Never Judge a Man by His Pants

Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery. Amy Chua

He approached us as we stood on the corner studying Google Maps on my husband’s phone and asked, “Can I help you find something?”

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An inviting doorway with a big step up.

I glanced up and there he stood with a garbage bag of empty cans slung over his shoulder, wearing pants with flared legs that ended about six inches above his well-worn Crocs, and a stained linen shirt. Many of the teeth were missing from his sunny smile and as he smiled, his deeply-creased face wrinkled a little more making his eyes shine even brighter.

“Yes,” we answered, “We’re looking for the basilica. Which direction do we need to go?”

He pointed back the way we came and we laughed. “Guess we got turned around.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “You don’t want to be on these streets. They’re not that safe.”

To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world. – Chinese Proverb

No, this wasn’t another tale of dangerous Mexico, not another dire warning. He went on to explain, “The sidewalks are steep and uneven, and there’s lots of traffic with not much room to drive.” The kind stranger was right. We’d gone the opposite direction of the main square in Mazatlán and made our way into a neighbourhood with a mixture of beautiful homes and rundown villas. The curbs were treacherously high and the narrow sidewalks often ended at a driveway in a steep drop of two or three feet. We had wandered out of tourista-land.

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Look at all these gorgeous inlaid ceramic tiles!

He gave us further directions, “Just head back, cross the main street but be careful. It’s very busy. The main square is where City Hall is, too, along with the church. Just turn left after you cross that main street.” We thanked him and eventually stumbled into the main square, two happy tourists.

All of this exchange was in his perfect English and some of our short Spanish phrases. I don’t expect people from Mexico to speak perfect English because Mexico is not an English-speaking country, and yet I often hear criticisms about Mexican nationals’ lack of English. This irritates me.

Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things. ‒ Flora Lewis

We watch a lot of YouTube videos about travel in Mexico. The other day, one YouTuber was recounting his adventure of leaving Mexico to return to Canada for the duration of the pandemic. He encountered some confusion at the airport, conflicting information posted on the flight boards, so he approached airport staff for help.

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See the water on the sidewalk in the bottom-right of this photo? It was pouring out of that second-floor suite, far-right, and streaming down the side of the road for a long way and down several streets.

“The problem was, her English wasn’t very good,” he explained to which I responded out loud, “No, the problem was that your Spanish wasn’t good enough.” With apps like Google Translate easily available on our cell phones, we can make the effort to communicate with folks in their own language.

This interaction was one of the many pleasant surprises that Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, held for us. We were so lucky to visit there before the world changed so quickly! I wish you and yours all the best.

Thanks for reading and take care of each other. ~ Lori

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Machado Square in the Historical Centre of Mazatlan.

 

 

 

My Summer – A Photo Blog

Hello everyone! This has been far and away the laziest, least productive summer I’ve had in years. It’s been delicious! Early on in the season, we traveled to Mexico twice. The first time was to Puerto Vallarta where we stayed right downtown. We made this decision based on the fact that whenever we go to that Vallarta area, we end up hopping on a bus and trying to get downtown. It took us several visits to realize that we could just stay downtown…

When we returned home, we discovered that the neighbour’s cat, George, had gone missing. I’m still sad! George treated us like family and really liked to “help” me out around the yard.

After being home for two weeks, we headed off to San Jose del Cabo. This is a trip we’d scheduled earlier in the year with my brother and sister-in-law. We loved exploring a new part of Mexico.

Don’t look too closely at any of the photos of me or you’ll soon notice that I wear the same clothes over and over again. I pack very lightly when we travel so clothing repeats are nearly impossible to avoid. If it’s a good traveling outfit, you’ll see it again and again!

We spent a lot of July at home doing some projects and just enjoying life. At the end of July we headed out to British Columbia where we visited my dad for his birthday and stayed in our first B&B.

From BC, we drove down into Washington and flew from Seattle to Las Vegas where we had discounted rooms for the small price of attending a two-hour time share presentation. No. We did not buy a time share, but I did enjoy the room. I also enjoyed meeting the showgirls on Freemont Street in downtown Vegas.

We traveled back through Washington and up to BC, seeing Dad again on the way back. After leaving BC and returning to Alberta, we also had a chance to visit a place I’ve wanted to see forever: the Historic Bar U Ranch in southern Alberta.

When we got home from this jaunt, I spent a little time buidling a WordPress website for our local historical society. It would be great if you’d check it out and consider giving us a follow there.

Thanks for joining me on this short journey down a very recent memory lane! It was nice to remember it with someone. Have a great weekend, as lazy or productive as you want it to be.

~ Lori

What? Weren’t You Just in Mexico?

Well, yes, I was just there but Mexico is a very large and diverse country. This journey took us to the Baja California Peninsula. The only other place we’ve visited in Mexico is the Puerto Vallarta region spanning the states of Nayarit and Jalisco.

One thing I love about Mexico is the food! Most meals in the Cabo area were about the same price as Canadian restaurant meals. My husband and I had an all-inclusive hotel package which included all meals. Our traveling companions, however, did not. This meant that we accompanied them a couple times for meals out. We are cheap and we were shocked! But the service was superb everywhere and so was the food.

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Love at first bite – baked manicotti stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach.

One evening, we visited the Italian restaurant called La Dolce located right in the centre of San Jose del Cabo. There I ate the BEST Italian food I’ve ever had. I sampled the ricotta-stuffed manicotti and then proposed marriage to it. This is one of the only times I’ve taken a picture of my food, but when you’re in love, you want to cherish an image of that special someone and gaze at it during those lonely, hungry nights.

I’m not a huge carnivore and I really love all the readily-available vegetarian options in restaurants throughout Mexico.

Our hotel, the Posada Real Los Cabos, has a beautiful desert garden onto which our first- floor room faced. I sat there in the shade and watched the birds and the iguanas frolic. (Can reptiles frolic?)

The beaches at Cabo are wide and long. I walked early most mornings, rolled up my pant legs, and let the salty water kiss my toes. It was fun to watch the crabs skitter quickly into the outgoing waves that carried those little creatures into the Sea of Cortez. Crabs do all right in this water but humans are not allowed to swim here. It’s too dangerous.

Our group of four spent a short afternoon in neighbouring Cabo San Lucas, just known as Cabo by the locals. I felt like a tiny, tasty fish in a school of starving sharks. We were  hounded by salespeople the moment we stepped out of our taxi. During low tourist season, the deals are better but the pressure is greater. We did visit Sammy Hagar’s nightclub Cabo Wabo Cantina. It was fun! A glass of mineral water there cost 60 pesos. A three course meal in Puerto Vallarta can cost 70 pesos, but the hotdogs were delicious! (So say my carnivore friends.)

I took a few pictures at the Marina in San Lucas. The water was so clear that I could see schools of beautiful fish swimming right close by.

We spent a lovely evening back in San Jose del Cabo later on in the week. What a beautiful place! We listened to live music at the Baja Brewery after talking to some junior high students who were in the square to practice their English language skills on tourists. This was great because we had an intercambio, an exchange.  We got to practice our Spanish on them. Poor kids. They never saw it coming.

It was another great trip, and I’m so lucky to be alive and to travel to the places I love. Have a really good week wherever you are!

~ Lori

One Bag Fits All

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Not the most flattering photo of me but my little green friend (Peter) is too cute not to include.

Hello again! After I posted my most recent Mexico travel piece, a reader asked me to share my carry-on packing secrets. This is a post I wrote the first time I packed super lightly and it includes a few handy tips. I hope you can use some of this information to lighten your load – both mentally and physically! Happy traveling!

Freedom From Luggage

For our last trip to Mexico, I packed one small carry-on bag. I felt so light and free. It was fantastic and here’s how I did it just in case, for your next week-long vacation, you want to enjoy that same feeling of freedom from luggage.

Do Your Research

First, I visited informative websites. These sites told me what is allowed in carry-on luggage and what is not, and how much of each allowed item each traveler can bring. I needed to pack my personal items in a one-litre, clear Ziploc bag and to pull that bag out of my luggage, and set it in a tray when going through airport security. This was very useful information because, when I packed my stuff on the afternoon of the flight, I knew to leave my Ziploc bag right on top so I wouldn’t be digging around for it in the line-up at security. I felt so prepared and the security officials didn’t bat an eye at what I’d packed.

Listen to me read this post:

The next thing I did was to purchase tiny bottles created for packing in carry-on luggage. Into these I poured body spray, sunscreen, aloe gel and mouthwash. These are other items I bought in the travel section of the drugstore: a 43-gram hairspray, a 14-gram deodorant, and 2 packages of 7 facial cleansing cloths. Of course, I also tucked in one of those sample tubes of toothpaste the dentist always sends home with me.

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Here’s everything I packed for that first carry-on trip.

What did I bring for clothes? Glad you asked! I brought 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, one sundress, a swimsuit and a swimsuit cover-up which pulled double duty as a nightgown, a T-shirt, 2 tank tops, a foldable sunhat and a pair of sandals. I also brought a down-filled vest that can be rolled up and stuffed into its own small pouch. This kept me warm back and forth from the Calgary airport and on the flights to and from Mexico. I also found room for my water-resistant camera and my sunglasses.

To save space in my luggage, I wore on the plane about half of the clothes I’d wear in Mexico. For the flight, I had on my light Skecher walking shoes, pants (Airline officials frown upon pants-less passengers.), a tank top, a T-shirt, a white button-up shirt, and my down-filled vest. I was cozy but not uncomfortable.

Everything Fit!

Everything I needed for a week surprisingly and easily fit into one carry-on bag. By the end of the trip, I realized that I could’ve survived without my red T-shirt, too, except that it kept me warmer on the airplane. I didn’t even bring a purse, just my wallet and passport placed into one of the bag’s exterior pockets for easy retrieval.

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Iguanas are not allowed in carry-on luggage.

I did have lots of time to plan what to pack for this adventure when at other times, I’ve been pretty rushed. But now that I’ve successfully done this once, I’d definitely just pack one carry-on bag again.

Thanks for being here with me again today. If you like what I write, please share it! And please stay connected. Follow me here on WordPress, write a comment, or just send me a friendly email. I’d love to hear from you! Have a really great day wherever you are.

Cheers,

~ Lori

Ya no puedo mas . . . If you haven’t heard this, click it! It’s too fun.

Packing Light, Eating Right, and Enjoying the Sights

 

Painting and Plants in the hotel
Our hotel was full of local paintings and lush plants.

A Garden Oasis in the City

We arrived home on Friday from a nine-day trip to the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. This charming little city is a favourite of mine. During this trip we stayed right downtown in the Romantic Zone, about two blocks from the Malecón, from the Los Muertos Pier, and from the beach.

Our hotel, Posada de Roger, was charming and inexpensive. The staff was helpful and friendly. This is an older hotel but is constantly being cleaned and maintained. The courtyard, pool area, and terrace are full of lush potted plants which turn this four-storey hotel into a garden oasis in the bustle of the city. One feature I really liked about this hotel is that guests had access to water dispensers throughout the building and we had a water jug in our room. This way, we could easily get all the drinking water we needed without the hotel having to supply big water bottles or us needing to purchase bottled water.

Listen to me read this post:

One thing I became keenly aware of while I spent time in a very busy, densely-populated area is how very quiet my own rural Alberta surroundings are. As it turns out, I really like silence. Puerto Vallarta is a wonderful place for food (some of the best I’ve EVER had), Latin dance music, and colourful sights and sounds. It is not, however, best-suited to quiet contemplation. Still, I loved every moment spent in that vibrant stream teeming with life and filling my senses to overflowing.

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Me on the terrace.

Pack less to destress

 Again on this trip, I brought only carry-on luggage. This is my third time now traveling without checking bags. No, I didn’t even bring one of those little suitcases on wheels. All I brought was the black bag I used to carry my teacher things in back and forth to work. Really, it’s like a big purse that I can sling over my shoulder as I stroll lightly and carefree out of the airport into the Mexico sunshine.

As I look around any airport, I notice that the amount of stress and anxiety folks seem to carry is directly proportionate to the amount of luggage they carry. Typically, the pillow carriers are the most stressed. And if they have more than one pillow stacked atop their bulging luggage cart, avoid even making eye contact. It’s for your own safety. The pressure inside those travelers and inside their suitcases could cause either of them to explode. You don’t want to get caught in that flurry of flying underwear or that storm of hurled expletives. Steer clear, if you can.

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A symbol of our shared love of Costco as prepared by our maid.

Lost on the bus

Aw man, if I had a peso for every time I’ve got lost going somewhere on a Mexican bus, by now I’d have quite a few pesos. This trip, my husband wanted to explore the wonders of a Mexican Costco. The foundation of our relationship is not a shared fascination with Costco and if I weren’t wed to a Costco shopper, I would never enter the warehouses’ cleanly-sliding glass doors. It wouldn’t happen. Not ever.

Early in the morning, we got on the Costco bus and politely let the driver know where we were going. We bounced along happily in our bus seats, all pale and wearing our perky straw hats that screamed, “Canadian tourists!” As the bus continued down the road, we watched for the Costco.

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The rocks and water at Mismaloya.

I spotted the huge building first. “Look! There it is!” It was a block or so off the main road that we traveled and the bus kept right on going. I confidently reassured my husband, “I think the bus will just swing around and drop us off on the other side, closer to Costco.”

We had traveled through one nearby town and entered another before it became abundantly clear that this bus was not going to swing around as I’d predicted. Then, suddenly, the driver seemed to remember us. He glanced in his wide rearview mirror and saw our now-drooping straw hats. As another bus approached in the opposite lane, our driver opened his window and waved down the other driver. The two bus drivers conferred.

I’m sure their exchange went something like this: “Hey, I’ve got another couple gringos here looking for the Costco. We blew past it about half-an-hour ago. Would you do me a favour and take them back to that stop?”

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Me on the third floor.

He called to us and pointed, “Amigos! Get on that bus. It will take you!” And it did. The Mexican Costco was amazingly and somewhat eerily the same as any other Costco, but that didn’t matter. The warmth and kindness of the bus drivers left a better feeling in my heart than Costco ever could.

Thanks for spending some time with me today! If you like what I write, please share it with others. Post my work to your own social media pages or email a link to your friends and family. If you like me, don’t keep me a secret all to yourself.

I hope you have a really good Monday, and a productive and happy week ahead.

Cheers!

~ Lori