Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paradise Village and Puerto Vallarta

A week in Paradise passed quickly!

The luscious entrance is indicative of what is inside

We spent our mornings doing boat chores and reading. In the afternoon we’d head off to the lap pool to do a few lengths, then wander over to the Vallarta Yacht Club to soak in their gigantic hot tub, and dipping in their chiller pool, before a great shower.

Lap pool at Paradise Village - one of four pools

Big enough to swim in! Doug nurses a sore shoulder.

Chiller Pool at the Yacht Club

I’ve been cooking aboard most nights and, after dinner, we wander around watching the week-long vacationers enjoying themselves.

Based on the chain, I think these vacationers may be spending more than a week!

One evening we walked along the beach and began to hear the strains of Abba music. As we came closer to a pavilion, we became aware that the songs were from the musical Mama Mia and were being performed in an open air amphitheatre by a Mexican troupe. We slipped into the back row and enjoyed the rest of the production, remembering the movie, but also remembering our great departed friend, Eric Matheson, who loved Abba.

Ka'sala at Paradise Village - the days are warmer - note the sunshade

On another day, we decided to leave Ka’sala in the marina and spend a night in Puerto Vallarta. We left in the morning and caught a 13 peso, air conditioned bus to Marina Vallarta (near the cruise ship docks) to check it out and meet some friends that Meredith had stayed with over Christmas. We were entertained by a fellow who boarded the bus with his guitar and proceeded to belt out a few popular Mexican tunes in a very melodious voice, then pass a hat around for tips.  Very entrepreneurial! (On another bus ride, a fellow boarded and went through the bus trying to sell rosaries - he spoke in Spanish so I couldn't exactly figure out what he was saying, but based on his serious demeanor, I had the terrible feeling he was implying that if we didn't buy one of these charmed objects we might not survive the bus trip!).

A giant statue of Neptune overlooks the Marina Vallarta area

This area is thriving and we saw hundreds of gringos walking about, enjoying the cafes and shops that line the boardwalk.

Okay, there were more than gringos along the boardwalk!

And a few warnings too!

Susan and Gary, who used to cruise aboard a 44 foot sailing vessel, are staying in one of the condominiums for the winter. Through Kim, Meredith’s mother, they have kindly offered to be the receivers of my new Panasonic camera - replacing the one lost last December in Bahia Santa Maria. We were only able to stay a few minutes, but hope to reconnect with them in March when we return to pick up the camera.

We continued into town on one of the 6 peso, bone crushing city buses (they have no shock absorbers and most of the streets are cobblestone!), and got off by Cuale Island.

Sign outlining the Romantica district in Viejo Vallarta

We wandered around the Romantica district, in Viejo Vallarta, looking for a traditional hotel, thinking we might stay at the Belmar. We weren’t impressed with the rooms they had available and continued on to check out the other 7 small, mostly economical, hotels in this district.

Street scene in Viejo Vallarta

Our guidebook (Rough Guide to Mexico) had suggested we ask for balcony rooms and, at the Tradicional Villa Del Mar, we found our room – bright and sunny, overlooking the cobbled and tree lined street with the jungle bound hills as a backdrop.

Our room was on the first floor, second from the left

Very simple, but clean and comfortable

View from the balcony

For the equivalent of about $35.00 we had our own bathroom in this impeccably clean hotel run by very friendly and accommodating Mexican women. (check it out:

In an example of how small the world is, the next morning, while enjoying the sunshine on the balcony, I got to talking to the couple in the room beside us.  It turned out they are fishermen who live in Ford Cove on Hornby Island.  Do you know how many people live in Ford Cove??  What are the chances we would meet them in a little hotel in Viejo Vallarta?

Cobbled entrance

We wandered about looking for a place we might have dinner and found ourselves down by the beach again. Our guide had told us that the Romantica district was noted for its gay community and there was evidence that it was true. We stopped at the World Beer Store for a couple tasty Mexican micro beers. They were made by Minerva - Doug had his first IPA in a long time and I quenched my thirst on an ice cold amber ale.  Memories of home....

World Beer Store - set up like a tasting room

Our Italian hostess serves them up

Doug is happy!

Close up for my sister - can you see the sweat on the glass?

 We really did not want to pay a high price for a tourist dinner, yet were looking for something different. We were having a hard time finding a place until I remembered noticing a little cafĂ© across from our hotel.

Mediterranean Cafe de Reposteria

When we checked it out I was delighted. It was a tiny place – 8 tables – that served Mediterranean fare. Pasta, scampi, leg of lamb, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, feta and olives were all available. The owner is also a baker, so the dessert tray was something you dream about.  The only thing missing was retsina! Needless to say, we came back, had a wonderful dinner of treats we hadn’t enjoyed since California and enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

After dinner we headed down to the malecon to walk the strip. There were hundreds of people out and the beach side walkway was crammed with entertainers, such as clowns and acrobats, people selling everything you could imagine from food to wares to artwork.

Native acrobats - an incredible show

Food vendors along the malecon
(Michael J. Mayo photo)

Puerto Vallarta malecon strip at night

A daytime view of one of the more outrageous bar/discos on the malecon
(Michael J. Mayo photo)

Along with the crashing of the surf was an overlay of music from the street and the many bars and discos open to the night air. The whole place is vibrant and alive. People of all ages were enjoying themselves – lots of smiles and laughter – it is a happening place. We were satisfied to stroll along and observe – we felt no need to become part of the spectacle. It sure beat the Comox Valley on a Saturday night!

Next morning we retraced our footsteps, this time to stop at the Walmart grocery (amazing), Sam’s Club and a grunt walk to check out the Costco (not so amazing, but has several products we regularly use that we haven’t seen since America). I really didn’t need to buy anything, but I wanted to scout out the wares when it comes time to provision for our off shore passage to Hawaii. (such as tinned roast beef and chicken breast, coffee, flour, yeast and nuts)

Our week was up and it was time to leave. We left Paradise Village in the late morning and had a fantastic sail across the bay back to the La Cruz anchorage. Our plan is to head directly to Barra de Navidad which is approximately 140 miles to the south. The trick is to get around Cabo Correntes (the Cape of Currents, otherwise known as the Cape Horn of Mexico!) when the wind isn’t howling and the waves aren’t too high. In unkind conditions, this Cape has been described as a “washing machine”! No thanks! Local wisdom advises to round the Cape in the middle of the night, when the diurnal winds are at their least, and when there are no weather systems. Once through this area the sailing is once again good as the land falls off to the east. By leaving the anchorage La Cruz in the late evening we figure we can avoid the discomfort of the Cape and arrive in Barra de Navidad after two nights and a day of sailing.

There are several places we could stop along what is called the “Gold Coast” before reaching Barra, but our thinking is to get to our furthest point south, then slowly make our way back north again as the weather permits. The prevailing winds are still from a northerly direction, so we will need to watch our weather carefully so we are not caught bashing into the wind and waves on our way back.

Our most southerly destination – Barra de Navidad! It’s hard to believe we have come so far in such a short period of time only to return home again. Since our last post we have heard of one other couple who will be returning home via Hawaii, but they are leaving a month before us. Maybe we will meet others farther south. You never know!
An interesting juxtiposition - this elderly fisherman used a simple hand net in the estuary behind our boat most evenings.  The pelican behaved like the man's dog and the two of them enjoyed a symbiotic relationship that focused them on the task at hand.  I can't imagine the price wanted for the luxury villa for sale behind him or what he must have thought about those who watched him from the deck chairs.   This is an example of a contrast I'm not entirely comfortable with in Mexico.

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