Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lo de Marcos to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is at the border of the Jalisco and Nayarit states and at the same latitude as Hawaii. It used to be a sleepy little fishing village for a long time, but not anymore. John Huston, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor changed that around 1964 with the famous movie 'Night of the Iguana'. Today it's a bustling town, in the good sense of the word.

Puerto Vallarta has worked hard to become the lovely town it is today. There are romantic old buildings in evenly romantic streets. The markets are renowned, as is the swing bridge separating them and the eye catching Malecón is certainly something not to be missed. The Malecón is an 800 metre long beautiful seaside promenade that has both style and atmosphere. Many artists have made high quality bronze sculptures for the Malecón to enhance it even further. The area seems to attract creative types from all walks of life, from sand sculptors to classical painters and musicians. Karina, owner/manager of the Cruz Maria RV Park in Lo de Marcos, kindly took us on a tour to Puerto Vallarta. First stop was Bucerias, only a short drive from Puerto Vallarta.

We had been to the surfing village of Sayulita before, but that didn't quite do it for us. Sayulita is nice, but surfies aren't really my type and the people on the market there weren't just trying to sell their wares, they were just harassing us into buying their goods.
Grabbing me by the shoulder to stop me from passing their stand and attempting to force me into buying their goods. In general, a Mexican market vendor will try it's best to sell you what he has, using a multitude of techniques. It's the Mexican way and I have no problem with it, but in Sayulita they have gone from being a vendor to becoming a pest. 

Luckily Bucerias is not like that. Yes, they still approached me and called me amigo at every stall, but at least I could walk past without being pulled off my path.
The result is that unlike on the Sayulita market, we actually bought some things, as we could look at it first. The things they make are incredible beautiful. The artefacts made from clay and wood, and decorated with thousands of little colourful beads, are so beautiful that it's hard to make a choice. Mike went looking for wooden masks and was spoiled for choice too!
Until now we had only been to the supermarket in Bucerias, which is a real shame as it is a lovely little town.
We had a great lunch too, thanks to Karina who explained to us what the
various available menu options actually were! On the way back to the car we stumbled upon this little shop where they sell very colourful fabrics, very colourful Mexican fabrics. They weave the fabrics themselves and the owner gave us a demonstration on his loom especially for us, with the permission to film it! Bucerias is a lovely place and yes it's hard to find a parking spot but it's so worth a visit.

Next stop: Nuevo Vallarta, a planned residential-resort community 15 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. It's setup mainly for tourists from the USA and Canada, and by the looks of it for reasonably wealthy ones. It has luxury homes, estates, canals and tropical gardens. The harbour is setup for big 130 ft yachts and the streets are impeccable. The most amazing thing for me was the toilet building… in the middle of a round-about and in the shape of a mini Egyptian Pyramid…!

Puerto Vallarta amazed me right from the start. Yes it's too big for me but it has a great atmosphere. It's one of those very few towns that I just liked right from the beginning. Narrow streets with beautiful buildings that, despite being distinctly different, reminded me of Toledo in Spain. Arts played a big role in our visit to Puerto Vallarta as it's everywhere. High quality art too. The many artists that worked on it have vivid imaginations and delivered beautiful sculptures that truly enhanced the already beautiful Malecón even further.

The Bay of Banderas played a major role in Puerto Vallarta's history, first as the fishing and pearling town and later as a major tourist attraction. Puerto Vallarta today is very much a tourist town, but one that deserves a visit rather than being just another tacky tourist trap. Tourism has been a part of Puerto Vallarta for a long time, dating as far back as the mid 19th century. Las Peñas, as Puerto Vallarta was formerly known, was officially founded in 1851 by Guadalupe Sánchez Torres, yet the purchase of sale to Sanchez is dated 1859… Therefore 1859 is the year listed as the beginning of Puerto Vallarta as a village.

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an amazing church in more ways than one. Even if you're not religious, the following bit of history will still amaze you. Officially the built of the church started in 1903. In 1915, while still building the church, Padre Francisco Ayala suggested to build something even bigger. In 1917 the strengthened foundations for this bigger church were ready, but an appraisal conducted in 1920 deemed the church still being build was not up to the standards required for Puerto Vallarta… The construction stopped altogether in 1926 when the Cristero War broke out between church and state. In 1930, when the conflict diminished to a safe level, the construction of the dome started, but it took another 10 years before the church was finished. The main tower wasn't finished until 1952 and in 1963 the crown was installed. It wasn't until 1987, 84 years after building had started, that the church was finished in the form as we know it today. Only 4 years later the crown needed a major restoration and was subsequently completely destroyed in 1995 by an earthquake, which cost an astonishing 800.000 USD to replace.

It is a beautiful church, but I do wonder if there are many churches with such a 'rocky' building history?
It took more than a lifetime to build!

Restaurant Gaby was suggested as a good place to eat by a local, and he was right! From the dramatic presentation to the quality of the food and everything in between. Highly recommended and a very good way to finish the day… or so we thought! The walk back along the Malacón had a couple of surprises in store. More beautiful statues against the backdrop of a colourful sunset, an artist at work with rocks piled on top of each other that seemingly defied gravity yet stayed upright without any form of fixing, Pelicans flying in perfect formation through the street and Aztec warriors appearing out of nowhere. Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful place and we were so fortunate that Karina showed us around! She loves her country, which is easy to understand, and what a great guide she is!