Sunday, April 29, 2007

REEL ADVENTURES In Loreto

Here’s the first BMW sports car that I have seen in Loreto. It had no plates, so it had to be owned by a local Mexican. Bumping along the dirt roads under construction, it still caught my eye, but did not look as out of place as it may have a year ago.

Also, this week I saw a delivery truck full of newer cars stopped in Loreto. These are the first steps towards a growing economy. Also, cruising around town are some new dune buggies that are serious enough to race in Baja 1000. Many Mexicans are now cruising the malecon on new ATVs and scooters. Boys and Their Toys is a universal concept.

I was on my way to Nellie’s Place following a typical Mexican truck. What caught my attention was that there were comfortable high back seats in the back where the two kids were enjoying the ride. The backdrop of the massive Holland America cruise ship was a sharp contrast to the Ford pickup on the currently torn up local streets. My first thought was “How Bizarre?!”

This is a small world. Roger and Linda Charest walked into my bar last week. We were in the same social circle a lifetime ago in Victoria and now will be neighbors in Loreto. They have now moved to Alberta and we had fun catching up about old friends and looking forward to the Good New Days ahead. It made me happy to get a blast from my past.

The most exciting part of this week was meeting Robert Arrington and Will Laribee. They were in Loreto filming an episode for the fastest growing saltwater fishing television program shown on Fox Sports Network. REEL ADVENTURES takes a contemporary look at saltwater fishing in adrenaline pumping “Reel” time; under water and on the hook, the strategy, the battle, the release the victory! Their energy and enthusiasm for Loreto could be described as nothing less than infectious and I know that will come out in their spotlight of Loreto.

Random Acts of Kindness give back amazing results. How I came to meet Robert Arrington was that he walked in off the street and told Jeanny that he badly needed a shower. He offered $30 USD if he could use one of our hotel rooms. Jeanny felt sorry for him and gave him towels and the room and told him that he could just pay us what he wanted, but $30 was too much. He was so appreciative! Robert showed us his website and what he was doing in Loreto. Check it out at www.ReelAdventures.tv

I told Robert and Will that we take fish in exchange for margaritas. However, we preferred the entire fish rather than fillets because our Sushi Chef Edgar san Pancho is amazing with the fish cheeks, ribs, and stomach that are really the delicacies that most people throw away. Good for his word, Robert brought several large yellowtail and Edgar prepared a feast for all their friends.

Robert and their friends raved all night long that this was the best sushi they have ever had. They have traveled the world and eaten in the best seafood restaurants, and all said that this was the most incredible meal they have had because every dish was consistently delicious. The local ambiance of a perfect evening in Loreto, accompanied by Cadillac Margaritas may have enhanced the flavors.

Edgar made a dish especially for me that was simply incredible. I asked him to make it for the film crew. It is large shrimp filled with a crab and salmon roe mixture, wrapped in seaweed and deep fried in a light tempura batter. Served with Edgar’s special cilantro sauce, it is almost too beautiful to eat. Every bite is a little different and definitely something to savor. Right now, we just called it the Nellie's Special … until Edgar makes me another favorite!

Robert and video photographer Will interviewed me for their episode on Loreto to be aired on Fox Sports Network next September. They took many photos of Nellie’s Place and promised to promote us throughout the Sports Fishing World. They were very nice and if it happens, who knows where it will lead?? It is incredible that purely by chance, they just happened to walk through my door.

They came back for lunch before leaving for the airport and again were blown away by the best sushi ever. We constantly get comments that our sushi is the BEST that people have had anywhere and wonder how I managed to get so lucky to have Edgar san Pancho. He just walked through my door one day!

The weather in Loreto right now is just perfect. April and May are definitely the very best times to be here. With temperatures in the low 80’s during the day, the water is the best place to be. For anyone that hasn’t spent much time out exploring the different islands, and seeing the wildlife, I would highly recommend it. There are many fishing and sightseeing charters or simply get a ponga with driver to show you why Loreto is so very special.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Many VIPs in Loreto, Including President Calderón of Mexico

There have been many big events this week in Loreto. The first was the live concert of Los Tigres del Norte, who have a career span of more than three decades. Millions of records sold, extensive concert tours throughout the United States, Mexico, Latin America, Europe and Asia, have made Los Tigres Del Norte international legends.

The outdoor concert was at the Stadium on Sunday night and advertised to start at 10 pm. Having had a very relaxing day off and a busy Monday ahead, I thought what the heck ... I will go and check it out for a couple of hours. We went about 9:30 to grab some food and good seats. The doors opened at 10 pm and there were big signs that said “No Hay Salida” which I found confusing because how would we get out?

We knew we were in for a long night when they were just starting to set up the massive stage when the doors opened. The stage was grand enough for a large rock concert and the Tigres had at least 10 trailers full of equipment. We kept watching and waiting while the wind was blowing gusts of dust everywhere. At 11 pm, a backup band from Insurgentes came on who tried hard to entertain the 2000 people waiting patiently.

We only spotted about 20 or so that were non Mexican and from the late night show, I can now guess why. People had Tigre t-shirts and many were dressed in their special cowboy attire. After midnight I could not last much longer and decided to fight my way out the “No Exit” as the hordes of people who knew better than to arrive early were coming. The police security was really confused why I would pay 200 pesos and leave before the Tigres came on. I heard they started playing at 1 am and went until 3 am. I heard there were over 4000 people in attendance by the time the concert started.

President Calderón was in Loreto April 19 for the Presentation of Puerto Escondido Project, Municipio de Loreto and Signing of Wastewater Treatment Plant Donation Agreement. There were approximately 300 businessmen, developers and officials in attendance at Puerto Escondido. I managed to get a highly coveted invitation and was lucky enough to shake his hand. I did not get a photo, but have highly reputable witnesses. President Calderón acknowledged that he, along with the other government officials would support Loreto in its growth as a tourist destination that was good for all.

President Calderón’s speech contained the following quote:
"These projects are based on private investment which, over the next 15 years, is expected to total $8.5 billion USD for projects that have already been designed. This will create approximately 55,000 new jobs, which will undoubtedly create opportunities for families in the municipality of Loreto and other nearby communities that will have more resources and thereby be able to improve their living standards.”

He was aware of the many problems including shortage of water and the need to have sustainable development. The audience’s impression was that the President was extremely intelligent and had good information about the area and its history.

Others in attendance that committed to supporting Loreto’s managed exponential growth was the new Director of Fonatur, Governor of Baja California Sur, Director of Tourism, and Mayor of Loreto. The President promised to be back to Loreto to open the new hospital as soon as it was completed.

My Calgary friends Glenn, Heather and Dennis of FN31 came to enjoy the sushi and tapas. Glenn and his wife Karen originally came down in November 2003 at the first launch, but everything was sold out before they got their pick. That first event was completely sold out with 52 homes. Glenn mentioned that he thought I had a thing for Harleys from reading my blog. Who doesn’t like Harleys?

I have to admit that Nellie’s Place seems to attract them. Last week we had another group of 6 bikers cruising into town and they saw the sign and came in to stay at the hotel and enjoy the bar. They were from Alabama, South Dakota, and Texas. This was a 5 week road trip and these guys have been friends for over 20 years. It was great to hang out with them for a while and hear their crazy stories. They were on their way back up the Baja so I gave them lots of business cards to hand out to other bikers making their way to Loreto.

My good friend Antonio Garcia came by to celebrate the success of Nellie’s Place. Antonio is from the Chihuahua area and came to Loreto as a Senior Manager with Eiffel Construction about one year ago. Antonio was one of the very first Mexicans that helped me with my business and believed in me, when I was not sure of believing in myself. He is a good friend and has also done a great job for his team at Eiffel and the homes they are building in Loreto.

This was a very busy weekend in Loreto. The developer, investors and team of architects and engineers at the Marbella project in Nopolo were all in town. Many of the engineers were from Mexico City and they were enjoying the views of the water after a long planning day.

It was another Loreto Bay sales weekend, and I heard they did very well with a conversion rate over 50%. Yesterday afternoon Jim Grogan told me they had committed to donate another $90,000 USD to the Foundation from this weekend’s sales.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Time of Change / The Anti-Cabo

I am attaching a link to a recent article in USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2007-04-05-anticabo-loreto-mexico_N.htm?POE=click-refer

Loreto is no secret and it is getting worldwide press as more and more people are enamored with all it has to offer. I am enclosing some photos taken of the surrounding areas on one of my afternoons off exploring about 35 kms north of Loreto.

I have been called a Change Agent, among many other things not so complimentary. A change agent, or agent of change, is someone who intentionally or indirectly causes or accelerates social, cultural, or behavioral change. I do not view myself as a person who seeks radical change or one that necessarily wants to influence the decisions of others. Rather, I try to provide pros and cons of choices based on education, experience, and intuitive powers gained over many decades of living on the edge.

I am simply one person with my own beliefs and opinions. With a high standard of respect for others from all social and economic backgrounds and have little patience for those that hold themselves superior to others by being judgmental and critical without fully appreciating the complexity of each situation.

As I approach the age of 47, I am more appreciative and aware of the wisdom that experience has brought me. Everyone has their story, complete with highlights of glory, anxiety, and emotional pain. Each is different, yet the strength from those that have undergone broken hearts and dreams as well as the euphoria of sheer bliss, shows through in their compassion and empathy for others. I find myself most drawn to these people and find a great deal of camaraderie in Baja.

The many government departments, led by the initiatives of the President, Governor and Mayor, are all proactively working to ensure that Loreto has what it needs to help it grow effectively for the betterment of all. Through BajaBOSS, we have very good relations with all local business authorities. They realize our endeavor to provide a service that enables foreigners to meet and respect the laws and guidelines.

It seems every road in downtown Loreto has been ripped apart and under construction. All of both main streets Salvaterra and Jueves are being dug up and the potholes and dust are impossible to escape. Hopefully, this will be a short term nuisance and we will have nice repaved roads very soon.

On my drive to LaPaz yesterday, it also seems that the entire highway is being repaired and bridges are being built at almost a frenzied pace from Loreto to Los Cabos. It is the government mandate that these roads be repaired before the next Hurricane Season and torrential rains come in August.

Mexicans are a very entrepreneurial and industrious group. The people that are aware can feel the energy in the air and acknowledge the change that is coming. Those that accept it and are part of the positive development of change will prosper. Those that do not, will remain the same or will be left behind. This has happened for many centuries globally and not limited to Loreto.

There have been many positive changes in the last six months among the local Loretanos. Every week I see a new retail store, restaurant, taco stand, or building being renovated. There are now three Car Washes in town to service the growing abundance of new vehicles. A year ago, it was uncommon to see a car newer than 10 years old and one would never see a foreign luxury vehicle cruising the streets of Loreto.

Now we see a few new Lincoln Navigators, Hummers, Cadillacs, Toyota Tundras, and many newer Pathfinders, Jettas, Jeeps, and Ford F150s. These are all owned by local Mexicans who have sold land or started new businesses. There are still very few local businesses operated by foreigners, but every week we get more inquiries about the laws, taxes, and how to set up a new enterprise. It is an exciting time for all.

Today I was invited to a Baptism party for baby Donna Yesselin. She is a beauty and it was great fun to be celebrating with all the Mexican families and their children. There were over 200 people invited and the place was full of loud dance music, an abundance of food and drinks, and everyone looked very nice all dressed up.

Here’s a photo with our good friend and client of Baja BOSS, Dee Wise FN63, along with Jeanny who runs my office, her husband Noe and their son Pedro. Dee and I both felt very privileged to be the only foreigners invited and enjoyed participating in the local community festivities.

My friend Yolanda has asked that I be the Godmother to her daughter, Heidi’s “Quinceanera” celebration. This is an incredible honor for me to accept and I look forward to presenting her at the 15 year old debut party. I have been told that I am to walk Heidi down the aisle in front of the community and I am eagerly researching to find out exactly what the protocol is. It will happen around May 18 and I look forward to sharing the highlights with you.

I will continue to talk about all the wonderful people, opportunities, and wealth coming into this area as I encourage everyone to participate in making a positive difference. As was quoted in the USA Today article - "Loreto will change. But not for the worse. Hopefully." No one wants another Cabo and we must work together to ensure that this does not happen.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

From Scottsdale Fast Cars to Sushi in Loreto …

What a whirlwind week! It is Semana Santa or Holy Week in Mexico and there is almost no business conducted outside of the hospitality industry. Yolanda, Edgar and Julio worked diligently throughout the holiday to ensure everyone had a great time at Nellie’s Place. All hotels were full and the beaches and campsites were wall-to-wall packed with families enjoying the largest holiday outside of Christmas. Since I now try to act Mexican, I thoroughly enjoyed my week off away from the office.

My short trip to Scottsdale was heaven. I stayed with my friend Jessie in her new custom home, complete with pool, wine cellar, and built-in Miele Coffee Dispenser which was like having a personal barista on call 24x7. My chariot of choice was a Lincoln Aviator or BMW M3. I was thrilled to see my little Mercedes C240 in Jessie’s garage waiting patiently for the day I would return to take her away. The way Loreto is growing, it may be sooner than I think when a Mercedes will no longer be ostentatious and unusual for this little town.

I packed an empty suitcase, filled only with my dry cleaning. My friends joke that I went to Phoenix just to have my laundry done. I spent 6 hours power shopping and had to buy another suitcase just to pack the goodies I bought for my staffs’ kids, office, and new Loreto wardrobe. Wandering around Kierland Commons, I realized how much I appreciated Valet Parking at the Mall. When I lived in Scottsdale, I thought this was frivolous … but after living in the Wild Wild West for 8 months … it is a wonderful well deserved luxury.

I met with many friends and visited all my favorite restaurants at DC Ranch. First stop was Oysters on the half shell and Martinis at Eddie V’s; then fine wine samplers at Hermitage with an exotic cheese platter; and finally Maestros for the best steak in town. It is truly an adult Disneyland sitting outside, sipping wine in 75 degree weather with a parade of luxury cars continually driving past slowly through the marketplace. It is very sad that what impressed me the most was not the Ferraris, Porsches, or Lamborghinis … it was the fact that they were all immaculately clean and dust free. I am sure all these people would be horrified if they saw the way I drive my Baja car off the dirt lot after it has been detailed at the local car wash. It stays beautiful all of one minute, but what a proud minute it is!

It was especially nice to catch up with my good friend Catherine Swinscoe, who is back working in Mexico with Paul Moran Architects. The new resort spa they are creating is for one of the wealthiest men in Mexico, located in Northern Acapulco. It will be a 4 acre destination spa based on Chinese medicine. Part of the project is an 800 room hotel and conference center for 6000 people which will make it the largest in Mexico. Catherine and Paul have done incredibly well since leaving Loreto Bay and I am so happy for their successes. I will keep you up to date as I am sure their work will be receiving international acclaim soon. Halfway through our first bottle of wine, we had the outline of our future book: Life in Loreto Bay – The True Story. It was an experience of a lifetime and true that fact is stranger than fiction. I had forgotten more than most people ever dream of living!

My new friends Bruce and Roberta, who have a beautiful home on the beach in Loreto, brought me more than 150 lbs of yellow tail. Their partner Rod is known in Loreto as the Premier Fisherman and regularly stalked whenever he is on the water as his reputation for finding fish is infamous. You can tell that Bruce is accustomed to hauling the big fish, which looks almost as big as Julio!

Sushi Chef Edgar San Pancho was so excited that they gave us the whole fish intact. He expertly filleted the fish and there was nothing wasted. Another one of our long time residents Juan from the Punto Nopolo Condos gave Edgar an authentic new sushi knife as a gift. The look of joy on Edgar’s face was as good as children’s on an Easter Egg Hunt. I am constantly impressed at the generosity of the people of Loreto who I now call friends.

Bruce’s son David wanted to give one of the fish to his Mexican friend at the marina, so they plopped it in his ATV basket and away he drove down the street. It was quite a sight and all the guys at the marina offered to take the fish off his hands and “give” it to his friend. David was too smart to fall for that old trick and cruised around until he found the rightful recipient.

Edgar made the most amazing dishes with the fish gills. They were lightly battered with tempura and a soya sesame sauce, and amazingly tender. He created a dish of fried fish eggs which I have never tasted before. It was not like caviar, but more like a delicate tofu texture and very tasty. Another first for me was the fish ribs. I never knew fish had ribs, but there was a bone that was about 6 inches long and strong enough you could pick up with your fingers and nibble the meat around it. It was lightly battered and fried with a cilantro sauce and actually looked like a plate of ribs!

Many LBC homeowners were here for Easter and visited Nellie’s Place as the buzz is all over town that we serve the best sushi anywhere! Mark and Allison of FN308 were enjoying the fresh fish and sushi with their friends all evening long. The weather was warm, the company great, reasonable drinks, and delicious food. What more is there to want in life?

Tom Webber, the Golf Architect at Loreto Bay, is now a regular customer. He has been here four times this week and loves the sushi and atmosphere with his friends. Soon he will have a complimentary BajaBOSS cap as soon as we can order more to keep up with the demand.

We also look forward to seeing Tom Woodard as another regular customer with his friends, who all rave that the sushi is as good as in California. Tom is involved in several real estate projects on the Baja and will be renting my VIP suite for six months. Sorry to disappoint all those looking forward to enjoying the luxurious suite with private oceanfront balcony, but it’s business. We are keeping our introductory rate of $60.00 USD per night for our newly renovated cabana rooms as we enjoy having our friends come back time and time again. Reserve early as Nellie’s Place Hotel is often full and we must turn away travelers who regularly stop in.

We send the overflow to my friends, Debora Simmons and Gerardo Lieras, at La Damiana Inn close by. It is a charming hotel with reasonable rates and a nice alternative when Nellie’s Place is full. Many of the local business people are dropping by to relax, have the sushi and most importantly, remember why they came to Loreto by enjoying the view. I am happy to recommend and support other local businesses as I truly believe that What Goes Around, Comes Around. You can check out Debora’s place at www.ladamianainn.com

Ed Tait and Jackie Ross, who are friends from Victoria and previous LBC employees dropped by to say hello. We basked in the sun, having cocktails and they asked how I enjoyed life in Loreto. I have now been here full time for nine months and can honestly say that I have not had a bad day. Challenging, exciting, tiring, and many a blur for various reasons … but not a negative moment where I have had second thoughts that my decision was not the best one for me. We are all different, but I am pleased to offer any assistance to others who want to take the leap and follow their dream.
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