May 21, 2008

Tales from Down South…

This is pretty lengthy, so if you only want to read some of it, it's packaged into handy individual stories! and of course, lotsa purdy pichtures to look at...

A room with a view… and a volume.

Ah, Mexico. Home of the Margarita, guacamole, siestas, swaying palm trees, sandy beaches, and all-inclusive resorts.

Kate and I took our last kick at the can to travel before the baby is due, escaping to Puerto Vallarta for a week at the Canto del Sol all-inclusive beach front hotel and tennis resort.
Despite Sunwing airlines getting us there an hour later than scheduled on a Sunday night, the passengers cheered and clapped as the plane landed on the tarmac.

We were shuttled to the resort, and the first thing that impressed upon us was the fact that it was loud. Very loud. It took us about three seconds to realize what we’d done. We booked a trip to Mexico the same week that Canadian Universities just let out for the spring. Whoops. Our room, as it turned out, was in the thick of the action, too. Despite a lovely view into the pool area, the balcony door pretty much opened onto the open-air lounge where the fore mentioned uni students were drinking aplenty, and singing even more.

Fast forward, we got a room switch after a near sleepless night, with a view of mountains, an open field and beaches and the rest of the week was blissful relaxation during the night!

Thanks to the hotel for making it happen! We’re pretty sure if it wasn’t for the switch, we were going to need a vacation after our vacation!
Donde est mi Mexicana el foodo?

We spent a few days on the resort, and a few days off doing other things. Eventually, you just kind of get tired of the repetitious buffet (don’t get me wrong, access to all you can eat, 24/7, is basically my idea of heaven… but it turns out even I have my limits). The saving grace to the buffet was the fact that each night has a different cultural theme, and that the hotel also had three a la carte restaurants, of which you as a guest could book into two. We chose to book into the Hacienda Santa Maria on the Wednesday night. The restaurant has the following description:

Canto del Sol’s very popular Mexican specialty restaurant serves delicious, Traditional and Regional Mexican cuisine in candlelight elegance with colonial ambiance.

Sounds good, we thought! The drawback to our chosen night, we realized, was the fact that we ended up booking in on the night that the buffet was slated for Mexican food. None the less, we thought a really nice sit-down Mexican food meal will be awfully nice, and probably classier fare than that which would be available in the buffet.

It was classier alright. Problem was, it was Italian.

We were seated in the Hacienda Santa Maria, and were handed an Italian restaurant menu. We looked around at others, who had the same puzzled expressions on their faces as we did.

We asked the waiter what the scoop was on the Italian menu in the Mexican restaurant. He matter-of-factly told us that the menu switches every other night, a fact that remains conspicuously absent from every step of finding out about, and booking into this restaurant.

But that’s just the thing about Mexico. It can be pretty laid back. At times, too much so perhaps.

Vallarta Misadventures?

We spent the next day out on the water. I had been down to PV several years ago with my then-girlfriend, and one of the highlights of that trip was the snorkelling excursion that we did with Vallarta Adventures, a company which offers a wide variety of day-trips to help you explore the region.

More than happy to experience this again, Kate and I booked in to a trip. We set out at 9:00 am (after being told by one source that the boat left at 8:30, another source 8:40…but show up at 8:00 am anyway…as I said, Mexico can be a little too laid back at times…) and arrived at the Marietas Islands around 11 a.m., eager to jump into the warm pacific and be surround by brightly coloured fish, and maybe catch sight of a turtle or Manta ray. As you'll see from the photos (if you link to the album at the end of this post…) we didn’t see anything beyond our outstretched hands, and even that was a fuzzy view.

Mother nature had other plans for us that day, sending a warm southern current into the bay and clouding up the normally clear waters to the point of having almost zero visibility.

Machines also had other plans for us. A loose cotter pin in the engine of our catamaran meant we got back on the board after an unsuccessful snorkel, and we couldn’t go anywhere.

Italian food in Mexican restaurants, zero visibility in prime snorkelling waters, stranded at sea… what was going on?!

Long story short, the boat got going, though slowly, and we were at least shuttled to a beautiful beach to catch some sun and play in the surf before our boat limped its way back to the marina. It was by no means a write-off of a day. As you can see from the following pic, the weather was perfect, and we did get to see some wildlife in the form of impressive fowl floating on the breezes.

We made it back to the resort in time for the buffet theme dinner of the day. And wouldn’t you know it… it was Italian night.

Son of a beach

Let’s discuss the beach. We ended up with a sandy stretch in front of the hotel where the waves lapped happily and we were able to swim in comfort, but it didn’t start out that way. We started out with rocks, and plenty of them. Which in itself wasn’t all that bad. It still constituted a beach. That all changed one morning, though, when the backhoe showed up to start moving the rocks out in order to regain a sandy beach. Any decent piece of equipment could probably have gotten the job done in a day. But this gutless little backhoe could barely carry its bucket load without a struggle, and would get stuck here and there, so he’d have to dump his load and start again. And, then there’s siesta. Can’t work during that, of course. Three days later, the yellow tape came down, and our little beach was ready for business!

We took advantage of the newly finished beach, and were glad for the fact that it was probably in the best shape that it had been in a while. I started asking staff on a daily basis if there would be a beach volleyball game if the beach was ready. The answer was usually yes, and the result—not surprisingly—was that a game never got played.

Viva Mexico!

See you later, Sayulita!

We also took a side-trip to Sayulita, a small town being hugged on the Western coast between the Sierra Madre Mountains where they dip down to meet up with a beautiful, long, white crescent beach perfect for surfing.

You can go there, rent a board and get a surf lesson, or just body surf and hang out on beach chairs, eat at the beach-front restaurants, or wander around in the idyllic little Mexican town. We didn’t surf, but did the rest, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Kate was a little worried that the bus ride out of PV on a city bus might result in shaken baby charges against her, despite the peanut still being in utero. Something not commonly found on Mexican public transportation? Shocks. All part of the experience, however, and for 20 pesos (just under two bucks), the bus took us all the way from PV to Sayulita, about an hour and 20 minutes with traffic and stops. Not bad at all!

If we ever went back to Mexico with a larger group of family or friends, we think booking into a villa for a week around a place like Sayulita would be perfect!

Any takers?!
All in all…

Despite some of the foibles mentioned in the tales above, it was a great week. The sun was cooking up mid-30 degree days all week long, the swimming in the pool and the ocean was refreshing, we ate well, slept well, got to see some of the area, met some fun people, and got to recharge our batteries and have this one last trip to ourselves.

Here’s a couple of links that will take you to albums one and two which include lots more pictures from our trip! enjoy!
Hasta Luego!