Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're Back in Canada!

Well, we've made it back to our 'northern' home and all went well, other than the fact that we were both sick to death of the car by the time we arrived! We drive down in 6 days, but the days were long so we have decided that it is much easier to spend 7 days on the road to get back to Canada. It was lovely when we arrived, not as warm as Mexico, but much warmer than we had expected!

We left Mazatlan right on schedule around 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Okay, I admit it, I cried. Silly, I know we're coming back in six months, but for some reason, I just felt like having a little weep.

The drive to Navajoa was a breeze. There were a few check stops along the way, but as usual, we were waved through - Canadian plates, innocent faces, whatever, we just sailed on by. We stayed at our usual spot in Navajoa, the Best Western, and were quite surprised that we were the only Canadian plates in the parking lot. In fact, the only non-Mexican car we saw was one from California, and it looked like they were checking out as we were arriving. We were expecting our usual room (in the 'doggie' corner) but instead we were given a room in a different area which was by far a superior room. We had a fridge, a microwave, and the big plus for Abi, a grassed area right outside our door. As we were there fairly early in the afternoon we pulled a few chairs outside, had a drink and relaxed for an hour or so before dinner. A great way to start the trip. And of course, I had to take a few pictures! These actually turned out to be just about the only ones I took!!

There was a beautiful window, with a lovely view ...

and the property had the world's biggest tree!

Abi loved the lawn ...

and we were all very impressed with the flowers!!

Day 2 went just as well as Day 1! We got an early start in the morning as we weren't sure how long it was going to take us at the border crossing, but to our suprise there were very few people there and we were through in 1/2 hour. We were a bit worried about crossing the border on a Sunday and perhaps we were just lucky as we were there by 3 in the afternoon, but we also found that it was very easy to get through the towns on our way north as there was very little traffic. We're actually thinking that Sunday might be the day to arrive in Nogalas.

It is rather amusing that the only irritation during this part of our trip was over the use of the banos (bathroom for you non 'Mexican' speaking folks) at the Pemex station just before the border crossing. Occasionally we have run into stations where they require payment for use of the facilities, but this is rare. However, at this station they had not one but two 'gentlemen' posted outside, demanding 5 pesos for the honour of using their not so lovely facilities. However, we did not have 5 pesos (actually 10 because there were 2 of us) - we just had a 100 peso bill. So, I headed off to the store, where Mike has just paid for the gas, for change. They have no change. Uh Hunh, sure - we just paid for the gas - with change. Back to the banos - no way - no pesos - no go. However, we spied another banos about 200 metres away, so over we sped, thinking we had beaten the system. But, the doors were locked. What to do, what do do?! Do I go back and plead with the little devils guarding the door of the original banos? Do I go back, kick them in the shins and make a dash for it? As I was trying to decide how I was going to tactfully, or not so tactfully, handle this ever increasingly important situation, a truly lovely gas attendant who had obviously noticed the increasing stress level in the car with the Canadian plates and came over to give me a 5 peso coin. Bless his little heart!!

A lesson learned here - as well as carrying your own tissue, always have a few pesos tucked in your pocket. Not big ones, because they often do not have change (or just don't want to share it)! We had a good chuckle, and have made a note to stop at the station before this one next time!

Days 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 all sort of blurred together. Might have been because of the breathtaking scenery.

Just kidding here, it really is fascinating to see how the landscape changes the further north we headed. Parts of the countryside were truly lovely, but oh my, there were sections where there was literally nothing to look at, hence the excitement over the tree!

Eating on the road is always a challenge as we don't like to leave Abi alone in the hotel room and she panics if she's left alone in the car for longer than 2 or 3 minutes! We try to avoid fast food places as much as possible and it can be tricky. We lucked in this trip as most of our hotel rooms had fridges and microwaves so we checked out the local grocery stores and had picnics in our rooms most nights. We found a great place to eat in Nogalas just after we crossed the border called the Yokohama Asian Xpress and we had wonderful take-out Asian Rice Bowls, with tons of nice crisp veggies and great teriyaki chicken.

We also stumbled on a beautiful park in Norfolk, which could perhaps be in Nebraska or maybe South Dakota (!!! - I could look it up but darned if I know where the maps are!!!) and stopped there for lunch. It was starting to get a bit cool but we sat outside by the lake and admired the ducks and Canada Geese while we dined on leftovers from the previous night's dinner. No pictures here, by this point I just wanted to get the whole trip over with so no lingering.

Can you tell how boring this drive is - I get excited about a take out restaurant, a tree and a park with water!

So, we're home, still unpacking and attempting to get back into the swing of life in Winnipeg. Mike has already been golfing, working towards his goal of 100 games this season before we head south again. We've been to the bank to pick up some Canadian cash, and the grocery store, and then back to the bank again. I am hoping to lose some of the weight I managed to gain over the winter (love that Mexican food) and it shouldn't be hard. We can't afford to eat!

We had a truly wonderful 6 months in Mazatlan and are already counting the days until we head south again. We are so lucky to have 2 homes!!

I have had requests from some of the wonderful friends we made in Mexico to continue with this over the summer. I think perhaps I might, just a little bit, as it will give me an excuse to explore the city I've lived in for almost 20 years. I'll let you know if I find anything interesting. Wonder if we have any interesting doors or windows here?

Take care, and have a wonderful summer!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Last Day


Well, it's arrived - the last day of our six month stay in Mazatlan, our winter home. I would like to say that we are packed and ready to go, but we're not. We're getting close, but still have a lot to do today, all the usual last minute things that need to be done before leaving our residence of half a year.

I have collected all of the 'treasures' we have acquired since we arrived in November, and have decided which to leave here for our return, and which to bring to Winnipeg with us. The big old star is staying, possibly because it is so large we can barely get it into the trunk of the car! Maybe we'll haul it north next year, but in the meantime it can remain on the terrace in Maz. I'll also leave the sea shells, as a reminder to ourselves that we do not need to collect any more of them!!

We're leaving the Christmas Santas as well. No point in taking them back because we know where we'll be next Christmas!

I found photographs at a craft sale which we hung on the walls of the casita using rolled up pieces of painters masking tape (really classy). We're taking them home; I'll buy matting and frames for them and will bring them back in the fall.

We bought some plants for the terrace when we arrived in November. The large ones we will leave here and they will be watered with those in the Casa downstairs. The smaller ones are being 'fostered' with friends. She has an amazing green thumb (2 of them actually) so I'm hoping that she will have better luck than I did with that darned rosemary plant.

We've managed to eat almost all of the food we have purchased - we've had some interesting meals over the last week or so! Some of the remains will be given to friends and the rest we will leave in the fridge for Anjelica, who comes to clean for us every 2 weeks.

We haven't packed all the clothes yet - and yes, I will be the first to admit it - I brought too many. Or perhaps I just brought the wrong things? Maybe next trip I'll get it right!

We won't talk about the shoes, especially the ones I didn't wear .... or the new ones I bought while I was here ....

We've had smoothies for breakfast(to finish up the last of the bananas), we've bathed the dog, pumped water from the cistern to the tinaca so that we can do a last load of laundry and the car has been washed and vacuumed and been filled with gas.

We're almost done!!

We've made plans to have dinner at the Plazuela Machado with friends this evening, and then it's an early "home and to bed".

Long drive ahead of us - I'll let you know how it went in a week!



I couldn't leave without sharing the amazing frescos painted on the walls of Macaws, a lovely little restaurant in Centro. Macaws opened recently and is located just across the street from the Mazatlan Membership Library. The owners have told us they will be closing over the summer months but they will open again in October, just in time for our return!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Countdown

** Taken yesterday as we lazed around the pool at the hotel we were 'visiting' for the afternoon. They made us feel very welcome, and the view while lying flat on my back on the lounge chair was lovely **

I can't believe it! We leave on Saturday. Six months seemed like such a long time when we arrived in November but the days have just flown by, and now we have only have 3 sleeps before it's time to hit the road again.

The last weeks have been a blur - I didn't tell anyone about Semana Santa, or Motoweek, which was very loud, by the way. My friend, Nancy (countdowntomexico) had some great pictures. Good thing one of us remembered our camera! Hopefully I'll do a better job next year. I wonder if you could have a camera implanted in the palm of your hand?

I'm not ready to go. There are things we didn't do, or if we did do them, not often enough. I still want to visit some of the smaller towns outside the City, we've just barely made a dent in our list of places to eat, I haven't visited all the shoe stores; I'd like to be here to see if my rosemary plant ever gets to be bigger than inches - the reasons for staying go on and on.

I'll miss being able to buy 3 eggs at a time, one aspirin if that's all I really need and paying 20 cents for a green pepper. I'll miss being able to go out to dinner whenever we feel like it, because eating out is often as cheap as eating in. And I'm really going to miss being able to eat outside, everyday.

I'll miss the church bells. I'll miss looking at the cruise ships. I won't particularly miss the market on cruise ship days, but I will miss the market.

I'll particularly miss the days of never-ending sunshine and the spectacular sunsets in the evenings.

I've made some wonderful new friends and the friendships made in the spring have become so much stronger. Oh, how I will miss them.

This is just too depressing. So instead, and because we have no choice, I am going to have to start getting excited about going back to our summer home.

I can't wait to see my son again. It will be wonderful to catch up with our friends. I'm hoping to buy new furniture for the living room and am looking forward to doing just a bit of redecorating, if we can find something we agree upon. (I'll shop while Mike is golfing and then offer him my choices - that's how it's done - just don't tell him!) I'm having laser surgery on my eyes a few weeks after we get back, so I won't have to wear glasses. I'm not looking forward to the procedure, but can't wait to be able to see as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. A week after we get home I'm flying to Ottawa to see my Mum. We've chatted on the phone every week since we've been here, but I know she has worried and it will be nice to show her that I'm still in one piece!

I am not looking forward to the first grocery shopping and paying the bill, but can't wait to get to the Floral Department. We are going to have flowers in every room! I have missed not having fresh cut flowers in my home - it's just not something that is 'done' here.

I won't let Mike see that part of the grocery bill. It's like shopping for shoes, or furniture, he needs to know what he needs to know. Why do I have the feeling that he's not going to show me the price tag on his golf clubs either?! And people ask how we've stayed so happily married for almost 40 years?????? Just kidding here, we always share, except when it comes to shoes.

OK, I'm starting to feel better.

Especially since that darned Agua Truck has pulled up and parked right outside our front door, again, as he does several times a day. The recording announcing his presence is on, as usual, at full blast. We have filtered water, we can drink it from the taps. We do not need to buy water from you. Park your darned truck somewhere else!

I will not miss the Agua Truck.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Library

Yesterday was my last official day as a Volunteer at the Mazatlan Membership Library. I will be back as a regular in November, however, as we are leaving in a week and the Library switched to "Summer" hours on the 1st of April, I am finished for the season. Sigh. I love the Library and have immensely enjoyed the hours spent there.

We don't have a great deal of space, but every available corner is filled with books, over 6,000 of them. The majority of the books are fiction, although we also have sections devoted to history, social sciences, philosophy, religion, travel, biographies, art, cooking...... Just like a 'real' library. There are also movies, available both in VHS and DVD. I love the Mexican Room, where the Spanish language books are filed. Books with any reference to Mexico are also found in this room, with subjects ranging from history, travel, science, and, of course, fiction. Mike is currently reading the Aztec series by Gary Jennings. And, if you're in town for just a short visit, we even have books for sale. Each book is usually 20 pesos, but we reguarly have sales and sell them for 10 pesos each. That's less than a dollar, for a book. Heaven is the Mazatlan Membership Library!

All of the people who work at the Library are volunteers who work a 4 hour shift, once a week. The books in the Library are donated, by the members, and also by visitors to Mazatlan. Many are given to us by a gentleman who owns a book store in another part of town.

One of the great advantages to 'working' at the Library is the ready access to all of these books. It has been a rare week that I have not arrived home with 2 or 3 more volumes that I simply have to read. And, oh, I have have had some truly wonderful 'reads' this summer - Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Toast by Nigel Slater, Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge I own and am saving for the drive home),The Lost City of Z by David Grann, The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, World Without End by Ken Follett, several books by Sarah Dunant, a marvelous one called the Persian Pickle Club, darned if I can remember the name of the author, the list goes on and on. I thought I had read all of Anne Tyler's but found one, Digging to America, that I had missed. Mentioning lists, I wish I had actually made one! I will next year.

Loretta is the Library's guilding light. As well as running the Library almost singlehandedly for 7 years, Loretta is an accomplished artist. She also runs her own kitty orphanage, and has found homes for dozens of strays over the past few years. Gina is my favourite kitty - and if my husband were not terribly allergic to cats she would be coming home with me! I don`t know where Loretta finds her energy and I am awed by her dedication to the Library, her kitties and her art. She is a very special person and I am so very glad to have had the opportunity to count her as a friend.

So, no more Library for 6 months. But I`ll be back!

By the way, this is one of my favourite "Loretta" paintings.

And this is Gina

This is for Jeff

Abi, our almost 17 year old schnoodle (shnauzer-poodle cross) loves us, but she absolutely adores our 25 year old son, Jeff.

Jeff was in Grade 6 when Abi came to live with us so they have grown up together. Abi was terribly upset when Jeff moved out of the house to live on his own, and just turns somersaults whenever he comes to visit. To be truthful, I suspect that Jeff often comes home to visit with Abi, not with his parents!

So, these are for Jeff.

Abi still loves her pillows

and is endlessly curious about the street scene

She is still the perfect lady waiting for her treats

and still dances

and sings for them!

She does get in the way a bit in the kitchen

but helps tidy up by searching for 'leftovers'. Carrots are the current favourites...

Abi was quite ill this summer and lost a lot of weight. She weighed in at 16 pounds on a 'fat' say so she really didn't have a lot to lose. Abi was only 13 pounds when we arrived in November. It's pretty safe to say that what she lost, she has gained back. Now we just have to keep her out of the kitchen at home!

P.S. Abi would like to have you believe differently, but she really doesn't get to eat people food, except for the odd piece of carrot, or lettuce. She's also rather fond of cauliflower, and likes the crunchy noises she can make when working her way through a tiny piece of celery. However, her meal of the day is her prescription dog food, with a tablespoon of Cesar's (the Mexican version) mixed in for 'flavouring'. Abi loves Cesar, and was somewhat shocked to find out that Cesar, the white west highland terrior on the tin of food, is not really a 'he'. He's a she, and her name is Maggie. Abi is a bit confused but has decided to ignore the gender confusion as she really does like the food!

Guess we should also introduce you to Abi's new friend, Nina, the one year old poodle cross who lives next door.

Abi admires Nina's wardrobe of sweaters and T Shirts, but has made it very clear that in no circumstances will she wear bows in her hair. Or stand for having her toenails painted!

Oh, excuse me, it's nearing 5 o'clock, and apparently it's time for dinner!

My Husband

It's been all about me lately and I thought that perhaps you'd like to know how Mike was doing.

I know, he could tell you himself; he can type, he can spell, and if I check the puncuation marks ... but he's busy right now. He's having a siesta. Now this is important - Mike is not napping - he never naps - that's for old folks - he's just having a siesta.

Mike has developed a busy social life since we arrived in Maz so he needs to get his rest.

We tried Bridge when we first arrived but I gave up after the first lesson. Mike was pretty serious about this, for awhile, but after a few weeks, he started to miss lessons. Now, sorry to all you serious bridge players out there, but can we blame him???? It seemed that to develop any kind of skill at all, he was going to have to play 3 times a week, plus he was going to have to learn to speak a second language (that would be Bridgese). He says that he's still interested in learning how to play, so maybe he'll try it again next year. I, however, have decided to pass. Do you pass in Bridge? I can't remember!

I have been busy at the Library every Monday (my excuse for getting out of Bridge) and Mike has discovered the Monday Lunch Bunch. They meet every week to discover and enjoy yet another spot for the Comida Corrida (the lunch of the day). I think the challenge is to find yet another spot in Centro to have lunch for around 50 pesos (about $4.00 Cdn). So far, they have not been thwarted in their quest.

Wednesday is "Beans and Beer". Need I say more. This group is larger, it has something to do with with 50 pesos each, bellinis of beer, and lots of beans. He's having a great time, we don't worry about dinner, I don't ask questions. He doesn't ask about Girls Night Out, so it's only fair!

I'm thrilled that Mike has found some golf buddies. Mike is a very good golfer (OK I know, I'm not supposed to say anything, but he is!!!!) and the boys now have a regular Friday golf date. Golf is very expensive in Mazatlan and although he did golf twice at the El Cid course in January, it was not something he planned on doing regularly. However, they have been playing at the local course, Campestre, where the green fees are much more reasonable, and he's actually planning on bringing his own clubs down next trip.

And then, of course, he has Salsa Saturdays. There are a number of us who meet at Canucks, one of the local 'hangout' spots, every Saturday for our Salsa class. This was actually my idea, but he's been a real trooper and never complains when I drag him out on Saturday evenings. It's been a lot of fun, and we've actually, at times, been able to dance together without stepping on each others toes, or tripping.

I think my husband is enjoying life in Mazatlan!