One day while surfing (on the net) we checked out RCI’s home page. What a neat place! With in an hour we had planned 2 vacations. One to Puerto Vallarta and one to Snowbird (Salt Lake city). These fantasies were turned into reality with a quick phone call to RCI.
Our original plan combined the Puerto Vallarta & San Diego trips – our logic being that it was cheaper to fly to Puerto Vallarta from San Diego than from Portland. A little internet price checking burst that bubble all to hell. Who would have believed it would be cheaper to fly from Portland to Puerto Vallarta than from San Diego. New plan: we would go to San Diego in December and make a separate trip out of it.
Around the 1st of October we decided it was time to get serious about buying plane tickets. Revisiting the web site showed that the smart thing would have been to buy the tickets when I originally checked the price. A little more checking and we found that not flying on Saturday saved us a little over a $100 a ticket. Three phone calls to the resort in Mexico’s travel people (who spoke pretty poor English) left us with the impression that we had rented a room for that Friday night. Not that we’re superstitious, but when we found we would be flying back on Friday the 13th, we decided to leave on Thursday the 12th.
With a 7:45 AM departure time we set the alarm for 4:30 AM. After the normal hustle, bustle and list checking we arrived at the airport at a little after 6AM. It was a pitch-black night with steady rain. Butch told Cathy to take the 2 small bags and run to the bus stop while he put the club on the car steering wheel and finished locking up. Butch then lugged the suitcase to the nearest bus stop since the wheels were no where big enough to clear the mud puddles and he didn’t want the suitcase to float away. Guess what – no Cathy! He looked under the bench and everywhere – she just wasn’t there. He got really worried – after all she did have the tickets. Ah – a ray of hope…. there was a lady standing at the next bus stop about 5 rows down the road. With no thought of the rain or heavy suitcase, he made a dash to the other bus stop. There he was greeted by Cathy who said, "you’re all wet! What took you so long?". The bus stop filled up quickly with anxious travelers seeking shelter form the rain. Anticipation swelled as a bus pulled up to the original stop Butch had originally went to. People rushed to line up only to be splashed by water as the bus drove by without stopping. However within a few minutes a nearly empty bus picked us up and finished transporting us to the airport.
It was easy to find our airline’s luggage check-in – it was the only one with a long line. No problem, we would take advantage of the line time by each in turn going to the restroom. Then came our turn at the ticket window. Things were going great right up to the point where the agent asked us for our passports or birth certificates. We told her there was no mention in either the ticket or time share information of this and we had brought neither. She sent us off to a booth where 3 bucks each produced an affidavit of citizenship. With this worthless looking piece of paper in hand we returned to finish our check-in.
Next – some good news – she found us some seats in an exit isle (more leg room). Bad news – the agent next to her tagged our bag to Burbank (confusing our bag with her customer’s) and sent it on its merry way. Our agent, with Puerto Vallarta luggage tag in hand, asked where our luggage was. We told her we had left it sitting on the scales to which the other agent replied – it’s on its way to Burbank. This seemed like a good time to enjoy our snack of a chocolate muffin and 2 bananas. All I can say about the snack is – when we get back to the car the muffin will be very hard and the bananas really ripe.
The long baggage line and the hustling about to get our certificate had its benefits – it was now time to board the plane. The flight itself was about as boring as the airline lunch. Getting into Mexico was easy – we stood in line and got our papers stamped. The next few minutes of our vacation would be critical – would our clothes vacation with us or bang around Burbank? Cathy almost jumped for joy when she saw the corner of her bathrobe sticking out of our suitcase. While Butch found his way to the bathroom, Cathy made a new friend – "Jose". How lucky could we be – Jose worked for the time share we were staying in and filled us in on everything we should see and do. As it turns out this came with a price. Before we knew it we had a free fiesta and a time share appointment.
We arrived at the resort, took care of the administrative chores (yes we did have a room reserved) and were shown to our room. The resort is really clean & spacious. It was a big relief to find that the water is purified & safe to drink.
In an effort to get rid of our tired traveling butts we decided to check out the neighborhood. The whole area was done in a south of the border motif. There was a shopping plaza nearby complete with a one stop shopping store, a mini Fred Meyers. We found this store handy both for buying food and converting dollars to pesos. This is a great time to be here because the conversion of pesos to dollars is 10:1. On future trips we plan on bringing a lot of small bills – avoiding the exchange fee, as merchants will give you the full 10:1 rate. After our neighborhood tour we took a dip in the pool and stroll on the beach. After a quick shower it was time for dinner. You’ll never guess what the resort restaurant buffet was….. Mexican!
Saturday morning was occupied with our time share presentation. Our first contact was a Canadian transplant. Over breakfast he was very helpful & reassuring that eating & drinking were safe here.
Our time share resort was in a separate building next door (Plaza Las Glorias). We had no trouble getting checked in and had a place to leave our luggage until the room was cleaned. This seemed to be going to well. Off we went to gather our suitcases and do the check out chore. When we got to the lobby with our suitcases we found that quite a checkout line had formed. Talking to the guy in front we found the resort had just sponsored a 20 team softball tournament. Within 10 minutes the line was 3 times as long with many people having afternoon flights to catch.
Our resort accommodations consist of a bedroom, bath with a door into an adjoining room with a couch that makes into a bed, a dinning room table, sink, refer & a hotplate. This had it’s own outside door & bathroom shower. The nesting thing didn’t take long – storing clothes in dressers etc. then we went into the gathering phase of getting sodas, beers and so forth.
After breakfast on Sunday we were ready to venture into town. We had 2 options: the local bus or a taxi. Thai fare was about $2.50 US. Now it was time to satisfy the shopping gene. With dozens of local shopkeepers anxious to accommodate us we bought several shirts, 2 hats and a belt. Next we decided to walk around town and do a little sight seeing. We quickly discovered that Puerto Vallarta has an annoying pest that is always in your face. As soon as you shoo one away, another appears. They will say anything to get you to look at a time share. We thought we were renting a jeep when we were whisked away to a time share presentation. The lady doing the presenting saw a "no sale" quickly when Butch was more interested in the cost of her condo than the time share. She and her husband had moved here from Seattle – we picked her brain about what it was like to live here. Our reward for the time share presentation was half price for the jeep rental and 2 boat trips.
Fiesta time – this was our reward for the first time share presentation. The fiesta was held in a private outdoor courtyard in downtown Puerto Vallarta. The fiesta consisted of live dancing and a show, band and dinner plus all the margaritas and tequila sunrises you could drink. It was a lot of fun, the lariat dancer was especially good.
Hit the road Butch! Monday morning found us back in Puerto Vallarta picking up the jeep. Marta - a bright and pretty Mexican girl made picking up the jeep fun. When she went over the operation of the jeep she left out one minor detail. The jeep wouldn’t start, not a sign. A Mexican "jeep tender" showed us where to plug in a dealy – bob at the end of our key chain into the dash. Voila – it started right up. It looked like this jeep had been around the block more than once. There was no handle on the parking break, the turn signal was broken and the speedometer didn't work. We were supposed to go no more than 200 km – but how could they ever know? (with the broken speedometer). How to build a tank. Take a perfectly good U.S. jeep and drive it on third world country roads for 2 years. At this point there are no shocks or steering and it drives like a tank.
Puerto Vallarta is really proud of their picturesque & quaint cobblestone streets. Our observation is that it is like driving on gravel roads without the dust. It was the ride of a lifetime between the Mexican drivers and roads with alternating speed bumps and potholes. We took the scenic route through the hills, jungle & tunnels (not on purpose) back to our resort.
After gathering our swimsuits, cameras and drinking water, we headed to the northern beaches. After a tedious 45 minutes of driving we found ourselves amidst expensive resorts in Nuevo Vallarta. A well-groomed Mexican man was hitchhiking so we gave him a lift and he told us about a restaurant on the beach.
We found the restaurant / beach club. What a great place, we started off with a couple of cokes and a dip in the ocean (nice warm water). Then we settled back in lounge chairs with a cool ocean breeze and ordered a couple of beers & shrimp fajitas. Beer and food is relatively cheap here. The fajitas showed up about 10 minutes before the tortillas, which was way too late to be of any use. After the beach club we found our way back to the resort for a shower and change of clothes. Even though we could have the jeep for 24 we were happy to return it before dark. After Marta checked the jeep out we were off to find Cathy a lobster dinner. We came across a shop that hand made haraches/ sandals. For $12 each we were outfitted and I can still hear the guy telling Cathy that "they’ll stretch" as we left the shop. Butch wanted to check out the hooters in Puerto Vallarta, so we went there for a beer. (Hooters is an international bar chain.)
One would think the lobster house would be a great place to get a lobster dinner. We read the menu on the hotel door and decided that that was for us. A time share salesman asked if he could help & we asked where the restaurant was. What restaurant? He said. We told him about the menu on the door. What menu? After showing him the menu, he asked the hotel clerk about the restaurant & was told that they had been closed for sometime. We asked if he had any recommendations. He told us about a place called Roberto’s, gave us a piece of paper with his name on it and told us to turn it in for a free drink. Since finding Roberto’s involved only 1 turn we had no trouble getting there.
Roberto’s was kind of small, very neat and busy with lots of people fussing over you. Butch had the Mexican seafood combo and Cathy had shrimp & of course lobster. All was good but Butch’s fish was really great. A cab ride back to the resort ended another day in paradise.
Tuesday was kind of a "hang out" day with the highlight being a dinner cruise on a pirate looking ship. The Marigalante was patterned after Christopher Columbus ship the Santa Maria. The evening included a chicken & barbecued ribs dinner with all the drinks you wanted to go with it. During the cruise the warm air was filled with the music from a Mariachi band. After dinner they shot off fireworks & then opened the main deck for dancing.
Wednesday morning found us at the marina again. This time for snorkeling, a horseback ride and barbecue lunch on the beach. The boat proceeded south along the shore so we got a view of the resorts and city. We then checked out some snorkeling equipment. The water was warm but not very clear. With some food scraps for enticement several small fish appeared. Next we’re off to an authentic Mexican fishing village. Judging by the number of tourists we gathered that they didn’t do much fishing anymore. I mean why would they need several hundred horses to take people to the waterfalls? It’s a good thing the horses had saddles, otherwise their bony bumps & ribs would have been most uncomfortable to ride on. It took them a minute to find Butch a horse – we’re not saying he’s fat but according to the height & weight charts he should be about 6’10. The horses had to work their way over some pretty steep terrain. This is where we learned you lean forward going up hills and back going down. The waterfall was scenic but the water was too cold for comfortable swimming. On returning to the fishing village our lunch of barbecue chicken & ribs was waiting. Next we anchored off a pretty white beach. Several of the passengers swam to shore. We spent several minutes bobbing around in the surf watching the people on the "big banana" scream for their lives. The big banana is a long yellow floating device pulled by a crazy man in a speed boat. On the way back, to ensure good tips, the crew kept maitais, tequila sunrises and pina coladas coming. They also had a ceremony of pouring a shot glass with 7up and tequila, banging it on a board, having the passenger shoot it down (drink it down in one gulp) then twisted your head around and batted you with an empty plastic bottle. When getting of the boat someone commented to Cathy that her face was red and maybe she got too much sun. We informed them that it probably had more to do with the pina coladas than the sun.
Thursday – Found us taking one last trip to town and a dip in the pool before we started packing. It seems we overstocked as we had a bottle of margarita mix and a bottle of tequila left. We used these and a handful of Mexican coins for a cab fare to the airport. This seemed to be just fine to the cabby. We made it through the baggage check and got our seat assignments. They were in an exit row on the west side of the plane so we had a view of the sunset and lots of legroom. When we got to LAX we had to leave the plane and go through customs then meet the plane at another gate and reboard it. I think this is where not traveling on Friday the 13th paid off. Not having our passports could have been a problem here. Not to be as we blew right through (we must really look like American tourists). Always a great end to a trip is getting home and finding everything as you left it, a cat that’s glad to see you and your own bed to sleep in.
Great sunsets – really red.
English speaking TV was a satellite feed from Denver CO.
This seemed like a drinking mans vacation.
Several hotels offered "all inclusive" packages, meal & drinks included.
On most of our excursions we managed to buddy up with very nice people.
Some trip pictures
Link to our home page beam
me there Scotty
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