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Published: December 23rd 2008
Note to the reader:
I lived in Puerto Vallarta in a little pink house I called Casa Rosita for four winters writing, reading, taking art and Spanish classes and living la vida dulce. Since then, many things have changed; the city has grown and the lifestyle is vastly influenced by Americans and Canadians. I write from the perspective of being a long-time visitor to Vallarta and area.
May 25th 2008
It’s official: the ex-pats have taken over my beloved Vallarta. I am sitting on the patio at Starbuck’s, the final frontier of the coffee world. I need to find my bearings in the new landscape of life here and I will suss out a Mexican café for my lattes, someplace with beans from Chiapas.
The Starbuck’s is located in a mall near the hotel, which looks nothing like Mexico but everything like California. One good thing is my bank is located in this mall so I can make withdrawals easily. I think I am in the same room as the one I stayed in for a few days when I first landed in Vallarta after the France Fiasco. They offered to move me in front
of the pool today after a huge group leaves today. The desk clerk seemed to like me and gave me an all-inclusive package although it clearly states I didn’t pay for one.
Gina picked me up at the aeropuerto and got me to the hotel before the crew from my flight. We went to a chi-chi club on the beach for sunset margaritas but it was, once again very American and outrageously expensive.
My gay “boyfriend” who works for Gina (hair stylist) ever so sweetly had a straight friend of his stay on in PV for an extra day to greet me before returning to Guadalajara to greet me. Abel had a hair course to attend out of town and his friend was here for a conference.
I asked Gina if we could go for a traditional Mexican dinner and, if possible, one of the dinners set up in homes on Saturday nights. Thankfully, they still exist here. We went to Pittial and had crispy chicken tacos and flan and Juan Manuel had pozole, a traditional and popular soup. Delicioso. He asked if I wanted to go dancing at an old haunt after we had a drink,
but I was too tired for an all-nighter of dancing. Besides, he has a girlfriend in Guadalajara.
The weather here is gorgeous; it is normally scorching hot at this time but if it stays this way, it will be perfect.
At home, it appears that within the last 24 hours that I have been gone, the river has risen drastically and may flood again. Rita has written, got the key from Lynn, and has been in my apartment to move my storage things upstairs. Rita is that kind of a friend; she would immediately take care of things, even though it is a huge pain in the ass to move someone else’s junk.
The hotel was filled with Mexicans this morning for the buffet and at the pool. I people-watched and observed that the Mexicans are now suffering from weight issues since they are living a life influenced by north of the border. All of the men were overweight with flabby chests and arms and protruding bellies and many women and children had too much weight for good health.
Gina has a ticket for me for tonight’s event at the Marriott. It’s the Fifth Annual International
Festival of Altruism and thirty hotels are participating with a food and wine fest. One of her clients had given a ticket to Abel but he has gone to Guadalajara so I am the lucky recipient!
A young guy woke me up at 5:30 am, incessantly knocking on the door next to me. He was out late without a key, something I probably did with my friends years ago, annoying other hotel guests.
I went out to the festival last night and met up with Gina, her husband Paco, one of her employees and her parents. I’ve not seen so many bad facelifts and boob jobs since I went to San Miguel de Allende, which has a huge ex-pat population. I was a bit shocked; we don’t have many women in Calgary with this type of triple-face-lifted look. It reminded me of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
It was also such a stark contrast to Oaxaca after having been there only in January. There are few ex-pats and all are more “organic” and the Mexicans, Zapotecas and Mixtecas surely don’t look like this. As well, people dress conservatively in the city of Oaxaca and
you see no shorts and few short skirts or bare arms. As is customary for the coast, the clothes dwindle down to the bare minimum.
I am sitting in an old café, Una Pagina en el Sol (A Page in the Sun)
in Old Vallarta and things are mostly the same down here. I even recognize a lot of the people. I will write for a while and then check out some of the new shops. Vallarta is now considered the wealthiest coastal city and it is apparent in the new, high-end vehicles everywhere and the upgrade in fashion and dining.
It’s late night right now and I was attempting to meditate poolside but was kicked off of the chairs by the night guard. The cuizas (a type of lizard) are creating a beautiful ruckus in the palms and will all night long. I’ve come out to my private patio.
The hotel is older and the grounds are mature and pretty. There is a humongous thatched-roof bar by the pool and it is lush with palms and foliage here. Tonight I got showered and took the bus downtown to my old favorite Italian joint,
La Dolce Vita. I stopped there today to see if the menu and ownership is the same and was surprised that one of the owners remembered me and knew exactly the point in time that I lived here. All of the waiters are the same as they have been for the past fifteen years so it must be a good position. Almost all of them remembered me, and my waiter tonight sweetly slid past a discount. The spaghetti Amatriciana is exactly as I remember it to be with a hint of fresh rosemary.
I have had another blast from the past; I ran into an old friend, Ruben, on Playa los Muertos today.
I never realized how significant this hotel was until I stepped foot in it again after all these years. This is, as well, the hotel where I stayed directly after my divorce. I could not walk due to severe sciatica. I looked down the walkway to the beach today and had an immediate image flash into my mind of my two friends literally carrying me off to the beach to deposit me under a palapa each day.
Giant cucarachas started scurrying across the patio
Beaches of Bucerias
Margaritas on Sale!
so I came in. I should probably go to bed anyway…
I am listening to two Italian men debate life in their sing-song way at a new café at La Marina. It is owned by an Italian but I think his coffee beans are not from Chiapas; too weak for my taste. His homemade bread, on the other hand, is fantastic.
I went to Hotel Paloma del Mar yesterday to find Adriana but she has just left for a two-week vacation so I will miss her. I remembered the clerk, Olivia, from many years ago, but she has not been working at the hotel for the past ten years and only returned last month. It dawned on her who I was and that I had lived in the “penthouse” long ago.
When I left La Dolce Vida last night, I walked down Avenida Mexico for a stroll to catch the bus near my old neighborhood. A man in a white car honked and waved at me. Then at the bus stop on the next street he appeared and came over to ask me out. “No,” I said, “I must catch the bus.” “Can I accompany you on the bus?” “No. Gracias.” When I got off at my stop, there he was! He came over to give me his card and tell me he was returning to Guadalajara today. He did not frighten me but I was surprised at his persistence.
I was awakened once again at 5:00 a.m., thinking there was a fire. My room smelled heavily of smoke and then I realized it was cigarette smoke and not a fire. I wrapped myself in a towel to look in the hall and three young girls were right outside my door smoking themselves senseless. The boys had brought them home and I asked them why they were not smoking in the room but they said the fire alarm was going off - that’s how heavily they were smoking. More tossing and turning for over an hour. Thank God the brats leave today.
Yesterday in Old Vallarta after my latte, I went to find a real estate office that I knew of. I am curious about what’s available right now. I found an ad for a place in the Marina for sale by owner in one of the papers he gave me and I have a tentative appointment for tomorrow morning.
No trip to Vallarta is complete without Pepe’s Tacos, so I hopped the bus last night to have a late dinner there. Their tacos El Pastor are to die for.
This is Mexico’s version of gyros or donair meat, but better. The pork is marinated and barbequed open-flame on a spit with a pineapple on top. The pork is sliced off onto a corn tortilla along with sliced pineapple, cilantro and onions. Tacos Volcan are almost the same but on a toasted tortilla with cheese. My waiter indulged me with extra pineapple. Yum.
It is Restaurant Week and the better restaurants have their most creative three course meals on for a set price of either 169 pesos or 269 pesos. I would like to take Gina to Café de Artistes which is superb dining run by a Frenchman. It’s an ideal time to try the best international chefs in Vallarta.
A man who sat with me on the bus two nights ago sat with me again last night after his shift as a security guard. He said if we meet again for a third time, he must ask me out for a beer.
The hotel is busy in spite of low season. I am enjoying the breakfasts, watching the birds steal fruit and the giant iguana sun himself on the archway. There are trees laden with mangoes and avocados amongst the palms.
I was going to go back downtown for a nice dinner but feel mellow so just stayed at the hotel and had the buffet. The gift of the all-inclusive has actually worked out nicely.
Yesterday on the Marina I ran into Martin. He is a guy I dated a couple of times and I won’t forget an embarrassing date moment a couple of years ago with him. He’s now married. I am amazed that I run into people considering the growth here.
I purchased eighteen roses for myself last night and wrote a little note in Spanish asking the maid for a vase. She took them and left a note of gracias!
The lively Quebecois who owns the condo I mentioned came to pick me up to see his place. He is allegedly owns a vineyard in the Mendoza region of Argentina and said he left Montreal after a snowstorm in May twenty years ago and never returned. His condo is lovely and the location is good.
It’s already day six. Time flies. I am supposed to do a bunch of “chores” down here: pay a bank loan for a Mexican girl in Kelowna, pick up eye drops for Lynn, deliver a gift to Leo, barter for a batch of silver for mum, get my teeth cleaned ($35.00 here vs $175.00 in Canada, since I have no insurance now), maybe see a dermatologist, go see Lana’s friend’s property in Boca de Tomatlan, do the corrections on my book and meet with a photographer to shoot the cover of my book. I’ve done none.
I got the loan paid, so that’s one thing.
Gina and I had dinner out last night for Restaurant Week. We had a nice dinner at Cilantro’s but a very rude owner spoiled the experience. She’s involved with animal rescue so she got a rash of calls while we had dinner, but I guess it’s for a good cause. Her neighbors across the street have very kindly agreed to allow me to use their home. I’ll be out in Bucerias and it will be good to chill out. I’ve been running around all over PV so it’s not really relaxing.
Mexico is all about mating. Being single is an aberration and one that is not tolerated for long. My evening of stroll on the Malecon and dinner out was a reminder of that last night. I had a wonderful meal for Restaurant Week at a place called Epoca on the beach. I started with a butter leaf lettuce and hearts of palm salad with a nutty cream dressing, then prawns wrapped in bacon and covered in a honey-chipotle sauce accompanied by a delicious salad of roasted corn, cilantro, and chopped peppers in a lime dressing, then key lime pie. Delicioso.
I can’t believe how much I miss Nino and Eduardo. I see them four or five times a week for my salsa aerobic classes and get my fill of dancing and Latin music. I found a salsa class but it was too early in the morning for my lazy ass.
I moved out of the Hacienda Buenaventura and will move into the big house this afternoon. I picked up two bouquets of roses, one for Gina and one for me.
Gina was sick for about five days thinking it was the mosquito disease but seems to be recovering. I went out to the Italian joint alone and had another good dinner there.
The remote controls for the air conditioner at the casa are in the safe so it is ripping hot. I placed my bed directly under the fan to help with the heat and sleep nude with no sheets or covers. The hummingbirds come by each morning and I bought fruit and bread for breakfasts so I sit and watch them and the little birds with a nest over the patio.
I’ve had some long walks along the beach and tried Karen’s for margaritas and guacamole, which was great, and another place far, far down the beach. The sand walking is certainly good exercise.
I’ve had a slow start to the day, opting to stay in Bucerias.
Gina gave me two delicious tamales so I had a tamal, which I baked with gouda cheese and fruit for breakfast today.
I had a photo shoot with a photographer here for my book cover today. I am anxious to see how the photos turned out. She will deliver a CD to me tomorrow. We didn’t click at first and I didn’t know how it would go, but I got her to warm when I asked about Mexican men. That worked. Once we got going she seemed to enjoy it. It was easy for her since I knew what I wanted and it was simple. One more thing finished for the book.
I had dinner with Gina tonight at Sandrina’s, a gorgeous restaurant. This is where we did the photo shoot this afternoon. I’m under the fan on the patio at la casa grande. My bedroom is about 120 degrees right now but the house is a treat. I am very fortunate to have been offered this gratis.
I leave tomorrow amiga. I am sad about the changes in PV. When I met with Louise, who has lived here for probably fifteen years, she said as a tourist the changes are sad, but as a resident, they make life easier. I understand that, but it is still a case of gringos conquering Mexico.
The rate of exchange varies slightly day to day but is about 10 pesos per Canadian dollar right now. The prices are greatly inflated now in restaurants. Food in the grocery stores is still cheaper and services like the dentist are cheaper.
Asi es la vida.
Over and out from Mexico.
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