15 July 2014

Casa del Puente

View of Casa del Puente from the bridge
On the banks of the Rio Cuale, in the middle of Old Town Puerto Vallarta, sits the most wonderful little hotel.

Casa del Puente is not a typical hotel, but rather three spacious, fully equipped apartments. Recently, I was fortunate enough to stay there in the one bedroom apartment.

Living area - 1 bedroom apt
Upon arrival, my host Maria ushered me in to what I thought was the hotel reception area, only to find out it was actually my apartment. It is massive. The large living area is boarded on one side by a bank of windows looking out over the Rio Cuale. Built in seating areas, bedecked with colorful cushions, encircle the main room. Mexican furniture and decorative pieces adorn the entire area. The open kitchen on the left has everything you need to prepare a meal. How lovely it is to cut up fresh tropical fruit while gazing out at the trees along the river and the hills beyond.
River view

Reading partner by the window
The only problem I had with such a wonderful space, is that I could never decide where I should stretch out to read. I usually ended up on the built-in bench that ran along the windows, which enabled me to check on the wildlife.

Three steps up from the living area is the bedroom and bathroom. I went to sleep every night listening to the sounds of the rushing river, and every day sat in a chair by the window watching the iguanas in the trees and the egrets standing on rocks in the river.

New apt upstairs
There is a two bedroom apartment on the left, nestled in foliage and tranquility. Upstairs is the newest edition; a beautifully appointed apartment. As with the others, there are outside areas with chairs and tables. The view to the mountains is even better up top.

The location couldn’t be more perfect; everything is within walking distance - shops, restaurants, the beach, and bus stops.

Balcony view
In Casa del Puente you know you are in Mexico and feel like you are staying with friends. I look forward to my next visit to Puerto Vallarta and the beautiful little Hotel on the Bridge.

Contact Maria:
Upstairs apt deck
Phone: 011 52 (322) 22-20749
From the US, Call: (415) 513-5313
Toll Free: (888) 666-9540
Email: casadelpuente@yahoo.com

14 July 2014

After Thoughts

 I'm back home.They say there is a heat wave today. I'm not hot.......  It's very hard to believe that a few days ago I was really in Puerto Vallarta. Why is it that when you are in one country, the other seems to not really exist? I've always found this to be one of the oddest feelings when going from one place to another. 

A few more pictures of that land that right now seems like a distant memory:

There are three pelicans resting in these trees.

 I don't usually take pictures of food, but this little cafe was such an unexpected, delicious find, that I couldn't resist. 
Mi Cafe Deli, Francisco Madero #505, Old Town, PV
 I realized I had not been posting pictures of the streets or the sea. Maybe it's  because posted so many of them four years ago, and my brain was telling me I didn't need to put up any more. 

I can always look at another photo of the beach. 

This garrobo lizard climbed up to this resting spot below my window for three days in a row. He always looked a little wary, whereas the iguanas didn't pay much attention to me. 

10 July 2014

Time to Leave

It’s hard to believe that it is already my last night here. My body has just reached the I’m on vacation setting, and now it’s over. My Spanish needs another week to get into top form – I understand almost everything, but the responding part is a little on the slow side. I find myself halting mid-sentence a little too often for my liking. Not that anyone in Mexico ever cares if I trip over words or blurt something out in a completely different language. The first few days I was here, I found myself mentally constructing a sentence I would need starting with “I”. I ran through eu, toi, ani, before I finally got to yo. The brain is a funny thing; it searches for a different language and grabs whatever is available, be it Portuguese, Vietnamese, or Hebrew. I am sure words in all those languages have entered into my conversations here.

I was hoping to get a lot of writing done seeing as how I have a book and a novella in the works, but that didn’t happen. However, I know I will be returning to California with a relaxed mind and body, ready to jump on those projects.

I didn’t take all the beach walks that are my norm, or get back to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, or go see how Elizabeth Taylor’s house is doing after I heard it had been renovated. And that’s ok. I did walk a lot, said hello to shopkeepers I had met four years ago, and even ran into a cat I had met last time I was here. (He lives in one of those shops.)

A highlight of this trip was getting two adjustments by the best chiropractor I have ever known. Dr. Lenny Sugerman is so much more than just a chiro. He is thorough and gentle, and takes as much time as needed to evaluate, and then work on your body. It’s depressing to know that I have not been able to find someone even close to his ability in my area. It’s not like I can fly to Puerto Vallarta every month or so for an adjustment.

Another fantastic outcome of my short visit was all those close encounters with the iguanas. One was right on the outside ledge of my window the other day. As I mentioned previously, their eyes are so human that I just know they can understand me. And when I try to talk to them, I swear they can understand me – that is until I realize I am most likely scaring the crap out of the poor guys, and I back away.

Right now I’m trying to get my body to memorize what it feels like to feel warm like a lizard in hopes that I might be able to recreate the feeling when I get back into the cold fog that awaits me tomorrow night.

09 July 2014

A Walk on the Beach

I've been in Puerto Vallarta for over a week and only have a few days left, yet today was the first day I went for a walk on the beach. My general routine when living in close proximity to the ocean, is to take an early morning walk every single day. It hasn't worked out that way until today.

Strolling along the sand, gazing up at the sea birds, and watching the sun rise has to be the best tonic for anything at ails a body. It’s a combination of the rhythm of the waves along the shore, the smell of salty sea air, and the ability to forget that civilization even exists. One with nature.  

I love watching the pelicans swoop in for a fresh fish breakfast. They seem to stay in groups and hover around wherever there are schools of fish, or fisherman with bait. There are also these large, black birds that take head-first dives into the water to scoop up a meal. It is thrilling to watch.

A few old guys were out fishing with nets and rods. I’d guess they were of retirement age, but am fairly sure that fishing had been their livelihood. One doesn’t learn how to repair a fishing net, or throw one out onto the sea, if it is just a hobby.

Sitting in the sand on the shore, warm sun and blue skies above, you might never know that last night another tropical thunderstorm rolled through the city. It was wonderful! Maybe if you were outside and dodging lightning bolts it would be a different story. But being inside looking out through a bank of windows at the wind bending the palm trees and the sound of torrential rain, is simply magnificent. It’s also nice knowing that the storm will pass through quickly, the skies will dry up, and in morning it will be sunny again.

Still trying to make use of every last minute I have here, the day is already planned. In a few hours I’ll head down to the beach cafĂ© to watch Argentina x Holland in the World Cup semi-final. After yesterday’s disastrous game between Brazil and Germany, I’m hoping this will be more of an exciting, close match.

I would always have come back down to Puerto Vallarta, but I especially did so at this time to watch the World Cup in a Latin country where I thought it would be great fun. It’s not 

as big of an event as I thought it would be. A few days I wanted to simply watch the games on the TV here, but they were not broadcast. As far as I can figure out, the World Cup is not shown on basic, Mexican TV stations. A step up to cable gives you CNN, (and not CNN International), and periodic news stations from New York, but no World Cup. A step up from that – (maybe satellite?) and you get Sky Sports, which has the World Cup contract. This is very strange. Granted, this is the first that the World Cup has been shown extensively in the US – even broadcasting games on regular networks.
But  even in 1982, pre-cable/satellite, I was able to watch the games on a Spanish language network, even if it was a little fuzzy.  I’ve never heard of another country that did not broadcast the Cup on stations that were available to everyone. All is well, though – I have gotten my fill of games both watching in the US and here. I’m already planning where I’ll be for the 2018 World Cup.


04 July 2014

The Sun Came Out and The Iguanas Came Down

Yesterday afternoon I saw blue skies for the first time since landing in Puerto Vallarta five days ago. For someone who lives by/and for the laws of the sun, it was certainly a welcome sight.

The first, tiniest speck of sunlight in the early morning sky is why I get out of bed. My brain functions best in bright sunlight and my body only works to its fullest when it’s hot.  I have often wondered if I might be part lizard. Perhaps that is why I so adore iguanas and their relatives.

Puerto Vallarta is filled with beautiful iguanas that don’t seem to be bothered by the traffic below or the houses next door to their trees. One only needs to look up in the trees that run along the Rio Cuale, right in the center of town, to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.  If I search hard enough, (they are good at camouflage), I can usually see at least one in the tree outside my window. The best time to see them is when they slowly make their way down the tree to head for the river and get a drink of water.

I've seen yellow iguanas and green iguanas and a few bright green lizards of a different variety. I think one of them may have been about 5 feet long from head to tail. Although I have seen many, my camera does not have very much of a zoom on it and the photographs I took only are good if I enlarge them on my computer. What I needed was a close encounter with an iguana.

My friend is at the very top of the tree.
I remembered from the last time I was here that the trees next to one of the small bridges crossing the Rio Cuale had been a good place to spot the critters. I walked along the small street running along the river and was about to go up the steps to the bridge when I noticed a woman looking up in the trees. I followed her line of vision and saw a big iguana on the move. And then I saw another.

Quickly, I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures. They were still too far up in the tree, but they were moving around, not just sunning themselves.   Then I noticed the biggest guy was on the move down the tree, right in front of me. What a stroke of luck! He was going for a drink of water just when I got there.

I talked to him all the way down and told him what a beautiful iguana he was. The good thing about iguana wildlife photography is that they move very slowly - it gives one time to focus and reposition to get the best angle. When my buddy got about eye level with me he stopped, turned his head, and stared at me. I like to think he was saying hello.

I then went up to the bridge and found another one at the very top of a tree, drinking in the sun. They, like me, were very thankful for the clear blue skies. I took more pictures, but he really was too far away.

It wasn't until I got home and looked at the photos I had taken, that I realized that iguanas have people eyes. It was quite a shock. I now do know that I am part lizard – the proof is in the eyes.

01 July 2014

USA x Belgium

I actually made it to a Latin American country to watch the World Cup. Even though the plan for the past four years had been to go to Brazil, Mexico was not a bad alternative.

With the USA x Belgium match starting at 3:00 PM Puerto Vallarta time, I set out early enough to give myself time to cruise the Malecon in search of an exciting venue to view the game.

It wasn’t long before I noticed that there did not seem to be much in the way of crazy soccer fans on the streets or in the bars I passed. I assumed that since Mexico was now out of it all, the interest in the mundial might have lessened. But I did expect to see American fans, even though it is low tourist season here.

Once I reached the end of the rows of restaurants and bars along the Malecon, and not finding anything that looked even close to a hopping-mad football fest, I decided to head back to a bar I’d passed earlier. Murphy’s Irish Pub; they had to be watching the game there. Looking up from below at the second story establishment, I didn’t see too many folks inside, but thought I saw a TV with what looked to be a game. I checked my watch – the game had already started – so headed up the narrow staircase to find what awaited me.

The game was indeed playing on several large and small screens. Right at the front, just inside the balcony, sat a group of six young American women, eyes glued to the TV set. Wow – has the world changed! I felt so proud that a group of gals would come out to watch a football match. I said hello and grabbed a table behind them.

Murphy’s was by no means packed, but there was a decent enough crowd comprised of families and small groups of men. I ordered a glass of tonic water and tuned my brain into the game along with my compatriots.

Having watched all the previous matches in the company of myself, I truly enjoyed being able to whoop out loud along with the rest of the patrons – or in some cases, let out a loud ooooohhhh! It really is much more fun to be part of a crowd when watching a sporting event.

We all know how the game ended, but I must say that those last few minutes were a joy to watch, with the entire pub cheering on Team USA.

I do feel a bit disappointed in the less-than-crazy World Cup atmosphere that I’ve found here. I was thinking back to several World Cups ago when I was living in Kuala Lumpur. It was the best time ever! Maybe it was because the games were on in the late afternoon and evening, and all the bars and restaurants were packed for every game. And it’s not like Malaysia was even in the World Cup. For the final, my friends and I had to book a table in a make-shift, outdoor club, right next to the Twin Towers. It was total sports fan nirvana.

World Cup apparent-lack-of-enthusiasm aside, it’s still fantastic to be in Puerto Vallarta, drinking in the heat, breathing in the humidity, and spending by days in happiness.

30 June 2014

Back in Puerto Vallarta

It’s been way too long, but I have finally made it back outside the confines of California and right into the heat of the tropics. Within minutes of arriving, I felt a huge rush of joy. I suppose it’s the combination of the climate - hot and muggy; the people – Mexican; and the grand adventure of it all.
Since the minute I stepped off the plane and asked the guy at the gate who won the Mexico/Netherlands match, it’s been a non-stop adventure of little bits of happiness, one after another. My Spanish is good enough to engage anyone in a conversation and believe me, I talk to everyone. Sometimes I stop and marvel at how this once, painfully shy little girl, turned into such a conversationalist. I chatted with the taxi driver who hopes to do a chef’s course. I talked to the gentleman selling crafts, the proceeds of which will go to help various charitable organizations. There were conversations with the folks at the produce market to make sure the tropical fruits I was buying were ready to eat. And the man on the park bench, five month old kitten at his side, who told me the kitty belonged to no one and I was welcome to take it home.  

I should back up and say that hearing the results of the World Cup match, in which Mexico lost, is not on the list of things to be happy about. One of the main reasons I am here is because I couldn’t bear watching another World Cup in the US. Having said that, I must say that I am thrilled to see the excitement that is ringing around Team USA and the World Cup 2014 in general. However, it’s never quite as crazy and wonderful as it is in the rest of the world. Now that Mexico is out of the running, I don’t know how the rest of the Cup will be commemorated, but I will find out.
It’s been four years since I was last in Puerto Vallarta and I’m interested to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. I easily found the produce market, the grilled chicken market, and the fresh tortilla factory. Sadly, the local, family owned Rizo supermarket is no longer around. There are plenty of mini-marts nearby where I can get yogurt and juice, and fresh fruits and vegetables are just up the street, but I really wish Rizo were there.

I had heard that the Malecon, the walkway along the beautiful Bay of Banderas, had been partly closed to traffic. That sounded like a fantastic idea, and today I was up early to take a walk along its length in the grey, morning light. I have no idea why, but it just felt wrong. All along the Malecon there are beautiful brass sculptures. I especially love the alien-creature looking ones. I have no idea why the lack of street, that is now a walkway, should change the feel of the artwork. Perhaps it is because there had been a one or two foot drop down to the street from the Malecon, and now it is all filled in. I felt like the sculptures couldn’t breathe.  Maybe it was the lack of sunshine. Maybe I just have to get used to it. Maybe I’ll figure out why it doesn’t look right.

Right now I am listening to birds chirp in the trees outside my windows. The geckos in my room are quiet for the moment, but they’ve been talking to me since I arrived.  I’ve seen white herons and iguanas, and a squirrel that has a monkey tail.  I’m keeping my eye out for parrots.
The smell of all those delicious fresh fruits – guava, passion fruit, pineapple and others, are beckoning me to dig in. Life is definitely good!