Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Car's Here!

Drove my car from LA to PV and now I have wheels! Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! I don't think my car likes driving on the cobblestone streets downtown but I can mostly avoid them. First trip by myself was to Costco. I have since ventured out a little more.

Friends are beginning to return for "the season". I've been spending a lot of time in the USA but hope that I can look forward to more time here. Have my first guests arriving soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

San Sebastian Trip



After some really rainy times it seems like the rainy season now isn't so rainy (try saying that three times).

Yesterday I made my first trip out of PV. Went with John and Colin to San Sebastian, a beautiful mountain town about 2 hours from PV. It was like stepping back in time--we felt like we were in an old western movie. Weather was perfect. We went to a hacienda that had been used during the time of the silver mines in Mexico. John Huston was a frequent guest there and even had his own special room. No electricity so when one stays there there are gas lamps for your room, plus a fireplace. The hacienda was simple in a very elegant way (does that make sense?). There are three rooms that can be rented for guests. A new friends' son is the owner/caretaker. I am already planning to go back as soon as possible. The various fruits and vegetables that are grown there (along with the coffee plantation) have to be seen to be believed--a garden of eden.

Also went into town and visited a coffee plantation (of course had to buy some freshly roasted dark coffee).

I'm finding that having a car is becoming more of a necessity here. Colin has been great in driving me around when we go places together. Otherwise I walk into old town if the weather is cool (mornings) or I take a bus. Colin will join me in California and we will drive my Lexus back to PV. This will certainly be an adventure!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I HATE THE HUMIDITY

Yesterday was just like living in a sauna...hot, hot, hot and high, high, high humidity. Glad there is AC here. After a nice lunch (with AC thank you very much!) Colin and I went on a walk around old town looking for some bowls for the soon-to-be-purchased fish for my condo. The humidity finally got to me. When I finally returned home jumped in the shower, turned on the AC in each room and spent the rest of the afternoon under a fan.

Unfortunately it still does't look like rain is coming--it's sunny (who knew that would be a bad thing). Once we get a nice rain we are good for quite awhile.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Page in the Sun

Have been meaning to go to A Page in the Sun since I moved here but somehow never got there. Today I was determined to finally go there and it was exactly what I expected. Cozy, comfortable couches plus outdoor seating for people watching (which is great on Cal. Olas Altas in the Zona Romantica). Had a lovely latte and cheesecake and found a new book to read, bought it and will return it for 1/2 price credit when I finish it.

I've found days here (at least in the summer) are lazy and quiet. Hanging out at a used bookstore/cafe is just the thing to do on these hot humid days. After a nice quiet read I wandered around the area discovering new places and headed to Rizzo's grocery store that carries lots of American brands which are expensive here. Bought some supplies and headed home for a nap and to continue my reading.

All in all, kind of boring post to the blog for now (but boring is a good thing for me now) :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How cool is this?

I just learned that the Security Team for my building (they are on duty 24/7) has a trained paramedic here all the time! The one thing that has worried me is if I should have an emergency or need a doctor suddenly what I would do (have the concierge call a cab?).The paramedic, Hugo, came by to meet me. I also learned that a room is being planned for the paramedics use with emergency equipment on premises. Since 90% of the owners are English speaking all employees are supposed to speak English (all Security Team members speak English but many of the service people are still learning)

One of the ladies I met Tuesday night gave me the name of the best hospital to use if I have an emergency.

Of course, I will continue using my own doctors in Los Angeles for my tests, etc, but it's nice to know there is help only a call away (I just press the blue button on the intercom). Happy dance time again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot

They say summers in PV are like living in a steam bath and today I think what they say is true. I shut myself in my bedroom and turned on the zone AC tonight and I am finally cooling down. I'm told the electric bills in the summer are really high. Since they only come every other month I am expecting a shock....hope not since I do have the zone type AC and I have fans in every room...at night I set the AC to turn off after an hour and turn the fan on...I am asleep by the time the AC turns off and the fan is nice...more on that later....

Went to the orphanage to volunteer (something I had done several years ago). Had a great tour of the place (thank you Bill) but their were no babies to play with and feed this time around. I still plan to volunteer but this may take place later in the year. Will look for something to volunteer for in the meantime (maybe the American library--will check that out next week). Volunteering is good for your health (and soul) according to a book I recently read. (oh, and you're supposed to eat lots of fruits and vegetables along with doing physical activity...check on all counts)

During the summer lots of folks are gone so those who stay here year round are really special. I was lucky enough to have Colin and Bill accompany me today and after our orphanage visit Bill took us out to a lunch at Coco's (finally met Coco too--nice lady who has discovered some kind of patch that you put on your body and it keeps mosquitos off--only problem is that you have to go to Guadalajara to get them...she's going to bring some back). Coco's is a lovely outdoor cafe with trees all around. Since Bill lives on my side of town he took me home and we had a great chat about life, books and more (thank you Bill for the great conversation).

There is an expat group that gets together every other Tuesday for conversation and drinks. We've been going to the Cheeky Monkey right across from the Malacon but they are closing for a month so next get together will be at Harry's Bar (don't they seem to have a Harry's Bar everywhere--Venice, Hong Kong, etc?). Margaritas at Cheeky Monkeys are $1.00 USD and last night they gave everyone a beautiful fruit gift basket...all wrapped up with a ribbon and cellophane and a nice note thanking us for coming. Last night the crowd was smaller and it wasn't as hot (maybe 60 folks--the time before the count was about 120!). Met some nice new folks and some people I'd already met. Nice stroll along the bay afterward--something I haven't done since I got here and that is a shame because it is so colorful and charming (folks selling candy apples, cotton candy, balloons, corn on a stick, purses made out of gum wrappers...artists creating...performers doing their thing...great way to spend the hour before sunset)

Back to the expat group: One lady I met was originally from Sacramento (yay! Northern California!). She gave me lots of into about good dentists, doctors, services and more...I've been lucky to meet really nice people who have been great about sharing their 'finds' in PV.

Now back to: Today I learned that in the fall I can expect some expats and/or the International Friendship Club to charter a bus to Guadalajara for an overnight shopping trip. Although I still need some furniture I am waiting until the fall when I can do the shopping trip--the prices are lower there for furniture, art work, miscellaneous things and their are folks that can create things from photographs (so I'll be cutting up some of my design magazines)... PV has most things one would want and it's not worth schleping some things from the states which was the case when I first started thinking about moving here(dehumidifiers used to be impossible to get here and now they are easy to find--same with some other items). Will write more about this after I've had a chance to do more research.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Connected At Last

I have wireless internet which means I now have my Vonage phone connected and those of you who have been waiting to call me can call my 'old' Los Angeles number and not pay for calling Mexico (hooray!!!).

As soon as I initiallly got everything connected we had a big storm and the wireless part of my modem stopped working. I could be connected via an ethernet cable but that involved me bending like a pretzel to use it. First I had to spend time with a customer service representative via my Mexican phone and he had to indicate on my file that my wireless wasn't working so that I could exchange it for a new one...but I had to wait until the next day to return the modem (don't know why but that's the Telmex I'm growing to know and love)....So...another trip to the Plaza (I'm going to miss hanging out there so often). Brought the new modem home and, bingo! Everything is working (so far). We had a big storm last night with lightning and thunder and the wireless is still working so I have hopes that I won't be visiting Telmex too soon.

Some things I've been doing lately: swimming, Ex-Pat party (every two weeks at the Cheeky Monkey but I heard it's going to change to a new place in August as they close down until 'the season' begins again), meet-the-artist opening, writers group at the International Friendship Club building, shopping at Costco, napping and reading.

Next week I am volunteering at the orphanage--I did this a few years ago and loved it. Volunteers go for a couple of hours and play with the babies (those than can't walk yet) for awhile and feed them their lunch. Once this is done they all go to their cribs and have their naps and we leave.

I've also heard that there is a weekly charity bingo game so may (or may not) go to that.

Otherwise it's pretty quiet here. Of the 80 units there are only about 3 or 4 full time owners in residence (and I know one is on vacation). On weekends a few owners come in for a 2, 3 or 4 days. I am beginning to like the privacy and luxury of having the pool almost always to myself and having a huge permanent staff to take care of me (they carry my groceries or package for me, call taxi's, dump my trash, etc. I have a hunch things will begin to change around September when those who come for 'the season' return to PV.

If you are reading my blog please subscribe (it's free) so that I will know who's following it--thanks and hugs!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Latest

I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to get internet in my home (and the phone that comes with it--it's a 'deal'). I have made numerous trips to Plaza Caracol where Telmex is located--they are the one having the monopoly on telephone service in PV. I've gone a few times on my own and, most recently, with a new friend, Colin. I have had continual assurances that I was a) getting it within a few days b) getting it that day or the next and c) getting it within hours.
None of these have come to pass and I am still making daily treks to the lobby to use their free internet.

Each time I go to Telmex and present my order for service the person disappears behind a door and comes out with a message from the Manager (see a, b, c above). The time prior to yesterday the actual Manager came out to tell me I would have service at 5pm that night (NOT). Yesterday Colin and I went there again and this time the 'Manager of their Manager' was contacted and apparently due something I do not know about they have a line problem that they must fix prior to doing an installation for me. I will wait until next week and perhaps something will happen...

That is the biggest challenge of my time here which isn't bad as each trip to the Plaza means I can pick up items that I've forgotten or didn't realize I needed.

My favorite 'find' of the week is the Yalapa Pie Store. Yalapa is a beach that can only be reached by boat from PV. There is a famouse pie store there but I have been too lazy to go there just for a piece of pie. Imagine my surprise and thrill when I saw a sign across from Rizzo's grocery store that said "Yalapa Pies". The pies are beyond fabulous. I had a lemon meringue with the meringue at least 5" high! I mentioned this to my neighbors and the next morning one of them appeared at my door thanking me for the suggestion--he also presented me with a piece of coconut pie (not the coconut cream like we see in the USA but with lots of shredded coconut). Actually writing this is making me hungry and I'd like to try another version. I think I'll take a swim and then head for the pie shop. Adios for now, J.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why I Love PV

With the hot humid days it's easy to say it's too darn hot and for awhile think the reasons to love PV aren't as many as I had earlier (although after spending time in cold, rainy Los Angeles this week I have to rethink the too hot part).

Cost of living is higher in PV than it used to be and higher than in many other parts of Mexico--mostly because it is a tourist destination (or was until the swine flu news and/or the economy kept/keeps tourists away in droves), but, in general it has a lower costs of living than in the US. Below are some recent costs (rule of thumb is what you spend for 2 bags of groceries in the USA buys you 4 in PV):

Cable TV-- $25 a month (I am sharing a dish with one other person, when we add two more neighbors the cost will be $12.50 each per month--150+ channels including main channels from the USA)

Fruit--huge papaya, huge sweet pineapple 80 cent each 2 breakfasts from each

Other groceries: big box of corn flakes $1.50, dz eggs $1, qt fruit juice $1, qt milk .90 cents, loaf bread 80 cents.

Love the goat cheddar I found last week...will be going back for more of that ($4 for a big chunk)

I shop at Costco, WalMart and Soriana

No deposit on cans or bottles but everyone is required to recycle

Dining out: Can be about the same as here for Starbucks, Outback Steak House and gourmet places. I found a great little bistro that has a prix fixe menu for 55 pesos every night (that's $4 USD!!!)--last meal I had there was a great salad and a beef in a chocolate/chile sauce plus veggies--it was delicious

Bar drinks.. happy hour seems to be ubiquitous...from 12 noon to approximately 7pm depending on where you go...2 drinks for $4 seems to be average (love the mojitos at Jacks Fish House--they are 'to die for' with fresh mint and fruits...lots of choices and Jack makes great fish & chips...he comes San Francisco where he had restaurants...Friday night is All You Can Eat Fish & Chips for approximately $10)

Movies: Wednesday night all theaters cost $3 per ticket...most are first run. English with Spanish subtitles

Other things I like: No daylight savings so the sunset is around 8:30 or 9:00pm now. A Pirate ship comes in to the bay my condo faces around sunset and shoots off fireworks nightly (also they feature them downtown too which I can also see from my place), very friendly people, Art Walks of all the galleries on Wednesdays during 'The Season', can leave my trash outside my door (except Sundays) and someone picks it up within the hour (this is just at my condo..don't know about other places...I do have a garbage disposal)

That's it for now....more later....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More...

Another beautiful day in Paradise! No sign of swine flu here but they do check your temperature when you arrive via some sort of camera thing. Food servers all wear masks just-in-case.

Played Mah Jongg overlooking the bay at the Lindo Mar Bar/Restaurant which is just down the street from my condo--Fantastic view and right on the beach--life doesn't get any better than that! Since I am staying on the other side of town this week it was a real schlep to get there but once I move in to my condo it will be so easy to get to my weekly mah jongg game.

Did my final walk through today and in just two days they had fixed the things I had wanted changed (microwave with a plug now is in a cabinet so it doesn't show), full sized washer and dryer instead of stackable ones, a couple of touch ups on paint.

My furniture is now in PV and will be delivered and installed (picture hanging, etc) next week. I'm expecting to get my keys in the next few days and already have a new key chain ready for them. The builder put in locks on several cabinets and also made the laundry room lockable so that I can lock up items if I should ever trade or rent out my place (nice touch).

Tomorrow I am taking a day off to relax, swim and read a book. I know I said I was doing 'tasks' on Thursday but I changed my mind. I'll do those things on Friday instead...or maybe on Monday or Tuesday...things are a little slower here in Mexico.

Still loving it here...already have one visitor reserving for early November...hope to have more visitors...J.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here at Last!

On May 16 I boarded an Alaska Airline flight for my trip to PV to finally move in to my condo. On Monday I did my walk through and was pleased that there wasn't much to be changed (The microwave had been left on the counter instead of put in a cabinet and the plug needed to be moved into the cabinet--a natural mistake by the workers since I had changed the configuration of my kitchen and they were following the 'usual' configuration where it would be mounted under a cabinet).

Judith and Lee, some PV friends, came along to check the water, plugs etc (Lee is very, very knowledgable about these things). It was great to hear from Lee that all the plugs worked and that the hot and cold water faucets were on the right sides (not always the case).

Tomorrow I will check the corrections (after my Mah Jongg game) and arrange for taking possession. Hopefully my furniture will arrive before I am ready to move in.

I've set up my TV but am going to buy a HD box from Canada as the cost of the receiver here is crazy! So for now I will still be without TV until I get a receiver from Canada/eBay. Here you can share the monthly charge with 4 other people so the montly charge is pretty reasonable.

Thursday I am working on getting my wireless internet, a mattress (the one I was getting from my friend got wet and moldy) so even if my furniture doesn't arrive I will have a bed :-)

I've only been here a few days and am happy I did not buy out here in Nuevo Vallarta--it's just too far from the places I go to although it is beautiful. I had drinks with one of my neighbors and met her local friends. I've also found really helpful locals everywhere I've been. I've got a Soriana card (it's a supermarket card like Safeway has that gives you points and then you can get free stuff)so I am feeling very local already even though I am still a 'newbie'.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finally Moving

Well...it's been a l-o-n-g time but the place is done. Tomorrow my movers arrive. They will pick up the furniture in my apartment and then in a few weeks will stop by Giacomo's storage place to get the rest.

I will be staying with Oliver in L.A. for a couple of days and then will return to San Jose to see my sister through her treatments. Must physically be in PV on May 1 to close escrow or whatever they call it in Mexico (it's a bank trust).

Oliver helped me pack up a lot of things today and I am exhausted. I don't know how I would have done this without him. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Price of Margarita's in P.V.

Way down in my blog I wrote about Laurel's question about the price of Margaritas in Puerto Vallarta....when I was last there (exchange rate was 12.50pesons = $1. USD)my friend and I got the happy hour deal for $3.US for two great mango margaritas! Now the exchange rate is $15pesos to $1 USD...those margaritas keep getting cheaper. Two pounds of avocados sell for $1.50 USD...gotta love those prices.

In the meantime I am leaving my apartment on Friday and will be living with my son, my sister and friends in Monterey, Carmel and the bay area....mostly I expect to be in San Jose helping my sister as she deals with some medical issues. Since I don't have a for-sure address you can just use my cell phone which T-mobile gave me a fabulous 'deal' on....unlimited calls anytime in the USA for $45....so call away...anytime but not too early.

Anyone wanting to help me pack let me know as Oliver and I will be boxing up 'stuff' and probably giving away some good things as we get ready for Friday's move.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Soon!

After four l-o-n-g years the divorce is final (some days are really just great and that one was stellar!) ...still some loose ends but this happens just in time. I got an email today that the Puerto Vallarta condo regime will be final in a week or two and I have 60 days to close after that.

I am staying with my sister in San Jose who had a very serious operation 2 weeks ago that's a story for my personal blog which I'll update soon. In the meantime Ed is supposed to send me some money in 5 - 6 weeks that almosts covers the amount I will need to close on my condo ($30K short). I should have easily have been able to cover it but 'you-know-who' has to support his 38 year old girlfriend (who is yonger than his youngest son) and her 9 year old son while living in a million dollar plus home....anyway if you would like to donate to the "save JoAnne's condo" (remember the site "Save Karen") Donations accepted by PayPal (jrockower@gmail.com).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fun Dinner

Club BON APPETIT has a fabulous 'Chef's Table & Wine Tasting". It takes place during PV's high season and is hosted by Paco Pilon who takes over Restaurant La Hacienda for one night a month. Each tasting has a theme. This months theme was Road to Bangkok. Next months will be Gourmet Mexico. Price is 385 pesos ($29) which includes wine and tip.

Be warned: seating is limited and this event sells out fast!

The evening starts at 7:30pm with cocktails and hors d'orves. The following is the Thai menu:

Thai Carrot Soup
Chicken Satays
Savory Beef in Red Curry Sauce
Carpaccio of Pineapple
All are accompanied by an appropriate wine. The chef comes out mid meal to discuss the menu and the wines.
Make reservations by emailing pacotoody@usa.net
or call Paco at 224-0029 (in Puerto Vallarta)
Restaurant La Hacienda, Lazaro Cardenas #388, Colkonia E. Zapata, Tel: 222-0590

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Videos

Here are the latest videos...enjoy!


Got my FM3

Once I arrived in Mexico I found that there was more to do to get my FM-3 visa....even though I had it in hand and got it stamped at the airport I was told to do the third step at immigration within 30 days--it looked like it just would be some sort of stamp or signature. Because it seemed like it was a simple one stop thing and I was going to be there for two weeks I thought I would do it a day or two before leaving.

Fortunately I had a premonition and decided to get up early a few days after I arrived and took myself down to the immigration office prepared to get my booklet stamped and be done with it. Ha! Once I got there they wanted me to fill out most of what I had done in LA plus they needed a electricity bill and a photocopy of my builders ID card. When I was in LA the nice ladies helped me fill out the one questionaire that was in spanish--I hadn't a clue what some of the form said.
Now I had to fill it out again and I didn't have those nice LA ladies to help.

Luck was with me again and a nice mexican lady now took me under her wing and took me to her office next door where I was able to call my builders secretary who had to get in touch with my builder, Octavio, (who was out of cell phone reach but eventually did get within reach). She was awsome and faxed over Octavio's info plus a electricity bill for the whole building (which I guess is ok for immigration). Fortunately I still had a copy of Octavio's letter (in Spanish) that I'd used for my LA FM3 --it was saved in my email so I printed that out. I had also brought more of my front and side view photos. This saint-of-a-woman put together my whole packet and only charged me for the faxes and computer time ($8USD)--she even had her secretary write the letter I needed to give them in Spanish stating that I wanted to live in Mexico, my address, etc. Back I went to Immigration with my folder in hand and was told to show up on the 6th (I was leaving the 7th) to get my FM3 visa booklet back. Whoa! They were keeping my FM3 visa! I'd entered Mexico using it and needed to show upon departure! That was a surprise...good thing I went when I did.

After hearing tales from everyone that when I was to go back I would encounter more things needed to complete the paperwork and watching the people in line ahead of me being turned back as they needed something more I started getting discouraged and was prepariang my speech about how I had a flight the next day and would now need to get a special letter from them to leave the country....but.... once my number was called they just fingerprinted me and handed over my wonderful visa!!!! (nice thing was that doing it myself was pretty easy even though it might not sound like it from the above... and cost about $140 USD and people are paying anywhere from $275 - $500 USD to have someone else do it)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting an FM-3 visa

Since my decision to eventually move to Mexico I have been trying to figure out how to get my FM-3 visa. The FM-3 visa allows you to bring in your household goods, to have multiple entries as a resident and you can get a refund of some of the tax you pay for your airline ticket. It must be renewed each year at the time you first obtain yours (in my case today's date in 2010). There are several services that can do it for you and they seem to charge between approximately $270 - 380 USD.

Since I live near a Mexican Consulate I decided to go over and talk to them. I did that last week and they gave me a list of what I needed to bring there. (2 passport sized photos taken from the front and 2 from the right side), $134 USD in cash, something showing income (I took 3 months of bank statements), a letter stating that you wish to reside in Mexico and your address there)

The Consulate in Los Angeles is open for the visa service M-F from 7am - 11am. This morning I drove the 4.5 miles there and took my paperwork and money in. Within 1 hour (a little less) I had my FM-3 visa.

When I enter Mexico I will enter through the Residence line and they will stamp it on the first page. Within 30 days I must register my address in Mexico. I will have 6 months from todays date to bring in my furniture (should I decide to do that) without paying duty.

So...if you are near a Mexican Consulate that seems to be the easier way to go but be sure to bring everything with you unless you live nearby as I imagine that could be more of a hassle than waiting until you are in Mexico and paying someone to do the leg work for you.