January 26, 2011

On the trail of sea turtles and roof tiles in Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - It was a doubly monumental day today for Admiral Fox and I in Arroyo Seco today.

First, we found four baby sea turtles struggling to get to the sea - and helped them reach their goal.

Second, we sold our heavy roof tiles from our palapa to the owner of Las Brisas Restaurant, a doubly good thing itself because it also means that the scorpion condominum (the stacked tiles) is off the property.

The baby turtle adventure started out as a simple walk on the beach and ended up with helping the wayward turtles to escape into the surf. We hesitated to do anything, until our amigo, Surfer Dude Martine, told us that the last hatch he saw was eaten entirely by a flock of free-wheeling frigate birds.

Tiles ready to be moved
After hearing his tale, he and Adm. Fox gave four little creatures a slight assist. And at last viewing, the baby turtles were on their way out into the sea, where other predators probably await. But at least they made it off the beach.

The great moving-the-tiles-project ended a long saga at the Pink Flamingo.

When the palapa was originally built three years ago, the tiles were used for the roof. But the fellow who built it didn't realize how heavy the tejas were and for two years, we watched the beams sag and our neighbor Chon told us when it rained heavily, he feared the entire structure might collapse.

Last summer, Chon and a work crew removed the old roof tiles and replaced them with relatively lightweight plastic laminate tiles. The new plastic tiles look great, by the way.

Tiles in the trailer on the way to the beach
And so today, the rest of the story is that local restaurateur Luis wanted the tiles and so we worked a deal - he could have the tiles, but instead of paying me, I would take my payment in food.

And his food is excellent!

He's happy, the Admiral is happy (scorpion condo gone) and I am really happy.

Having a tab at seafood restaurant that serves fabulous shrimp meals is pretty amazing, even in a land of amazing things.

Below is a brief video of the sea turtle adventure.

January 25, 2011

Arroyo Seco beach coming of age: hotel, restaurant, RV park...

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Having dinner last night at Luis' (Restaurante Las Brisas) on Playa Grande in Arroyo Seco - in the company of 14 people staying at the Hotel across the street - it occured to me that suddenly Arroyo Seco might be coming of age for tourists.

The single biggest drawback for out-of-town visitors in our few years living here has been that there is no commercial establishment for people to spend the night. So anyone interested in coming in and spending time wandering (or surfing or swimming) could only come in for day trips.

And the restaurant scene mostly consisted of small family run taco stands on the main street, which opened well after dark, long after most day-trippers were headed back to La Manzanilla or Careyes or Melaque.

View from the lower patio area of the hotel
Then the hotel - really an 11-bedroom home with a large central kitchen - came available for people to rent. It's not the Four Seasons, yet. And the owner would prefer to sell it and make it someone else's responsiblilty. But for now, Jim Monaco, owner/operator of the Monaco PV real estate company, has taken the place over for the owner and is renting out rooms.

He is also working like crazy, fixing the place up.

And there is an RV park now, too, that had guests about a week ago from the state of Washington.

Last night, the gringo population swelled as most of the rooms were taken by visitors from Barra and Melaque - a group of friends and people from as far away as the Mexican state of Michocan. And in addition to spending the afternoon and evening (and this morning) enjoying the beach scene and the small heart-shaped pool at the hotel, the entire assemblage walked across the street to Luis' restaurant, where a special meal had been prepared.

Luis and his wife Nena put on quite a spread, and most of the items we ate are available on the normal menu for the restaurant, open nearly every day.

Their son Luis and two young amigos acted as the waiters and kept all the diners happy.
Group from the hotel at Restaurante Las Brisas

Three years ago, when Adm. Fox and I bought the lot on which we now live in the winter and spring (aka, the Pink Flamingo), it was partly because we thought someday someone might want to open a restaurant or school or ? in the center of town.

Maybe that time is getting closer.

Perhaps a subsidiary of of Palapa Joe's?

Here's a brief video of from last night...

January 24, 2011

In Arroyo Seco, catching some rays on the beach - sun rays, that is

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox and I decided to come down to Arroyo Seco for a week to check on things and decompress from life in the big city of Puerto Vallarta.

It's been, well, great... We are spending days at the beach, afternoons at Luis' restaurant eating shrimp filadelphia and evenings (after puesto del sol) usually reading before turning in. Yes, I am still reading the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1. And I will be, into the summer.

View from hotel deck
Our amigos Jim and Vickie are helping the owner of an 11-bedroom house/hotel on the beach rent out some rooms this season. The place is for sale, if you have a spare $350,000 U.S.

Did I mention that the place comes with a heart-shaped swimming pool?

This is the first time in our years in Arroyo Seco that there has been actual overnight accommodations for out-of-town folks.

Adm. Fox and a I grabbed a room on the second story right away and will keep renting it for the season. It has a fabulous view of the entire beach.

In about a week or so, we will move all of our surf and beach gear down there. The place has a big kitchen downstairs and a new refrigerator to keep my hydration supplies cold.

When we have guests in the coming weeks and months, we will put them up down there, instead of having them stay in the Gray Goose Express II here in El Centro.

Over the weekend, Chief Education Officer Laura McCartney Warner dropped off her pooch Mia to spend a few days here in Mia's old stomping grounds. Mia was rescued last year by Sylvia and Laura and eventually went to Canada to live with Laura.
Vickie, Sylvia and Mia

Today, she and several of her former compadre dogs in the village went with us to the beach where they ran, jumped, and, of course, rolled in whatever dead things they could find. A short video of the huge surf - and Mia playing with her amigo pooches - is at the end of this blog.

And the sunsets! Madre mia! In the last few nights, the sun and moon have been putting on spectacular light shows. The first photo below was taken in La Manzanilla, the other here on Playa Grande.
Sunset in La Manzanilla

Arroyo Seco, Playa Grande

January 19, 2011

Daysailing on Banderas Bay aboard the famous ship, Profligate

LA CRUZ, Nayarit, Mexico - Admiral Fox, son Dustin and I jumped about Richard Spindler's catamaran Profligate Sunday for a three-hour cruise across Banderas Bay from La Cruz to Paradise Village marina (just a mile or so from our casa).

We pulled away from the dock about 1:30 p.m. (after a short shore break) with about 20+ people aboard for the trip.

It was a classic, beautiful day on the bay. And it was a little cooler than normal, which made the temperatures just about right for the entire trip.

Richard is the publisher of Latitude 38 magazine in San Francisco, a magazine soooo revered by sailboaters and cruisers that old editions (from 10 years ago or more) get passed around like rare books at swap meets. He and his partner, Doña de Mallora, will be keeping Profligate at Paradise for the next few months.

Here's a short video of the trip. I was too busy most of the time enjoying the ride to get my video camera out.

January 17, 2011

Baby it's cold here in Mexico - at least for this time of the year

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - Along the Costalegre (which stretches from here past La Manzanilla to the south) today the emails and message boards were buzzing about how 'cold' it was.

In La Manz, some people said it was 52 degrees Fahrenheit this morning - with a high of 82 still predicted.

Brrr, brrr and, well, brrr.

I know such temperatures have people in northern climes laughing. (It is 21 degrees in Hector, NY as I write this). But when you live in the tropics, anything that is not, well, tropical, can be a shock, and maybe a problem.

For Admiral Fox and I, safely ensconsed this week in our condo in Puerto Vallarta with son Dustin, cool evening temps are no big deal. Close the doors and throw a blanket on the bed. But were we in Arroyo Seco, in the Gray Goose II Express trailer, it would not be as comfortable.

We'll hope for a spike in temperatures before we head back south at the end of the week to Arroyo Seco.

Coming home from school
Admiral Fox is ending up a three-week language class on Friday, a class she has really enjoyed and believes has helped her ability to be able to gossip, er, I mean talk, with the Mexican women in Arroyo Seco.

I do notice already that when I fire smart-ass Spanish frases in her direction, she understands a lot more now.

No more telling store clerks that the woman in line with me is my mother. (I really only did that a few times, because the store clerks usually looked at me and said that they thought I was her father.)

When we go back to Arroyo Seco, we will also get to see how much progress has been made on a house being built on Playa Grande by our amigo Jim Monaco.

Jim bought our two beach lots earlier this year - the lots that are bordered by a short, dead-end street. A local fellow two years ago fenced it off and claimed it was not a street at all - that in fact, it was his land. Total bull, of course, but Admiral Fox and I never could resolve it, and we wanted to build two small houses on the lots, a plan that required the street as access for the back lot.

Police stand by while fence is taken down
So we sold and said 'adios' to that idea.

To make a long story into a short anecdote, the fellow made the mistake of placing part of his fence on our land and last week Jim was able to get the muncipality of La Huerta - and a judge - to order the fence (on Jim's land) removed. A few posts blocking access to the street remain in place. But I hope to see the street opened this spring.

Fence is down, and the posts hauled away
The name of the street? I have dubbed it Calle Libre (free street). I hope it sticks. Hell, I'll buy the street sign and put it up myself, when it is open.

The day the fence was taken down, officials from La Huerta, eight police officers, at least a dozen townspeople (in one official capacity or another) and numerous onlookers came out to see the fence removed.

It wasn't quite as dramatic as the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it was still pretty interesting to see some action take place after two years of endless debate in the village.

Sasha and Sylvia last spring
Admiral Fox did some writing herself today, putting up a very poignant piece about the travails of divorce and what it's like for us not to be able to see our granddaughter - when she lives only minutes from where I am writing this.

You can check out her blog at this LINK: Why we will never get divorced

January 11, 2011

Restaurant Las Brisas in Arroyo Seco - the new beach hangout

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The new location for Las Brisas Restaurant in Arroyo Seco, on Playa Grande, suits it well. Very well.

Under a large shady palapa roof, the restaurant has space for maybe fifty people in a crunch (or who might not be crunched,  there's plenty of chairs and tables...). The entire interior of the former house seems to have been given over to a huge kitchen with plenty of room for the fresh fish and shrimp that are the house specialties.

Las Brisas Restaurant in Arroyo Seco
In fact, don't go looking for a hamburger there, just yet. It's a seafood place - and everything is fresh, sometimes caught from the freshwater laguna out back, sometimes the ocean in front.

The place is operated by Luis and Nena, longtime Arroyo Seco residents who ran the restaurant in a much smaller facility across the street for several years. But that restaurant was really open only on weekends (and Semana Santa, of course). Luis and Nena's son, Luis Jr., along with some of his pre-teen amigos, act as the waiters and are close to professionally attentive.

Sometimes they might be wet after just getting out of the pool when they walk up, but they won't make you wait for your food.

The new place is serving meals every day and has become my new Arroyo Seco hangout.

Luis (standing) taking an order
So, um, where is it?

The Arroyo Seco turnoff is a left from Highway 200, a few kilometers north of Agua Caliente and the turnoff for El Tecuan.

The Arroyo Seco signs put up last year seem to have weathered the summer nicely.

Once in Arroyo Seco proper, the turn to Playa Grande is at the end of the main street. If you turn right, you go to Playa Chica, where there are no services, but frequently plenty of surfers.

Playa Grande is about two kilometers from town and Las Brisas is near the south of the beach. It's very close to the new RV park, too.

My favorite dish - so far - has been camarones filadelfia. Yup, they mix some Philadelphia cream cheese in while cooking the shrimp and peppers. It can be a little picante, too. (I have been getting the half order - plenty of of food - for 50 pesos...)

On a recent outing with amigos from La Manzanilla, the shrimp diablo got rave reviews as did the fresh fish filet, cooked in garlic.

All this writing about the restaurant is pushing me out the door to my quad for a quick spin to Las Brisas for some camarones filadelfia and a cold Tecate.

Oh, and a swim in the pool, too, if it's hot. I haven't seen any adults in the small pool, but, hey, it's Mexico. Jump in...

I will try to remember to take some photos of the food this next trip, too. The last few visits it disappeared before I could get my camera out of my bag.

January 2, 2011

Quick trip to Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla - too quick, indeed

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox, son Dustin and I - along with amigas Laura, Christina and Pat from Canada - all shot out of Puerto Vallarta Thursday for a trip to the southland.

Laura, Christina and Pat were bound for a condo in Barra de Navidad rented for a few months. Adm. Fox, Dustin and I were headed a few days of R&R in Arroyo Seco. (R&R, I know, I know...)

It was great homecoming (the second in as many weeks) in Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla.

Anna - the quinceanera
In Arroyo Seco, we visited with amigos Jim and Vickie, as well as Julien and, of course, our neighbors Chena and Chon who take care of our property when we are not there. (And frequently even when we are there.)

And we stopped in at a coming-of-age 'quinceanera' party in the main square last night. It was a wild affair with great music and food.

You really haven't lived until you have heard Achy Breaky Heart done in Spanish - and watched a group of gorgeous young Mexican women doing a line dance while wearing prom dresses.

In our travels we also managed to eat at three different La Manzanilla Restaurants: Cafe Risa, Palapa Joe's and Fiesta Mexicana.

Fiesta Mexicana? But isn't that in Tenacatita?
Fiesta Mexicana
Same sign, even better food

Well, it was - along with a lot of other nice restaurants, unceremoniously evicted by a Guadalajara developer who wants to build a resort and golf course. What is it with the golf course fetish these developers all have?

Anyway, Fiesta Mexicana opened a new restaurant just up the beach from downtown La Manzanilla and I am happy to report the setting - and food - I think is even better than before.

And the evictees from Tenacatita beach and the oceanfront (Adm. Fox and I included) continue to battle in court to get our property back.

In Arroyo Seco, the palm trees around the property have grown so much it's like walking into a jungle-themed park when you go in through the front gate.

In coming weeks, we will be pulling the place together. This trip, we ate, played on the beach and drove the quad around.

And it was great.

Scene when you drive in
Pink Flamingo from the front gate

Palapa with new roof
Palapa with new lamina tile roof

As I write this, we are back in Puerto Vallarta and have a full week planned, including a mid-week visit from Beth and Roy, who are coming from La Manzanilla Wednesday to pick up Beth's son (and our nephew) Nate at the airport.

Nate will get a quick Mexico baptism with a whale-watching panga tour set for 9 a.m. Thursday morning. Quite a difference in scenery (and temperature) from Ithaca, New York where he lives and goes to college.

Admiral Fox and I plan on going along on the panga expedition, too. After seeing whales on one trip with Di and Roger Frizzelle about their sailing vessell Di's Dream, followed by a panga ride where we motored behind a manta ray for a half-hour, I'm hoping for a post-Christmas glimpse of a mermaid.

For you skeptics, I would like to report that I've seen many mermaids on beaches here in Puerto Vallarta and in La Manzanilla.... The quest to find on in the water begins Thursday.