I’m Back! Puerto Vallarta – The Trip

Hello Everyone! I’ve recently returned from my two-month getaway to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was a whirlwind trip to say the least, as usual – beginning and ending with horrendous travel day experiences to both start off and finish off my vacation.

I’ll just mention the day before and travel day home. My province conveniently lifted Covid airline testing – the day after my return. I had to pay $40 Canadian to have a rapid test I was already doing free, myself, a few times a month. I had to fill out an ArrivCan app with Covid vax info, etc., that nobody even checked for. I went to check in online and discovered the upgrade seat I’d paid $54 for last May when I booked the trip wasn’t showing and proceeded to award me some new random seat and auto sent me the boarding pass. There was no way to contact them. I’d already been warned to get to airport now 4 hours early instead of 3. I knew I’d have a problem at checkin. Online didn’t even let me fill out how many bags I was checking. I knew I had to pay $50 for the 2nd bag. Somewhere in the kerfuffle, they did forget to charge me.

The airline wasn’t lined up yet but the airport was packed. Thanks to only having two days a week our airlines fly out on, instead of the old daily flights. The agent apologized, even with the confirmation email I showed her on my phone, for my paid seat. Plane was full, nowhere else to sit, and take it up with Air Canada for my refund was all the sympathy I got. Which of course, I am currently waiting for some response from them before I have to go on another Air Canada rant. This flight wasn’t assigned a gate – the only flight in the whole airport which NEVER got a gate listed on the board. There are two floors in PV airport. I dragged my carryons up and down and back again, and I was far from feeling friendly. Finally, after inquiring for the umpteenth time, I was told a gate – back downstairs, and boarding in 20 minutes! I stood in line to get the bus that would take us to the plane. I stood in front of a lovely family of three, who happily told me they all had the Covid two weeks ago. I was glad to be wearing TWO masks. Naturally, the plane was late forty minutes. I landed into an absolute craziness and archaic system at customs, after walking about another mile from the hangar to customs. Seriously, there was a moment I thought I was going to pass right out as I trudged along with two carry bags. I can’t imagine older people with mobility problems being able to travel the unbelievable distance, only to arrive at zigzag lines set up to wait in for the automated kiosk to fill out life story, then to join a smiliar set up in new lines to actually pass through a customs officer. WHY the 90 minute lineup crap twice? Then, finally off to get baggage (porter -$15, limo $72 to get home.)

I’ve taken many photos on this trip which I’ll be sharing here in various posts of highlighted moments of my trip, but since my SIM card holder in my phone cracked while replacing the Mexican one with my home card, and my storage card full of pictures included, I’m now awaiting a new one that apparently, will take a week delivery from Amazon, I’ve been busy trying to fish out copies from the cloud download. It seems technical woes are like a magnet with me. So I can presently only be contacted by Whatsapp call and texting, while home on my wifi, until I can get my SIM card working

~ ~ ~

About the beginning… I was very apprehensive about even taking this ‘solo’ trip, and for the first two weeks of it, I was contemplating coming home early as I learned old friends really weren’t, until I met some new, ‘real’ friends.

Travel day was hard. Of course I had to play, the ‘weighing the suitcases’ game. Without my husband, this was a whole new travel experience in many ways. I had a lot of things to bring along and with 50 pound max per bag, I had to do some fancy footwork, as well as ultimately, having to leave some gluten-free food items behind because there was no way I could pack it all. I had finally opted for a carryon bag WITHOUT WHEELS, because it was a good size bigger than the one with wheels, and that became an albatross on my back.

As usual, the gate to my boarding upon departure was the furthest gate. After all the checkin and security longggggggggg lines, I must have walked a good mile, plus. Wearing a mask and gasping for air, about halfway, I’d finally decided to drag the carry on by it’s shoulder strap, like a leash on a dog as I could barely walk anymore. I was running out of steam. No sooner did I sit down at the gate, they announced GATE CHANGE….the complete opposite end of all the gates. After two flight delays, I finally landed.

The driver I’d hired to pick me up at airport was long gone and/or nowhere to be found. No surprise as I’d spent two and a half hours in Puerto Vallarta airport between immigration lines, then customs. Who would have even thought there was a pandemic going on with soooooooo many people. I must have landed along with ten other flights! Hence, my driver had vanished and I was standing in the hot sun, new lineup for a taxi. Thankfully, the agent was at my condo rental when I finally got there.

The condo: Up very high, 25th floor, beautiful view, could tell a man owned it, kitchen supplies were sparse. Grateful for the height when it came to not having to hear the crazy music on weekends from the ‘shady’ club the next building over.

Long elevator waits, especially when one is constantly out of service and never anything being done. Rinse, repeat, at least three times a week. But was happy to see mask protocol signs on the elevators. The Mexicans are mask abiding citizens, which made me feel that much more comfortable.

I came back from my first massage in two years, to a flooded front hall. Had to call manager to get maintenance up there pronto, but pronto is the complete opposite of manana time.

The condo door swelled on humid days, requiring a tug upon closing…only there was no outdoor handle on the door. The door lock is automated and won’t sense the door closed. The first episode had me standing in a hot outdoor hallway trying to devise ways to tug on a handleless door. After wasting two of my precious sun hours, waiting for assistance, it was a temporary remedy. The second time it happened, I thankfully, already had friends. I called my friend Shelley and she sent her husband John with mini tools. He took the handle off the inside of the door and put it outside the door – where it belonged! No more problems with that.

Wifi is always wonky in that building, this time, no exception. I magically managed to lose the capability to connect to the bedroom TV, after being able to for the first week. Thank goodness the TV connection worked in the living room, as I needed my night time Netflix. The Wifi sucked when it came to video calls on Whatsapp, but at least worked without video.

The view from my living room/balcony with a cruise ship coming in

My apprehnsion about even going on the trip was a mixed bag of emotions. I was going somewhere familiar where I thought I’d had friends I’d spend time with, but I quickly found out, once I had become a single from a couple, there was no room for me.

People my husband and I knew previously acknowledged condolences and then pretty much disappeared. I became nothing more than someone you’d casually pass on a lounger and say a quick hello to. Sure I talked to people. Everyday I’d sit at the pool and chat with whomever was sitting beside me. Casual chat and company to pass the day with until lonely nights came along and I had nobody to pal around with except one funtastic night with our old ‘Dakota’ friends, Kathy and Fred, and Jackie and Paul. We’d known them for a few years and the guys were pals with my husband. They had a lot going on and visitors at different times and I was never one to impose on other people’s vacation. But they had kindly invited me out with them for an evening of dinner and a tribute live show to Gladys Knight. We had a blast! We also drank too many Margaritas that night and were all a bit hung over the next day. That was week one.

Jackie, me, Kathy
Fred and Paul

We laughed a ton and enjoyed ourselves at the pool together.

A few more days rolled by and suddenly it was Valentine’s Day. The girls were out shopping when I noticed Fred (Kathy’s husband), walking across the length of the pool carrying roses in a vase. I shouted out to Fred about how beautiful the roses were as he seemed to be making his way over to me, and he then handed them to me, gave me a hug, and he whispered, “George asked me to give you these.” I had never felt so touched by someone’s kindness as in that moment as tears welled. It seemed the whole pool of people were watching where those roses were going, and once Fred presented them to me, there was applause from the spectators. It was quite a moment.

My Valentine’s flowers

That day will stay in my heart forever. And not long after that day, the universe had sent me some new wonderful friends – Canadian friends, it turned out, who I laughed with all the rest of my vacation days. My social life picked up big time and some great friendships were made. And soon enough the days were turning into nights. Up early daily by 7am, outside all day, back up for quick showers and out again, that’s how my days began to pass. I made great friends with 5 different groups of people, and before long I’d introduced them all to one another and let’s just say, there were plenty of Margaritas to be had – some better than others.

On the malecon boardwalk, margariting with a galpal

Next time, I’ll be sharing stories about my other new friends, places we went to, and observations about what had changed there since my last visit in 2020. Needless to say, my writing time evaporated, condensed to journal notes, and not nearly enough books read when busy blabbing all day and night.

In the meantime, I’ll share a few more photos:

Sunset from my balcony
Sunset taken down along the boardwalk
Stellar sky at sunset from my balcony
Another beautiful sunset
Sunrise capture from my bedroom balcony – mountain view

Stay tuned for next week’s continuation of friends and fun!

©DGKaye2022

Time for an Update – U.K. Plans and Mexico

Like many things, our intentions don’t always come to fruition.

 

I know for months now I’ve been talking about my plans to go the U.K. as I anxiously awaited the arrival of my bestie to get here for a visit and my plans to fly back to the U.K. with her after. But sometimes plans change, and in my case, I’ve rearranged my plans and wanted to update you here, especially since I’ve chatted about my plans with several of my British and European friends in anticipation of meeting up with some of you.

 

So why the change of heart?

 

After losing my husband in April then moving in June, exhausted both mentally and physically, and full of grief, the only thing I wanted to do was to jump on a plane and get the hell out of Dodge. But Covid restrictions hampered those plans. Our airports didn’t open up to foreign travelers until early fall, and that kept my friend from getting here until late October.  She will be leaving back for the U.K. without me, later this week. Besides the fact that U.K. is experiencing higher Covid numbers again, and that my intentions of staying in U.K/Europe for a good month or two would have had to have been cut shorter because it’s so late in the year already, the upcoming holidays, and my having to prepare for my winter vacation in Mexico beginning late January, my husband’s gravestone is not yet erected and I’ve been anxiously awaiting that to happen so I can plan a celebration of life gathering for him with our friends because he was ripped off of a proper large funeral gathering at the time of his passing.

 

I’m feeling very unsettled about the headstone going up without my being around to acknowledge it and my plans for a small gathering to honor my husband’s life once the stone goes up. It seems that even headstones are in delay due to the Covid. So with all those factors rolled into one, I decided it’s best for me not to take off right now. I can’t even believe that in two months I’ll be on my way back to Puerto Vallarta!

 

I’m already dreading the holidays here and wishing away December. But I’m very much looking forward to a winter escape to a familiar place where I can somehow still feel like my husband’s spirit will be with me. As a newly minted widow, the thought of going anywhere else this winter gave me anxiety with first time being alone again traveling after a quarter century of traveling as a couple. But I decided to go back to PV and stay at the same location as we always did because we have many Canadian snowbird friends who stay at the same location annually, and at this time in my life I’m grateful for the familiarity I will be in and I won’t be alone there. I’ll have friends to gab with at the pool and to join up with for outings. I’ll also be having a few of my friends from home come down for a stay, so I should be quite comfortable back in PV in the land of wonderful people, sunshine, the ocean and beautiful sunsets. And I will have new plans come next spring for visiting both the U.K. and Europe. So just know my friends, I will get there. And hopefully by then, the Covid will be less of a worry, and I’ll be traveling in a warmer season.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

Mexican Tales – Leaving Puerto Vallarta – Wheelchair Madness

Anxious to get home, virus-free, I’d taken the best precautions I could with what I had. The Coronavirus wasn’t ‘a thing’ really mentioned or dwelled upon yet in Puerto Vallarta on that 12th day of March when we said goodbye to our winter friends. But I’d been keeping up with world news and knew it was going to be something real big, real soon.

I had the hand-sanitizer and disinfectant wipes I’d brought down with us, at the ready in my purse. I slipped 2 masks in my pocket for us and we were leaving, heading down to the lobby with the luggage cart Hub had brought up from the lobby to load our many bags onto. No gloves, but fully protected by the plastic bags I put on my hands to navigate that cart to the elevator and out to the cab to protect from invisible germs on my hands. I was leaving beautiful Puerto Vallarta where the sun shone, the birds sang and the ocean beckoned, all appeared as though all was right in the world. We were off to the airport, which gratefully, had yet to get busy as we departed days before the spring break and Easter crowd were to invade, and the Coronavirus had yet to become ‘a thing’ yet in Mexico, so all was calm at the airport crazy.

Grateful as always in that airport for the great check-in service and the immediate wheelchair assistance to help push my husband across what seemed well over a mile to our Toronto departure gate, a bonus was having his lap to pile more bags onto. We went on our way, walking, walking, and as usual, a long security check line that I smiled inwardly as we bypassed the crowds into the ‘special services’ lane. Bonus!

After putting ourselves and our belongings back together off the security belt, we continued on to the journey to our gate. Then we stopped at the elevator. I questioned the young man pushing the wheelchair in my broken Spanish, ‘why are we going down’, and before he could answer in broken English, I knew. Once again, we were taking the bus from the street level to the tarmac. Oye!

We had over an hour to wait for the bus boarding and our section with passengers to both Toronto and a flight to Montreal was getting busy. I’d remembered the year prior when the wheelchair assistant was assigned to someone, they were to come back before boarding to help on the bus/plane. But I never saw him again, yet, I saw other helpers standing by the passengers waiting to assist them. So off I went.

I  dashed over to the boarding gate desk to ask for an assistant, but that never came to fruition. There was no way I could carry everything and assist my hub, so off I went again to ask an assistant helping another passenger to please radio for someone to help us. Finally, someone showed.

We finally made it off the bus and I grabbed what I could while the assistant grabbed another of our bags and the arm of my husband and walked him up the airplane stairs. I was grateful. We couldn’t snag a first class seat on the return flight, but I did manage a comfort row, which offered better legroom and food included, plus 2 bags each at no extra cost. I made friends with the lady, Janice, in the middle seat between Hub’s window and my aisle seats, and it seems we blabbed almost all the way home. Once we landed, my new friend Janice was kind enough to grab our bags out of the above bins, as it seems I’m iust a tad to short to reach them, happy to have the good samaritan to the rescue. I didn’t even get a chance to thank her and she was gone, she exited the plane and I never saw her at baggage pick-up again. Definitely an earth angel who kept me company and helped out then slithered away like those kind of people we meet for reasons and seasons.

As Hub and I exited the plane there were no wheelchairs on the ramp. What? Oye! I loaded up the bags onto my tired shoulders and pulled what else I could, gave one lighter bag to hub, and dashed ahead as Hub followed and caught up to me at the end of the ramp where there were several folded wheelchairs. I picked one out. waited for hub to amble up on his cane then sat him in it, re-piled the bags on him, and as I began to push us out of the congested area, I asked a rep where wheelchair assistance was. I was told to wait with the rest of the (many) wheelchair passengers in a designated area and staff would help with chairs in about half hour. Lol, you know that wasn’t happening. I don’t do waiting well.

I have to add that pushing someone in a wheelchair with almost 100 extra pounds of baggage on me and hub’s lap, and a cane that somehow kept getting stuck in our path, is no piece of cake. And I will admit, you didn’t want to be in my way as I blazed my way through a crowd and alas, spotted ‘the’ elevator that led down to the next floor where customs was located – only about another mile or so once off the elevator.  I pushed the button, loaded us in and landed on the lower floor. The door opened with a thud to a barricade.

The door opened but there was no place to exit because it was blocked by approximately 30-40 wheelchairs! They weren’t in any organized order, just left in one huge pile in a disarray blocking the elevator door. What could I do? There was no way I could even get off to sort out that mess. No way was I going back up and waiting. I told hub to hang on tight and keep his feet tucked in as tightly as possible then proceeded to bulldoze our way through the wheelchair madness. It was like a demolition derby but a few moments later we were victorious and we were out! We laughed together as my husband kept saying I was a madwoman and he was scared of my ambition and of being on the frontline of my bulldozing. We continued to laugh.

I pushed and pushed for what felt like miles on my worn out bones and cursed my airport as usual, for having the longesttttt walks from any gate. About 20 minutes later we arrived at customs. The room was crowded and despite our advantage of going through special services and avoiding the long lines, we still had to wait first to put our passports through a kiosk security machine before approaching customs agent. Bad instructions, not a soul to help anyone, and after 10 minutes of fiddling and retrying numerous times, I finally got our clearance slip out of the machine we were to hand to the customs agent.

I was observant of the airport staff, keeping an eye around to see what my airport was doing with the emerging Covid19 problem, which had yet to be declared a pandemic for another day or so after our return. I noticed quite a few airport employees wearing masks, others not. I may have bypassed a few signs warning to wash hands and sanitize, but nothing much. The customs agent  had on no mask. He asked us where we’ve been and for how long. I handed him the form spit out from the kiosk machine that quite frankly, asked the same questions. No further questions, not even asked if we had been ill while away or anything to declare. Wow! And we were on our way to baggage pick-up.

The airport was exceptionally busy. I found a porter to come fetch our bags off the belt and take us to a limo. The luggage from our flight had already come down the belt and was placed in a section on the floor as flights were coming in fast and furious and the next flight’s luggage was already on the belt. The porter pushed our bags and I pushed Hubby out through the gates of freedom once we handed our customs slip out at the exit doors, and gratefully, we weren’t selected to go through inspection.

The cool wind was welcomed once we arrived outside and entered the limo. It was almost the middle of March, usually still in the depths of winter here, but there was no snow to be found and much warmer than the morning we left for Mexico. We’d come home to an early spring.

Since that travel day home, little did I know I came home to a new world in the making. Despite at that point there were no new rules made, no pandemic declared til 2 days after our return when our country clamped down just before the spring break weekend, we took it upon ourselves to isolate for 14 days. I did get sick on Day 5 with many symptoms of the Covid – high fever, dizzy, painful bones, freezing cold. Ironically, my fever broke the very same night of that one sick day. I woke to a sweat-soaked bed and have felt fine ever since. Gratefully, Hubby didn’t get whatever I had, but I’d kept my distance from him as much as possible. I slept with a mask on too and I’m armed and dangerous with gloves, Lysol wipes and anything I could dig out of the storage cupboard.

My Mexican vacation, only a few short weeks ago, feels like it was so long ago now. I’ve been in touch with my real estate friend who emailed me the other day to inform me that the price has already dropped on the new construction condo we’d been eyeing. The Peso is falling. While I was there it was hovering around the usual value – 1 Canadian dollar = usually at 14.5 – 15 Pesos. Today’s value was almost at 17.5 Pesos to the Canadian dollar. Like I told my real estate friend, there’s no way I’m buying anything until the fallout of this global disaster has found a place to land and our own falling dollar makes a comeback.

I have no idea what will be next year. I anticipate a lot of despair, losses, real estate falling, terrible unemployment and devastation because of the isolations and loss of jobs and businesses. Undoubtedly, this anticipation isn’t mine alone, and the reason I haven’t heard a peep since my return from the woman whom I’m supposed to be renting her unit next winter. I’m sure all those that rely on renters for their properties are very concerned what will be next year for tourism.

As it stands now, one of our Canadian friends who winters at the complex with us has sent me a photo a full-time resident friend of his has sent him of the now desolate pool and beach where we all had just spent a lovely and lively time together. Truly a very sad sight, especially at Easter when this beach should be covered with wall to wall people celebrating 24/7 for a week.

 

pool
Hubby on a floatie in the pool

 

Now desolate beach and pool
Now desolate beach and pool

I feel as though next winter is a lifetime away from us now. Who knows where we will be in the world. Nothing is certain right now for anyone. The one thing I do know – I won’t be traveling anywhere again until there is a vaccine for this virus now controlling our lives.

 

happy hour

 

Stay safe!

 

©DGKaye2020

 

 

 

Mexican Tales – Part 3 – Observations and Commercialism

I’ve been spending part of the winter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the past few years now. It’s a beautiful port town with friendly natives and Mexican charm, gorgeous weather, and good value for our Canadian dollar. But I’ve also noticed commercialism making its way into the way of life there.

 

Like everywhere else in the world, prices have gone up in PV across the board – food, taxis and housing. As many tourist destinations hike prices I noticed that PV seems to be going in that direction. Typically, the average working Mexican could not afford to eat or shop in the tourist zones as their earnings are on par with their cost of living. The tourist areas have been growing in price. Similar to how Cancun has become so Americanized in recent years that some say it’s lost its Mexican charm, but not quite there yet. I hope it doesn’t lose its Mexican charm. But it’s definitely the North American expats – both Canadian and American that are surely driving up the prices with all the growth PV has been enduring, particularly in buying up real estate there.

Bartering on the beach or market has become more of an educated procedure rather than a fun past time. It used to be sellers would start a bit higher on pricing, knowing they had to leave room for haggling, which is something they expect. But there seems to be a new theme now in educated guessing if you’re a savvy bargainer – which I am. Seems to be the trend for these items when you ask the price they will charge double the price they’ll ultimately accept, plus maybe a few hundred Pesos on top for good measure. Since I love to go to markets and look at price tags, I have a good idea of how much I should be paying for something. For example, I’d bought a beautiful silver elephant pendant encrusted with colored rhinestones inlaid, at a pop-up market for something like $25 Canadian dollars. The asking was equivalent to $35. A week later I saw the same pendants at another market asking for $80 equivalent. I said thanks and walked away, and the seller was snarly when I told him I already had one for way less money. I couldn’t help but notice how the market sellers  have raised prices on everything, leaving me feeling as though something in the art of markets has been lost. Mexican prices are fast becoming North American prices, taking away part of the allure of market shopping. But it’s fun to visit the various markets just to see some of the wonderful artists and their creations, regardless if I’m purchasing or not.

I realize that everyone has to make a living, but hiking the prices more than double on items you can find cheaper elsewhere is a tad greedy. I find the fair pricing system I abide by when buying from those sellers is to offer half of what they ask. maybe even 100 or 200 peso lower than asking with leaving negotiation room. And that’s what we should be paying.

Below are some pictures of some the artwork downtown on the Malecon (Boardwalk)

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

 

art broom

donated art bench
You will find several of these beautiful mosaic art benches donated

Heart exhibit

Heart love

Cactus sandals

Cold beer humor

 

As far as taxis and restaurants, they’ve gone up a bit too, but not drastically. For example, If you ordered a beer at the pool last year it was 20 Pesos, about $1.25, now it’s 30 – $2. Mixed cocktails at the pool were 50 Pesos – about $3, are now 80 Pesos, now more like 5 bucks and change. Short taxi rides remain at 50 Pesos, but rides to downtown or marina have gone up a buck. You can’t blame them, besides cost of living inflation, when it’s the tourist area, this is where they make their seasonal bucks. But real estate has gone up 20% since last year!

In the last few years North Americans are buying up condos in PV. The construction is ongoing. Pre-sale construction is hot. Here you can purchase a property (if any left) before they’re built with 20-30% discounts. Hub and I looked at a few with my new friend Gabe from Boardwalk Realty, who I connected with when I started looking at real estate online and signed up to receive MLS listings a few months before we got there. He showed us around the trending areas and we found a lovely location we would love to buy in, only that’s on hold as the economy is in a global tailspin and our already crappy Canadian dollar has nosedived to disgusting value. But, I have no doubts that this global declining economy will be just that – global, especially after this Corona madness, and I don’t plan on doing any real estate transactions till our dollar gets healthier and the housing market gets hit again as it seems to be on its way.

As the end of our vacation neared and my husband was unwell, along with the growing threat of the Coronavirus, I was anxious to get home.

DGKaye
In our lobby going to the ‘last supper’

I always miss the most beautiful sunsets.

sunset nite

orange sky sunset

sunset

 

Stay tuned for the last post on my Mexican Tales. Yup, it’s the travel log of our journey  home!

©DGKaye2020

My Mexican Tales Part 2 – Whales, Cruiseships, Sciatica and Eviction?

Welcome back to my Mexican tales series. The vacation begins, and what a busy time it was! It was a fun and social time once again seeing all the ‘regulars’ back – the snowbirds who we’d made friends with through the last few years of renting in the same place with our wintering friends. Plenty of scoop, recommends and whale watching to see daily at our ‘pool of knowledge’ as one of my Canadian friends dubbed it last year. The place where we all congregate to stay cool in the afternoons under the hot Mexican sun.

 

beauty sky

 

Pool of knowledge
Our pool of knowledge

 

Whale season is very busy in the Banderas Bay area of Puerto Vallarta where I stayed. This area is where the whales from the north swim to safety to give birth to the babies in February each year, instinctively knowing where the waters are safe from sharks. Every morning and late afternoons we could see clearly, the whales popping up for air and flopping up and down doing a spectacular show. One day I actually saw a whale in process of giving birth, it was jumping up constantly for a time and before long, a baby whale started jumping as it made its entrance into the world. A magnificent sight for sure, sadly, despite camera ready on hand, I missed every consecutive jump, lol.

 

happy hour

 

Besides all the friends we socialized with daily at the pool and some we had meals with in the evenings at some of our favorite restaurants, we also had family visit and stay with us one week, and a friend of my husband’s for another two. After my longgg trip traveling to Mexico, my Sciatica kicked in big time. After approximately 6 massages later, I was finally in fine form . . . but that was short-lived.

 

One hot afternoon as I entered the first step into the pool, holding onto the railing tightly, it seems all that suntan lotion accumulating in the pool made for a sheet of ice on some of those steps. Down went my one foot to step, and up in the air went the other one as I gripped tightly, but to no avail, landed with a thud on the second step – on my tailbone!

If I’d thought the Sciatica I’d been enduring since a month before going to Mexico, exacerbated by the lifting of luggage on travel day was painful, I had succumbed to a new kind of pain. For the rest of the trip there were more massages (as it had taken 5 deep massages already, to finally rid of the Sciatica pain), analgesics, and taking a good 2 minutes to stand up or sit down, no bending, no comfort sleeping, and the only place I felt fine was floating in the water. I was grateful for my blow up pillow I used everywhere. I’d originally bought it to have behind my already sore back while laying on the lounger at the pool, but it quickly became my seat pillow for a few weeks.

Many of my pool friends had witnessed my slip and rushed to me to ask if I was okay. Of course, I told them I was fine. I stayed in the pool once I slid in, for a good two hours, dreading the time I’d have to get out and assess how I really felt. I found out quickly how nicely I had immobilized my tush. My trustee friends were very accommodating the next few days as they watched me limp and walk like an octogenarian to and from the pool and offered assistance anytime I had to carry something up and sometimes just to help put on my beach cover-up. And thankfully, but only the day before returning home, did the pain subside. Lord had mercy as I had a lotttttttttt of carrying and pushing to do at the airport the next day for the return home.

 

What else happened after that glorious Supermoon full moon coupled with a Mercury Retrograde – that also seemed to have unleashed pandemonium on the world at this time? Oh ya, the friends whose condo we rent there, notified me that first week we were there that she needed to know right away if I’d commit to 3 months next year with a $400 US increase on top of it monthly. I asked her if I could at least discuss this with my husband,  and get back to her, considering we were barely there 5 days when I was just unwinding without having to think about finances and commitments for a year ahead, even though I fully intended to NOT commit. Not 12 hours later did I receive a new message, “Sorry, we couldn’t wait, we have someone ready to commit.”

 

morning moon
The moon was still out at 7am over the ocean while the sun was rising behind us over the mountains. Quite ominous.

 

“Thanks so much for your giving a us a moment to think, not! Enjoy your new friends and remember, when you swim with sharks you get bit,” I emailed her in response. My sarcasm was in direct response to my investigations with my sleuth friend Liz at the pool who knows everyone and everybody. I’m not going to get into all the politics here – yes, there were plenty. But we’d figured out exactly what transpired with the people who mysteriously became the ‘new future renters’. This situation now left us without a place locked in for next year. And everyone who stays there knows well, it’s like finding gold when you find another availability there, and for a fair price without managers scooping extra bucks on top of the owner’s price.

I immediately put out my feelers, asked my pool friends for contacts and within 2 days, I’d sealed a deal for another unit next year. The caution is, to not get ripped off as the the real estate market has been booming in PV this past year in particular and beachfront properties are getting more greedy. Many property owners there don’t live there and hire property managers. Some are good, some are thieves with ridiculous prices and terms. The trick is to do your research on the ‘actual’ going monthly rates, asking around what everyone pays, and try not to get ripped off. This is where my friend Liz was extra helpful, lol. Also, in Mexico, we don’t need US dollars (thankfully), and our Canadian dollar was great value to the Peso. But all rentals are paid in US dollars.

The new owner I made a deal with knew I had no US funds on me and is expecting half the rental as deposit after I returned – that was before the world turned on its axis and our dollar dropped to almost 40% from 30 against the US dollar, once the markets fell in free-fall. I haven’t heard from her yet calling for money, although I had E-transferred her a few hundred Canadian dollars in good faith when we made the deal. I have ZERO intentions of buying US money at this god-awful rate. And since most of the renters there are Canadian, I’m sure these owners and property managers are more than aware what’s going on in the world. If she puts clamps on me for the funds now, she can have it. And no doubts, she’ll come crawling back as she finds that in this era of uncertainty, it’s quite likely that nobody is committing to travel anywhere till the world comes back to life.

Now, for the cruise ships. The Coronavirus was only gaining more acknowledgement in across the world as February progressed. Nobody seemed to be thinking about it in Mexico, not even the snowbirds. But I was. I was on the computer mornings and evenings catching up on world news. And my anxiety grew. We used to watch the ships dock and exit daily there – about 2-3 ships daily in the past, but 10 whole days had passed and no cruise ships. I began to smell a rat.

 

Ship arriving
Ship coming in

 

Ship leaving
Ship leaving

 

I was Googling daily to see if there were any Corona cases coming to light in Mexico and by first week March, there was a count of 3 or 4, said to have been detected in Mexico City – far away from where I was. Hmm, I thought, where there’s a few, there will always be more, and of course, the many cases unrecognized and not reported to consider. Then we began to see 2 ships come in 2 or 3 days a week after that. We also watched one turn around and not dock. Suspicions abounded. It seemed the only ships coming in were the ones originated on the Pacific coast, mainly from California. No big ship names like Celebrity did we see, etc. And as it turns out, the Grand Bahama Princess had in fact docked in PV just before I’d arrived, the same one that was not allowed back in port in San Francisco somewhere along its journey, tendering for days with nowhere to go until it was allowed into Oakland Harbor. Something was definitely up!

By the last week of our trip, anxiety grew within, eager to get home before the airlines started chopping off flights. My husband had also had issues with his health, and I was getting panicky if he’d be able to leave, and how the trip home was going to look like. Many ‘pool’ friends didn’t seem too concerned about the virus, but as my natural intuition antennae became raised internally to high alert, I knew full-well a Tsunami of something was coming.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s episodeObservations, Art and Commercialism

 

©DGKaye

 

I’m back! Stormy Travel Day to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

Well, I’m back after a fun-filled sunshine getaway. What a fabulous trip – despite the dreaded ‘travel day (s)’. Travel day is always a ‘thing’ with me – a victim of circumstance it seems.

 

Climate change has been wreaking havoc on so many parts of the world, and here in Toronto, Canada, where the brunt of winter usually hits in January and the even worse in February, we’d had a relatively  mild winter with temps hanging around at 35-40 degrees Farenheit, and save for the odd blizzard that lasted a day then melted, winter wasn’t as brutal. But winter did finally decide to hit approximately 10 minutes before the limo picked us up for the airport at 3am.

All week the news had warnings that freezing rain and blizzard would hit by midnight – the wee hours of the morning I was to leave. I laughed it off, knowing, the weather people are the only ones who could be wrong, yet still have a job. After all, predicting all this messy precipitation one week ahead hitting at a particular time, I waved it off, I did a little praying that it wouldn’t start till later in the day, but as I zipped up the suitcases and got ready to go to the lobby, I peeked out the window and watched the whiteness swirl around in a frenzy. Within 10 short minutes, the ground had accumulated a lot of the white stuff and the winds howled.

I’ve gotten in the habit of wearing a long-sleeved shirt over a tank top and a hoodie for warmth – somewhat – when traveling. Just a quick few minutes till I’d be in the limo and then the airport, where I’d dash for a cart and the limo driver would help me load the luggage on before scooting to check-in. Well, those few moments it took to load luggage on cart and dash for the doors was some kind of cold! I thought I’d freeze to death in those short few moments. I was also glad we left at such an ungodly time of day (without sleeping) because the roads and highways were a skating rink at 3am. Thankfully, the salt/sand trucks were prepared and were already dropping the grains on the highway ahead of us to prepare for the onslaught of morning traffic, which no doubt, would have been a chaotic one.

We flew with a different Canadian airline this time after last year’s fiasco of being dropped off on the tarmac in Puerto Vallarta. But, that didn’t seem to matter. I quickly learned that flights that were delayed leaving Toronto LOST THEIR PARKING SPOTS.

It was the first time in a long time I’d flown on a plane that resembled the old jumbo jets I remembered from yesteryear. The plane was full with almost 360 passengers. We’d taken our precautions before boarding the plane, spraying our Colloidal Silver down our throats, and sniffing up our nostrils to prepare for germ attack, besides having our masks. Our plane was over an hour delayed as the runway was a nightmare and we had to wait our turn to get de-iced before taking off. I kept watching the blizzard out the small plane windows, saying under my breath, let’s go, let’s go before it gets so bad we can’t. Alas, we took off, we were on our way to sunny Mexico, despite the mostly turbulent rocky ride almost all the way there. The storm had come from the US midwest, so much of the ride was through turbulent weather until exiting American skies into sunny Mexico territory.

 

Plane de icing
De-icing process in view

 

 

 

 

 

Yay, we landed hard, but safely. We were the first row in first class. My husband always has wheelchair assistance to and from the plane due to the very long walks to and from the gates. Usual protocol, first class gets off first, wheelchair and assistance waits at the exit doors for those in need. But not this time. This plane had two exits, and the back end started unloading at same time as first class door – only the bitchy stewardess wouldn’t let us off right away. She told us that wheelchair passengers had to wait for the plane to unload because they would hold up the people traffic. WTF? Not only that, we were on the bloody tarmac. Again!

As we are usually one of the first off, the minutes were getting long. Fifteen minutes had gone by and half the plane were taking their sweet time as the plane was getting mighty warm. I’d had enough by that point, filled with claustrophobic anxiety, I pushed past the stewardess to have a look-see at the progress of de-planing, standing at the exit doors. I decided I wasn’t waiting anymore and went back for my hub and all our carry-on crap and told him we’re going.

I barged through with all the bags while hub was on a cane and began the scary attempt at exiting down the steep, long stairway to the tarmac. I called down to one of the assistants with the wheelchair to come up the stairs and walk my husband down while I carried the load of bags, and we got on to the mini transfer bus that took us into the gates. This de-planing business is the worst part of the flight for me. I never slept on the plane and was now on no sleep for a day and a half.

We finally got in a cab and less than 10 minutes later, arrived at our rented condo on the beach. I unpacked and by then it was nearing 3pm Mexican time, an hour earlier there than our EST. Most people would have been ready to flop into bed by this point, but no, we had missions to accomplish. I let hub nap for a while I unpacked and got sorted out. Then we were off on the half mile walk (just what we felt like doing, NOT) to the bank machine to get some Pesos. From the bank we’d hop in a cab and head off for grocery shopping. By the time we got back with groceries and a bbq chicken for dinner, ate and showered, we flopped into bed at 730pm.

Mexican sunset
First Mexican Sunset

sunset

 

The trip back was more chaotic, but stay tuned for part 2 before we get there!

 

©DGKaye

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Travel Column with D.G. Kaye – Puerto Vallarta, #Mexico Part Two – Renting, Shopping, Tipping and Water | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

 

Welcome to this month’s edition of my Travel Column. Last month in my column, I shared a bit of history on beautiful Puerto Vallarta as well as some tips on dining, beaches, and things to do. For this month’s edition I’m going to share some tips based on my personal experience on notable places to visit while there, what to pack, caveats of renting a condo, and protocol on some of the Mexican customs.

suitacase

 

What to pack?

Pack for summer temps. Keep in mind that nights can be breezy so you may want to throw in a few long-sleeved Tees and/or a light sweater.

As usual, I bring too many shoes and basically end up wearing the same two pairs when going out. During the day you will live in flip flops or sandals. When walking any distances, and when walking downtown you will want to have comfortable shoes on. Trust me! The downtown zone still has cobble stone roads. Heels aren’t going to be your friend there. I acquired a new affection for FitFlops after buying a pair to take with me before I left. I plan on getting a 2nd pair and that’s all I really need to wear out. They are ultra-comfortable and very stylish, they even have styles with bling – and that’s good enough for me, lol. Of course, you will want to have a pair of sneakers too.

I mostly live in my bathing suit and cover-up by day and a sundress or a pair of capris and a top by night. I don’t see many people wearing long pants even at night so don’t fill your suitcases with them as they will likely just be taking up space and never worn. The jeans I wear on the airplane are the only long pants I take.

Don’t forget to pack your favorite pillow. If you’re anything like me and are fussy about your pillows, you will be happy you brought yours. See if you can find a smaller travel version of your favorite pillow like I’ve found, which will take up less space in your bags. And don’t forget the essentials: sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

 

rental keys

 

Thinking of renting a condo in PV?

If you’re interested in renting a place for your vacation in PV, I’m sharing my list of how to go about the process, what to look for, and things to beware of:

There are plenty of online sites where one can find places for rent in PV, and many property managers who look after several properties can also be found on various websites. But if you’re not familiar with where to begin, my recommendation is to look on VRBO and Air BnB.

One thing that is almost certain is that all rental prices are expected in US dollars. Depending on which service you book through, prices will vary so it’s important to do your homework and check similar offers for similar same sized properties around same locations.

Every place for rent seems to have their own different terms of contract. Some will ask for 50% down and the balance due 2 months prior to arrival, some will only require 20% deposit and balance payable on arrival (those are the only terms I rent a place with), while some offer rebates if you must cancel and some don’t.

It’s important to do an internet check when renting to make sure you’re renting from someone reputable. It’s not difficult to type a name of someone or the name of a condo complex in a Google search bar and take it from there. TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Yahoo are also great places to check reviews from previous fellow travelers who will share their experiences. Personally, I prefer renting directly from owner as opposed to a manager, but there are exceptions. I like to call that person to gather information rather than rely solely on what’s written on the description. This also allows me to get a good feel of the person I intend to rent from.

Make sure you ask about ‘added fees’ such as: security deposit required, clean-up fees, and oddly, some funky other mysterious fees I’ve seen around. If someone is paying for an ad, they should have photos and a good description of the property and surrounding areas.

In Mexico, it seems that electricity is often a separate charge on top of the rental fee. Rarely will you find it included in the price. Depending on the honesty of the person you’re renting from you’ll end up paying anywhere from $50 US per month to exorbitant money grab rates as high as $200 a month. Always ask!

Ask about these rules of the property:  . . . Continue reading

 

 

 

Source: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Travel Column with D.G. Kaye – Puerto Vallarta, #Mexico Part Two – Renting, Shopping, Tipping and Water | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

My Big Fat Mexican Vacation – Part 2 – Chair Wars, Accomodations and Other Stuff

 

 

When you spend most of the day at the pool, you meet a lot of people and gather a lot of information. My friend Tim (Sudbury) dubbed our pool the ‘pool of knowledge’, a place where sunloungers congregate in late afternoons and share lots of good information on – what’s going on in town, where to buy this and that, great new restaurant discoveries, where to get your hair and nails done, etc. And of course, the pool became a gathering place of sorts in the hot afternoon sun where many conversations among people somehow wound up on the topic of politics.

 

 

beachfront

 

The pool we hangout at in our complex edges onto the beach with the ocean mere yards away. Vendors come by daily throughout the day selling anything from T-shirts, sunglasses, silver jewelry, to fresh fruit – you name it. The trick is to always bargain. From what I found by asking each vendor how much they sell their wares for, it seems their starting prices are approximately double than what they’ll accept. Hey, everyone needs to make a living, but nobody wants to get ripped off, so a modest profit is acceptable because the vendor has to make a living too.

We made friends a-plenty and got to see friends we’d made the previous year. When hub and I would chat about certain friends we began sub-titling their names with the city, state or provinces they came from. It was easier to tell a story referring to the Minnesotas, Dakotas, Manitobas, Sudburys or the Sarnias – sometimes being easier to remember where people came from rather than having to remember their actual names when we first met them.

I didn’t note many Americans at our development, but a couple each from Chicago, New Jersey and Minnesota. Surprisingly, there were a few there from North Dakota – traditionally a republican state. I befriended a lovely couple from there and chose not to bring up politics around them, but I couldn’t believe the audacity of some other tRump lovers that were there. Don’t misconstrue my opinions with people behaving badly. These select few Americans were loud and proud tRump supporters in a country and in a pool where people were predominantly against their president. Again, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when someone stands up in a crowded swimming pool, shooting off her mouth loud and proud that she loves her president, and continues to chant with ‘let them build that goddamn wall to keep out the Mexicans’, I cringed in disgust. I found it distasteful and disrespectful to the Mexicans and couldn’t help but wonder why in the hell hypocritical people would even bother going to Mexico.

It was mostly cold Canadians fleeing our harsh and brutal winter storms from the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and probably the biggest group from Quebec. We missed a few of those beauties (storms) so friends and family kept us updated. Some days were minus 40! Is that even a real number?

Most of our days were spent at the pool and as always, it seems wherever we travel, we encounter ‘pool chair wars’. Because it seems there are never enough lounge chairs for pool lovers, one has to develop a strategy to get a chair, which usually entails the old adage ‘the early bird gets the worm’. But being an early bird doesn’t mean going down and throwing a towel on a chair and not showing up for several hours later to actually use the chair. The pool area is patrolled by security, and they have no qualms about doing hourly surveys around the pool to look for empty chairs with towels on them, post sticky notes on them with marked time and ultimately, removing the belongings within half an hour.

 

chair sitting
Hub on chair duty

 

My husband as always when we travel to a warm destination, is downstairs by 7am latest, setting up our chairs for the day. He’s trained for years now on protocol. I have my chosen location, which always means I’m at the end of a row so I have easy access to be able to turn my chair along with the sun’s movement, while hubby sets up the big umbrella (even more in demand) beside his chair to stay more shady. Then he sits down there and socializes with the other early birds doing the same. In the meantime, I’m already working on the computer and getting breakfast ready for 8am when he comes back upstairs to eat for his half hour grace period, before returning back to the pool while I finish up my work and get ready to join him downstairs about an hour later. At lunchtime, we each go upstairs and eat lunch separately while the other stays with the chairs or often I’d make us both lunch and bring it down to the pool and eat. Everyone who knew us knew where to find us. Ours was a busy coveted corner.

And what of those late comers coming down to the pool in early afternoons expecting to have a chair? Well, some don’t care about a chair, while some are angry and quite nasty at that.

Even though we were lounging in paradise there were still some people who are naturally nasty. One day I came back down from lunch and was approaching my chair when I saw a woman I didn’t recognize, leaning into my husband, pointing her finger in his face. By the time I reached the chair, I heard her scolding my husband. The part I caught was that she was angry she couldn’t find an umbrella and was chewing out my husband, telling him he’s under that umbrella every day, asking him why the hell he doesn’t just stay on his balcony. I KID YOU NOT! At that point, many around were listening to the conversation and my blood pressure shot up, knowing my husband doesn’t like scenes, he stayed quiet. I suddenly just wanted to push her 2 feet behind her, into the pool. Instead, I went up to her face, pointed my finger at her and shouted F*CK OFF. I got some applause from some people behind me, and she never bothered us again.

Some other people aren’t happy unless they can boss others around, or make people unhappy. I think some people don’t know what to do with themselves with actual free time on their hands. We had those who would try and get our towels taken away by a fellow renter who tended to act like he owned the development and spent lots of time visiting the pool security people, and a nasty woman who I never knew who came up to my chair and started up with me over my husband holding chairs.  But besides some of the pool BS, we had a wonderful time.

 

cruiseship arriving
Cruise ship coming into port, watching from the pool

 

We didn’t have to pay for whale watching tours because we saw some daily not far from shore. They love to stay near the little boats and sometimes put on a flop show. Apparently, mid December through March is calving and feeding season for the Humpback whales who have their babies in that part of the bay because they train and feed them there knowing there are no sharks there in the secluded bay area of the ocean. I also found out from my Sudbury friends who did go on a whale watching tour, that when the whales  leave, they head up to Vancouver Canada. Imagine the miles, not to mention what smart navigators they are! Sadly though, I never really caught the whales flopping up and nosedive back down into the ocean on my camera, or their wonderful displays of fountain when they spewed up water. My timing was never good, lol. I’d keep the phone in my hand waiting, and if I did catch the moment, the seconds between where I press the camera button to when it actually takes, were always the missed moments. We did see many ships coming into port though and leaving, which we enjoyed watching no matter how many times we’d seen it.

And the sunsets – my favorite time of day. I loved to sit on the balcony, or at least pop in and out for the last 45 minutes before the sun set because the horizon was gorgeous with color. Every night the sky told another story and I tried to capture some of the best parts.

 

PV sunset

 

 

postcard sunset
Just like a post card

 

sunset balcony
The million dollar view sunset

sunset

 

Sunset
Same sunset, a few minutes later

It was amazing how the color of the sky changed many times over in one sunset.

 

By day I was a lounge lizard – save for the morning or afternoon walks to Starbucks or picking up some groceries. I cooked a few dinners during the week, the other nights we went out for dinner to some of our favorite haunts and tried out a few new places – courtesy of the knowledge from the pool.

lovelocks
Passed this neat lovelock collection on the sidewalk while walking for groceries

 

For the first month of our trip we had rented our Mexican friend’s gorgeous luxury condo with the million dollar view and plenty of bedrooms. This enabled us to have visitors, my cousin D and my sister-in-law R came to stay with us for a week, which was fun having a little girl time. We went for walks and to a few markets – mainly the Saturday morning market downtown by the Malecon boardwalk and to the Thursday night market at the Marina. These are two of the more popular markets where you can buy anything handcrafted and food. There are a few popular eating spots in those markets, and the most popular is the ‘Bagel Man’ who is known for the best bagels and cinnamon buns in PV. The lineups start early for his goods so we’d get there in plenty of time while he sets up to avoid long waits. I befriended Peter the owner while there asking if he had any gluten-free bagels. He told me he could make me some and bring them to the Thursday market for me. When I went to pickup my bagels, he forgot them! But the nice guy that he is, he promised to deliver me a dozen to my condo the next day and he did!

 

3 amigas
The 3 Amigas

 

Million dollar view
A view from our beautiful rental

 

2 ships docked
A view from my back balcony affords me the view of docked ships

 

My step-daughter and son-in-law came down for a different week to spend with us in January and we also went to some markets, down to the boardwalk for a meal and had a good time together as we always do when we travel with them. And my author friend John Maberry came down with his wife for a lovely meet and greet for a few days and stayed next door to us in a hotel. It was busy times in January.

 

group of friends
The Sudbury crowd and John and his wife J

 

Then came February, when it was time to leave our first class accommodations because it was already rented out for February. I’d gotten us a one bedroom unit in the complex, which felt like a cottage, sparsely decorated and missing a lot of things such as: kitchen utensils, frying pans, chairs on the balcony, a crappy view, no coffee table or additional chairs other than the 4 at the kitchen table. I wasn’t impressed and told the girl I rented it from who I’d rented from the previous year. She managed to buy me some frying pans and promised some lounge chairs for the balcony which we never received. I made good use of those kitchen chairs – I pulled one in front of the couch to put my feet up on so I could use the computer, one went in the bedroom to be able to have something to place an article of clothing on, and they were all used when I had to hang up laundry. For the price we paid for that unit it was a huge disappointment. And I didn’t hide my dismay from anyone. But at least I was still in the warm weather and missed some terrible winter storms back home. When we checked out before leaving, the girl came to give me back my security deposit and chuckled and said, “Oh, I have your lounge chairs for the balcony.” I was not impressed at what she thought would be a humorous statement. Again, I let her know.

 

shit view
Our crappy view in February condo, the river runs into ocean and junkyard parking lot

 

A few notable photos for fun:

 

Pharmacies sell many drugs without prescription. Some notables are: Valium, Codeine drugs, Viagra, antibiotics, Ambien – just to name a few. This sandwich board of menu specials was outside  the restaurant we were dining at next door to the pharmacy

 

pharmacy sandwich board
Special on Viagra

 

I found this T-shirt at the market and had to get it for hubby. I almost had to beg him to wear it, lol, but he got a lot of chuckles at the pool:

google shirt
No explanation necessary

 

Malecon by night with some art and sculpture I took photos of:

 

art

art

Malecon artwalk
Malecon stroll in evening

 

We had a fabulous meal at the top of the hill off the boardwalk – Barcelona Tapas, where you could see the city from

 

Barcelona Tapas

 

city view from Barcelona Tapas
Gorgeous city coastline view from Barcelona Tapas ( we can see our beach condo from our dinner table)

 

All in all, we had a fabulous, relaxing and fun time away. It was great to see our old friends from the previous year and make friends with new people who we will no doubt see again next year.

D.G. Kaye
Our friend took our picture on our way out from the lobby to dinner

 

 

I recently posted my travel column at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord where I write monthly, all about Puerto Vallarta if you’d like to learn more about that beautiful city. The article is chock full of information from history to dining, and next month’s edition I’ll be getting more into personal experiences, recommendations and caveats, so stay tuned!