Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

While we are enjoying our Christmas "get-away" back in Canada, I have asked a third Guest Blogger to post a special Christmas message for you about this what makes this a magical time of year in Loreto. Nellie Hutchison, owner of Dorado Properties in Loreto, has contributed the story and pictures about how Christmas was celebrated, and how our community contributed to making it a extra special day to remember.

We will be returning to Loreto this week and I look forward to resuming my postings in the New Year. Enjoy your celebrations, wherever you are, and make a resolution to come back here and visit "Living Loreto" often in 2009! Happy New Year!


Christmas for Kids in Loreto, Mexico

This has been a difficult year for everyone, everywhere, and yet people pulled together and dug a little deeper to give gifts to the children of Loreto. There were many toy drives and groups that volunteered their time and efforts for the general good of all local families.

Jim and Liz of FN383 Villages of Loreto Bay stepped up and raised money at the Golf Course among Nopolo residents for the Loreto Municipal Children’s Party. They drove to La Paz to shop for gifts with the money raised. Jim and Liz, (and Jeanny from BajaBOSS) are shown presenting over 100 small gifts to Yolanda, who now works at DEF which assists families in need.

Thanks to all the Loreto Bay homeowners who left toys with me during the last several weeks. All gifts went to Yolanda to wrap and distribute as appropriate. She assured me that all gifts were going to families in need, and there is much need in Loreto this year.

We attended the celebration on December 24, 2008, outside of the Loreto Mission. It was well attended by many families and lots of children waited patiently for their turn to see Santa and receive their new present. All gifts were wrapped, with the exception of several small bicycles lined up with ribbons for some very lucky children.

It was quite festive with a large decorated tree, an enormous Santa Sack and tables full of wrapped gifts, a few small fireworks, and Christmas music playing in the background. There was a pageant with actors in costume, and dinner was served to all who attended afterwards.

The Mission was well lit and decorated and ready for midnight mass, a time to be thankful and pray for good things next year. Many local Loreto residents including Rosa Castaneda (owner of Café Ole) organize and donate new presents for CARITAS which are distributed to the children in Miramar and Zaragoza, as well as outlying ranches and villages, such as San Javier, San Bruno and Luigi on Christmas Eve.

Jim Spano, representing the new J.W. Marriott, located at the old Whales Inn hotel site in Nopolo has been very generous with their Christmas party for CAM, the school for mentally and physically challenged children. This year’s party was held at their new building donated by the developers of this new luxury condominium resort.

Every student was given an appropriate gift by Santa. There were three piñatas and more candy than you can imagine for everyone including adults, siblings and staff. There was a 10 meter slide and bounce gym for the kids to play on. Several hundred people came to take in the festivities and food, which included families taking home entire grocery bags filled with sandwiches, salads, and more candy.

This is a very special charity for Mr. Spano which he fondly refers to as Miles of Smiles. The joy and excitement in the eyes and faces of the children at this event is something that the entire J.W. Marriott team looks forward to throughout the year. All the families of CAM very much appreciate the efforts and generosity shown by Loreto’s newest developer.

These are the children’s charities that I know of, and I am sure that many people in this community have contributed and given their time, money and goodwill to others. Thank you for Random Acts of Kindness and making each day a little brighter for someone else.

My very best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous 2009!

Miss Nellie

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Greetings from the Great White North!

Because I am currently shivering up here in Canada, at -25 C, I have asked my good friend and Loreto Bay neighbor, Kelli, to write a "Guest" blog for this week's installment of "Living Loreto". Some of you will be familiar with Kelli's blog "Watch and Learn", which she has just relaunched and you can visit at: . She has written a piece about Christmas preparations in Loreto that I hope puts you into the Christmas Spirit wherever you are celebrating the Holidays this year. I trust you will all have a safe and happy Holiday and I hope you will come back often to visit "Living Loreto" in the New Year! Merry Christmas All!


It's Beginning to Look a Little like Christmas

What's Christmas to a Midwesterner without an evergreen tree, mall music, and a lot of snow? How do you make Christmas merry and bright here in Loreto? Well, as with everything else here, you improvise. Those of us lucky enough to be in Loreto Bay for the holidays are finding our own ways to creating the Christmas spirit. Some of us have lights strung on our terraces or towers. I think those of us with small children feel more incentive to work at it, but it's hard. Finding a Christmas tree is near impossible.
I did see two plastic trees for sale today outside a store on Salvatierre Boulevard. One was a shade of green I can only describe as Grinch lime-green. I was tempted to buy it for novelty's sake, instead, we cut a few birch-like branches from trees near the arroyo and fashioned them into a rustic "tree." My husband stood them up in a clay pot and added rocks for support. I dressed the pot with a red bikini wrap and our daughter hung ornaments we'd brought from home. It might have been easier to have just decorated a cactus. I've seen that done here.

In Loreto you will find several outdoor town-sponsored nativity scenes, they not being illegal as is often the case in America. The mother of all nativity scenes ever has to be the one on at the end of Benito Juarez Avenue. The red devil in the background is priceless. I'm not sure which is more amusing--he, or the turkey, the duck, and the chickens mulling with the sheep at the manger. Vendors make small efforts to spread the cheer with decorations and lights, but overall the Christmas mood is subdued.
I kind of like that. There are a few giant pinatas strung down the Mission Boulevard and the other major boulevards. They are particularly eye-catching and lovely. There's a big stuffed Santa perched on the balcony of City Hall. My favorite effort is the chic simplicity of the lights in the trees above the Latte Cafe courtyard next to the town square. Beneath them I sat with my girlfriends last evening sipping our cappuccinos. It would have been a perfect atmosphere if not for the thump-thump of the bass coming from cruising cars.

There'll be no last minute runs to to mall for gifts. Whatever else I need I have ordered online and asked my sons to carry with them when they fly in on Christmas Day. We snuck a frozen turkey over the border (don't even know if that's a no-no or not.) I think I can find sweet potatoes at the Pescador, but who knows? We may have rice and beans alongside our lovely roasted Butterball. But I draw the line at tortillas. We will bake bread. What we will have is beautiful weather, a plethora of outdoor activities that don't require parkas and snow boots, and a respite from the crazy consumer-driven Christmas we are so accustomed to in the U.S. Other families in the community are celebrating in their own make-shift ways, but mostly it all centers on a wonderful meal with the people we love most.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Once upon a Mule"

Since I am currently back in Calgary, visiting family and friends for for the next couple of weeks over the Holidays, I have asked several good friends and neighbors, who also live in Loreto Bay, to write "Guest Blogs" of some of their experiences. This weeks posting is by Dee, who writes about a remarkable adventure she had earlier this year, I know you will enjoy it, thanks, Dee!

When my friends, Cecile Martin and Debora Simmons of La Damiana Inn fame, talked about going on a mule trip to see the cave paintings northeast of San Ignacio, I was all about the mule ride. I knew I wanted a Baja experience and that this trip on mules would be just that. I am a horse lover and have even had my own but I had never been on a mule or even around donkeys much at all. The cave paintings were secondary. For Cece, the trip was about the cave paintings. Fortunately, she had studied a little before we left and was prepared to be our resident photographer. The trip turned out to be everything I wanted and way more. AND I was absolutely blown away by those 10,800 year old paintings.

We met Trudi Angell, our guide and owner of Saddling South, in San Ignacio late on a Sunday afternoon in early April. We figured April would offer us clear, warm, sunny days and cool nights for camping. We followed Trudi for two hours up a narrow, rugged, mostly one lane road that at times was worse than the road from Loreto to San Javier. The views were stunning…the higher we got, the wider the vistas. No one seemed to live anywhere near this road…only a few goats and cattle here and there. This road took us to the small mountain village of Sierra de San Francisco which is considered the jumping off point for the best of Baja’s rock art sites.

This first night we stayed in a hostel owned by the government. There we found fairly new, beautiful, rustic, little cabins that surrounded a communal kitchen and dining area where Trudi made us a really nice dinner of salad and pasta. We were also joined by the two cowboys who would be our guides, along with Trudi, over the next 3 days.

The next morning it was up early to go sign in at a rancher’s home so we could enter the area of the World Heritage Sites of Mural Rock Art. All three of our guides are registered with the government and are authorized to take tours throughout this unique area. The village where we packed and loaded up the donkeys and mules was a gathering of cement block homes with some gorgeous flower gardens. They raised goats and made goat cheese. They also tanned hides for saddles and shoes. We rode the mules while the donkeys carried all of our many, many things! Our guide, Chema, played the guitar and there was one little older donkey named Triangle because he had had three owners. Triangle’s special job was to carry the guitar and he became special to all of us on the trip. I have never seen a cuter donkey.

We were all on our mules, six mules for the humans and five donkeys for all the “stuff.” Saddling South provided everything needed for the trip including food and tents. We only brought our own sleeping bags, pads and clothes. We traveled for about 5-6 hours by mule on rugged trails through cactus garden valleys and back up over ridge tops with great views. Up and down we went on trails on the very sides of the mountains. Steep, windy, narrow trails of slippery rock. I know now why those sure-footed mules are called “four wheel-drive horses.” For hours, we wound our way through wide canyons into a more narrow one that was lush with palm trees and big boulders. We camped there for the next two nights.

The next day, we were not nearly as sore as we thought we would be. Nevertheless, after a cowboy breakfast, we were up hiking to our first caves. No mule riding today. Well, whew, we all thought an easier day!! No one mentioned that to see the first caves we would be climbing up and around boulders and hiking through dry streams with basketball sized rocks. I felt like I was in some kind of boot camp. We first visited rock art that was carved into the sides a big boulder. We then proceeded to two different sites of cave paintings, Los Musicos and Cueva Boca de San Julio. The next day, Chema, was our lone guide as we visited three more caves. He proved himself to be an expert at patiently guiding us up and down into these caves and out. I never dreamed rock climbing would be part of the trip. The caves this day were Cueva La Pintada, Cueva de las Fechas and La Soledad.

Cave paintings are truly a magical mystery. Their origins and purpose remain unknown. Most of the caves we saw were long and shallow with vast expanses of fairly smooth rock surface. Most were quite high. So high that it was baffling that these pre-hispanics could paint so high. It is surmised that they built scaffolding but would have had to travel a ways with the wood. Then they likely used it to cook their food.

The paintings can be quite elaborate and are well-preserved. They depict rabbits, mountain sheep and deer. Some even show marine mammals, fish and shorebirds. Humans are also included in these crude but distinct paintings. Most of the objects are over life-sized. The colors are from earth’s minerals, mostly red, black, orange red and yellow. They are stunning and quite unbelievable. There are several books about this including one with photographs by Harry Crosby and an early one by Earle Stanley Gardner of Perry Mason fame.

Our guide, Chema, was truly a high point of this trip. Raised in the Baja on one of the 30 or so ranches that are still only accessible by hiking or mule, he is a true cowboy and jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. He raises goats, makes goat cheese, tequila and many items from goat skins, including saddles and accessories. He decided the day before the trip that he needed some new boots so he just stitched some up out of goat leather. Really handsome boots! He is as proud of his daughters as he is of his sons for following in his footsteps to be Baja cowboys. Chema is quite talented musically, too - every night around the campfire we enjoyed his singing and playing the guitar. He plays in a band with his son and is also featured in the movie, “Corazon Vaquero, Heart of the Cowboy” that Trudi was instrumental in filming on life in the Baja.

This was truly a unique journey into the heart of the sierra. I feel fortunate to have shared this journey with really wonderful people and Trudi’s dog, Lucky. I feel honored to have been able to have this fascinating glimpse into a way of life that has hardly changed in 300 years.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Golf Anyone?

One of the central attractions in the Loreto Bay development has always been the proposed development of a first class golf course. In the early days, the original Fonatur course was nothing like a first class course, but it did serve as a place holder for the land in the development and it held the promise of what could be done with the proper landscaping, irrigation and maintenance.

I remember playing on the “old course” last winter, after they had stopped irrigating - the cow patties were a local hazard and things were looking pretty bleak! That all changed this past March when the “new 9” was first opened for homeowners and we were able to play the luscious fairways and greens for the first time. The difference was incredible! David Duvall's design, interpreted and realized by Tom Webber and his crew, added challenges, dimension and beauty to the course and highlighted all the natural assets that surround the property.

There have been even more changes (for the better!) since those memorable first few rounds. First of all, we are now starting from the original clubhouse and playing holes 10 through 18 in their normal order, while in the spring we were starting at (what is now) 16, at the south end of the Hotel. In the spring the sand traps were not filled (resulting in a occasional par saving free drop) but now they are definitely “in play” and add a serious challenge on some holes.

The on-going upkeep and maintenance of the course is being expertly handled by Raoul Torres and his crew from Troon Golf. While the conditions of the course speak for themselves, I appreciate the inconspicuous behaviour of the grounds crew, getting their work done without impacting the play or enjoyment of the players. Starting this Fall, there are two “best ball scrambles” organized weekly, one for couples on Wednesday mornings and another, mainly for men on Friday afternoons.

The course is closed Mondays and Tuesdays and tee times are never a problem during the rest of the week. In fact, one of the most wonderful aspects of playing this course now is that very often you will play a 9 hole round without being in sight of another player, ahead or behind! A true luxury, for those of us used to playing the sausage grinder pace of most public and semi-private courses at home, where you are in a frustrating lockstep, delayed by the people ahead and pushed by the people behind.

Bear in mind, all of this challenge, beauty and luxury is also a bargain for those of us lucky to be homeowners in Loreto Bay. A package of 20 nine hole rounds costs about $500, or $25 each per round, with a shared electric cart or brand new ergonomic 3 wheel push cart. Current prices for non-homeowner players at double that price, are still a bargain by Baja golf standards, where prices over $20 per HOLE, for 18 are not unheard of!

On a recent Tuesday, with the course closed, I borrowed a cart and headed out to take pictures of the nine holes now in operation. Below is my attempt at a brief illustrated course guide. It is intended for those of you who are looking forward to returning to Loreto and playing the course yourself, and for the rest of you, who are interested in golf, and might be pursuaded to consider visiting some day to see it for yourself. Fore! or, should I say, Cuatro!

The first hole (actually 10th when the full 18 opens) is a par 5 that ranges from 500 to 530 yards and is one of the longest holes on the course. The fairway has lots of contour, providing a variety of lies, so even if your yardage is consistant you get a different look from every tee shot. There is water down the entire right side and homes parallel the left side of the wide fairway. As you approch the green, traps are in play on the left and a “dry garden” with a large tree restricts the right side.

The next hole, the first of three par 4s, is across the new entrance road to the Hotel, where paving and roadside landscaping is nearing completion. The tee boxes for this hole are beside a rocky hill on the left and separated from the fairway by a sand pathway with yardages ranging between 330 and 375. Once over the sand, the fairway opens out wide with bunkers on the short right and longer left with another “dry garden” planted with a number of trees closer in to the green and in a direct line from the tees. Approaching the green can be tricky, with large traps on the right and behind, backed up by water.

Crossing an estuary bridge brings you to the tees for the 3rd hole, tucked in beside the Highway as it heads south from Nopolo and into the mountains. Traffic noise, including trucker's “jake brakes” add to the challenges of tee shot for this hole that is between 340 and 400 yards. The estuary runs along the first three quarters of the fairway on the left, pinching it off as you get close to the hole. There is a short bunker on the left and a large “dry garden” with several trees and succulent ground cover called “Ice Plant” that can hide a ball easily. If you miss the water left you have a tight approach to the green but if you clear the garden (perhaps on a second shot) there is lots of room behind it and good angles to the well bunkered green from that side.

The fourth hole at 335 to 385 yards has a large fairway, particularly from the back tees, with a dog leg right and a hidden pin around the the hills that mark the southern edge of the Loreto Bay property. Directly ahead of the tees is a long narrow bunker, well placed to catch a good straight drive, but there is plenty of landing room on the left and with luck and a bit of a slice you can curve a bit around the hill and have a clear approach to the green, with bunkers in front on the left and beside on the right.

As you approach this green, your eyes will be drawn up to the impressive new tee boxes that have been built into the hill behind for the brand new par three fifth hole. Thousands of man-hours of the hardest pick and shovel labour have gone into creating these tees for what will be one of the most picturesque holes on this course. A beautiful flagstone path winds up the edge of the hill 100 – 150 feet above the course level to three massive round tee “plateaus” - each offset from the others and all with a staggering view. In fact, you will be torn between contemplating the beautiful oval

green (sheltered under a 200 foot rocky hill and protected by bunkers in front), and gazing off to the right and seeing the beautiful Sea of Cortez below the shear drop-off beside the pathway up. According to the current scorecard the yardages for this par 3 range between 120 to 150, but for now the usable tees below the new boxes are in the 80's.

Around the rocky hill from this green you come to what was the signature hole of the old course, another par 3. Here you have a choice of tees, the first of which is a short climb up the hill to the back tees where you are looking at a 200 yard shot, mainly across water to the redesigned green. One aspect of the new green is that from the long tees there is now water behind as well as in front, while from the front tees, Punto Nopolo backs the hole, helping with depth perception. Depending on the prevailing direction, wind can also be a decisive factor on this hole and can definitely affect your approach strategy.

The seventh hole is a par 4 that plays between 345 and 385 yards with a right angle dog leg left at the half-way point. You can layup to the corner, or play over the estuary and have an easy pitch onto the raised green, if you can clear several well placed bunkers that protect the short cut route. However a long approach shot can wind up “on the beach” in a hidden trap, or if you're really long, wet, as the estuary wraps around two sides behind this tricky green.

Crossing another estuary bridge and curving arround the private marina bay that belongs to the condos at the end of the Paseo, brings you to the longest par 4 on this course, playing 380 to 420 yards that dogleg right arround several perfectly placed bunkers. If you play it safe and keep left of this sand in mid-fairway, you face several more deeply contoured traps protecting the front of the large green. However, you can forgive these challenges when you appreciate the beautifully landscaped rocky outcrop that provides a distinctly Baja-flavoured backdrop to this green.

Now it's time to recross the entrance road from the highway and wind around behind the first green to the final series of tees for the par 5 ninth that stretches between 465 and 500 yards. The back tees start behind the end of the lake that separates this fairway from the first, while the shorter tees give you different angles across varying stretches of water to a wide and undulating fairway. Staying dry on the left brings several fairway bunkers into play, but the real work for this hole is done on the massive green with ridges and valleys that change the read with every pin placement.

That, gentle reader, is one duffer's view of what will eventually be the back nine of this new Loreto Bay course, and, I have it on good authority that the “front” nine, currently in the final stages of completion, is even more spectacular than the masterpiece you have just toured in your mind's eye. I look forward to sharing that experience with you on a future post.

Whether you are a scratch golfer or a wanna-be duffer, this course is, at the very least, a wonderful excuse to spend a couple of hours surrounded by the beauty of our community, with breathtaking views of the mountains, the sea, the estuaries and, not least of all, the multi-coloured, many towered homescape that is becoming the Villages of Loreto Bay. So, regardless of your skills, golf is going to be an important part of “Living Loreto”.

P.S. Added bonus time! If you visit the link below:
you can download more pictures of the course that I took on this day. If you have an avid golfer on your Christmas list, you can use this link to design your own calendar, (with some of my pictures) and keep their dream alive during the cold spell before their next trip to Loreto!

Friday, November 21, 2008

About Raking & Baking

I mentioned before that one of the questions we get asked a lot, by people who aren't living here yet, is "What do you DO all day?"

While there can be no "one" answer to that sort of a question, as every day here can be different, I thought I would tell you about a couple of things that I did one recent afternoon and the following morning as an example.

Our casa is adjacent to a Community Bocce court that was constructed this past spring. For those of you not familiar with the game of Bocce, it's a simple game that uses a "target" ball, about the size of a tennis ball, but solid and heavy, and two sets of four softball sized throwing balls, one set for each player or team. The object is to throw out the target ball and then try to get your team's throwing balls closer to it than the other team's balls. Sort of a combination between lawn bowling and horseshoes.

Our Bocce court is about 65 feet long and 15 feet wide, bordered with a double row of adobe bricks and filled with dry clay. When we arrived this fall it was a few weeks after several heavy rainfalls and the court had dried out with a thick crust of cracked clay (think of John Wayne desert movie sand) with a number of scraggly weeds sprouting in the clay. These conditions made playing a game impossible, and, since we were planning a dinner party the next day and had promised a Bocce game as entertainment with our guests, I decided that some maintenance of the court was going to be required.

Having recently purchased a fine new rake with a good long handle just for the purpose, I headed out in the afternoon to rake the court clay into a playable condition. Now, although I consider myself a reasonably well rounded person, Bocce court grooming was not among my previous accomplishments. In fact, I had never raked one before, but how hard could it be?

Without wanting to task you, dear reader, with more information than you may want, suffice to say that it took me 3 hours to finish raking the court to my satisfaction. This involved raking "horizontally" then "vertically" and then repeating in both directions with a lighter "grooming" stroke. By the end of the process I was feeling very "Zen-like” and at peace with myself and my little part of the world! And the Bocce court looked like freshly ironed corduroy, or some aerial view of a fallow field on the prairies. (Perhaps I had just been working in the afternoon sun a bit too long!)

In addition to the unexpected psychic benefits, I also found that this task was an ideal way to interact with our cluster neighbours. Everyone coming and going from the parking lot was an excuse to stop and say "hola" or chat for a bit. I was able to monitor the progress that various workers in our neighborhood were making on their jobs: the guys stuccoing a new building, others cleaning the fountain and sweeping the walkways. By the end of the job, I had become the resident expert on raking a Bocce court, had chatted with half a dozen neighbours and felt more in touch with our cluster than during all of our comings and goings during the past month.

The next morning I decided it was going to be a baking day. Now, I have always enjoyed cooking, and it is one of the things that Cathy and I have always liked doing together. However, before we started spending time here in Loreto Bay, I had never attempted (or thought I had the time for) baking, other than making muffins from a mix.

My first experience baking in Mexico was about a year ago, when I attempted "No Knead Bread" which I had heard about some time ago on CBC Radio. If you haven't heard about this recipe before, it is bread making for non-bakers. You can google it and find the recipe if you are interested, but it is an almost fool-proof way of making a delicious "Artesanal" round loaf of Itallian-style bread with a chewy texture and crispy crust. My first attempt (and every one since) was a great success. So much so, that my fresh bread is now a staple for many of our dinner parties, and is always greeted with much enthusiasm, if I do say so myself.

While fresh baked bread is a treat anywhere, here, in the land of the "Bimbo" bakery monopoly (where almost all of the bread for sale here reminds us of "Wonderbread" back home and, most distressing, it seems to last almost indefinitely without going stale or mouldy). So a delicious, chewy, crusty loaf of bread warm from the oven is a true treat and delicacy down here!

But my sights were set much higher than just bread today! The dinner party I had groomed the Bocce court for was to celebrate the birthday of one of our friends and I had decided to bake my first ever cake for the occasion. I had two cake mixes, a chocolate and a white and several pots of icing that I had found at El Pescador (the biggest grocery store in town), so how hard could a mix be? But with the cost of electricity about 3 or 4 times what we are used to in Calgary, I was determined to get the most out of heating the oven for these cakes. So along with the cakes I mixed up a batch of muffins and a tray of cookies to bake in between the two batches of cakes. Oh yes, and I also had made up the bread dough, which has to sit overnight to rise before baking it tomorrow before the dinner party.

So the morning passed quickly, mixing and baking the first cake and, while it was in the oven, whipping up the muffins and cookies so they could take their turn while the pans cooled and I got the second cake ready to replace them. Meanwhile, I mixed up the bread dough and set it aside to “proof” until the next day. When both sets of cakes were baked and cooled I iced and layered them until I had a “tower” of six alternating white and chocolate layers covered in chocolate icing. With a few pecans on top and some shaved chocolate and candles I even impressed myself with the finished product.

So this is the story of “Raking & Baking”, and doing things here that I probably would have never done in my previous life in Canada. Life here takes on a different perspective and has different priorities. You find yourself doing things that you would never have had the time or perhaps the patience to do before, but in this place they become important and a source of pleasure and satisfaction. It is that change in perspective and priorities that is one of the satisfactions of Living Loreto, and how a place can change a person - learning as much about myself in the process as I do about the new things I am doing.

As an extra added bonus this week I have been given permission by Scott McKee to link to his website where there is a terrific series of panoramic photos tied to a map of the Loreto Bay development. If you haven't seen this before, it will be a real treat for any homeowners and give everyone else an idea about the what of the where that is Loreto Bay,

(For the less computer savy among us, follow the instructions above the map that will open when you click this link, when you click on a red dot a photo will download (slowly) on your screen and you will be able to start to pan using the corner arrows on your screen. Once the entire panoramic picture is downloaded it will appear as a long narrow picture at the top of your screen, single click on that picture and you will be able to pan back and forth on a full screen image)

Enjoy, and thanks again to Scott!

Your humble blogger,


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Well, I've got to start somewhere . . .

So here it goes . . .

Buenas dias from Loreto Mexico,

My name is Drew, six months of the year I live in Loreto Bay, a new development about 15 km outside the town of Loreto, in the state of Baja Sur Mexico. My reason for writing this is to share a window into what life is like, here in the Baja, for a mid-50ish semi-retired Canadian. I hope you will enjoy Living Loreto with me.

My wife, Cathy, and I were among the first buyers of property in this development almost exactly five years ago. At that time we bought chalk lines in the sand, and a dream. Now, five years later much has changed; the chalk lines have turned into a beautiful adobe home, blending the arcitectural charm of a tradional Mexican casa with most of the comforts we have become used to in our other home, in Canada. But the dream hasn't changed, just evolved, become more detailed and complex, and yes, at times, parts of it can be frustrating, and funny.

Our home (Casablanca) was finished three years ago and since then, we have been back and forth from Canada about a half a dozen times, staying for up to a month at a time, until last year at this time when we started our first "winter" here between November and April. We are now at the begining of our second winter and have seen many changes in the six months since we were here last, but much more about that in future posts.

Thinking about starting to write this blog, I recall how I became an avid reader of others like it, including "Where In The World Is Nellie?" and "Watch and Learn" while I was still living in Canada full time. I remember, many times, sitting at my computer on a wintery Monday morning reading about the weather, the cows, the streets, (and, oh yes, the parties) here in Loreto. For those few minutes, I escaped the winter day and was transported to a beautiful place between the Sierra Giganta mountains and the ever changing blues of the Sea of Cortez.

In fact, a description of the purpose of Living Loreto may not sound too different from some of those other peoples stories. I am going to try to bring you some of the people, places and experiences I have as I live and grow with this community we have chosen to spend half our life in. But the real difference is that this will be through my perspective, as one of the fortunate few who have found our way here at this time and how we are Living Loreto now, from week to week.

So with that in mind, my "target" is the future homeowner in Loreto Bay, who wants to share in some of the "juices" of life here, so as to have a better idea of what their life may be like when they too are Living Loreto. That's not to say that I don't encourage all the rest of you who may be reading this, and don't yet share that dream with the future homeowners. Perhaps your dream is just begining, and the adventure of buying and then building from your chalk in the sand is yet to come!

So, for all of you who have found this place, and have read this far, welcome, and thank you for your eyes and your time, I pledge to do my best to make our visits worth your while, and perhaps to stoke the fire under your dreams. Please bookmark me and come back to visit again soon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An extraordinary day!

Since there is no such thing as an "ordinary" day here, I thought I would start with an extraordinary one that we experienced about a week after we arrived. While we live in Loreto Bay, this development is within another community, Nopolo, that had it's beginnings many years before Loreto Bay began. One of the residents in Nopolo are our good friends Manfred and Sheila, who built their home more than ten years ago when there were few other people living here.

Last weekend they held the First Annual Paella Cook Off at their home. This was a combined fundraising/social event that had it's beginnings this past spring while Manfred and Sheila were travelling north for the summer and met a group of motorcycle riders when they stopped at a place called Catavina, about halfway between Loreto and the Mexican/US border. As you might have guessed, these were not your typical "bikers". In fact their conversation started over a glass or two of wine, in the hotel parking lot.

It turned out that the "bikers" were in fact partners in the Roganto winery based in Ensenada, to which they were returning after their excursion down the Baja on a fleet of BMWs and Harleys. Included in their on-road support was a trailer, well stocked with cases of wine and gourmet foods, which were shared all round, later that evening, in the same hotel parking lot.

Skip forward to this fall when Manfred and Shelia were making the return trip home to Nopolo and, as promised, stopped at Roganto in Ensenada to visit their new friends. During the course of that visit, and sampling more of the fine wine, conversation naturally turned to food, and specifically paella.

Now, Shelia is a wonderful cook, and Manfred, being suitably proud of his wife's culinary talents, could be excused a little modest bragging about her skill at making THE BEST paella. This statement was immediately challenged by several of the vintners and before long plans were being made for the First Annual Loreto/Nopolo Paella Cook Off. Always ready for any excuse for a bike ride and good food and wine, a group of about twelve from the winery decided to travel the day and a half south to Nopolo, carrying with them all of the necessary equipment and supplies to enter three teams in the event. It was left up to Manfred and Sheila to organize things at this end, and recruit some local teams for the competition. Cathy and my contribution was to supply our portable PA system for the MC to use and play suitable "paella music" and take pictures of the competition and celebrations.

On the appointed day we arrived at their casa to find two of the ubiquitous "cervesa tents" shading about 150 chairs with tables in a vacant lot next door and all the preparations well under way for the six competing teams who were set up in the back yard of the house. In addition to the three teams competing from Ensenada, there were three "locals" competing; a team representing Loreto Playa and Dali Deli (two local Loreto businesses), Petite Paella with Loreto Bay employee Hector Morales with assistance from his girlfriend, and, of course, Sheila, who was also acting hostess to the party.

Mostt of the teams were using large paella pans which would hold enough food to serve at least 30 or more people and they each contributed all of their ingredients to the cause. Each pan held pounds and pounds of seafood, the finest shrimp, scallops and lobsters along with all the vegetables and rice Over 150 people attended, donating 150 pesos each for a plate to sample as much paella as they could eat, with beer and water available for purchase and liberal tastings of samples from the Roganto cellars. Fine wines were also available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds being contributed to the cause. By the end of the afternoon over $2,000 USD had been raised which was then divided between the Loreto Internado (residential) school and D.I.F. a social service agency with broad responsibilities to benefit those with the greatest needs in and around Loreto.

The Judging was handled by two serious teams of local experts, one team judging the very important presentation, which, as you can see from a few of these pictures, was a very tough competition in itself. The second team of judges had an even tougher challenge, to award the first, second and third prizes for taste, sampling only the rice from each pan, so as not to be overly influenced by morsels of the delectable seafood.

Only then, after the two teams of judges had made their rounds, were the tables of food opened to the hungry crowd that were gathered under the tents in the yard. But not to eat, yet, only to look and appreciate each unique and stunning presentation pan. Then, finally, after everyone had ooohed and aaahed their way past the proud chefs and their creations, did the feasting begin. It went on for most of the afternoon, with people going back for second and third helpings. With still more food left, the organizers sold take-away dishes that could be filled and enjoyed later at home and the last of the food disappeared.

The results of the judging? Well, I am pleased to report that one of the Roganto teams, who had travelled the furthest to be there, took home the "Presentation" award, and, Sheila who had hostessed the event was third runner-up, Hector and the Petite Paella team won second runner-up, and the Loreto Playa/Dali Deli Team was the overall winner of the First Annual Loreto/Nopolo Paella Cook Off! I can assure you that anyone who was there is already looking forward (with watering mouths) to the Second Annual, which promises to be an even bigger event!

So this was a perfect example of the sort of wonderful synergy that can happen when a group of people, Mexican, American, Canadian and others from Loreto Bay, Nopolo, the town of Loreto and other surrounding communities get together for good time, good food, and a good cause, and this is a part of the magic that happens in this wonderful place that I want to share with you as I continue my adventure of Living Loreto!