Last December, I joined my friend Steven in Puerto Vallarta to celebrate his birthday and the end of the year in style. Some friends flew in from L.A. and we rented a Spanish colonial style apartment overlooking the Marina and the boardwalk. It was so sunny and warm that, apart from the Christmas decorations adorning the plazas and the local stores, you wouldn’t know it was December. During the day, we spent time at Steven’s pools (his apartment complex looks and feels like a resort) and on the beach sunbathing or kayaking.
Although, I had been in Puerto Vallarta the year before, this time I was able to see a different side of it that made me fall in love even more. The first night, during our stroll on the Malecón (the oceanside boardwalk boasting contemporary bronze and metal sculptures) we saw many beautiful and tastefully decorated bars and restaurants. We ended up having dinner at a cozy restaurant, Melissa, by the cathedral. Right when we were toasting with our huge margaritas, we heard a loud sound of drums and maracas coming from the street; we went to the door and saw that there was a large religious procession going on. Our impulse would have been to leave the table immediately and get lost in it, but when the restaurant’s owner assured us that the festivities for the Madonna of Guadalupe would have continued until the wee hours, we decided to take our time, enjoy our delicious Mexican seafood, and order more margaritas. Hundreds of locals were participating in the procession, either holding candles, singing, or performing in elaborate Mayan costumes an ancient routine. Being in Mexico at the eve of 2012 in the middle of a Mayan dance was so surreal and perfect! I couldn’t stop thinking about the prophecy and even though, I know that the Mayans ran out of tablets on which to write the calendar, I couldn’t help but run into the cathedral to pray for our salvation! Just kidding … it was so great and magical!
Old downtown is filled with art galleries (with weekly art walks happening on Wednesdays) and great restaurants — one of them, the über-chic Cafe’ des Artistes, is supposed to be the best restaurant in Mexico. Also the zona romantica, a charming area of old downtown with streets paved with stones, is known for housing the cutest little restaurants and bars. It is nearly impossible not to find a place with great comida and character.
One night, we were walking through the little tree-lined streets without a specific destination; we were just observing the different scenes displaying in front of our eyes of tourists dining al fresco, locals selling artisanal objects, and children playing, when we stumbled upon a street that had nothing fancy about it, but we happened to be intrigued by a restaurant which looked so inviting. We decided to dine in there and everything about that place proved to be incredible; the food, the ambiance, and the mariachi. We sat at a table overlooking the patio of an old colonial hotel, it was very bohemian and I loved the paintings made by the restaurant’s owner’s wife. Another cool thing about this place is the way they make their coffee: They brew coffee beans in a big pot (la olla) on a big stove … what would the name of this restaurant be? Cafe de Olla, of course!!!
-End Part One-