Exploring Puerto Vallarta’s old town and tiny perfect beach village Chacala

Exploring Puerto Vallarta’s old town and tiny perfect beach village Chacala

red door and blue tile mosaic wall, Mexico

Wed, Nov 17, Puerto Vallarta
This is our last week in the sun. I’ve only popped south for a quick winter break once and for just a week before. Dennis craves a break from our Pacific Northwest skies and weather much more than I do and has just upped with a small back pack and headed down here a good handful of times. Back in June when he suggested 3 weeks in November to get away from what he considers to be our worst month, I said I’d come along too for a change. I’ve been way too busy and involved with a million things back home before and so the weather really rarely gets me down. Now I’m home to my sheepskin Ugg boots, paisley blue rain boots for really wet days and green Goretex circus coat to fend off the chill. December, here we come, but first, our last week in Puerto Vallarta…

Harry Carmean painter

Alia El-Bermani

6:42 am Only the odd stray jogger on the beach but lots of chirpy birds and of course, the waves splooshing onto the shore like a really big white noise machine…..
9:45 pm Just crashing back into bed! Just back from Art Walk, collected 45 artists’ names to look up and see if they fit into the figurative art site. At The Loft, John Strawn the owner was very helpful, suggested many names. He shows the very fine work of master Harry Carmean and Alia El-Bermani, both members of my site. Harry Carmean’s work was fantastic, impressionistic, very beautiful in the flesh. It’s so nice to see the real hands on surface of works I have been seeing online for several months. Reproductions and web images only show just so much. They just do not carry the full impact of the texture, lustre, brushstroke, the full mark of the hand and heart that original artwork offers. I’ll try to look up a bunch of these tomorrow and maybe make contact with ones I want to invite to join. Bill White begged off and we plan to meet at A Page In The Sun coffee shop on Friday but I got to see his lovely portraits at Galeria Pacifico.

photographic blur effects, Puerto Vallarta

Actually spent quite a bit of time on the beach this morning and really slowed down. I’ve been doing lots of writing, researching, photo editing and blogging on this trip so sitting on ass this morning was quite sweet. The sand is quite a bit coarser here like Demerara sugar compared to Chacala’s soft icing sugar. A fun loving gang of women including mothers and daughters set up behind us on the beach, out to have a good time and some sun from chilly Regina, Saskatchewan. We split our sun exposure between umbrella shade and full sun but I’m amazed at how many people just go for the full sun sprawl and fry their bacon for ages. Yikes, I’ll take mine in bits. I never get past warm tea color anyway so not much point in pushing it. Even when I lived in the Caribbean on a sailboat I didn’t really get very brown, just warm golden all over.

street vendor, Puerto Vallarta

I’m realizing that nothing is ever quite as sweet as having seen these warm kinds of places from the incomparable vantage point of the deck of a sailboat. Nothing is as sweet as that or maybe it’s a bit like your first love. Of course I was working hard at it but sitting at anchor between St. Lucia’s Deux Pitons on a moonlit starry night and being the only boat there, hanging in Bequia with up to a couple hundred other boats of all sizes, from 34 foot round the worlders to 120 foot sailing yachts, swimming from boat to boat in Martinique, rocking to sleep off the beach in Chacala, having the huge humpback whales broaching all around us in the Sea of Cortez, these things can’t quite be matched. Even at the time, when I was about twenty I valued every last drop of those Mediterranean and Caribbean sailing years because I could see how unique and extraordinary they were. And you know what? You can still get a job on a charter board and have something like this experience today! AND with the internet today, you can find out about good and bad boats before you get on them. BONUS! Looking for adventure? Go and taste some, try something new. You never know where it might lead.

Lalo Morales hand painted bags and cushions, Puerto Vallarta

Thursday, Nov 18
Best fish tacos ever, El Bacaloa restaurant on Basilio Badillo while Jamie Oliver silently played on the big screen. This seems to be a really good street for artistic things with a bit of difference. Some good galleries and some swell little boutiques. !Que Mona! had exquisite little evening bags by Mary Frances, very funky, kind of like a funked down version of Judith Lieber and at around $250, a mere fraction of Lieber’s which could be the same figure with another zero added on. (My evening bag is made from recycled drinks wrappers and stitched together in South Africa.) Next door Lalo Morales had juicy almost naïve hand painted purses and pillows. Patti Gallardo had many beautiful objects like dream sticks wound with odd ball beads, smart tablecloths and pillows, paintings and colorful wooden sculpture poles.

Cassandra Shaw jewelry Puerto Vallarta

A little further down were a pair of knockout jewelery design boutiques. Cielito Lindo seemed to be a jewelery gallery featuring many contemporary jewelery designers working in all kinds of materials. I like to seek these unique places out and eventually I buy a few things over time. One of a kind jewelery is like wearing a little unique art piece and the price range can be from very modest to whatever you wish to pay. Next door at Cassandra Shaw were cocktail rings big enough to drown small dogs with and in fact she uses her tiny Chihuahua dogs as her models, too cute! So far, I’ve only bought a stretchy cuff of turquoise wooden beads but there were many women in there hungry to drop some bucks for these puppies.

Puerto Vallarta priest, cathedral, religious smoke

small dogs very popular in Puerto Vallarta

Evening stroll took us up to the pretty cathedral where a mass was going on and bells and chimes and gongs were firing. It’s fairly simple inside but does have an amount of smoke and gold, quite nice. Just about next door to the cathedral we stumbled across the Oasis Hostel our Swiss friend Giorgio was staying at. Talk about a central location! Had a beer overlooking the main square but we were the only customers, at that moment anyway. Yikes. The season is slow to start I think and these places are hungry for business. Surprised to find it was already 8 pm so we began to make our way back over the bridge, stopping for a light dinner at one year old SUPER Italian place called Pomodoro E Basilico (tomatoes and basil) in tiny hidden away Plaza Romy. Super thin crust, crunchy and blackened just the right smidge on a wood fired oven and topped sparingly with oil, gorgonzola, smoked cheese, cherry tomatoes and then sprinkled with slightly bitter arugula on its way to the table. We’re in the pizza school of thought that fewer but finer ingredients are better than more things piled on top of tomato sauce which did not even appear in the ingredients list of our “white” pizza as they called in. This pizza ranks right up there as one of the best 3 we’ve ever had! This tiny hidden jewel had packed tables which follows Den’s restaurant creed of offer the best and they will come.

photographic blur effect, street vendor Puerto Vallarta

Street vendor Puerto Vallarta

We’ve heard a few tales of woe from almost tearful people speaking about the troubles of the Mexican drug cartels. At sunset we chatted with a big Mexican man and his wife down here to enjoy the lush green and the PEACE that they have lost at home. They moved to a city just near the Texas border 3 years ago when it was very nice and now it has all turned to ashes in the wake of drug wars, people leaving in droves. Honestly he was just about in tears. He was very appreciative of how peaceful we in Canada have things compared to here. In the local papers just the other day, the headline told of another 7 dead in Tepic in one night. Such a tragedy. And all over we hear of families torn apart by having some of them stranded up in the States working illegally for years and years and years. I think it’s been show that the US economy would crumble if the Mexican population there didn’t show up for work. A huge conundrum. Something has to change soon but not really an issue I wish to speak on.

folk dancer Puerto Vallarta

woman folkloric dancer Puerto Vallarta

folk dancers in Puerto Vallarta, costume

Friday, Nov 19
9:30 pm, just in from superb Mexican folk dancing show from the very professional group local Chulta(?), young men and women, terrific. Think I got some good shots. Played with switching up my ISO from 400 to 1250 and tried to focus on faces, skirts, feet, fans, whatever I could grasp as they spun and swirled with sharp stomping heels on the wooden stage.

painter Bill White, Paula O'Brien, Puerto Vallarta

Bill White, realist painter Puerto VallartaDidn’t get very far from home base today. Met realist figurative painter Bill White at 10 this morning for a long 2 hour coffee and chat at A Page In The Sun café just across the street. He’s been down here 5 years now, paints many of the young Chutla dancers himself, does portraits and very crisp almost photorealistic oil paintings but would like to try to loosen and try some new directions. Chatted politics, history, art and generally had a great first meeting. It was sort of a blind date but he had the advantage of having seen my photo on my blog whereas I kept looking keenly at every tall, silver and handsome fellow that walked in there. I was glad Bill wasn’t the first fellow I saw in there as that guy looked a lot less sophisticated and interesting. I have to say if we met up with one of my artists who turned out to be an egotistical arrogant chump (know any like that?), we’d find an excuse to cut the meeting short and move on but we had a great time.

Puerto Vallarta Galeria Dante, owner Claire, artist Israel Zzepda, Paula O'Brien

At 2:30 we headed up the street a few blocks to Galleria Dante to meet the owner Claire and Guadalajara painter and sculptor Isreal Zzepda. Israel was just delivering a bunch of new work so I was lucky to meet him on one of his 3 visits a year. His sculpture work currently is one-off lost wax casts in aluminum. Claire gave me a lot of time and I appreciated the connection. Her gallery is the largest one in Puerto Vallarta and is filled with all different kinds of mediums and styles. If you really wanted to buy a piece of art and couldn’t find one thing in there to buy, I wouldn’t be able to believe it. I certainly picked out 3 or 4 items that I would gladly have had crated if I had a magic checkbook. I wrote down about a dozen more names to check out. Her site is very good on each of her artists.

Mexican artwork, painted furniture

I strayed back into a few shops across the street on my slow way home, tried on a few frightening tiny bikinis but as a public service, I didn’t buy any. Actually with the vast range of flank steak one sees at the beach, I don’t feel too bad at all about my own humble bikini bod. Jennifer Aniston, I am NOT but I’m happy to go with what I’ve got. That said, if I was in Brazil with armies of super tanned 20 year olds with postage stamp bikinis strung on dental floss, I just might go for a tight one piece that might possible give me a bit more of the Spanx effect but this ain’t Brazil. At coffee with Bill White, the conversation suddenly fell off the rails when a very slim and fit young woman walked past down the street in just her leopard print tiny bikini, lipstick and sunglasses. You just don’t see that too often, a little wrap of some kind is usually added in somehow but, no, this was just the terrific bikini walking down the street and we all just sat back and enjoyed the view as she drifted past. Twice. Thank you. Being an artist, I can definitely enjoy admiring womens’ bodies as well as mens’. It’s aesthetics and beauty in its purest form.

Stepped into the 2 swell jewelery boutiques again and took a long cool drink from both but 99.9% sure I won’t buy anything there. I did succumb to a bead and leather necklace next door at Seraphina’s though. It’s a knockout, kind of random, mixed and much more my Boho style than fine silver is. And the price was under $50 too! Bonus! When I think of it, I don’t think I even own as many as 8 pieces in gold or silver but I’ve got lots of fun mixed bead stuff and craftsman made art jewelery. It packs great visual punch but does not break the bank OR cause you to get robbed for it.

textured wall, Mexico

Didn’t even make it to beach or pool today. Rinsed out our every second day bits of laundry and strung them securely our on balcony on our elastic travel laundry line. We’re on the 3rd floor so no one can really see our lovely knickers and t-shirts drying out there but I wouldn’t want them to fall down on anyone’s head! Sabina, my crew mate in the Caribbean once lost her whole lifeline of laundry to the strong Trade Winds which swept it all overboard because things weren’t exactly tied on. A few bad words were said that day… She still lives down there in St. Barth and has a sweet clothing boutique. I found her last year online but Dennis and I have not returned to Caribbean since we met there and sailed away into the rest of our lives back in 1978. I hear it’s all grown so much that I’m not sure I want to break the sweet memories I have of it back then before it was so developed and drugs swept their clutches into the world. I’m not sure I want to see the sweet baby I loved if it has become an ugly teenager. Fellow sailors I met down there were already a bit saddened at how much it had grown up in the previous 10 or 15 years since their last visit when electricity still had not arrived. I rented a little house in Bequia for 5 months with no electricity and it was just swell. Electricity was on the island, just not in my humble little place. I lived in Montreal till I was 19 but I really feel I grew up on the year and half spent crewing on GEP and sailing between Antibes, France and the Caribbean’s Grenadines. I hear it’s still pretty nice though. Have you been there?

Off to bed with John Grisham. Happy 11th Birthday Riley!!!

Paula and Virgin Mary in ecstacy with HP mini 210 pink computer

wash travel laundry daily and only take carry-on luggage, travel light

Saturday, Nov 20
Traveling with a restricted amount of clothing is actually a delight when they all work together and are clothes you love. Just keep rinsing them our and hanging them out to dry. Another funny story about laundry lines in Mexico I heard once was a fellow who laughed really hard when his girlfriend’s laundry line of Victoria’s Secret pretties was stolen from wherever it was flying. Yeah, he thought it was funny, but she was pissed! Ten years ago in Mexico, you just had to buy a bra from sight and size alone, no trying on in those days. But really, come on. Don’t hang up expensive panties in a place where people might covet them like a campground or small village. Can’t really blame them for taking them, can you? That kind of goes together with don’t bring your big gold and diamond rings traveling to poorer places. A) They could slide off into the sand or B) get you kidnapped or mugged. Not smart, unless you’re on a cruise ship I guess or in Mustique.

Revolution centenary parade Puerto Vallarta 2010, children folk costume, Mexico

girls in folkloric costume, swirling skirts, Mexico parade, Puerto Vallarta

Viva Zapata Revolution centenary parade 2010 Puerto Vallarta, children in costume, Mexico

Mexican girls in folk costume, parade Puerto Vallarta

The big event today was the great parade for the Revolution Centenary. It lasted over 2 hours! Viva Zapata! Viva la Revolution! Lots of marching bands, cheerleaders, folk dancing and schoolchildren dressed up as the historic characters, fake beards, baby dolls, wooden rifles and all. Some caballeros on horseback brought up the rear and some of the real military as well. Well done, all!

Wandered this evening up the streets straight away from the beach until we pretty well ran out of street. Found a few interesting places but it got very quiet and modest pretty fast with just enough light from the streetlights to make our way along the sidewalks in the dark. At one point we found a massive tree something like a mangrove tree. It appeared to be maybe 12 feet in diameter, stupendous and just here at the side of the street and cars just had to bloody well drive around it. Fantastic but was traveling light without the camera tonight.

Puerto Vallarta photographic effects with speed and blur

photographic blur effects with speed and light

Caught the tail end of a crazy LOUD Mariachi band next door and stayed to chat with some ladies. One, a lady who has been coming here for winters for 16 years bemoaned the fact that it is becoming so Disneylandish and has lost much of the charm that it used to have. Maybe that is what I am feeling too, the sort of sad homogenization that the world is coming to so quickly. In twenty more years, will countries even be distinguishable from each other or will they all dress the same and stare into the same cell phones and play the same music? The Disneyland and Walmart effect is creeping everywhere and many seem to want to rush to embrace that bland sameness perhaps thinking that tourists want more of the same from home rather than what Mexico itself has to offer. Almost everyone here in PV speaks very good English so it’s not a good place to come to learn Spanish perhaps.

I tried to ask the 3 ladies we chatted with what they like to do down here when they’re here for the entire winter. Nothing, go to the beach and the movies were all the specifics they could give me. I’m sure they actually really do lots of things down here but they didn’t admit to bridge, painting, reading, writing, salsa dance classes, help in the Mission, swim, knit, garden or anything more specific. I really don’t do nothing very well and all of our friends are makers and doers of some sort with their own unique passions. I’m sure these nice gals had some passions but they just couldn’t tell me more than the beach and nothing.

traveling by bus, Mexico Puerto Vallarta

beach vendors Puerto Vallarta waiting for bus

Sunday, Nov 21
A bit of a marathon day, out on the prowl from 9 am to 9 pm. Grabbed a quick coffee and split a muffin then began our long trek by bus to take a look around Marina Vallarta. Going by bus is always an adventure and it’s good not to have a strict appointment to keep and be open to whatever happens. When we eventually found the right place to wait, we shared the curb with several men on their way to work with their loads of baskets/candies/objects for sale. The work force that relentlessly works the beach is a polite white garbed stream of men and women that offer their wares in a constant stream. Most of them are fairly easy to say “no, thank you” to but some of the better salesmen stick like glue once they sense a weakness. We’ve been quite entertained by a group of women from Regina sitting behind us on the beach. This group spends a lot of time with the vendors everyday. From 2 week henna tattoos to the ubiquitous silver jewellery, this crew has haggled over it all. We stick to the odd Fresca and skewer of grilled spicy prawns. Last time we were here a few years ago, I did chase a tiny Indian lady vendor down the beach when I saw a smashing batik rayon shirt that Dennis gets lots of compliments on.

advertising opportunity on hand holds on bus Puerto Vallarta

The bus eventually scooped us up and we banged along the hard cobblestone streets in molded hard seats. When we passed the cathedral, the 5 Mexican people in my view all crossed themselves in perfect unison. They often cross themselves when they make a sale too, I guess to pray that money keeps flowing in towards them. Thank goodness Den’s back is not bad just now as buses can be a bit bone jarring here. Taxis are sometimes not much better as they like to make the trip fast and exciting and certainly we have not been in any cushy vehicles. I guess you could insist on a smooth slow trip and expect to pay more, have never tried that but have wanted to. This bus even had advertising opportunities on nifty hand holds. Small business on the go, good for them and good luck with it. One of Dennis’s previous entrepreneurial ventures was neighborhood notice boards in supermarkets all over the UK so we know the potential of these quiet little forms of advertising.

yachts, Marina Vallarta

this sailboat resembles 57 foot Mikado GEP 1

Marina Vallarta is very large with many fishing boats, sailboats and some big yachts of course too. Saw this sailboat boat (lower image) that is quite similar in design and scale to the French 57 foot Mikado “GEP” that I crewed on to a year and a half. The skipper Alain and I shared a comfortable small cabin right at the aft behind the salon. We had 2 nice berths and comfortable sitting headroom. Foreward, there were three guest cabins and we often had 3 couples as guests. Between the skipper and myself, we covered everything you can think of; cooking, cleaning, shopping on foot, sailing first mate, tour guide, raconteur. It was huge and meaningful fun. Eventually I grew tired of seeing the world from the port hole of my galley and it was time to move on but I learned a lot; French, sailing, cooking and all kinds of other personal growth. We sought out the delicious waffles we had here ten years ago and they were superb. The next table had a novel purse tree to hold all the hats and shopping bags. I’ve never seen this but who knows, maybe I don’t get out much, maybe they’re all over the place.

fishing boats for hire Puerto Vallarta Marina Vallarta

The fishing boats were all lined up and not a lot of customers so these guys are very hungry. I’m sure all these adventure events are fantastic fun. We’re not going on any but you should do a few if you come here. Maybe next time we’ll do some. We did so much already when we were here on the boat ourselves and these things are really well worth it.

Paradise Village resort, Nuevo Vallarta

Paradise Village resort, Nuevo Vallarta, swimming pool with crocodile slide

Catching the bus from Marina Vallarta to Nuevo Vallarta was an almost unbearable length of time and we could practically feel our will to live seeping out of our pores. Well, FINALLY someone told us we were in the wrong place and had to take a bus to the airport first and then go on from there. Gee, how many bus drivers did we ask who didn’t tell us this?? Oh well… A nice cushy bus took us out to this Riviera Nayarit area to the north of Puerto Vallarta. Paradise Village is a gorgeous sprawling resort with fun fantasy pools fabulous for a great family vacation. This would be a great place to come and will keep it in mind if I ever feel the urge to pack up all the extended family and bring them on vacation with me, all expenses paid. Well, that would be sweet but I guess maybe I better buy a lottery ticket once a year. Not that this is an expensive resort though, I’m sure it’s in the normal zone but we’ve never done the all-inclusive thing so we have no idea.

Paradise Village resort, Nuevo Vallarta, tiger in Mexico

They have a little zoo with some beautiful tigers and these big kitties were up close and personal with us. We stayed here for FREE at the marina when it first opened in 1998 and may even be in some of their large photos. They wanted to fill up the marina for the photos at that time and hey, we said yes please for a week or so. The kids had the run of the pools, TV lounge and kids club but we had to bring our own drinks to the poolside as they were not able to take payment for a drink. I guess that’s how an all-inclusive works, just flash your green wristband.

Planeto Vegetariano, vegetarian restaurant Puerto Vallarta

Busing back to PV was a snap with a directo bus, thank goodness! Got off in Centro and had a scrumptious vegetarian buffet meal at Planeta Vegetariano. Put it on your list for a great meal in PV.

photographic blur effect, streetscape at night Puerto Vallarta

street portrait artist, Puerto Vallarta Malecon at night, photographic blur effect

catching fast action at night with camera blur effect, Puerto Vallarta

Revolution celebrations carried on today right into the evening along the Malecon with vendors, performers and dancing to a live band. Played with my camera blur effect and got some good shots. A long but interesting day. Now that we have retraced our steps out to the Marina and Nuevo, perhaps we won’t have to make the trek again next time. It was very interesting though to see how it has all taken shape and become a reality from the plans and bare bones that we’d seen 10 years ago. Good job.

Paradise Village resort, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, great family pool

Monday, Nov 22
I’ve just kind of realized that we’ve done with our own kids sort of the same thing that my dad did with us as kids. We had a family boat and that’s what we did for any and all vacation times, except for maybe some small ski trips in the winter. Writing about coming down to Mexico en famille by sailboat made me realize that we seem to limit our exploring to what we can reach by boat. In BC where we have lived for 22 years, we have never been to Kelowna or Kamloops!! Loopy! We’ve been as far as 108 Mile House and back but really not too many other places by car. When I see families here at these great family resorts, it made me realize we never did that. Having a boat is like having a cottage; you have one, you use it and don’t do many other vacationey things. When my brother Mark heard Dennis ask the kids if they “wanted” to go on the boat years ago, he practically fell off the chair laughing. With us kids, there was no asking, it was a given. Our boat trip to Mexico was about ten years in the making from building the boat in Gibsons with custom aluminum welder John Dearden to finally getting all the ducks in a row to be able to take that chunk of time off. I don’t think the kids missed anything by not going to Disneyland (ok, we drove there when Ben was 2) and I know they value that family adventure we were able to have together. We still play hangman with a pen and paper at the drop of a hat in restaurants. Turn the tv and computer off for a month (except for email and homework), play some games and see what happens. Pretend the electricity is out, see what fun you can make yourselves if you unplug from the electronics.

quick sketch on the beach, grandmother and grandaughter buyin silver jewelry from vendor

This morning we had some grandparents and their 10 year old granddaughter next to us at the beach. I could tell they were going to sit still long enough to draw so I got in 3 quick drawings of them with my very small kit of drawing pencils. A pretty good morning of drawing on the fly with subjects caught in fleeting action.

steps leading up from Muertos Beach, Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta bed and breakfast, The Birdcage, with mulitple iron security screens

anti-Canadian graffiti in Puerto Vallarta
Headed south into the very gay friendly zone then up and over the hill behind us. So many bars on windows and doors… must be an indication of something going on. Found our way back down via a small stairway down a quiet little ravine with very secluded steeply stacked places but found some anti-Canadian graffiti to spoil the view. There are a lot of us down here and I suppose some are jerks.

El Puerco Azul art gallery Puerto Vallarta, artist Lee Chapman

Stumbled across delightful little gallery of Lee Chapman, painter and illustrator. El Puerco Azul is well worth the trip in and has lots to offer from very cheap to nice juicy original paintings.

small girl selling Chicklets for two pesos, Puerto Vallarta, child poverty, working children

Sstreet vendor with small child sleeping in hammock, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We’re trying to hand out money to these Chicklets kids when we see them and trying to tip well as things are very lean down here. We go past lots of restaurants and shops with practically no one in them. Every shop tries to pull you in with a friendly call. There are lots of charities being collected for and posters for others so plenty for gringos to get involved with if they spend lots of time down here.

biscotti and art, both food for the soul

Bought an interesting assortment of unique candies and things to sample back at the office, including some tamarind jelly something or other. It’s a tart apricot sort of taste. Had very excellent biscotti at The Deli, finally biscotti as good as my own!! I’ll post the recipe in time for Christmas and you can make some for your friends. Found a painting studio Liz & Curiel with a bit of a mixed bag of subjects but the technique was quite good. They do painting classes too. I’m sure you could learn something here in figurative painting.

folk art, carved and painted figures, Mexico

Tuesday, Nov 23
Skipped the beach this morning and went in search of some small portable Christmas presents instead. May have found just the thing we were looking for at Artesanias Flores, a seller of genuine crafts, not the knock off things found by the dozens in the market stalls. Picked up a juicy orange ceramic butter dish and sugar bowl for my kitchen after both of those items broke over this last year. The hand painted ceramics are fantastic here! If I lived here, I would have them as my sinks, my salad bowls, plates, the whole shebang but I really don’t want to ship all that stuff back to Canada from here so will just take these 2 small items.

Olinala gallery of fine folk art, masks and artefacts from Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Brewster Brockman

painted canvas fighting mask, Mexican folk art, Olinala gallery Puerto Vallarta

Olinala gallery of folk art, masks, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Brewster Brockman
Chased down the beautiful folk art gallery that I always visit, Olinala Galeria owned by painter Brewster Brockman. This place is drop dead gorgeous; the quirky little spaces, the background colors of the patchy walls and then the incredible masks and other bits of folk art that he displays so artistically. This gallery has been in this unique venue for about 35 years but in this last year, sadly many of the good neighbors have relocated leaving him a bit stranded and he is considering a possible move. Don’t miss this place if you come to PV!! It is a jewel.

fresh fish in the market, Puerto Vallarta

Found ourselves on some streets we had never been on even though they are not far away at all. Great fish vendor with some fab looking ray. I am lusting to buy and cook fresh ray but it must be absolutely fresh or else is turns completely ammoniac so have not cooked it in many years. Checked out the market one last time but after seeing too much shlock and having too many vendors invite me in with come in lady, almost free, two for one amigos, I am done with the small present shopping and we’ll go back to Flores and pick up an unspecifiednumber of items for an unspecified number of people… and you’ll have to wait to find out in December!

fantastic huge tree, Puerto Vallarta island under the bridge

very large iguana lounging overhead, Puerto Vallarta

We explored the little strip of island in the river and I don’t think I’ve ever been here before. Amidst the same old same old hammocks and silver jewelery, there were some real treasures. First the island itself, so lush and quiet with the gurgling water rushing past, what a gem right in the heart of the old part of the city. Some very large iguanas lounged overhead lazily on leafy branches. We never would have noticed these camouflaged beasts if a bunch of people were not standing there pointing at them. You sure wouldn’t want one of these puppies to fall down on you accidentally!! You’d probably have a heart attack! They’re as big as a big man’s arm and longer with the tail. They used to call these “tree chicken” in Bequia and eat them.

Artist Hector Cancino Garcia and Paula O'Brien, Puerto Vallarta

Artist Hector Cancino Garcia, Puerto Vallarta
The next treasure we found was a very good artist Hector Cancino Garcia. He has only been at art and this unique technique since February! His brother Pedro Tello has perfected this technique of scratching through exposed photographic paper in subtly different ways to create different monochromatic colors. Pedro’s work first drew my eye as is it far superior in technique and content to much of what one sees here but when I saw the smaller section near the man actually doing this work I was really impressed. His expression in my opinion is far more interesting and a truer artistic human expression than his brother’s more commercial, prettily elegant works. He’s working on a website and if it reflects the human form, he will join the figurative art site. I hope he can maybe find a good connection with some serious artists who can critique him so that he can continue to really grow artistically and not fade away into perhaps more commercial images. We bought a small print but I would have loved to have bought more. Just need that magic checkbook… and more wall space.

aluminum chairs, La Cuiza gallery, Puerto Vallarta

A little farther along we stopped for a drink at a large café/gallery/bar called La Cuiza. What a great space!! This would be my local watering hole I think if I lived in the neighborhood. Wrote down a few artists names to check out.

colorful street Mexico

tiny dogs, the kings and queens of Mexico

Just back from walking as far as could into the area south of here, deep into the gay zone. Did I mention that PV is very big with the gay community? It is very gay friendly, especially certain areas and we are one of the last hotels before you get to that area. Found some great shops up there with a great selection of men’s clothes and really cute bathing suits. Not quite the right style for my hubby very very cute! Most of the clubs seem to be a bit hard to fall into by accident so we didn’t see much in the way of restaurants or clubs but there’s lots of them we hear. I hope all those guys are practicing some safe things. Taylor, who we met in Chacala lost his 2 brothers to AIDS before the current drug cocktail that seems to have a good success rate with that dreaded disease. So sad when playing safely instead of riskily can make such a difference. A local magazine featured an artist whose work is semi-autobiographical and somewhat homoerotic. I’ve avoided that area in the figurative art site but as I am finding some very excellent artists whose work leans that way, I think I will devise a symbol that will less viewers know what to expect if they choose to go to a certain site. Maybe I’ll go with the hot peppers symbol for spicy food so that people can know what to expect. We’ll see.

little old man playing video games in arcade, Puerto Vallarta

We heard some very sweet live music here and there tonight as we walked along, definitely the night of sweet singing. Last night, the gal singing down below at our hotel sounded like she was strangling a cat, glad we were not sitting dining through it. The hotel is currently sort of taken over by some kind of college students, mostly young men and a few women. They cavort in the pool and are quite well behaved but we’re glad we didn’t come to the hotel for tranquil quiet rest. The rooms overlooking to pool are getting an earful of hilarity during the day. Quite funny.

Day of The dead flags flying overhead, Puerto Vallarta

Chatted with a fellow who raved about a full day trip on an ATV he did recently, up into the Sierra Madres mountains, off to a completely remote beach, to some turtle sanctuary, a small village of about 60 people, etc. The best money I ever spent were his ecstatic words. We wouldn’t want to tough it out on an ATV for 9 hours ourselves but can sure understand where he’s coming from as those are exactly the kinds of things we found on our way down the Baja coast by sail boat. Tiny fishing villages where we entertained the local kids by videoing them and them showing it back to them. Most people in life never get to experience those quiet remote pristine places and let’s face it, some people wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they got to a place with “nothing”. Most people would give anything just to be in the regular safe, healthy kinds of areas we are used to in North America so when you get the rare and precious opportunity to go to these remote places, you should really try to go because opportunities don’t come around that often. Closer to home, walk up your local hill, borrow a row boat, just make sure you leave all the electronics at home except for your camera maybe. Ring tones are a blight on the landscape in the forest!

pineapple vendor with green pickup truck, Puerto Vallarta

I guess people have been bemoaning paradise lost since Eve grabbed that apple… I guess I’m just saying if you are fortunate enough to come to gorgeous place like this, make an effort to see more than just the beach/pool/bottom of the wine glass because there are spectacular things to see just around the corner where the word “awesome” takes on a meaning deeper than just the latest hairstyle, People magazine or video game. Another fellow we met here works at a northern Ontario fishing lodge for 6 months and then comes down here for part of the winter. Ha! Also met a BC Ferry worker who saves up his overtime and tries to come down here to PV for about 4 or 5 weeks a year, small world…

Gary Harper painting

Wed, Nov 24
Had 4 really good submission to the figurative art site in last 2 days. Really quality sites. Garry Harper, Nicola Wheston and Karole Marois. Keep them coming, baby! That’s great!

Puerto Vallarta fish skewer vendor

seafood skewers cooking at the beach grill Puerto Vallarta

painter Esau Andrade, Puerto Vallarta

John O. Thomson abstract paintings, Yelapa

Took the camera down to the beach this morning and tried to capture some of the sights. Den wasn’t feeling quite up to snuff so I carried on with my trek to the Biblioteca Los Mangos, the main library by myself. Way over the other side of town and through the tunnel, the bus passed many smaller humble homes that makes me realize that the built up veneer of Puerto Vallarta is really quite thin and the tiny tiendas (shops), laundry lines and chickens running afoot are just around the corner from everywhere here. Spent about 2 hours combing through the very dusty books and magazines but wrote down about 90 artists’ names to check out online. If I get 20 of them to respond to my emails, I’ll be happy. Most are Mexican or Hispanic which nicely broadens my stable. Very nice library but needs more books. I didn’t see a children’s area but surely I must have missed it, there must be one. Got back to town in time to finish seeing the remaining galleries on the Art Walk map, the ones we missed last Wednesday evening. Some very nice work for your walls down here. Loved this airplane one above by Esau Andrade at Galerie Des Artistes. Met an American painter there John O. Thomson whose big juicy abstracts we had already admired in local Japanese restaurant Tsunami. He spends about half the year near here in Yalapa and the other half in States or Caribbean including Bequia. Small world.

beach vendors, henna tattoo, Puerto Vallarta

Thurs, Nov 25.
Happy American Thanksgiving.
Helped a lady last night who was trying to photograph a huge thanksgiving turkey being projected with a strong light down on the Malacon. Of course when she used her flash, the image dissolved with the added light. I showed her how to turn the flash on and off and took the picture easily with flash off. So many people overuse or always use flash and I just don’t understand this. I use it extremely rarely, perhaps 2% of all my photos have flash and that is night portrait flash which is a softer look somehow. Think about it folks. If you can see the subject with your own eyes, it should be able to be photographed with the exception of actual night photos. When you flood the subject with flash, it is not the same thing that you were just looking at with your natural eye, the thing that you found beautiful and worth recording. Try to learn how to take photos without the flash and you might be amazed at the beautiful results. Go through your camera settings and take the same picture with each of the settings to understand the different effects possible.

the busy beach, Los Altos, Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Playa Los Arcos
Took the camera back down to the beach this morning to try to capture the scene. Swam with a lady who had her camera out in the surf with her! How cool is that?? It is a Canon that can take photos and videos underwater. Pretty nifty. In the future when I need to replace my small camera I might consider this.

Mexican folk art dolls, Puerto Vallarta
Zipped down to the island this morning to buy some gifts for the Kidzsmart crew after finding that the shop we had intended to buy 7 items in was CLOSED again- hope it will be open before we run out of time!!! Bought these funny little wall dolls with painted coconut heads and painted canvas bodies, quite unique and joyous.

Nicario Jemenez retablos, folk art Mexico, Puerto Vallarta

Nicario Jimenez, retablos, religous folk art Mexico, potato paste sculpture boxes
Stopped on the way there at Galeria Alparcora to admire the exceptional potato clay paste sculpted “retablos” . These are finely crafted scenes with dozens of figures and accessories displayed in hinged boxes in a very story-telling way by Peruvian master Nicario Jimenez. Simply wonderful. This is a very fine gallery. Next we had to chase up a strong box to pack up our fragile gifts in to haul back on the plane with us. Eventually found one and as we came down with carry-on only, we can easily pack this one box for check-in.

chihuahua puppies
Caught up with entering all my scribbled notes on potential figurative artists into a spreadsheet and I rounded up a total on this trip of about 225 ones worth looking into. Lots of these will lead nowhere but I’m sure I’ll get some good connections with a good number of them. It will take awhile to get through that list, hope my research assistant Gordana is still up for picking away slowly at my lists…

Our last night here. Luckily the second craft store was finally open and we completed our gift buying as planned. We’ll make the Kidzsmart team pick numbers from a hat then let them pick their own particular object from the array before them on Monday. Hope they’ll appreciate these colorful little folk art items from Mexico.

the beach Puerto Vallarta

male bodies, Puerto Vallarta
The demographic has shifted to a younger crowd and expect to see a greater number of really trim bikini bodies on the beach tomorrow. Their number has graciously been increasing the last couple of days as the Thanksgiving holiday arrived. Dennis’ idea of catching some sun in November has been a great one and this year seems to have been a particularly good year to do it. I’m very thankful to have had this great trip down here and the good health to enjoy it with. There are many down here with physical handicaps and challenges and the Puerto Vallarta sidewalks are quite accessible and certainly this hotel is very well set up to deal with wheelchairs and mobility carts. There is a lift they can wheel out to lift people into the pool, very good access here. The big gang of Mexican college guys seems to have departed and the volume around the pool has plummeted to a whisper from the roar of hilarity we enjoyed the last couple of days, very entertaining bunch, was like having our 2 sons and all their friends over for a huge pool party!

Christmas decorations Puerto Vallarta
It’s funny, as soon as American Thanksgiving Day broke, we saw all kinds of Christmas decorations getting strung up. They don’t waste a second, do they?

Day of the Dead sculpture figures, woman, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta

Friday, Nov 26
HA! Computer on the fritz and can’t connect to internet. Good thing this happened on my last day or I would be very cranky…..So glad I headed back uptown this morning after we packed up the room. I hit the mother lode of figurative painting here, certainly in the erotic line, with Galleria Sol y Luna. It has been very frustrating trying to find galleries here that are NOT on the expensive and exclusive Art Walk map. I think there is much politicking away behind the scenes and many galleries have opted out or haven’t passed the criteria to be listed. I have been encouraging many as I’ve found them to gather themselves together and create a simple black and white photocopy page of the Other Galleries or the Salon de Refuses or The Other Art Walk. Maybe I’ve missed something here but really, the Art Walk map only seems to chart about half of the great galleries here. I will be emailing the ones I liked and trying to get someone to take the bait and put something together. It would take a couple of hours tops to chart them out and stick them on a map graphic, The graphic could be emailed to all and the simple CHEAP b&w printout could be picked up on the counters at all of these places. Seriously, it’s not hard to do folks, a few hours max. Knowledge is a currency, share it, pass it on, let it open doors and not close them. All will benefit.

Found a worthy small child to give my colored pencils and free little sliver bracelet that some jewelry place had tried to ply me with. All the children were in school this morning, none to be seen and I began to think I would have to give them to a parent. When the kids started to reappear after school at around 1:30, they all seemed so clean and polished that it took surprisingly longer than expected to find one who looked more needy but when I finally did, she beamed. I hope they will keep and use the drawing pencils. They can sell on the tiny wire bracelet but I hope the kids get to do some drawing.

A little sun on the beach then a taxi ride to airport only to find our flight is delayed 2 hours. Oh well, we’re here. We were impressed to see a smart little kiosk promoting the music and small line of jewelry and handbags of the brother sister musical duo Arcano. We already have a few of their pleasant easy listening cds, she plays violin and he plays piano, but we picked up a new one. Good to see them still pushing it. Had a few hours to wander around the airport and between the current art charity auction campaign on the walls and the very good magazine shelf, I wrote down another 45 names to look up. It’s so easy to find worthy people to look up, searching for them online takes just a few minutes each. Emailing a bunch at once is easy with my ACT database and then we just see what happens after that. I’m sure we’ll reach 500 by Christmas.

Got into Vancouver at 11 pm local time, our Mexican 2 am. Little chunks of snow are here and there and the road was a little slippery as we arrived at my mom’s for a bed overnight.

Is it easy, safe and fun to go for cheap to Mexico? Yes! We didn’t opt for that this time but it’s really easy to do it for cheap. Maybe pre-book one night at some hotel, wander around and find the right cheap place to fit your needs and then move over there. Eat at home, in the cheap and plentiful street vendors or tiny little local eateries, take your own towel, drinks and snacks down to the beach, don’t have sex with someone you just met in a dark alley, don’t swim at night with gaping head wounds and you should have a great time. Do your laundry daily, take only ONE sweatshirt weight item if you’re on the coast and maybe more if heading into the mountains. Carry your own small supply of anti-histamine, Imodium (just in case) and have a great time!

That’s it for my travelogue this year. Watch for my next post in a few weeks about wrapping my 6 foot tall sister-in-law up with duct tape and making a duct tape body double dressmaker’s dummy for her. It was a hoot but just didn’t get it up before we took off for sunny climes. I hope you enjoyed these sunny blurts. And now, Saturday morning, we’re on the ferry back to the Sunshine Coast and the full reality/horror/lovely crisp air and putting our house back together after the painters had their way with it these last 3 weeks.
Catch ya next time. Your gal on the fly, Paula.


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  1. Reply

    Rowan Moore-Seifred

    December 10, 2010

    Great post and pics Paula. Felt like I was there.

    • Reply

      PaulaOB

      December 10, 2010

      Thanks Rowan. I wish you guys could have tagged along. That would have been a real hoot. Maaaaybe next time, just need to buy a lottery ticket… See you soon! xxxxx Paula


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