Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Wish U Heaven Prince Rogers Nelson

image courtesy of

It's never really been my thing to talk about the deaths of celebrities, especially on this blog. Life is hard enough without having to report about something or someone that you barely knew other than the image they choose to present to the public.

But when it happens to someone who played a key part of your formative years, you can't help but mention, remember and honour the memory. With the recent deaths of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and now Prince, all legends, all incredible accomplished musicians and artists, it honestly feels like a constant punch to my childhood and teenage heart.

Prince was a big part of my teen years, and with my friends we went crazy when 'Lets Go Crazy' hit the radio. We danced every New Year to '1999', and still do. 'When Doves Cry' is implanted in the brain. And 'Purple Rain'? It was THE song of the 80s. It was played at every school dance, it was all over the radio, it was the song of a generation.

As I grew older and really began to check and collect his extensive back music catalogue, there are so many funk/R&B jams that stand up to anything played today. I was and still am, very sorry I didn't have the opportunity to attend one of his amazing concerts, but I will always have the music.

He has left one hell of a musical legacy behind, but it's one that I will continue to honour and treasure.

Prince Roger Nelson June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Adios Mexico: See you next sunset

image provided by Stephen Wilson

I woke up on my last day in Mexico to the sounds of the ocean. From my room I had direct access plus the incredible view of the Pacific thanks to patio doors that opened wide and let in the sights, sounds and very fresh air. You can either sleep well to that, or wonder to yourself; "Just how angry can an ocean get?" Or both. In this case, I chose to think of it as a peaceful sound, and it is truly gorgeous to watch the waves crash onto the beach.

Now I had mentioned a few posts back about sharing a story that involved my swimming in that same water. Or trying at the very least to attempt to swim in it. I will state that the first few attempts were disasters. The surf is not fun when the waves are high and strong. Oh it's great for surfers, but for regular folks? Not so much. Tell me who enjoys being tossed around like rag dolls or worse that literally sinking feeling that you might just be pulled out into the deep, dark waters? I shivered myself just reading that. Truly not for the faint of heart.

So it was on the last day in Mexico that one more attempt was made to navigate the waters. I am happy to report that my partner and I did it and even better? We survived! The surf was very calm that day and wow, what a change to the swimming environment. It was enjoyable, refreshing and a reminder to make sure, in the future, to swim in a place that has a quieter surf. After that experience, I just had to ask the staff at Rancho Pescadero if swimming is encouraged at the resort because we all know what it means to assume something. Short answer? Not really recommended. Apparently if you walk a few kilometers up the beach from the ranch there is an area suitable for swimming. Oh well, live and learn right? Holidays are not just about fun but also about mistakes. And learning from them. I think.

Another part of the trip that was oh-so-pleasurable was waking up to a basket at our front door. Just a basket you might be asking yourself? That was pleasurable? Boy you’re an easy to please traveller aren’t you. But wait, not so fast. This wasn’t just any basket. Inside the beautifully hand woven basket contained a delectable light breakfast of Mexican coffee, a plate of fresh fruit with watermelon, melon and pineapple slices and a freshly baked scone. Trust me, enjoying the contents of that basket on your private patio, with the warm wind and a view of the ocean is just about the greatest way to start any day. Leave the room? Ha! Not with this sort of treatment, but leave you must and it was worth it, if only to just sit by the beach, listen to the waves, watch the whales in the distance(!) and just gather your thoughts

To revisit a theme, I have to reiterate my thoughts about travel and in particular, my personal view that it is as much about learning as it is to have fun. Travelling means you will have highs and lows, but the most important question you should ask yourself is this: what did you learn? Did you pick up a language, or even just a simple phrase? Did you sample the cuisine, or just taste a local delicacy? Did you engage with the local population, get to know the people, who they are, what they do and what they think of their country (and you visiting it). It's a chance to expand your boundaries, your knowledge, and to see that life is not just confined to your front door or the trips from home to work and back again.

Live life. Eat life. Change your life and escape to something new, something exciting when the chance arrives. I know that when sun, sand and sea beckons, my bags are packed and my mouth is ready to say “Hola Mexico!“ Until then, Adios, until I see you again.

image courtesy of James Mauro

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baja Mexico, a beautiful short (video)

Whenever I play this video, I instantly relax. Try it and see for yourself. I guarantee after a hard day at work, one view of this short video and you'll want to grab the sun block or tanning lotion. Or if you're at home, a margarita!
Check it out:

video courtesy of Stephen Wilson and James Mauro

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hola Mexico - the culinary post: "Yo no como avocados"*

*The translation above reads "I don't eat avocado." Now check out a few of the fabulous, mouthwatering, incredibly fresh dishes I was dining on in Mexico, for example.

Looks good eh? Notice the abundance of avocado? Yes, a mind has the power to change, particularly when it involves avocado! Read below to find out how.

Tell the truth they say. The truth will set you free they preach. So easy to say, yet much, much harder to actually accomplish. Most of us try our very best to tell the truth, but only when it's safe, or when it's necessary or even when it might just be the right thing to do.

So with that said, I have decided to share with you something difficult, something that is very hard to admit but definitely a home truth, and here it is.

I hate avocado.

Did I hear a collective gasp out there? That's not surprising when that little nugget of information escapes my lips. I think what slays me the most is that whenever I happen to mention my distaste for it, I get the most insane reactions like:

What? WHAT? You don't like avocado? Again, what? Why? What's wrong with you? No, seriously, what's the matter with you?

Ridiculous reactions but not at all surprising in what is a very pro-avocado world.

It's not as I've denounced the lives of children, but I know that the reactions are really all about personal preferences and a real love of avocado. For me, avocado and I just aren't into each other. The texture, the taste and just the look of it has turned me off it for years. Even though I practically grew up with it being a regular part of my dinnertime as a kid and avoiding it wholeheartedly as an adult, it's presence lingers - usually on the periphery, but I still see it.

The avocado dilemma really put into question whether I'd be on my way to a culinary pleasure zone in Mexico, or sentenced to eating imported American crap - I see you there Burger King. It turns out I had nothing to worry about, because I embraced all that was Mexican cuisine, and even did a side foray into Mexican-Italian, and it was worth it.

At Rancho Pescadero, they are serious about providing guests with a complete culinary experience. There is a huge emphasis on providing locally sourced food. The resort contains massive gardens where they grow their own vegetables - including lettuce and tomato, herbs like cilantro and mint, and beautiful ripe strawberries. May I add that there is almost nothing like a fresh, strawberry margarita to cure a long, leisurely day in the sun?

The menu for lunch, breakfast and dinner is created and coordinated by Executive Chef duo Jeff and Susan Mall, whom hail from another food paradise - Sonoma Wine Country in California. They have taken great pains to provide guests and visitors to the resort with the true taste of Mexico. The images above are only a few of the luncheon snacks available for guests including fresh fish tacos featuring freshly caught yellowtail fish direct from the Pacific Ocean, in house made tacos and burritos with guacamole. Of course.

Ah, guacamole, I knew you would make an appearance. Having spent a great deal of this post talking about my dislike of the fruit, Chefs Mall come along and provide what was an extremely fresh, creamy and luscious dish, making me question whether my dislike of avocado was truly warranted. That shocked me to the core, but it truly was a satisfying addition to what was already a very tasty taco dish.

I must admit that it felt a bit like home seeing avocado accompany so many meals on my plate. Whether it was lunch, dinner or breakfast, there it was - as seen below:

images by Stephen Wilson

But it was the promise of fresh ingredients, fresh home-style authentic Mexican cuisine that delivered the most satisfying feeling. There is a reason why Ranch Pescadero was featured on Conde Nast Traveller Magazine's best resorts list. If the promise of a beautiful resort, stunning beach and gorgeous weather isn't enough for you, then a carefully planned, amazing food fest not only at the resort, but in the accompanying town of Todos Santos - where I feasted on Italian food that truly was the best I've ever eaten this side of Italy - thank you Santa Fe Cafe and your super-fresh fritto misto dish, and house made ravioli!

Or just come for the guacamole. If it has managed to turn a confirmed avocado grouch into at least a sampler - albeit on a minor scale, than you know you are in for a true, Mexican culinary adventure.

Up next: Adios Mexico!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hola Mexico: Rest, rejuvenation and Rancho Pescadero

image courtesy of James Mauro

It is unbelievable that its taken a hungry man almost 20 years to make his way to Mexico. Twenty years! So while sunning myself on the white sandy beach of Pescadero, I had some time to reflect and ask myself why it took so long to make the trek. I shocked myself with the number of reasons and excuses I came up with including:

*Maybe it was too far away? A ridiculous notion considering it is about a five hour direct flight from Toronto AND I've travelled round the world so that didn't work.
*Maybe the possibility of an avocado overdose greatly increased my hesitation (I am admittedly not the biggest fan of avocado, and since it a significant part of Mexican cuisine, well, hence the legitimate hesitation).
*Maybe I just didn't want to go?

There actually may be some truth to all of those excuses, but what it really came down to was that I waited for the right time to partake in what turned out to be a truly magnificent adventure - culinary, culturally and personally.

What becomes of a man when he falls in love? What true passions and feelings are unleashed when the realization sets in that it is no longer just a flirty relationship but a full blown love affair? How do you really handle yourself when something or someone you love just fits you like a glove?

Honestly, all you can do is just embrace it and enjoy the journey, which is what happened as my partner and I drove up Highway 19 from Los Cabos International Airport to our villa at Rancho Pescadero, located in the small town of Pescadero, Baja (pronounced Bah-ha) California peninsula. Now a Hungry Man has travelled a great deal in his life, and in all of his journeys he has never actually driven anywhere on his own. Shocking I know but it's true. I have been exceptionally spoilt by opting for transportation services and guides, but I found out just how much I was missing out by taking the journey in Mexico by my own hands and being in complete control of it.

Mexico is a developing nation. There are precautions you need to take when travelling as you would anywhere else in the developing world, but by putting those precautions in perspective, there is no reason to fear the idea of renting a car and hitting the (very) open road). Thanks to our good friends at Cactus Car Rentals at the airport (I am not attached to this company in any professional or personal manner, but do not hesitate to use this company as they are truly the best in what could be a very lawless situation when it comes to car rentals), they made that portion of our trip trouble free.

Driving through the desert in this part of Mexico is both eerie and so beautiful. It's quiet, and the vegetation - when you see it, is unlike anything you've seen before, yet is strangely familiar. The cactus trees, the shrub land and the mountains are a stunning sight to behold. Unfortunately the sad sight of seeing garbage along the roads tends to mar that gorgeous landscape.

You pass by citizens in trucks and cars - emissions tests are clearly still in the early developmental stage in Mexico as gas and oil fumes belch from some of the vehicles. You look out and drive by various taco and food stands or gift stores. You see various types of construction - some finished , most of it unfinished.

And then you see it.

The highway glides oh so tantalizingly close as you look out and see the stunning blue vista of the Pacific Ocean, lapping up against the shoreline. Actually, more like roaring up against the shoreline. This coast is famous as a surfers paradise and the waves are not a joke. A sorry story of me and my sad attempt to swim in those same waves will appear in a later post.

We pull up to the door of the resort, Rancho Pescadero. What a beautiful, welcoming sight.

I'm hot, sweaty and need a drink. A slight mistake on the road turned into a slightly longer road trip through Cabo San Lucas and additional half hour to an already long trip, but we made it safe and sound.

We sit at the bar as the attendants get our room in order, and as I watch the bartender make me a margarita, I look across the pool, staring first at my luxurious but comfy surroundings, and then over at the shoreline in the distance, watching the sun set over the beach. I can't help but smile, totally relaxed as the margarita kicks in, loving my first day in Mexico which is already locked in my memory banks as the best first date ever.

Next up: Getting over my avocado aversion. Somewhat.