My partner Mary loves to paint. Her kind of painting takes her and her oils out into a landscape....she paints from real life, not from photographs.
The Casa, as it is known, stands beside Banderas Bay, in a cove that's trafficked by many water taxis, who arrive from Puerto Vallarta, ten miles up the coast, and Zodiacs bearing boatloads of cruise ship passengers who disembark for excursions to a jungle Zip line. Other younger passengers dress in school uniforms to commute here from other villages and go to school. Boca is a busy place and watching all of these passing water taxis, fishing boats and the passing parade of people on the beach is one of the great pleasures. It's tonic for a restless, plugged in American to simply sit, and watch, and do nothing at all. People here are really good at that.
Inside orange three-story Casa, which was built with the assistance of a San Diego-based architect friend who lives a few doors down, is designed for both comfort and to provide spaces for the many activities held here. On the top floor is the wide open painting and dancing studio, where there are hundreds of tubes of paint, many easels, a dramatic open air view of the ocean and the Rio Horcones, and the busy village across the river.
Other weeks feature well-known watercolor or oil painters, who often attract their own following. "It's a place where artists can come and get in touch with the intuitive part of themselves, where the technical instruction is of the highest caliber and the diversity is apparent," explains Bob Masla. "I want everyone who comes here to leave with the idea that he got to jump into the unknown, taking a course that pushed the envelope and stretched the boundaries a bit."
During our visit, Bob brought the entire group of eight up to the painting studio, even though everyone except Mary wasn't actually an artist at all. But as Bob explained, everyone has something inside them, a little bit of an artist, and it's worth exploring what we could come up with.
We kept on at it, pushing new lines, blurring our charcoal, and as Bob went around to each of us, he helped us tweak and stretch and keep trying out new ways to make it, well, art. It worked. After we had all worked on our charcoal projects, and had a chance to critique each other's work, we picked them all up and Bob lay them down on the floor. When all of the charcoals drawings were put together, then reassembled and then moved around a little more, it created a pretty decent looking piece of work. It was a great example of tapping an un-used part of our own creativity.
A week at the Casa takes guests not only into places where they barely realized they might have talent, like making art, but out into the surrounding countryside for three excursions that were highlights of our trip. The Casa is located down the highway from the tourist mecca of Puerto Vallarta, yet the village of Boca de Tomaltan is not at all the typical tourist trap like the bigger neighbor up the coast. One night we went shopping for Mexican clothing and strolled the Malecon walkway, and then dined in a fancy seaside restaurant in Puerto Vallarta.
Diving into the Pacific
We joined Bob, Monica, their three children and our group in two speedboats and dove into the warm Pacific water. Some of us donned masks and snorkled near the Arcas, watching schools of yellow fish dart past.
After we had eaten and some were relaxing in the sun, many in our group ventured out into the surf. Mary and I joined them, and I reflected on how fun it was to be swimming as a group, together. The three couples and the two singles had all merged into a group of friends who really wanted to be together out there in the ocean. To me it said that we had bonded, we had become real compadres, and this is definitely one of the major advantages of traveling as a group.
Mary's painting took place in the morning. She'd set up her easel right outside the apartment that we stayed in, which is adjacent to the Casa. There on the little veranda, as she applied oils to her canvas, the neighborhood kids would come around and gather near the easel. They wanted to see what the Senora was painting, in between their days-long games of tag. Their friendliness echoed that of the entire village....everyone in Boca is laid back and takes a casual approach to life and doesn't sweat it. Despite the fears that many have about Mexico and its drug wars, none of this affected us in the least, and throughout the week we felt safe and welcomed.
Another excursion brought us into the mountains about an hour north of the Casa to the village of El Tuito. El Tuito is the home of many Huichol Indians, famous for they peyote rituals and their unique works of art. We climbed up from sea level to about 2000 feet into the Sierra Madre mountains and the terrain changed from palm trees to pine forests.
On the way to lunch at a raicilla distillery, we passed a house on a driveway where we had to open a gate. A friendly elderly woman was cooking handmade tortillas on the porch, and she waved, asking us if we would like to come have a taste. Her husband was a spry man aged 99, and he proudly stood with his great granddaughter in front of a rustic bedroom with a date over the door, 1895.
Out to Dance
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Very enjoyable article, Max. Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories. Best of luck to you and Mary and hope we see each other again
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