Panama Canal Cruise 2013:
Day 13 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


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Panama Canal Cruise 2013: [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Colombia] [Day 5 - Panama] [Day 6 - Canal] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Costa Rica] [Day 9 - At Sea] [Day 10 - Guatemala] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Mexico] [Day 14 - Mexico] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - San Diego]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013: ¡Hola, Mexico! Because of an emergency medical evacuation after we left Guatemala, we arrived in port two hours late, but fortunately for us, we were arriving in enough time to meet our morning tour.

Puerto Vallarta welcomed us with a mall and a Walmart across the street. The pelicans and other birds went crazy for whatever got stirred up while we were docking the ship.
We had an independent tour this day, so we paid $5 each for a shared ride in a van. The $3 price took most of the passengers to the Malecón, the main shopping and tourist area of Puerto Vallarta, ...
... but we paid extra to be taken to the Bridge of the Insurgents. This is not that bridge, but it is where we were dropped off. Fortunately, we had printed a map of the area before we came, since the map provided by the ship also didn't label the two bridges, so we were able to find our way to our tour's meeting point.
We made our way upstream along Isla Cuale in the middle of the river.
Here's a cool tree next to the shops that line Isla Cuale.
We learned later that the island is known for how many cats there are, and we spotted one of them on our walk.
A few minutes later, we were on the correct bridge, and we waited for our tour guide to meet us at 10:00 AM. Note that the time on the clock in this photo is wildly incorrect.
At 10:00 AM sharp, Eric and Martha (pronounced "Marta") arrived, carrying their bright Vallarta Eats bags. Eric owns Vallarta Eats and Martha was our tour guide for the day.
We were taking the Taco and More tour, limited to six participants. Today, that included another couple from Indiana and a couple from Minneapolis. Each couple was given a tote bag with two frozen water bottles in it. The water bottles melted as the tour went on, providing us with delicious ice water throughout the morning.
We started our tour by returning to Isla Cuale then heading further north, past these awesome dragon streetlights.
We passed a statue of director John Huston, whose movie "Night of the Iguana" helped bring international attention to Puerto Vallarta.
Here's a cool, unusually shaped bridge crossing Rio Cuale. It smoothly combines a ramp and stairs.
Here's a bridge crossing the other side of the river, one of several wood plank bridges we saw. It was great fun to cross it. This was one of several photos taken by our tour guide and kindly provided to us later by the tour owner.
This part of town is characterized by beautiful wrought iron balconies.
Fifteen minutes after starting the tour, we were at our first stop, Birria Ricky.
We had a delicious beef taco served on a plate covered with a plastic bag. Without dishwashing facilities in the cart, this is a quick, sanitary way to serve food.
We hadn't eaten breakfast that morning in preparation for three-plus hours of eating, and we were ready to go!
We passed several colorful piñata shops along our walk. We were amused later to see one of our fellow passengers bringing two large piñatas back onto the ship. Good luck getting those into the overhead bin, lady!
Here's a large, beautiful private house.
Many of the sidewalks featured this beautiful stone design, ...
... and most of the streets were pretty cobblestone.
Twenty minutes after our first stop, it was time to eat again at this outdoor stand attached to a small shop.
The owner's daughter hacked open a couple of coconuts, and poured each of us a glass of coconut water.
Next, she used a special tool to hack out the coconut meat.
We each had a large piece of plain coconut meat (bottom in photo), then we had another large piece of coconut meat mixed with lime and chile powder (top). We unanimously agreed that the chile powder and lime concoction was the clear winner.
A couple of minutes' walk and we were at a carnitas stand where we had a choice of several different types of carnitas.
Martha helped us each decide what to order and told us about all of the various salsas and toppings available to us. The shop owners also served us glasses of orange water (we'd call it juice), shown here in the large tub behind Tom.
Here's the finished result. So very delicious!
Eight minutes later, we were at a store, butcher shop, and bakery all owned by the same family.
Here's the area where they butcher the hogs and make the carnitas.
Here's the bakery, Panaderia Collins (Tagline: "La casa del baguette"). Most of the baking was done for the day, ...
... except for banana and corn muffins that were just going into the oven. More on those later in our story.
At the front of the butcher shop, Martha gave us samples of chicharron (fried port skin -- crunchy and tasty!) and carnitas. This shop supplies many of the food vendors in the area, such as the carnitas stand we had visited earlier.
Two minutes later, we were at Marisma Fish Taco, ...
... a very popular taco stand with a tiny seating area just behind it on the sidewalk.
We had delicious fish tacos with several different types of salsas and sauces to use, and were served another fruit water.
This one was made using the tiny fruit, nanche. Martha gave us each one or two of the tiny fruits to try. They were very sour, with several inedible seeds each, but the fruit water was quite good.
We passed this beautiful tree on our five-minute walk to our next stop, ...
... Tortilleria Zapata. Martha had already taught us to listen for the distinctive squeaking sound of a tortilleria, and this one's noises were no exception.
We peeked in our head to see the tortillas being made by machine, ...
... then watched the cashier weigh and package the freshly-made tortillas for sale.
Martha got a small packet of tortillas and showed us how to roll up the tortillas after sprinkling it with salt. The tortillas were still very hot to the touch, but we all managed to roll our tortillas into little tortilla cylinders and eat them.
Just a few shopfronts to the north is this pineapple juice stand with a pineapple press out front. This young man filled the press with 4 - 5 cored and chopped pineapples, then pressed them into fresh juice. In this photo, you can see the spigot in the lower left dispensing juice into the plastic bowl (behind the green basket).
The juice was very sweet and delicious.
We did some more walking through a small courtyard, ...
... and down a street filled with shops, ...
... and past a sidewalk display of freshly-made cheeses, which Martha stopped to explain to us.
Next, we toured a produce market where Martha showed us some of the more unusual fruits, ...
... and tested us on our knowledge of this plant. We all failed -- it's chamomile.
Ten minutes after the pineapple stop, we arrived at Mariscos El Colera.
We had a table ready for us, ...
... and we dined on ceviche (par-boiled) with avocado slices and another type of orange fruit water. It was served with a hot sauce and an even hotter chile oil concoction, for those who were up for it.
While we were eating, a woman from the bakery arrived with a large bag of freshly-baked muffins balanced on her head.
She gave each couple a banana muffin and a corn muffin. We chose to take a tiny bite each and bring ours back to the ship with us. The muffins were very dense and extremely hot, with a very homemade texture and taste.
VW Bugs are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta, in a wide range of conditions from falling apart to majorly revamped.
Here's a pretty street scene, ...
... and here's a gorgeous private home.
After a 10-minute walk, we arrived at Mariscos Cisneros, which is both a street taco stand ...
... and a small family restaurant right behind the taco stand where they had a table ready for us. An elderly gentleman stood at the entrance and sang several songs, then came by to ask each of us for a tip.
Meanwhile, Martha showed us a copy of the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Vallarta Lifestyles that featured Vallarta Eats.
We had two tacos here, served with refreshing glasses of tamarind water. The first was a seafood chile relleno taco that included half of a grilled chile. One bite was more than enough for Debbie until she removed the chile, and Tom was happy to add her discarded chile to his.
The next taco consisted of a shrimp brochette. Martha recommended eating it without the tortilla if we were getting full, which we were. As we walked to the next location, Martha asked us how full we were on a scale of 1 - 5. Most of us were at level 4.
Another 5-10 minutes of walking brought us to El Moreno taco stand where we sat on benches in the shade of the stand's fold-out awnings.
We drank horchata de arroz, rice water made with cinnamon and vanilla. Of the many different drinks we'd sampled, this was one of the very best.
Those of us who had claimed to have a full-level of 4 got a half of a quesadilla (shown being made here), while the other two who claimed to be less full got an entire one. We forgot to take a photo of the finished product consisting of cheese, adobada pork, and beans. Debbie was able to pick out most of the beans, fortunately.
After another short walk, we were on the beach at Langosta Loca.
Martha showed us a package of achiote paste, a Yucatan-style fish marinade, ...
... which this gentleman was using to coat the fish-on-a-stick that we'd be eating next.
We settled into a couple tables underneath large beach umbrellas.
Beach vendors wandered through the tables and all along the beach constantly. We were probably approached by 7 or 8 vendors during our short visit, in addition to multiple guitar players and a father/son duo singing in one corner of the seating area.
Once our fish was finished, it was served to us on several sticks.
We passed around the limes, ate the tasty fish, and listened to the hustle and bustle of the crowds and the surf.
This stop lasted 25 minutes, then we were on our way again.
We passed the brand-new establishment where two of our fellow tourists were staying, ...
... and crossed Rio Cuale again.
Our final stop was the Con Orgullo Azteca candy shop.
There were many different kinds of candy ...
... from all over the country.
One of the store employees proceeded to dispense sample after sample of candy for us.
We started with these chips covered with delicious caramel squeezed from a bottle.
Then we tried this peanutty thing, ...
... and this coconut confection, ...
... and these very undelicious chile powder-covered things. None of us could finish these, so they must be an acquired taste.
Then we ate this, whatever it was, ...
... and ate these pieces of Abuelita brand chocolate, ...
... and drank this delicious stuff.
At this point, nearly four and a half hours after the tour started, we thanked Martha for a fantastic tour and all parted ways. If our ship's departure time hadn't been pushed back two hours, we would have needed to be on our way back to the ship before now, so it worked out perfectly that we were late getting into port.
We walked along the Malecón for a while and could see our ship off in the distance. We also changed some money into pesos to use for the rest of the day and the next.
There are numerous works of art along the Malecón.
Some are a part of the Malecón itself.
Pretty arches.
Seahorse! Who loves seahorses? Chicks do.
There are restaurants and nightclubs all along the Malecón. Look closely in this two-story opening and you'll see a huge statue that will be presiding over the nightlife later on.
Another cool statue.
We reached the McDonald's where our vanmates had been dropped off earlier that day. There was an ice cream-only cashier on the corner of the restaurant, so we bought a couple of cones.
We hailed a cab and headed back to the port, passing this hotel entrance with the very cool floating fountain.
"You want me to pose with this cold washcloth?" Yes, Tom, please pose with that cold washcloth so we can add a note that we came back to these after every port day and they were awesome.
Back onboard the ship, this group of finely-dressed gentlemen were performing for the passengers, ...
... while these lovely ladies posed for photographs in their traditional dresses.
We freshened up and headed back out quickly to invoke the Bundlings Helsinki Rule once again, because the port-side bars were offering a bucket of 3 beers for $5 US. ¡Sí!
After our refreshments, we got back onboard and watched the scenery while we waited for sail out to start. Here's the view of the Walmart, ...
... and here's the view looking back toward where the Malecón would be if we could see that far.
Here's a closeup of one of the two pirate ships available to tourists for pirate-themed outings.

Sail out took us past this beautiful hotel with an even more beautiful infinity pool in front of it. The rest of our evening was uneventful except for the thrill of getting to turn back our clocks one more hour.

Day 14 >


Panama Canal Cruise 2013: [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Colombia] [Day 5 - Panama] [Day 6 - Canal] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Costa Rica] [Day 9 - At Sea] [Day 10 - Guatemala] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Mexico] [Day 14 - Mexico] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - San Diego]

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