International tourist numbers up 5.5% last year and they spent more, To Mexico

The beach umbrellas are ready for more growth in tourism.The beach umbrellas are ready for more growth in tourism.

International tourist numbers up 5.5% last year and they spent more

There were 41.4 million international tourists and they spent 6% more

The Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur) said in a statement that 41,447,000 foreign tourists visited Mexico in 2018 compared to 39.3 million the year before.

The tourists spent just over US $20.3 billion while here, 6% more than in 2017. Each international tourist spent on average US $490 in the country.

The top 10 source countries for tourists who arrived by air were the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany, France and Peru.

Once daytrippers from the three countries with which Mexico shares a border are added, a total of just under 96.8 million foreign visitors entered the country last year.

That figure represents a 2.6% decline on total visitor numbers in 2017, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).

The 55.3 million daytrippers spent just under US $2.2 billion or an average of $39 each, taking total tourism expenditure to just over $22.5 billion, 5.5% more than 2017.

For this year, Sectur predicts that international numbers could hit 43.6 million, which would represent a 5.2% increase on last year’s figures. Total tourism expenditure is forecast to reach jut under US $23.7 billion, which would also be 5.2% higher than in 2018.

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco Marqués described the outlook in both areas as positive.

Earlier this month, Torruco said that the government is aiming to increase expenditure by tourists in Mexico by focusing more on attracting big spenders.

Among the nationalities that spend the most while visiting Mexico, the Japanese were in first place, spending an average of $2,008, not including airfare.

However, in terms of visitor numbers, Japan was only in 17th place with 140,363 visitors.

Source: Notimex (sp) 

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’.

The tiny island of San Francisquito.The tiny island of San Francisquito. CHRIS LLOYD

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’

Myriad species of marine life, from sea lions to needlefish

Day 1, Los Islotes Island, Baja California Sur

We are anchored at the sea lion rookery of Los Islotes, 1,300 kilometers northwest of Mexico City. I am a guest of my friend Richard Gresham aboard his 51-foot sloop, the good ship God’s Way.

We set out from La Paz for this point early this morning, passing Steven Spielberg’s huge yacht, Seven Seas, along the way. The other two crew members are geologist Chris Lloyd and tarantula expert Rodrigo Orozco.

At the moment, I am the only person on board, as the other three are 29 meters away, hobnobbing with a bunch of very curious sea lion pups they found in a tiny inlet, a hopefully safe distance away from the enormous males sprawled over nearby rocks and creating a great stir with their loud, raucous calls.

“The babies kept nibbling at my fins . . . they nibble at everything, just to see what it is,” Rodrigo Orozco told me later. “They seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.
Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and no wonder. During just a few hours we have spotted parrotfish, butterflyfish, triggerfish, billfish, surgeonfish, groupers, mackerel and sardines. As for birds, we have seen pelicans, cormorants, boobies, sandpipers, great blue herons, ravens and, of course, seagulls.

With reluctance we raise anchor and head for our next destination, La Partida.

“It’s a nice, quiet place with a high, sloping wall that blocks the wind,” says the captain. “You’ll enjoy walking along the shore: it’s just teeming with marine life.”

Although our destination is nice and quiet, getting there is something else because the sea is choppy today. As soon as the engine is turned on, the boat begins to crash over the waves: Bang! Bang! Bang!

Everything inside the cockpit begins first to swing, then to rise and fall. Anything that wasn’t properly stored then slides off whatever surface it was on and crashes to the floor, rolling, bouncing, shattering or splashing in every direction.

Bang! Bang! Bang! As the spray washes over the deck, every window in the boat begins to leak, including the one above my bed.

Pelican at Los Islotes.
Pelican at Los Islotes. CHRIS LLOYD

“Captain! The windows are leaking!”

The reply is barely audible over the commotion of a ship under way: “John, in a boat, everything leaks. Better get used to it.”

With the ship in motion, we crew members now have a choice: stay in the cockpit and get seasick or go on deck and get blasted by icy spray that hits you every time the boat crashes into a wave.

Well, on the deck it’s windy, wet and cold, guaranteeing that if you are up there during phase one you won’t be passing those four hours reading or writing, so I opt for the cockpit and, fortunately, my stomach quickly learns how to adjust to the wild thrashing of the boat.

Then the captain shouts, “Land ho!” The engine is shut off and there is a sudden hush as we glide into the sheltered bay. We have arrived.

God’s Way, my floating home for a week, is owned by “semi-retired” mining engineer Richard Gresham, who says he’s always dreamed of sailing and bought God’s Way from a very religious man living in the Bible Belt “who was no good at repairing anything, so I was able to buy the boat for a song because it was in a terrible state when I got it.

Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.
Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.

But then it cost me a fortune to get it up to where it is today. I bought this sloop with the intention of sailing it through the Panama Canal, up through the Caribbean and on to Boston . . . but projects got in the way and, in the meantime, I fell in love with the Sea of Cortez, which I have toured eight times so far and which I expect to tour several times more, as there is so much to see in this wonderful sea . . . life is good!”

Day 3, San Francisco Island

This island is notable for its high, barren, rocky walls “with a trail going up to the top.” Yesterday we had arrived here through a very choppy sea, but this morning the surface is as smooth as glass and I get what I hope will be a magnificent picture of sunrise — dawn, actually — through my porthole.

After breakfast we find our boat totally surrounded by sardines. The schools swirl like clouds of underwater starlings. Among them we can occasionally see needlefish which are truly long, thin and pointy, at least a foot long.

“They are only dangerous if you happen to get in their way,” I am told. Richard and Chris go snorkeling and once again see an astounding variety of exotic fish.

We raise anchor and glide across the mirror-smooth surface a couple of kilometers to Bahía Amortajada — ”Chopped-up Bay.” Now and again a manta ray leaps into the air alongside the boat.

Happy sailors relaxing.
Happy sailors relaxing. RODRIGO OROZCO

We anchor off a shore covered with a forest of giant cardon cacti, said to be the tallest in the world. Here there is a river filled with mangroves leading to a small lake. We spot a turkey vulture, kingfisher, white ibis, night heron, snowy egret and gulls.

Day 4

We are on our way to San José. This is part of the mainland connected by a long, rough road to La Paz. We drop anchor at a place called Nopaló, where there’s a very rocky beach and an isolated house — from which the wind wafts music to us over the waves. It’s Shakira singing! Binoculars reveal a little girl doing cartwheels to the music, on the porch.

To go ashore, we put on swimsuits, stuff clothing into a dry bag, carefully slide on to plastic “kayaks” that resemble no kayak I have ever seen, and paddle ashore.

We stroll down the beach to the home of Señora León, a jolly lady who immediately says, “Sí sí” when we ask whether she might be able to fry us some fish for which we would be happy to pay her.

While waiting for our dinner, we wander along a path paralleling a rough wall of volcanic rock dotted with shelter caves. The trail takes us to the local cemetery where we find only the graves of people named León, some with very large and impressive tombstones. It seems amazing that generations of the same family have lived in this isolated place.

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    Wandering tattler about to land at Los Islotes. (Photo: Chris Lloyd)
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Setting foot on land reveals that we are no longer landlubbers. The salt cedars along the trail all seem to be swaying — but there’s no wind! And later, when we sit down in Señora León’s kitchen we all remark how curiously the walls are dancing and how amazing it is that nothing is rolling across the table.

Our ebullient hostess serves us a delicious meal of rice, broccoli and truly exquisite fried dorado (mahi mahi). We return to the boat stuffed and happy and spend the night anchored in the same bay.

To be continued

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

Editor’s Note: Roadtrip Otra Vez!

 

 

Editor’s Note: Roadtrip Otra Vez!

This past weekend I took to the road (again) under the guise of research and headed north to the small town of Chacala, the last beach town before you drive into the mountains, on your way to Compostela. It’s a fishing village that has grown in recent years to become a lively tourist destination. On the weekends the beachfront restaurants are packed with families enjoying freshly caught seafood and playing in the surf.

The beach is flat and the gentle waves shallow, perfect for small kids and those who don’t want to get their hair wet. The water is so calm that there are paddleboarders in the bay, even in the later afternoon. A couple of sailboats are moored offshore, and colourful fishing pangas line the pier just off the main beach. It’s ridiculously idyllic. And affordable.

Looking like a scene out of an advertisement for a tropical dream vacation, the palapa roofs and swaying palm trees inspire you to imagine a simpler life. And by the looks of the crowd, there are a fair number of people who have settled in Chacala, at least for the winter, living exactly this life.

If you know me, you know I gauge how much I like a place by how much I want to pack everything and move immediately. I loved Chacala so much I messaged a friend and asked her to help find me a long term rental… maybe this is the big move my horoscope is warning me about.

If you have a chance to visit this village, I highly recommend it. There are many rooms on Airbnb and a dozen or so hotels with rooms that start at $400 pesos for double occupancy (I suggest splurging on the 800 peso rooms). There were vacancies in most places I enquired at, so as long as it’s not a major holiday or a long weekend, you can probably show up and find a room easily. There are plenty of restaurants and a couple of small grocery stores. Pack a bathing suit, and you’re good to go!

Now, if you’re not up for a road trip this weekend, there are plenty of great events happening around the bay including all the live music venues which you can check out here.

This week is also the 8th Annual International Charro Championship in Arena Vallarta. This high-energy 5-day event is the highlight of rodeo aficionados and features some of the best horsemen (and women) from Mexico and the United States. Charro is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and is an intrinsic part of Jalisco and Mexican culture. You can learn more about the events at www.arenavallarta.com. Look for details on how to travel by bus from Vallarta and Nayarit to the arena in these pages.

This past week was the final week of voting for the 2nd Annual Best of Vallarta Reader’s Choice Awards. 1000’s of votes were cast and will now be compiled, and the winners for 2019 will be announced in a couple weeks. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to vote and to read the ‘Best of’ guide we published this month. Copies have been distributed to over 100 points around the bay – be sure to pick up yours before they’re all gone! Stay tuned for more info. Thank you to everyone who has participated this year – it is much appreciated!

Safe travels and giddyup,

Madeline

GRUPO VIDANTA ANNOUNCES NEW LUXURY DEVELOPMENT

GRUPO VIDANTA ANNOUNCES NEW LUXURY DEVELOPMENT

Grupo Vidanta, the leading resort and tourism developer in Mexico and Latin America, announced today the introduction of The Estates, a one-of-its-kind luxury development to debut at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and Vidanta Riviera Maya, two of the company’s seven resort portfolio destinations. Formerly under the name of ‘Jungle Estates,’ The Estates plays a significant role in Grupo Vidanta’s ongoing goal to offer the most exclusive and high-end tourism projects in all Latin America.

With an initial presence in Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and Vidanta Riviera Maya, The Estates will be Vidanta’s -Grupo Vidanta’s luxury vacationing brand- premier resort offering, boasting ultra-luxury opulence thanks to high-end details, plush amenities and lavish vacation experiences. One of the key distinguishing factors of these sumptuous new units is that they offer a private sanctuary designed to honor and reflect the sweeping beauty of the natural landscapes that surround them.

“The introduction of The Estates represents our continued commitment to transforming the hospitality industry and cementing Mexico’s position as one of the world’s premier tourist destinations,” said Iván Chávez, Executive Vice President of Grupo Vidanta. “The Estates are bold and innovative, revolutionizing the concept of luxury, and will go above and beyond in style, personalization, comfort and service, even for the most discerning traveler.”

The Estates will be located in picturesque, nature-filled settings at Nuevo Vallarta and Riviera Maya resorts, and will be available in sumptuous one-, two- and four-bedroom surpassing space configurations. Boasting an indoor-outdoor al fresco design to take full advantage of the breathtaking surrounding landscape at each location, all three of The Estates accommodations will be thoughtfully designed with modern touches while embracing the unique cultures of both coastal destinations. Guests will enjoy spacious living and dining room spaces, elegant spa-inspired bathrooms, secluded terraces and a private outdoor pool and lounge area. Model units will be available for guests to tour later this year.

This spectacular, new class of luxury accommodations perfectly complements the markedly unique and high-end experiences and offerings of both locations, including the renowned Norman Signature Golf Course, Almaverde farm, and Santuario entertainment plaza at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil show, JOYÀ, The Beach Club, and Salum Beachside Eateries and Market at Vidanta Riviera Maya. The Estates will provide an exclusive paradise for those who crave personalized, curated and extravagant travel experiences.

Visit to Vallarta Botanical Garden turns out to be a day to remember

Mexico Life
Vallarta Botanical Garden is 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta.Vallarta Botanical Garden is 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta.

Visit to Vallarta Botanical Garden turns out to be a day to remember

Expat finds a way to make a living in the middle of a jungle

Well, “near here” took six hours to get to, plus six hours back, and I ended up reaching home at midnight, but I must admit the eminent botanist was right: the Vallarta Botanical Garden truly is a must-see, no matter where you find yourself in Mexico. The place is located 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta, along Palms-to-Pines coastal highway 200.

Step out of your car and you’re in the jungle. We were visiting in July and everywhere we went, hundreds of “skippers” fluttered all around us. These, explained a sign in English and Spanish, are Hesperiidae butterflies, smaller than most and given to skipping, flitting, darting and zig-zagging, from which they get their popular name.

Clouds of them danced all around us as we began our tour of the Botanical Gardens, which cover an area of eight hectares, crisscrossed by pathways with exotic names like The Vanilla Trail, Jaguar Trail and Guacamaya Trail, leading to even more exotic-sounding places like The Jungle Overlook, The Swinging Bridge, Tree Fern Grotto, The Garden of Memories and The Giant Strangler Fig Tree.

And everywhere you go, every step of the way, there is lush vegetation: sensuous tropical flowers, bizarre, creeping vines and gargantuan trees which soar to amazing heights in this tropical climate. Here you will find orchids — an amazing multitude of orchids.

There are even orchids that resemble anything but orchids, plus a few that (to our great surprise) exude alluring perfumes. And, of course, there was the tastiest of all orchids, Vanilla planifolia, whose vines grow abundantly there (and you can buy the beans or extract in their store).

One of the 1,901 varieties of Anthurium flowers.
One of the 1,901 varieties of Anthurium flowers.

Here, too, are cocoa pods growing before your very eyes and attached directly to the tree trunk. Each pod holds 20 to 60 seeds, the main ingredient in chocolate. There are also rare cacti of every sort, exotic “Purple Island” waterlilies, red ginger, once exclusively reserved for Hawaiian royalty and such a huge collection of anthuriums that we wondered whether they had found all 1,901 types. Along that line, the gardens have so many thousands of species that no one has even tried to count them.

When you need to take a break in your exploration of the gardens, you can cool off with an exotic drink at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant, which also houses a most impressive Natural History and Cultural Museum.

This amazing project came into being thanks to Robert Price, founder of the botanical gardens, who kindly took time to chat with me at the restaurant over frosty glasses of incredibly refreshing and delicious drinks. One of these contained chaya and chía, while the other was a combination of iced lemon-grass tea, tapioca and ginger, sweetened with agave nectar.

“Some of our visitors suspect we have spiked these two drinks with frog’s eggs,” quipped the curator of these gardens.

Robert Price, who was born in Savannah, Georgia, told me he came to Puerto Vallarta in 2004, planning to stay for only six months. Fortunately for us and for Mexico, someone knocked on Price’s door one day, selling orchids. “Those orchids were absolutely incredible: gorgeous,” says Price, “and I asked the man where he had found them. ‘In the mountains,’ he told me . . . and eventually he brought me to this very place. I took one look and said to myself, ‘This is where I want to stay!’”

Now all Price needed to do was figure out how to make a living in the middle of a jungle. “Well,” he says, “I noticed there were no botanical gardens along the coast and that seemed surprising to me. But I love nature and the idea of starting my own botanical garden came into my head. So, I researched the internet to find out how to do it. And this is the result. I think this is what I was sent here to do.”

Exotic “Purple Island” water lilies.
Exotic “Purple Island” water lilies.

By chance a friend of mine just returned from a visit to the garden. I asked Susan Street for her impressions.

“It took some doing,” she told me, “to convince my sons, their father and their girlfriends to abandon the beaches of Puerto Vallarta long enough to try something new: a visit to the Vallarta Botanical Garden, which turned out to be a 40-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta’s downtown area. We only spent a few hours there, but boy did we wish we could have gone back the following day!

“There are so many trails to follow, plants and trees to admire and delicious food to devour! Each of us wanted to spend quality time in specific parts of the garden, but instead we stuck together and took it all in as a group. The bougainvillea were gorgeous, the vanilla plants all budding, the variety of cacti mind-boggling!

“We topped everything off, of course, with lunch at the Hacienda de Oro restaurant. We devoured scrumptious fish and shrimp tacos while sipping on vanilla and raspberry mojitos.

Then, wonderful organic coffee topped everything off as we awarded ourselves with more wandering through the gift shop, purchasing bamboo straws, cacao products and vanilla extract, in addition to a free dark-chocolate bar given to us upon presenting a coupon clipped from the visitors’ guide. A day to remember, and a visit I can’t stop recommending to friends.”

Another visitor went on a tour of the place with Leonardo, their botanist, and claimed it was the highlight of her stay in Puerto Vallarta, “the best botanical gardens guided tour we experienced — ever!”

Vallarta Botanical Garden

So I hope by now you will agree with me that this amazing place is well worth a visit, even if it requires a 12-hour detour!

• Vallarta Botanical Garden is a non-profit, charitable organization “dedicated to those who work to preserve the beauty of the Earth, and who labor to teach others the value and wonder of their environment.” According to its website it’s open daily, 10:00 to 6:00, but closed on Mondays from April to October. The entrance fee is 200 pesos per person, kids four and under free. The telephone number is (322) 223-6182.

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    A visitor cools off: “This is where I want to stay!” Photo: Susan Street
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The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

CHRISTMAS POSADAS AND MEXICAN “ANTOJITOS”

CHRISTMAS POSADAS AND MEXICAN “ANTOJITOS”

By  Vallarta Lifestyles

Dec. 11, 2018
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The holiday season is one of the most anticipated of the year. The city boasts a special atmosphere with Christmas decorations and traditional festivities begin to take place, where the most important thing is gathering with family and friends.
One of such celebrations is the posadas, celebrated all over Mexico and also in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The Catholic tradition recounts Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as they were looking for a lodging to give birth to Jesus.

Although posadas are officially celebrated December 16 – 24, many begin organizing them earlier in December and sometimes into January, given the sometimes hectic pace of the season in general—the latter are sometimes referred to as “post-posadas.”

Nobody wants to feel out of place during an important celebration, particularly our foreign visitors that choose to spend the Winter holiday season in Puerto Vallarta or Riviera Nayarit. To that effect, we are happy to share a brief overview of this time-honored tradition, so you can join your local friends in celebration.

 

Origin

Posadas in Mexico can be traced back to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the late 1400s. Previous to their arrival, the Aztecs held the belief that Quetzalcóatl, one of their deities, came to visit them during the winter solstice. As such, the season was full of joyful sacred celebrations. With time, as both cultures began merging, native cultures began assimilating Christmas as a celebration of their own.

Tradition

Each one of the nine days preceding Christmas Day has a unique significance: happiness, charity, confidence, detachment, strength, generosity, humility, justice and purity. At first, posadas were organized at church atriums and, through time, were extended to the streets, where people gathered joyfully to be part of the processions. People sang and dance, increasingly cheering as the event began. In this fashion, the religious aspect of the celebration fused with the mundane, resulting in a unique mixture of fun and devotion that, in time, transformed the Mexican posadas into one of the most beautiful and unique celebrations in the world.

 

Elements

Not all modern families observe the traditions mentioned previously, a trend that seems to be on the rise in recent years. Some posadas have become elegant parties in which the original meaning behind the celebration is long forgotten. Nevertheless, maintaining this tradition alive is quite important to many, particularly in remote neighborhoods and villages, where the entire community pitches in to organize a big celebration, delegating all the necessary elements among them to make sure it is a complete success. Here are some of the elements you should take into account, should you wish to organize a traditional posada for your family and friends:

  • Pilgrims (guests that perform this role, that is)
  • Posada lyrics (which can be found online)
  • Paper lamps and/or paper cutouts (found at office supply shops)
  • Candles
  • Seasonal candies
  • Whistles
  • Wicker baskets
  • Piñata (plus a stick to break it and a bandana to cover one’s eyes while doing so)
  • String to tie the piñata
  • Shelled peanuts and fruit (tangerines, limes, tejocotes and sugar cane)
  • Sparklers
  • Christmas music
  • One gift bag per person
  • Food and beverages (keep reading to a closer look at traditional, seasonal options)

Keep in mind: If you wish to purchase all of the above on your own, a visit to El Pitillal is a must. This Puerto Vallarta neighborhood is well known as the best source of everything you will need to organize your traditional Mexican festivity.

Procedure

Although the celebration can variate from region to region within Mexico, the following steps are basic to celebrate an authentic Mexican posada:

  1. Your home must be adorned with paper pampa and/or paper cutouts. Holiday music should be playing as you welcome your guests.
  1. To begin the procession, the guests performing the role of pilgrims must stand outside the residence door, chanting the traditional verses (asking for lodging). The hosts remain inside to answer the request, eventually welcoming the travelers.
  2. When the procession is over and once inside, candy and whistles are distributed among all present.
  3. The breaking of the piñata is the most anticipated moment. The order, time and number of attempts to break it is usually determined by the hosts.
  4. Once the piñata is broken, sparklers are distributed and lit.
  5. The gift bags and a fruit portion are distributed among all present.
  6. To wrap up the celebration, traditional food (such as tamales, buñuelos and a glass of atole) is distributed for all to enjoy.

 

The Piñata and its Significance
Traditional piñatas used in posadas are made with a clay cooking pot at their core, along with old newspapers and tissue papers in different colors. The entire pot is covered and decorated using homemade glue (made by combining water and flour). Its inside contains fruits, candy and other treats.

Although piñatas are known to have originated in China, Mexico had a similar tradition among the Aztec, who used them to celebrate Huitzilopochtli, another deity. The tradition called for priests to hang clay pots with corn on the cob and precious stones, decorated with colorful feathers. Upon breaking them, the treasures within them became offerings for their god.

On the other hand, religion tradition calls for a piñata to be made in the shape of a seven-point star, each point representing a cardinal sin: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Lively colors seduce innocent souls encouraging them to sin. When it is time to break the piñata, the eyes are blinded to be solely guided by faith. The person hitting the piñata represents a believer who triumphs over sin and obtains salvation or assorted blessings (the fruits and candy falling from the piñata).

 

Traditional “Antojitos” for Posadas and Christmas

Buñuelos
There is no better pairing for warming up the winter than hot chocolate and a delicious buñuelo. It is a circle-shaped, fried dough dessert coated in piloncillo honey (an artisanal sugar) and cinnamon, resulting in a sweet, crispy treat that is a favorite among children.

 

Christmas Salad
This very traditional holiday salad is a good choice to serve. Its recipe is quick and easy: cut several apples in small slices and add them to a bowl with cream and condensed milk. Then add raisins, chopped pineapple canned in syrup, celery and chopped nuts. You will notice the colors of these ingredients are representative of Christmas, which is probably the reason why this particular salad is so popular this time of year. If you add a touch of sugar, the salad can be enjoyed as dessert, paired with a good wine.

 

Tamales
One of the most renowned Mexican dishes is also important during Christmas celebrations throughout the country. Its special flavor and time-honored tradition have made this dish a staple at almost every national holiday or commemoration. They are made from corn masa and feature tasty fillings, such as mole, rajas (Poblano pepper with cheese), cheese and shredded chicken prepared in green or red salsa. There are also sweet tamales featuring flavors such as strawberry, corn, pineapple, raisins and chocolate, so you can choose to serve and enjoy them as main course or dessert.

 

Atole
This is the perfect beverage to pair with tamales, so if you are considering the aforementioned dish, we recommend to add atole to your menu list. This hot drink is made from corn dough, water, milk, sugar and vanilla. Among the most common atole flavors are coconut, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and guava. An interesting atole variant, called champurrado, consist of a chocolate beverage sweetened with piloncillo and cinnamon.

Ponche
This sweet fruit infusion is for many the most delicious beverage of the season. Unlike atole, a thick beverage, it is as light as tea. Its primary ingredient is tejocote—a small, bittersweet fruit that is very difficult to find outside of Mexico—and it also features orange, raisins, guava and cinnamon. It is served hot and its sweet flavor makes it one of the most popular beverages to pair with any Christmas dish.

Finding Your Happy: Five Steps to a Balanced Life

Finding Your Happy: Five Steps to a Balanced Life

Who knew a balanced life is a sole secret to happiness?  Let me share some of my insights into this secret that I have recently discovered.  I was anticipating my 50 birthday with such excitement, convincing myself that life was perfect, the party was being planned, the summer vacation floating around in my head. That was about to shift unexpectedly and what I did not know was that life had decided to give me a few unexpected gifts. These gifts made me stop in my tracks, go deeper and look within. Only when I began to look inward, I began to walk down the path of self-discovery, an unexpected journey for me. I hope my sharing with you will enhance the happiness within your life.

Numero Uno: Your health. When you are moving and shaking all the time, something has to give, that is a guarantee. You must shift the gears of your life down to enjoy the journey. I likened my life to a car that was placed in park with the accelerator pressed to the mat, revved and ready to go, at all times. This is exhausting, it is essential that we slow it down, put it into park, get out of the car, go sit your butt in the sand, breathe, get present and rest.

Numero Dos: Are your ducks in order? Do you know your own affairs, are you in the driver’s seat of your own life? Can someone or something pull the rug out from under you? Could that cause a tsunami in your life? If so change things up pronto! You MUST be plugged into your own life, relying solely on someone else is a sure disaster for an unexpected moment. Knowledge is power. Get hold of the day to day operations of your life. It is a big fat deal!

Numero Tres: Do you know who you are? Do you really get what makes you tick, are you being your authentic self, walking your own journey? Are you a chronic people pleaser?   What is not nice is when you are not kind to yourself and putting yourself on the back burner. Get quiet, listen deeply, some of your beautiful truths will just start flowing out of you. Being authentic is the new sexy and you wear it well.

Numero Quatro: Do you like where you live? Have you made your home your sanctuary? Have you discovered enough of the world to really get that you are in your right and perfect place?  Find your sweet spot where you park your life, it makes everything fall into place.

Numero Cinco: Your tribe. This is a biggie, I think and talk about this a lot. It’s when the rubber hits the road that you really get this one. Your tribe is the ones who circle around you when things go South. They are your lifeline when you can’t quite breathe on your own. This is huge,  dig deep and look at this one.

Grab onto your life, hold on tight, make sure the ride is worth taking and get real, be present and enjoy your glorious journey, you deserve this and so much more.

Homework: Do you know where all your vital documents are that have a direct impact in your life? Do you have a will? Get this done this week.

RAICILLA WILL RECEIVE DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN IN JALISCO

Producers of raicilla, brandy made 100 percent of agave, seeks the Designation of Origin of this traditional drink of Jalisco and foresees the recognition being issued by February.

At a press conference, the president of the Mexican Council Promoter of the Raicilla (CMPR), Alfredo Cachua reported that they are about to get the certification with which Jalisco will boast its third designation of origin, after tequila and chile yahualica.

“In short the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) will give us the designation of origin of the Raicilla, a drink based on different varieties of agave from artisanal production that little by little has been accommodating in the taste of the people”, he commented.

He indicated that they contemplate that the denomination of origin of the Raicilla will be published in February in the Official Gazette of the Federation.

As of that date, he said, two months will be given for appeals from a possible third party, if not, 16 municipalities of Jalisco and Bahía de Banderas, in Nayarit, will be considered as the exclusive zone where Raicilla may be produced.

He explained that in Jalisco the denomination of origin covers 13 municipalities of the Sierra de Occidente and Sierra de Amula, as well as three coastal areas.

“The municipalities are Atengo, Ayutla, Cabo Corrientes, Chiquilistlan, Juchitlan, Puerto Vallarta, Tecolotlan, Tenamaxtlan, Tomatlan, Atenguillo, Cuautla, Guachinango, Mascota, Mixtlan, San Sebastian del Oeste and Talpa,” he said.

At the same time the producers of raicilla are writing what could be the Official Mexican Standard (NOM) for this drink, where the minimum and maximum alcohol levels will be established, the type of agaves that may be used (Maximiliana, Verde y Valenciana ).

“Parallel work is done not in the domestication of the plant, but in conditioning natural areas so that the plant follows its natural process, since the idea is to remain as a craft drink,” he said.

There are currently 25 brands of raicilla produced by 70 producers, this industry benefits at least 350 families directly involved in the production of this drink.

“This could be multiplied once the recognition by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property is obtained, the approval of the Chamber of Deputies and its publication in the official newspaper of the Federation,” he said.

Alfredo Cachúa announced the celebration of the eleventh Festival de la Raicilla in the municipality of Mascota, on November 24 and 25, where a series of activities are planned to celebrate this drink every year.

“You can taste products of the region, handicrafts exhibition and of course the main attraction is to taste the Raicilla and some of the pairing of this noble drink,” he said.

Among other activities, he cited that in the main square of this municipality will be the Cultural Artistic Festival and the exhibition of handicrafts the different brands of raicilla that will be present to receive the visitor with the best in these products.

There will be a cocktail contest based on Raicilla, and on Sunday, November 25, activities begin at an early hour with a bicycle ride along the Ruta de la Raicilla, with the intention of visiting some of the main points of interest in the production and preparation of this product.

At noon, visits continue along the route of the raicilla by horse and visit the town of Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla, leaving the municipal seat of Mascota.

You will visit the plantation of agave lechuguilla and the Clemente Quintero Tavern, to have an aperitif and go to the main square of Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla to share a meal.

In the evening the artistic events will continue and to close in a bohemian and family way there will be a Callejoneada by the main arteries of Mascota.

“One of the main objectives that the Raicilla Festival will cover on this occasion will be the homage to master raicilleros who, with their work, perpetuate this artisanal and centennial tradition so that this product can be maintained with quality controls and standards,” he said.

DATES OF SOUTH SIDE SHUFFLE PRESENTED

This Friday, November 16, 2018, and until the first week of April 2019, the South Side Shuffle returns to enliven Basilio Badillo Street in Puerto Vallarta.

Now in its ninth year, this event offers residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy an incredible combination of culture, food, cocktails, warm lighting and decorations, as well as live music and an artistic atmosphere, all from 6 to 10 pm.

The South Side Shuffle is a chance to explore and learn about what each shop, jewelry store and gallery on Basilio Badillo Street in Puerto Vallarta’s vibrant Romantic Zone has to offer.

This tour is like a party, with performances by some of the most popular local musicians.

 

Dates of the South Side Shuffle

  • November 16 and 30, 2018
  • December 14 and 28, 2018
  • January 11 and 25, 2019
  • February 8 and 22, 2019
  • March 8 and 22, 2019
  • April 5, 2019

 

To learn more details and keep up-to-date, visit facebook.com/SouthSideShuffleBB.

THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH MICHEL GIGLIA AT INCANTO

Incanto will offer a delectable traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in two seatings, 6pm or 8pm on Nov. 22, featuring live music by French vocalist Michel Giglia and pianist Dennis Crow.

Michel’s velvety smooth vocals are charming audiences every Thursday (5-7pm) with romantic French and Latin classics in a contemporary style.

Dinner reservations are required. A full menu and online tickets are available at their website IncantoVallarta.com.

You can also give thanks for a new show of Naked Boys Singing! added at Incanto.

Fun, Sassy, Clever, Witty!

Six talented young Latino actors sing and dance their way into your heart completely naked in this enduring musical comedy that is currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary off-Broadway.

“Fun show, great voices, going back for more!” – Bob Scarano

Presented in English. Now playing with an added show on Thanksgiving Nov. 22 at 8 pm.

Also happening at Incanto

Cheko Ruiz presents ‘The Music of The Gipsy Kings and More!’ on Sundays, now at 9:30pm. Featuring many of Vallarta’s premier musicians including singer-songwriter Zoe Wood and percussionist Danny ‘Choy’ Renteria. They have added a new horn section and several more musicians for an even more incredible music experience! Reserve online today.

Singer, author, storyteller, Lady Zen’s all-new show ‘Songs I Want To Sing’ is garnering rave reviews! Featuring many of her personal favorite covers and originals, including music by artists Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sade, and Aretha Franklin, in what quickly becomes more of a spiritual journey than just a concert. Now playing through Dec. 21.

Vocalist Hannah Brady is now singing in the theatre featuring classic jazz, swing, and a dash of Broadway in ‘A Golden Era Evening’. Familiar favorites include I’ll Be Seeing You, Lost and Found, People, and a few other musical comedy gems. Accompanied by Andreas Piedra on piano. Saturdays at 7pm. Added performance Dec. 1, 7pm.

Popular local band Tatewari will celebrate their 12th Anniversary together with a special new CD release concert at Incanto on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7pm. Beautiful Latin flamenco instrumentals that have become an integral part of the Vallarta music experience. Reserve online or visit Incanto’s box office. Early reservations are recommended.

In the Piano Bar

Singer-songwriters Joby Hernandez and Tongo have joined for their new duo show on Mondays at 5pm. Both incredible talents, they play live and sing in English and Spanish.

Singer-songwriters Zoe Wood and Eduardo León play Nuevo Flamenco, jazz, swing, and Latin covers and originals with Danny ‘Choy’ Renteria on percussion and Special Guest, Pepe Galvan, on bass. Mondays at 7:30pm.

Singer-songwriter Edgar Roxha sings in English and Spanish and plays in a mellow style. perfect for relaxing with your favorite cocktail. Tuesdays at 5pm. Happy Hour 4-6pm.

The ‘Blue Knote Jazz Duet’ features seasoned band members Jorge Hernandez (The Zippers) on guitar and vocalist Chris Watters. They have received great reviews! Jazz/Bossa Nova, Tuesdays at 7pm.

Pianist Jean-Guy Comeau (‘Jay-Gee’) plays French, Latin and American favorites in ‘Totally Romantico’. Wednesdays from 5-7pm.

‘The Red Suitcases’ band plays Latin favorites and American classic rock/pop covers in English and Spanish. Sundays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm.

Pianist Dennis Crow plays standards and show-tunes nightly at 9:30pm (except Thursdays). Join him around the piano and sing along to your favorites!

Open Mic is on Thursdays at 7:30pm hosted by Tracy Parks and Joby Hernandez. Sing, dance, the stage is yours! No cover. Arrive early to sign up.

The Joan Houston Show, Fridays at 5pm with Bob Bruneau at the piano. Familiar favorites from ‘The Great American Songbook’ and lots of laughs.

Award-winning vocalist Luis Villanueva sings Latin and American pop/standards in English and Spanish accompanied by Fernando Uribe at the piano. Fridays at 7:30pm.

Bingo with Pearl is on Saturdays at 4pm. Great prizes including show tickets and cash, drink specials and live entertainment. Special Guests Lydia Damato and Jacqui Birchall will host on Nov. 24 while Pearl spends time in Tuna for Thanksgiving. Loteria is held on the third Saturday of the month with a variety of guest hosts.

George Gracia is a local singer-songwriter known for his brilliant acoustic guitar music featuring soul, pop, and blues. Sundays at 5pm.

Salsa Dancing/Lessons are on held on Sundays and Wednesdays at 8pm (upper outdoor terrace) with professional instructor Francisco Ledezma. Lessons are free with your food/drink purchase. Beginners welcome.

Hours 4-11:30pm daily. Happy Hour with 2×1 house cocktails and beer 4-6pm. For more information and online tickets visit Incanto’s all-new website, www.IncantoVallarta.com Casual dining is available on two riverside terraces and in the air-conditioned piano bar. Contact them at Incantopv@gmail.com or call 322 223 9756 for reservations. Located at Insurgentes 109 (at the Rio Cuale).