La Sirena Gordita – Tapas Bar on Coco Beach

Where can you find one of the most amazing views in Mexico , specialty cocktails, friendly service, and amazing food at great prices? Get out your maps because this place is off the grid, kind of on the border between the states of Jalisco and Colima, on Coco Beach (Pacific Ocean), on the Isla de Navidad. Confused yet? Just drive east from Melaque or Barra de Navidad, towards Manzanillo and exit on the road to the Grand Bay Resort and Golf Course. Easy peasy.

La Sirena Gordita, or the Chubby Mermaid to us Gringos, has become a favorite spot for Cathryn and I to visit, while we’re in Melaque. Granted, it took us two attempts to find the place, but it was well worth our time and fun exploring the surrounding countryside. The unique tapas bar is actually part of the Villa Star of the Sea Spa Boutique Suites, but caters to wayward tourists looking for a cool drink and good grub.

The menu includes free sea breezes, and is Mexican-North American fusion, including unique salads, a meat & cheese tray, burgers and seafood. Drinks include ice cold beer, wine, and delicious cocktails – the pina colada was the best I’ve ever had. So far, Cathryn and I have sampled the Chile Relleno, Cheeseburger, Caesar Salad with Shrimp (amazing), and the Portobello Quesadilla, none of which disappointed us.

Portions are healthy and prices are a steal by Canadian standards. Servers are friendly and the owners are from Canada’s west coast. They cater to locals and Gringos alike, but ask for a heads up phone call or reservation if you have a group or want a guaranteed table. There are shady seats near the bar or beach chairs and umbrellas if you want to get a bit closer to the ocean, all offering an amazing unobstructed view.

Cathryn and I have been the the Chubby Mermaid twice now and will do our best to go back again before heading home. It gets a 9 our of 10 from us.

Don’t Let The Vid Flu Ya

Covid 19 – has it become your youngest child who just won’t leave home. They keep promising to go, but continue to come up with an excuse to linger a while longer. At least you still talk to your kid, even if it’s mostly to ask if they’ve found their own place yet. But if you’re anything like me, you’re sick of hearing and talking about The Vid. That’s what Cathryn calls it, The Vid.

The buzz and belly aching and discussion of the pandemic of the century is partly the reason we fled to Mexico for the winter. Okay, you’re right, I’m full of shit. We definitely heard less about The Vid on our journey south…hard to believe when they recently hit a million cases in one day in the United States of Anarchists.

Only a day into our trip south, masks, social distancing, and all talk about the plague was virtually non-existent. Yet, when we crossed the border to Mexico, we found rules similar to those at home, without mass lockdowns. They took our temperature, sanitized us and required everyone to wear masks in any indoor places we visited.

Things are different everywhere you go and although you can’t actually see The Vid, it is all around us. Maybe they should sell masks that say ‘vid’ and ‘no vid’. How else can we tell is someone’s got it or had it. I think I had it. There, I said it. Is it okay to tell people? I feel like I’m publicly announcing I have AIDS. Stay back, he’s got The Vid!

You can call me a vaxer, conformist or even a sheep, since I got my two vaccinations, the booster, and my flu shot. I did it more for everyone around me than myself. But my throat started to bother me before we left home and I loaded up on vitamin C. No big deal, I thought, because I always get sick around the holidays, whether at home or away.

But what if I’ve got The Vid, I wondered. Because any cold or flu symptoms have to be The Vid – that’s how it disguises itself. Things didn’t get worse until a week later, in Mexico. Stuffy nose, sinus headache and congestion, and a really sore throat. Again, it couldn’t be The Vid, because I get these kinds of symptoms every year when I’m sick.

When I started needing two naps a day instead of one, I said to Cathryn, “I think I’ve got The Vid.” She looked at me as if I just told her I had terminal cancer. I responded that I googled the symptoms and mine matched perfectly, and that maybe I should get tested – you know, to see if I was one of those dirty people with the disease.

So, I slept on it and thought about it some more. All those yahoos in the bars and restaurants carrying on without masks, hugging and kissing and spitting in each other’s faces while Cathryn and I huddled at a table in the corner, away from the mayhem. If I didn’t have The Vid, it was only a matter of time. Isn’t that the real answer – let everyone contract the virus and build herd immunity?

After more thinking, I decided not to get tested. Not so much because I was on the mend after three shitty days, but because I’m calling myself a ‘Non-Tester’. I know I was sick, and it may or may not have been The Vid, so why do I need to spend my beer money on a test that will confirm to the rest of the world that I’m one of ‘those’ people, a statistic, someone who’s got The Vid. And as life goes on…so do I.

Snowbirds Who Drove to Mexico

Some of our friends already wonder about us when we tell them that we’ve chosen to spend our winters in Mexico. They worry about things like our safety and if our severed heads will end up displayed on a highway overpass for all to see. But this year, when Cathryn and I told everyone we were driving to Mexico, they looked at us as if we were from a different planet.

It’s not like I haven’t researched the idea or spoken to other snowbirds from places like Toronto, BC and Quebec who’ve made the trek more than once and lived to talk about it. So, with a bit of preparation and a good set of wheels like my Chevy Silver Bullet, why couldn’t we do it? That car has taken us to both of Canada’s coasts and back, so why not Mexico?

Of course this is me talking, the guy who travelled to S/E Asia and parts of South America with nothing but travel itinerary and backpack on wheels. Sure, Cathryn was a bit worried about things like scorpions and cartel hijackers, but she’s proven to be a trooper on our Harley trips around the continent. It’s not that she’s gullible and believes everything I tell her, she trusts me (so far).

And when she realized how much more she could bring by taking our car to Mexico, she made quick work of adding to her packing list. She had to consider what specialty foods and cookware to bring, instead of how many different outfits she could fit in her suitcase. After she had it all sorted out and in boxes, we went through it together and I cut it in half so we didn’t have to tow a trailer.

With the packing thing under wraps it was my job to plan the itinerary – the route we’d take to Sayulita, Mexico, how long we’d drive each day, and where we’d stop on the way to our final destination. According to Google Maps, it takes 40 hours to drive from Detroit to Sayulita, staying on major highways. That meant at least 5 days of driving for 8 hours. Easy peasy.

Our plan was to rent in Sayulita for the month of January, then in Melaque for February and March. So, I had to pick what date to leave home and an interesting place to spend NY Eve on the way south, without having to spend the night in a non-descript highway motel. December 29th became our departure date, after spending ample time with family over the holidays.

After rising with the birds, we ate our pre-made breakfast wraps gave Earl Grey hugs and kisses, and were on the road by 7am. Being only recently reopened, the tunnel to Detroit was a breeze with only two cars in front of us. Unseasonable mild weather meant clear roads, but we dealt with light and patchy fog most of the day. The mild temperatures stayed with us through Ohio, Kentucky and and Tennessee where fog turned into rain. It was better than snow, but driving in heavy rain after dark was nerve-racking.

I had hoped to inch further south on the map the first day but settled on Memphis for the night. The first day’s driving conditions took a toll on both of us and we wondered if we should make a planned pit stop near Austin, Texas to visit my old water polo coach. As it turned out, day two was better. There were some serious traffic jambs to contend with but my old map reading skills got us hooked up in time for an early dinner with my old friend.

The Alamo

We arrived in San Antonio, Texas early enough on the second night to take a short stroll for a well-deserved drink on the Riverwalk. Day three was NY Eve. We slept in, had a great breakfast out, the lolly-gagged around downtown San Antonio and it’s Riverwalk, taking in the sights. As the NY revellers took to the streets, we sat and people watched until calling it an early night without waiting for the ball to drop.

Being in San Antonio put us within easy reach of the Mexico border. Driving through the baron landscape made me wonder what those at the Alamo actually fought for. We crossed at the lesser-known Columbia bridge, something that looked like it was run by Barney Fife. We drove right through to the highway before realizing nobody stopped us for passports, visas, or the vehicle permit we needed to drive in Mexico. After turning around, to enter the country legally, we found ourselves the only visitors at the border crossing.

Day 4 had us cutting south-west across Mexico to a city called Torreon. The only difficult part of that day’s drive was trying to keep count of our toll fees – it’s quite expensive driving on Mexico’s safe highways – they are comparable to those in the U.S. with some things extra and some less. There aren’t many service centers along the way but emergency phones and even water is available every few kilometers. The Torreon hotel was basic but offered us the best breakfast omelets ever.

Day 5 was a shorter drive, but way more interesting than we had anticipated. Climbing the Sierra Madre mountains became breath-taking, a mountain range comparable to the Rockies without the snow-covered peaks. We lost track of how many bridges and tunnels we encountered, figuring there were at least fifty of each. By the time we started our decent on the western slopes, we were both a bit nauseous.

We arrived in Mazatlan before dinner. Our waterfront hotel was nothing fancy but the view from our room made it priceless. We even got to park on the road directly out front. Stopping is Mazatlan for 2 nites served a few purposes. First off, it broke up the drive, once again. And besides being on my Mexican bucket list, it got us to the Pacific coast where Sayulita was only another half day’s drive south.

The silver bullet looked dusty grey when we pulled into the garage at our Sayulita Airbnb on day 6. The odometer showed 4,000 kilometers or 2,500 American miles. After a couple of celebratory cervesas Cathryn and I agreed the drive wasn’t all that bad. There was that first long day of frayed nerves, but no high jackings or beheadings. Will we do it again next year? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Shadow of the Sun

Shadow of the Sun
by Marney Blom (Goodreads Author)
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Nov 02, 2021 

A gift from my wife, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book since I’ve read a few stories and seen many movies about POW camps during the war, and didn’t expect this tale to be any different. But the one big difference was that the protagonist was a preacher, who expected God to take care of him and watch over his family.

I had to skip the quotes from the holy bible, and even the love notes he wrote to his wife while imprisoned – they were of no use to me – I got the picture. But don’t get me wrong, this book was very well thought out and written by the grand daughter of the missionaries.

If you want to learn how average folk were ripped from their homes, imprisoned, tortured and treated worse than caged animals by Japanese soldiers, then this book is for you. I did enjoy references to the Burma railway and bridge over the River Kwai since I’ve seen the movie and travelled in the area.

Downtown Windsor Farmers Market

The fresh local produce of summer is wearing thin and now is the time to visit the Downtown Windsor Farmers Market to cash in on those end of the season deals. If you haven’t been downtown to check out the market this season, here’s what your missing: fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh-cut flowers and potted plants, homemade baked goods, fresh-made perogies and sausages, kettle corn, craft beer, coffee, hand-made crafts, t-shirts, jewelry, books, and much more.

The Downtown Market sets up on Pelissier Street, between Wyandotte and Park, every Saturday, from 8am to 1pm. There are anywhere from 80 to 100 vendors throughout the season, which runs from May 1st to December 12th. During inclement weather vendors move into the lower level of the Pelissier parking garage.

Come visit next Saturday and support a talented group of local authors who write in genres that include women’s empowerment, self-help, crime fiction, travel, paranormal, horror, children’s, mathmatics, and military, along with a collection of colorful book marks.

Here’s your chance to speak with a local author, and get a personally autographed copy of their book. Please come and visit and support local.

Renters Beware – Read the Cancellation Policy

Cathryn and I have learned from personal experience that not all hotel or vacation property rentals are fully refundable upon cancellation. Some are partially refundable, depending on how much in advance you cancel your reservation. Please read the fine print or look for the Cancellation Policy before you book your next weekend getaway or family vacation.

This was copied from an Air Bnb listing:

Many of us are now aware at how fickle the Airline industry can be when it comes to cancelling flights, although we lucked out and eventually received cash refunds on international flights we had to cancel because of the global pandemic. We weren’t so fortunate with AirBnb. Where we were able to recoup funds on our hotel room bookings through Hotels.com, we lost most of our money deposited with AirBnb.

The policy below is from Hotels.com:

VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and other companies have cancellation policies similar to AirBnb, you have to read the fine print to see what your different options are. Some give a full refund up to a certain date and partial after another date, minus the up front service fees, where others offer no refund at all.

The list below is from VRBO:

So be sure to read the fine print before you make your next booking.

Five Reasons to Buy A Casual Traveler

At a retirement seminar I attended, before packing in my thirty-one years and four months of police work, we were told to have a plan, a hobby or something to do for the rest of our lives. Even before that, I knew that travelling the world was how I wanted to spend a large part of my senior years.

I travelled abroad and around the continent for the first two years of my retirement, and sent family and friends email about my adventures and misadventures. Coaxed on by their remarks, I wrote my first book.

Here are five reasons to buy A Casual Traveler:

Forty-two Travel Tales. Stories like the kind in Readers Digest, that take you to exotic places near and far that in some cases you can only dream about. Share my experiences on motorcycle trips across the continent or in countries like Peru, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico and Belize.

Travel From Home. In these unsure times of the Corona Virus and restricted travel, stay safe at home and read a good book. You only have to go as far as the book store or your computer to order a copy online.

Cheap Entertainment. Since we can’t go to the movie theaters and there seems to be nothing left to watch on Netflix or Crave, visualize all the places you can’t visit by seeing the world through my stories.

Support a Local Author. The ten most popular authors in the world control eighty percent of book sales. Help me supplement my retirement and build my travel fund.

It’s Christmas. What do you buy someone who has everything but likes to read? A book. A Casual Traveler’s convenient size makes it ideal for wrapping, mailing or stuffing it into a Christmas stocking.

A Casual Traveler and all my other books can be purchased locally in Windsor at PB Books or Storytellers Books, and in Amherstburg at River Bookstore, or online through my website: www.edmondgagnon.com

Something to Read in Isolation?

69449806_362432001314455_3696793242042368000_nAnyone bored and looking for something to read? Know any readers who can’t get out and would like to try one of my books? According to experts, we’re probably going to be on lockdown for at least a few more weeks, if not more.

I’m offering free delivery anywhere in Essex County, and can mail books for those of you further away. All my titles are available and I can do multi-book discounts. Email or PM me if you are interested.

edmondgagnon@gmail.com

All my books can be seen at: http://www.edmondgagnon.com

Rants, Raves & Reviews – Trouble with Travel

de6484e76b7d5538dcf1e47a6679e1a1There’s a saying about the journey being more fun than the destination. If you’re including travelling by air it couldn’t be further from the truth. Never mind logistics and trying to get to a major hub if you live in a small city off the beaten jet path, lets get right to our favorite part of flying anywhere. Security.

I know, I know, I should have known better but WTF? Once again I lost my tube of hair gel from my carry-on because it was too big. And this is only flying from Windsor to Toronto…like some budding terrorist is just waiting to announce himself to the world by taking down a thirty passenger puddle jumper. And apparently they’d need more than a small tube to do the job right.

Continue reading “Rants, Raves & Reviews – Trouble with Travel”