Friday, October 17, 2014

¡Hola Paraiso! - Our Anniversary in Puerto Vallarta

"A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it." (Robert Orben)

So what would your "dream vacation" be? Would it include sun, sandy beaches, and blue skies?

Would it be a place where you could have every wish granted - every need met?  A place where you were pampered as if you were royalty (or even better, A Kardashian!)? A faraway, exotic place that you could go to and leave all your cares behind?

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it. Well, that's what Deborah and I decided to do for our 8th anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Since we got married in September, we never got to go on a real honeymoon. The school year had just started - I was working - so our "grand celebration" was to spend a day and a night in lovely little Ashland, 40 miles from home. So now that I'm retired, we decided to do something "big".

We were very certain that what we wanted to do was something we had never done before, and to go somewhere we had never been.

We wanted something "tropical", "exotic". We said we wanted to do nothing but "relax at a beautiful resort...for at least a week". We considered Hawaii (too expensive); the Bahamas (too far away); Costa Rica (too unknown), until finally settling on Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

It seemed perfect: Pretty inexpensive; only a 4 1/2 hour flight; and the resort we were going to stay at, The Sunset Plaza, advertised that it was "small and quiet" and even promised us our own "personal butler". Paradise seemed to await us. But surprisingly, when we told friends and coworkers about our plans, we heard a far different story from them.

"Oh no. You're going to Mexico? Haven't you heard? It's very dangerous there - drugs, tourists kidnapped!"... "Mexico? Didn't you hear about the hurricanes there? Good luck!"... "I would never go to Mexico - you get sick just from the water!"... "Mexico is the last place I'd go - there's just too many Mexicans there!"

We had never heard so much pessimism, and grumpiness, and distrust, and negativity...mostly from people who when you asked them if they'd ever been to Mexico ironically said "No"! So we stopped telling people about our plans, and quietly looked forward to our getaway.  We were ready for a week in Paradise.

I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on. (Jean Kerr)
We flew out of Medford on September 24th, the morning of our anniversary. We knew better than to expect "comfort and bliss" on our flights to Los Angeles, and then on to Puerto Vallarta. Both, though relatively short, had their own special "challenges": wailing 2 year olds seated two rows behind us; obnoxious passengers loudly telling no one in particular "How fun they were!", and scruffy single guys off on a fishing trip wondering when the drink cart was coming 9:30 am... and offering all single women within eyeshot a free drink! Sigh.... We patiently endured it all because we knew Paradise awaited us.
We finally landed in Puerto Vallarta at 3:15 pm. After schlepping our bags through customs, we headed to find our shuttle. But to get to it we had to go through "Time Share Alley"

Our instructions from the travel agency had warned us to not be enticed to stop and chat with these salesmen, lined up like eager sharks along this "gauntlet" before the exit. But we were groggy, and when one handsome young agent called us over to "help us", we wandered over. Surprisingly, he was polite; he gave us a map of the city, and then even poured both of us a shot of tequila (which we much enjoyed after our testy flight!). And then even more amazingly, he let us wander away without making any kind of sales pitch! Deborah was amazed! (Especially since she didn't know he was a sales agent - until I told her in the cab ride away). Our luck seemed good!

I'll never forget how it felt when we stepped out of the airport doors. Though the skies were gray, the heat and humidity slammed me like I had just opened the oven door. As I stood there waiting for our cabbie to load our bags into the trunk, I began sweating as if I had just ran from the plane to the car. Welcome to the tropics, Senor Schnorenberg! 

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the Sunset Plaza. The resort's manager, Javier Vergara, personally checked us in, offering us glasses of champagne and cool towels. After patiently sitting through a "welcome/sales pitch" from the resort's "concierge", the 1st of our personal butlers, Ruben, escorted us upstairs to our room, promising our bags would be brought up shortly.

When we walked into the room, a surprise awaited us (actually, awaited Deborah!)

I had called Javier the day before and asked him if he could arrange for some roses to be in our room when we arrived, since it was our anniversary. And boy did he! This beautiful bouquet and a luscious piece of chocolate cake greeted us. Mucho gracias!

We looked out of our 14th floor balcony and were amazed at the view.

Looking south from our balcony. Old Puerto Vallarta in the distance.
Pools and hot tubs below

Though the skies were grayer than we expected, and both of us were sweaty, we quickly unpacked and then decided to go for a short walk to stretch our legs before dinner.  Puerto Vallarta's main thoroughfare ran just a block away from the hotel. Buses and cars rattled and buzzed by as our heads swiveled taking it all in. We walked alternately on concrete sidewalks and then genuine cobblestone streets. I'd never seen real cobblestones before!

But as we stepped off a curb, Deborah's hand slipped out of my sweaty grasp, and the next thing I knew she was on all fours scrambling to get up! How did that happen? We didn't know. But her fall cut short our little trek, and we retreated back to our room to take a much needed shower and then go to dinner.

The resort boasted of its Italian restaurant, "Luciano's", so we went there. But it was empty, except for us - and we soon discovered why. Let's just say that the chef should've left "Italian cuisine for the Italians" and stuck with what (I assume) he knew best. Though disappointed, we enjoyed margaritas and nachos at the outside bar, and went to bed looking forward to the next day. Thunder rumbled outside of our window as night fell.

So despite the testy flight...and the steamy weather...and some unexpected scraped knees...and the lukewarm ravioli...and the gray skies...we were still in paradise. We were here to enjoy ourselves.

Our adventures would continue the next day.

Buenas noches mis amigos!

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