Thursday, July 19, 2018

10 Best Islands for Retirement

Coastal Living names 10  best islands for retirement and includes Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

There’s a good reason Mexico’s Caribbean coast has become a magnet for Americans of a certain age: with a refreshingly low cost of living, excellent medical care, and a perpetually sunny climate, retiring here makes a world of sense. This idyllic spot, whose name means “Island of Women,” is located just a ferry ride from Cancun but offers a peaceful, low-rise respite from that city’s buzz. Expats can spend every day swimming, snorkeling, or fishing along some of the best beaches in the region, then hit one of the excellent restaurants in town, all at a fraction of the cost of the U.S.

Isla Mujeres

Friday, May 18, 2018

Surprise Explosion

One afternoon in 1943, a 1,300-foot-tall volcano decided to spring up in the backyard of a Mexican farmer named Dionisio Pulido.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mexican Tiles

We are in the preliminary stages of designing a house to be built in Vista Antigua. Already we are noticing floors and asking if it would look good in our new house. We talked to Marco at Casa Nostra about the flooring in his restaurant on Terraplen. He used roughened Cantara marble and painted it black. We like the floors but he said they require a lot of maintenance.

That led us to think about tiles and Mexican Guru has some good information about the tiles used in Mexico and had maintenance info about the various kinds.

Mexican Tiles

While designing and constructing your Mexican dream house, you will encounter different words for tiles. Pisosare floor tiles, azulejos are generally used on walls or in the bath or kitchen, and tejas are roof tiles. The major types of tiles include:

  • Ceramic tiles are durable, easy to maintain, and easy to install. These are the most common floor tiles in Mexico and are also used on walls, sink surrounds, and other surfaces. The cost varies depending on the design and glaze, but the average is about 140 pesos per square meter. Individual tiles usually measure 30cm x 30cm or 33cm x 33cm, or larger. Among the most popular ceramic tile manufacturers in Mexico are Vitromex and Interceramic.

  • Porceline tiles are very similar to ceramic tiles but are fired at a higher tempurature.

  • Terra Cotta is used to define both a color (reddish) and a type of clay tile. Clay tiles (also called barro) are more porous and require a glaze. Even with the glaze, they can stain easily and are high maintenance. However, they are quite beautiful and for some people are well worth the trouble. The main manufacturer of terra cotta tiles in Mexico is Ladrillera Mechanizados.

  • Saltillo tiles are even more porous than terra cotta. They are more difficult to install and require heavy maintenance. Every 18 months they should be stripped and resealed. These tiles---whose hues range from pinks to beige, yellow, and terra cotta---are made in Saltillo (where else!?) and offer a lovely rustic look. Pisos Coloniales is a good source of information; their website (in English) gives lots of photos and ideas. You can also buy pre-glazed Saltillo tiles in Tlaquepaque. Of these, pisos con resina (pre-sealed floor tiles) can be used indoors or out, while pisos vitrificados (glazed floor tiles) are for interior spaces. See also Ceramic San Pedro for more ideas and photos.

  • Talavera tiles are hand-painted clay tiles used mostly in kitchens and bathrooms. True Talavera originated in Spain and was brought to the New World with the conquerors, where local artisans added different colored glazes of their own, expanding the original palate of colors to include yellow, orange, green, and brown. The original Talavera workshops were in Puebla, and later Tlaxcala. Both states continue to produce the country's best. A different type of Talavera is produced in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Talavera tiles may chip when used on a work surface like a kitchen counter. Since they come both in patterns and solid colors, you can use more durable ceramic tiles (sold at Vitromex, for example) for the work areas and use Talavera tiles in a similar color scheme for the trim. There are several stores offering a good selection of Talavera tiles in Tonalá, outside Guadalajara.

  • Encaustic Cement tiles (also called tapetes or mosaicos) are practical and very traditional. They are often used in hotels and restaurants. The tiles are smaller (25cm x 25cm) and you may choose to have a ruglike design in the middle. There is a factory in San Luis Postosi that makes these tiles and they will deliver. See Original Mission Tile website for design ideas and more details. As these tiles are very traditional, you might find someone in your town or village that makes them by hand.

Puerto Vallarta Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Did you know that Puerto Vallarta Celebrates 100th Anniversary May 25-31 says Marie Callan -

From May 25-31, 2018, Puerto Vallarta will commemorate its 100th anniversary as a municipality and 50th year as a city with a week-long celebration that includes cultural events, concerts, fireworks, and more. Share

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - On May 31, 2018, Puerto Vallarta will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its induction as a municipality and 50th of its elevation to the category of city - and it promises to be a gala affair!

But first, a little history...

During the first part of the 1800s, this beautiful piece of Mexican geography remained isolated from the rest of the world. The hubs of economic activity were up in the mountains, in the towns of Cuale, San Sebastián and Mascota, where silver mines abounded but where salt, an essential element for processing the metal, was not to be found.

The village which was to become Puerto Vallarta was founded in 1851 by Guadalupe Sanchez, an enterprising boatman from Cihuatlán, who established a trading post on the banks of the Cuale River to supply salt to the mountain gold and silver mines, whose minerals were transported to this coast for shipping.

Sanchez originally called Puerto Vallarta "Las Peñas de Santa María de Guadalupe" to commemorate his arrival on December 12, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. In 1911, the people of Las Peñas asked the government of the state for the status of municipality, and finally on the 31 of May, 1918, the State Congress decreed to the formation of the municipality, changing the name to Puerto Vallarta to honor an important governor of the State of Jalisco, Don Ignacio Luis Vallarta.

Since then, every year in May, the people of Puerto Vallarta have gathered together in El Centro to celebrate the municipality's anniversary. But this year's celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever as Puerto Vallarta celebrates 100 years!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ken Bichel in Concert

According to Wikipedia, Ken Bichel attended the Juilliard School where he graduated with a master's degree in piano performance in 1969. While at Juilliard he met Gershon Kingsley and Robert Moog, the inventor of the music synthesizer. He became a founding member of Kingsley's First Moog Quartet, a live performance synthesizer ensemble, and was recognized as the preeminent synthesizer authority in the New York recording industry from that time on.
Although Bichel is a classically trained pianist, he has spent most of his career playing and recording jazz, rock, and other forms of contemporary music on the piano and the synthesizer. Bichel became a member of the New York-based band Stories is the early 1970s with whom he recorded several hit songs on three different albums until the band broke up in 1973.
Bichel also played and/or conducted several Broadway shows. In 1975, he was hired as the musical director for the show Boccaccio. In 1977, Bichel took an onstage role (which also involved him playing the piano as well) as Norman in the original production of I Love My Wife. Bichel won the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance.
In 1978, he became the assistant conductor and pianist for the Broadway musical Working. During the 1970s, Bichel also worked as a freelance recording musician on synthesizer or piano for various artists and media projects. His work can be heard on over a dozen CDs including the self-titled and Soul Searching albums by Average White Band on the Rhino label (1974 and 1976), Judy CollinsJudith (1975) on the Elektra label, and Chaka Khan's Chaka Khan Chaka on the Ol' Skool Label (1978). He can be heard singing the backup "ahs" with Billy Joel on the mega-hit "Just the Way You Are." Additional recording and/or performance credits include Irene CaraPlácido DomingoAretha FranklinPeggy LeeCindy BullensMaureen McGovern, the Orchestra of the Sorbonne, Jane OlivorLuciano PavarottiCarly SimonPaul SimonStevie Wonder. In 1973 Bichel composed the music for the popular CBS game show Match Game.
Bichel is an internationally acclaimed concert artist and has performed at the La Scala opera house in Milan, the American Music Festival in Geneva, in London for the Duchess of Kent, in Hong Kong for its bi-centennial, in Munich with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and repeatedly at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City.
Television and Film Appearances
TV appearances include The Tonight Show, David Letterman Late Show, the Dick Cavett show, Saturday Night Live, American Bandstand, Regis Philbin, Rosie O'Donnell, etc. Bichel has also appeared as a featured musician in films like Kinsey, Marvin's Room, and A Family Thing, and made a cameo appearance on film in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose. Bichel has also won an Emmy Award for his music composition work on television.
Personal life
Today, Bichel lives with his wife in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he continues to compose both for his own international solo performances and for other contemporary classical performance ensembles. In 2009 he and his wife, both long-time meditators, became certified teaching monks of Ascension of the Bright Path Ishayas.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In the Magical City of San Miguel

We live in the magical city of San Miguel, yet we were stunned last night when we attended a private in the home concert of pianist Jerry Fastrup and his wife, Gloria Fastrup. First, we gathered on the rooftop of the Fastrup's beautiful home for a get-acquainted meet with 25 to 30 guests. Wine was served along with plenty of nibbles. 

Then we adjourned to the living room. There stood Jerry's beautiful Czech Petrof high-gloss deep violet piano. Jerry sat proudly and started the evening off with his exuberant playing. His face takes on a blissful demeanor when he begins to play.

He was joined by Alicia Rappoport, a world-class singer who has traveled the world and has just released her fourth CD. She comes from Argentina, escaped to Spain, back to Argentina, then Chile, and now here in San Miguel. She was fabulous singing a French song with so much emotion it almost made me tear up.

Next up was Malcolm Halliday. Malcolm Halliday performs in the United States, Europe, and Mexico, both as a soloist and in collaboration with singers, instrumentalists, and orchestra. A champion of more recent and contemporary music, Halliday can be heard as a pianist on two recordings of the music of the American composer Leo Sowerby: a solo album entitled Impressions, and songs with bass-baritone Robert Osborne in a collaborative album entitled My Love Unspoken, both CDs released through Albany Records.

Finally, we were introduced to Grammy award winner and concert pianist Richard Dowling. Career highlights include a sold-out New York orchestral debut at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, solo recitals at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall in New York, and a special award from the National Federation of Music Clubs recognizing his outstanding performances of American music.

Richard Dowling finished the evening with the performance of Clair de Lune.

We want to thank the Jerry and Gloria Fastrup for a wonderful and not soon forgotten evening.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Clavellina Tree

Last night we ate at El Arrayan, Mauricio the master chef, pointed out the Clavellina tree growing by the sidewalk. He said to watch the tree.  In  20 minutes or so another flower will bloom. By the time dinner was served hot and delicious, a flower bloomed. Here's what I found about the tree:

"All the years that I lived in a cold climate with a long winter season, I eagerly awaited the emergence of the first spring bloomers. Since retiring to the sub-tropics, I enjoy growing flowers year round but I still look forward to a rotation of exceptionally beautiful flowering trees that only have blooms a short while. One of my favorites is the perky pink shaving brush tree (bombax ellipticum) that typically flowers in early spring, February/ March. This deciduous tree sheds its leaves in winter –and looks ugly until the blooms add pops of color. Not only is the multi-petaled deep pink flower unique, but the way its outer covering curls back is eye-catching. After the petals drop, the fruit pod that forms is also attractive.

The shaving brush tree, native to Mexico, can be grown as an attractive flowering tree in a large yard. Its Spanish name is Clavellina reaching 30 feet (9m), unless you regularly prune it back. Clavellina grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. While the shaving brush tree is very distinctive for its exotic pink flowers, its bark with a striping of green, yellow, and white, is also unique. The flowers appear on bare branches, with the blossoms only lasting for one day before dropping off. After all the flowers are finished, new leaves will appear on the branches. The new leaves have a red color that turns green as they mature. Because the Clavellina tree has such artistic bark and unique flowers, many people of Central America and southern Mexico plant the tree in their garden. The attractive Clavellina flowers are used to decorate homes and churches. The Shaving brush tree is especially different when it’s young: the trunk has a bulb-like swollen stem that look like a green rock melon.

The Mexican indigenous people use the leaves to make a tea to cure cough and respiratory ailments. The Clavellina tree is also used as firewood and for carving handicrafts. Shaving brush tree can typically be found growing in dry and rocky locations. It is a very ornamental plant and native cultures within it natural range are planted for its attractive appearance but it is also planted to form a living fence. Clavellina seeds can be toasted and eaten and the fruit fibers (kapok) are used to fill pillows and as insulation. The importance of the Clavellina tree to the Mayan civilizations is evidenced by the presence of the flowers in the artwork on ceramic pieces."


Yesterday, here in Zihuatanejo, we celebrated Sailfest by signing up for a sunset cruise for 600 pesos apiece. Sailfest is a charitable event that is part of the Los Niños. 

Los Ninos is a volunteer group formed to help disadvantaged parents in Zihuatanejo, Mexico provide an education for their children.  Their website has been developed to share the story of these beautiful children and their dedicated parents, and to solicit your contributions.

Bev and I arrived at 4:00 ready to board. We were told we would sail on the Patricia Bell, an 80-foot schooner built by the captain and his sons. It is a two-masted black-hulled beauty. There were nineteen visitors and seven crew. We motored out of the harbor toward the brilliant sun in a cloudless sky.  Then we turned around and sailed back at about one knot per hour.

It was so quiet when the motor was off. Just, the waves slapping the hull and the wind filling the sail.

A stunning female crew member, Julia, and a Justin Timberlake lookalike, Sam, dove over the side and clung to a trailing rope. They were filled with joy over the condition of the warm water. Dawn, a third member of the crew, joined them. Julia swam alongside the boat and was easily swimming faster than the schooner.

At about 6:30 the sunset and we all waited to see if there would be a green flash. Nope! Not this time, because a little haze hung on the horizon.  The setting sun pinked the building thunderheads to our east, and it was warm, unlike the Chicago weather of frigid temperatures where many tourists were from. Carlos played a quiet melody on his guitar as we moved back to anchor.

Bev and I relaxed on the padded side seats. I held her hand and marveled at how Mexico had filled our lives with Joy.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

You Should Visit Mazunte, Mexico In 2018 Before They Get Too Popular

Mazunte, Mexico

Mexico’s most laid-back coastline is at risk of being Tulum’d The southern coast of Oaxaca is still one of those rare, off-the-beaten-path treasures... for now. Surfers have been flocking to these rugged shores for decades, drawn by the forceful surf, golden sand, rocky inlets, and sleepy fishing village vibes. But the jaws of development are never far behind, as even hideaways like Huatulco and Puerto Escondido begin to get gobbled up by hotel developers, cruise ports, and, ugh, tourists. Still, there remain a few pockets of paradise left to discover. Mazunte, about an hour south of Puerto Escondido, is still on the tipping point between sublimely chill and a Travel & Leisure write-up.

The counterpart to nearby Zipolite (a hippie beach that has been drawing free spirits and nudists since the 60s), Mazunte is heralded for its following of leathery yogis and sun worshippers who love to get off the grid with relatively shallow pockets. Cobalt and teal water touches honey-colored sand, as tattooed, dread-locked surfers and backpackers suck back Pacifico beers underneath shady, thatched palapas. The village is built around two beaches, Playa Rinconcito and Mermejita. But recently, Mazunte was listed as one of Mexico’s heralded Pueblo Magicos, towns that are given governmental distinction based on their character and charm. With that distinction comes the masses looking to escape their fast-paced jobs in search of the perfect vegan burrito. It’s only a matter of time before the luxury boutique hotels and straw fedora’d patrons follow. -- Meagan Drillinger The Thrillist