PV Stories

My Story

Here’s My Story, where’s yours?

 October 13, 2016

Barry Kessler

“I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Day 3 finds both my wife and I up at 6 in the morning. It is still dark but…

 …there are joggers and walkers on the Malecon busily starting their Thursday mornings. I ask Debra if she is feeling well enough for a hike and she is ready to

La Casita Card

go. I ask her if she would walk with me to the end of the Malecon, to the 5th of December neighborhood where I asked her to marry me 29 ½ years ago. She has a big smile and agrees. Before I left home I pulled the photo scrap book from our trip of yore and found the card from the restaurant, long ago closed, La Casita. The address read, 387 Panama.

It was 1986, La Casita was suggested to me by my father who said it was the most romantic restaurant he and my mom had visited on their two visits to PV, so I took his advice and made my plans. I would ask her to marry me on my father’s birthday, March 14, just like my dad did when he married my mom on his father’s birthday. Sickeningly sweet?

It was a memorable evening back in 1986. Just as I was about to propose, the lights went out all over the entire city leaving us in the dark for a few minutes while the staff hurriedly lit candles for the table-tops. This was not their first Bar-b-q that was for sure. Now it was even more romantic with proper mood lighting. What great timing I was thinking. I gathered my courage and got on one knee and proposed. She started to cry uncontrollably. On my knees, I could feel the eyes of everybody in the restaurant staring at me. What did he say to upset this beautiful young woman? I asked her, “So…does that mean yes?” She nodded her head vigorously and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Calle Panama where it goes Up!

 That is one of my fondest memories, and now we are walking back to the scene of the crime. We walk to the end of the Malecon and a few more blocks to Panama and begin our ascent. So much steeper than I remembered, but hey, the last time we were here we took a cab. The building is the same but someone built a condo or an apartment building right in front of the place and there went their view. Kinda puts a damper on the destination “view” gourmet restaurant thingy that is for sure. We walk around the neighborhood, looking at the beautiful homes and condos that now line the adjacent streets, and then head back to our condo. Gary and Jill are coming to join us for breakfast at Una Familia, just around the corner from us.

The pancakes were perfect and fluffy. The machaca Omelet was fantastic! We had a great breakfast. I would highly recommend this place. Better Pancakes than Memos and Freddie’s. We hit the ATM and get pesos to last a couple of days and do some shopping and sightseeing in town and agree to meet at the bus stop to get to our lunch destination,

The Scene of the Crime where she said YES! La Casita, no longer.

Moro Paraiso, a jungle restaurant along the River Cuale. We take the bus through neighborhoods that I have never traveled through, past Paso Ancho to Paso de Guyabo, where the bus stops “end of the line”, and head by foot about 1 kilometer to the restaurant. This is a butterfly preserve and there are so many varieties that I have never seen before. It is a  beautiful area for sure. We arrive at the restaurant and we are the only ones there. We are welcomed like old friends and we take our choice of any table in the place that we want. We had beer, margaritas, arrachera, and brochettes of beef, chicken and shrimp. The food was very good. Not gourmet for sure, but good, flavorful and reasonably priced. As we spend some time chatting and enjoying the surroundings, ATVs with riders aboard of course show up and the restaurant is hopping. Time to leave, we walk back to the Bus at the end-of-the-line, and ride back to town for the obligatory cost of 7 1/2 pesos each.

Dodger game time is in an hour so we wash up. I took my laundry and bed-sheets to La Reina lavanderia. She says come back tomorrow at 5 and it will be ready. Then we head for El Torrito’s where we eat ribs, drink beers and margaritas and cheer on our Dodgers to a victory over a 4 hour period of time. My apologies to any Nationals fan who happens to be reading this report. Your team played courageously.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day we decide. At the condo, I lay down to sleep in our not too hard, not too soft bed and listen to the sound of the waves and savor the day. It was a really good day!

The Queen of Laundry in Puerto Vallarta

“The Queen has been in possession of my underwear for far too long!” Besides running out of t-shirts and undergarments, I am reminded that I left sheets, pillowcases….

 and 2 towels that don’t even belong to me at La Reina Lavenderia.

The Queen of the Laundry

It had been too many missed opportunities with the Queen of the Laundry being closed during times when her claim check clearly indicated that she was supposed to be open. I paid close attention on my last visit and I saw other individuals walk up to the royal doorway and also noticing her highness’s absence, they went next door to the lady at a tienda to drop off their own laundry bundles and she, the fruit selling tienda lady accepted them. So I knew that this woman had an in with the Royals.  I questioned the nice senora next door at the little tienda as to the well being of the Queen of Laundry, and she said…oh, she is fine. Come back later…. That was Saturday.

Well, her claim check says she is open Monday Mornings at 9, so I roll out of bed in a cold sweat. How will all this drama play out?  I was down to my last two days to claim my treasure. “I’m going to take a little walk honey, I’ll bring you back a cup of coffee on the way back from picking up our laundry.”

My lovely wife reminded me that I could have done the laundry right here in the building, but I said, “why take the job away from someone who will gladly do it for us right here in town?” Famous last words.  I’ve been doing a whole lot of eating this trip and those words I’m gonna try not to eat!

I walk to the end of Calle Hidalgo and oh no….the metal rolling door is still pulled shut. It’s 9:15, surely she should be at her station now right?  Um, No. I head next door to her neighbor. “Is the Queen expected this morning I ask?” Not really saying the Queen, just thinking it, and she says, “just wait a few minutes, she will be here soon.” Relieved, I wait for the sound of trumpeters and look for the changing of the guard. Then, as if by magic, the rolling metal security door begins to groan and squeak and then lift up, exposing the royal court at long last!

I hand her my ticket and she begins to pick through the various bundles of clean laundry, finally landing on my package, way in the back, and weighs it…6.5 kilos. That will be 72 pesos. I reach into my pocket and pull out a 500 peso note and she looks annoyed. “I need you to bring me something smaller?” she begs. Okay, I’ll go down to the nearest OXXO and tick off that clerk, which I did, and returned for my clean, folded and pressed clothes, sheets and towels, all bundled in a clear cellophane package.

Stopping at the local Starbucks I complete my mission, and head for home, successful and ready for a great Vallarta Breakfast, meeting Gary and Jill at Mi Café.

They were closed on Sunday, but Monday will be the day. My quest, to order and consume the best French toast on the planet. ……..I’m so hungry writing and remembering the experience.


A Hike From Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas Beach, or Mutiny on la Playa

October 15, 2016

A Hike From Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas Beach, or Mutiny on la Playa

We have an exciting day planned for this Saturday in PV. A hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas Beach.

After reading many reports about the hike on the TA Forum and other blog posts and YouTube Videos on the subject, I thought this would be a great hike to take with jungle and beach vistas. Surely my wife and two travel guests would appreciate this 2 hour hike.

We met at Salud Super Food on Olas Altas, near the V177 condos and close enough to the Mislamoya Bus launching area located at the south east corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitución .

I have to say that this little restaurant is a big surprise. The breakfast was so tasty and the service was top notch. You go to the counter and place your order and pay, then take a seat out on the outside patio and wait a short time for your food and drinks to be brought to the table. Such a terrific waiter too! My wife and I had the Big Breakfast Croissant with Serrano Ham, grilled chicken, green onions, Mennonite cheese with scrambled eggs on a toasted buttery croissant. So Good!! With a side of fruit included in the dish. Bro had the Green Eggs and Bacon sandwich, and sis in law had a wrap of some kind. We all split a yummy blueberry muffin and had fresh squeezed juice and coffee. There are many healthy food choices here as well as smoothies. Another TA suggestion that is well worth the visit.

Full tummies we head out on our adventure. Walking down a couple of blocks to Basilio Badillo and Constitución . It is Saturday and there are a group of High School kids heading down to Mislamoya and Boca for some weekend fun along with us for the bus trip. The bus is full and as many of us who take the bus know, as long as there is just a little more space, the driver will stop and pick up just about everyone he sees who wants a ride for 8 pesos who happen to be heading in his direction. There is an ebb and flow in capacity and we get relief when we hit Mislamoya. Arriving at the end of the line at Boca de Tomatlan, we disembark and follow the group of young Mex Nat beachgoers down to Boca where all of the young men with launches hawk for passengers as we walk by them.

Earlier in the morning, I copied down the step by step walking directions from a blog I found on the interwebs onto my notepad on my phone, just in case I might need them, and we begin our hike.

We head to the bridge and cross to the other side of the inlet and then begin our hike. I was happy to have done the research because as you walk along the Boca, you actually do walk right past the front doors of the residents who live there. Debra and the others were concerned, but I told them it was just like described in my research. The first part of the trip is pretty easy but it is October and it is HOT and HUMID. 91 degrees and it feels like 105. By the time we hit the Ocean Grille at Playa Colomitos, there are grumblings from my fellow travelers who begin to ask…are we there yet?

Oh no! Now I’m really beginning to feel really bad about this. We are supposed to be out for a good time and I am beginning to believe that they think that we are on the Bataan Death March.

“Can’t we just eat here?” asks my wife, gesturing to the Ocean Grille with its cute raft like island bobbing out front. “No, you have to make a reservation in advance to get in.” I explain. “The idea was to hike to Las Animas.”

According to my walking directions, the hardest part of the walk was still ahead of us and I had to break to news to them that we still had a long way to go. We begin to hike up the stairs from down on the beach, and continued into the jungle, then down to next beach where we found the Catamaran Bora Bora, anchored with all of her partygoers and snorkelers ‘a partyin and snorkelin and lounging around the “secluded” beach. It is there where the mutiny took place. Gary took the initiative. He spotted the guy in charge of the landing party of the Bora Bora, and made a bee-line to him. “How far to Las Animas from here?”

“About a 45 minute walk or so.” he is told. “How can we get a boat ride out of here? How much will it cost?” Gary asks. “That depends on the captain. Not sure, maybe 60 pesos each? Maybe 500 pesos total? I will keep an eye out and flag one down for you.” My brother asks, what’s your name? ”  “My name is Mr. Panda!” he proclaims.

“Okay Mr. Panda, Gracias!”

You can’t imagine how terribly I felt then. I really wanted to finish the hike. I knew that we were already past the hardest part of the trip but I knew I could never convince these hearty travelers that they could make it. Alas, it was no use, they were spent and I could tell that they were going no further. I resigned to make the best of the bad situation and we cooled off in the ocean and waited for Mr. Panda to do his magic and whistle in a panga to pick up the tired gringos and deliver them to a palapa on a beach with an umbrella drink or cervesa, a bowl of chips and guacamole and a cavalcade of beach vendor selling everything from pies to plaster-of-Paris busts of Montezuma and lion’s heads and stuff and junk.

Within 10 minutes we had a boat slide up on the sand, parting the partiers just a bit while I negotiated the extraction. I asked him if he could take us the rest of the way to Las Animas, and then wait for us for an hour and a half, then deliver us back to Boca for 500 pesos. He agreed and we all scrambled onto his launch and off we went, warm breeze blowing in our faces. Things were looking up for our party of four.

Las Animas used to be such a lovely place 20 years ago. Today it is jammed with beachfront palapa bars and restaurants. We ate at a nice place where we were seated under umbrellas at a comfortable table. The mutineers were beginning to get the color back in their cheeks and they were slightly forgiving of their evil taskmaster and I apologized and promised to never make them go on a hike again.

We signal to our boatman that we are ready to ride home and he backs his launch onto the beach to pick us up for what seems like a really short ride back to Boca, then up to the street where we catch the bus back to Vallarta.

When we stop at Mismaloya, the driver lets on a guy dressed like a clown with a speaker box, about 6” x 6”, around his neck, and he begins to do something I have never seen before on a Mexican bus. Standing in the front of the bus, yelling, with the help of the speaker which is loud and distorted, actually making his speech nearly unintelligible, he begins in Spanish, telling jokes and making fun of the passengers in front of the bus, getting the attention of all on the ride. He makes his way to me and not expecting that I have any clue as to what he is saying, begins to have me repeat a childlike phrase in Spanish. Gibberish. Not appreciating his little game I say in Spanish that I can’t understand what he is saying because the speaker around his neck is a piece of junk. Oops…Time to pick on someone else so he moves down the aisle to another victim. This obnoxious act goes on for the entire ride from Mismaloya to town. 10 minutes before the final stop he makes his pitch for pesos by telling us he is collecting for the poor, for his sick mom and whoever he can come up with. My brother asks if he should give him some money and I say “not on your life. Why would you encourage that kind of behavior?”  He pretty much pissed off the entire busload. He was so obnoxious, and the perfect bookend to an imperfect hike to Las Animas.

We went back to our condos and planned to meet at El Torito’s to decide what we want for dinner over the Dodger game.

After a refreshing shower I walked over and checked back with the Queen of laundry, La Reina, but she was still closed. Humm. Maybe the day after manana. When in Mexico…

We watched a sensational sunset from our balcony and got ready for dinner.

Not wanting to pull my brother away from his beloved Dodgers, and remembering the Death March, I acquiesced to watching and eating at El Torito’s again, Ugggh…as the Cubs and Dodgers battled it out, with the Cubs emerging victorious. We were surrounded by the noisiest and most obnoxious Cub fans on the planet. As the game came to a close we dismissed ourselves and congratulated the victorious loud ones, and gently reminded them of their heritage. We wished them luck.

Gary mentions the next game. I look at him and say “You can watch the Dodger game wherever you want, we are going to have a fine meal without you. Remember, we are in Puerto Vallarta for goodness sake.”  I will say this about El Torito’s, the staff is very attentive and willing and kind. The food is passable. The ribs are good. The burgers, meh.

We walk on the Malecon in search of something sweet and pick up some fruit ice pops. Very refreshing. We watch the performers at the Los Arcos playground, and finally retire for the evening.

“Will text you the breakfast location in the morning.” I tell Gary and Jill.

Time for bed, it’s been a long day.