintenance staff. Our property manager Jesica arrived and took us to Mega to do a grocery shop. The Scotiabank ATM was out of money! Hey this is Mexico, the credit card free society. Luckily, Mega takes credit cards. And we were able to sign up with Telcel – 26 days, unlimited North America calling, 4 gigs of data for only $11 for each cell phone!!! After hiking to the nearby Oxo store for some jugs of water, we spent a pleasant evening watching the Dreams Villamagna Hotel guests party hardy on New Years Eve. Our condo being part of the same complex.
The beach beckons
Riviera Nayarit attracts many Canadians particularly from the West
A couple of days later we did a Costco run. This involves taking the bus ($1.5 each) into PV, walking about 2 km to the Costco and taking a taxi back ($15 with tip), with all our stuff to Nuevo Vallarta. Then we have to find a couple of shopping carts to take everything up the elevator to the 7th floor. It takes a good half day, but now we are all set.
The Norwegian Joy is in
Before you know it, it is Sunday. We walk the 3 km to our local church which meets in a large hall for Mass. An Oblate, James Holland, OMI and another Canadian have donated the Sunday Missals again this year. Our priest arrives early and the Mass proceeds, mostly in Spanish. A Canadian woman reads the gospel in English and gives us a synopsis of the homily. It is packed, over 400 people, most of them Mexican.
Then it is off to our favorite breakfast place, the Riviera Grill. The food is fresh, the service great and you can help yourself to a free orange on the way out. Huevos Mexicanos with some hash browns, black beans, toast and coffee. Yum.
After a pleasant day on the beach in 30 deg heat, we catch the perfect sunset in Banderas Bay. Ah, we have settled into Mexico again, thanks be to God.

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A Few Christmas Pics

Christmas hibiscus
St. John Chrysostom Church
Solstice Run/Walk at Galilee
Jackson greets Elias
Wyatt wins the battle
Games
Kaylie tries her luck
Alex is next
Kyle cleans up
The family
Cousins bond

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Pilgrimage to Bethlehem

Waiting to enter the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem

We Christians are on a spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem during the season of Advent. Advent means “coming” and we are indeed waiting for the coming of Lord Jesus – the birth of the Son of God, in Bethlehem.

We learned from the guest homilist on EWTN today, Fr. Glenn Sudano CFR, how St. Francis of Assisi was so taken with the Incarnation of God as Man – how could almighty God humble himself so much as to become a lowly human being who sweats and eats and sleeps just like you or me? He added that it’s like a human deciding to become a slug in order to enter the slug world and make some improvements. However in this case, humans have much more in common with a slug – we eat, breath, drink, make a mess – than does an omniscient God have with us.

Jews and Muslims alike he went on, are incredulous that Christians believe that our omnipotent God, lowered himself so as to become a mere human. I confess that I never thought of it this way before. So the Incarnation of the Word as flesh, is indeed even all the more incredible!!!

Grotto in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel visited Mary

Last year we went on a OMI led group pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will never forget the sacred sites we visited, what we saw and how we felt there. These holy memories are all the more present as we enter the 2nd week of Advent, on our journey to Christmas.

Renewing our baptismal vows in the Jordan River

Yesterday we treated ourselves to the Arnprior Community Choir’s Sing Noel concert at the local Pentacostal church. It was a fantastic sold out experience of energy and talent – a joy to behold. It was nourishing food on our pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.

Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.

I Corr. 2:16

Come Lord Jesus.

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