Saturday, December 31, 2016

Palmas B&B, Laid Back Luxury by Javi

We met Javi at a crossroads in her life. She was our Spanish teacher for two weeks while we were in Puerto Escondido. She was also in the process of signing paperwork for renting a luxury home for the purpose of making it into a Bed & Breakfast Inn. She has since stopped teaching and is devoting her energy to preparing her new home for business. She is already booked for the first three months.

It was fun to go through this with her. Javi invited us over to her home, before it was guest-ready, for an informal dinner party with her mother and sister from Chile, and several friends. Joe and I were very impressed with this place. Structurally it’s a beauty. The spaces flow indoors and outdoors in true Mexican style. The large kitchen, small dining table, the formal dining room, and the front room are all outdoors… as in a roof and one to three walls.

I took a bunch of photos as she toured the whole place for me. There’s a couple of connected rooms downstairs. On the second floor is the family’s quarters. The penthouse suite is the top floor. This includes a small kitchenette, a terrace overlooking the ocean two blocks away, and a sheltered open area reading room. I even got to brainstorm with her and come up with the name, Palmas… and the moto, Laid Back Luxury by Javi. Cool huh? I set her up on Instagram @javiselman.

She asked me and Joe to come stay overnight as a test run BEFORE she opened for business. We could stay for free in exchange for an honest review. I warned her that honest meant honest, but she really wanted us to stay. She felt that a stranger staying in the penthouse suite, especially Americans, would help her make adjustments.

So here’s my REVIEW:

First impression, before bedtime;
Typical big exterior wall, dirt street, house on the corner. Knocked on door and it was opened to an oasis. You enter at garden level. To the right is a lounge area. To the left palms, straight ahead is massive three story structure hidden behind giant plants.

We were led to our room and encouraged to return back to the ground level once we were settled in. The stairs actually skirt the perimeter of the property and are outdoors. There is a way to get to the penthouse without getting rained on except about twenty steps, and then you have to brave the elements.
A terrace with a couch, chairs, and a dining room are first and then snug up to the wall is an open air kitchenette. At this point she hadn’t connected the electricity to the kitchen (electrical plugs are now there), but the large refrigerator had electricity and it had a mini-gas stove. Water jug was included, which is not always the case elsewhere. To the right is a really cool space dedicated to hiding out. It’s a large mostly enclosed room with comfy couches and a large bed for the nights when sleeping outside is irresistible.

Our bedroom was gorgeous, especially the giant glass door which actually pivoted at about midpoint. As pretty as it was, it was not latching properly and kept swinging open. Javi said she’ll fix it, as that could be a huge energy loss. (Javi fixed the latch) The room has a queen-sized bed. Five windows surround the room. There is no curtain for the glass door, but the way it’s situated, no one can see in unless they’re on your terrace. Which leads me to a complaint. There is no door on the bathroom… and while you’re sitting on the toilet you can see the kitchen part of the terrace! Not to mention the problem with smells. (Javi had a pretty wood door put in before opening day.)

The hot water heater is in front of the toilet and is ugly. (Javi put a nice cabinet door in front of it.) I did think it would be nice to have counter space in the bathroom. That would be hard to fix because it’s one of those pedestal sinks. (She had a shelf built next to the sink) It always surprises me to see pedestal sinks at hotels. Our hotel, Quinta Carrizalillo was the same way… you end up putting things on the floor.

We headed back downstairs to our gracious hostess… seriously, Javi is lovely and attentive.

Time for bed;
(I won’t tell you how much fun we had at dinner with friends and family, because that’s not part of the B&B). The bed was medium firmness and basically comfortable. The air-conditioner kept the room cold, but when we decided to turn it off and open the windows we realized there is no ceiling fan. I recommended a fan to her, she said it was a good idea and would try to get it in this month (She has a fan installed now). I think it would save her some money since running the AC is super expensive in Mexico.

By-the-way, to all my American friends, try not to run the AC constantly when you’re not in the room of any third-world-country hotel. This is a baffling American habit. Several hotel owners told me they won’t put in ACs because Americans run them around the clock… I’m guilty there. I suggested that Javi have two “packages” that guests can choose from; one with AC, one without. Not sure if she’ll do that.

Waking up;
Gorgeous! Wow, what a view! Palmas is very close to the surf beach called La Punta… you can see it from the penthouse. We couldn’t make our own coffee because no electricity yet, but that will be there when guests arrive. We couldn’t experience a breakfast at Palmas because it was the day of her son’s international surfing competition over at Zicatela (but we still had the memory of dinner to assure us it would have been good). We wandered down the sand and dirt streets to a restaurant she recommended called Fruitas and Verduras. It was excellent.

You can find Javi on:
Instagram  @javiselman
airbnb under Palmas Bed and Breakfast
bedandbreakfast.eu
FaceBook for Palmas B&B 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Workforce

Man using a ladder like pogo sticks
I really truly enjoy watching the work-force in different countries. Mexico is exceptionally interesting because they work under any conditions except 100 degrees at noon, then they wait.

You don’t have an orange cone to warn people about the gaping man-hole cover over the sewer water? No problem… just break off a huge mango tree branch and set it next to the hazardous opening. All the cars go around the branch. When they finished working they just threw the branch in the nearby field.

The last hotel we stayed at, La Barca, was under construction during our stay. These guys worked from dawn to dusk 7 days/week. There scaffolding was made of random boards and they frequently just leaned out the fourth floor opening and painted or welded while gripping an interior bar with the other hand. This guy was smart enough to own a construction harness, but didn’t seem to quite have the concept of hooking it up to the structure!

The first signs of a new construction project here is a pile of rocks on the sidewalk in front of the intended project. What a mess.

The taxi business here is amazing. At first I shunned the idea of taking an expensive taxi to a beach fifteen minutes walking distance away. At the same time I noticed the taxis were super busy… all the time. We never had a taxi driver ask us if we wanted a ride. They aren’t desperate. Okay, so what gives? The fact is that the taxis here are so cheap, it’s crazy not to take one. We took a taxi from La Punta (the other end of town) at night. The driver kept picking passengers up and dropping them off. We had six passengers at one point! Everybody just accepts it as normal especially at night. They consider it a favor that the driver is willing to pick them up, like a co-op taxi.
Let’s go to the beach now. That’s where you really see the hustle.

At other beaches the hustle has been the obnoxious kind. Not so here, they take no for an answer with no attitude. Everyone works here, from child to ancient. Every single day on Playa Manzanillo I see this old man slowly cruise by with his wheelbarrow with a big tub of coconut ice cream and cones. Another very old and tiny lady comes by with wooden beer mugs and spoons.

Over on Playa Carrizalillo they have the surf instructors with white sunscreen pasted on their faces like some sort of ancient war-paint. These guys love to surf, but they also love to get high. I have been sitting 3 feet away from them as they smoked pot and I can barely smell it because of the updraft of wind on the beach. It doesn’t seem to keep them from teaching people to surf, though they do get a little crazy when bored. The other day they entertained themselves by running towards the ocean and trying to do a complete no-hands forward flip on the sand. This went on for a good 30 minutes. I thought for sure one of them would break his neck.

They have the boys between 5 and 10 years old standing on rocks in the surf fishing. They use a hand-size square board with fishing line wound around it. Some of the older kids and teens swim out to the bay with fish spears.

The boating business is huge on Playa Mazanillo… little boats. I haven’t seen one single boat bigger than 25-30 feet long. The boat has one outboard motor. There are three main functions; fishing, sightseeing, and dragging an enormous banana shaped floatie with 10 people on it. As the business slows down towards the end of the day is when it really gets entertaining! You see, there are no docks here, so they must get the boats as far up on the sand as is possible. Here’s the scenario… the boat comes in for a warning to the five-hundred people playing in the water. 
Being Mexicans and with considerably higher self preservation skills than your average American, they part the water. The land crew lays water weenies on the sand to guide the boat in and warn the pedestrians. The boat goes back out into the bay a good distance to get a running start. Everyone keeps playing but stays out of the way as the boat comes flying across the water, as fast as possible, and lifts its motor at the last second. 
It goes about 40 feet up the beach and the people in the water go back to where they were. This happens for hours every single day! For the video check out my Instagram under H. Schussman.


They have one henna tattoo artist. He’s absolutely everywhere. His name is Franko and he’s from Honduras. If you get the chance, I recommend getting a tattoo from him, just to hear his life-story. He also does an outstanding job. I got this tattoo of a turtle because I thought it was pretty… good enough reason for me. It initiated multiple discussions everywhere I went. It turns out that the turtle, with the hibiscus flower drawn onto its shell, is the surfer symbol. The legend goes that when a Hawaiian surfer dies surfing, he/she is re-incarnated into a turtle with the Hawaiian hibiscus flower on its shell. So if you ever see a turtle with this flower pattern say Aloha!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Made Me Smile

Gotta love those California cowboys!
I’ll break up the next couple of blogs into categories of Made Me Smile, We’re Not In The USA!, How People Work Here, Survival Of The Fittest, and Yucky Bad Stuff

Made Me Smile;

I’ll start with what I’m doing right now… writing from my latest office. The top of this hotel has an enormous palapa built over the roof. The view from here is stunning, plus it always has a fresh breeze. My office is in a little nook at the edge of this terrace. The cleaning lady says she’s going to make a sign for my table that says, “La Oficina de Heidi.”

Our Spanish teacher has become our friend. Javi (have-ee) is absolutely adorable with a cheeky grin and a sassy sense of humor. She loves Pepe (Joe), but she doesn’t let him get away with senseless chatter :) In the past he’s been able to say whatever came to his mind and get away with because he’s so cute. Not with Javi. 

She invited us to her new home three days after she’d moved in. She purchased it for the purpose of renting out the top floor to Airbnb customers as a full Bed-and-Breakfast. Her mother and sister from Chile are here helping her get settled in. It was a beautiful catered dinner party with about fifteen of us there. It is located two blocks from La Punta, the best surfing spot. I’m sure she will be very successful. They loved the bottle of California wine I brought from Sobon Vineyard. After much deliberation we all decided on Palmas' B&B... Laid Back Luxury by Javi.

Javi has a membership at a beach club called Villasol. She can go there with as many people as she wants to invite. We went for class one day and fell in love with it. The next time she left us there to enjoy it for the rest of the day. It’s on Bacocho Beach. They have a large pool with a lot of comfortable loungers, unlike the beach’s chairs made of wood. I ordered a hamburger, and rolled my eyes in ecstasy as I ate it… grilled to perfection, smothered in blue-cheese… I’m drooling again. But I guess the thing that makes me smile is the irony of travel. I can’t wait to explore new places and relish every moment, even the bad times, as part of the grand experience. However I feel an enveloping sense of American comfort when I visit immaculate luxurious places like Villasol. I think everyone who travels away from their home country feels this way when they step into a place familiar to home, even if they choose to live elsewhere.

Our neighborhood, La Rinconada, is mostly pedestrian. Rush hour is if there are three cars or motorcycles in sight on the main road. I wanted to take a picture of more than one car on the main road for this blog, but I gave up. I can see more runners than cars. One lady runs every single day. Javi pointed her out to us and said they call her the “Forrest Gump of Puerto Escondido.”

We miss the last hotel for the comradery. La Barca is the main hotel for the Oasis Surf and Language School, so it’s always full of students from everywhere. We loved our room, but since we only took two weeks of classes we moved to this hotel (Quinta Carrizalillo). This place has an air-conditioner :) Every Thursday night they have a surf coaching class over at La Barca with snacks and last week it even included an arm-wrestling competition! It started with the champ of the group. He proceeded to throw-down the strongest kid with no apparent effort, and then he left the table for the amateurs. Everyone took turns, even the girls, until Joe decided to do it. The first guy comically pushed everyone out of the way to be the one to wrestle Joe. It was a fair struggle for at least 60 seconds, until he put Joe down. Then they switched arms and it took longer for the young guy to win. The next day he asked Joe if he was sore. The kid was clearly disappointed when Joe said, “Nope.”

The birds here are numerous and noisy. AND they start their singing early. The first time I heard them I thought Who’s the jerk whistling at six in the morning, right outside my window? I finally figured it out. It’s a black bird (looks like a crow) that has a human-like whistle. Everywhere you go is the chatter and song of thousands of birds. They also have a huge population of dogs here. Apparently the owner of the local supermarket adopts every dog. The dog at La Barca (I already posted a photo of him) is named Treno (Thunder). His bark reminds me of the 101 Dalmations movie. He isn’t the friendliest dog. He puts up with all of the guests, but not with joy. A couple of weeks ago, when we were coming home, he was outside in the street. He barked so loud and wagged his tail so hard when he saw us, I thought he was going to fall over. If I could put words in his mouth he was saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re here! I got locked out of the house somehow!” After that he was our best buddy. He especially liked the forehead massage I’d give him.

I can’t leave out the turtles. They have a turtle release program here on Bacocho Beach. It’s free to observe and 50 pesos to release your own little baby turtle. Joe coughed up the pesos for me. They gave a mini lecture and then we lined up to get our baby turtle. We all walk over to a roped off area to simultaneously release our babies. I named mine Isabelle in the hopes that it would be inspired to run fast and have cross-country endurance like my friend, Isabelle. I said, “Your name is Isabelle.” She looked directly at me. We bonded… I think :) 
Anyway she was fast but not good with directions. She kept going sideways towards me. Finally she looked straight at me for a moment, then walked into the surf. The last I saw of her was her little flipper waving goodbye. Pretty cool.


I love watching the little tiny kids learn the skills for surfing. They look so small on the boards, even the little boards. Most of the time the parents just let them go out in the water and figure it out by themselves. These kids are the beach people, not the country people. Those parents load up their kids with water wings and a life vest and then they hold onto them with an iron fist.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Surf and Turf

I’m here to say that not all pizza is created the same! La Mediterraneo makes extremely good pizza. The other pizza place actually made us a pizza with hot-dogs and deli ham on it. Seriously? Oddly enough the hot-dog-pizza place is always packed. On Halloween it was packed with goblins and scary brides.

I’ve mentioned it before, I’m sure, but Puerto Escondido is a surfing town. Surfing is the pulse of this community. The cafes are open early and packed with people getting coffee and pastries. If the surf is good then the town is empty. The night-life in this part of town is non-existent. Everyone eats super late because it’s too hot to eat earlier, but then it’s off to bed. They have a party scene over in Zicatela for the foreigners, which is where the best waves are. It only cost 35 pesos for a taxi. Heads up, that’s not a swimming beach. The northern beaches are for swimmers because they’re in bays.

We are going to language school at a language/surf combo called Oasis. We are learning the Spanish language, but there is definitely a surfing language. 

They talk a lot about the Mexi Pipe Warrior (the ultimate surfer, or Roger the owner of Oasis), the olas (waves), the kook (doesn’t know the surf rules), the snake (wave thief), and wave hog (tries to take every wave without waiting in the line-up). Joe starts surf school Monday :)

We walked all the way to the locals market. What a crazy scene! I couldn’t buy anything… I was too overwhelmed. Buckets or birdlegs, crickets, tongue, and things I’ve never seen before. Joe bought some peanuts. The noise alone was enough to make me run out with my tail between my legs. I guess I prefer the beach, where you can watch the fisherman prepare the fish right there and then they cook it for you. I haven’t been able to convince myself to try the octopus yet. Ironically the locals cringe in disgust when you mention eating turtles, like they are some sort of household pet, but see nothing amiss with chowing on some poor octopus!

There’s a park near our home. It’s almost entirely cement, which is a treat in the jungle. At dusk it’s pretty crowded. Right now it has a carnival being set up to celebrate the day of the dead. We were cutting across this park the other day, and I was once again thrilled with the way Mexicans do family. Maybe they can’t afford video games, or don’t have good enough reception for TV in their houses, or maybe the house is just too blazing hot, but in the evening they are outside… together. As we entered the park (I wish I’d taken photos for you) a group of about ten teens were practicing a traditional folk dance. The girls had their big-long skirts on, the boys were in surfer shorts. The center had three families, including mom, playing soccer amongst themselves. One group even had a whistle. We kept moving. On the far end was a group of five young men taking turns break-dancing! We stood there and watched for about twenty minutes. Really, they were very good. One guy could even spin on his head! And then we rounded the corner and found a random shrine,

We made it to Zicatela for Joe’s (known here as Pepe) birthday. We wondered around for half the day until we were bored and came back to our part of town. The Rinconada just feels better to us. That side of town seems more touristy. The beach is absolutely enormous! The huge waves break right on the sand, so it’s super dangerous with a strong undertow. The surfing is done at the southern end of the beach at an area called La Punta. We took a taxi straight back to Puerto Angelito to avoid the hike :)

While sitting on the beach we noticed a boat loaded with passengers drifting towards the rocks. The captain kept starting the out-board motor and going forward about twenty feet, only to have the engine die again. Back they would drift. The attention on the beach grew. Locals began to walk towards that end of the beach. Twenty feet forward, twenty-five feet back. Tension mounted as we were sure we would be witnessing a boat wreck against the sharp rocks. The passengers huddled together with their life-jackets clutched close. It is a strange thing to watch a tragedy about to happen, and be helpless to intervene. Finally the captain got the motor running and off they went on their tour of the cliffs nearby. I would’ve jumped ship and swam ashore!

I’m a little surprised by how many international restaurants they have here. Italians are the leading group of immigrants here, followed by the Spaniards. An excellent little restaurant near us is called Relish. The owners are from a small city near Venice. They are so nice and the food is yummy… except they have a habit of turning a sandwich into crunchy bruschetta on both sides. Too crunchy. I just eat the inside, which is very good.


The ultimate dining experience is at the cliff-side restaurant, Espadin. The view is incomparable and the food is delicious. We splurged and ordered separate plates. I got the Mole Negro (chicken with the famous mole sauce), and Joe got a hamburger (it’s hard to say why he does this-but that’s Joe). He had 2 Bohemias (delicious dark beer), and I had an Argentinean Malbec… all for under 30 bucks. If you’re here, you must try this restaurant. If nothing else, you can enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Settling into Puerto Escondido

Treno, the hotel dog is checking out our view
Our new room is gorgeous, still no AC but gorgeous. It’s on the third floor with a view of the ocean in the distance. It has windows on three sides, so it gets a nice breeze. The swimming pool helps. After we hop in the pool, and then stand under the fan or out on the porch, usually we cool off. It also has a private kitchenette. The owners of the school live below us and he said Joe could use his work-out equipment in the garage, so that’s a bonus.

We went back to the Stair-Master beach yesterday. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t as difficult as the first day! A cute little waitress convinced us to try her favorite dish; deep-fried shrimp tacos. Let’s see, I ate banana bread for breakfast, fried tacos for lunch and then for dinner we had pizza again. Thank goodness for the stairs.

After the beach we thought, Hey, let’s try to find the grocery store. It took us awhile, but we found it and we found air-conditioning… Eureka! It’s the first time Joe was willing to wander aimlessly around a grocery store without complaint J We have a small grocery store near our place, but it’s actually more of a bar. On the sidewalk outside they have big screen TVs and chairs full of people watching sports. It helps that you can buy beer in the store and drink outside. Really, it’s brilliant. That store is always packed.

Today was more of the same; frappaccino, Spanish language school, I bought a whole loaf of banana bread, down to the beach to buy beach-towels from a sweet lady selling clothes and beach toys in a lean-to shack, and crossing over to a different beach to lay like beached whales for 3 hours while eating shrimp tacos. The people watching was exceptional today. All of the tiny beach restaurants are crammed together like sardines. Entire families are together at their restaurant, from infants to grandparents. The teens are the servers, the parents are the cooks, the grandparents are bossing everyone around, and the children are playing hide-and-seek. It’s nothing to see an 18 year-old waitress take someone’s order with a baby on her hip. 

Today the waitress had an ingenious way of getting her little girl to stay out of the way; she put her in a big hammock with a bag of chips, tied off the opening, and walked away to take food orders. It was like a playpen for the beach. The toddler crawled around inside of it and entertained herself without getting covered in sand and dirt.

We went over to check out our next hotel and loved it… it has an AC! Yahoo! I’m very excited, but by then I’ll probably have acclimated.

Our favorite beach waitress
We had a fantastic dinner at El Nene. One of the guys behind the bar is Italian and he recommended the barracuda with white wine, garlic and capers. Wow was that good. Joe had a skirt steak with a side of thinly sliced chili poblanos with a cream sauce. The wine selection down here is quite good. I had a glass of Carmenere from Chile. In general the food is good here. I’m trying to let go of the fish tacos mentality. I assumed that would be the specialty here, as it was in Playa del Carmen. Fish here seems to be served cooked whole or in filets But for tacos, shrimp is the popular item here, and octopus or even iguana. The maid was telling us that they make really good iguana here, but she doesn’t like the bugs and worms… okay now that’s just gross, sorry. We have come to accept that the shrimp tacos are deep fried, regardless of what they may say.


We met a couple from London. They are on a one-year trip of Latin America. They started in Cuba and then came to Mexico. They’ll stop a couple of more times and then head into Guatemala. I think that’s amazing for someone in their thirties. How in the world do they get that much time off of work? And to be able to afford it? Another couple, who’re very young, just arrived and they don’t know how long they’ll stay… maybe until Christmas!