by Nancy Bestor
I love traveling to new places. In fact, I’m a bit hesitant to visit a country I’ve already been to, as the world really is a big place, and I only have so much time to see it all. That being said, I realize there is something quite lovely about going on vacation in a spot you are comfortable in, a place where everybody might not know your name, but they recognize your face, and know you’ve visited before. I’m fortunate that every fall I take a girls’ trip with a few of my besties. We’ve been to several different places, but the last few years we seem to have settled on Puerto Vallarta, and the Villa Del Palmar. This hotel/condominium complex is nothing fancy, but it is right on the beach, and on the beach is where we spend most of our time. This year I arrived a day after two of my girls, and they had a cocktail waiting for me, and a lounge chair in the shade of a palapa with my name on it. When I plopped down on the beach and slipped off my shoes I let out a pleasant sigh, as I felt like I was home.
I’d like to tell you about all the adventures we take in Puerto Vallarta, but then I’d have to kill you truth be told, we don’t really have any adventures. We sit on the beach most every day and chat until our mouths get dry. Then we make ourselves a little drink and talk some more. We’re friendly to the folks around us, exchanging names and “where are you froms,” but the truth is, we’re not on a girls’ trip to meet new people. We’re on a girls’ trip to hang out with the girls.
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t just talk on our girls’ trips. We eat too. Boy, do we eat. A few years ago we discovered we don’t hardly have to get out of our beach lounge chairs to get absolutely fantastic and authentic Mexican food. A lovely couple, Guardo and Estella, sell home-cooked food every day in a spot right next to the hotel’s lounge chairs. For about $5 per plate, we get whatever Guardo and Estella are serving that day. Some days it was lightly breaded fish, or chicken with salsa verde, or tamales or enchiladas. Other days it was the best sautéed shrimp I have ever had in my life. It was always served with rice and some kind of vegetable or salad, as well as a fantastic assortment of homemade salsas. Estella does the serving, and Guardo is the front man, taking names for the list, and working as cashier. He also speaks the best English, and socializes with folks waiting for their turn.
We learned to get on Guardo’s list as soon as they set up, usually about 12:30, and place our order for whatever looks and sounds best that day. If you wait too long, the best stuff sells out, and by getting on the list we could go back to our lounge chairs and Guardo would come over to let us know when it was our turn. You can’t beat that kind of service. And are we lazy or what? Some poor tourists buy the hotel food instead, which could be good, but come on, it’s no where near as good as Estella’s food.
Occasionally we’ll hop on the public bus and venture into downtown Puerto Vallarta. And while we seem to be getting lazier and lazier, it really is worth getting off our rears because the taco carts in town provide a wonderful array of equally delicious Mexican food (and Estella and Guardo only serve lunch). There too we often return to our familiar haunt, La Hormiga Feliz, for delectable carne asada tacos that run about 75 cents a piece.
Lest you think we do nothing but eat and drink, which wouldn’t be too far off the mark, we did stop in to a Cuban bar in town on this trip, La Bodeguita del Medio. The bar features live Cuban music most nights, and although none of us know the first thing about salsa dancing, we burned off a few tacos on the dance floor, and I’m pretty sure we looked great.
I’m all for experiencing new places, new foods and new things, but I’m also all for lazy vacations where I can sit around and watch cloud formations. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to keep doing both.