Gather round, jaded Snowbirds. I’m a convert to life Bucerias style and I wish to bear witness to the replenishing benefits of a decidedly not-all-inclusive, un-luxury holiday in the state of Nayarit, Mexico where you can find reasonably priced accommodation reminiscent of India’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Marigold Hotel, of movie fame, was home to a disparate band of retirees thrown together by the whims of longevity. The folks who could not get a room there would have been just as pleased with Casa Ana Ruth, on Calle Juventino Espinosa less than 100 metres up from Banderas Bay where the hump back whales are breaching as if on command.
Casa Ana Ruth, named in honour of the wife of the owner, is full of Canadians most every winter. Down for up to six months a year, a loyal band of Canadian seniors, most from BC and Alberta, adopt this small seaside town and embrace Casa Ana Ruth in a manner that would startle and confuse five star addicted Snowbirds.
When we were here a few years ago, our room came complete with a shower that produced only cold water and, somehow, a toilet that flushed hot. When we mentioned this to Francisco, the owner, his remarkable fluency in English gave way to a look of Mexican confusion and he declared such a state of affairs inconceivable.
Don’t get me wrong, Francisco does a great job of managing Casa Ana and becomes a dear friend quickly. He is out front each morning sweeping the sidewalk before the breakfast crowd descends on Los Pericos, the very fine ground floor restaurant run by Pedro and his wife Monika.
Francisco will meet you in person at the airport. He will drive you up to Sayulita for breakfast or south to Puerto Vallarta to walk the Malacon. When we arrived a day early this year he put us up in a neighbouring hotel and picked up the tab … needless to say his hotel is always full despite the odd glitch.
The Canadians in residence here range in age from 60s to 80s and bring with them life experiences and skills that equip them for the delights of cobble-stoned Bucerias – emphasis on stones … not your faux designer condo foyer cobble stones — and for the flexibility that Casa Ana Ruth demands. Larry, from Nanaimo, is typical … a great handyman who is always fixing leaky faucets, sticky locks and mysterious plumbing. These skills are reflected in the cost of his two-month stay.
And, when health challenges surface, as they always seem to do when seniors venture abroad, the Casa Ana Ruth gang rallies as only an expatriate family can do. A few years ago, Wayne from the East Coast fell ill. Bob, from the Fraser Valley, who has mastered Spanish after 10 years of visits, and I got on my laptop and managed to find and contact a local doctor prepared to make a house call. Faster than you can ask “Does anyone in BC still make house calls?” a young doctor was on the scene and Wayne was plugged into an IV and stabilized. The doctor was at Wayne’s side all night and watched closely until he was out of the woods. I think the bill was about 3,000 pesos and Wayne is still here and full of piss and vinegar.
If that happened in one of your fancy five-star, all-inclusive beach resorts you’d be hauled away in an ambulance and never seen again.
When I tell people about Bucerias and its gritty charms I often hear remarks about Mexico being too dangerous outside the confines of a gated resort. That‘s never been our experience. Folks here leave their doors unlocked. And, all the locals who serve us are friendly, trustworthy and try their best to accommodate our faltering Spanish.
This year our tranquility was disturbed ever so briefly when a female tourist in her early 60s dropped dead while dancing her brains out at the Drunken Duck nightclub just two blocks from the hotel. I’m not sure I’d want a gravestone epitaph that reads: “Taken before her time by the Drunken Duck.” That said, most commiserators felt that if it is “your time,” dropping dead at a happy bar in Bucerias is not so bad.