Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A First - and Lasting Impression . . .

First of all let me wish all of my loyal readers a "Perfect 10 in 2010"! I trust that this New Year and New Decade will be a wonderful one for us all - I think we deserve it!

This week brings the fourth, and final Guest Blog of this Holiday Season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to listen to other peoples voices and perspectives about Loreto and this offering brings another unique view - the first impression! I have asked Dave, one of my Clients and the newest Homeowner in Loreto Bay, to write about the recent visit he made to Loreto with his partners. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did - next week I will be publishing my own text again.

The icy wind cut under my collar, biting into the soft flesh of my neck like an ice pick, cold and burning hot at the same time, yet somehow comforting. Yes, I was back in Portland and the temperature had dipped to 16 degrees F (-9 C) with no end in sight. As I drove out of town in the frozen early dawn I remembered the past week in Mexico and how the prospect of going back to Loreto made life worth living, almost anyway, well maybe, yes, definitely worth living. Ordinarily a trip up to our cabin in the Mt. Hood National Forest was something I looked forward to but this time I wasn't really into it. I had left town suddenly, to fly down to Loreto, Mexico with my business partner Steven, and our wives, Molly and Maria to remove the final contingencies on an offer we had made on the purchase of a Chica in the Founders Neighborhood of Loreto Bay. The unit, #241 was for sale and this was the final leg in a journey begun years earlier when Steven had received a promotional advertisement in the mail.

Our sudden departure from Portland to Loreto Bay had required that I make some choices. One of them was to not make a last minute trip up to the cabin to winterize it. The words that I spoke to my wife now haunted every mile I drove through the frosty morning. I pictured the scene in the kitchen of our cabin as we prepared to head back to Portland the prior week. My lovely wife was questioning my decision not to shut off the water and drain down the plumbing in case of cold temperatures while we were away, to which I replied, “There is no way we're gonna have cold weather in the next week.” - thus sealing my fate. Of course it was now 12 degrees at the cabin and the entire plumbing system was frozen rock solid. This made the plaster repair required at our new Chica seem like no big deal.

My first impression of Loreto was a mixture of excitement and loathing. Excitement, at the prospect of living in what I understood as a really unique community - and loathing, at the prospect of sitting through the sales pitch from the sales associate, Drew McNabb. I had briefly read his blog, 'Living Loreto' and frankly the guy seemed like a fruit cake, driving from Calgary to Loreto with a cat wasn't something I would do, ever. Within the first 60 minutes of meeting Drew, who was kind enough to come and collect us at the airport, I had forgotten all about his cat, this guy was the real deal and so was Loreto Bay. From his stylish pony tail to his running commentary of life in Mexico, Drew made us all feel at home and relaxed right out of the gate.

“Midnight on the bay
The lights are shining
And the sail boats sway
And that cool ocean breeze
Blowing down through the quays
I think I'll call it a day
Oh midnight on the bay
Sure feels good to me”

Neil Young

As I fought my way to consciousness I first heard them chirping away in the distance ushering in another day, or so I thought. My conscious mind filtered through the plethora of new sounds and smells in the predawn stillness before I drifted off back into sleep. Something just wasn't right but I didn't put it all together until later that evening, my second in Loreto, and then it hit me like a hot kiss on the end of a wet fist! I was walking along a winding path in Founders Neighborhood, the place was vacant of people and activity and I was beginning to get that creepy feeling again. Where were all the people who owned these beautiful homes? Was it just the season, was I here in between everyone's trips? It was creepy and yet it wasn't. The crickets were making a racket which distracted me from my thoughts and then it hit me. There were crickets and birds here and I had heard them from time to time but what my distracted mind had registered as crickets just now and earlier this morning as birds were neither. What I was hearing echoing though out the village were the plaintive cries of neglected smoke detectors, chirping in a vain attempt to notify their absent owners that their 9 volt batteries were low and in need of replacement! This time the creeping feeling came back full force, staggering me with the implications of what I was hearing.

As I regained my composure and began to make my way back to the rented Chica I came upon two figures sporting stylish head lamps, a fashion accessory I was unfamiliar with. Deb and Rob were building their dream house, a custom home near the water, a stone's throw to the North. They were out for a walk and we chatted about Loreto Bay. “We love it here.” was the upshot of our conversation and this is where everyone we talked to finally arrived. “We love it here.” Never mind the ordeal of building, the hurricanes, the economy, the fact that their investment currently was not worth anywhere near what they had put into it in today's real estate market! Everyone was in love with Loreto and yes, I guess, so was I. And everyone also offered this word of warning, “If you leave home for an evening walk, take a flashlight, it gets really dark in some areas and you can't see a thing.” That of course explained all the flashlights in the rented Chica! We were here during a full moon and even on the beach there was plenty of light to move around without too much trouble, but when we were out and about before moon rise it was pitch black. The stars were fabulous reminders of what we don't see when living in the city lights. We were informed by Rob that the new requirements in outdoor lighting were aimed at limiting the amount of light shot up into the air in the hopes of keeping the stars visible in the future. Standing on Deb and Rob's viewing tower deck which they had specified to remain without a cover was breathtaking. Rob had explained that 'We only use the tower in the morning for a cup of coffee or in the evening when it cools down so we wanted it open so you can see the stars', well I was seeing stars right now and they were not necessarily the ones above my head, I needed to sit down because this place was making me lightheaded.

Time has flown by too quickly and as we moved into the afternoon of our last full day here in Loreto, my business partner Steven and I decided to play golf. This was a big deal for me because I had, many years ago, decided to quit playing golf when I had quit taking LSD. Needless to say the thought of going out on a course that didn't have melting trees and liquid grass with iguanas in the rough seemed a little anti-climatic. The course is really incredible, and I finished with only 6 lost balls. There are canals that run through the nine holes around the hotel and the pelicans dive bombing into the water all around us as the herd of goats passed by high above on the rocky rim bleating and clanging their bells were good real world stand-ins for the iguanas. The views from the course are outstanding; the mountains, sea, and the Loreto Bay development are seen from all angles and perspectives.

The people we have run into here in Loreto Bay are great. Everyone is so friendly and full of information on what is happening with tips for cool things to do and places to go. We were in Loreto Bay for 6 days and met so many nice people who live in Loreto Bay and love it. The intrepid Drew, Dave and Diane, John, Rob and Helen, Peter and Ariel, Jill, Evan and Julie, Susan, Jon and Linda, and Mike and Linda just to name a few! We plan on returning soon to begin the furnishing phase of our journey and look forward to meeting even more new people and seeing again those we know will become old friends down the road.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Memories - Old & New . . .

Seasons Greetings!

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas Holiday! I am in a very Christmassy place at this time of year - back at home in Canada for the holidays, visting family and friends and "enjoying" a brief reminder of what winter weather is really like - before I head back soon to my other home Loreto.

While I'm away I have asked several friends and neighbors to write Guest Blogs and this week we are lucky to have an offering from my friend Shelia, who lives in Nopolo, the community surrounding Loreto Bay, bringing us some of her own Christmas memories, old and new. Enjoy with best wishes for the season!


It was cold and windy; the day had never really brightened. At mid-afternoon what light there had been was already fading. At twelve years of age, I was not to be included in the preparation of Christmas goodies, but was relegated to the position of “babysitter” and sent out side with a passel of bundled up younger children. We all looked like decorations on a Christmas tree; dressed in red, blue and green snow pants and jackets and multicolored mitts and scarves. The little ones were so bundled up against the cold that their arms stuck out, like the stick arms on a snowman and they waddled instead of walking. Everyone’s eyelashes were thick with frost and the area on the scarf that covered our noses and mouths sparkled in the dim light with ice crystals.

Our yard was huge, or so I though then. That afternoon it lay under a thick carpet of fresh snow. Not many weeks before we had all helped with the harvest of mom’s garden. Now the root vegetables; potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and beets were in the cellar buried in bins of sand to protect them from freezing. I loved that cellar! In one corner sat the crocks, where the cabbage from the garden was being converted into sauerkraut. It was often my job to go down to the cellar, remove the stone and old dinner plate pressing down on the fermenting mass of cabbage and stir up the brew. I loved the pungent smell! Sacks of yellow onions hung from the ceiling. Rows upon rows of jars stood like bright candles. Ruby red cherries, yellow peaches and pears, green peas and swiss chard and our family favorite; mom’s dill pickles! There were jars of canned moose meat, the coppery gelatin gleaming when it caught the light of the one bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The shelves sparkled with the gold of corn, the deep burgundy of saskatoon’s and blueberries and the rainbow colors of the jams and jellies. It was the apples though, that really drew me to the cellar. Boxes of red mackintosh! There has never been an apple that tasted as good as one straight from the cellar. So cold and crisp that when you took a bite the piece snapped out with a sound like ice crackling on a newly frozen pond. The sweet juice sprayed out in droplets and the whiteness under the smooth red skin was a perfect texture. I would eat that apple with such relish, right down to the core, which I never tossed away. The best part of the whole experience was to enjoy each nutty, slightly bitter seed, one by one!

I led the way, each of the smaller children following to make a huge circle. Once the circle was complete and packed enough for us to move quickly in, I started to divide the circle into wedges, like cutting a pie into six pieces. I would entertain them by playing “The Fox and The Hound”. It was a tag game that the younger children loved, running around the circle. Rules were discussed, teams picked, wedge home assigned, the safe wedge area marked. My interest and attention was not wholly on the game. I kept looking up at the kitchen window. Inside I could see the lucky ones; my mom, an aunt and cousin and my older sister. I longed to be in there with them, baking the cookies and making the fudge, pulling the taffy and stirring the mincemeat. I think that I decided right then that if they didn’t want me in the kitchen I’d run off to Africa or Mexico and then they all be sorry that they hadn’t included me! I recognize now, that even then I always had a yearning to go to the far flung corners of the world, meet new people, make new friends, and have new and exciting experiences.

I did go to Africa, but that’s another story. This year I’m celebrating Christmas at our home in Nopolo, Baja Mexico. As Africa blest me with her wonders, so now does Mexico. Baja is a colorful mosaic of land and sea and foreign custom and language; stunning sunrises, sunsets and hot, beautiful deserts; oceans teeming with abundance and new experiences just waiting to be tried! Christmas here, in some ways takes me back to my childhood and the memories of real Christmas joy. Such was the experience of the “Christmas Posada” at the Internado Boarding School in Zaragosa last week. The children, sixty some odd, from ages five to sixteen, were dressed in their Sunday best! Recognizable Christmas tunes blared from a boom box in Spanish and the balloons and piñata’s bounced gaily in the breeze. Guest and children took their seats and clapped to the music as the entertainment started. Four girls dressed in white with bright ribbons of color and huge, pink flowers in their hair marched into the center courtyard each on the arm of a Vaquero. The boys marched proudly in their stiff new jeans (which will fit them for the next three or four years) cowboy hats and bright red bandanas. They dipped and dived and danced to the delight of the audience and bowed proudly as they marched off the stage. Three slightly older girls in cowgirl dresses (brown crepe paper skirts, fringed to look like buckskin, with paper fringes at their shoulders) and hats did their number to the clapping of the children, some parents, and those of us foreigners who had been invited to take part in the event. Soon the entertainment was over and it was time for each class to break a piñata filled with candy! A rope was strung from the roof of the porch to a palm tree in the courtyard and the piñata lowered and raised to make the hitting and breaking harder to do! It was priceless to watch as children literally dove onto the concrete, their bodies covering as much of the candy as possible and both arms scooping candy towards them. There was plenty for everyone and not one child complained of not getting their share!

The day before, many of us (Foreigners) had wrapped presents for each of the children and we were invited to play Santa’s helper and pass them out. I had the delightful opportunity to watch a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old open a present. He didn’t tear at the paper, or rip off the ribbon; he carefully pulled the ribbon and tape off the paper and gently opened the package which revealed a rev-up car! All sixty of these Children were seated in the dining room, at chairs with their name on the back. There was no whining, no fighting and only the pleasant sound of children excited with their gifts could be heard!! These children will go home to the Rancho for Christmas, sleep in makeshift beds, walk on dirt floors, eat beans and tamales, share their candy and pray at the nativity scene lit with candles in every home. They will play with the balls and dolls and other toys they received at the Posada at school and when they are adults they will think back and remember one of the most wonderful Christmas’s of their lives!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Matter of Framing

As we get closer to Christmas I am pleased to report that the weather here in Calgary has moderated, due to the recent arrival of one of the locally famous "Chinooks" - a warm westerly wind that causes a dramatic change of temperature, in this case from minus 30 to plus 5 degrees in 24 hours!

In spite of the change of weather, I still feel homesick for Loreto Bay and so I am grateful for the contribution by this weeks Guest Blogger Linda, who is a neighbor and friend that I met on the first visit I made to the future development over 6 years ago. Linda is offering her unique perspective as a Homeowner, returning to Loreto Bay after a long absence. She also is sharing her gift for photography, with the beautiful pictures that illustrate this posting, and inspired this week's title - enjoy!

November 26th we returned to Loreto, 18 months after our previous trip. Much has transpired since our last visit and we were eager to visit our home and to see firsthand the state of the Villages of Loreto Bay.

As we flew into the airport we could see the new terminal and were impressed by its size. The terminal provides open well lit functional spaces. Although the building is new, we were welcomed by the warm and friendly smiles of staff we have met before. Shortly after arrival we had our luggage and were set to go.

We picked up our rental car and were soon approaching Aqua Viva, the newest phase of the development. We were delighted to see the large number of homes in various stages of construction, with many near completion. As we drove through Aqua Viva we were reminded of the unique architecture of the homes and were drawn to their rich colors framed against a striking green mountainous backdrop.

Before we knew it we were in the Founder’s Neighbourhood and were pleasantly surprised by the level of activity. People were milling about, a number of offices were open along the Paseo, and cars and trucks were coming and going. We picked up our keys from the Security Office and headed off to our home. Although our Property Management provides us with monthly pictures of our home, it was reassuring to see that things had been maintained as anticipated. The garden was well tended and the various repairs we had requested had been completed and we were happy with the work.

It didn’t take long to begin to relax and enjoy the Loreto lifestyle. While family and friends back at home in Calgary endured bitter cold, icy roads and mounting snow, we enjoyed clear blue skies, relaxing times in our courtyard and warm walks along the beach. As we strolled through the community we stopped to chat with homeowners we knew from previous trips, and met others for the first time. We were happy to hear their comments, reflections, and the odd rumor. We found the homeowners we talked to were positive and passionate about Loreto and their community.

With my camera in hand, I spent time meandering through walkways, soaking in the beauty of the homes, the carefully tended vegetation and the picturesque settings. It was a pleasant surprise to find the majority of Village homes complete with landscaped areas filled with exotic plants of all kinds. Each new street, house and surrounding garden provided inviting photo opportunities. As often is the case, I found myself challenged to compose images that capture the true beauty of the area.

The completed Village homes border and surround custom homes that are in various states of completion. The custom homes are each truly unique, reflecting the personal vision of the owners. Each home complements the surroundings through it’s beauty and attention to detail. The completed homes demonstrate thoughtful design, quality materials and subtle elegance.

The scattering of unfinished custom homes and empty lots is understandably a frustration for those around them. Fortunately signs are evident that more and more custom home owners are positioned to initiate or move forward with the completion of their homes. We were surprised to find the custom home in front of us was still under construction, because we had understood that it had been finished some time ago. Our concern quickly diminished when we learned that the owners had decided to upgrade some of their previous selections. It is a positive sign to see people spending more on their home versus looking for ways to cut back.

As we spent more time in the Village we continued to see more signs of true community - neighbours walking their dogs, stopping to chat with friends, minor repairs being done to homes, children riding their bikes and playing in the sunshine, golfers heading off to the course and kayakers making their way to the beach.

One of our daily walks led us to the Community Pool. It is beautifully landscaped and seems to be well used. We were warmly welcomed by those sitting by the pool and we found it to be a fabulous place to relax, meet neighbours and enjoy a swim.

During our stay we met and chatted with homeowners who are spending increasing amounts of time in Loreto. Many of these homeowners have become active in the community and have taken on various roles on different Boards and committees. The time and commitment they contribute to making our community a better place is admirable. The residents within our community represent significant knowledge, expertise and determination. They are the driving force behind the many ongoing improvements that are evident to those of us who are returning after long absences. We extend our true appreciation to them for their efforts.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I have chosen to include a number of my photographs in hopes they act as a reminder of the beauty of this very special place and to affirm that this is a community that we are fortunate to be part of.

David du Chemin, author of "Within the Frame - The Journey of Photographic Vision", writes about the choices that photographers make; “If it is in the frame, it’s because you allowed it to be. If it’s missing, it’s because you chose to exclude it, or you neglected to include it.” In life, each of us chooses to frame our world in certain ways, just as photographers frame what they see in different ways. We can choose to focus on those things that are positive, future oriented, and where we can make a difference, or, we can dwell negatively on those things we cannot change. I choose to look for the positive and the beauty that exists.

Our return trip to Loreto provided ample opportunity to frame a future of optimism and an affirmation that this is a great place to be. All it took was a walk on the beach, a quiet moment looking up into the star lit sky, a breathtaking sunset over the mountains, the gentle flutter of a hummingbird’s wings and the warm smiles and welcome of the local people and our friends and neighbours. There are many reasons why we chose Loreto and why we will continue to return.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's a Dog's Life - Loreto style!

While I sit bundled up in a sweater looking out the window at fresh snow and billowing white clouds of condensation coming out of neighboring chimneys, Loreto seems a long way away! But, I am enjoying my return visit to Calgary and sharing the Christmas spirit here with friends and family. As promised, however, my absence from Loreto will not interrupt your weekly “fix” from that very special (and much warmer!) place I call home, thanks to the generous contribution of this week’s “Guest Blog” from my friend and neighbor, Dee.

This is Dee’s third offering to Living Loreto; she has written about an amazing Burro trip into the mountains, and also a memorable experience she had on a trip to the neighboring town of Mulege. This time she has chosen to write about a very important part of her life in Loreto – her dog Sophie, and how they came together. So, as I sit back with a mug of hot coffee, join me in reading about how a dog can become a woman’s best friend, thanks Dee!

Exactly one year ago today I woke up to eight puppies born in my downstairs shower. Yes, eight! But first, let me begin at the beginning - - -

Previously, during the fall, my neighbor Maria had been feeding three stray dogs, two males and a female, on a construction site near the Punta Nopolo condos. The English-speaking kids who played nearby were calling the female “Cinnamon” while the construction workers were calling her “Timida” because she was so shy, but for some reason Maria called her “Milagra” (Miracle). One evening Maria decided to bring Milagra back to her home and the exhausted skinny yellow dog stayed in a dead sleep on a rug by the front door for twenty-four hours straight. At the beginning Maria had no intention of keeping Milagra, she just thought that she was such a sweet dog and so she wanted to rescue her.

Shortly after this “rescue” Maria’s plans called for her to leave for LaPaz for a few days and now she needed someone to take care of this dog. So she started asking around, and was advised by various friends that I was a likely candidate. We hadn’t yet met and she didn’t know where to find me, but fortunately she started asking people at the yoga class at the Inn and - Jackpot! - one of my friends was in the class that day and gave Maria my address.

Without having seen the dog, I told Maria I’d be glad to watch Milagra for a few days - but probably no longer. I was not sure I was ready for another dog in my life. You see, I had lost my perfectly wonderful collie-dog, Laddie just about two years before. He had died suddenly of a brain tumor and I was still struggling with mixed feelings. Of course I was still missing him, but I also was enjoying my freedom, especially with the frequent trips back and forth between the US and Mexico.

I went to Maria’s to meet Milagra, who looked to me just like any other sad, malnourished street dog. Actually, she looked kind of like a goat with her docked tail that stood straight up and her saggy stomach from giving birth recently, or so said Maria. Did I think to ask,”Well, then, where are all those puppies?” - Nope. But I was suspicious, so I took the dog immediately to the vet who said, “Si, she is pregnant. She will have four to five puppies in ten days.” That was on Dec. 3. Well, he was right about the 10 days but that was all. December 13 was the day I awoke to eight puppies, born in my shower.

That’s right – in my shower. In hindsight I suppose that the outcome was inevitable, but once the dog moved in with me, it quickly became hard for me to part with her. So, after I’d learned she was pregnant I made a cozy nest of old blankets and towels in the downstairs walk-in shower, which I rarely used and figured would be the perfect place for the new nursery. (Sometime during this process of getting her settled for the arrival of her puppies, Milagra had become Sophie, and since it had become pretty clear that I was going to be keeping her, I had decided she seemed more like a Sophie to me. No, this was not the dog of my dreams, but it was obvious that she needed a home and she was so quiet, gentle and doggone sweet!) In the final days of her pregnancy, after I had made the nest in the shower, I started making her sleep in the downstairs bathroom, and she took to her new birthing suite immediately. Each evening I would take her for a little walk and then put her back in the bathroom for the night.

On the fateful morning, I went downstairs at about 7:30 and opened the bathroom door and there was Sophie in the shower with eight quiet, tiny puppies happily nursing. WOW! What a surprise! I hadn’t heard a peep, and had slept through the whole thing. Which I now believe was a good thing, because if Sophie had had any problems, I would have been so stressed I’m not sure I would have been of much help! In any case, she apparently had managed things very well on her own, because the new pups were all clean and calm and snuggled up to her.

I don’t remember who I called first, but all my friends were keen to see the pups and the biggest challenge was keeping the visitors down to a minimum, especially in the first week or so. I had already made plans to go on a trip for ten days at the beginning of January, so I was thankful for all the visitors as they quickly became scheduled dog walkers and puppy nannies. My neighbors were impressed with the steady stream of puppy fans taking care of Sophie while I was gone. (Thank you Ana, Susan, Michelle, Jesse, Cathy, Sue, Grace, Chandler, Alison and everyone else!!)

At the beginning I thought that I would try to keep the puppies for six to eight weeks because it was important for their health. But after four weeks, it was clear the Sophie had had enough of being a mom. She had performed her maternal role brilliantly in the beginning, but as the little ones got bigger it was becoming harder for her to nurse eight rambunctious puppies. To help her manage the growing litter I started feeding them dry food soaked in warm water and only let them nurse four at a time, in preparation for their life away from mom.

Fortunately for Sophie, by week five the vet said they were ready for their new homes. During all this time I had been lining up permanent homes for the puppies and so I started letting them leave the nest, two at a time. As they started to disappear, Sophie was not very alarmed. Whenever a couple of puppies would leave, she would run to her food bowl and start eating - I am sure it was out of pure relief!

So now there are five boys and three girls living happy canine lives in homes in Loreto. It was not hard to find homes for them, but I did my best at giving their people the old lecture about making sure they get spayed or neutered and never tie them up in a yard. So far I know that at least half of the puppies have been to the local spay and neuter Animalandia Clinics. As for Sophie, she was spayed two days after the last puppy left our home. It was fortunate the way the timing worked out with one of these free clinics scheduled when we needed it!

Sophie has turned out to be a darling, easy, happy dog. She continues to be so sweet and curious….so curious, in fact, that she has earned another name, my friend Paula calls her “Dora” after Dora the Exploradora. Paula has a standard poodle named Mika whom Sophie considers one of her many friends along with; Cailie, Mac, and Baxter. Sophie has other dog-friends that are also adoptees from the streets; including Charlie, Lola, Quapo and Pacha. Sophie seems to have an usually close connection to Charlie and we suspect they knew each other in the old days before they found their new homes.

Thanks largely to the Animalandia organization here in Loreto, there has been a huge decline in the population of street dogs since I started coming here in 2003. Through several free clinics over the course of the past year, Animalandia has spayed/neutered almost 700 animals in Loreto. BUT there is still a huge need to support the organization in their clinics and in their education of the general public. For any animal lovers reading this story you can find out more at and for those of you here in Loreto, the next Clinic is Jan. 9th, 10th and 11th so please mark your calendars and tell your friends - it does make a difference! I can’t imagine little Sophie or her friends, Charlie, Lola, Quapo or Pacha still living on the streets, not since I have seen them settled in their homes and I have seen the way they are loved and the way they love back!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Terminal Pride in Loreto

This week I had my first occasion to visit the “new” Airport here in Loreto, not as a passenger, but to meet some visitors. The original Airport building was a small low thatched roof structure that had served Loreto for about 20 years. About two years ago construction started on the new terminal building. As the foundations rose out of the ground it became clear that this new facility was going to be three or four times the size of the old building and a major improvement in infrastructure that would handle many times the current passenger capacity.

Under the soaring vaulted roof of the “L” shaped building, there are large open public areas with seating, storefronts for services, public washrooms, several snack bars and a comfortable open concept restaurant area. Parking was always a challenge at the old terminal with cars crowded into a rough sandy area that was difficult terrain to manage wheeled luggage through, and little curb side space for loading and unloading for pick-ups and drop-offs. By comparison, the new terminal has well designed vehicle access with plenty of room for coming and going, a separate taxi loading area and plenty of accessible paved parking. After I parked in a spot close to the terminal I was approached by a young man in an Airport Services uniform who gave me a written receipt for the 15 peso ($1.25) flat rate charge, a pleasant contrast to North American Airport parking fees!

While waiting for my visitors to arrive I enjoyed a tasty, freshly cooked burger and a couple of cold beer in the restaurant area which was located in the sunny south end of the building, in front of a floor to ceiling arch of windows that I would guess are almost 50 feet high. The tables were shaded by indoor umbrellas and there was a small service bar with a good selection of wine, liquors and beer with a compact kitchen area that prepared an appealing variety of salads, burgers, sandwiches and pizzas. This new restaurant, called Porto Bello, is the second location with the same name and menu, owned and operated by Pedro, whose first establishment opened a couple of years ago on the harbour front at Puerto Escondido about half an hour south of town.

It is worth noting here that the investment that is represented by this new Terminal is a clear indication of the expectations of the Mexican authorities for the future growth of tourism and commerce in Loreto and the surrounding area. The Airport will service a substantial area of Baja Sur, extending from Santa Rosalia and Mulege to the north and Constitution to the south, or approximately a two hour drive in either direction. For those of us lucky enough to live in Loreto Bay, access to an International airport less than a 15 minute drive from our homes, has always been an important asset for this development and the establishment of this new facility represents a valuable upgrade in that infrastructure.

Following the theory of “if you build it they will come” the enlarged capacity of this Terminal assumes a future of increased airlift with more frequent flights, choice of departure locations and flexibility of connections, all of which will make positive differences to Home Owners and short term visitors alike. The balance between access and accommodations inevitably becomes a “chicken or egg” equation and with rumours of Alaska/Horizon adding passenger capacity to their Loreto flights in the New Year combined with the possibility of other Airlines starting to serve this destination are the early indications that the strategy of building the new Terminal will result in the desired effect.

On the accommodation side of this, I have previously described the beautiful La Mission Hotel, that opened on the Malacon in town a year ago (see Missionary Style, Feb. ‘09) and we are now looking forward to the immanent opening of the Santa Fe Hotel, which is undergoing finishing touches near the entrance to the town and will provide large, nicely furnished rooms at very reasonable rates. When these new properties are joined by the INN at Loreto Bay returning to full operations there will be a total of close to 500 rooms added to the tourism- resort market capacity in just over a year.

As the 2009 year comes to a close, I believe there is good reason for optimism that the New Year will bring a current of positive change to Loreto and the surrounding areas, with the obvious economic benefits of more visitors and easier access for those who already have homes here. While there is obviously an element of self-interest in this outcome, from my own perspective, the biggest potential beneficiaries of an improving local economy will be the many businesses that depend on the tourist spending for most of their revenues. Spending that has been severely reduced during this year of much uncertainty, with consequences that have caused hardship for many here who are looking forward to better times coming soon.

Speaking of the coming Holiday season, this posting will be my last until the New Year – I leave Loreto next week to return to Calgary and spend the Christmas holidays with family and friends. While I am looking forward to spending time there and seeing the people, I feel torn by leaving my many friends here and missing the very different celebrations that will mark the Holidays ``Loreto Style``. But fear not, loyal readers, with the help of some of my friends, I have made arrangements for several ``Guest Blogs`` to give you new and fresh perspectives and insights into our life here. Thanks to these volunteer authors, I hope you will continue to visit this site over the next few weeks and share some other`s perspectives on this beautiful place.

So in conclusion, let me extend my sincere best wishes to all of you who have supported these musings over the past year, I will suppress my natural modesty and thank you for your overwhelming response that has resulted in almost 20,000 visits to this blog in my first year of postings! When I began writing this just over a year ago, I had no expectation of the interest that my view of life here would create and I feel humbled by that support – Thank You! Sharing a place I love with thousands of strangers that I may never meet is a unique experience - one of the many such experiences that are `Living Loreto``!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks be to Loreto!

With the passing of the American Thanksgiving this week we can now “officially” consider ourselves in the Holiday Season here in Loreto Bay. I have observed in earlier postings the growing numbers of people arriving every week and this week the resident population is at it’s highest since probably the Spring Break period earlier this year. From now on the population will continue to grow through to pre-Christmas and then return to a more stable level after the New Year.

As a Canadian living in Mexico with lots of American friends, I am in the fortunate position of being able to celebrate TWO Thanksgivings! In Canada, due to the earlier harvest and arrival of winter, we have our Thanksgiving in mid-October (just before I left to come down here). While I suppose Americans living in Canada celebrate both dates with a dinner, I expect it is more common, particularly down here, for Canadians to “double dip” the Turkey Holiday. For me, the idea of a second helping of Turkey to break up that long stretch until Christmas dinner is most welcome. So I was looking forward to the invitation I had received to join a group of mainly American ex-Pats at their dinner here in the town of Loreto.

For those of us living here for the winter months, if not year round, the traditional family holidays are celebrated with our family of friends in and around Loreto. So it was, this past Thursday, when I packed up my contributions to the dinner and headed into town to join the hosts, Jeff and Paul at their beautiful home in town.

For the occasion I had promised a loaf of my home-baked bread (see “Raking and Baking” for the story of my first attempt at bread making last year). Given the fact that the party was to start mid-afternoon I had decided to bake the loaf the night before, so as not to be rushed on the day. However, when I pulled the loaf out of the oven about 9:00 o’clock Wednesday night I knew I had a problem. For the first time in over a year of baking this “No Knead Bread” with consistently good results, this time the loaf came out flat! I quickly decided that the Mexican flour I had used must have gone stale and, while the bread would probably taste fine, it was not the usually “domed” artisanal loaf that I had come to expect and definitely not up to the standard that I expected for such a special occasion.

So, after doing a quick calculation of the timing (the bread is supposed to rise for up to 18 hours before baking) I decided that if I started the recipe again right away – using fresh Canadian flour that I had fortunately brought down with me last month – I would JUST have enough time to bake another loaf and take it hot from the oven to the party the next afternoon. In addition to this loaf of bread I was taking a bottle (jug?) of wine and some beer to contribute to the table and I was also taking my portable sound system to play music for the party. The bread came out of the oven at 2:45 and I wrapped it in a towel to insulate it’s 450 degree temperature and headed off to town, arriving at Jeff and Paul’s just after 3:00, being very Canadian and on time.

When I arrived about half of the 20 invited guests were there and the remainder were soon to follow. Everyone brought a contribution of vegetables and side dishes and Paul was in charge of roasting the Bird. As seems to be traditional with Turkey everywhere – no one had apparently told the main course how long it was supposed to take in the oven and so the dinner was slightly delayed until “Sir Tom” decided the time was right.

But no one was complaining – with my sound system filling the air with strains of the Buena Vista Social Club and people relaxing around the beautiful patio pool area of our hosts wonderful home – the warm late afternoon sun was gradually replaced with a lovely soft star-filled evening that felt more like mid-summer, than a couple of weeks before winter officially began.

When the Turkey had decided the time had come, the guests were quickly gathered and began to make their way around the kitchen island and help themselves to the contents of the many platters and bowls that would make up our feast. Along with the Turkey was, of course, stuffing (made with the unique pre-toasted toast that you can buy here) creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, a shredded carrot salad seasoned with ginger, a delicious yam (or sweet potato) casserole and a creamy pistachio salad along with TWO home-made breads, mine and one with olives and a hint of garlic. (I started recalling this menu with some trepidation, as I certainly don’t want to leave any dish out, but if I have failed to mention someone’s contribution I will claim it was because it must have been so sublime as to pass all memory!) After the most determined had helped themselves to second helpings, it was then time for desert – a delicious spicy traditional Pumpkin pie with whipped cream should have been more than enough, but two more of the many highlights of this meal to remember were still to come – a peppermint-chocolate ice cream pie and individual Pecan tarts that melted in the mouth – sublime!

Many toasts (of the liquid kind) were made, and a happier, better fed party would have been impossible to find that night in Loreto – perhaps in all of Baja! Many hands made quick work of the mountain of dishes, pots and pans, I switched to “bluesier” after-dinner music, and the party moved back onto the patio to enjoy some last conversation under the star filled sky before we each took our leave from our genial hosts – truly thankful for the wonderful evening, fabulous meal and the warm sense of community that had made the occasion so memorable.

As I drove home, back to Loreto Bay, I reflected on how much I had to be thankful for; the beautiful home I was returning to, the good friends I had shared the evening with, and most of all, the exquisite place that has brought all of these people together and created the special atmosphere that made everything else possible. For it is this place called Loreto – “where the mountains come to swim” - that is the magnet and the common denominator to the experience of living here.

This place called Loreto, that has brought together such a diverse group of people who saw the potential to make their dream become their reality. Through their individual actions they have made their contribution to the intangible, but essential quality of community, which is the most valuable and enduring aspect that we all share when we call this place home.

So I am indeed giving thanks for much as we begin this Holiday season, but most of all I am thankful for all that has brought me to where I am here, and for the sense of belonging that is the best part of that experience – sharing wonderful food with friends that have become an extended family – it doesn’t get much better than “Living Loreto!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Convenience comes to Loreto Bay

It takes more than homes and people to make a Village. Therefore, for some time now it has been high on the wish list of the Homeowners here in Loreto Bay to have a store in our development to provide some of the basics – a Convenience store – or as they are somewhat confusingly called here in Mexico, a “Mini – Super”.

The original development plan called for a large Market to be set-up in one of the yet unfinished Posada buildings on the Paseo, at the entrance to the parcel of land that was set aside for the Beach Club. With work stalled on these buildings, pending the transfer of the development to a new Developer Owner, this service will be years away, assuming the plans remain unchanged.

But there is no shortage of finished commercial space on the main road that runs through the Founder’s Neighbourhood, although, with the exception of a few administrative offices for Security, the Home Owners Association and some Construction Offices, most of the spaces stand vacant. As well, there are now some commercial enterprises on the Paseo; an Office/Showroom for a furniture supplier, a design office for an Independent Contractor, and, as I mentioned in an earlier posting, Dorado Properties plans to open a permanent office in the near future providing Real Estate and Property Management services.

But, until this week, there was nowhere in our “Village” to buy the basic items that are necessary to make living here more convenient. That has now changed with the opening of Baja on Site – the newest addition to the business of living here in Loreto Bay. This enterprise is the realization of the dreams of Evan and Julie Fager, a young couple who have chosen to make this place their home, where they will earn their living and where they want to raise their family, two young boys; Seth and Bubbies.

I first met Evan just about a year ago, when he was moved here from the Loreto Bay offices in Scottsdale to manage the IT services for the original Developer. At that time, Julie remained in their home in Arizona raising the two boys, and Evan lived for several months at the INN until the business operations of Loreto Bay were shut down. Rather than returning to the States, like most of the ex-pat employees did when their jobs were terminated, Evan chose to stay and moved his family to a rented home here in Loreto Bay.

As the family settled into their new home and culture, Evan began to set up his own independent IT service company, applying his considerable computer skills to the needs of the businesses based here and taking over the Loreto Bay Home Owners website. While these enterprises would be demanding enough for most people, Evan and Julie had an even more ambitious dream. Julie had managed a chain of convenience stores back in the US and she wanted to apply this background to the opportunity that was apparent here in Loreto Bay and open her own store, providing much needed basics for the growing population of residents here.

There was an ideal location available – a couple of years ago one of the storefronts had been set up as a Farmacia, the Mexican name for (your getting ahead of me now) a Pharmacy, to provide over-the-counter medications and personal care products. Unfortunately, the combination of a too limited range of products and a then too small market base to draw on, proved to be unworkable and the store closed after less than a year of operation. However, with a handsome set of built-in display cabinets over plenty of storage in cupboards and drawers, the space was perfectly suited for the purposes of Julie’s new store.

However, this is Mexico, and nothing here is easy or straight forward, and so it took several months of planning and negotiation, starting this past summer, before all the necessary arrangements were in place for the business to begin. But the work did not end there. Now that the location was secured, the even bigger challenge of stocking the shelves with the right inventory began. This was the most critical part of the plan – finding the right balance of convenience and hard to find products that would be necessary for the business to succeed.

I have written before about the complex process of shopping here (see “Hunting and Gathering” and “To Market, To Market” in my archived postings), there is no such thing as “one stop shopping” in the town of Loreto. And while things have improved dramatically over the past several years, it remains a challenge to find the variety of familiar food products that we are all accustomed to where we come from up north. For residents of Loreto Bay, the situation is further complicated by the fact that we are 15 km from town and, with the exception of a small Mexican owned “Mini-Super” near the north entrance to the Nopolo district, which keeps uncertain hours and has a very limited inventory, we had no option but to make the trip into town for even the most basic needs.

Entrepreneurship 101 – find a need, and fill it! But first, they had to fill the shelves, and, different than Julie’s previous retail experience where someone else was paying the bills, this time it was their own money they were investing. And so began the biggest (and scariest!) shopping trip of their lives. Returning to Arizona, they began to buy, in retail quantities, a Santa’s length list of the things they had determined would most appeal to their neighbours and soon to be customers. Stocking their new store with a combination of basics, and impossible to find extras, along with a targeted assortment of hardware and accessories that they chose with the kind of knowledge that can only come from the experience they had gained by living here.

But then it turned out that buying all of this stuff was the EASY part of the job! Properly clearing it all through customs, and paying the substantial duties on imported foodstuffs, took many frustrating weeks and added considerably to the costs of their inventory. And the process still isn’t complete – with a large part of their purchased stocks still in transit, even though the shelves were impressively full when they finally opened this week. Then there was the local component to their selection – dairy products, soft drinks, bottled water - and, for some of us, most importantly, BEER! The labyrinth of the Mexican wholesale system had to be penetrated, Suppliers found, accounts set-up, deliveries made – a learning curve far steeper than the regular day-to-day challenges that all we Homeowners face while just living here.

With determination and perseverance (and the energy and enthusiasm that comes from a measure of youthful ignorance) all of these challenges were met and the results, in the form of a beautiful, well organized little store, opened this week in Loreto Bay. But, like most new enterprises, there is more to come. With new inventory arriving and a growing “wish list” added to daily by their initial customers, Evan and Julie have big plans for the future.

In addition to the basic foods, condiments, toiletries, snacks, candies and drinks, Baja on Site also has a respectable library of used books for exchange, a good selection of US compatible DVDs for rent or swap, even DVD players and basic Notepad computers for rent. They also will be providing sidewalk tables and free wireless internet for visitors who don’t want to bother hooking up their homes for a short stay. In my conversation with Julie, she hinted about even more ambitious plans for the future, but I don’t want to put any more pressure on this ambitious young couple than they have done so already!

So this week marks an important milestone in the future of Loreto Bay – our first retail store providing us with the little treats and extras, along with the convenience of having essentials readily available near-by. Something that we all take for granted back home – the ubiquitous “C-Store”, there’s one on every corner - but for those of us who call this community home (even temporarily) and have learned to live without that access and convenience, this small store begins the process of making this collection of buildings we live in, feel like a real community.

And for that we have Evan and Julie, and their dreams and ambitions to thank – they are truly putting their money, and their future on the line – “if we build it, they will come”! So I will close this with a strong encouragement to all Loreto Bay Homeowners, those who are here, and the many who will come back during this winter, please, help yourself and this couple, support their store and their dream, because it takes a Village to make a Store – and that is a new dimension of “Living Loreto”.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Big week in Loreto

This week there were two significant events that I would like to share with you – the opening of the Dorado Loreto Office on the Town Plaza, and the Second Annual Paella Cooking Competition – a big week in Loreto!

As many of you who read this Blog and are familiar with Loreto will know, Nellie Hutchison, the Broker Owner of Dorado Loreto used to have offices on the Malacon up until last year. These offices occupied the ground floor of the building, from which she also ran a small Hotel business with four or five bedrooms behind the main office and a popular Bar/Tapas/Sushi Terrace above, with great ocean views. These several businesses demanded a lot of time and staff to run and, with the downturn in the economy last year, and after becoming weary of the challenges of being an employer here in Mexico, Nellie decided to shut down this combined operation late last year and concentrate on the Real Estate business in town, and particularly here in Loreto Bay.

With the opening of this new downtown office, Nellie is declaring her confidence in the future of the Real Estate market here in Loreto and the surrounding area, and she is also signalling the fact that she believes the time for that renewed confidence is beginning now. If the old maxim: “the three most important things in Real Estate being location, location and location” holds true, then it must go double for a Real Estate office, in which case she couldn’t have found a better place to re-open her business in the town.

The historic centre of the town of Loreto is the town plaza, which fronts on to the Town Hall, or as the Mexican’s refer to it, much more grandly, as the Palace. This plaza is currently undergoing a complete renovation and beautification. The large old trees are being left in place but the old Gazebo/Bandshell has been torn down and will be replaced with a new structure providing the same functions, but, according to the plans I have seen, it will be much fancier with surrounding plantings and fountains. The remainder of this large square will have decorative paving, more plantings and restored statues and other historic elements from the original plaza. Work is currently underway and now most of the site preparation appears to have been completed, so the new design should start to be created very soon, as the project is slated for completion is before Christmas – this year.

On the adjacent side of the square to the Town Hall sits The Hotel Posada de las Flores, a beautifully conceived property that, although it is less than ten years old, has the look and feel of a classic old building that could have been meticulously maintained for over one hundred years. I love taking visitors into the lobby of this hotel, beautifully decorated and furnished in keeping with the new/old look of the building, with a charming fountain at it’s centre. During the day, the entire lobby area, which takes up most of the main floor, is dappled in a most uncommon light, which, as one’s eyes wander up through the atrium, where a staircase climbs up to several floors of rooms, you discover the source of this quality of light - and the most stunning part of the building’s interior. The ceiling of the Hotel Lobby is made up of many panes of glass, about a foot square, but it is only when you realize the strangely wavering, turquoise tinted light, is coming through the floor of the swimming pool that is located on the roof of the Hotel, that you appreciate the full uniqueness and beauty of this building! On the outside of this Hotel, along the square, there is a charming sidewalk tapas bar, and right next door to that, is the new office of Dorado Properties.

Now before any of you get the wrong impression, after the description of the Hotel

next door, Dorado’s office is, to say the least, modest in size, probably less than 500 sq. ft. But, it is perfectly suited to the purpose, and Nellie has shown her design flair and good taste by transforming what had previously been an abandoned cell phone store (that was in terrible condition when the last tenant left) into a elegant little salon with a modern desk unit at the entrance and a fine conference table with 6 high backed upholstered chairs around it. Every surface in the room is new, from the dark wood laminate floor to the faux painted walls in a rich burnt umber colour, to the crisp white textured ceiling with stylish chrome halogen light fixtures. A crown moulding runs along one wall, from which are suspended acrylic panels holding feature sheets on a variety of listed properties for sale.

It was to this venue that a couple of dozen friends and associates congregated in the late afternoon to see the new digs and congratulate Nellie and her team of sales people on the opening of the office. Naturally, because of the size of the office itself, after a quick tour most people drifted back outside and stood around visiting on the sidewalk in front, enjoying chilled beer and bottled water, until a beautiful chocolate cake arrived to celebrate the other noteworthy event of the day; Nellie’s birthday! Following the cake and the combined best wishes of those assembled, some of us retired to one of the two restaurants facing onto the square and relaxed over a delightful dinner, al fresco on their patio.

The other event that marked this week was the aforementioned Paella competition. Last year, at this time, the first cook-off occurred at the home of the organizers; Shelia and Manfred Aistrich here in Nopolo, the community surrounding the Loreto Bay development. Those of you, who have been reading this Blog from it’s beginning, may recall “An Extraordinary Day” in which I described that event in detail. Following the acknowledged success of that inaugural event, it was decided that a larger venue was going to be required for holding the second annual competition and the patio/garden beside the Fonatur offices, here in Nopolo was chosen and proved to be an ideal location.

To provide much needed support and volunteers, to handle the requirements of ticketing and managing the even greater numbers that were anticipated this year, the members of the Optimist Club of Loreto were recruited and the club became the worthy recipient of the substantial funds that were raised. One of the remarkable aspects of this event to me is that the competitors provided all their own ingredients, which included large quantities of choice seafood as well as chicken, sausage and many other delicacies that make each pan of paella unique. This contribution of all the food, to serve generous portions to the over 200 hungry and appreciative in attendance, represents a substantial cost for each of the eight teams in the competition, and results in all of the funds raised from the 200 peso admission fee, going to the beneficiaries of the charity.

But the fund raising didn’t stop there. Beverage tickets were sold in large quantities and could be exchanged for cold beer, tasty sangria, or bottled water. One of the original sponsors, Roganto Wines from Ensenada, who provided two cooking teams as well, were also offering free tastings of their various products throughout the afternoon and selling their excellent vintages - a rare opportunity to purchase fine wines that would be otherwise unavailable locally and they donated a generous share of the proceeds from the sales to the funds being raised. In addition, there was a well subscribed 50/50 draw and two raffles for complete paella starter kits, including a medium sized pan and hard to find ingredients!

My small role in the event was providing music and a portable PA system which I set up about 10:00 in the morning to provide “music to cook by” and a steady stream of food lovers started arriving before noon to meet and visit and, most importantly, stroll around the eight cooking stations where the different teams were hard at work preparing their personal versions of this traditional Spanish dish. Did I mention the aromas? Oh, bliss! The delicate and savoury smells wafting from each of the teams temporary open air kitchens; chicken, sausages, peppers, and of course the seafood – flaky filets, succulent scallops, monstrous shrimp, calamari, and often, choice lobster tails – that studded the traditional round flat pans which were brimming with saffron golden rice, absorbing all of the complex flavours of each unique recipe. Is anyone getting hungry out there?

At 1:00 two teams of Judges were assembled; first one to judge the appearance of each of the pan offerings. The moment of truth repeated itself at each station – the pan was removed from it’s cooking appliance, often requiring two team members just to lift it (some of these pans measured four feet across!) and then layers of insulating towels were removed before the final tented covering of yards of foil were peeled back to reveal the beautiful, symmetrically arranged display of all of the above mentioned delicacies on their steaming golden background. These pictures really don’t do these edible mosaics justice, because without the benefit of “smell-o-vision”, at least half of the experience is sadly missing.

The second group of judges had an even more difficult task – they had to judge samples of rice only, collected from each pan – because for the true aficionado of Paella, it’s all about the rice! The many exotic and succulent ingredients that are added, contribute the subtle flavours, but it is the colour, texture and, of course, TASTE of the rice that is how the best of the best is judged. As soon as the “officials” had had their chance at each pan the now famished hoard of over 200 descended on what became (albeit civilized) a paella feeding frenzy!

Some, who had been “casing” the different preparations during the morning went straight to their chosen team and filled their plate with that one offering. But the majority of others sampled what became a cornucopia of subtly differing versions of this delectable dish – and there were NO bad choices! After finding scarce space on their laden plates for a side of fresh crunchy Caesar salad, served from heaping bowls of romaine (now I know why it was almost impossible to find any decent lettuce in town this week!) the happily expectant food lovers made their way to the many squares of tables and chairs, arranged under large shade tents, to indulge themselves in a rare opportunity – enjoying too much, too good, food!

Relaxed conversation continued long after the plates were emptied (and often refilled) until the moment of truth arrived for the anxious competitors – the announcement of the Judges decisions. One award was given out for presentation and three for the rice tasting, the winner of which was judged to be the overall winner of the competition, there was also a People’s Choice award, where those attending could record their opinion as to their “flavourite”. Other presentations were made for the 50/50 draw (which alone raised over 3,000 pesos, half of which went to the charity) the raffle prizes were presented and finally, reluctantly, the now satiated crowd started to drift away mid-afternoon. The volunteers made quick work of striking the cooking stations and removing the chairs, tables and shade tents. Many large bags of garbage and recyclables were disposed of and as I packed up my sound system the peaceful green space that had hosted the event was returning to it’s original condition. By the way, although the final tallies have not been done as I write this, early estimates are that between 60,000 and 70,000 pesos ($5,000 - $6,000 US) were raised for the Optimist Club’s good works – a truly magnificent contribution that will go a long way in supporting those in the greatest need locally. In light of the serious economic challenges that have hit this community during this year of swine flu, tourism slow down and hurricane damage these funds take on even greater significance!

So this was a week that combined new beginnings, holding the promise of a successful and enterprising future, and the return of an event that marked a highlight of last year for me. And this year it doubled in size, and dare I say, enjoyment, while making a generous contribution to the local community that shares this special place with us! Truly this was a week to be remembered, bringing together some of the best aspects of life here in a special and unique way – a way that makes me appreciate even more – “Living Loreto”!