Nuevo Vallarta

February 25, 2001. Nuevo Vallarta.

Another week has passed since our last email and we barely realized it since life is so pleasant here. Last Wednesday, we took a horseback riding trip into the Sierra Madre behind Puerto Vallarta. We were pick-up at the hotel by a bus and an energetic guide offered explanations of the landscape while we drove into the mountains. He explained why we see so many unfinished houses everywhere: apparently the interest rate charged when you buy a finished house on credit is too high to make sense for most people and so the mexican people just build their house slowly, during their spare time and when they have spare money. They may live in the finished first floor, leaving rebar sticking out of the roof for the future second floor. The guide added as a joke that often the women tell their husband that they want to separate as soon as he finishes the house (the wife would keep the house) and that is an additional incentive not to finish the house.
After a short visit of Las Palmas, we arrived at the ranch where we had breakfast. Then we were assigned our horse for the day. Linda (Clark’s mother) and I were a little nervous as it had been a very long time since we had been on a horse. We eyed each new horse with apprehension. The guides were selecting who was to ride each horse based on size and weight so we just had to wait and hope to get a good one. I was the almost the last one to be assigned a horse and got a pretty large and good looking one, which also was very well behaved. I liked it a lot and wished I had had carrots for it.

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We rode along a little river between forested hills to a set of lovely waterfalls where some people swam and we had refreshments. I noticed more of the landscape than if I had been hiking because I did not have to worry about where to place my feet.

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After the visit to the waterfall, we went higher up in the hills, through a relatively dry forest (it is the dry season) with orchids perched high in the trees and many Brahman cows wandering around. They are tough cows which can live in hot climates and eat poor quality food, but their meat is also tough. They were cute though because of their very long floppy ears.
We rode for about 3 hours and our legs and behinds were sore when we arrived back at the ranch for a late lunch. But it was a wonderful way to visit the Sierra Madre and we all enjoyed it very much.

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Saturday, I went back into Puerto Vallarta to the old town market to stock up on brown rice and barley which are hard to find in regular supermarkets.

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I also went to a specialty store which imports supplies like horseradish and cherry pie filling. Through my numerous bus tripS into town, I have slowly replenished Temptress food stores. Initially we had thought that we would do one big shopping expedition and take a taxi back with all the food (which we could not have carried on the bus) but by always filling my cart with the maximum amount I could carry on the bus I achieved the same thing. I also learned to recognize the different packaging and what is and is not available in various stores. The only disappointment was not finding canned kidney beans for my chili. Mexicans either buy the beans dry and cook them themselves or buy canned refried beans. The only beans commonly available canned are garbanzo beans and black beans.

Yesterday, Clark’s parents took us out to diner: all you can eat italian buffet. And it was not just a buffet of pasta with two or three sauces. They were 7 salads, 3 breads, 6 main dishes, pasta toppings cooked to order, and a dozen desserts! It was delicious and overwhelming, especially when I was faced with the desserts. You all know how fond I am of desserts and most of them were very good: from liquor soaked cakes to tiramisu, passing by custard fruit pies and pears cooked in red wine. I tasted most of them…

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We are leaving the marina Thursday morning so we also have been busy getting the boat ready: replacing the steaming light bulb up the mast, getting an additional propane bottle to extend our range (at least my baking range), getting new boat insurance, doing laundry, etc.

Puerto Vallarta

February 18, 2001. Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta.

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We have been shopping downtown a couple of times with Clark’s parents, enjoying the markets full of colorful dresses and silver jewelry, and introducing them to Mexican food. Puerto Vallarta has a great waterfront walkway with sculptures facing the ocean, and a lively commercial downtown area with quaint markets as well as tourist stores.

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Some of the back streets hike up the hills with stairs winding around little gardens.

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We also took them on the boat to La Cruz for the Monday cruiser’s music night at Dos Felipes, and then to Los Tres Marietas. The latter are three little rocky islands in Banderas Bay wich are bird sanctuaries. They were far from being as interesting as Isla Isabella because there was no access possible for hiking and the tiny beaches were pretty rough and difficult to land on. The water was too murky for good snorkeling, although I did see again the bright king angelfish.

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The anchorage seemed pretty rolly to us after having stayed in a marina for so long and we were happy to be back in Paradise Marina after a couple of days out. It will be hard to leave the marina to head south in March. While out at Los Tres Marietas, Clark dove to remove barnicles from the propeller and the thru-hulls. They grow amazingly quickly here. They had already partially plugged the cockpit drains. Back in the marina, Clark also had to repair the windlass motor, before we could place new markers on the anchor chain. Our depth markers had been chewed off on the rocky bottom of the Isla Isabella anchorage. He was quite impressed to realize that he was now able to work in 90F(32C) temperature without suffering excessively from the heat. We are getting used to the warm weather. We are working on updating the website and adding pictures. We will let you know when to take a look again.

February 10, 2001. Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

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Many people like Mexican food. I never have liked it. I have always been of the opinion that it is just spiced grease, relying on the sledgehammer effect of peppers to make it’s point. This opinion was based on the numerous Mexican restaurants I’ve been to in the US (Azteca and the like). I always hoped to be proven wrong while I was down here but everywhere we ate the food was similar. That was until last night. My parents are in town visiting us and my mother, father, Birgitta and I went to a restaurant in PV called the Red Cabbage, which serves gourmet Mexican food. This place served a dinner that was truly excellent. We ordered a 4 course menu suggested by the restaurant and were very happy with the food. We started with a Margerita. Not your average sweet lime drink. This one was a bit dry with a definite taste of a GOOD tequila. It set up the pallet for the meal to follow. The first course was a peanut soup which we all enjoyed. It was not like diluted peanut butter but like a cream with a soft touch of ground nut. This was followed by Chiles en Nogada. The real reason we tried the restaurant. This is a dish Birgitta found in one of her cookbooks and then realized it would take about 2 days to fashion the 20 or so ingredients into a dish. She decided she wanted to taste it so she found the Red Cabbage, a restaurant that had it on the menu. Chiles en Nogada is a pepper stuffed with a mixture of shredded pork, dried fruits,nuts and spice and served with a walnut cream sauce. It had a delicious settled taste blending the meat and the sweetness of the nuts and fruits.
Then came the main course, Birgitta and I had Mole Poblano (a 25 ingredient mole sauce over chicken) which had been recommended by Karen (a good friend in Seattle). We suggested Chicken with Pipian sauce for my father as his tastes don’t run to the spicy. I have had mole sauce before but was never impressed. I remember it tasting of slightly spicy coco. But this mole poblano was a sauce that could hold it’s head up high to any french sauce. It is a rich full dark sauce, warm and spicy at the same time. My father found the pipian sauce every bit as good. It was a white creamy sauce with almonds and just a hint of spiciness. These were served with a drinkable wine (Mexico isn’t known for it’s wine). The dinner was finished in Mexican style with a flan. I can say it was the best flan I have ever had but I must further say that I still have no taste for flan. The only change I would have made to the dinner would be to finish with a pastry. It may not be Mexican but would have finished the fine meal much better. Clark
PS: From Birgitta: I am usually not a fan of flan either because of its gelatinous texture but I liked this one. It was nutty, with a good rich egg taste and a touch of some liquor to make it melt in the mouth.

Paradise Village Marina

February 7, 2001.
We have been here about 10 days and after recovering from my nasty cold, I have started the boat “spring” cleaning also called marina cleaning since it is the water hose from the marina which spurs it. The carpet is again cream colored, the ceiling white and the curtains have lost most of their stains and are nicely pressed. Besides the spring cleaning, we have been busy entertaining friends, taking salsa lessons, boogie boarding on the beach, soaking in the hot tub, and shopping. Clark is particularly enjoying cable TV and is even learning some spanish reading the subtitles of english movies. Yesterday we had a big jam session on the boat with 4 guitars, one ukulele, and synthetic drums. It is a good exercise for Clark’s new guitar skills. I enjoy being able to run again in the morning. My sporadic rowing exercise (when at anchor) is not quite as aerobic as running and it took me a week to get back into running shape. The road leading to the resort has a nice sidewalk lined with hibiscus, bougainvillee, flowering trees and palm trees, which is perfect for a morning run. We have also worked on setting up a new e-mailing system which is more flexible. Cheers,