TRIP REPORT: AUGUST 2013 – PART 5
Monday was my birthday, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the wonderful weather. We made the quick drive into PV to do some more exploring. We drove east along the south side of the bull fighting ring and continued down. We found the new and lovely 5-story brick building where we heard the new PV mayor’s office may be, then continued into the working-class neighborhood of Pitillal, a suburb of PV. We parked, got out and just started walking around to see what we would find. There were small mom-and-pop convenience stores selling various snacks and cold drinks, hardware stores, small auto parts stores, clothing shops, rustic furniture stores, carpentry shops, and more. We stepped into a few places to inquire about things, and this afforded me many great opportunities to practice my Spanish, which is steadily improving but still consists of conversational wording intermixed with short bursts of charades. After our on-foot exploration, we hopped back into the car and did a bit of windshield tourism. We then decided to pop into Costco to use their restrooms and buy a nice cold (mocha) frappe from their food court area. The food-court items are all pretty much the same as they are back home: pizza, churros, hot dogs, etc. But instead of the berry berry smoothie they offer a delicious mango smoothie.
We then drove downtown and happened upon a wonderful tile store that looked small from the front but was actually really large and deep. Their wares of ceramic kitchen items and colorful tiles were gorgeous, but what had really caught my eye and brought our car to a quick halt was their name plaque tiles. The name of this darling store is Mundo de Azulejos. It’s located on Venustiano Carranza #374 in the neighborhood Emiliano Zapata. Many Mexican homes have an oval or rectangular “address” tile which instead of a number has a name, like Casa Tequila or Villa Tortuga, etc. My husband used the store’s computer to pull up his email where he had previously stored a copy of his own unique design for a name tile for our condo. The price quoted of 400 pesos (about $30 USD) was perfect. The shop’s resident artist would recreate the artwork on the tile, it would be fired in an oven, and would be ready for pick-up on Thursday. We left very happy!
We then decided to look for the boutique hotel Casa Isabel on Pulpito to have lunch at their bar & restaurant, Madison Avenue South. We’ve heard that this wonderful location up on a hill affords gorgeous views of the city, jungle and ocean. I had called them last month to inquire if they would be open during August and September and the answer was yes. So we drove up the incline to the highway and headed up a ways toward Conchas Chinas but then could not readily see the yellow palapa-roofed building. Luckily, we saw a police car in front of the Kiosko convenience store and pulled over to ask for directions. Locals, taxi drivers and police are all very helpful. It turns out Casa Isabel was up the hill just behind us! So we wound up two or three very narrow, steep streets to reach the front parking lot entrance which was a bit of a feat. Sadly, when we rang the intercom they said they were presently closed for remodeling. Darn! So we headed on back to the Romantic Zone and parked. We walked to Andeles, sat down and ordered 2X1 Happy Hour Margaritas and nachos. It was all delicious. The waiter was prompt and courteous. As expected, he was gracious enough to wait to bring out the second set of drinks until we were finished with the first to avoid melt down of the second round of drinks. The bill that arrived was so darn cheap that it was necessary to leave a 30% tip (which still wasn’t much) to ensure our waiter was at least compensated for his service. Just before we stood up a tiny, indigineous elderly woman in traditional clothing approached our table with a small woven basket filled with Chicklets gum that was set on a tray with other small mostly toy items. We could tell she had been walking in the sun for so long without much sales luck, so I reached over and lifted up a 4-inch woven doll which I could use as a Christmas ornament and asked how much. She said $4 pesos and my husband paid. Grateful, she insisted on gifting me a pack of Chicklets, so I selected a pink set. We then decided to take a nice walk along the Malecon that borders the ocean. It’s just beautiful. During low season it’s so peaceful with only a moderate amount of foot traffic. I visited my favorite statues which include Caballero del Mar, the Unicorn of Good Fortune, Triton and the Nereid, Nostalgia, The Subtle Rock Eater, and so many more. Heading back towards where we parked, we decided to stop into Cuates y Cuetes restaurant/bar. There were only two tables of patrons, including an gentleman sitting alone at one table leisurely reading a book. C&C was offering 2X1 drinks so we sat down at a table near an ocillating fan, and the cool breeze was delightful. I ordered a Pina Colada and my hubby ordered a Margarita. The seasoned waitress plopped down four drinks at the table and quickly departed. That was highly unthoughtful. It was a hot day, and the second set of drinks would obviously melt down into a mushy mess before we could relax and finish our first drinks. As the waitress unceremoneously flung wooden bowls of popcorn down at the far end of each of three tables like frizbees, my husband called her over about the drinks being served at the same time. Rough around the edges we can handle, no problem. That doesn’t bother us. But rude is an entirely different story. “I’ve been working here for more than 20 years and this is how we do things,” she barked before quickly huffing off. My husband waited until she passed by again and asked for the bill. He paid, leaving no tip, and we quietly got up and left, leaving the second set of drinks untouched on the table. Let me say that it’s a HUGE thing for my husband to not leave a good tip, or no tip at all. Actually, in more than 26 years, I cannot even remember him not leaving a tip. Needless to say, we will not return to Cuates y Cuetes again. There are just too many other really great places in the area to patronize.
Not about to let this dampen our day, we continued walking in the sunshine, stopping every now and then to sit in the sand and gaze out at the ocean. Such a lovely, lovely day. We then returned to the car to further explore the various streets beyond the tourist zones. We like to venture out to see new places and learn new things. And here I’d like to take a moment to tell you what we would not find in all of our many PV explorations: No scary or sketchy individuals, no thug-like youths, no one with their pants down and their butts hanging out, no one with heavy gold chains around their necks walking with wierd and awkward gaits, no drug dealers approaching passersby. What we did find (both on this trip AND all other trips) was: Youth wearing nice appropriate clothing, families clearly enjoying having time to spend together, teenagers sweetly holding their elderly grandparent’s hand, women sweeping their front porches to keep things tidy, men sitting in chairs around small tables playing checkers, laid-back dogs napping or casually crossing the road with their people, neighbors chatting with other neighbors, retired American and Canadian ex-pats carrying groceries down the street and greeting friends along their route home, groups of locals on fun ATVs heading into the jungle for excursions, various vendors manning taco and snow cone carts, school children in crisp uniforms and backpacks hopping on and off buses, a midlle-aged man proudly walking down the side of the road with his catch of the day – a really huge fish, an outdoor grill manned by an older woman offering freshly grilled corn-on-the-cob for sale, men on horseback with cowboy hats and really nice saddles trotting by, cab drivers along main streets waiting for fares.
We also found something quite surprising: Stopping by a very lovely restaurant on the outskirts of town to see if it was open, we walked right in and used the restrooms. Emerging from the banos, we looked around and called out, but no one was there. This restaurant was large and open-air, with connecting roof palapas and totally open on three sides. All the clean kitchen items were right there in plain sight, AND in the bar area the many, many bottles of good quality alcohol were nonchalantly just sitting on shelves behind the bar completely undisturbed. And this was in a populated neighborhood. Literally anyone could have gone in and taken the bottles of alcohol, but they didn’t. That’s how honest and respectful the citizens of PV are. Walking out to the car we felt such great happiness at seing such a relaxed and honorable way of life. So darn awesome.
Passing the athletic stadium heading north, we stopped by a new car dealership to inquire about pricing and paperwork. We banked the good info for a future trip down. We then went to the lovely Galeria Vallarta Mall to take in the Hollywood movie The Big Wedding in English. We just love this Cinemex movie theater with the thick plush seats, lots of leg room, and popcorn (1/2 caramel popcorn & 1/2 buttered popcorn). Tickets for two amounted to $90 pesos in total (about $7 USD). The A/C in the theater was on high and I actually felt I could have used a light sweater in there. After the movie we browsed through a few stores. The evening ended back in the condo where we blended drinks and just relaxed.
TUESDAY: After visiting the gorgeous and peaceful beach in front of the condo, we headed north to the CFE office in Bucerias to put a good-sized credit diwn on our electric bill for the next three months, until our new Bancomer bank account’s automated CFE payment would kick in. It was a quick stop. Then we headed south just past Nuevo to Mezcales. In Mezcales you can find any type of shop you’d ever need. With our broken kayak paddle in hand, we stopped by a large metal fabricating shop. The worker there was quite familiar with our new metal interior pipe and welding request; we happened to notice about 5 or 6 other paddles, probably from the big resorts, leaning against a back wall.
Bob Donald of Bob’s Vallarta Tours picked up our three friends and the surfboards and drove them to Sayulita, which from Nuevo takes 22 minutes. At noon, after our morning errands, we met up with everyone in Sayulita along with boogie boards, ice chest, beach chairs and beach umbrellas. We relaxed on the beach, played in the waves, and the boys went surfing. We were also able to meet up with the Sayulita local who my husband had a goodie bag of Specialized bike components; he was so happy to receive this gift! Later we ate awesome fish tacos and shrimp empanadas from “Tacos Y Mariscos / Aqui Con Maria” which is a little street-front stand beneath a bright red canopy. When you travel to Sayulita, a bit off the beaten path there is a precious hidden gem of a beach: Los Muertos Beach, Sayulita. To get there take the narrow road bordering the south end of the main beach (where everyone parks their vehicles) and continue down between the precious “O” restaurant and Villa Amor. Then make a left and drive up and through the colorful cemetary and down the other side to the sweet little beach flanked by beautiful rocks, boulders and tide pools. That evening back at the condo we ordered in pizza from Porto Bello, had drinks and watched a movie on TV. It was another fun and relaxing day!
WEDNESDAY: Our friends went to Bucerias to shop at the Flea Market and have snacks and drinks at Breakers, a lively beach-front hangout. My husband and I drove into PV to check up on the camera we dropped off for repair. Monday we had received a call from the owner who said he was able to fix the lense and the cost would be $600 pesos ($48 USD). Then Tuesday he called to say th camera had again stopped working and the camera would need a new card but the part was not readily available. So he decided that he would just keep our camera and repair it later on, and had ordered a brand new camera for us (same model) from Mexico City, sending it next day delivery to replace ours so that we would not be further inconvenienced. The price would remain the same as the quoted repair. Yes, that’s how awesome PV locals are!
We then stopped by the Que Pasa next to Andales for lunch and drinks. The blonde bartender was really nice and prepared our drinks, but unfortunately the kitchen was closed for low season. Overhearing us asking about food, a super helpful patron came over to our table and offered to go to the restaurant downstairs and have a waiter bring up a menu. The water immediately appeared and we ordered a Caesar salad chicken wrap. It was delicious! Before leaving we decided to buy a drink for the helpful patron, and discovered her name is Linda and she is actually the owner of Que Pasa. Such nice people there. We will definitely make a trip back there in January. We then walked the beautiful Malecon again and stopped by the PV tourism office to pick up fresh brochures at the City Hall building downtown across from the Lady of Guadalpe Church. We then walked upstairs to view Manuel Lepe’s huge, colorful wall mural.
Back in Nuevo we picked up our friends so we could all enjoy another incredible meal at El Dinamita. Sitting beneath glowing lanterns hanging from an expansive old-growth tree, we ordered family-style and enjoyed unique and flavorful appetizers, followed by a steady stream of delicious shrimp, fish, scallop and steak dishes along with about eight different sauces. It was our friends’ last night in Nuevo, and their trip ended as wonderfully as it started.