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26 February 2015

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


 Our two week vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

On the bus to Boca de Tomatlan
There was standing room only on the local bus from Puerto Vallarta to Boca de Tomatlan. We were the only tourists, the rest of the people were going to work in hotels, restaurants, construction and private homes along the way.



Anders got a tap on the right shoulder and a ten peso piece given to him. The person gestured to him to pass it along to the driver up front. A minute later, the 2 peso change came back and was handed all the way back to the passenger in the very back of the bus.

Eight pesos, about 6 cents, took us on an half hour long ride from Puerto Vallarta to Boca along the beautiful beaches to the south.

Carrying beer cases to boats

Loading the boats
Boca's harbour was extremely busy. Mostly beer and some food was loaded on to different boats to do deliveries to small islands and water only accessed homes along the coast.




Barefoot men with waist girdles were carrying 4 cases of  Pacifico or Corona at a time from the shore into the boats.



On the other side of the bay tourists were unloaded and loaded from and to different boats to be shuttled to different bays and islands.

Drinking fresh Orange Juice in Boca
We enjoyed freshly squeezes orange juice at the outdoor food stand, about ten oranges to the glass.









Around the corner a fisherman brought in his daily catch. He cleaned them and skewered them whole on sticks to roast and smoke them on the wood fire at the Los Mangos Restaurant.
Catch of the day

Fresh roasted fish with rice and beans

After our walk through the quiet fishing village and along the shore of the bay, we came back as promised, to eat one of the fish. Ricardo at Los Mango's proudly served it up with rice and beans, delicious! Here are some more pictures from Boca.






For our two week vacation in Vallarta, we had decided to stay in a modest boutique hotel right downtown in the Zona Romantica.
Hotel Belmar

Views from our balcony at the Belmar
The Belmar was perfect for us. Our room was on the 4th floor, no elevator, with a nice balcony overlooking the old town. The reception and room services were perfect.



Sculture on the Malecon

Morning walk in the old town

Staying right in the middle of the old town was wonderful for our daily walk-abouts and hikes into the neighbourhoods. The beaches were five minutes away and so was the Malecon with all the shops and restaurants.











But for food, we preferred to explore the local small restaurants and taquerias. Often there was no menu in English, we just pointed and smiled. It was always very good, inexpensive, and we never got sick to the tummy.


Views over Puerto Vallarta

The first two days it rained all day. That did not stop the Sunday night dancing at the Plaza Principal.
Everybody is dancing at the Plaza principal
Wow, Mexicans can dance. Everybody had a great time, from small children to grandpas and great grandmas. Here are more pictures from around Puerto Vallarta and a second album from a walkabout around town.

Tania and Alain
Our main reason to visit Puerto Vallarta was to attend Tania and Alain's Mexican wedding. Alain is my late baby sister Maria's son from Switzerland. About ten years ago he came to Victoria to learn English. At the international language school he met Tania from Quadalajara. They fell in love, and the rest is history. What a wedding they all had organized.

The ceremony was at the Templo de Guadalupe, the big main church in Vallarta.


Tania with her parents Manuela and Pierre
Beautiful Tania walked down the isle with her wonderful parents Manuela and Pierre.

Liz reading the English text





Handsome Alain was waiting for them up front. It was a heartfelt wedding ceremony, I was even asked to read the English version of the marriage promises.


Liz and Anders at the Wedding Reception
The reception was at the Raintree Regina Resort about 15 km north of town. What a great place to take pictures at the beach and to dine and dance under the stars.

Tania and Alain
The setting was like a fairy tale. The food and service was excellent. We had a wonderful time, but skipped the after party which started at 1 am in the morning with a Mariachi Band next door. Here are tons of pictures from the wedding.


On the Catamaran
Two days before the wedding, we were all invited to join family and friends on a Catamaran moonlight boat tour. For about 4 hours we floated in the Bay of Banderas, passing by the city lights. The bar was open and good tapas were served.



Soon everybody was in top form and danced the night away.
Liz and Anders


Tania and Alain




























We Canadians and Swiss will have to get a blood transfusion or something to try to imitate the effortless way of the Mexican dancers. Not even the beer and Margaritas did the trick. But we all had tons of fun under the stars and the full moon. More pictures from the boat trip here.


Drive to San Sebastian
A couple of days after the wedding, we hired a taxi to take us to the mountain village of San Sebastian about 2 hours drive from Vallarta for the day.

Annamarie, Anders and Liz on the way to San Sebastian
Annamarie, my sister from Toronto also came along. It was an interesting outing. We visited a Tequila brewery and a coffee plantation and roastery on the way up through the Sierra Madre.

Blue Agave Plant



    Tequila Production in San Sebastian


Figurines from pre Spanish time
In San Sebastian there are few tourists and Hugo, our taxi driver and guide showed us the old jail, and a small museum with artifacts from the pre Spanish time.

Deep flying Chorros
At a bakery, the owner fried some Churros for us. Yummy, pure fat and sugar.



Lunch at Abuelitas in Mascota











Since the only restaurant in town was busy, we continued to Mascota. There, at Abolitas we had a nice buffet lunch. Mascota is a working farm town, no tourists.

Talpa


Talpa, famous for its sweets and Candies
In the afternoon we continued all the way to Talpa.


The Virgin of Talpa Church
Talpa is famous for its Cathedral of the Virgin of Talpa and the candies and sweets produced and sold here. A pretty little town about 3 hours from Vallarta. More pictures from San Sebastian and Talpa.








Another day we took the local bus and ventured about an hour north to Sayulita.

Sayulita's Surfing Beach


Sayulita with younger crowds
The quite little fishing village is no more. It was crawling with a younger crowd of Gringos, a lot of them surfers and mature hippies. The shops and food are mostly geared to "norteamericanos", Hamburgers and beer.
Roadside BBQ

We ate a BBQ chicken lunch from a roadside stand, it was excellent. Here are some more pictures from the bus trip to Sayulita.

Anders and I love Mexico and its people. It is a beautiful country, and we find the people we met courteous, friendly and helpful. We found if you say you will be back tomorrow to buy some of their souvenirs, they expect you to be back.


The bread man

The Bread man with yummy goodies













Last year on our trip to Baja
California we were spoiled with great swimming beaches. In Puerto Vallarta most beaches are not suitable for swimming. Here, the breakers rolled in very high and the undertow was dangerous. Also, some beaches were polluted. So unless you stay at a resort with swimming pools, swimming is questionable in Puerto Vallarta.


Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Bay of Banderas







The rest of our, all too short visit to Vallarta, we spent enjoying the old town. We finally found a good Italian coffee and Gelato shop. Anders was so exited that he left his camera on the counter there. We realized the mistake only after two hours. We hastily walked back. Guess what? The pretty woman had put it in the back and handed it to a very relieved Anders with a big smile. Wow.


Old and Modern in Old Town Vallarta

Wednesday nights we visited the Art Walk in the Historic centre of town. That is a good time to go for dinner at El Arrayan on Allende Street.
At the Al Arrayan
Anders had delicious marinated deep fried duck with orange sauce.

For lunches, Gaby's or La Palapa are serving good Mexican / Canadian dishes if we needed a change from the Taquerias.

Lunch at La Palapa

Lunch at Gaby's



















With Tania and Alain we went to Pipis for dinner one night.

Dinner at Pipis with Tania and Alain

Good ambiance, the Guacamole is prepared right at your table, and the Margaritas are enormous, Salute!

Anders and I loved our stay in Puerto Vallarta. We had a wonderful time at the wedding celebrations and enjoyed Vallarta and area. We felt very comfortable with the people of Mexico. The people are very warm and friendly. Here is a mix of pictures from the whole trip.



                                                         Adios Puerto Vallarta.....









19 February 2015

Don't Overstay Your Time In The USA.


How Long Can You Stay in the USA!


June 2014 in Rathtrevor Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC.
Many of us spend time south of the Canadian border during the winter months, and why not.



It is nice to be able to soak up some sun and take in some different cultures and meet up with our friendly neighbours both in the USA and Mexico.



There are some laws that are very important to know. How long you can stay in the USA and how long you can be away from Canada. Please do not assume you know how long you can stay, it can cost you.

Below is a recent (February 2015) article from RVwest magazine (re-printed with kind permission from RVwest) that might be of interest for you and may save you some money.


Be Safe, Not Sorry


Liz enjoying the flight over the Mackenzie River Delta.
Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. July 2014
A new agreement signed in June 2014 by Canada and the United States allows information sharing between the two countries to ensure snowbirds don't overstay their welcome.




Gail Hunnisett, constituency assistant for Alex Atamanenko, MP for British Columbia Southern Interior, said regulations around residency and liability in regards to tax have been in place for years. But the new agreement now allows border officials to exchange specific passport information.

A good day fishing at home on Cortes Island, BC. August 2014
"This means they now have the ability to enforce residency regulations," said Hunnisett. "Previously, you stopped at the American border on your way into the U.S., so they knew when you came in. But when you crossed back you came to the Canadian border, so they had no idea how much time you spent there. Now border officials - not tax agencies - can request that information if they have reason to."


Camped in Alaska's outback. July 2014
According to Hunnisett, many Canadians believe that if they spend fewer than 183 days per year in the U.S., they will both avoid U.S. taxation and retain their provincial healthcare. This is a common misconception. In fact, retirees who own second homes and / or spend the winter months in the southern states may have to submit forms to the Internal Revenue Service in order to maintain primary residence in Canada.

Liz and Anders with Denali in the back drop. Alaska 2014
In 2014, Canada and the U.S. adopted the final phase of the Entry / Exit Initiative, which gives border officials in both countries the authority to share passport information. As of June 30, each day a Canadian spends in the U.S. is automatically recorded by the American Department of Homeland Security.



Anyone remaining in the U.S. for an extended period of time, or who makes multiple trips every year, must be careful not to exceed the annual threshold of 120 days.

Canadians who spend longer may be subject to U.S. tax laws. In order to avoid liability for U.S. tax, individuals must file the Closer Connection Exemption Statement for Aliens (IRS Form 8840) with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This form acknowledges that you have exceeded the "substantial presence test" in the current year, but establishes your closer residency connection to Canada. Individuals who file the form each year by June 15 may remain in the U.S. for up to 182 days. The substantial presence test only applies to those present in the U.S. for more than 31 days in the current year. The test considers the total number of days in the U.S. over a three year period.

Home on Cortes Island, BC. September 2014
"I think it's important to look at who this is targeting and who is most likely to be affected by this," Hunnisett said. "This is for people with RVs or homes, often retirees, who go down to the U.S. for the winter. It's a common misconception they can stay down there for 182 days and the primary concern was to get back to Canada, specifically B.C., so they don't lose their medical coverage. But it's a little more involved than that."

People in the southern interior of B.C. often cross the border once or twice a week to fill their gas tanks, check mail if at a U.S. post office box or buy things on sale. They may only be in the country for a couple of hours - but this counts as a whole day.

Hiking near Boca, Mexico. February 2015
"This is where people can get in trouble and why people need to know about this," said Hunnisett. "If they go down to the U.S. and spend five or six months there and they come back and haven't filed any forms, then they go to cross the border to buy gas or do some shopping, they may exceed their residency threshold and get into trouble. If they have not been filing form 8440, to establish their closer connection and their legal residence as Canada, they can be detained, penalized or prevented from re-entering the U.S. So there are some pretty heavy penalties associated with this."

Hunnisett said this can be scary, but the form itself is not onerous. It's perhaps a nuisance and just one more thing people have to do.

Lunch in a small fishing village called Boca, Mexico. February 2015
"Border officials can go back three years and look at how long you've been down there. There is a formula," she said. "You must keep careful track of your time. If you exceed 182 days in any year, and haven't filed a form, you will not be allowed to file a form and will be investigated, which nobody wants."

Hunnisett said it's important to understand that it's just like a tax form and you file it subsequent to the year. Forms are filed on June 15. If for 2014 you exceed 31 days, by June 2015 you have to file this form. This form is for each individual, so you cannot file as a couple or a family.

Hunnisett has some tips for people to make sure they aren't faced with an unwanted investigation.

Keep a log

Every time you cross the border, write down the date you entered, the date you came back and the purpose of your trip. Don't rely on memory, especially if you're asked about the previous three years. You don't want to trigger an investigation.

Exemptions

Camped on Homer Spit, Alaska.
Individuals who travel to the U.S. on business, truck drivers who regularly cross the border, or people bringing their child to a dance recital need to ensure they tell the U.S. border officials it's not a personal holiday. Chances are they will be waved through and it won't add to the day count.

There are exemptions to the total day count. If you become ill or get into a car accident and can't get back across the border as planned, make sure you have documentation. You can subsequently file another form to get those days exempted from your final count. This may prevent you from being identified as a U.S. resident.

Take form 8840 with you

Take the IRS form 8840 with you whenever you cross the border. That way if you're asked about time spent in the U.S., you can reply with accuracy.

"I have spoken with our border officials, and they're not handing out information to U.S. border guards on a daily basis," Hunnisett said. "They're only giving this information when it's requested. So if people are keeping careful track of their time in the U.S. and not abusing the privilege, there shouldn't be any problem. Again, the form itself is not onerous, and it's better to be safe than sorry."

End of article.

As you can see it is not all black and white and why should it, we are dealing with government bodies.