Misadventures in Mexico

We’re in Mexico, enjoying a relaxing vacation at an all-inclusive resort. I’ve been doing some writing, and it’s been very quiet. Perhaps too quiet: at breakfast today, Caroline remarked that we never did anything anymore.

C: You said you might go skin-diving.

T: I thought about it, but I remembered that time in Puerto Vallarta when I tried to shoot out of the water onto the boat like a porpoise. I could do it when I was a teenager. But I barely got my hips out of the water for a moment, and I cracked my ribs on the swim platform. Sank into the water before I started screaming, so at least no-one heard me. Except the dolphins, maybe. I think I heard them laughing.

C: Boogie-board?

T: Fun until that time I let a wave carry me up to the crest as it broke. Dropped four feet onto the sand. The board cushioned me a little, but I broke my glasses and almost my nose.

C: You rented that Honda trike in Mazatlan…

T: Yeah, I stalled it on a steep hill, and every time I restarted it, it would stall again when I put it in gear. I put my feet on the road, started it, then revved it and popped the clutch. It tried to climb my legs. Laid rubber all up my calves and halfway up my thighs.

T: Then there was the time I took sailboarding lessons in Spanish. I couldn’t understand half of what Miguel told me. I dropped the sail and fell forward onto it. I didn’t think it would hurt, but the boom got me right in the shins.

C: We rented cars…

T: Mmhmm. There was that VW we almost hit a cow with, back when Bucerias was just a pedestrian crossing with a fruit juice stand. I never knew drum brakes could fade out so fast. My foot was on the floorboards.

C: That was the end of renting VW’s.

T: Or the Nissan Tsuru with the cracked windshield and the hood that wouldn’t open. The rental guy only agreed to replace it when we showed him that the horn didn’t work. That’s when he substituted the one that got a flat tire and had no spare; remember how we borrowed a can of fix-a-flat from that restaurant guy in old PV?

C: Is that why we switched to big-name rental companies with newer vehicles?

T: Like the brand new Canadian-built jeep that stranded us in Tepic when the clutch gave out in the mountains halfway between Mazatlan and Vallarta? We found those shady mechanics that wanted to take us to Guadalajara for a new transmission…

C: We did get to spend the night in Tepic.

T: Which was lovely, except we didn’t sleep because I was afraid the mechanics would be back after dark to steal the jeep. In the morning, we found out the iron gates to the parking lot had been locked all night, so we’d been fine. I figured out how to ask for hydraulic fluid in Spanish (apparently) and walked to a truck stop to get some so we could top up the clutch reservoir and turn back. But the clutch would only last for about an hour at a time between top-ups, so we had to lurch through an agricultural checkpoint without stopping because I couldn’t get into neutral and I didn’t dare stall: “¡No Frutas! ¡No Vegetales!”

C: Well the bus trips were okay…

T: Remember when we took one of the old buses in Maz, and the driver had customized it with exhaust stacks at the back? They were so loud the vibration had shattered the rear windows, and he hadn’t got around to replacing the glass, so the bus’s backdraft drew in dizzying gusts of exhaust gases. We just had to hope the driver had breathable air at the front.

But that time we took “La Flecha” out of Zihuatanejo was cool. We got off at the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere and transferred to that one-ton truck with the canvas top to go down the side-road to the beach. I liked that until all those soldiers came in trucks.

C: They were just there for security.

T: Not our security! They were there for that politico on the yacht that moored off the beach. But all those machine guns made me nervous. The officer was nice though. I think he just wanted to practice his English.

C: So no adventuring today?

T: Let’s just go for a walk on the beach.

C: I’ll try not to step on a bee this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music & Dance

We had a good night last night, but other guests suffered; there was a big wedding on the hotel’s beachfront.  Preparations began yesterday with a gang of roadies erecting a large stage to serve as the banquet area. The first clue that loud music might last into the night were the complementary earplugs left by the maid. This morning I met a man who went entirely without sleep in his oceanfront suite. Our room has a view of the lobby’s rooftop watertank, and is as far from the beach as it is possible to get, so we didn’t hear a thing until 0500 when the wedding guests went to bed. Also, internet in the rooms costs extra, but I can pick up the free lobby wifi on our balcony. Score!

Except now my tablet refuses to connect (technically, it fails to ‘associate’, but that doesn’t suggest any course of action to me beyond gritting my teeth) so today I am blogging on my smartphone.

It was Mexican Night at the Seafire buffet restaurant last night, with a good spread.  Caroline gravitated toward the Veracruz fish, which she said was excellent, and I was pleasantly surprised by the chicken in Mole sauce.  [Note: now I’ve moved to one of the hotel’s computers for final edit and I cannot find the Character Map on the Spanish Windows menus, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of an accent on ‘Mole’.]  In my previous post about this Hilton, I said I was not getting my hopes up about the wine, but it is better than I thought it would be.  It far outshines the coarse, acidic plonk they gave us at the RIU last year, and they have a choice of at least two whites, a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc, and I think Caroline was offered a Pinot Gris once.  For red wines, there seem to be at least three; a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Shiraz.  All six wines are from the same South American winery, Vina Aldea, and they must buy it by the truckload, because they are not stingy with it, even though it’s free.

Anyway, there was an exhibit of ‘folkloric dancing’, which means that four engergetic young dancers whirled around for a full hour, taking breaks only for quick costume changes to represent the Mexican states of Michoacan, Sinaloa, Aguas Calientes, Chihuahua and Jalisco. I got dragged up for the Conga Line, and I cannot even use drunkenness as an excuse.  Caroline shot some video on her iPhone, but if I ever find it on You-tube, she’ll be celebrating our next anniverssary in a singles bar.

Image

This picture was taken on my morning walk.  Got tired of the buses, so got out on the sand today.  Much more tranquil.

Weekend in Mexico

I’m sitting by the beach in Puerto Vallarta today. We had not planned to visit Mexico this winter, but the brutal and endless cold changed our minds. Besides, it was Caroline’s birthday yesterday and our anniversary today or tomorrow, depending on how you reckon things when it is not a leap-year.

Although we have some time constraints, we found that we could come down for just a few days if we flew on WestJet, making the southbound trip via Calgary on Thursday, and returning directly to Winnipeg on Monday.  So Caroline got airline food for her birthday dinner!

The trip has been reasonably uneventful – planes were both running about quarter of an hour late.  Immigration and Customs in PVR were both free of queues.  We were a little too hasty disembarking our taxi at the Hilton, and left our one carry-on bag in the back of  the cab.  Much gnashing of Caroline’s teeth ensued, but our hotel security chief took us to review the security cam recording, enabling us to confirm that the bag was not lifted from the lobby.  A phone call to our WestJet rep resulted in the taxi returning with the overlooked bag (and a manager from the cab company).  Reunited with her tablet, her winter jacket and her Ventalin(tm), Caroline’s mood recovered.

A few words about the hotel.  Sidenote: although I am a regular contributor to Trip Advisor, I do not review hotels there, as Caroline works for a Best Western, and this might give the appearance of bias.  So on Trip Advisor, I only review restaurants and attractions.  In my blog, I comment on hotels, but I do not grade them.  Anyway, back to the Hilton in Puerto Vallarta.  Caroline likes that it’s not huge, as she is directionally challenged.  If you are looking for a place with vast pool areas and nightclubs, this is not for you.  It is an all-inclusive resort, and it is not of the same scale as say, the Riu or the Paladium.  The buffet restaurant is more modest, for instance.  On the other hand, they have not turfed me for hogging a table near the poolside to set up my tablet and blog.  I use a 12″ tablet PC (Asus Slate) with a nearly full-sized keyboard, so I stand out from the herds with their i-Pads.  This makes me look like either a serious writer or a serious dork geek.

Regular readers of my blog, and there are nearly a handful, will recall that I am prone to going for a walk in the morning.  Today, we walked down the main road as far as the Mega store, about half an hour each way.  This took us past the Villa del Palmar, a hotel we stayed at once in the past.  It has been a long time since this part of Vallarta was in the sticks, but we remember when the Pemex gas station was a temporary facility on a dirt lot with the fuel in tank-stands.  I do not have the cable to connect my phone, but I will try to remember to post a picture of the hotel’s driveway.  It is adorned with a row of fake golden boulders with just a faintly discernible face engraved on each one.  From the back, they look like baked potatoes standing on end, so I have christened the street ‘Avenida de los Papas’.

Avenue of the Baked Potatoes

Avenue of the
Baked Potatoes

Stand by for more info on the food and wine.  I do not have much hope for the latter, as all-inclusive hotels in Mexico usually have to control costs by offering modest Argentine or Chilean house wines (some kind of South American free trade agreement makes it hard for Mexican wines to compete.  If only US wines were allowed to undercut Canadian ones like that!)  The sushi  bar is supposed to be good, and that makes sense given the availability of fresh seafood here, but it makes me marvel at how small the world has become.  All food is ‘fusion food’ now.  It always was, I suppose, going back to when the Italians adopted tomatoes from the Americas.  Apparently the notion that Marco Polo brought pasta back from China is more legend than fact, or I would bang my gavel and rest my case.  But hey, Swiss Chocolate – that’s from the new world, too. Continue reading