April 1997 -- Puerto Vallarta -- Ten Days ofImpressions
First, Mexican food is great. I love the salsas and we have had really good meals all freshly prepared.
The Guacomole is especially fresh! In one family restaurant we went to, the cook sent his sister out to market to buy a bag of fresh Avocados after we ordered it from the menu! They had run out but didn't want to disappoint us, so made us a fresh batch as soon as the sister came back with the shopping bag!!
Another favorite of mine was raw chopped and sometimes chunks of fish made into a dish known as Serviche, which is raw fish marinated in Lime juice which "cooks" the fish while it's marinating ---- sort of like Tuna salad but lots better!
Since this is basically a resort--tourist town, there are many, many restaurants of all types to choose from. One night we went to a place where we had steak on a rooftop watching the street life go by below us and life in the the windows of a building across the way! We had a great dessert afterwards, Chocolate Decadence cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Kahlua liquer on top including Kahlua mixed with Creme de Menthe as an after dinner drink too.
Many of the eating places are on open air roofs. PV has beautful views and a climate conducive to open air living just about all year round .
Everything is built on hilly streets some quite steep, so the views are very quaint and attractive with buildings staggering up and down hills and a view of the open bay (Pacific) in the background --- the sunsets are spectacular on clear days.
On our first afternoon in PV, the stitching group had a get together cocktail party on the beach front restaurant in the Krystal Hotel complex --- everything is open air here --- it was enjoyable to lazily sit at our tables on the beach front under a huge thatched roof watching the waves come up in high tide in a lingering brilliant sunset --- we walked down to the edge of the water at dusk.
Horseback riding on the beach seemed to be a popular pastime as we saw the horses come down to the beach every morning and people riding during the day.
Most of the stitching group went to a local family restaurant one evening where we sat at a large table and ate on the rooftop, serenaded by a local trio with guitars with one of the men singing Mexican love songs.
We saw the Hale-Bopp comet clearly right after the gorgeous sunset during dinner from our rooftop perch!
Have done lots of stitching so far. Very pleasant to sit in our central patio with the cool breeze under a domed skylight,watching all the cats who live here come by, the colorful plants, and this bright yellow and black bird skimming across our little private pool.
One evening we went out to dinner at this interesting little place tucked above the rooftops on the side of a large, steep hilltop. Gorgeous view of the bay and part of the city. Too bad it was overcast and started to rain but it was not heavy or depressing at all.
We ate on a covered balcony with many plants in painted pots, pretty painted tiles on the walls and flocks of birds chirping. The view is very European looking and quite a romantic looking place with the flickering candlelight on our tables.
Our dinner was a seafood dish for two --- Spiny Lobsters, Scallops, Red Snapper, Squid along with shrimp. Ceasar Salad and Pineapple juice drinks rounded out the meal.
At a modern, local supermarket near our hotel, all the baked goods, cookies, breads and cakes were on trays on an open rack. You pick up a big metal tray and tongs --- go among the selections --- load up your tray and go back to the bread counter where they wrap everything up individually and total your bill.
All fruits and veggies are sold by the kilo---2.2 pounds. Roger picked out a bag of tree ripened Mangoes for about .30¢ per pound.
We went to big and small markets, very similar to our supermarkets. But it's still a Mexican market with its own feeling. We bought and ate lots of Mexican fruits and tried anything that looked interesting --- went to the the local bakery shops and bought the most wonderful cookies!!
My favorites were the fresh Salsas and Guacamole along with the little Limes Mexicans squeeze over everything. I notice the American markets don't sell these little Limes. There are also bin after bin of many types of Chile Peppers in the markets from dried to fresh and a few fruits and veggies I wasn't familiar with but bought and tried after asking through sign language if we could eat them as is because some of these fruits were for cooking and not eaten fresh.
Took a look at a spice shop where many herbs, nuts and spices were displayed in open sacks and bins. The place smelled so interesting with all the different spices laid out in large quantities, not in the little jars we see at home.
We ate lots of Mangoes because they were so cheap and plentiful. Drank lots of coke since the bottling plant is right by the airport and coke is very popular and easy to get. Pepsi is hard to find though.
I bought a wedge of this Coconut confection from a counter filled with many types of confections, dried and syruped fruits. Used to see these coconut cakes in NYC but my mother wouldn't let me buy from street vendors so now in Mexico, I bought a small wedge of it. The top is tinted hot pink --- we all shared slices and it tasted like sugared chopped coconut candy cake --- very tasty.
We spent a lot of time visiting downtown Puerto Vallarta early in the day since many shops close two to three hours for siesta in the afternoons when it's hot and reopen later in the day when the temps go down some.
Saw lots of things I would have loved to take home because the craftwork is beautiful --- the beautiful stuff is expensive by US standards. In a way, you get what you pay for because the cheap stuff is real junk.
I went into a fabric shop and looked at the brighter prints and color palettes on the fabrics featured. Interesting to see the women and children in there shopping just like any place in the US but with a different language and faces.
Afterwards, we walked a few streets over towards the landmark cathedral with a tower topped by a crown sculpted and worked in metal. This church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary as many churches in Mexico are.
Found the local cyber cafe where we played with a PC set up using a Spanish keyboard, set up with Spanish language symbols while we were served a lunch of Chicken Burritos and Quesadillas with wonderful Salsa Verde.
Came back to the hotel in the late afternoon and spent some time in the stitching class.
There are a lot of things to do in Puerto Vallarta during the day and evenings, so there was never any time we could say we were bored. And since this place was all new to us, it was great fun discovering everything we could. We must have walked through just about every part of town we could get to. Definitely wear good walking shoes, as many streets are either made of cobblestones , crushed shells or brick.
We took a bus tour one day with friends just to get an overview of the area and it was enjoyable even though we normally aren't into tours. We got a ride around the city and into the surrounding countryside with a Mexican tour guide who answered our questions and explained and pointed out many interesting things to us. Of course we had to eat at a restaurant and visit some gift shops that was part of this tour, but it wasn't too bad. It was a different experience to remember and we did get to see things we would not have on our own.
The bad thing about being a tourist town is everyone in the market place is a hustler --- trying to sell you time shares and things at the highest prices! I wanted to buy a set of papier mache veggies but couldn't get a better price so didn't buy them.
I did buy a couple of carved angels --- one 3-D figure with upraised arms and wings,painted wood --- very Mexican folk art looking and an angel head with wings. The two figures have very expressive, typical Latin faces --- I bought them from a couple of Indian beach vendors while having lunch at a beach side place.
Then on other shopping visits, I bought three painted pottery figures --- a mermaid, a standing figure of a woman and a small market scene all done in painted terra cotta and a gourd with a painted mermaid sitting on top made of pottery and a very small Tree of Life in terra cotta with Adam and Eve standing under it among many interesting odds and ends I picked up walking through town. All the painted wood and pottery crafts were so charming, colorful and whimsical.
Mexico is known for its sterling silverwork so of course I bought some pieces as souvenirs, a heavy silver necklace of linked folk art birds, a charm bracelet with little Mexican utensils, something I once had as a kid and a neat looking silver bracelet made of detailed linked fish.
Saw plenty of other stuff I would have loved to have but know they are charging high prices in Puerto Vallarta because this is a resort town. Had to think of exchange rates constantly and figure how much the object would be in US dollars.
It gets tiring having to bargain all the time but an expected routine. No one pays the asking price except in some fancier shops. You always make an offer(s). And it pays to shop around. We were getting 7.8 pesos to the dollar.
An interesting morning was spent going from art gallery to art gallery viewing contemporary Mexican art. The galleries are definitely worth a visit even if you're not a collector just to see the beautiful, colorful folk art paintings and other art objects. Mexican art is so full of life and so expressive.
On the last night of the Stitching Retreat , the whole group had a special dinner at Bogies, a Moroccan fantasy restaurant next to the Krystal Hotel.
The waiters looked as if they had stepped out of the movie set of Casablanca! There were fountains, potted palms and other plants, those huge woven wicker fan back chairs and all sorts of decorative Moroccan touches such as colorful fabrics, middle eastern looking lanterns and so on. Very romantic feeling with colored lights and subdued lighting by the tables along with flickering candles. Of course there was a piano playing all evening to add to the atmosphere. We were seated in an alcove on plump cushions with decorative walls of white lattice work screens lit with soft backlighting.
The food was wonderful, the service and everything was an experience to remember. In fact the whole trip to Puerto Vallarta was wonderful!
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