Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Final Day in Mexico

Feeling sad to find it was our last day, here, in Manzanillo, we decide to make the most of our time. All four of us venture north to sample Barra de Navadad. The drive north takes us through arid areas and small villages, eventually delivering us to Barra, as it's known for short.

The bustling town is packed for market day and we wander or tour, depending upon one's viewpoint, much of the town just in search of a parking place. Small businesses and vibrantly painted buildings add zest to the pulsating energy in the streets. First we trail the market streets - this market is set up, extending into many and various different streets. The booths are set up within the streets themselves so that businesses exist behind the booths, adding another dimension. Alot of the merchandise we saw looked familiar from the Manzanillo Market. But, as usual, my favorite part was drinking in the faces and traditions of the wonderful Mexican people. My favorite face was that of this lil' boy, watching in anticipation, the making of his candy coated ice cone!

After the Market we drift toward the tantalizing beach on the west side of Barra. We arrive relatively early and find a pleasing spot to land, just in front of a open-backed restaurant. Once we were seated and settled, one of the employees comes to offer us drinks and lunch. We order and nest in for the day. The beach is intriguing to us because the beach slants steeply into the water and, eventually, we learn why there is a lifeguard boat patrolling close in to the shore. The life guards are watching the swimmers as we find the bottom falls off quickly AND there is a huge undertow! We bounce on the bottom, attempting to judge when the next big wave will break and laugh when we miscalculate - and - get dunked! I manage to whip out this sketch during the afternoon. Mike attempts boogie-boarding with the new friends we've made, seated next to us, but realizes that the waves break too close to shore to even consider riding. We all enjoy the warm sun and the quiet joy of friends and fun.

But our "eating" agenda is calling us. We've read tale of a charming restaurant in Malaque "that won't disappoint" us. This is a smaller village and, after a short drive, we are on dirt streets with chickens and loud Cuban music in our ears. Our dinner mission directs us back to the beach where we find the "Restaurant Maya". Actually we enter through the back, beach entrance which is wide open to the ocean view! We are seated overlooking the same "strongly slanted" beach front as we'd left in Barra. But this time, we were given a fantastic display of young boogie-boarders who HAD found a way to master those fast breaking waves! The five or so youngsters would examine the breaking waves from the shore and when they saw the "perfect" breaking wave, would rush into the ocean, throw down the boogie board and jump aboard - flying right into the wave!!! They'd catch it, ride up into the break and usually, turn and ride down the wave. A 360 degree circle! But then again, the most fantastic rides where when they did NOT turn and just shot UP through the wave - into the air - breaking into aerial acrobatics! They were better than ANY planned entertainment! And then - let me tell you the food and atmosphere was EVEN better than the "entertainment"! I had a ginger, curried chicken to die for and food presentations were so lovely, we photographed them! And all this amidst the above sunset over the ocean! Perhaps we'd died and gone to heaven :) It was the perfect ending to our final day in wonderful the Manzanillo area.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Day of Catching Up

After yesterday's whirlwind adventures, I've opted to just relax at the condo today. I'm w-a-y behind on my journal and I'm seeing that I've forgotten some of what we did on which day. Better write it down!!! I love recapping the feelings and faces that people our travels and the day passes quickly. I do take a break and wander down the beach, relishing the play of the sand being washed up by the waves. There is black and gold sediment that appears less in weight and it forms mesmerizing cascades from one tier of sand down to the next tier. The day is, of course, lovely and I paw through display of a beach vendor selling colorful women's wraps, dresses and beach covers. I got the yellow one :) and then back to the condo.

The guys had joined up for a trip up to visit the brother, living nearby, of a family who own a Mexican restaurant in our home town of Jacksonville, Or. They arrive back home with tales that paint a very small town and the personalities there. Roland sampled a "crawdad-like" treat, prepared by the lady of the house there - and hasn't died yet! En route home they passed and toured this family business making bricks by grinding up coconuts! Interesting.

Our dinner adventure began once more taking the local bus system. What a view - seeing the wild traffic and the shoppers and the people coming home from work. I love the mix! What we learned was, to request that the bus driver tell you when he approaches the place at which one wants to exit - and you're pretty safe. So our driver yells, "La Toscana!" And we depart, plunk, right into the restaurant doorway.

The old building has a European feel and they seat us on the large, wide patio. Surprisingly, the wind was coming off the water briskly but, the view was so inviting we decided to weather it and ordered our meal. The sunset provided a glowing backdrop to cruise ships, oil tankers and other huge ships strolling out to sea. But as dinner progressed, table by table of customers headed inside to a warmer climate - and - we did make it to dessert. But took our coffee and dessert inside. Now it was cramped inside, and they placed a small table next to the TV (yes, showing a soccer game) and the kitchen door - we laughed at our vantage point. Dinner was yummy and the evening playful especially traveling home with the bus driver playing "chicken" with the brand new Mercedes Benz bus! Did I mention that the bus drivers don't use their clutch to shift either?

So until tomorrow ... buenos nochas!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Colima Visit and More

Our computer has been rebirthed over the last few days - thus taking posting potential away. But now I'm back, and taking you off on a driving day in Mexico.

We leave Manzanillo en route to the capitol, Colima. Our route is via the back road, to see how the rural people really live. We pass salt flats that have been turned into salt factories and numerous fruit/vegetable stands. The sunny warm day turns hot once we get to the big city. We ponder why there are so many local people, including children, out on a week day. Only to discover it is the Governor's birthday and it's a holiday. We tour the Governor's home, savoring this stairway mural and then, take a break in a local park to sketch. I loved the ole' Mexican men, gathered there just to hang out, undoubtedly while women and children are involved in activities or making a big dinner.

I'd been told about a terrific place called "Hildago's Hacienda" and we hunted avidly to track down what it was and where it was. Ahhhhhhh - north and west of town, near the volcanoes and Comala. Have you ever tried getting directions from people who speak a different language than yourself. It was hilarious and we 'toured' many parts of the capitol that day.

En route we did drive past one of the famous "Dancing Dogs" statues, standing 18 feet tall in the center of a roadway "round-a-bout" (a legendary funerary vessel of the area) and on - to the Hildago Hacienda. Unfortunately, we arrived late in the afternoon and all of the facilities closed at 3:30. But we did get to experience partially, this man who was before his time. A universal artist, Rangel Hildago, studied and taught furniture design and painting as well as supported ecology and native plants. Behind the hacienda was an extensive layout of plants including groupings of coffee plants, orchids,
succulents, cacti, bamboo, and turtles. The 5-acre or so space is now a part of the Universidad De Colima (www.ucol.mx/ceugea) and educates students. We missed the museum and the garden as well as the cafe - but WOW - what and amazing man and what a fantastic legacy!

But the day was still young and we'd heard tale that the small town of Comala was having a festival for local coffee and baked goods. We loved this smaller, more quaint and authentic village. And the festival ended up being not just a 'coffee & pastries' festival but, a week long "Holy Week" celebration! The square was decorated, ready for the evening live music and dance, along with vendors selling children's' toys, balloons, clothing, crafts, furniture and food (yes, the coffee WAS delicious and we brought some home) and the pastries were fascinating and delicious too!

Twas' way past lunch, so I suggested
we just sit at a covered patio cafe on the square and get some appetizers. The promenade was busy, noisy (traveling musicians) and entertaining. Once we'd ordered our appetizers, we couldn't figure out why more, and more food just kept coming. Seems it's part of the festivities for Holy Week. What a pleasant surprise! We laughed and languished as the afternoon moved toward night. Finally we decided to take the large freeway back to Manzanillo, arriving late and ready to head to bed. Twas' a fun packed full day etching many memories in our tired brains.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Day on Manzanillo Beach

Today, I decided to sample ideas for the commission pieces I'm doing in trade for this free week here at the condo.

Roland and I struck out, in the perpetual lovely weather (nights: low 60 degrees, days: sunny, clear 80 degrees), to canvas the north end of the beach. The woman commissioning these painting gave me three things she particularly loved about the area the she would like included in my designs. One, was the joyous and varied canopies enlivening this locals gathering place - which may become a thing of the past. We strolled the lagoon area behind the beach where the tides move in and out, creating boogie board and shell hunt possibilities. This area was quiet and languid in the early morning and we moved back to permanently locate in the active beach front. We selected a canopy in the front row that jutted out, giving me a great perspective of the full southern span. I'd considered starting one of the originals on a larger watercolor sheet, but, just sitting there absorbing the changing light, the quick moving vendors (who I wanted to include in the design) and the variety of "local characters", I opted to just sketch in my journal - to attempt capturing the "feel" of the day.

So I sketched ... and started adding color ... and adding different aspects of the scenery as the day amended itself. More boats came (the banana boat looked hilarious), vendors with many colorful "floats" passed and masses of families consumed the vacant canopied tables. Roland and I commented upon how heartwarming it was to see how strong the family unit is here in the Mexican culture. Grama, Aunties and, all the way down to the GranKids, come and spend the day together. What a beautiful concept! I have a few visitors shyly wander up to ask "Artist?" and I motion them to come see. One charming young fellow, Nio, came back three times during the day to follow my progress. We started up a conversation (well, broken) and discovered he'd lived many places, even Vancouver, BC! We exchanged emails and smiled at the prospect of a friendship sparked from a comfortable exchange. I was some frustrated and pleasured with my journal entry ... frustrated by the fast moving scene I'd only been partially able to capture and pleasured with sitting in the warm shade, feeling the ocean breeze cool the day and relishing the submersion in the local activities.

Our dinner that evening was fun AND delicious! Now we were confused, thinking the lovely landscaped lodging and restaurant across the foot bridge, and overlooking the lagoon, was "Playa Real". But we never did learn it's true name - which is unfortunate because our experience was terrific! The food great (a yummy chili relleno) and a zany waiter (who teased us with 'Iguana Flan' where, he elaborated, "they had milked the teeny, little iguana to use their milk!"). We enjoyed watching the early evening bats fend for insects and laughed as we descended the hill, back to our condo.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

BACK in Manzanillo!

Who knows where I went - first it was a dead battery - and then days fly by. But don't worry, I intend to finish touring you through our trip to Mexico. Ok, day 2.

Our mission today is to hit the large, local Saturday Market. We're so anxious, that we get to the area early and decide to watch Mike eat breakfast and drink in the surrounding sounds and sights. We walk to the Market and what a wealth of images for an artist. I was shooting all the time - attempting to freeze OR just get the "right" framing or emotion of a face. It seemed like miles for my feet and my camera finger. But I did get a sweet slice portrait of this young Mexican girl SO intent upon pouring our fruit drink into the glass. I love her innocent, round face and deep brown eyes. After we all go back to the condo to revive.

Roland seems to rejuvenate with vigor - and the plot for the evening is in progress! For dinner, he purposes taking the local bus to the other end, way south, to the Manzanillo Centro. Now, usually, I trust Roland and I love the adventure of taking a local bus - BUT - we have been warned that the buses do not seem to have rhyme or reason with their destination. Not to mention we don't even know how far away this "Centro" is located!

Finally I "trust the Universe" and wave g'bye (possibly our last!) to our comrades and off we go to the bus. WHAT an experience! People watching was delicious and once we arrive w - a - y down south in the Centro, it's an all new perspective. More government and city buildings, library (being built) and the square where this giant sailfish pirouettes into the evening sky. Seems the port is not only the largest on the west coast, but is also known for their sailfish. We wandered the area, getting rather hungry. The certainty of big, good restaurants began to fade as we searched. Finally, in vain, we settled on the biggest, most sophisticated place we could find. Now, don't laugh - it was a Chinese Restaurant!!! Not bad enough? It was the worst imaginable!!! Can you imagine a chicken chop suey that tastes like Styrofoam? We laughed!!

The trip home on the bus made up for the food. My favorite image on the bus was the young lady going to a birthday party (apparently) with the pink frosted cake in tow. Not in a box or your Tupperware container - nope - just naked, out there for a face or hand plant. But, amazingly, she made it to her destination despite our bus driver being an expert at playing 'chicken' with various other vehicles! What a day ... g'night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Getting to Manzanillo

This whole trip was initiated last year over Labor Day. I was doing an outdoor art show on the Museum Grounds of Jacksonville, Oregon. A couple approached me inquiring if I'd consider trading commissioned paintings for them - for - a week's stay at their condo in Mexico? What, why, of course. During the next few months we worked out the comparable size and number of paintings to equal the $600 rental for the condo. And, now here we are going to Mexico in the cold, rainy month of March, for a revival of spirit and assembling material for the 3 proposed commission paintings of Manzanillo, Mexico.

It was 2:30 am on March 14th and , "Beep, beep, beep," chimed my alarm. The trip to Mexico had begun. Meditation, yoga complete, it's breakfasting, feeding Cody (he gets 3 bites from my banana) and final packing. At 5:30am our 'partners en route' pick us up and we wave g'bye to Cody (he looked so baffled) and Joan, our house/puppy sitter - and were off to the airport. All proceeds smoothly thru Medford, Oregon and LA Airports. Between Medford and La the sun rose out the window adjacent to us and caught this flash of color in the airplane. With a 2 1/2 hour layover in LA I had a chance to play with some contour drawing (without looking down, just lead one's pen to 'trace' the outline of what you see). And around 3:30pm, Mexico time (we've lost an hour) we land in the small, simple Manzanillo Airport.

About a 20 minute drive from the airport into the city of Manzanillo, we pass plantain orchards and hill after hill of arid, scrawny treed terrain. As we approach the north end of town colorful buildings begin to pop up, some fruit stands and soon, the turnoff to our condo, "Club Santiago". Our neighbors include private, modest and well maintained homes. Once parked we climb the stairs to find our spacious two story condo with lovely golden colors on the walls and newly tiled bathrooms.

We're anxious to touch the ocean and walk down, after settling in, thru the "Oasis Restaurant" to this welcoming view - ahhhhh! The boys decide they must "get in" and we saunter along to laugh as they bob up and down and in and out of the modest waves. It's a dreamy landing into this warm and colorful land and we can't wait to wake tomorrow to start sampling local life. Buenos Nochas!