Scenes from the Malecón

The Malecón is a seawall in downtown Puerto Vallarta where you can stroll along the coast and log some excellent people-watching. On this year’s trip (versus December or January in years past) there seemed to be fewer tourists from the USA or Canada visiting the region (including the smaller towns we visited to the North of Puerto Vallarta). Consequently, this trip had a much more authentic Mexican vibe to it than previous ones.


¡Hasta la próxima vez, Vallarta!

La Esquina del Tomatillo

The Joint

Morelos 601
Downtown Puerto Vallarta

Phone: +52 322 22 29434
Web: http://www.eltomatillo.com.mx
Email: cheftomatillo@gmail.com


Cliff

We first experienced this restaurant under its previous name, Xitomates, in 2009 or 2010. We tried to visit again this year, and show my parents what a swell restaurant we’d found for somewhat upscale Mexican food, but were surprised to find that its name had changed. We passed on it then, but returned a few days later to give it another shot, after noticing some similarities between what we’d had last time and the current menu offerings. We were not disappointed. If anything, the prices on the items seemed a little lower compared to what we remembered. Same great salsas, same friendly service. Really pleased it’s still going, even if under another name. Check this place out if you’d like to eat a nice meal downtown without the touristy Tex-Mex flavor or Marina sports bar atmosphere.

Sarah


I was very disappointed when we first passed this place. All I could tell was that 1) this was where Xitomates used to be and that 2) this place wasn’t Xitomates. That said, we gave the place a shot on our last evening there and thank goodness we did. It was the same basic place – so much so that the container that they served the chips in still said Xitomates on the side. And the most important part – the exquisite salsas were the same. We split a mixed quesadilla appetizer (one pumpkin, one cheese and squash blossom and one huitlacoche) which was lovely and full of unusual flavors. My main course was a chile relleno filled with ratatouille. It was light (which goes down really well in the heat), but filling and the flavor was really fresh and intense. For dessert, we split a crème brûlée. We had high hopes for this; as Mexican flan is a thing of beauty, we assumed they would probably do other custards well, too. I love being right.

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Some Puerto Vallarta snaps

On our way to the airport to pick up our pal Rachel, we passed by this dude on the golf course.

Then after some pool time, Rach took us out for dinner in the Marina. This photo is proof to her trainer that she still lifted some weights while on vacation.

Taking the bus downtown, we saw some sand sculptures in the making.

And then Rach flew home.

The sun acknowledged the excellent visit we had with her with these warm tones.

Rollie’s

The Joint

Rollie’s

USA/Canada Telephone: +1 831-216-4493
Mexico Telephone: +52 329-291-3347

Cliff

No address here — not sure why. We sought out Rollie’s on the recommendation of my parents more or less on a whim. We’d heard that Memo’s wasn’t as good as it used to be, and we wanted to take Rachel on a little adventure out of Puerto Vallarta to see other towns in the area, so we walked to the airport, snagged the first bus headed to Sayulita for a taste of the legendary Rollie’s Breakfast.

We wandered a bit, but finally found the place, following a tip from the Sayulita Life website. Mom told us to check out the menu to get the story behind each dish. She was right: each one had a paragraph about the origin, relevance, or significance. I opted for The Worker, named for the employees of the restaurant, since it’s their favorite dish at the end of shift. It’s a butterfly flour tortilla hidden under layers of melted cheese and chunks of tomatoes and cilantro and refried beans (you can choose from several starchy toppings) and chorizo (which I added on). It came with a warning that it’s quite spicy and they would be happy to provide a mellower version for me. I opted for full-strength. Rollie said “the Worker? With chorizo on it? Woo!”

Woo, indeed.

Great place for breakfast, with a nice mixture of diner and local specialities. Motivates you to plan a day trip to Sayulita so you can arrive before they stop serving breakfast.

Sarah

Rollie’s is pretty delightful. From the moment you walk in and see an assortment of ceiling fans, the childrens’ art on the corkboard and the shelf for borrowing book, it becomes clear that this is a community institution. Rollie himself greeted us and chatted over refills of coffee and we watched as he made the rounds to every seated table.

I had the delicious chilaquiles, corn tortillas in a mild, flavorful chile sauce with a side of Rollie’s famous fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. A starchfest? Yes, yes it was. It was also lip-smacking good. And I offset the starchy explosion with a lovely (and HUGE) pineapple smoothie. So that’s not entirely bad for me.

If you want to head up to Sayulita for surf-watching and beach going, definitely visit Rollie’s. It’s quite a treat.

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¡Hasta el mayo!

Estimados lectores,

Tenemos unas aventuras en un país donde hace calor todos los tiempos. Vamos a visitar villas pequeñas donde se ofrecen tacos directamente en la calle. (No es peligroso cuando los padres te ayuden.)

Pero por eso podría hacer unos días mas hasta que escribimos aquí otra vez. Nos alegrimos que Raquel otra vez viene además.

Por cierto va a haber mas contenido aqui — tal vez fotos también — pero no immediatamente.

¡Que tengan una buena Pascua!

Balham B&B

The Joint

28 Old Devonshire Road
Balham
London
SW12 9RB

http://www.balhambandb.co.uk
Tel.: +44 20 8673 7179
Mobile: +44 7941 960 199
Fax: +44 20 8675 8058
Email: georgina@balhambandb.co.uk

Cliff

Loved it! We visited at a rather dreary time of year, but it was easy to see how lovely it would be to stay there in the late Spring. Georgina, your hostess, is the traveling gardner’s dream B&B proprietor, with her own garden at the house and a wealth of information to share about garden tours and events in and around London.

Each morning we had a scrumptious breakfast while chatting with Georgina about our options for the day. The breakfast highlight for me was the crumpet — perfectly done with homemade fruit preserves as a special treat after the eggs and bran flakes. What a great way to fuel up for tromping around London!

I was a bit dismayed at first at the distance from Balham to the city centre, but we quickly realized there are lots of options. Balham station is a tube stop as well as a national rail stop and if you’re flying in from Gatwick for a stay at the Balham B&B don’t take the Gatwick Express: you’ll overshoot the stop and have to backtrack quite a bit.

The Balham and Tooting area lends itself to walking around at night. I enjoyed the halal markets and cafés and restaurants in the area very much. It was a side of London I had not seen before, having only stayed in closer to the big city, and I’m glad I got to see it.

Sarah

We planned this trip with somewhat less lead time than is usual for us. Because places we’ve stayed in London have varied wildly with regard to quality, and because staying in London is usually an expensive proposition, I was looking all over the place for accommodation possibilites. Enter guardian.co.uk, the website for UK newspaper the Guardian. I don’t use this as a resource very often, but when looking for England-specific information, their travel information is pretty good. As luck would have it, there was an article touting London’s best B&Bs right there on their travel page. After sifting through all of the options and whittling them down according to pricing and vacancies, we ended up with the Balham B&B and our hostess, Georgina.

This is easily the best place we’ve ever stayed in London. Balham is a southern neighborhood of London, between the larger neighborhoods of Clapham and Tooting. The B&B is about equidistant between the Balham and Clapham South stations on the Northern line and is in a lovely row house, right off of the main drag. Georgina was a wealth of information about Balham and various cultural offerings throughout the city (museum and gallery exhibitions, music performances, botanical gardens, etc.). And she serves an absolutely wonderful breakfast with eggs, streaky bacon, yogurt, cereal, fruit – you name it, she’s got it. The guest room is large and comfortable, with a dresser and two closets and plenty of room to stash your suitcases. The guest bathroom was also roomy, stocked with fluffy towels, robes and slippers, plus an assortment of organic soaps, shampoos and lotions for our use.

One special note about the guest bed: this has got to be one of the most comfortable beds we’ve ever experienced in a hotel, vacation apartment or B&B. I am looking forward to going back to London at our earliest convenience just to sleep in that bed again. Some more.

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Travel bloggers united in Manchester…

…and we’re chuffed to bits to have been a part of it. This post is a little late getting off the ground, but I hope it’s better late than never.

A couple of weekends ago, smack in the middle of a stressful period at work, with overtime hours racking up at an alarming pace, Sarah and I met up with the Zurikas at Munich Airport and hopped a plane to Manchester, England after work Thursday night for a three-day distraction I greatly appreciated. It also gave us a chance to hang out with The Honourable Husband and Master Right, also in attendance, which we always relish.

We’d heard Jul sing the praises of TBEX Europe in Copenhagen, and especially about getting stuff for free. Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) sounded like an equally good time. So I registered on the TBU website to poke around there and get more info. Lo and behold, I happened to be the 200th website member, and Oliver emailed me out of the blue to congratulate me on getting free admission to the TBU11 conference in Manchester. Well, shoot — now I had to go (hate to turn down free travel-related stuff!). I had my doubts about leaving work at a critical phase. But der Bossmann insisted, however, that I get outta town and cut loose a bit, so we did.

I was still a little skeptical at the outset that this was a good fit for me or us; the focus seemed to be on travel blogging as an industry. “Crikey,” I thought,

“we’re not in this for the money. What are the seminars going to be like? The schedule for the weekend is pretty dense; I really hope it’s not going to be a sales pitch or some kind of cult.”

But my misgivings were ill-founded. Even before TBU really got underway, the recommended accommodations made a classy first impression and our conference fees scooped us some free tours through the Manchester visitor information center. There were three to choose from, and all three were open to us, but in the end we were sort of tired and opted only for the tour of Manchester’s recent musical past. Inspiral Carpets‘ drummer Craig Gill gave us a great look into the 1980s and 1990s scene. Given that Noel Gallagher of Oasis was once Craig’s roadie, he had plenty of insider scoop to share. Some bands I’d never heard of and some were well-known to me; nevertheless the tour was fascinating.

Even though once the conference got down to business, at times, I thought my ears would fall off if just one more utterance of “monetize” made its way into them, I came away from it all with clear applications for all of the break-out session seminar topics:

Lots of the panel discussion about bloggers and public relations firms working together didn’t really apply to us. We blog for our own personal enjoyment and with the hope that someone else will benefit from our experiences or read what we’ve done and where we’ve gone and suggest a new direction for our future travels. But even then I am pleased to have made contacts in the European P.R. industry. Lots of the contacts and concepts travel bloggers are using to structure and even finance their travels could be applicable to future WEBMU event planning activities as well. Sooner or later, we know that the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp will make it to Berlin, and when it does, I want to have Visit Berlin in our corner, helping to give that Meetup a little extra Berlin flair.

With that in mind, together with the personal connections we made before, during and after the sessions, we’re completely excited about the upcoming TBU conference in Innsbruck, August 25-27. We’re looking forward to seeing some familiar faces but new seminars and discussions, including one on travel blogging photography. See you there!

Skype 2.2 on Mac mini under Kubuntu 10.10 with USB mic

Haven’t geeked out here in a while!

This morning I put Kubuntu 10.10 onto my Mac mini’s hardware (in parallel to OS X 10.6) sort of for a lark and sort of because I like the KDE desktop so much. It went surprisingly smoothly and painlessly, despite my hodgepodge of cannibalized hardware (but hey, that’s what a Mac mini is for, right?).

I had no trouble getting all the basics to work: external hard drives readable and usable, WLAN was a snap, even got Kdropbox (though it’s not called that anymore) going quickly and painlessly.

Except for Skype. I downloaded the latest .deb package from skype.com and the audio output stuff seemed to be working just fine. But not the audio input from my USB microphone. Couldn’t figure that out. I did some googling, but mostly found references to Skype beta versions and hacked up wrappers from years ago, like version 1.2 or 1.3. Didn’t really seem appropriate anymore. There was a hint in the Skype Sound Devices options about PulseAudio and messing the with the settings outside of the Skype software.

So I kept digging in the KDE System Settings dialog. First weird thing I noticed: no obvious “Sound” or “Audio” control panels? Hmm, what about this Multimedia setting? I looked in there more than once before I realized that I need to take a look at “Phonon”.

In here I finally saw that I could adjust the preference order of my sound input devices, moving the USB microphone higher up on the list. Then Skype worked like a champ!