Puerto Vallarta - Joe Jack's Fish Shack

Puerto Vallarta - I sometimes dream about fish tacos!  Mostly about Joe Jack’s FIsh Shack fish tacos!

At 212 Basilio Badillo in Zona Romantica, a 2-storey restaurant called Joe Jack’s Fish Shack serves lovely food. This casual and funky restaurant sports an open air patio on the second level which is my favourite place to dine while there. The walls are adorned in old movie posters.Joe Jacks Fish Shack_C06093.jpg

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Joe Jacks FIsh Shack_C06092.jpgDid I mention that the food is consistently fantastic! They serve fish - surprise - but there’s much more than just fish on the menu. I’ve heard that their burgers are a must-try (I’ve seen them as well but will need to return and have one to give you feedback on that).

My first meal at Joe Jack’s was the red snapper (which I devoured and failed to take any photos of!) Smothered in chiles and lime, this fish dish was incredibly delicious!

Joe Jack’s offers daily (12 noon - 5 pm)  2 for 1 mojitos - you have to try their ginger mojitos and their passionfruit mojitos which were also very good but because I love them so much I opted to switch to No-jitos (no alcohol) so I could enjoy more of the wonderful flavours. Admission - I’m quite sure I LOVE the no-jitos a lot!

A starter while waiting for the fish tacos - a great tasting guacamole with chips.Joe Jacks FIsh Shack_IMG_1076.jpg

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Ahh - the fish tacos. I tried them both ways - grilled or battered. And usually I wouldn’t like anything battered but these battered tacos are amazing. Love, love, love them!!
Joe Jacks Fish Shack_IMG_1077.jpgAnd as an extra bonus, we’d get these 50 peso discount coupons attached to our bill to be used on our next visit! Yay!Joe Jacks Fish Shack_IMG_1163.jpgWe’ll be back!

Puerto Vallarta - Doors and Gates

Puerto Vallarta - I love taking photos of doors, gates, windows and balconies and their architectural elements the world over. Puerto Vallarta offers the photographer an endless selection of architectural elements. Here is a look at just a few of the many doors and gates I took photos of while visiting PV.

I would pass by this villa numereous times a week while walking on Basilio Badillo in Zona Romantica to some of my favourite eating spots! And there’s often a lovely family that sells fresh strawberries just outside this home on some afternoons and evenings.Puerto Vallarta_ IMG_9499.jpgA gorgeous wood door and beautiful window grates on this home on Iturbide in El Centro.Puerto Vallarta_C04991.jpg

Puerto Vallarta _4991.jpgA closer look at an intricately carved wood door in El Centro located along the Malecon.Puerto Vallarta_C05009.jpg

Puerto Vallarta_C05010.jpgNear the Nostalgia sculpture by Ramiz Barquet on the northern end of the Malecón is this beautifully carved wood door. It has exquisite detailing.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_0587.jpg

Puerto Vallarta_IMG_0589.jpgAs I continue to blog about Puerto Vallarta and the region around, I’ll be posting many more photos I’ve taken of interesting doors, gates, windows, and balconies.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon Sculptures As I See Them

Puerto Vallarta - one of the most popular activities of visitors to PV is to walk the Malecón, the seawall promenade that stretches along the edge of El Centro and Zona Romantica. Along this expansive boardwalk are numerous sculptures. Although I didn’t take in the free sculpture tour that’s offered (and seems quite popular) while visiting, I did walk the Malecón often and tried to capture the beauty of these sculptures in my photos as I saw them. So this post is not so much about the history, meaning or symbolism behind all these sculptures but merely seeing them through my eyes (and camera lens).

The sculptures are situated along the Malecón starting at the north end near Hotel Rosita ending on the South Side just over the Rio Cuale pedestrian bridge on the Malecón. When the Malecón was renovated in 2011, more sculptures were added and some that once were there are no longer. I’m curious though - have the latter been erected elsewhere in PV or put into storage?  

Here is a look at the fifteen sculptures currently along the Malecón starting from the northernmost side. Many sculptures along the way beg the viewer to touch, and in some cases, climb or sit on the sculpture. 

The Milleniums by Mathis Lídice
This bronze statue curls up to the sky above - filled with great detail, imagery and so much symbolism showing the various milleniums ending with imagery of the current millenium.The Millenia_IMG_0605.jpg

The Millenia_IMG_0603.jpgCarved at the base are waves of the sea and a strand of DNA depicting a link to the evolution of life.The Millenia_IMG_0619.jpgGreat detail is shown in the warrior Charlemagne (Charles the Great) emphasizing the tumultuous times of the first millenium.The Millenia_IMG_0609.jpg

The Millenia_IMG_0624.jpgFurther up the sculpture, the second millenium is represented by Nezahualcóyotl, a ruler in pre-Columbian Mexico, a warrior, and philosopher known for his poetry.  Universal wisdom is depicted here - a closer look shows a Lithium atom in Nezahualcóyotl’s right hand and his left hand points to a sphere of the world - perhaps suggesting the many discoveries in the world during that time. Yes, that’s the moon in the sky!The Millenia_IMG_0620.jpg

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The Millenia_IMG_0621.jpgThe final and current millenium at the topmost section of the statue is shown as a woman reaching to catch a dove - perhaps, symbolizing the continuous searching and reaching out for peace for all mankind (and for the birds of PV, a resting spot with a great view of Banderas Bay!).The Millenia_IMG_0608.jpg

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THe Millenia_06687.jpgOrigin and Destiny by Pedro Tello
A five-piece display (although I somehow managed to miss photographing one of the pieces - the wheel). Pictured here are four pieces of man’s connection to the following: chimera (unity with marine animals, reptiles and birds), obelisk complete with hour glass (spirituality), whale (emerging into new millenium), and boat (searching for new horizons).Origin and Destiny_IMG_0601.jpg

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Origin and Destiny_IMG_0591.jpgLa Nostalgia (Nostalgia) by Ramiz Barquet
One of my favourites - a gorgeous portrayal of a couple in love and looking lovingly towards the city and the mountains and jungles beyond. It’s not hard to fall in love with PV!Nostalgia_IMG_0585.jpg

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Nostalgia_IMG_0584.jpgEl Sutil Comepiedras (The Subtle Rock-Eater) by Jonas Gutiérrez
A clown-like figure eating rocks?  For me, I look at the iridescent obsidian belly and, upon closer observation, it reflects back to me the world around me. What is one to make of this? Perhaps it’s about all that I place and hold inside myself is then outwardly reflected to others around me. Am I demonstrating positivity, kindness and understanding or negativity, selfishness and intolerance in my life? Time for reflection. 
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The Sutle Rock Eater_06671.jpgThe Good Fortune Unicorn by Aníbal Riebeling 
It’s always great to have a good luck charm such as this unicorn to bring good fortune to you. It definitely was my good fortune to have the opportunity to visit PV for a wonderful six weeks. I will be returning.The Good Fortune Unicorn_IMG_0576.jpg

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Triton and the Nereid by Carlos Espino
Powerful images of greek mythology - Triton, the merman looks longingly at Nereid, a sea nymph. Or is it about two fit bodies ready for the beaches? Nah, probably not!Triton and Nereid_IMG_0571.jpg

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La Rotunda del Mar (The Rotunda of the Sea) by Alejandro Colunga
What a quirky and surreal collection of sculptures which beg you to touch, climb on or take a seat. Wow, a talented artist with a very vivid imagination! So many details to discover. Plenty of places to sit and interact.The Roundabout of the Sea_IMG_0560.jpg

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In Search of Reason by Sergio Bustamante
Are the young ones on the ladder being called to come back down or being asked what they can see from their vantage point? Another interactive piece on the Malecón which visitors love climbing on.Searching for Reason_IMG_0541.jpg

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Searching for Reason_IMG_0552.jpgCaballero del Mar (The Seahorse) by Rafael Zamarripa
Possibly the most popular sculpture along the Malecón. It’s also become the symbol of Puerto Vallarta. Hardly a tourist goes by without getting their photo taken in front of the boy and the seahorse.Boy on Seahorse_IMG_9553.jpg
I read that this sculpture has a fascinating history with this particular sculpture on the Malecón being the ‘second’ one. The original was ripped from its base during a storm and thrown into the Bay. The artist then made this one to replace the popular original one. Then the original was found, recovered and placed on the south end of Los Muertos Beach. The original one was once again torn from its base during another storm and guess what, it was recovered again and now rests back at its home on Los Muertos Beach as shown here!
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The second sculpture, larger than the first, is located here near the Arches on the Malecón in El Centro. The boy’s outstretched arm seems to invite everyone to explore and discover everything that PV has to offer!Boy on Seahorse_IMG_0530.jpg

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Boy on Seahorse_IMG_0666.jpgLa Fuente de la Amistad (The Friendship Fountain) created by James ‘Bud’ Bottoms
A popular sculpture where people walking the Malecón gather around on all sides to pose for photos and the only sculpture that has a water feature as part of it. California native Bottoms created this sculpture and Octavio González Gutiérrez sculpted it aka Dancing Dolphins, one of many sculptures he’s done in the PV region. This sculpture reminds me of the many dolphins we saw dancing in the waters of Banderas Bay while visiting PVThe Friendship Fountain_06663.jpg

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The Friendship Fountain_IMG_0679.jpgBailarines de Vallarta (Vallarta Dancers) by Jim Demetro
Sculptor Demetro has been living in PV for over a decade and has been greatly inspired by Mexico. He currently has two sculptures along the Malecón, the Vallarta Dancers and further down, the Washer Woman. It is said that the inspiration for this colourful sculpture is the youthful energy, flowing movement and the brightly colourful costumes of the very talented Xiutla dancers dramatic performance of Ravel’s Bolero. These dancers look like they could come to life with the mere addition of music.Vallarta Dancers_06847.jpg

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Vallarta Dancers__06491.jpgEriza-Dos (Standing on End) by Blu (Maritza Vasquez)
These two sea urchins watch over Banderas Bay just feet away. I love how the iron sculptures stand out against the bluest of blue skies in PV.
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On another day while walking the Malecón, the beautiful blue sky adds a gorgeous background to the rusting urchins. I love the different hues in the rust in the close-up.The Urchins_06136.jpg

The Urchins_06137.jpgSan Pascual Bailón (Saint Paschal Baylon) by Ramiz Barquet
This bronze statue is of Saint Paschal Baylon, the patron saint of cooks. This sculpture honours the many chefs of PV that feed the many tourists and locals - and having eaten many wonderful meals in PV during our six week visit, there are many talented chefs and cooks in PV and region. I did go on a food tour of PV and got a small taste of some of the tasty food prepared by these dedicated cooks.
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LPGA champ Lorena Ochoa Reyes by artist Octavio Gonzalez Gutierrez. 
Lorena is from the Jalisco state and, although retired now, was once the top-ranked female golfer in the world. You will notice that she is currently missing her golf club. That’s rather unfortunate. Perhaps someone borrowed it in hopes of improving their golf game….NOT.
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Lorena Ochoa_IMG_2050.jpgThe Washer Woman by Jim Demetro
Demetro honours a local indigenous woman who washes her family’s laundry in the Rio Cuale. He also honours the many people who, living further up the river, still continue this tradition of scrubbing their laundry on the rocks in the Rio Cuale. This back breaking work is captured in Demetro’s work.Señora Lavando_IMG_2080.jpg

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Señora Lavando_IMG_2085.jpgHaving captured these sculptures, as I saw them, has encouraged me to take the free tour to learn more about the talented sculptors and the meaning behind their incredible works of art.

Puerto Vallarta - What's in a street sign?

Puerto Vallarta - What’s in a street sign, you ask? Street signs are virtually at every street corner or intersection letting you know exactly where you are. But for me, they are more than just direction markers. Upon reflection, these signs bring back memories of my adventure/exploration of that particular region. It may be the atmosphere, the ambience, the wonderful smells of food cooking, the sounds of music drifting from the open windows………it’s more than just a street sign.

El Centro - this series of photographs remind me of the fantastic hike we went on with Sylvie (a PV local) - quaint cobblestone streets with picturesque homes and businesses in the hills of El Centro.

Calle Guadalupe Sanchez, home to Casa De La Torre, a luxury villa rental as well as Cafe des Artiste, one of PV’s upscale restaurants. Also many homes, neighbourhood stores and restaurants. Check out the colourful flags blowing in the breeze above the street near Pipi’s Restaurant while walking on Guad. Sanchez! Gives this street a festive feel!Guadalupe Sanchez IMG_9710.jpgCalle Corona runs east-west. I don’t quite understand the C.lll and the C.ll (next photo) but I suspect that is an indicator of which block you are on Corona.Corona IMG_9862.jpg

Corona_IMG_9871.jpgCalle Matamoros is home to Chez Elena and Hotel Cuatro Vientos and many homes. A very photographic street.Matamoros IMG_9873.jpgCalle Zaragoza is gorgeous - beautiful carved wooden doorways, ornate windows and balconies overflowing with brightly coloured bougainvillea - a photographer’s dream. The ‘love bridge‘ in Gringo Gulch is also located on Calle Zaragoza. Zaragoza IMG_C06141.jpgStreet signs in Puerto Vallarta South Side (aka Zona Romantica, Old Town)

Ah, Basilio Badillo - often mispronounced by many a tourist!!  Great memories here for me - the food!!  I <3 Joe Jack’s Fish Shack - can’t get enough of their fish tacos!  And Panchos Takos - again, well worth the wait for their El Pastor tacos! Other great food experiences on this ‘restaurant’ street as well!Basilio Badillo IMG_C06430.jpg

Pulpito was just around the corner from one of my favourite ‘breakfast’ spots - Salud Super Foods. I fondly remember their breakfast Cali Wrap and the Bahía de Banderas smoothie! We’d often meet friends for breakfast and then head down Pulpito Street to Amapas Street.
Pulpito IMG_C06824.jpgAmapas, the winding street parallel to the Bay of Banderas, on the very south end of Zona Romantica (the colonia also known as Emiliano Zapata). Homes and condos here appear to be perched on top of each other on the edge of steep hills.Amapas IMG_C06503.jpgAnd finally, Lázaro Cárdenas - I loved this street!  The man selling churros just outside the neighbourhood church on the corner of Lázaro Cárdenas and Aguacate (so tasty!). And Cenaduria Celia - a fantastic family-run restaurant with yummy pozole and the most delicious flan in PV!Lazaro Cardenas_IMG_9502.jpgStreet signs of PV invoke incredibly good memories of my time there!  They’re more than just street signs.

Walking the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta - Part 2

No better way to get to know a place than to get out and hike around. You never know what you’ll discover! And discover I did - on Sylvie Scopazza’s ‘Power Walk the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta‘ tour booked through Tours Du Jour Mexico

The first part of the tour had us hiking from The Arches on the Malecon through quaint, cobblestone streets to steps and paths winding their way to the top of the hills in El Centro. From the cross perched high above the city we took in the amazing panoramic views of Puerto Vallarta, then descended back down via steep stairs, narrow paths and streets.

Our next stop is at Los Cuatro Vientos Hotel & Chez Elena Restaurant, tour around the grounds and the owner is kind to let us take in the views from their rooftop deck. Again, more fantastic views overlooking Puerto Vallarta.
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From the expansive rooftop of Hotel Los Cuatro Vientos, the panoramic views of Puerto Vallarta are spectacular.Los Cuatro Vientos Hotel_IMG_9892.jpgHere we are looking at El Centro below, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Banderas Bay and the beautiful Sierra Madre mountains beyond.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9891.jpgWe glance over our shoulders and look back towards the hills and the cross from which we have just hiked from.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9887.jpg

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We continue down the street and stop by Esquina de los Caprichos, a small Spanish Tapas Bar/Restaurant located on one of PV’s many charming cobblestone streets.Esquina de los Caprichos_C05160.jpg

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We are invited into the tiny and quaint open air patio beyond the kitchen and are treated to incredibly tasty tapas. An absolute treat to say the least!Esquina de los Caprichos_IMG_9923.jpg

Esquina de los Caprichos_IMG_9938.jpgWe tasted several tapas however I can’t recall what they were! All I remember is how delicious they tasted!Esquina de los Caprichos__IMG_9925 copy.jpg

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Esquina de los Caprichos_IMG_9930.jpgWhat a fantastic dessert - incredibly tasty! It’s not always on their menu (as we found out on a return visit!).Esquina de los Caprichos_IMG_9933.jpgWhat a great break after all that hiking this morning but….the tour does not end here.

We continue on Calle Miramar past Hacienda San Angel, a boutique luxury hotel. (We decide to return for brunch another day).Hacienda San Angel_C04984.jpgOur hike continues further along into Gringo Gulch - a fantastic place to take photos of the cobblestone streets and colourful houses with their bright red tile roofs that seem to cling to the mountainside. It definitely is a charming neighbourhood.Gringo Gulch_C04982.jpgWe continue through Gringo Gulch and reach the very famous pink arched passageway known in the area as the ‘Love Bridge’. Sylvie shares the history - the most famous site in this quaint neighbourhood is Casa Kimberley. Richard Burton, while in PV filming The Night of the Iguana,  bought this home for Elizabeth Tayor during their romance in the 1960’s. After marrying Taylor, Burton bought the house across the street as a gift for Elizabeth and had the ‘Love Bridge’ built to connect the two homes. Although these properties have long since been sold to new owners, it remains a draw for visitors coming to Puerto Vallarta.Gringo Gulch Bridge_C04974.jpg

Casa Kimberley_C04975.jpgThe hiking continues through one of the most picturesque and quaint neighbourhoods of El Centro, Puerto Vallarta. Murals, interesting doorways and windows, flowers and blooming shrubs as far as the eye can see.Gringo Gulch_IMG_9960.jpg

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Gringo Gulch_IMG_9970.jpgWe are invited to tour one of the beautiful homes, Casa del Arroyo, and the views of this gorgeous home and the stunning vistas don’t disappoint. You want to stay here? You can - the new owner is currently getting the home ready as a vacation rental. Casa del Arroyo was built by the renowned Puerto Vallarta architect, Guillermo Wulff. It has a main villa as well as a guest villa. What a gorgeous property in the hills overlooking Zona Romantica.Casa del Arroyo_IMG_0006.jpg  
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For me as a photographer, this was one of the most picturesque rooms in Casa del Arroyo.
Home in PV_IMG_9982.jpgThe views are just amazing from this massive terrace with large palapa.Casa del Arroyo_IMG_9985.jpg

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PV_PanoramaIMG9994.jpgWe continue on with our walk which now takes us down from Gringo Gulch to the Rio Cuale. 
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We pass up on the newly built pedestrian bridge and opt to hike down a narrow trail between homes on the steep embankment before we reach the edge of the Rio Cuale below. The river is low at this time of the year as we wade (just past our ankles) across. A great chance to see some of the wildlife along the river - egrets perched on the rocks jutting out from the river and iguanas high in the treetops. Rio Cuale PV_C05185.jpg

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Rio Cuale Iguana_IMG_0028.jpgWe passed through the Cultural Centre and flea markets on Isla Rio Cuale. Before we pass through the markets, we stop by the sculpture honoring John Huston, director of The Night of the Iguana which was filmed in nearby Mismaloya in the 1960’s. Sculpted by artist Carlos Ramierez, it shows Huston in the director’s chair.John Huston_IMG_0026.jpg

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John Huston_C05847.jpgWe leave the island and cross the foot bridge into Zona Romantica for our final stop. (No worries, the next time we crossed this bridge, the missing board was replaced.)
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We walk through the streets of  Colonia Emiliano Zapata ( aka Zona Romantica, South Side or Old Town). Viibrant and multifaceted, this neighbourhood is surrounded on its northern edge by the Isla Rio Cuale, the El Caloso neighbourhood on it’s east end, the Amapas and Conchas Chinas neighbourhoods to its south and Los Muertos Beach  on its west side. (During our stay, we walked every street in this neighbourhood - there is so much to see and discover!)

Street views of Emiliano Zapata.Zona Romantica_IMG_0032.jpg

Zona Romantica_IMG_0034.jpgWe passed by ‘The Wall’,  a beautiful mosaic-tiled and glass block-long wall mural - a project directed and designed by local artist Natasha Moraga before heading over to our final stop on this hike. Its delightful splash of colour in this neighbourhood brings a smile to my face.Zona Romantica_IMG_0039.jpg

Zona Romantica_IMG_0038.jpgOur last stop on the ‘Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta” tour is Xocodiva Artisan Chocolates located on Basilio Badillo where we learned about the history of cacao - from harvesting the pods, extracting the beans and the process taken to make chocolate and, of course, sampling the local chocolates!Xocodiva_IMG_9496.jpg

Xocodiva_IMG 9497.jpgThis was the perfect ending to an amazing ‘Power Walk The Hidden Streets Of Vallarta’ lead by Sylvie Scopazzo, the gracious and entertaining host. The tour runs on Thursdays and I highly recommend it. For those visiting PV, book it early in your itinerary and for those who stay for extended periods each year in PV, just do it! You won’t be disappointed!

Walking the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta - Part 1

Puerto Vallarta - One part about travel that I enjoy so much is hiking around my travel destination and seeing the ‘real’ location. This means stepping off the beaten track and exploring the ‘hidden streets’. When I researched hiking around PV, I found ‘Power Walk The Hidden Streets Of Vallarta’ with Tours de Jour Power Walking Tours. After seeing photos of their previous hikes, I knew this was something I wanted to do - get a super work-out and also get an excellent opportunity to take great photos of the area.

We met Sylvie Scopazzo, our tour guide, at the outdoor amphitheater Los Arcos (the Arches) along the Malecon to start our hike. From that point, Sylvie pointed out our destination (the cross) high on the high above El Centro.PV Hills_IMG_9676.jpg

PV Cross_IMG_9676.jpgWe start weaving through the streets passing by The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and head north along Hidalgo. Sylvie points out interesting buildings or sights along the way and gives enough time for ‘shutterbugs’ like myself to take photos as we go.

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe_C05751.jpgRamiz Barquet sculpture “La Rinconada del Juglar” (“The Corner of the Minstrel”) as seen on Calle Hildago where Galeana Street meets. Puerto Vallarta has numerous sculptures throughout, many of which are displayed along the Malecon - a wide esplanade (boardwalk) along the water’s edge. Some are tucked along side gardens and walkways in the neighbourhoods such as this one.PV_Hildago_IMG_9686.jpg

PV_Ramiz Barquet_IMG_9685.jpgSylvie explains that the mural on this wall on Hildago Street changes from time to time, sometimes yearly.PV_Hildago Mural.jpgWe pass by Florio’s on Hildago Street. The menu posted outdoors looked like it would be a great place to eat.Florios on Hildago_IMG_9687.jpg

Florios on Hildago_IMG_9688.jpgWe walk to the end of Hildago Street, take a right onto Aldama, and then a quick left onto Guadalupe Sanchez where we check out the gorgeous door of this beautiful villa, Casa De La Torre Villa. On some tours, the group is able to stop in and check this place out. We’re not able to do so today but we’re told we’ll have an opportunity to check out a different home later on in the tour this afternoon.

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Further along on Guadalupe Sanchez 740, we pass by Cafe des Artistes. What a colourful exterior! Another restaurant to add to our growing list of restaurants to try while visiting PV.Cafe des Artistes_IMG_9700.jpgJust a few steps further and we pass by Pipi’s at Guadalupe Sanchez #804. I loved all the colourful flags overhead. Such a festive feel!Pipi's PV_IMG_9703.jpg

Pipi's PV_IMG_9706.jpgSylvie chats with many of the locals along the way and makes a point of stopping by some of the street vendors like this man selling corn out of the back of his truck. Nothing from the corn is wasted here - there is a specific use for every part of the corn cob. I couldn’t help but notice that he cut a hole in the truck box which allows him to stand when serving his customers or preparing his corn for sale.                     Corn Vendor PV_IMG_9708.jpg

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The hike continues and with each street we walk and each turn we take, we continue to climb in elevation. When we reach Allende, we take a right and and pass by Tacos de Birria Alex on Matamoros. It’s 10:30 in the morning and there’s a line-up at this Tacos stand. We didn’t stop for a bite to eat - we’ve got a hill to climb!Tacos de Birria Alex PV_IMG_9714.jpg

Allende in Centro PV_IMG_9722.jpgFurther up Allende #344 we hike by El Arrayan, a brightly coloured restaurant which is on my list of restaurants to try while here. I loved the details of the door knob on this beautiful wood door.
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Calle Miramar PV_IMG_9724.jpgUp until this point, the hike has been easy. Then we step off the cobblestone streets and uneven sidewalks to a set of steep stairs on Calle Miramar. Steps and steps and then, a few more steps!Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9728.jpgAlong the way I spot this very interesting door. 
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We stop for a breather as Sylvie points out a large jackfruit tree laden with fruit as well as other plants along the path.
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Flower_Puerto Vallarta IMG_9738.jpgWe climb this set of stairs and pass the point where the road for vehicle traffic ends and one must park their vehicle if they intend to go to homes further up. Anything above this point needs to be hauled in by foot, ATV or perhaps a mule. I just loved how the bougainvillea flower petals gently rest on the corners of these steps.Puerto Vallarta Stairs_IMG_9740.jpg
Here we get a quick glimpse of Banderas Bay and the Malecon as we pass by Calle Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez on our way up the hill.
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The climb continues, up and down a dirt and rocky path, around a few corners where we meet up with some locals with their horse and mule loaded up with supplies for construction here in hills above Puerto Vallarta. Another ‘catch your breath’ minute!Puerto Vallarta IMG_9747.jpg

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Puerto Vallarta IMG_9744.jpgAfter a short dirt path, a cement pathway appears and the elevation increases as we wind our way around homes high in these hills. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking through someone’s yard but it’s actually just the neighbourhood path.
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My spanish isn’t good but I think a rough translation of this sign would be  ‘Don’t throw your trash in El Cerro. Don’t be pigs’.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9759.jpgAgain Sylvie waves hello to the locals and chats for a moment as we’re trying to catch our breath! A few more well-timed stops (to grab a drink of water and such) and we finally round the corner to make our final ascent to the top. As we walk around the base of a large power tower we finally catch a glimpse of the cross on the hill.
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A few more steps up the rocky path and we reach the top.  What a magnificent view it is! The steep climb up is all but a faint memory!
Puerto Vallarta Panorama.jpgSylvie treats us to some fresh fruit she’s brought along and allows us the opportunity to take photos – spectacular vistas in every direction! Sylvie points out various landmarks from this vantage point. Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9780.jpg
Looking north to El Centro with the Hotel zone and Bay of Banderas in the background.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9779.jpgA closer look at the cross atop the hill overlooking El Centro. I don’t know the history of this cross but many towns and cities have crosses perched on the hills overlooking them.
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Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9788.jpgHere is the view looking east of the cross on the hill to the Sierra Madre mountains and the colonias in the valleys around Puerto Vallarta. I’ll be hiking around the colonias while visiting PV - so picturesque! Can’t wait to check them out as well.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9771.jpgThe tour group begins the descent, this time heading south, down into Gringo Gulch. Steep and narrow steps in some areas, but again fantastic views. A photographer’s dream – narrow streets, colourful painted homes, aged yet stunning doorways and balconies, many filled with hanging plants full in bloom.

This series of photos was taken after stopping and looking back at where we had just hiked down from. I was concentrating so hard while coming down to snap any photos. I certainly didn’t want to trip, sprain an ankle or worse. 
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There were points along the way that I was sure we were in someone’s yard but alas, it’s just the neighbourhood path leading down the hill which eventually joins up with some streets below!
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I absolutely loved walking along these narrow streets. There was something interesting to see at every turn.
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Sylvie continues down as I try to capture a few last photos of this very interesting narrow street.Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9831.jpg

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Stopping for another breather and looking back at where we just hiked from. A fantastic tiny street!Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9839.jpg

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We descend further and reach the streets where vehicles begin to appear once again. I suspect one needs some good driving skills - especially reversing down this narrow street!Puerto Vallarta_IMG_9841.jpg

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We’ve been touring around the hidden streets of Puerto Vallarta for nearly two hours but this hike is far from over.

Walking the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta” to be continued……

Vallarta Botanical Gardens Part 2

Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Mexico - there’s more to the Gardens than just looking at flowers. So lace up your hiking boots, pack a swimsuit, grab a bottle of water and head out on one of the trails that starts from the east side of the Hacienda de Oro and winds down to the Rio Los Horcones. An easy walk along the path and steps down to the river.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9607.jpgAt the river’s edge, it’s clear that this isn’t the spot for swimming but it’s lovely, none the less. Fast flowing clear water. Lovely!Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9618.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9614.jpgMight this be the swimming spot? Crystal clear water.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9622.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9624.jpgThe river was rather shallow the day we were there but if I had my swimsuit on, I may have considered a dip into the water here - in the Emerald Pools.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9626.jpg

Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9627.jpgFrom the river’s edge the Jaguar Trail takes you through the jungle forest and eventually back up to the Hacienda de Oro. The sign indicates that this is an advanced trail with steep inclines/declines in certain sections. Proper footwear is necessary. Flipflops not recommended! Caution necessary but well worth the half-hour hike!Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9628.jpg

Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9630.jpgNumerous switchbacks are part of this advanced trail. Having a walking stick is a bonus!Vallarta Botanical Gardens_DSC05096.jpgTrees and shrubs are labelled throughout this walk. The tourist tree? Could it be called this because of its peeling bark like the skin of many sunburned tourists?!Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9639.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9632.jpgEventually we made it back to the Hacienda de Oro, checking out some of the manicured gardens on our way back to the exit to catch the public bus back to Puerto Vallarta.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG 9647.jpgAlthough we were dropped off by the public bus right at the entrance of the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, to catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta, one must cross the highway at that entrance and walk up the hill a short while along the edge of the highway to a rather interesting looking bus stop. A candle flickers next to the statue. A covered bus shelter - a welcomed sight on the day we visited the VBG.Bustop_Vallarta Botanical_DSC05114.jpg

More adventures to come!

Vallarta Botanical Gardens Part 1

Vallarta Botanical Gardens - A half hour drive south of Puerto Vallarta is Vallarta Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre botanical garden featuring plant collections common to the Tropical Dry Forest Biome (where these gardens are located) as well as many exotic plants from around the world. These gardens also contain a great many hiking trails which I really enjoyed exploring. The Vallarta Botanical Gardens were opened to the public in 2005 and what a wonderful place to escape to for the day! Easily accessible by the public buses, we eagerly looked forward to exploring the Gardens as we were dropped off right at the entrance by the bus.

The Hacienda de Oro is the focal point of the Gardens, offering a wonderful restaurant with fantastic views as well as a museum and visitors centre but there is so much more to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Let’s explore.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9562.jpg

With bug spray applied, we’re ready to set off on some of the trails and manicured gardens in the near vicinity of the Hacienda de Oro. A statue of Alexander Von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorer greets us along the path near the entrance, considered an important botanical pioneer in recording and cataloguing plant and animal species of Mexico.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9667.jpg
Also along the wide pathway into the Gardens are manicured gardens featuring lush trees, shrubs and gorgeous flowers.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9673.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9655.jpgThe jungle trails throughout the Gardens beg us to explore them so we head down a trail called Vanilla Trail complete with a swinging bridge!
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We make it across - a quick look back! Onwards and upwards.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG 9571.jpg

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A fork in the trail - we choose Calandria which continues deeper into the jungle. The Vanilla Trail loops back to where we just started from. Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9574.jpgA look back at one of the challenging sections on Calandria Trail - there’s a very steep drop-off next to the plank. Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9579.jpg

Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG 9582.jpgGorgeous blooms emerge deep in the forest jungle.Vallarta Botanical Garden_IMG 9581.jpg

Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG 9584.jpgA calm sanctuary found in the jungle - absolute quiet except for the the sound of the babbling brook and the chirping of birds high in the towering trees. Moss, ferns and lush undergrowth cover the jungle floor.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9585.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9588.jpgEmerging from the jungle trails, we discover more gardens near the Hacienda de Oro which we explore before heading in for lunch.Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG_9589.jpg

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens_IMG 9611.jpgWe’ve worked up an appetite and it’s time for a tasty lunch at the Hacienda de Oro’s 2nd floor restaurant with spectacular panoramic views.Vallarta Botanical Garden_IMG_9566.jpg

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Next - let’s explore the Jaguar Trail - an advanced trail which takes you through some challenging terrain and down to the Rio Los Horcones.

Vallarta Food Tours

Vallarta Food Tours, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - one of the best ways to get to know a place is to check out its neighbourhood food offerings and what better way than to take a food tour the morning of your first day there! This way you can revisit the places you loved.

And so it was that we booked Vallarta Food Tours - a 3 1/2 hour food tasting tour which highlights some of Puerto Vallarta’s best regional flavours. And flavourful it was! It was a great way to get to know the neighbourhood we’re staying in for the next six weeks. Alex was our guide - informative with a good dose of humour added in made this a memorable and fantastic tour!

Our first stop on the tour was ROBLES BIRRIA TACOS located on Constitución between Lazaro Cardenas and Carranza, a Puerto Vallarta taco stand staple since 1986. The crowds and line-ups still continue - it’s that good. Birria is a slow-cooked stewed spicy beef (or goat) dish made with aromatic red chiles. The birria tacos made by Robles are definitely a Jalisco specialty and after tasting them, I can see why.The aroma from this food stand on Constitución was amazing and then it was our turn to taste these birria tacos. So rich with flavour. Definite YUM! Now I understand why people keep returning day after day and year after year to eat these delicious tacos!Tacos Robles_Vallarta Food Tour_IMG 9481.jpg

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Tacos Robles_Vallarta Food Tour_IMG_9477.jpgWhen my beef order arrived on a plastic plate covered in a disposable covering (clever and practical idea), it smelled so good that I finished one of my tacos before I realized that I should capture a photo of this goodness. The slow-cooked tender beef sandwiched between two corn tortillas was covered in onion and cilantro. I had always wondered why two tortillas are used and this I learned - the inner soft shell holds in the juices and the outer one is crispy - having been fried in the birria fat. Melt in your mouth beef with all its flavour and a crispy outside to add the crunch. A perfect combination. Absolutely delicious. Tacos Robles_Vallarta Food Tour_IMG 9482.jpgOur next stop was TACOS EL CUÑADO on Francisco Rodriguez, just up the street from the Los Muertos pier. This taco stand is run by the same family since 1968! It’s currently run by the original owner’s sons. They specialize in grilled beef and marinated pork tacos. On the side is the freshly-made ‘salsa bar’ with numerous options to top your tasty tacos with - ranging from mild to hot-hot-hot! For me, the pineapple habernero salsa was amazingly tasty (and hot)!El Cunado_IMG_9491.jpg

Tacos El Cunado_IMG 9492.jpgAfter having two savoury stops, we stepped into a very sweet place! XOCODIVA ARTISAN CHOCOLATES on Basilio Badillo #168. We were given a choice of chocolates to taste from their decadent assortment of artisan chocolates. I chose a dark  chocolate with chile - it had a delicious ending with a slight hint of heat - so tasty that I had completely eaten it before I realized I hadn’t taken any photos of the chocolates! Go there and find out for yourself just how tasty these chocolates are! Oh, and next door is Lix by Xocodiva - a fabulous ice cream shop!Xocodiva_IMG_9496.jpg

Xocodiva_IMG 9497.jpgI really love ceviche so having a stop on the Vallarta Food Tour at EL GUERO (Francisco I. Madero #294) was a definite treat! Made with only the freshest ingredients, the ceviche made here at El Guero is definitely delicious! While waiting for our ceviche, we sampled freshly made Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea). This agua fresca is made by pouring hot water over hibiscus flowers and letting it steep - it’s tartness and taste reminded me of cranberry juice - very delicious and refreshing.Cevicheria El Guero_IMG 9504.jpg

Cevicheria El Guero_IMG_9506.jpgOur freshly made to order ceviche tostada arrived and definitely tasted as good as it looked.Cevicheria El Guero_IMG_9507.jpgA stop listed on the Vallarta Food Tours itinerary is CESAR’S COCONUT STAND (Aquiles Serdán #255) operating since 1984 - unfortunately for us, the stand wasn’t open when we were there - we hope Cesar is feeling better and back at his stand that he run’s by himself. One of the things that Cesar does at his stand is empty the coconut water into a cup and then slits the coconut open and carves out the delicious flesh, chopping it into pieces and putting it into a plastic bag, sprinkling a combination of tajin (a combination of spices), a dash of salt and a squirt of fresh lime on top - a quick shake of the bag and voila! - a two-for-one coconut treat. Although we couldn’t try Cesar’s coconut delectables, I did try some coconut flesh topped with spices elsewhere during our visit to PV. As advertised by Vallarta Food Tours - Cesar’s has been copied but not replicated!

Next we stopped at LA GLORIA TORTILLA FACTORY located at 5 de Febrero.  La Gloria has been in the region for 40 years - the oldest, and, dare I say, probably the busiest as well. Warm, freshly made tortillas - absolutely wonderfull We watched the entire process - from the mound of dough through the various machines until the final perfectly made hot tortillas arrived off the conveyor belt and then scooped up into a pile ready for packaging. A steady stream of customers filed in to pick up their purchases as we observed this factory pump out the tortillas!Tortilleria

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Tortilleria Almost two hours into the tour, it must be time for another beverage on this walking tour, don’t you think?! Let’s find the Tuba Water man! We walked down to the Malecon and found him there. This particular tuba water (a fermented coconut palm drink) vendor’s recipe created by a gentleman named Concepcion has a secret ingredient that sets their tuba water apart from the other tuba vendors in town. Their tuba water is made with purified water, juice (sap) from coconut palm, palm sugar, apples and walnuts (oh, and that secret ingredient!).Concepcion Tuba Water_IMG_9517.jpg

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Concepcion Tuba Water_IMG_9519.jpgIt’s served from a gourd which keeps it chilled and is definitely refreshing AND delicious!Concepcion Tuba Water_IMG_9520.jpg

Concepcion Tuba Water_IMG_9521.jpgWe took the Vallarta Food Tour on a Monday and one of the stops on the tour (Mole Rosa) is closed on Monday’s so we’ll be  tasting molé at our next stop on the tour. We walked along the Malecon crossing over the RIo Cuale into Col. Centro and headed over to our next stop, GABY’S (Mina #252). Gaby’s is a mexican restaurant established in 1989. We took the eleven steps up into the very colourful Gaby’s and headed through one of their dining rooms and into their back garden courtyard to enjoy a number of mexican specialities!Gaby's_IMG_9544.jpgAs we settled into the courtyard surrounded by a lush garden, we were presented with a trio of glasses and educated on the mexican custom of drinking tequila. First, take the shot of lime juice to cleanse your palate, follow by sipping (yes, sipping we were told) the tequila and end off with a shot of the sangrita. Ahhhh, it was lovely!Gaby's_IMG_9535.jpgNext we were served a huge bowl of tortilla soup topped off with fried tortilla strips, some avocado and bits of hard and crumbly cotija cheese (made from cow’s milk). Definitely a very flavourful soup! I was halfway through eating the soup before I remembered to capture a photo of it!Gaby's_IMG_9536.jpgJust when I thought I couldn’t eat anything else, we were served Gaby’s molé - a plate with two tortillas filled with chicken covered in two colourful and flavourful sauces (molé).From left to right, molé verde (green tomatillos, coriander, serrano and jalapeno peppers) and molé roja (chiles, garlic and mexican chocolate).Gaby's_IMG_9540.jpgAnd why not end the tour by stopping in at a candy store - not just any candy store - CON ORGULLO AZTECA CANDY STORE (Avenida Juáez #449). This place is located just down the street from The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and is an authentic mexican candy factory and store. A definite sweet aroma to this place!La Azteca Candy Store_IMG 9548.jpg

La Azteca Candy Store_IMG 9545.jpgHundreds of sweet options - these are coconut sweets. YUM. We also tasted several of their other specialties including their sesame covered peanuts which I loved. We dropped by on our way back home with treats for family and friends.La Azteca Candy Store_IMG_9546.jpgGoing on Vallarta Food Tours was definitely worth while and I highly recommend this tour - a great way to taste some of Puerto Vallarta’s specialties and a great way to get oriented and get a good feel for this amazing town!

More on the wonderful region in and around Puerto Vallarta to come.

Adiós Cold and Snow, Hola Mexico Sand and Sun!

I’m not crazy about winters so I find any excuse to get away from the cold and snow! We’re heading out for six weeks (it’s a good start!) to west coast Mexico to the Puerto Vallarta region. I was last there (and Mexico, for that matter) 25 years ago so I’m sure things will have changed a lot! Although I did post a daily photo for those 42 days (just prior to this post), I’ve got many more photos that I’d like to share of the wonderful west coast region of Mexico! So adiós cold and snow, hola Mexico sand and sun!

I had my camera packed in my carry-on which was safely stowed so here’s a few iPhone photos - a quick glimpse out the plane window as we leave Edmonton International Airport (YEG) with WestJet on a direct flight to Puerto Vallarta (PVR).                                        

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Just outside of Edmonton - another look at the snow and cold we’re leaving behind for awhile.

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We had clear skies the entire flight and I love the window seat for that reason. I had great views and the topography was so interesting. 

Somewhere over New Mexico, if I recall correctly.                                                             

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About 240 kms (or 3.5 hours drive) away from Puerto Vallarta near Santiago Ixcuintla (in the far distance).  Almost there!nayarit state_IMG_0878.jpg

The Sierra Madre mountains in the background as we come in for landing at the Puerto Vallarta Airport (PVR). Not too long before there’s sand between our toes and bright, hot sun on our faces. Can’t wait.Jalisco State_IMG_0879.jpg

Getting out of the airport was a breeze. Within minutes, we arrived at our rented condo located on the Malecon in El Centro just a few blocks from the Seahorse (rented through VRBO - a great way to find vacation rentals!). We dropped our luggage, got a quick tour of the building by the building manager and then headed outdoors in search of some food!

And immediately outside our condo was this gorgeous view - overlooking the Bay of Banderas. I have a feeling it’s going to be a fantastic vacation!

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About

Welcome to my travel photo blog. Photography has been a part of my life for a long time – back in the day the Pentax Super Program was always near at hand. But it wasn’t until I started travelling around the world that photography became a vehicle for me to show others about the absolutely amazing and complex world we live in. My hope is to share with you glimpses of what I’ve seen. Enjoy!

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