Ah, Puerto Vallarta. San Franciscans may be delusional about the clemency of their own weather, but when it comes to doing the tropical beach getaway, nothing short of paradisal will do. Yes, tourist trap and cruise ship destination it is, but Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding Bahía de Banderas maintain a reverie that keeps Mexicanos, Estadounidenses, and Canadienses flocking back alike.
Stay tuned as your correspondent pursues days in the sun and nights in the rum, just like Dick and Liz.- Ed.
I don’t often find myself in a resort. In fact I believe the last time I stayed in one was in Cancún in 1989. The city had just been leveled by Hurricane Gilbert, so my father thought it would be an ideal time to take a vacation. My mother was still nursing my sister, so I got to enjoy her ticket to a city of shredded palm trees, blown out windows, and an overwhelmed sewer system. I ate tainted fish, got dysentery, and spent the rest of the trip in a feverish haze. It was fun.
As fate would have it though, my latest trip back to México finds me smack dab in the middle of the Zona Hotelera in Puerto Vallarta helping one of my best friends with a conference she’s organizing. Since I’m not blonde or wearing an all-you-can-drink margarita bracelet, I’m usually questioned and treated with suspicion which makes me feel right at home.
As far a tourist towns go, Vallarta does do a surprisingly good job of marrying the authentic with the manufactured, but much like the rest, when it boils down to it, the city does get divided into the old town and the resort side. Also like the others, the farther you get away from downtown the more isolated you are from the world immediately outside your cabaña, which is gross and unfortunate.
Resorts make little sense to me as that they don’t really seem to pay off unless you get some all-inclusive type thing, and even then, there are so many rules and blackout periods it feels less like a vacation and more like Beat the Clock. Luckily, eating-wise at least, one has options if you simply step out the gates.
There are plenty of taco stands to be had if you get stranded in the Zona Hotelera, and to be honest, the Centro, by foot, really isn’t far at all. If you just got in town, however, the simplest task can seem daunting and the unfamiliar, complicated with hunger, can lead to an unnecessary cab ride to a chain restaurant or, God forbid, Señor Frog’s, which should never happen to anyone.
Thankfully there is Noah’s Café -Bar just over the fence in Colonia Versalles. In essence Noah’s is the classic creperie-cum-coffee house any San Franciscan sees on a daily basis, but to the unjustifiably apprehensive tourist wary of their first street taco or the unjustifiably homesick expat, this can be culinary gold.
Not only do they traffic in California café standards, but their chilaquiles are insane and their seafood comida corrida ridiculous. Much like reputable taquerias and dim sum parlours back home, the proof lies in their steady and loyal following of expats, snowbirds and neighbourhood families alike. Many joints hedge their bets on these demographics, but few do it with the love you get at Noah’s. This is probably because the power couple behind the scenes, Valeria and Momo, have their roots both in the Bay Area and Vallarta and it shows. Plus they earn points for naming the place after their ludicrously cute son.
Besides, by not getting scalped for a soggy club sandwich courtesy of the Sheraton you can spend the difference you saved at any bar in the Centro, or perhaps if you are still feeling nervous, that other fine SF import, Bolero. Olé. Oy vey.
Calle Aldanaca 176 (@ Milan)
Photo courtesy of Noah’s Cafe-Bar.