Susan and I have been privileged to stay in Puerto Vallarta three times. Once for a week, once for four weeks and one glorious winter we were there eight weeks for my sabbatical. The Sherlock Holmes among you will deduce we like it! That would be an understatement. We love the people, the town, the climate, our church community and especially the rhythm of living there. This pictorial-word essay is intended to give you the feeling of PV (the short name regulars use for Puerto Vallarta).
PV is situated in the great Bay of Banderas – a huge bay on the Pacific coast of Mexico. In winter the bay is home to Humpback Whales. The whales come to the bay to reproduce and for the females to give birth and nurse their young.
The old town is surrounded by hills which provide beautiful views of the bay. The government has built a wonderful pedestrian walkway, the Malecon, which stretches along the ocean. The Malecon is full of public art – mainly sculpture and mosaics, and many entertainers. In the evening it is a lively place with wonderful stalls selling local delicacies including some amazing desserts. In the evening the Malecon and the amphitheatre and town square are full of families just walking, talking, dancing, eating and laughing. It is a very happy and vibrant place.
We love the Mexican people with their friendly charm and concern for family. It is eye-opening to see the entrepreneurship. Every possible space is taken up by someone creating a small business, many catering to the needs of tourists. A small doorway space is turned into a tiny shop. The people work so hard to attract business, they call to you to come and see, but all in good humour. Every stall has something that is ‘almost free’!
The houses and streets are full of colour and we go into withdrawal when we come back North.
The climate in winter/Spring – October to April – is perfect. The days are warm and sunny – but not overly hot or humid. The evenings are cool and refreshing. It is a great place to walk about and explore all the side streets of the old town. There are flowers everywhere. We have marvelled at all the decoration on the houses and streets. We spent one whole day just looking at doors.
The decoration around entrances and the use of vibrant colours just makes my heart sing.
PV has hundred’s of wonderful restaurants – most are very affordable and when you find the local gems, downright inexpensive. Our favourite gem is Melissa’s – a seafood restaurant in the Centro area – near a more famous restaurant called Si Señor. Melissa’s owner (Jorge) catches red snappers and the chef cooks them on a grill in the dining room. A great red snapper dinner for just $12 dollars. We took some friends there – real ‘afishionados’ and they said it was the best red snapper they had ever had!
Gabby’s is also a fun place. If you sit on the balcony you are treated to movies of Mariachi bands projected on the white wall across the street. All this with a view of the ocean, great food, friendly staff and patrons.
A great area to wander and discover is what is locally known as Gringo Gulch. It was in this neighbourhood that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had residences while filming the Night of the Iguana. The visit to this area requires the climbing of many steps and steep cobble-stone streets. But there is no hurry, so just take your time and enjoy the sights all around you.
This photograph shows the alleyway steps between residences and the view across the Cuales valley to the South part of PV.
Burton and Taylor or Richard and Elizabeth if you are more intimate with them had a bridge built between their two places – I guess it was handy for rehearsing lines! The bridge is still there but the Taylor residence is being remade into condos.
Here is another street in the Gringo Gulch area.
Electricity is treated a little differently in Mexico than in Canada or the US. Some of the inventive connections are mind boggling. I am not sure what the building permit process is. My Dad’s hair would be standing on end if he was still with us, still had hair and if he could have been persuaded to take the trip.
The only thing more exciting than the electrical wiring is travelling by the wonderful city buses. The bus is really cheap, very frequent and get’s you most places you want to go very efficiently. However, the seats are hard plastic and a little slippery when the bus stops suddenly or takes a bend rather quickly. Many drivers decorate their windscreen and working area with religious articles, almost like shrines. The local advice is “don’t take the bus where the driver has more than four or five rosary beads or crucifixes” – the more religious symbols the wilder the ride. We love taking the bus, it’s always an adventure. Often travelling minstrels will sing and perform on the bus for tips. We’ve also met some interesting people and had some fun conversations. But keep your ticket – frequently the inspector gets on and checks to make sure you have today’s ticket.
We have experienced the odd tire blow-out. But no problem, the driver just continues on or stops and hails down another bus and loads you onto it. Its almost party time when that happens.
This short tour is becoming a little long, so I will finish today’s tour with a few extra photos and maybe start a thematic tour of PV and area next week
Speaking of purity just look at these children parading to collect for the Red Cross
Watch for more tours of PV – arranged by theme.
If you have good memories or stories of PV please include them in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.