Monthly Archives: November 2014

Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico – one of my favorite places

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I first visited Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico in 1995 or 1996. Yelapa is a 45 minute boat ride South of Puerto Vallarta. It is a tiny bay, not reachable by highway. I flopped ungracefully off the water taxi onto the quiet beach, saw the thatched restaurants, and jungled mountains rising right behind the bay, and felt, “I like this place.” The friendly people, lack of cars, relaxed vibe, and good food convinced me I really liked it. And I keep on liking it, despite some growth, the coming of electricity (and with it, some noisy radios, some lights at night), a few ATVs, and more tourists. Still, I return year after year, my breath catching and my heart feeling happy when the boat rounds the point and Yelapa comes into view. It’s a little bigger, noisier, and busier, but it is mostly the same place I fell in love with nearly 20 years ago.

During my first visit, my partner and I stayed at Hotel Lagunita, the only “hotel” per se in Yelapa. It is located at one end of the beach and consists of several (15?) thatched huts (palapas), a small pool, and a restaurant. In the 1990s, Yelapa did not have electricity and hot water was provided twice a day by the staff lighting a fire under each palapa’s water heater. Lights were powered by generator. Geckos wandered into your room (note: they still do). Fortunately, the lack of electricity made the town quiet and unattractive to many tourists. Unfortunately, it also made life harder for the folks living in Yelapa — no washing machines, candles and lanterns for light, running anything by generator, propane refrigerators. You get the idea.

Since my first idyllic visit, I have returned many times (10? 12? more?). Yes, I love this place, and my husband does now too. Each year, we stay longer. Since we love it so much, many people ask us about it — why do you like it? Where do you stay? What is there to do? I will do a series of blog posts to tell you, along with providing links to many of the great places we have stayed, some restaurant reviews, excerpts from my years of travel journals and other Yelapa information.

Here’s all I ask — if you go to Yelapa, be a good tourist. Be nice to people. Smile; don’t shout. Don’t leave trash around. Realize you are in a remote place where everything arrives by boat (and trash must leave by boat). The stores might not have everything you want. You might have to “make do.” You might have to wait for your food because someone is actually making it to order! It doesn’t come premade by Sysco. Don’t complain about anything. Instead, eat fresh fish at the great little restaurants, talk to folks, buy pie from the pie lady and handmade local cheese from the guy with the cooler. Sit on the beach with a Pacifico. Try a gondoberry margarita if they are in season. Watch the paragliders, go for a walk, keep track of the bird species you see. Be kind to this special place and the people who live here.

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Holiday cookie memories and Christmas Eve when your family is from Poland

“The holidays” seem to start earlier every year. Before Halloween, you can see Christmas tree decorations and red and green M&Ms edging their way into the stores. My holidays now are generally quite non-traditional. We celebrate the Solstice with a yule log and sometimes a party. We do give gifts at Christmas, nothing elaborate, but still doing our part to help the economy. We have friends over for dinner and go to parties. I bake. And remember what the holidays were like when I was growing up on the South side of Chicago.

I don’t have the kind of holiday memories that you see on Christmas cards or on TV specials. No sleds, ice skates, magical encounters with Santa. Instead, we had the family gatherings of Americans not too far removed from the immigrants who landed at Ellis Island – we had big dinners, unpredictable relatives, drinking, and lots of cookies. Continue reading

Drinking Brunello in Montalcino

Montalcino was a tiny walled city. Evidently, the rich folks from Sienna holed up there during various inter-city wars in the way-back. There is a fortress when you can pay a few Euros to climb up to the walls for an awesome view. The whole focus of the area is on wine — Brunello di Montalcino. Delicious and not cheap (though pretty reasonable there, at the source). They also make a cheaper, less aged Rosso di Montalcino which is quite good as well. We tasted a bunch of great stuff. There ia a wine bar in the fortress itself where you can do tastings. Unlike in the US, they don’t just pour some wine into glasses and say “This is the ’08.” They actually explain each wine — the type of oak used, traditional or modern methods, where the vineyard is on the map, which years were the best vintages and why. Very enjoyable.

Tasting Brunello in Montalcino

Tasting Brunello in Montalcino

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Welcome to Fantasy Island

View from the deckToday, I got in the pool with my snorkel. I have never been a strong swimmer and I need to practice before our upcoming trip to Fantasy Island. Yes, it is really called that. If you are of a certain age, you remember Fantasy Island with Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke, with his tiny assistant, Tattoo, yelling, “The plane! The plane!” The guests would get to live their fantasies, always with a moral to the story. Continue reading