From Here: Botanical Delights, Part Two

I was so happy to be part of the first all-inclusive “Botanical Delights Tour & Culinary Adventure” presented by the Vallarta Botanical Garden. This brand new venture should win some nominations in the upcoming People’s Choice Awards starting next month. The Vallarta Tribune may even have to add some categories!

Here’s a brief rundown of what went on during the inaugural tour. First, we were picked up downtown at the new VBG’s office; there is an earlier pick-up at the Marina. So, underway in our air-conditioned van, we were regaled by Marco in two languages, all along the stunning south coast. We arrived 10ish at the Garden to a refreshing glass of jamaica dressed with edible flowers. As is VBG tradition, all the women were gifted with fresh hibiscus blooms. The adventure started right after we received the password for our phones. We watched corn tortillas being made by hand. These were meted out piping hot off the comal while we learned some vital history of corn. We began our easy walk on shaded paths (yes, we were given insect repellant!!!), stopping every few minutes to listen about specific plants and trees, how they arrived, from where and their purpose. We strolled across the Bridge of Dreams, dropping wishes into the now-dry arroyo beneath our feet and stepped into the sunlit International Peace Garden.

From that bright serenity, we began to climb carefully on dirt paths generously decorated with tree roots and sturdy wrought iron handrails for (my!) safety. We past coffee, avocado, macadamia nut, and cacao trees and then a forest of vanilla vines: Over 4,000 of them gently tied to six-foot tall, thick oak stakes scattered in the jungle. They are staked; otherwise, they grow straight up to the sky which is fine unless you want them to propagate and the VBG does so, the vines are staked until they reach the top. Then they will be gently tethered to the other side. When the orchids open, they must be hand pollinated AND, that has to be done in the mornings only AND, those mornings have to be in December. So, there’s a little lesson on why vanilla is so damn expensive! Later we were shown how vanilla is made into extract; another three months of waiting!

We sat down for lunch upstairs at the Hacienda de Oro. (If you should have food allergies or restrictions, all of that information will come off your registration form before you even leave Vallarta and will be sent to the chef at the VBG, so no worries there.) More jamaica in huge glasses with bamboo straws (the VBG’s newest best sellers in the gift shop) and more edible flowers. I would say three-quarters of what we ate and drank was grown at the Vallarta Botanical Garden. Oh… dessert!!! Fresh vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and yes, all of it from the Garden. OMG.

For the dozens and dozens of times I have been to the Garden, I have never come home feeling as enriched as I did after this tour. I have barely scratched the surface of a truly lovely five-hour day in this column. Contact:  tours@vbgardens.org and get all your house guests booked or get a group together, all you newbie expats who have never been, and enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth.

I finally went to one of friend and Tribune colleague Pam Thompson’s soirees! Held at San Javier Hospital at the Marina last week, the place was packed with people drinking pink lemonade and un-pink wine and winning prizes like crazy! On the other side of the room, when Pam pulled my name out of the fishbowl, she stammered a bit and said, “I am sure Marcia’s not here but….” Ha, fooled her! What a great response for all the hard work she does every day helping people with medical questions and emergencies. The food was terrific and the prizes fantastic – I won a pair of stainless steel hanging photo holders; they will be lovely Christmas tree ornaments. To all the people who donated gifts, prizes, and food, thank you and, if you didn’t make this party to raise awareness for Breast Cancer, Pam is hosting a Pink Wave Cocktail Party in Bucerias for the North Shore folks on October 18th. The address is Lazaro Cardenas 500 at Lujo Lifestyle from 6 to 9 pm.

Something to look forward to on February 14th, my artistic friend Julie Levine plans to hide a hundred painted rocks about town. Why you may ask? Love is the answer.

Until then, be kind; then be kinder, From Here.

Marcia Blondin