I Ate the State – Special Edition: Puerto Vallarta

¡Hola!

Welcome to a special edition of I Ate the State: Puerto Vallarta! 

In keeping with my overarching plan to eat North America, I thought it would be a good idea to get started by visiting the southern state of… Jalisco, Mexico, and more specifically, Puerto Vallarta! Being so close to the Canadian border, I regularly get up to the northern areas of the continent, but this was my first time visiting the southern regions of Mexico. (Other than that one time outside of San Diego when I learned I couldn’t take a rental car across the border… gah!) I regret it’s taken me so long to visit as it was truly a spectacular trip filled with wonderful people, amazing food, beautiful scenery and many fine beverages.  (Ohhh, that sweet nectar, tequila… And did I mention the AMAZING FOOD??) Please join me for a little trip across the border and I’ll share with you my adventures!

Traveling from Seattle, the quickest path is obviously by plane. Flights tend to have one layover, but my stop in San Diego was fairly short (both departing and returning) and the overall travel time was only about 6 hours. Not too shabby considering going from rainy-day Seattle to the polar opposite, sweltering heat of Puerto Vallarta. (May was a very nice time of the year to visit. It’s the off-season, but the weather was nice and it wasn’t rainy or overly-humid.) Plus, the layover in San Diego was just long enough to enjoy a rather tasty Bloody Mary in the airport bar. Buenos días, vacaciones!

When vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, many people opt to stay in the resort area in the northern part of the city/coast. There are many great deals at the hotels and all-inclusive resorts in this part of the city, but my travel buddy had visited Puerto Vallarta many times prior and had the lowdown on the slightly less touristy areas to stay.  After arriving at the airport and grabbing a taxi (we caught one around back of the airport and across the foot bridge – away from the throng of tourist-trap cabs), we headed towards Puerto Vallarta’s “Old Town,” also known as the Romantic Zone. It’s still very tourist accessible, but less modern with lovely, traditional architecture and cobblestone streets filled with local artists, shops and wonderful restaurants.

During her recent visits to Puerto Vallarta, my friend discovered a great beach condo in the Los Muertos Beach area. The very spacious (we each had our own gigantic rooms w/private bathrooms!), well-appointed spot we landed in was directly across from the beach on the Malecon and happened to be owned by a farming couple from Indiana. (It’s apparently fairly common in the area for people to own condos on the beach and rent them out when they’re not in town.) My friend found it on VRBO and for the excellent price of $150/night, we were seriously in vacation paradise. Add in a wrap-around deck with pristine views of the ocean and waves lulling me to sleep at night and it was seriously hard to leave. (Pro tip #1: Finding a place with solid air-conditioning is key. Not a lot of the shops and restaurants had AC, so being able to periodically pop back to the condo was a much appreciated respite from the heat.)

Since we arrived fairly early in the day, it was perfect timing to casually acclimate ourselves to the area and do a bit of shopping for the week. As the condo had a great kitchen, we wanted to stock up on the basics like coffee, snacks, ice, etc. and… tequila. (Pro tip #2: Having a bag of ice in the freezer is incredibly important when concocting tasty margaritas.) It was also a great way to initially acquaint ourselves with the lay of the land.

Whenever and wherever I travel, I want to get to know the day-to-day feel of the city and its people. I like to get off the beaten tourist path and experience the actual flow of the city and what makes it unique. Having lived in Seattle for many years, it always makes me sad when visitors only get (or want) to see the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. Granted, those are great spots, but there is so much more to experience beyond those confines. I’d like to think that every city has the same story… Puerto Vallarta was certainly no exception.

And with that, I highly recommend the following local spots for stocking up on necessities for your visit:  (Like socks. Because you (or maybe I) forgot them. And tequila.)

  • Pro Tip #3: Buy your tequila away from the tourist traps on the Malecon. We hit up the Vinos América store a few blocks off the Malecon and got two great bottles of tequila for a total of $20 US! WOW!! Nothing like making a scratch margarita and watching the sunset over the ocean – from your deck!
  • Find exceptionally fresh produce and staples at Mercado Emiliano Zapata. I picked up all the fixings to make a huge batch of guacamole for only $2 US! The fresh guac along with the fresh tortilla chips I grabbed from the restaurant downstairs made for quite a pairing with the deck margaritas.
  • You say you forgot to bring hairspray? Maybe you underestimated your need for SPF 1000? There are many local pharmacy options, but we hit up Farmacia Guadalajara and all our drugstore needs were met. (Including the best can of Aqua Net I’ve EVER SEEN! Which I promptly purchased.)
  • Need a quick spot for beer, ice, snacks, etc.? Check out one of the many OXXO Mini Mart locations in the area. Think 7-11.
  • Missing the halcyon days of the candy and ice cream counters at Woolworth? Look no further, Woolworth is still around in Mexico!! I’m not gonna lie – I was very excited about this discovery. It’s been a long time… (And I got an excellent deal on SOCKS! And cookies…)

After spending the day orienting ourselves and doing some random snacking, it was time for an official meal. To say I’d been looking forward to Mexican food in Mexico would be a mighty understatement. Mexican cuisine has been a cherished staple in my life for as long as I can remember. I feel pretty lucky to have always been surrounded by wonderful resources and examples of Mexican food, art and culture, but being able to experience the beauty of Mexico in person was truly a dream come true. Since we still needed to stock up on one of Mexico’s finest treasures, coffee, and my friend knew of an excellent restaurant which also featured fresh roasted coffee and chocolate along with delicious desserts and hand-rolled cigars, off we went to check out Vallarta Factory.  (A few blocks off the Malecon, heading into Old Town)

Oh, man, was that good!! Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs that night, but it wasn’t too sad an ending as we ended up with a good stash of leftovers for the next couple days. I had to try the Chile Relleno as it is one of my favorite dishes and we also ordered the fried cheese (WOW!), chips and guacamole, a burrito w/home fries (why not?) and several, very tasty margaritas. Everything was delicious! After boxing up our ample leftovers, we stocked up on in-house roasted coffee (beans brought down from the nearby mountains) and practically rolled out the door. Since I knew I wanted to bring home some of the delicious coffee, we came back a couple days later and tried out their breakfast offerings. Again, we weren’t disappointed and the Poblano chile omelet I had was amazing. The topper at the Vallarta Factory, in my opinion, was something I picked up at their adjacent chocolate shop; the caramel coated, in-house roasted cacao beans. (Seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten – Also brought down from local mountains.) OMG NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM! I brought back a couple bags and fully intended to use them as gifts, but must report to have failed miserably at that plan. While I did, however, share a small portion of them, I ate the rest of them all by myself. ALL THE BEANS! ALL BY MYSELF.

Selfishness and personal weakness aside, please hear my plea. Regardless of the fact I callously ate the majority of the beans I brought back and likely didn’t share any with you, PLEASE bring me some back if you happen to go to Puerto Vallarta. I will pay you money. COLD. HARD. CASH.  I’ll be your cash ca-cao!  (Thank you, thank you – I’ll be here all week. Try the cacao!) I need some more of those beans…

Since I was just in Puerto Vallarta for a week, I was only able to take in a small sampling of the amazing culinary options available. I had several great meals, but here’s a quick list of some of my favorite stops:

  • If mole is your thing, it’s a must that you check out El Mole de Jovita. My friend knew the very gracious and gregarious owner, Sergio from her past visits and she strongly advised we make a pilgrimage to his restaurant. As I’ve come to understand, mole recipes are highly regarded, prized and often guarded family secrets and this particular restaurant was featuring Sergio’s mother’s beloved mole recipes. I’m certainly glad we stopped in as all the mole versions we tried were positively delicious and potentially addicting. I’m quite sure if I lived in the area I’d be a regular fixture at El Mole de Jovita. It was also a lovely accompaniment to our meal that a very talented guitarist was performing Jazz standards at the front of the restaurant.
  • I am a great fan of migas and was very happy we stumbled upon Café San Angel one (late) morning. We’d been planning to check out Salud Super Food (see below), but they were apparently closed on Sundays. Our initial misfortune was turned happily around when our breakfast dishes arrived on the table. (preceded by a tasty round of Bloody Marys) The migas was a great combination of fluffiness with the eggs and a chewy-crunch of the hand-cut and fried corn tortilla strips. Throw in the spice of the diced Serrano peppers and a healthy dose of hot sauce and I was in breakfast nirvana. Our meals also included delicious baguette loaves on the side with whipped butter and jam. It was the perfect way to start the day.
Migas
One of the most delicious breakfast dishes EVER – Migas.
  • After initially being shut down on Sunday, we hit up Salud Super Food later in the week and were much appeased by their great rice bowls, wraps, salads and very cheerful setting. I had the Thai Super Bowl and Salud salad and was completely impressed with the freshness, flavor and creativity of the dishes. It was also a good break from the heavier dishes I’d been indulging in throughout the week. I didn’t try the smoothies or coffee, but everything I saw coming to nearby tables looked quite delicious. We even ran into a tourist couple that week who stopped us and asked if we knew where this restaurant was. It’s apparently one of the better known spots for offering great vegetarian and vegan options.
Breakfast
A very healthy and tasty breakfast from Salud Super Food
  • One iconic Mexican food I was very excited to partake of in Mexico was the real-deal, non-crunchy-shelled, good ol’ fashioned taco. For the record, I would eat any of the tacos I tried in Puerto Vallarta every day, for pretty much every meal. (Okay – I might break it up here and there with some Chile Relleno or something, but I digress.)  I tried several varieties of tacos throughout the week at several different places, but here are a few of my favorites:
    • Pancho’s Takos
      • Their tacos al pastor are absolutely delectable. The meat is prepared on a spit, similarly to doner kebabs or gyros and is deliciously rich and spicy. The beef top-round tacos were also particularly tasty. The menu overall is quite extensive and it’s safe to say you could eat many meals here and never have the same order.  All of the accompaniments that come with the tacos are equally delicious and a couple were quite Eat with caution!

        TacosPastor
        Delicious Tacos Pastor from Pancho’s Takos
    • Mariscos Cisneros
      • This place rocked my world, plain and simple. It was recommended to me by a couple I met during my Puerto Vallarta travels and I’m so glad I was able to visit this place. I am a complete sucker for a good fish taco and Mariscos Cisneros had the best I’ve ever had!  On top of that, their shrimp tacos and their deep fried, cheese-stuffed jalapeno taco were to die for!

        FishTacos
        Fish taco, shrimp taco, deep fried & cheese-stuffed jalapeno taco – ALL DELICIOUS!
    • Tacos Robles
      • While we didn’t actually get to eat here, we did try a couple of times! They had already closed for the day on both attempts and we were rather bummed. I’d been given rave reviews by my new friends who said it was a must-try. They’d stopped by while on the Vallarta Eats food tour and loved it. Next time! (SIDE NOTE: When eating in a restaurant and a guy walks up to your table and offers you shots of tequila he and his wife can’t finish as they’ve already had several shots, don’t question the situation – just take the shots. This was the scene one evening early in our trip. Long story short, they were a lovely Canadian couple, Jen and Jorgen from just across the Washington State border. We ended up sharing a couple of shots at the restaurant and then most of a bottle later on that night – along with many stories and the realization we all had several things in common as well as acquaintances. I also ended up hanging out with them throughout the week and will hopefully get to meet up with them this winter. It really is a small world…)
    • Tacos Revolucion
      • I think this is where we met our Canadian friends for the first time. I don’t entirely know, to be honest… that whole night is a little blurry now. Heh… At any rate, I know Jen and Jorgen went here as part of the Vallarta Eats tour and loved it. And whatever food I ate the night we ran into them was delicious, so I’m just going to officially equate the two! Voila!!
    • In general and overall, there were so many amazing looking taco stands and restaurants in the Old Town area. You’d need several weeks to even remotely try them all. In addition, on nearly every corner there are single-vendor, street food opportunities and little mini-carts selling delicious churros, frozen treats, cold drinks, baked goods – you name it! Don’t be afraid to turn your afternoon into a delicious food crawl. And be sure to stop into one of the countless bars along the way to round it off with a cold cerveza or tasty margarita.

A few additional foodie tips:

  • If you’re not quite sure where to start – or maybe you want to go deep into the foodie under stuffed belly, check out the Vallarta Eats food tours. They are quite extensive and offer many options to help one get to know the Puerto Vallarta food scene.
  • If you happen to be in Puerto Vallarta mid-May to mid-June, check out Restaurant Week Puerto Vallarta We have Restaurant Week in Seattle and it’s always a great – and economical – way to check out that fancy place you’ve always wanted to try. Or just stock up on visits to all your favorites!
  • The Romantic Zone / Old Town area of Puerto Vallarta is packed to the brim with cafes, restaurants, bars, beachside dining, street vendors, etc. It is a veritable smorgasbord of foodie opportunity. The main part of the Malecon and the resort end of the beach have all of the chain dining opportunities, but if you want to experience the beating heart of Mexican cuisine at its finest, head directly to this area and ENJOY!
  • Dining out, on any level in Puerto Vallarta is incredibly economical. TRY IT ALL!

Since I’ve mentioned it a few times, let’s talk about the Malecon

The Malecon is a beautiful promenade stretching about a mile along the stunning beaches of Puerto Vallarta. It is lined with wonderful sculptures and statues and is chock-a-block with (sometimes overpriced) shops, restaurants, street vendors, musicians and even Aztec dancers! While I personally prefer the vibe of the Old Town nightlife and restaurant scene, there are numerous spring-breakesque opportunities and general adventure to be had within the main section of the Malecon as well.  They also have a great community amphitheater area with regularly featured local performers. During our visit, the Down Puerto Vallarta bike race was taking place with the end point being directly on the Malecon. (Crazy race with bicyclists and trick riders rocketing down the narrow cobblestone streets towards the Malecon.) On the whole, the Malecon is always a great place for a stroll and the perfect location for people watching. It is also the definitive spot to take in one of the consistently breathtaking sunsets.

Paradise
Pretty sure this is one of my favorite pictures EVER. And it was even better standing there in the moment…
Sunset2
Sigh…

Tucked just behind the length of the Malecon, the cobblestone streets and squares are packed with beautiful examples of classic Mexican architecture and floral-lined, shop-filled adventure. The nearly 100-year old, Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe is about a block off the Malecon and if you’re a fan of neo-classical or renaissance design (it has both!), it’s well worth investigating. Lovely little bridges cross over the Rio Cuale as it winds its way to the nearby ocean and you’ll find many swimmers enjoying the fresh river water before it flows into the ocean. Not to be missed on the Rio Cuale is the Cuale Island Flea Market, an amazing and extensive flea market filled with local artisans and is close to great little restaurants, a museum featuring local artifacts and a network of walkways and suspended foot bridges. And if you happen to be walking across one of the bridges, be sure to check over the side towards the riverbank – you might just see a family of (giant) iguanas!

Pro Tip #4: You will also be treated to a plethora of bird-watching opportunities all along the Malecon. Prehistoric looking Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds are everywhere, but be wary, my friends – these are giant birds and with giant birds, comes giant bird poop. My friend had quite a dive-bomb run-in with a Magnificent Frigatebird and it was *not* a pretty situation. Suffice to say she had to immediately go take a shower to get rid of both the large quantity of poop in her hair as well as the very pungent dead fish smell. Yowsa. Remain vigilant when one of these prehistorically giant poop-wielders is flying overhead…

As is definitely the case while hanging out along the Malecon, there are shopping opportunities aplenty throughout Puerto Vallarta. Even though I was only there for a week, I found a few favorites I will absolutely hit up on my next visit.

  • I found the most amazing and intricately beaded pieces at the Tierra huichol gallery along the Malecon. From tiny pieces beaded and embroidered in the Huichol tradition to life-sized busts and large landscapes, the work is stunning. There are a few spots in Puerto Vallarta featuring this type of artwork, but this was my favorite shop. The staff was very knowledgeable and friendly and there were a wide variety of pieces to enjoy. I picked up two beautifully beaded musical notes depicting various Huichol symbols and a small, embroidered piece representing the union of sun and moon. I would have loved to have taken home one of the larger pieces, but I didn’t have room in my luggage. I do, however, think they will ship internationally.
  • One of my favorite purchases was handcrafted by glass maker, Carlos Rosas. Based out of his shop, Glass Design Gallery on Basilio Badillo in the Old Town, Carlos not only designs beautiful glass figurines and sculptures, but will also craft pieces to your personal specifications. My friend had visited his shop on prior visits and he made her several beautiful and incredibly accurate glass figurines based on her dogs. I brought him a picture of my beloved bass guitar and he completely nailed the scale and features.
  • Running a very close second in favorite purchases, are the ceramic tiles I picked up at Mundo de Azulejos in the Old Town. There were so many unique style and designs – I would LOVE to someday decorate a patio or kitchen with them. In the meantime, I made do with these gems:
  • If you’re in need of some beautiful glassware or glass sculptures, Mundo de Cristal is a must for your list. Because of my purchases at this gallery, I was forced to check my luggage heading home. (I hate checking my luggage.) I have no regrets, however, as I absolutely love my new margarita glasses and tumblers. I’m convinced they make everything taste better. It’s just science. I was also happy to learn you can order online and they will ship internationally. GOOD – I can fill out the rest of my collection!
Tequila_Glasses
I love these glasses! I brought back a couple of matching tumblers as well. Tequila courtesy of the excellent Mr. Tequila tasting room.
  • Wow – I guess I officially can’t decide on my favorite purchase as I LOVE these t-shirts… I found these two beauties at a shop selling Karani-Art, just around the corner from where I was staying. (I believe on Lázaro Cárdenas, across from the lovely square, El Parque de los Azulejos.) Not only did they have a cool selection of custom Star Wars designs, it was a veritable nerd-vana with all sorts of superhero and video game designs to choose from. There were also some very lovely floral-based designs should Star Wars not be your thing. (What?? How can Star Wars not be your thing?? I thought I knew you…)
Star Wars!
There was no way I could say no to these guys. The Force was too strong with them…
  • If you’re in the market for something quirky, antique, unique or lovely, do make a stop into the Muy Guapo gallery in the Old Town. The manager, Enrique Zepeda, is incredibly charming, knowledgeable and happy to hang out and discuss local art and culture for as long you’d like.  I picked up a fantastic “poison ring” while I was there and I’ve been wearing it non-stop.  (Disclaimer: I don’t plan on poisoning anyone.) Enrique is also a talented artist and photographer and he and his sister, Marisa also have a stall in the Cuale Island Flea Market.
  • While this wasn’t really a place to shop, it was indeed interesting – and worth checking out. (If you’re not squeamish.) Hit up the Kai Spa, just down and to the side of the stairs leading into the outdoor market, if you’re looking to have your feet nibbled on by a hungry, toothless school of Garra-rufa fish. I did the package which included a (generous) glass of wine, 15-min of fishy nibbling and a very nice pedicure. The glass of wine definitely improved my willingness to allow fish to nibble on my feet, and when was all said and done, I felt pretty relaxed and ready for some more cobblestone pounding.

If you’re in Puerto Vallarta for more than a few days, I highly recommend exploring the neighboring towns and villages. The mountains and jungles surrounding the area are stunning and many can be reached by a reasonable drive or water taxi. The two areas I was able to visit were the coastal village of, Yelapa and the amazing Eden Canopy area near Mismaloya.

For our visit to Yelapa, we took a very reasonably priced water taxi ($17 RT) from the very cool Pier at Los Muertos just past the Malecon. It’s about a 40-minute ride in a small skiff up the coastline. (Where you will inevitably ride along with supplies heading to local villages.) If you’re not good with small boats and somewhat choppy waters, I’d recommend heading further up the road and taking the water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan as it’s a much shorter boat ride. (There are inexpensive bus and taxi options from Puerto Vallarta to Boca. The water taxis typically make a couple of stops along the way at local village piers.) Along the way, we passed beautiful beaches and smaller coastal villages as well as the stunning rock formations of the Los Arcos Marine Park (Las Peñas). Turning into the small cove that protects Yelapa to see the white sand beaches, beach huts and homes dotting the hills rising up from the village was absolutely striking. As we pulled up to the beach and jumped out of the boat and into the crystal clear water lapping at the shore, I knew we were in for an excellent afternoon adventure.

Since we were only making a short day trip of it and there are limited returns to Puerto Vallarta, we only had about four or so hours to pack in our Yelapa adventure.  We started out by enjoying a tasty beverage at one of the beachside huts and things took off from there. While enjoying our drinks under the shade of the hut, we had the pleasure of meeting one of the famous Yelapa “pie ladies” as she made her way up the beach and purchased a couple of slices to take back with us. (Seriously – try the pies!) We also ended up chatting with Clara, a local jewelry vendor and we both came away with lovely, silver rings. There were a few other local vendors and shops on the beach as well – all with interesting goods to sell and stories to tell. After feeling thoroughly relaxed from our beach sojourn, it was time to go for a little hike up into the hills of the surrounding village and see the view from above.

Taking off into the lower village area, behind the beach huts, we followed a trail leading towards the inlet, through jungle groves and towards the upper village. Should you desire, you can hire one of the three modes of transportation in Yelapa to take you up the hill. You’ve got your burro option, your ATV option and your classic, bipedal option. (There are no vehicles in Yelapa.) We chose Option 3 and began to make our way up the trail. Once we got towards the top, the view opened up over the cove and it was simply breathtaking. (Also, we were somewhat out of breath from walking up the hill.) We wandered around for a short spell and I had a great time looking out over the cove, dreaming of commandeering one of the many sailboats anchored in the cove. Sigh… Someday. Right out of Romancing the Stone, I tell ya. Someday…

In the upper village, there is a small handful of restaurant and lodging opportunities, but as we were only there for a few hours, we were sadly unable to do much investigating. I also would’ve loved to check out the upper waterfall, but I’ll have to save that for next time. (And there was a high probability it was actually dry in May…) We did, however, sweat off at least 5 lbs. while trekking around the village, so I guess that was a spa bonus. Woo – it was HOT! Pro tip #5: Make sure you bring water with you. There are indeed a couple of little stands along the path once you get into the upper village, but even walking a mile uphill in the tropical heat can seriously wear you down. Go prepared!

Since our time was running out and we still wanted to grab a snack before leaving, we headed back down the cobblestone and dirt trails towards the beach. After fording the (not so raging) river, we popped back on the beach and made our way back to the shade of the beach huts. After downing some much needed water, we enjoyed a very delicious shrimp stuffed avocado and a large supply of chips and salsa. And of course, some more margarita action… There’s water in tequila, right? And not long enough after our adventure had begun, we were back on our tiny water chariot to Puerto Vallarta.

For the record, the next time I visit the Puerto Vallarta area, I fully intend on spending several days in Yelapa. I’m quite convinced the serene, lush surroundings would be the perfect backdrop to write that sure-to-be-a-classic novel. Or maybe I’d just read a novel while lounging in my beach hut or while drinking a tasty beverage on the actual beach… Tomato / Tomatoe – I think whatever I ended up doing in Yelapa would be absolutely enjoyable. Maybe not productive, but absolutely enjoyable…

Another adventure I was able to enjoy just outside of Puerto Vallarta was an amazing visit to the Eden Canopy near the Mismaloya area. I’ve always wanted to do a zipline tour and the Eden Canopy seemed to have a pretty cool one through the tree tops of the Sierra Madre Mountains. (Where the movie Predator was filmed!) There was a great deal going with the Puerto Vallarta Tours and I decided to get on board. (They had many other interesting looking tours and I fully intend on exploring more options on my next visit. Very helpful staff as well!)

Just two blocks away from where I was staying, I was picked up in an open-air, military style transport vehicle and shipped up the coast towards the Mismaloya area. I was excited to see a little bit of this area as it is not only a big part of the Puerto Vallarta origin story, it was also where the classic film, Night of the Iguana was filmed, starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. You can still see some of the movie set from the beach. As the road winds along the gorgeous coastline towards the mountains, it was very understandable how the area could inspire so many artists, writers and filmmakers to incorporate the local beauty into their artwork.

Along this road, I passed by the hotel our new Canadian friends were staying at in Boca de Tomatlan. They’d shown us pictures of the private beach and I have to say it was really quite spectacular. I’d planned on stopping by to visit them on my way back from the zipline tour, but I had a minor incident which caused me to head back to the condo instead…

In a nutshell, it’s important to know how to properly slow oneself down when zip-lining/careening through the jungle treetops. For instance, it’s generally inadvisable to accidentally allow one of your hands to slip off the handlebars as you’re coming in hot to the landing area. (Even if it’s by accident.) It just might cause you to slide into the concrete landing pad sideways on your leg and shoulder, thereby resulting in various scrapes and abrasions. And then, even if you are generally okay after said landing and you prematurely pop up and are like, “Heeeey, I’m fine! Nothin’ to see here – Let’s move onto the next, even faster zipline!” (Gulp.) – It’s probably a good thing when the nice zipline attendants cut you off from any further treetop-careening action.  (Yes, it’s true – I got cut off from doing the very last, super-fast zipline at the very end of the tour. I was bummed, but I did get to do nine pretty excellent lines before my crash down. WOO!) (But I was still bummed. And somewhat embarrassed. And really glad I knew NO ONE on the tour.)

Zipline
I was having more fun than it appears – I swear! This was also before I slammed into the landing area. :-}

After traversing back down through the crazy jungle scene where several times I saw the bushes rustling very suspiciously (Gulp.), we ended up back at the main base and I immediately went to the bar/restaurant to heal my wounds with beer and guacamole. And some very delicious shrimp fajitas. And a lovely serenade by a solo bassist/vocalist.  All’s well that ends well, I guess. And while I would totally do the tour again, I think next time I’ll bring gloves so my sweaty jungle hands don’t slip off the stupid handlebars. Accidentally.

After we said goodbye to the guy sweating it out all day long in the Predator costume and boarded our jungle transport vehicle for home, we learned we were making a pit-stop at the Tequila tasting room down the road. Those scrapes and bruises were quickly being forgotten, for sure! About a mile back down the awesomely bumpy road and through tiny, roadside villages, we landed at the Mr. Tequila tasting room. Score! While I’d tried several types of tequila since my arrival in Puerto Vallarta, I was excited to learn more about the tequila making process, especially since it is almost entirely produced in the very state I was visiting, Jalisco.

Featuring El Paseilla Charro tequila, we learned of the entire process of making tequila, a little about the agave farming process (it takes about 8 years for an agave plant to mature!), the different types of tequila and the aging process and a little about the several generations of the family responsible for El Paseilla Charro tequila. We were then treated to an excellent tasting of several different varieties of tequila, from the younger Silver varieties all the way up to the swanky, Extra Añejo style. (Our tasting room guide explained Extra Añejo tequila is usually only brought out for special occasions, such as weddings… and divorces.) I would’ve loved to have brought back a bottle of the swanky stuff, but my wallet assured me I’d be just fine with a bottle of their very tasty Reposado instead. And as I’m planning neither marriage nor divorce in the near future, it should do quite nicely…

Well, I guess that about wraps up my much-too-short attempt to eat the state of Jalisco and the city of Puerto Vallarta. To say I was completely charmed by the loveliness of Puerto Vallarta, its people, culture, food – the list goes on – doesn’t begin to describe it. Traveling somewhere for the first time is always an awakening – that feeling of experiencing something beautiful and amazing for the first time is completely intoxicating. Making new friends (Hello, Jen and Jorgen!), trying new foods, seeing new sights – There really is nothing like it. As we grow older, that sense of wonder seems more and more elusive and just a little harder to come by, but is all the more poignant when we find it. Traveling internationally further extends that sense of wonder as it allows one to take in culture, people, languages and delicious, delicious food you might not be able to authentically experience in your home town. I know I will always treasure my first-visit memories of the lovely city of Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding treasures and will be on a constant hunt to find fish tacos that come even close to the ones I had at Mariscos Cisneros. Sigh…

And on a more specific food note, I did quite a bit of pondering about the significance of food in my life while enjoying my time in Mexico. I leave you with my thoughts…

Food equalizes. We all eat. We all need food to survive. Food is necessity, just as it is family, culture, peace, and at times, sustenance in times of conflict. While it can bring great joy amongst family and friends, breaking bread with someone can also significantly mean the difference between agreement and strife. And as we often acknowledge the importance of taking time to share meals with family, we should also acknowledge the same importance in breaking bread with our neighbors. Be they next door, in the next state or on the other side of the world and of an entirely different culture, lifestyle or doctrine, we can expand our understanding and the greater good if we simply sit down and share a meal. And who knows, maybe you get introduced to that recipe you never you knew you couldn’t live without – or make a friend with whom you’d never have imagined having something in common. Food is a powerful ambassador and can speak to us all on a very fundamental level. If we heed the message and learn to enjoy its bounty, it has the ability to infinitely expand our palates and our overall understanding of the world around us.

Until next time – Cheers!

A list of tunes that kept me company during my Puerto Vallarta stay – Check it out on Spotify

  • Madre Tierra (Oye)Chayanne (Three words: Chayanne is dreamy.)
  • Ay MamaChayanne
  • Salome (Club Mix-Radio Edit)Chayanne
  • GauchoSteely Dan (Looking out over the ocean, listening to The Dan. Yes, please.)
  • Kid CharlemagneSteely Dan
  • Do It AgainSteely Dan
  • Amor VerdaderoAfro-Cuban All Stars
  • Chan ChanBuena Vista Social Club (Grab a mojito and enjoy…)
  • EsquadrosAdrianna Calcanhotto
  • El Piragüero – Bio Ritmo
  • So Much Trouble in the WorldBob Marley & the Wailers (Wise words from Bob…)
  • Is This LoveBob Marley & the Wailers
  • Uncle John’s BandGrateful Dead
  • From John to JohnnyP. Torres
  • Who’s SmokingP. Torres
  • For ElsaP. Torres (Sitting on the deck, watching the sunset… Sigh…)
  • Mi niña LolaBuika
  • MagalenhaSergio Mendes
  • Patria Ruben Blades
  • Mis Tres NotasOmar Sosa
  • Fiesta Pa’Los RumberosAlbita
  • Highway to HellAC/DC (The zipline tour guide was playing this on our drive up the mountain. Hmmm.)
  • Bye Bye Bye*NSYNC (Ummm, this one, too… Eeesh.)
  • MacarenaLos Del Rio (OMG THEY PLAYED THIS SONG NONSTOP ON THE MALECON IN FRONT OF OUR CONDO THE LAST THREE NIGHTS WE WERE THERE. FOR HOURS ON END. WHHHHHYYY??? Just thought I’d share the joy with you. You’re welcome.)

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