After a week of living the resort life, we took the bus from the Barcelo into the center of Puerto Vallarta (al centro) where the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 1 -12) was underway, celebrating the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to a peasant in Mexico as well as the anniversary of the founding of Puerto Vallarta (Dec. 12th).
It was our last night in Mexico and we were all in good spirits, happy to be outside of the resort and walking the same streets as the locals. You really can’t ask for a better place to wander than a sprawling street festival, and we charged the streets, looking up at the banners and the people eating out on the second-story restaurant balconies (think New Orleans). The music from one block faded out as you entered another and turned the corner, a different set of Mexican melodies taking its place.
We danced in the streets, ate tacos al pastor, and drank beer on the steps of the town church (although we later learned you technically cannot drink in public). The tacos were the highlight for me – the way they spin the meat (pork) puts a little char on the outside, and as they cut away it continues to slow cook and re-char (see photo). The chef cuts and catches the pineapple from the top of the spindle as he builds your taco – watching them being made was a big part of the experience for me (FYI no stomach ache, no problems whatsoever with eating the street food).
Making the evening even better was the impressive city of Puerto Vallarta – for the most part very clean and inviting. The brand-new promenade along the waterfront is spectacular, a beautiful area to walk as the sun settles for the evening (photos below). Restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, tequila tasting – it’s all there – yet it doesn’t carry the feel of a tourist town.
Once the sun was down and we had our fill of the festival, we decided to put our feet in the sand and post up on the beach (just off the promenade). We drank homemade tequila and it (surprisingly) went down without a chaser. Then again, everything’s easier with your feet in the sand, and the Mexican staple put smiles on our faces and drove the conversation past the obvious to the important stuff – the recognition and appreciation for new friends made through the process of exploration, of being somewhere you’ve never been and truly being yourself – all parties offering their own unique strengths to the journey. We carried our good spirits for a final few drinks at Las Palomas to cap off the evening.
I’m not sure why we all can’t open our eyes a bit towards Mexico – the bad rap that continues to haunt their tourism is simply not fair anymore. In the past year I’ve been to Rosarito Beach, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Coba, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and Manzanillo, and I haven’t had one moment where I felt unsafe.
Assuming you’re operating with a reasonable amount of common sense, I simply don’t see how you could have a problem. The people are friendly, the service fantastic (especially in Cancun and Los Cabos), and reaching out and making a connection has never been a problem. I’ve been enriched by all my trips there – the only situation I can think of that ticked me off was an attempt by a man to rip me off on a car rental in Playa del Carmen (but as a former employee of an American car-rental company I can tell you that happens here, too).
That’s my rant (I’m obviously missing Mexico this morning) and it’s time to move on, but not without the memories (and 1,000 photos to go through).
Here are ten of them of that night in Puerto Vallarta: