Sunday, April 26, 2015

How Visitors change the perspective

This past week I have been enjoying the company of family who are visiting Loreto from Canada.  In the case of my sister and brother-in-law, this is their third visit, and this time they were accompanied by my niece, her husband and their two young boys making their first visits here.  To accommodate this get together we rented a near-by home for the young family, while my sister and her husband stayed in my home.

The origins of this visit began with Westjet announcing their new direct service to Loreto from Calgary, which made the logistics much simpler for my niece’s family to travel here from eastern Canada where they live, and meet up with my sister in Calgary for the trip south.  Which makes their trip another example of the impact that this Westjet service is having on the numbers of Visitors we are seeing here this spring.

It is also an example of the expanding age range of the Visitors who have been coming here in recent years.  Pre-retirement Baby Boomers were an important demographic in the original Loreto Bay Developer’s marketing, along with those who had already retired.  But given the travel distances and more limited air access in the early days of the Development, younger Visitors and families with children were less common than they have been in recent years.  Presumably this trend towards a wider age range of Visitors will continue, as it becomes easier and less expensive to travel here, particularly as the numbers of retired Boomers living here increases and they invite their younger adult children and grandchildren to visit.

One of the rewards of having Visitors here is that it creates an occasion for me to see where I am living most of the year through their eyes – and to appreciate this place even more, as a result of that  refreshed perspective.  While I usually strive to live in the moment and not take my day to day circumstances for granted, it is, I think, inevitable that one tends to becomes somewhat “jaded” over time – even if those circumstances include an almost ideal climate, palm trees, and a beach on the Sea of Cortez!

But when Visitors arrive and see our Community with its multi-colored homes, surrounded by manicured landscaping, incorporating exotic plantings and multiple Community Courtyards with water features and secluded places to enjoy reading a book – or just the scenery – their reaction makes it easy to recall why I chose to live here over 10 years ago.  And also to feel a growing sense of community pride in how this place has evolved and matured during that period of time!

Visitors also can change the day to day routine which I am prone to, living and working here as I
have done over the years, and provides the occasion for me to enjoy some of the simple activities that I tend to overlook as I go about my normal life here.  For instance, going to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in town (something I don’t do as often as I have in the past), and when we had a short wait for a table, I found myself conducting an impromptu tour of the town square and original Mission Church, before we sat down for a delicious meal.  And then, following the meal, being serenaded by a street busker playing a handmade marimba (wooden xylophone) which he carries on his back from one stop to another, a moment that will hopefully live as a memory for my young nephews of their first visit to Mexico.

Simply taking my Guests on a shopping expedition to town to stock up on groceries, and introducing them to the “hunting and gathering” concept of provisioning, visiting several small specialty stores, while remaining adaptable and ready to enjoy what is available - as opposed to expecting to find everything on one’s list. And so, through this process, I too can see again the simple activity of buying groceries here, not just as a weekly routine, but as a unique – dare I say exotic – experience, when seen through the eyes of a person used to the typical North American supermarket.

It is also an opportunity for me to play the tourist in my own town again.  Like the day that I took them to the local “Clam Shack” (officially Vista al Mar) for a tasty lunch on the Beach before we headed to Puerto Escondido and went on a Glass Bottom Boat tour of Danzante Island, where we saw thousands of fish from dozens of species, including over two dozen rays, a particular highlight for my young nephews.

But I also realized that not everything during the visit needed to be an “event”.  Like the afternoon
the nephews played a somewhat anarchistic game of over-sized checkers on the inlaid game board of the Palapa Patio near my home, supported by an appropriately enthusiastic adult cheering section.  Likewise, the simple joy of running into the surf washing up onto the Beach – when you are 5 or 7 years old!  Or, in the case of their parents, the restorative power of heading to bed early (Baja Midnight) and being wakened by birdsong as the sun begins to rise on another beautiful day in Loreto Bay.

Of course, it is also a treat for me to have this time with family, when we spend most of the year thousands of kilometers apart - an infrequent opportunity to briefly get to know children who grow up so quickly, when it can be a long time between visits.  To be able to spend most of an evening in conversation, rather than trying to communicate over Skype before we lose the connection, or reduce the conversation to its relevant points in an email.

As one visit draws to an end, and the other reaches the halfway point, I consider what memories will be left after they leave.  Like a crowded dinner table for a change, with several family conversations going on at the same time, my nephews keeping a running total of the geckos they have sighted during their stay, these will be among my memories of their visit.  As for my Guests, my best wish for them is that during their brief stay they too will have gained their own appreciation for “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last Open Mic of the Season in Loreto Bay

We are currently in the “exodus” phase of the Season for Residents of Loreto Bay, as those who have been here for most of the Season start to return to their northern Homes for the Summer.  However, this year I am noticing a larger number of Visitors continuing to arrive here to rent Loreto Bay Homes for a spring vacation, due in part to the continuing flights by Westjet from western Canada.  Which is fortunate for them, as I have long felt that this time of year is one of the nicest – with temperatures of 30 Celsius/85 Fahrenheit, light breezes and relatively low humidity.

But before many of the Seasonal Residents had left for the summer there was a final Open Mic Night for the Season at the Wine Cellar about a week ago.  I have written about these musical evenings several times before, and over the couple of years they have been held they have grown significantly in popularity and participation.  Due to the popularity of previous evenings like this, I arrived early for the 7:00 pm start time, to stake out my preferred location at the corner of the Bar at the Wine Cellar where I can shoot pictures of the performers without interfering too much with others watching the show, and I’m close to the source for sustaining food and beverages!

Even so, when I arrived it was already almost a full house with an expanded number of tables and chairs occupied for the evening’s entertainment.  As is so often the case when there is an occasion for people to congregate here, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people who were still here, although many of them were talking about their immanent departures.  Before long the music began, with a “pick-up” group of five musicians who played an opening set.  They were followed by a duo who played some original compositions.

Later in the evening Steve, a popular Loreto Bay musician who was a founding member of Los Beach Dogs, joined the party and played his tasty lead guitar as back-up for a few songs, before launching into a solo set.  Because Steve has not been able to spend as much time in Loreto Bay this Season as he has in past years, he got a very warm response from this crowd, many of whom were friends and neighbors, as well as music fans.

That mood extended throughout the evening, as for many of those in attendance this was going to be one of their last chances to see and visit with Loreto Bay friends until after the summer, when the snowbirds will return to the Baja.  The unusually large crowd kept Wine Cellar Owners Will and Cynthia and their staff busy all evening with a steady stream of beverages from the bar and tasty tapas from their kitchen.  That crowd, and the music they were here to listen to, spread from the interior to the small patio area and beyond, where moderate level conversations were possible.

Along with the familiar faces of Homeowners who have been here most of the past winter, I also noticed a large number of “new” faces in the crowd as well - Visitors who were renting Loreto Bay Homes and had either dropped in for a drink and a snack and unexpectedly found themselves in an informal concert, or else they were drawn to the bar by the sounds of the music drifting over the otherwise quiet community. 

Regardless, I am sure the evening’s festivities came as somewhat of a surprise to these newcomers, particularly, as I have said before, if they had assumed that they were living in an apparently semi-deserted community, based on the relative handful of people one tends to encounter on a typical day’s activities here.

What must be clear to these newcomers, temporarily becoming part of a thriving ex-pat community in the southern Baja, is that they have stumbled upon a unique enclave that has created our own Village like atmosphere on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  By day these Visitors can admire the acres of meticulous landscaping that makes up the extensive common areas of our condominium development, and enjoy our pristine community pools or the well maintained Golf Course that wraps around our Homes.

But after experiencing the daytime tranquility of Loreto Bay, they have now found themselves in a “standing room only” bar, with about a hundred of their newest best friends, listening to talented amateurs entertaining their friends and acquaintances alike with classic popular music, in a relaxed informal atmosphere.  But then again, I guess it comes as no surprise, when I meet some of those same Visitors who are drawn to my Office looking for information about this unique community, and then when some of those same people eventually become Homeowners here, and join the “party” on a long term basis.    

And so, as we draw nearer to the end of another winter Season here, with the celebration of another “last of the Season” event, we continue to welcome a growing number of people who are just beginning their Loreto affair.  Showing them a side of our community that can only be appreciated when one shares the day to day lifestyle we have created here.  Because, in addition to the beauty that we are surrounded with, and the almost ideal climate we enjoy most of the year, the “best” part of this place is the people who have come here and have helped to make it the very special place it is – and that’s another thing I like about “Living Loreto”!   

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Beach Blog - Redux!

For those of you who are regular readers of these postings, you will be familiar with my occasional “Beach Blogs” in the past, and you may perhaps have noticed that there has not been one so far this Season – until now.

As my “work” preoccupation has grown, with the steady increase in business, there has been a tendency to get into different routines and get away from some of the quieter pastimes that occupied me in past years when life here was simpler and with fewer distractions.  But a combination of circumstances, not least of which is the fact that this past weekend Baja Sur finally “sprang forward” into Daylight Saving Time, over a month later than the rest of North America, meaning that the sun is now rising an hour later than last week, caused me to decide one morning this week that it was time again to hit the Beach.

As I left my Home about 6:45 the eastern sky was beginning to brighten and I could see that it was going to be a partly cloudy morning, not perhaps as conducive to classic sunrise images as a clear morning, but, then again, one of the benefits of living here most of the year is that an “ordinary” day is OK too – not every moment has to be a classic event, there can be another one any time I choose.  And so I made my way the short walk down to the Beach.

As is often the case early in the morning, the water was almost perfectly calm, reflecting the clouds as they became tinged with sunlight and the horizon over Isla Carmen in the distance gradually brightened with the approaching sunrise.  As I slowly walked along the Beach, heading south towards the Hotel, I met my first companions of the morning, a man walking two dogs off leash and we exchanged a greeting as we passed.  However much we humans enjoy a walk on the Beach, I am sure this is the highlight of the day for the thriving dog population of Loreto Bay - a chance for them to be free and explore the sights and smells and run at the water’s edge.

Before long three people arrived on the Beach carrying paddle 
boards and soon they were launched into the calm water lapping the shore, one of them complete with a passenger, their small dog perched trustingly on the wide stable board.  As the numbers of Residents has grown over recent years, so has the number and variety of water toys they have brought with them.  Kayaks continue to be the most common conveyance, but paddle boards have become increasingly popular and there are several Hobie style hybrids that are larger kayak style hulls with a sail, outriggers for stability, and pedal drives.

After watching the paddle boarders make their way offshore I was struck by how incongruous they appeared in the growing distance – apparently standing upright on top of the water, making their graceful way across the calm surface, while the boards that support them become harder to see as they move further away.  As I continued further along, ahead of me I saw another couple launching their kayaks and paddling out into the brightening water, as the morning solitude was gradually replaced as I was joined by other early risers who were enjoying more active pleasures this morning.

By now the sun was breaking above the craggy peaks of Carmen in the distance, but this day’s version of sunrise was accented by the clouds hanging over the horizon, filtering the strengthening sunlight.  As I contemplated this peaceful scene I realized how quiet it was, with just the steady lapping rhythm of the water and hardly a breath of breeze to ripple the water’s surface.  Without wanting to sound too spiritual about it, but the feeling on the Beach this morning was similar to how I have felt walking into some churches in the past – a calm stillness that creates a hushed atmosphere where one’s senses are heightened.

I noticed these feelings as I met more fellow travelers further down the Beach, as a mother, daughter and dog and we exchanged a quietly relaxed greeting, not wanting to disturb each other’s peaceful moment, while still acknowledging a friendly presence.  Further along, now in front of the Hotel Beach, a security person was checking the Beach Palapas and their lounge chairs, a few with remnants of the activities of the day, or night, before – a couple of beach towels on the chairs, with the odd drink can nestled in the sand nearby.

An early morning delegation of nearly identical seagulls moved rather aimlessly along the beach edge, trying their best to ignore my approach, while keeping a safe distance until they either take to the water or the air, either option more graceful than their flat-webbed shuffle on the sand.  There were a few pelicans cruising motionlessly a couple of hundred feet above, apparently waiting for the breakfast bell to sound when schools of small fish would arrive in the shallow water and the daily feeding ritual would begin again.

As I reached the end of the Beach at Punta Nopolo, the rocky outcrop that marks the end of Loreto Bay, I could see the silvery spray of the irrigation sweeping over the emerald green of the golf course with the now strengthening sun climbing higher above the clouds on the horizon.  Turning, I slowly made my way back along the Beach towards my home again, taking in the curving shoreline now trimmed with the multi-colored Villas, bright again in the morning sun, with the majestic Sierra de la Giganta Mountains in the background, seeming closer than usual in the clear morning air.          

As I retraced my steps, I was lapped by a solitary jogger pacing
himself along the water’s edge and then met a blissfully happy, if somewhat bedraggled, dog who invited me to play a potentially unending game of fetch with him, until his person joined us, and then, after a few friendly words of greeting, she expertly tossed the ball further down the Beach, continuing the ever-new game that was their morning ritual. 

Finally, fittingly, I met another couple of friends whose first return visit to the Home they had
purchased a year ago was about to come to an end – they were leaving the next day to begin the journey half way around the world to their other home in Germany.  Their three week visit had flown by, between getting settled into their new Home and a full schedule of activities, and they were already excitedly talking of their plans for a year-end return visit.  And so, after sharing their enthusiasm over their first experiences as Homeowners here, and bidding them farewell and a safe return, I made my way back to my Home to begin my day, appreciating once again the simple pleasures of “Living Loreto.” 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The impact of Westjet on Loreto - so far!

It has now been a month and a half since Westjet began once a week direct flights from Calgary in western Canada to Loreto and I want to share some impressions of the impact that this new service has had so far.  First of all, by all reports from the numerous passengers I have spoken with, the southbound flights have been essentially booked to capacity, with few, if any, vacant seats, and from what else I have heard, the situation is similar for the northbound trips.

That means that each weekly flight of the Westjet 737-700 plane brings about 120 passengers to Loreto, mainly from western Canada, as compared to the approximate maximum of 500 passengers a week that the current daily flights Alaska/Horizon is making to Loreto from LAX in the smaller capacity Bombardier Q400 turboprop they use on this flight.  Or in other words, the new Westjet service has increased air access to Loreto by about 25% in the last month and a half.

It is also worth noting that looking at the average ticket prices, the Westjet flight in Canadian Dollars is about the same cost from western Canada as the much shorter Alaska/Horizon trip from Los Angeles, which is of course calculated in US Dollars, which actually makes this Canadian flight about 20% cheaper, considering the current exchange rate which has the Canadian Dollar around 80 cents US.  This price difference has made travelling to Loreto a more attractive option for Canadians, even if they have to connect through Calgary from elsewhere in the country.  Let alone the fact that, as a direct flight, it avoids the hassle and expense of travelling from Canada through LAX to get here and return north again.

While it would be a mistake to assume that all of that increased number of passengers wind up here in Loreto Bay, I think it is probably fair to think that a large percentage of them do.  Particularly given the fact that Calgary was one of the best markets for the original Developer during the marketing phase that started over 10 years ago.  And so, between Homeowners, their friends and families, and a presumably large number of others in the Calgary market who are familiar with Loreto because of this development, I would not be surprised if many of these new passengers are coming to Loreto to stay in Loreto Bay.

Which brings me back to the subject for this week’s posting.  Working from my Real Estate Office, which is centrally located in the larger Founders Neighborhood of Loreto Bay, I am in a good place to observe the day to day “street life” of our Community as people pass by.  And, during the past month and a half since the Westjet flights began, I have seen a definite increase in the numbers of apparent Visitors.  While that may not seem like too significant a statement to make, it does indicate a trend that I have not seen to the same extent before, in the almost 7 years I have been working in this business here.

During that period time there has been a growing number of Visitors and Renters coming to Loreto Bay and they have been a welcome, if comparatively small, addition to the Resident population.  In the past it was relatively easy to pick out these “new faces” among the many familiar acquaintances, friends and neighbors that I have come to know over the years, who live here and return to stay for varying lengths of time.  However, recently I have begun to realize that there appears to be more of these new arrivals than ever, and so now walking down the Paseo sometimes it seems there are more new faces than familiar ones.

This trend is further accented by the fact that in the past several weeks the annual exodus of winter Residents has also begun, as people who live here for months during the Season start to return to their northern homes for the summer.  So, as the numbers of Residents starts to decline and our winter Season winds down, the presence of the Visitors becomes more and more noticeable as they become a larger percentage of the population of Loreto Bay.

While in my opinion this is a very positive trend and I am excited by the prospect of a growing
number of Visitors and Renters choosing to come here for a vacation, and the potential this has for the future of Loreto Bay and the town of Loreto.  What has struck me is, that for the first time, I can begin to see how that future may look, as we hopefully welcome Westjet back again this Fall with a new schedule of Loreto flights that would extend throughout the winter Season.  And then, if I look even further into my personal “crystal ball”, to the next Airline that may be influenced by Westjet’s success here and the eventual launch of another Loreto bound flight, possibly from some other US city.

The change, that I am now seeing at this early stage, could in time cause Loreto Bay to transition from a Community with Visitors to a Resort Destination with Residents.  Now, before I am accused of predicting an immanent influx of Vacationers descending on Loreto Bay and turning it into some kinder, gentler version of Cabo (perish the thought!) let me be clear – I believe that our Community, and the many hundreds of Homeowners who live here for part of the year, will not only survive, but thrive in a future that includes a growing number of Tourists that will choose to share this special place that we have helped to create here.

After all, originally we were all Visitors here, and those of us who were willing and able to invest in a dream, either as it was offered to us by the original Developer during the initial 5 year marketing phase, or more recently to those who have chosen to join our community over the years since, we all recognized the special qualities that make this place unique.  And now, as I watch the growing numbers of these newcomers passing by the doors of my Office on a daily basis, I realize that we may now be seeing the beginning of yet another Chapter of “Living Loreto”!