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The charms of Puerto Vallarta

I’ve just returned from a couple of days working in Puerto Vallarta, and can report that I was taken by its charms. I’d landed there a year ago only to drive northwest into Nayarit state.

This time, I explored the city a bit. First off, it’s safe and one can feel that immediately in the loose attitude of Mexicans there. Secondly, Old Vallarta is lovely. In general, city fathers have done well with regulations keeping signs small, keeping the cobblestone streets and making wide promenades, especially along the seafront.

IMG_4756Several things surprised me, though. The few restaurants I tried were great, as good as anything in Mexico City. A very authentic French bistro (La Cigale) near City Hall, where I spent much of the two days, astounded me with the tastiest French onion soup I’d eaten in years.

A lot of resident foreigners dwell in Puerto Vallarta so that has brought plenty of fusion to the cuisine, the shopping, the art, etc. Walking along the Malecon felt like strolling along Venice Beach in California.

I’d heard that Puerto Vallarta is a bit of a gay mecca but didn’t realize how much so it is, truly one of the most open places I’ve seen in Latin America. There are two gay tourist pamphlets on most counters. One I picked up (called Gay Guide Vallarta) said this:

“Vallarta’s gay scene includes a couple dozen gay clubs and bars and 3 beach clubs that from the gay beach area north to just across the river. … The main cluster of gay bars today is an outgrowth of city planning decisions made in the early 1990s. They created a Cabaret Zone, a four block square area where the city fathers wanted the late night entertainment, with its accompanying noise, to be corralled.”

While the gay scene won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it has brought peripheral entertainment. Old Vallarta was filled with signs for a local troupe’s performance of music from Stephen Sondheim’s musicals.

The jungle is verdant both to the north and south of the port. I saw multiple signs for the upcoming Vallarta Bird Festival March 7-10 that draws birdwatchers from far and wide.

I personally prefer the crashing Pacific surf to the gentler Caribbean, and there’s plenty of that outside of Vallarta Bay.

If I appear overly enthusiastic, maybe it’s because I always feel stronger, fitter and more invigorated going from Mexico City’s 7350 feet altitude to sea level. Anyone else notice the difference?



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pink schnoid

Vallarta is great

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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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