The International Friendship Club (IFC) boasts an activities schedule chock full of things to do for members and guests alike. This week I decided to attend a variety of IFC activities so I could see for myself what might be of interest for visitors and residents of Vallarta. Wow, was I busy!
The IFC calendar starts off with Monday morning Bridge Classes. These are led by Murray Beer and assisted by Tom Hibbs. Both are accomplished players and teachers. The cost is free for members and 50 pesos for non-members. They meet and play in the outside courtyard enjoying the fresh air of a beautiful Vallarta morning. They begin at 9:00 and from 11-11:30 is a lesson developed from the questions that arose that morning. There is a learners table with open hands and a beginners table for those that might know a little about the game but need to learn the newer Bridge conventions. Murray says he has played for 40-50 years and is still learning. Murray says "the rules of Bridge are like the traffic signals in Mexico, just a suggestion…". A fun morning was had by all!
Monday evening is always Movie Night at the IFC. Volunteer and IFC officer, Fred Forbes, is the host. Fred selects an interesting variety of movies over the course of the season. The bar is open for beverages and the admission fee of 35 pesos includes free popcorn! Love that smell! The doors open at 6:30 and the movie starts promptly at 7:00. This week's movie was "The General's Daughter" with John Travolta. The schedule is posted on the International Friendship Club website under Activities each month. The last Monday of this month, January 27, features a documentary on Ron Turcotte, the jockey who rode the Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. This was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and looks to be a great one.
On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday the IFC classroom is busy with Spanish lessons. Each of these days offers Intermediate I, Intermediate II, and Advanced classes and a special Tourist Spanish for beginners or those that are looking for a quick refresher. Each class lasts one hour. Regular classes cost 220 pesos for a packet of 4 lessons for members and 300 pesos for non-members, while Tourist classes are 60 pesos per class for members and 80 pesos for non-members. The instructor is Marcella Castellanos. Marcella is Mexican but was raised in California and has a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University. David Rohde, a student in the Intermediate II class, told me that Marcella's lesson is interesting, to the point and she explains things well.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the IFC offers amazing tours. On Tuesday and Wednesday the tours visit some of the most beautiful private homes in the Banderas Bay area, homes that are not open to the public and can only be seen on an IFC tour. When surveying the guests on tour the number of repeat attendees or those that heard about it from a friend is astoundingly high. There is no better advertisement than a personal recommendation. This week when a couple bought advance tickets it was mentioned that they would be celebrating her husband's birthday by going on the Home Tour. The IFC volunteer made note of this and when they signed in signaled the other volunteers and everyone joined in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday! The Friendship Club really does live up to its name with the friendliest volunteers and members in town.
On Thursday the tour goes to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo. This is a fantastic opportunity for a guided tour of the award-winning Gardens and the Zoo is more hands-on than any I have seen in the States. They allow you to feed Zoo babies and have a very up-close and personal Zoo experience. The tours take you pretty much door-to-door in an air-conditioned coach with an experienced American or Canadian volunteer as your guide.
Both the Home Tour and Botanical Gardens & Zoo Tour remain at 450 pesos per person as they have for a number of years. IFC members receive a 50 peso discount on their own ticket when purchased in person with current membership card. If you have grandchildren visiting put the Botanical Gardens and Zoo tour on your calendar! It is a fantastic experience and one of the few tours that young children can enjoy. The IFC offers a discounted price of 250 pesos for children 10 and under. And, the cost of admission to both the Zoo and gardens is included in the cost of your IFC ticket. The tours have their own website at IFC Tours for Vallarta.
Bunco meets at the Sea Monkey Restaurant every Thursday morning at 11:00. I have never played and wanted to see what the game is all about and why everyone I talk to is always so enthusiastic. Well, first I found out it is a game of dice, not of skill. Right away I thought, hmmm, this might be right up my alley! There are 3 tables of 4 and the players rotate from table to table. My sister-in-law, Brenda Blank and her husband, Larry, love to play. Brenda says, "Bunco is a fast-paced game that anyone can learn in 30 seconds. It's a great way to meet and make new friends while enjoying your favorite beverages and a beautiful bay view." I think I'll be back!
By the time Friday rolled around I was pretty worn out from all the action but couldn't let the week end without checking out the Friday afternoon social Bridge game followed by the Friday evening Social hour and restaurant excursion. Every Friday afternoon at 2:00 any numberof players might arrive for 3 hours of Bridge. Many of the players tell me they began playing by taking the IFC Bridge classes offered on Mondays, some more than 10 years ago! On this Friday it looked like more than 12 tables. They were playing outside on the terrace and inside in the meeting hall. There is no fee for members and guests pay 50 pesos.
Bridge concludes around 5:00 and is immediately followed by a Social hour each Friday, organized by Fred Forbes. Fred selects a restaurant from the preferred vendors who give IFC members a discount. He makes all the arrangements with the restaurants and lets them know how many are attending. After the social hour we usually walk there in groups and are seated at adjacent tables. Some play bridge, stay for social hour and dinner. Some just social hour and others just dinner. Whatever works for your schedule. This week the restaurant was the new Bravos Restaurant, owned by long time IFC supporter, Michael Boufford. Over 30 members and guests from the club came and the meal was delightful. By showing our current IFC membership card we all received a nice discount. What a great way to meet new people and connect with old friends!
It has been a busy but delightful week and I overslept on Saturday morning and missed Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation class directed by Josué Santiago and Dan Grippo that begins at 9:00! These classes are now underway running until mid April. Voluntary donations go to the IFC. You can pick up a flyer at the clubhouse or look on the website for more information... (more on that in a later article).
Once awake I wondered if I could squeeze in the Saturday market at Paradise Community Center? Yes! Too much there to sleep in any longer. I headed to Old Town and picked up a friend who was visiting from Chicago. As we sampled delicious snacks and desserts and filled our bag with goodies, we came across a table with an IFC sign and a volunteer, Ann Yusaitis, there to tell visitors about the International Friendship Club. There are always handouts and information about club activities. Then as we exited we saw an extremely friendly lady selling tickets for IFC Tours! She is part of the VallartaTours.com group that is now selling IFC tour tickets online as well. She said she already sold some bookings for the coming week!
Exhausted, yes, but I have new friends and am full of ideas to keep busy in Puerto Vallarta while supporting a fantastic charity. The IFC is a club that has been in existence for 28 years and through its membership dues, Tours and other fund-raising events supports a Cleft Palate Surgery Program that helps many local children receive the treatment and ongoing care they need.
In addition the IFC provides aid to a variety of groups in PV such as Refugio Infantil de Santa Esperanza (RISE), Becas Vallarta, Clinica Santa Barbara de Rehabilitación, Pasitos de Luz, and the Salvation Army, among others, as well as providing emergency aid where needed.
The annual membership donation is 350 pesos for an individual and 600 pesos for a couple. Members also receive discounts at many of the finest restaurants and shops in the area as well as on a very popular medical evacuation insurance plan. These discounts can easily repay the cost of your membership in no time. Members can be proud to support such a long-standing, vibrant and wide reaching organization exceeding 700 members. You can join online or at the IFC office.
The International Friendship Club is a registered charitable organization in Mexico listed as Club Internacional de la Amistad de Puerto Vallarta A.C. It is located at the northeast corner of the Rio Cuale Bridge above the HSBC Bank, Colonia El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, 48300. Telephone is (322) 222-5466, email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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