Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Puerto Vallarta, 2007

In March of 2007 we flew to Puerto Vallarta Mexico to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. Naturally we were pleased to be somewhere in the warm sunshine which was a welcome change from our gray and blustery northwest. In the late 1940s Puerto Vallarta was known as "Puerto Las PeƱas" A quiet Pueblo with a small population, it had a lovely beach and there were many warehouses owned by the locals. Corn, seeds and coconut oil were stored in these warehouses and exported by large ships that docked off the main street. The regional commerce areas in this era were Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastian, Talpa and Mascota.

Puerto Vallarta, which some say is the Riviera of Mexico, is located on Bandarras Bay, the third largest bay in the world and North America’s largest. I close my eyes and see graceful birds swooping in azure skies, smell the flower laden breeze, and feel the glow of the sun on my skin. Everything is bright, vivid and festive.

We stayed in the old part of Puerto Vallarta.  Our hotel, the historical Hotel Rosita was built in 1948 by Mr. Salvador Gonzales for the merchants and their families traveling long distance had no place to stay while they were doing business. The Rosita,is located at the north end El Malecon, which is a mile or so of sidewalk along the beautiful white sand beaches. The Rosita is one of the oldest hotels in Puerto Vallarta, and it is quite charming, and according to one of the reviews a well kept secret. Our idea was to get a flavor of Mexico, rather than to stay in one of deluxe Americanized hotels to the north, with the golf courses and the fancy restaurants.
 The hotel is a ten minute walk to the main church, municipal offices and Puerto Vallarta's market place and is considered the most traditional hotel in Puerto Vallarta because of its typical Mexican architecture. In 1962 John Houston, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Eva Gardner and their entire filming crew stayed at the Hotel Rosita while filming The Night of the Iguana. Hotel Rosita offers the ambience of how life was once enjoyed in Puerto Vallarta.

After we claimed our luggage and looked for a cab, an official looking gentleman in a suit and tie came up to us and told us he needed to talk to us. He ushered us to a counter in an area of the airport and proceeded to sell us tours, time share and whatever else he could. He had quite the sales pitch and was very convincing. The end result was that we agreed to get a free taxi ride to a fancy time share the next day to have a complimentary breakfast and listen to a speech about how great the time shares are and how much we would love it. How much can we pay? Oh, and we got coupons for a free boat ride and/or a massage. In the end, we decided not to take advantage of the coupons, and instead opted for free time of our own.

The sales personnel were very good at their jobs. After softening us up with a good breakfast and some friendly banter, we were introduced to another person who showed us brochures and tried to convince us to buy into their time share. We declined, of course, but he continued his pitch. When he realized we weren’t backing down he introduced us to yet another sales person. By this time we were getting annoyed. When we said no for the final time, the man said, “There’s the way out,” and pointed us in the direction of the parking lot. We did get a free cab ride back. The lesson learned, of course, was that we were targeted as obvious first time tourists. No harm was done but we were so annoyed that we didn’t take advantage of the free coupons and instead relaxed in our own way.

We spend our days walking on the Malecon and touring the shops; each afternoon we enjoyed a happy hour in the outside lobby of the hotel. The margaritas were excellent and so were the chips and guacamole. There were few evenings that was what we had for dinner because this was so satisfying. On afternoon on one of the last days before we left we were sitting on the lounge chairs and heard a loud flop. Much to our surprise a fish lay on the ground near us. Apparently one of the birds lost its grip. One of the staff dealt with the fish. We thought this amusing.
There was a festive atmosphere while we were there. One day there was a children’s parade. The kids were colorful in their costumes.

View from the terrace into the courtyard of the hotel:
the marketplace:

from Liz Taylor's villa:

from the Malecon:

 on the way home from the market:

from the hotel:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tucson 2011

This year Ari and I took our annual wedding anniversary trip a little early by traveling to Tucson, Arizona for some rest and relaxation in the sunshine. We stayed in deluxe accommodations in Ari’s parent’s home and were delightfully hosted for several days. Ari’s godfather Leon, who lives in London, was also there with us.

One of my favorite things to do was to sit out back on the patio to read, listen to gurgling of the fountain and gaze at the Catalina Mountains in the distance. The backyard was quite different that what I am used to; a far cry from evergreen trees and green ferns but the landscape of rocks, sand and so many different kinds of cacti and other desert plants was no less fascinating.

The desert is a land of extremes. Hot and cold. The mornings although sunny were chilly until mid morning and once the sun went down in the evenings the temperature dropped immediately. Tucson is situated in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by five minor ranges of mountains: The Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. The city is located on the Santa Cruz River which is now a dry river bed for most of the year and floods during seasonal rains.

We also walked the dog, Brandy in the mornings which was a great chance to get fresh air and enjoy the magnificent scenery. I was told to watch out for rattlesnakes. I am glad I didn’t see any, as I wasn’t wearing boots as recommended, but my sandals. Brandi knew her way very well, and let us know when she was ready to return home.

March 2, 2011

If I were to describe Southern Arizona in two words they would be, color and warmth. We are venturing out today, our first official outing since we have arrived, as we have been relaxing (I have napped a couple of times) and settling in since our arrival and I have not been not doing too much aside from reading (Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo) and playing on the Internet. We have the guest suite here which is very comfortable. The first night Jon, Ari and I went to the library and borrowed a movie; The Singing Detective. It is in several parts; we only watched the first part. A very strange movie. I think the British have an odd sense of humor. We took a short walk around the neighborhood yesterday after Leon arrived.

Staying here is like being at a resort. Jon grilled steaks last night for us all, and beat me in a game of Scrabble. He and Leon went on a two day hiking trip with Jon’s hiking group.

March 3, 2011

Yesterday we visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens. The highlight was the butterfly display. Drove to 4th street which attracts the college set and the shops are reminiscent of the 60’s . We stopped in a little cafe for some chips and beer after wandering around for awhile looking at a few more shops.

That evening Ellyn took us to see Lost in Yonkers, a play by Neil Simon. It was quite good. We had balcony seats, first row. I was impressed with the acting as well as the story.

Update: spent the afternoon at the Tohono Chul Park; quite pleasant with lots to look at. We called Doug and Ariel; they invited us over Tomorrow night for Happy Hour at their place. Ellyn made a Thanksgiving dinner. I am stuffed.

March 6, 2011, Sunday

Yet another sunny day, but of course, we are in Arizona! The sunset last night was simply gorgeous. There are some things that can’t be photographed. They must be enjoyed in the moment.

Sidebar: Friday we spent the day relaxing and then visited Doug and Ariel at their place which was beautiful and an oasis. I was happy to see them again. They are both good people and some of my favorites.

Yesterday (Saturday) we (Jon, Ellyn, Leon, Ari and myself) went to the art museum, had lunch at a Mexican place after. Ari and I visited a swap meet, but didn’t buy anything.

I’ve been enjoying the conversations around the dinner table talking about the state of the world and other things; lots of laughter as well. Good food, good wine, good company.

March 7, 2011

Today we visited a museum in Benson Arizona. There were Native Americans basket weavers with their wares for sale. We picnicked in the park there. The rock formations were fascinating. . ‘we visited the the Singing Winds Bookstore on the way home. The bookstore is out in the middle of nowhere.

Pizza and gelato for dinner

March 8, 2011,

Preparing for our last day which will consist of a drive up to Phoenix to see a spring training game, then off to the airport to catch our flight north. We have a stop in Portland, then Seattle, then on to Bellingham. A long day but I am feeling fairly rested. It is definitely time to go. As much fun as we have had we don’t want to overstay our welcome. A week seemed luxurious this time. We did fun things

I got a lot of reading done; just started a new book for the flight home called Cutting for Stone. It is really good so far.