Posts Tagged With: mexico

Sampling Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, April 2017

Maggie and I now make a decision about our next trip based on a “screaming deal” we see for travel prices. Maggie notices that we can fly to, and lodge relatively cheaply in, Puerto Vallarta. That is all we need to know. We are soon on a plane.

It will be my first time spending a meaningful amount of time deep in Mexico.

Our first day is a Tuesday. For an early April date, I immediately notice that this locale is a FURNACE! How can people stand the much hotter conditions in the summer, I wonder?

At the Puerto Vallarta airport, when walking to get bags, one is inundated with THOUSANDS of offers to take a taxi. Taxi and bus service is everywhere. VERY tourist-driven economy.

I also notice, with both trepidation and amusement, that the city buses are very Third World. The bus lacks identifier numbers. Instead, one sees on the windshield a list of major stores the bus serves. The bus is loud, and packed with people — so much so that many are standing in bus stairwell. Also, the bus has no shocks. And seems to have been built in the 1940s.

At first, I see no ability to signal to the driver that we would like to get off at the next stop. Then I hear what sounds like a male whistling to stop. I don’t see any men whistling, and notice that this is the sound that is made when one presses a button to have the bus stop.

Glad we won’t need to just leap off a moving bus like skydivers…

Another Third World trait: We are almost constantly hounded by people hawking tourist trinkets, food, and drink.

Maggie Waddoups at Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (16)Impressive public art is everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. Maybe this town is not so backward after all.

In what we soon learn is a sample of things to come during our time in Puerto Vallarta, we enjoy a very tasty and affordable ceviche for what we make a combination lunch/dinner at a “locals” restaurant/bar.

We discover that “old town” is very fun and vibrant, with nice cobblestone streets, good street dimensions, and a party atmosphere full of music and dancing at night.Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (4)

The main north-south coastal roadway in Puerto Vallarta is an awful, miserable highway to hell. Impossible for pedestrians, dangerous, and full of loud cars and trucks.

Affordability is a pleasant trait of the town. When we were there, $20 USD was about $300 pesos.

On Wednesday, we opt to rent bikes and quickly learn that bicycling is really tough here: zero bike parking, and very hostile roads. The major roads are commonly high-speed and crowded. A great many neighborhood streets feature a lot of bruising cobblestone surfaces – which would be charming if in a compact, walkable area, but are mostly a nuisance when distances require bicycling. To add insult to injury, there are almost no signs informing you of street names.

On Thursday, we take a catamaran on a two-hour ride to the Marietas Islands. We see many dolphins and sting rays breaching the water surface. We also catch a glimpse or two of quite rare whales along the way.

At the islands, we hike along a very scenic beach filled with interesting arched rock formations. From the catamaran, we do a little kayaking and paddle boarding, and a Maggie Waddoups paddleboarding at Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (56)little snorkeling. On our way back, it was Booze Cruise time. I had two margaritas, two pina colodas, a salted beer (Mex style), and a Bloody Mary.

On Friday, we have a great breakfast on the beach at La Palapa restaurant. We then walk for several blocks in old town, where we stumble upon a very enjoyable, local produce market.

After several months of urging Maggie to try paragliding (and her saying “NO WAY NO HOW!”), I finally talk her into something safer and approximate: parasailing, which we both try out on the Puerto Vallarta beach.

Delightful.Dom Nozzi parasailing over Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (5)

Soon after, we grab lunch at what most call the best fish tacos in town at Marisma’s Fish Taco stand.

On Saturday, we make our daily trip to Old Town, and today I wonder about how charming the streets must have been before the tourist invasion. Like Cuba?

In general, authentic Mexican food is quite spicy hot. Yet here in Puerto Vallarta, many restaurants we visited often served noticeably mild food. I conclude that this is likely due to the fact that the restaurants do not want to scare off the more mild taste preferences of Americans. A menu today read, for example, something I have never seen on a menu: “Don’t order a dish if you do not know the dish.” Surely a sign of this concern. Too many tourists in the past have surely Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (32)refused to eat a dish when it turned out too spicy, and the restaurant was obligated to dispose of the dish.

Throughout our trip, we notice a curving cobblestone decorative pattern inlaid into public sidewalks. I joke to Maggie that this was a way to humorously mimic the path taken by people staggering home after getting drunk on too much Tequila. I mentioned this to a taxi driver later and he confirms my speculation was true.

We very much enjoy browsing in an open air Saturday market in the public square in Old Town. We sample many delicious breads, cheeses, grains, drinks, pestos, and oils. We wonder why there were not more vendors at this market in a square and guess it is due to pressure from nearby restaurants concerned that they would lose business.Puerto Vallarta Mexico, April 2017 (10)

Late in the afternoon, we enjoy watching four entertainers on the beach spinning upside down from a tall tower while hanging from ropes.

Pinatas are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. Not sure why this is so.

During our time in Puerto Vallarta, I notice that it seems unusually easy to bargain down prices for goods and services in the community. My speculation: This is a sign that prices are inflated, which makes it likely that vendors are easy to bargain down on their prices, since a lower price is the “reasonable” price.

In our five days here, we drink alcohol like fish. We also eat high quality fish and seafood Dom Nozzi and Maggie Waddoups breakfast in Puerto Vallarta, April 2017 (70)for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

It turns out to be a bad trip for my glasses: First, I forgot my sunglasses at home, which meant I had no eye protection from the several days of intense sun in Puerto Vallarta. Then, I discover after getting off the plane from Denver to Puerto Vallarta that I had forgotten my reading glasses on the plane. To top it all off, I discover to my extreme annoyance that I had forgotten my back-up pair of reading glasses on the plane from Puerto Vallarta to Denver!

I think I need to have my sunglasses and reading glasses surgically attached to my head…

Here are the photos I shot during the trip.

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Categories: 2011-Present, Beyond North America, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Cozumel in 2013 (February 2013)

This adventure started with an incredible family travel coincidence. Ann made reservations for me and her to spend a week snorkeling and scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico – a paradise for water sports (particularly scuba diving). We are to arrive on February 20th and depart on February 27th.

A day after Ann made the reservations, we learned from my mom that my two sisters and one of my nieces will be getting on a cruise ship departing from Miami in the near future.

One place they will spend a day off the ship?

Cozumel.

On February 21st.

When we booked our trips, none of us knew of the plans of others.

What are the chances of this happening??

Ann and I ended up spending a wonderful week in Cozumel.

My two sisters visited us on our second day in Cozumel, and we enjoyed snorkeling and diving with them off the hotel dock. We didn’t learn until after our trip to Cozumel was booked that their cruise ship trip would be stopping in Cozumel the day after we arrived. A pleasant, astonishing coincidence.

We lodged at the Villa Aldora hotel very close to the presidential retreat (you will see several photos of Villa Aldora in my link below). The hotel patio we ate breakfast at each morning was only a few feet from a very nice snorkeling area. Waters were warm (83 to 85 degrees), impossibly clear, dazzling blue in color, and sitting atop snow white sandy and coral bottoms. Our dive operator was Aldora Divers, widely recognized as the best dive operators on the island. Each morning their dive boats would arrive at our hotel dock to take us diving (the Cozumel14dock was only a few feet from our room). My big dives were at Palancar Caves, Columbia Deep, Santa Rosa Wall, and Punta Sur – each of which provide utterly gorgeous, vibrantly colorful reef walls, tropical fish, and spectacular swim-throughs (I LOVE swim-throughs!). The following video, while not shot during my dives, shows diving at the Columbia and Santa Rosa sites I dove over the past few days in Cozumel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=516KZ2nOCoA

I had SEVERAL eye-popping encounters with VERY large marine life: lobsters, green moray eels, eagle rays, black-tip sharks (the shark in the video is a black-Cozumel16tip about the size of the three or four I encountered), turtles, spotted eels, queen angelfish, and barracuda.

This link shows photos I (mostly) shot during the trip. Since I didn’t have an underwater camera, the shots of marine life and reef formations were not shot by me, but were shot by another diver during my dives. For the best view, after you are taken to the Picasa photos, don’t forget to click on “slideshow” in the upper left:

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534/Cozumel2013

On Sunday night, we went to the Cozumel town center and had a DELICIOUS, authentic dinner at a restaurant that is very popular (with good reason!) with locals (we hate touristy places!). During dinner, street performers entertained us with flaming torches, as you will see in the photos. We then walked to the town square where a large number of festive locals had gathered to enjoy a very good horn band. We danced the night away on the plaza there.

Throughout our stay in Cozumel, we had the good fortune to eat at a number of great, funky restaurants popular with the local population. Our favorites were Café Indio, Del Sur, Casa Denis, and Corazon Contento. We also had lunch at a taco stand that served out-of-this-world fish tacos.

It was a four-hour direct flight from Denver to Cancun, Mexico when we returned home. Because Cozumel is relatively close to the equator, we had severe weather shock when we returned to Denver and Boulder. The morning of our departure in Cancun found us at a Cancun bus station. It was sunny, humid and VERY hot. Sweating profusely in 90-degree temperatures. A few hours later, we were walking from the downtown Boulder bus station to our house. The temperature was windy and about 15 degrees. We were so painfully cold that we opted to take a taxi after a few blocks, even though we were about five blocks from home. We had gone from “middle of summer” weather to “middle of winter” weather in four hours.

Ann and I hope to make return trips to Cozumel again and again.

 

Categories: 2011-Present, Caribbean, Diving, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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