Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


Building memories to last a lifetime

Photo by James M

We have developed a pattern here at the house on the beach in Todos Santos.

Early morning is YaYa time with my grandson. My son-in-love waits to hear me making coffee in the kitchen before bringing Thurlow up so that he and my daughter can grab another hour of sleep.  I don’t tell him how I anticipate this treasured time alone with Thurlow. It is Thurlow and my secret

Alone, Thurlow and I climb up to the third floor deck and watch the waves crash into the shore and then come back down and sit on the floor as he explores the world around him. We laugh and sing and clap hands and he bobs and weaves his tiny body dancing to the rhythm of his tiny world. I wonder if he can hear my heart dancing.

I feed him breakfast and eventually, the rest of the house rises and the day begins as I let go of my treasured time.

This morning, my daughters and I were going riding. It is the second ride for my youngest daughter and me since arriving on Saturday. Alexis’ first.

We rode through palm groves and then along the beach, our bodies relaxing into the steady gait of our horses as a wind blew in from the ocean and the surf crashed into the sand, washing our horse’s footprints away. It is hot and muggy. My heart is light, dancing with the pure delight of spending time with my two favourite women, my daughters, doing something I have always loved. Riding.

Above us, in the ever darkening sky, turkey vultures glided on the wind and beautiful white egrets watched our passing from their perches in the trees lining the edge of the river where it meets the sea. We pass by and they spread their wings swooping down to the water and then soaring back up into the sky. They are beautiful to watch.

And then, we left the beach and climbed up into the hills past flowering cacti, sampled sweet, sweet chilli peppers from a wild cactus bush and stopped at the high point to see if we could spot any whales. Two days ago, when we rode by this point we watched a whale slide by from above, the only sign of his passing the spray of his spout and the grey of his body sliding through the brilliant blue water. Today the water is gunmetal grey and moody. My favourite kind of sea.

We rode back down the rocky trail on the far side of the mountain, through palm groves redolent with the smells of fresh rain and bougainvillea flowers cascading to the ground. We crossed a river, our horses easily stepping through silent water up the far bank and back to the corral and through it all my heart kept dancing.

It was a day to laugh and chat and share and be. Together.

Back at the house, we showered and changed and left the men in charge of my grandson and drove into town for lunch. I almost had to stop driving at one point as the pounding of my heart drowned out my daughters’ voices and tears welled up into my eyes. I love you both so much, I told them, and they laughed and did that daughter thing of rolling their eyes and laughing before telling me how they love me too, and can we please go for lunch now? And we did after stopping at the bakery for fresh bread for the house and then a delightful ladies’ shop where I bought a new scarf (Like you really need another scarf mom they both teased) and a handbag that Alexis hopes she gets for her birthday and then we went for lunch at the rooftop sky lounge at Guaycura where the view of the red rooftops of Todos Santos tucked within lush green palms and flowering leading down to the sweeping sea made us gasp at the sheer beauty of the view.

Photo by Alexis M

We ordered Nachos and wine and laughed and chatted and teased as the sky above grew darker and darker until the rain began to fall in earnest and we scurried for cover by the bar, laughing with the pure pleasure of being together as the rain danced on the fabric of the roof cover, falling onto our table through the cracks between each panel. We didn’t care if we got wet. This was a day for pure delight, of hearts beating together and love flowering like the verdant forests all around.




The heart is an infinite space.

01a25ceb87823b6e89b0321ea298c61ea1b4343220I am watching a movie on the flight home. I cannot remember the name nor the actors. I think it was a sad movie. I hope so because I know I felt tears pricking at the edges of my eyelids.

And I think perhaps it is the bittersweetness of leaving Huatulco and the joy of coming home.

My heart is heavy. My heart is full.

It is both the blessing and the curse of travelling. Everyday new sights, sounds, ideas, foods, people open up like an oyster to reveal the exquisite beauty of every day pearls. And everyday, it takes you away from those you love, the places you know, the comforts of the life you live day to day.

And it comes back to me, the name of the movie I watched. In Her Shoes. Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley McLean. Two sisters who find the grandmother they thought had forgotten them and discover the beauty of the ties that bind them can never be broken. No matter what happens in the world around them, they are always connected through the heart to one another.

It is the heart connection that stirs my memory of the movie’s name because in it, Cameron Diaz recites one of my favourite  e.e. cummings poems.

i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

winter-is-hereThis morning, as I gaze at the snowy landscape outside my office window, as I feel the chill of the air when I let Beaumont out for a romp in the backyard, as I make coffee to take back to bed to savour with my beloved so we can lie together and reminisce of the days just past, of our plans for today and dreams for tomorrow, I carry with me in everything I do, the memories of Huatulco and Villas Fa-Sol. Of Don Gabriel and his coffee in Pluma Hildalgo. Of dinner under the palm trees, the roaring of the surf crashing against the rocks. Of the guitar player serenading us at dinner, the music of the looms at Textileartes. The sound of the birds cawing as we travelled across the waves to a deserted beach where I swam to shore. Of the taxi drivers, the servers, the shop people, the delightful staff at Villas Fa-Sol. Everyone. I carry them in my heart. The people. The sites. The adventures. The music. The laughter. The friendships made. The friendships deepened.

They will live in my heart forever for the heart is an infinite space. It gathers memories and holds them near, filling our soul’s longing for connection with its reminders of the people we treasure most, the one’s we hold so dear. And though the colours of the photos may dim, and the memory of the beauty of the sunsets become lost in other places, other journeys, the memory of the people will stay with me forever.

For that is the way of the heart. It holds onto people, no matter where in the world we go. For with every beat of our heart, it reminds us that we are never far from the one’s we love. We carry their hearts in ours. Always.



Roscas de Reyes

It is the Festival Roscas De Reyes and Roscio has been wrapping and handing out gifts to the various service providers who have come to the door all morning. Ursula tells us this when we arrive at Villa Sabah after a leisurely morning at Villas Fa-Sol.

img_0785This is a predominantly Catholic region where the day of the 3 Kings is the highlight of the new liturgical year. Everywhere we have gone, I have seen beautiful Crèche. Hand-painted, gilded, carved wooden creations. They sit in malls and the corners of shops and along streets. Next to Ola, Gracias Mon Deus is the phrase I’ve heard most frequently.

Coconut water au naturel

Coconut water au naturel

C.C and I had planned an adventure on Mopeds but his stomach had other ideas, most of which included not venturing too far from a washroom. So, we lazed about for the morning and then joined Ursula and Andrew, and our hosts Guillermo and Roscio by the pool for the afternoon at Sabah.

It was a fitting end to our last full day in Huatulco. Especially when it included Margueritas on the deck at Fa-Sol at 5:30, followed by an incredible dinner prepared by Sandra.


Roscas de Reyes

Under the star studded sky, at a flower laden table and to the sound of the surf crashing on the rocks below, we dined on the most amazing Avacado Soup, followed by a fresh salad of lettuce and tomatoes and avocado dressing and then, the piece de resistance, El Pescado en Papilotte. Scrumdilicious! The first round of dessert was strawberries in cream or a Flan that was truly to die for.

And then, it was time for the Roscas de Reyes, a giant wreath like cake that everyone had to cut into in the hopes of finding ‘the Bebe’.

In my family, the cake for the 3 Kings always had coins — finding the coin also meant being the King for the Day.

In the tradition here, the one’s who find one of the several ‘bebes’ tucked into the cake must bring Tomales to everyone on February 2nd, the day of the Blessing of the Animals.

img_0974Amidst laughter and suspense-filled ooohs and aaahs, we cut into the cake. I didn’t cut out a Bebe of my own but Gerardo offered me his and then one of the young girls gave me hers and then Roscio offered up her “Joseph”. And now, I have a little family of beautifully carved pottery. Mary, Joseph and Le Bebe.

What a wonderful gift and what a beautiful way to spend our last evening in magical Huatulco.

This morning, Roscio is taking Ursula and I to the market in the Centre of the city. “We will have breakfast of coffee and Tomales,” she tells me, “And you will see more of the real Mexico.”

img_0911There is much beauty here in this real Mexico at the edge of the Pacific. The rocks push up out of the clear blue waters of the sea that laps and leaps at each crenellated finger of land. Palm trees march up the sides of the mountains and spikes cacti cling to the sandy soil as if defying the winds to blow them away. Flowers compete in brilliant colour, vying for the title of ‘most exotic’, ‘most brilliant hue’, most fragrant.

And amidst all the beauty and colour, there are the people who make this land so special. Their smiles. Their lyrical language. Their gracious manners. Their warm hearts. (And did I mention their fast driving?)

There is much beauty in this land at the edge of the sea and the most beautiful of all are the people.





Life is a journey best shared with family and friends.

The shuttling of the warp and weave of the three giant looms sound like casenets snapping to the thrum of a guitar. “Come! Dance with me! Stamp your feet and shout a song of joy. Ole!”  (Watch the 11 sec video of the song of the looms I took HERE.)

My friend Ursula has been insistent. “You must see the weavers,” she said on our first day in Huatulco. Today, on our way to the market to buy provisions for the dinner we are preparing for our hosts, Roscio has brought us to Textilarte.

img_0661There are woven fabrics of every colour! Shirts, pants and dresses. Handbags and linens. The colors are vibrant. Lemon yellow nudges up against fuschia and creamy blue. The constant clacking of the looms shuttling back and forth in the front of the store, a reminder of the origins of every thing we see in the shop.

Urusla insists I try on a dress. A blouse. “You will get a good discount,” Roscio assures me. I check out the shirts and buy a robin egg blue linen shirt for C.C. A royal blue blouse for me. And some headbands.

I am excited about the colourful headbands I have chosen. Years ago, for some unknown reason that may or may not have included some wine, C.C and my friend Jane began a tradition of wearing serviettes as hats during dinner. Over the years, we have had many dinner’s where our guests have donned the four cornered hats. Except me. I have never been captured on camera wearing one of the hats. A scarf, maybe. But never a serviette. Now I will have a fashionable alternative for everyone to wear! Bonus!

Next door to Textilarte, Daniel stands on the street,  smiling and encouraging us to enter his store, Artesanias Reyes. Its shelves are filled with stunningly beautiful, hand-painted ceramic and wooden bowls and plates and cups and an assortment of artifacts designed to attract wandering tourists. The proprietor Jose Iglesias Allende takes me into the back to show me ‘the factory’. In a tiny alcove that serves as both factory and kitchen, two men sit painting ceramic turtles and parrots. The colors are brilliant. The work painstakingly precise. The finished product beautiful. As we are about to leave, Jose says something to me and points to a panel of beautiful fridge magnets. He wants to give you a gift, Roscio translates. And Jose nods his head and smiles and I pick out a pale blue parrot with beautiful yellow flowers on its back.

I am touched by his generosity and grateful for this gift that will remind me always of the joy and passion and welcoming beauty of Huatulco and its people.

Later, we women join the men to buy the vegetables for the dinner Ursula, Andrew, C.C and I will be preparing for our hosts at their home, Villa Sabah.

Guillermo leads us down the busy street, constantly waving us forward. “No. No,” he says when we inadvertently enter the wrong store. “That is not where we buy. This is the store.”

Loyalty. Family. Tradition. Responsibility. These are values that make up the fabric of Mexican life.

At Villas Fa-Sol, Gerardo has managed the hotel for many years. And though he and his wife, Sandra, are no longer married, they work together like notes of a song. He runs the hotel. She oversees the kitchen. Together, they create a delightfully serene and welcoming space where guests feel comfortable, relaxed, well cared-for and well fed.

fullsizerender-89Their son Jordan grew up at the hotel and now works closely with his parents to ensure every detail is attended to, every guest’s wish is met with utmost attention. He has been learning English, he tells me, so that he can be of greater help to the guests. I appreciate his efforts. His willingness to learn my language makes me feel less lost when asking for help! A father now, he hopes his son will also grow up at Villas Fa-Sol.

“Family is everything in Mexico” Guillermo tells me. “I like to hire family members because that way, I know I can rely on them. Trust them. They become part of our bigger family and that is good for our guests.”

img_0573It is part of the charm of this place where every guest is greeted in the morning with a cheery, Buenos Dias before taking a seat at a table where a breakfast of fresh fruit and other delectable delights awaits. Where the staff are quick to help, to offer direction, to open the gate or open their hearts to make everyone feel welcome.

And like the waves that flow into the bay below, in and out, in and out, life at Villas Fa-Sol becomes a beautiful song of grace and ease, grace and ease because the people make it so.

And in the songs of the wind and sea and the voices of the people and their warm hearts I am reminded that life is a journey best shared with family and friends.

I am grateful.


Gratitude is the universal language of the heart

img_0550The taxi is half way out of downtown Huatulco when I realize that I have not taken the room key from C.C. And thus began the adventure of trying to explain to the driver that I would like him to turn around and return to the restaurant where I have left my husband watching the Canada vs Sweden world junior hockey game.

With each attempt to explain, my gestures grow more wild, my eyes wider and his confusion more profound. He pulls over to the side of the road. He turns and looks at me. “Non comprehende” he says, throwing both hands up and raising his shoulders in the universal sign of, “I don’t get it but I think you may be a crazy woman!”

I point to the keys in the ignition. “Mon Esposo. Kabana Restaurante. Keys.” And I point at the ignition keys again. Turn my hand left to right as if turning a key in a lock. “Porto no ouvret.”

I have no idea what the word in Spanish is for door or for open but I’m hoping somehow, blending French and English and German, the three languages I do speak, will get my point across.

And I am laughing and he is looking more and more worried. Definitely a crazy woman.

Finally, I give up. I throw up my hands as he did and say, “Is okay. Villas Fa-Sol por favor.” I shall just have to get Jordan at Fa-Sol to open my door for me and leave it unlocked until we return after dinner that evening.

And I point one more time to his keys and he says, Clave! And I say, Si! Clave! I hope that is the word for keys and then I add as I point back towards the town. Mon Esposo. Kabana Restaurante.

And he smiles. Big. He turns the car around and we return to the square by the church and he stops in front of the restaurant where C.C. is sitting with his back to us, intently watching the action on the TV in front of him. I call out to him and he brings me the keys. I show them to the driver and he smiles and nods his head and says, “Si. Si. Clava .” I feel his sigh of relief. Not a crazy woman.

I too am relieved. Maybe he will drive me to Villas Fa-Sol and not foist me on another driver as I suspect he might have been attempting to do when we were stopped by another cab and he had been yelling out to the other driver.

I wonder what the words in Spanish are for “Help me! I have crazy-woman in the back seat!”

img_0555Eventually, I arrive back at Fa-Sol. I swim and rest in a lounger in the sitting pool and watch the sunset and feel the velvety darkness of the night wrap itself around me. I return to our room high above and sit on the deck, feet resting on one of the white columns of the balcony and savour my alone time until it is time to shower and get ready to meet our hosts, Guillermo and Rosio and our friends Ursula and Andrew. Guillermo and Rosio are taking us out for dinner in Santa Cruz. We are picking C.C. up on our way.

It has been many years since I was in a country where I did not speak the language. Usually, between German, French and English I can find a path to understanding. Though once, at a tiny port in Greece, waiting for a ferry to one of the islands, it did take me over half an hour to order a cup of tea. Who knew ‘tea not coffee’ did not make sense in other cultures? After being offered a Coca Cola, Fanta, and several other drinks I had no idea how to pronounce, the tiny woman dressed in black behind the counter said, while drawing out the long pronounciation of the ‘i’ at the end of the word, “Tzi!” And I smiled in relief as she plopped a tea bag into a cup and poured hot water over it

Not knowing the language makes for interesting conversation, and definitely makes food choices and driving instructions more challenging. Yet, no matter the language, there is one universal sign that everyone understands and connects us all.

In this land where Spanish is spoken at rapid-fire speed and where traffic signs are meant as suggestions only and drivers seem to know only one speed, FAST, the smile is still the fastest way to make a connection.

It may not get you to where you are going, but along the way, you will always feel the warm and welcoming desire of the people to make you feel at home, like they understand you, even when they think you just might be a crazy-woman!

And after a meal shared on the terrace with old and new friends, after good conversation and laughter, no matter what language I speak, gratitude is the universal language of the heart.

In gratitude, I press my hands together, palms facing in prayer, thumbs against my heart and bow my head and say, Gracias.



On the deep blue sea

img_0523I am gliding through the water. One arm over the other in rhythmic pace, like a windmill turning in the wind. I stop momentarily to check if I can touch the bottom, but I am still too deep. I crawl closer to shore. I check again. No. I keep moving closer to shore until finally, just a few feet from the pink and welcoming beach, I feel the sand beneath my toes. I stand up and a giant wave cascades over me, pummeling my back, pushing me into the sand. The wave crashes into the shore, curls back under itself and pulls back out to the ocean, dragging me with it.

I thrash and resist until I remember. Relax. Breathe. Go with the flow. Waves roll in. Waves roll out. Resistance is futile.

I become one with the ocean and stretch my body out on the water’s surface. The waves roll in and carry me back to shore.

I stand up and move away from the water’s edge. The sand is warm beneath my toes. The breeze warmer.

img_0511We are on a deserted stretch of beach miles down the coast from Villas Fa-Sol. Guillermo has offered up the services of his captain, Jorge, and the use of his 45′ powerboat, “Do It”, to take us out on the water for the day. After a leisurely journey hugging the beautifully rugged coastline, exploring several of the 9 bays that make up Huatulco, we are two miles out from shore, heading back to the northern tip of the region, when Ursula suggests it’s time to swim.

Ever accommodating, Guillermo and Jorge steer the boat towards this stretch of beach. Stefan, one of the guests who has joined us for the day’s adventure, reels in the empty fishing lines we have been trailing. Like an epilogue to a story about the one who got away, their colourful lures lie on the deck, empty, waiting for another chance to be cast into the waters.

At the farthest end of the cove, several divers bob along the water’s surface before disappearing below. There is a couple walking along the sand. They stop and kiss and keep walking in the sun. At the oppposite end of the cove towards which we are headed, a sailboat is anchored, its gleaming white hull gently rolling with each wave, its ropes and stanchions clanking, a cheerful bell calling us closer. Farther in from the shoreline, someone has erected a bright green tent, its sides untethered, the panels flapping soundlessly in the breeze that blows in from the water.

As I walk along the water’s edge, I see a family playing amongst the rocks that form the southerly edge of the bay. I know they are laughing, calling out to each other but the wind steals the sounds of their voices leaving me alone with just the crashing surf and my thoughts of paradise.

img_0524I spent much of the journey perched on the bench of the flying bridge, high above the boat’s main deck. Under Guillermo’s watchful eyes, I climbed up the two ladders to reach the bridge, my favourite place on a boat. I love the feel of being high above the waves, the wind blowing through my hair, the sound of the motors muffled far below.

As Guillermo shared stories of his adventures with his wife Rosio travelling the world, I watched the surface of the water for giant sea turtles, leaping fish and swooping birds. “Life gets busy and I get caught up in it,” he tells me. “Up here, I can forget the pressures and relax. It is like meditation.”

And I agree. The rhythm of the water, the boat rising and dipping with each wave, sometimes swaying side to side. The wind, the warm sun beating down, the birds swooping and miles and miles of sun-glistened sea reaching out into the far horizon. It is heavenly. Divine. Soul-refreshing.

We spent a day on the deep, blue sea yesterday. A day of magic and wonder. A day sharing in laughter, friendship, stories and tales of the one’s who got away, the one’s who got caught.

As we swam and lazed on the boat deck, Guillermo and Jorge prepared a delightful lunch of tuna salad, fresh avocados and juicy tomatoes. We sat and chatted and talked of worldly things and I listened and breathed deeply into the moment and gave a silent prayer of gratitude to the deep blue sea and the sky above.

And then the dishes were cleaned and stowed and we got underway, back towards the harbor.

As we docked Guillermo asked me if I’d had enough.

“No!” I replied. “Let’s keep going to Guatemala!”

He laughed and helped me ashore. I stopped and turned out towards the sea and said a silent ‘Thank You.’

The waves roll in. The waves roll out. Resistance is futile.

I cannot resist the lure of this land and its beautiful people. I breathe in and out and feel my soul stir deeply to the rhythm of the waves, the call of the wind and the music of this place called Mexico.


The Town Where Time Stopped

I’m calling it ‘the town where time stopped”, C.C.tells me as we set out to explore one of the town’s back lanes that leads off from the main square. He has named it so in honour of the clock tower whose hands have not moved since we arrived in Pluma Hidalgo, two hours into the Sherren Madres, high up in the mountains that we can see from the coast.

We have come to visit a coffee grower. “It is the real Mexico,” our host Guillermo tells us.

And I can see what he means with every curve in the road, with every S-turn navigated where,  once we leave the main highway, there are no signs strategically situated to warn drivers of “Curves Peligrosso”, dangerous curves ahead.



I see it in the tiny plots of land that someone has painstakingly carved out of the forest. Tiny shacks sit perched on the hillsides along the sometimes dirt, sometimes paved road, and sometimes indistinguishable surface, upon which we travel.

They are the paradox of this exotic and beautiful and wild land. Along the sea, million dollar homes sit, white and pristine, perfectly perched to gain the maximum effect from their million dollar views of the mountains and hills and forest and ocean beyond. They have electricity and running water and servants and air conditioning and all the amenities to make life full of ease and grace. In these homes, children laugh and splash in azure blue pools of clean, clear water under the watchful eyes of Nonas resting on lounge chairs lining the pool deck.

In the mountains, tiny shanties sit along the road. They too have million dollar views of the valleys and mountains beyond. They have no glass for windows, no wood for doors. A dusty ragged curtain sometimes blows in the doorway. Blue and white discarded milk cartons make up their walls. Children play on the dirt floor outside under the watchful eyes of wandering chickens and roosters and dogs whose rib cages stick out like the paintings vendors sell in tiny shops in villages, or from the backs of cars. Paintings of macabre dogs of white skeletons with bared teeth and colourful hats upon their heads.

This is a land of great riches and staggering poverty. In a 2014 article, it stated that 52% of the 120million population live in poverty. The country boasts 16 billionaires, each worth $9 billion or more.

Staggering wealth. Staggering poverty. A land of great contrast and contradictions.

And oh so beautiful.

Like its people.

img_0484At Caffe Palma Diamanté in Palma Hildalgo, Don Gabriel regales us with the specifics of coffee growing. His hands are worn and twisted with arthritis. His smile missing teeth. And his eyes twinkle with passion and love for this tiny bean his family has grown for generations. He has a large paneled display that he carefully walks us through — each photo a description of the bean’s journey from seed planting to seedling replanting. To harvest. Separation. Cleaning. WAshing. Culling. Husking. Roasting.

Coffee growing, I discover, is not easy. It is a labor of love.


img_0487In the tiny shop where they sell the beans to the few tourists who make it up this high into the hills, and the locals who come because they treasure the richness and freshness of his beans, Don Gabriel’s son pours pale raw beans into the roaster, carefully watching to ensure it roasts to just the right dark, rich hue.

The smell is glorious. The taste, when we sip a cup of freshly pressed brew, divine.

After wandering the streets, we journey back down the moutain to take a side road back up into the hills to visit Finca Gabriel Hotel and Restaurant. Traveling the rutted dirt road, backing up when construction blocks our way was an adventure all by itself. Beside us lush tropical forest edged its way in an attempt to reclaimon the road, rock slides blocked lanes and one-way bridges spanned rock strewn streams running down the mountains.

At Finca Gabriel we feasted on Sope made on the outdoor oven with roasted chicken and chorizo and spicy salsa. We sipped ice cold Cerveza and chatted with the three generational family that sat at the table beside us. We wandered the path up into the forest, past the pool to the vista point at the top where the view of the valleys beyond took our breath away.

And when we were done, we made the winding journey back to the coast, our bellies full and our hearts fuller.

This is a land of paradox, of contradictions, of passion and heat. It is a land where time moves slowly under the hot equatorial sun and where, in some places, it stands still.

“With every change of government, we hope for better,” our host Guillermo tells us. And he shrugs his shoulders. What is there to do? Thus far the changes needed to help the people most have not happened. It is the way of the land.

It is not an easy land to understand, this Mexico. But it is easy to love in all its fierce and wild beauty.