Puerto Vallarta Walkin’

Coming to you more or less live from the hills of old town Puerto Vallarta, high above Los Muertos beach … We are ensconced at the Vista del Mar condominiums in Colonia Amapas, not too far from, but far above, where we stayed the last time we were in PV – Easter 2012. The weather is great, about 26 degrees, cloudless and sunny. From our two balconies we have a grand view out over the Bay of Banderas and the shining crown of Our Lady of Guadalupe church, PV Centro’s architectural landmark.

The view is beautiful both day and night.

“Our” condo is located in a pretty quiet complex; yesterday there was not a soul on the pool deck just below our apartment.

Our plan for this year is to try and pretend that we are living here and to do as the locals do … shop local, eat local, and use local transport, buses and our own two feet. Since we are basically on top of the mountain here, that means a pretty loooooonnnng trek back up the hill after a hard day out and about beating the pavement.

We arrived yesterday, after a 3:15 am wake-up call, a taxi ride to the airport, and a 4.5 hour direct flight, and spent a few hours casing the neighbourhood. Ty was delighted to discover that just down the hill from us is a little beer store, so we don’t have to schlep the cases of beer we will no doubt consume up from the beach. Check out the fashion statement below: I particularly like the striped socks and black oxfords combination, a must for PV explorers … sigh.

We are always interested in accommodations, having in the back of our minds the possibility of spending the winter months here. This lovely place is just down the hill from our place, likely an inexpensive option requiring no air-conditioning, given that it lacks windows.

After walking around for a bit getting tired and hungry, we rolled into a deserted comida casera just off Olas Altas and dug into some tacos and enchiladas before wandering down Basillo Badillo and exploring the area.

Today our mission was to get some electronica that we’d left behind, some minutes for the ol’ cell phones, and groceries. It’s interesting that there are no grocery stores in this area – none. Oxos galore, all selling FUD processed cheese and meat products – not too appealing – but no real food to be found. Yesterday we had  come across one small and decrepit tienda selling some sad looking fruits and vegetables, mostly way past their consumption date, and managed to pick out a few veggies that were still edible among the carcasses of the rotted, and found a gigantic pharmacy that sold the same inedible processed FUD-stuff as Oxo, where we nonetheless picked up some bread and milk.

Today, having stopped in at the Hacienda de Vallarta, drawn in by their Room Special sign, we were lucky enough to meet Pierce, one of the expat residents, and he filled us in on where the supermercado Ley, the local Safewayesque food emporium, was.

After a really good lunch at another inexpensive comida casera right next to the Church, El Campanario, where we got an amazing spread of tortilla soup, chicken fajitas, stew of the day, and pudding,

we walked north along the Malecon and eventually arrived at the Ley store, after a pause for liquid refreshment at Mango’s Beach Bar.

I love the super markets in Mexico; as you can see from the giant black speaker strategically placed near the avocados, they all blast out lively dance music, possibly to generate a general feeling of energy and well-being that manifests in more food purchases. Bags in hand, we grabbed a bus southward that dropped us in the general direction of our place and made our way, hot and sweaty, uphillward home.

We managed to negotiate the day with only a few minor meltdowns after having purchased credits for our cell phones only to find that they’d been uploaded to some random Mexican guy’s phone rather than ours. Below are a few more pictures of the Malecon sculpture art.

You can just see Ty peeking out from beneath these pairs of legs.

This sculpture, El Gordo – the Fat Man, not our late and unlamented mug-shotted premier – reminds me a little bit of the open-mouthed gigantic pelicans that roost on the boats around here waiting to consume vast quantities of caught fish.

After being inspired by the panorama of portly past their prime rockers displayed atop one of the restaurants lining the Malecon, Ty picked a too-tiny tree to hide behind …

See a few more photos here.

From Soufriere to Guanajuato, Central Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico! After two weeks in Soufriere, St Lucia, we were ready to move on. Our room at the Downtown Hotel was great, but we’d seen all there was to see in the area and we were excited about the new possibilities Mexico offered. Marcus picked us up at 10 am Monday morning for our trip down island to Hewanorra airport, and after a two hour wait, we were aboard our American Airlines plane to Miami, a four and a half hour flight. Unfortunately, we had a 12 hour layover in Miami and so decided to get a room at the Days Inn nearby. Once off the plane, we joined the massive horde of weary travelers stuck in the interminable lineups at Miami Immigration and, of course, I chose absolutely the wrong line – the longest, slowest … you get the picture. This painful process took almost two hours while every passenger was fingerprinted and photographed by a coterie of miserable immigration officers, who looked at us as if we were surely criminals trying to hide something.

The Days Inn was entirely unprepossessing, and forgot about our requested 4 am wake-up call (luckily, we’d set the room alarm and it worked). Back at the airport, we got aboard the 7 am flight to Mexico City; I was worried the entire time that we’d not left enough connection time and that we’d miss our place to Guanajuato. Luckily, ours was the only flight in when we landed and the immigration area was quiet; we were through immigration, baggage pickup and recheck, and customs within 40 minutes and had lots of time to spare. The flight to Guanajuato, a colonial silver city north of Mexico City founded in the 16th century by Spaniards, was a quick breeze and the scenery out the window was very interesting, vast expanses of shades of brown, mountains and hills, and small patches of green with snake-like rivers running through them. After the 55 minute flight and a half hour taxi ride, we were in Guanajuato at the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum) parking lot, where we met Leonor and Hugo, who escorted us and our bags to the colonial house we’ve rented for the next two weeks.

Strangely, and luckily for us, just after we left the Mexico City airport, a 7.8 earthquake hit the area and the airport was closed while they inspected for any damage. We had no idea until after we’d landed in Guanajuato that this had happened – wow! Weird! Thankfully, there seems to have been no terrible damage nor any deaths reported.

The hillside house is very cute, with three small bedrooms, a beautiful balcony the length of the house, a sunny patio off the dining room downstairs and a great view out over the city. But this place is certainly not for the mobility impaired.

Everywhere there are steep hills and stone steps to navigate on foot. Few of the roads can accommodate cars; most traffic travels around and through the city in underground tunnels. I accompanied Leonor down into the city to find the supermarket, the Hidalgo Mercato, and the bank, about a half hour walk from our place.

We wound our way through the narrow busy streets full of pedestrians and of colour and joyful sound. The buildings are great, multi-coloured, some elaborately decorated in the Spanish baroque style, and the quality of the light and the clear, blue sky are fabulous. Huge bougainvillea trees in an incredible shade of red and giant purple lilac trees are abundant here.

Later, Ty and I ventured out again for supper, stopping at a local Comida Casera (which I think means home cooking) spot close to the downtown area, to consume inexpensive and tasty cesadillas and tortas con frijoles. While waiting for Ty to purchase some supplies, I chatted with Carl, a senior pun-loving expat from the States who runs a B&B down here. He invited us to join him for a drink on his terrace while we’re in town, an invitation which we’ll definitely take him up on.

We had no idea when we booked this place that the Pope was coming for the weekend. Benedict has chosen Guanajuato/Leon for his first visit to Mexico and will be here for 4 days. The faithful are flooding here from all parts of Mexico and abroad and they expect 800,000 people for his Sunday mass at Cubilete – yikes! Ty and I are going out today to buy food because when that horde descends I’ve sure the local cupboards will soon be bare and there won’t be a seat to be found in any restaurant or loncheria. In honour of El Papa, the town has spruced the place up a bit, by fixing the road he’ll be travelling on and freshly painting the many colourful buildings lining the hills. Benedict’s smiling face is everywhere, on placards, signs, buildings, and, of course, churches, of which there are quite a few here.

Mexico is the world’s second most populous Catholic nation and, in addition to El Papa’s visage, images of the Virgin of Guadaloupe and Jesus are prominent almost everywhere.

Guanajuato does get a share of tourists here but nothing like its smaller neighbour to the north San Miguel de Allende, which is apparantly pretty much an American city now, with its attendant high prices. As a result, although likely a few people here do speak English, none that we’ve encountered yet, other than Carl of course, have been able to speak it. My Spanish is ok, not by any means fluent, but I can speak enough to get by and make myself understood. Hopefully, after giving it a workout for the next three months in Mexico, my Spanish will be greatly improved.

See more pics here.