When “Home” is where most people seem to be on vacation…

Puerto Vallarta is a short three hour flight from Denver. It is due south. In fact, Denver and Puerto Vallarta share almost the exact same longitude. Certainly not the latitude, though. And, certainly not the attitude. Thanks to Jimmy Buffett for making that point!

This is not the first time we have stayed for many weeks or months in a “resort” town or a very popular tourist destination. Nice Côte d’Azur. Split, Croatia. Dubrovnik. Verbier. Lucca. But there is real success in our efforts to do this. We get to know the people, the markets, the customs, the problems, the warts if you will, and the charm a vacationer will not possibly get in only a few days. We get to know the place.

Out back. The view, of course, is on the other side. Photo:Diane Huntress
Out back. The view, of course, is on the other side. Photo:Diane Huntress

We are living in Alta Vista high above what is called “Old Town” Vallarta. Most tourists know it as the Zona Romantica. The locals know, and have always known, it as the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood. This is urban. There is traffic. There are sirens. There is endless construction and restoration work going on. There are shops, markets, restaurants and bars, lots of massage parlors, souvenir shops, street food stands, and plenty of buses. (Did I mention that buses in Mexican towns don’t run red lights?)

This is not the “Hotel Zone”. That’s a few kilometers away towards the airport. Most, not all, tourists are there for the majority of their visit.

We are surrounded by a combination of mid-rise condo buildings, villas, shacks and derelict buildings and homes connected by incredibly inconsistent sidewalks and skateboard-proof cobblestone streets. Somewhat like LoHi in Denver.

When the downtown grocery store is really on the second floor. Photo:Diane Huntress
When the downtown grocery store is really on the second floor. Photo:Diane Huntress

But, on any given day, one can venture out to buy some needed vittles and combine that with some activity that seems almost vacation-like. Such as going to the ATM at the bank for some cash and returning by way of a walk along the beach. Or, by stopping to visit with the tame Pelicans at the street side fish market while being hustled for snorkeling trips or deep sea fishing excursions…then continuing on to the grocery store for the weekend’s food. Most journeys include a stop for good coffee at A Page in the Sun, a great little book store and cafe that somehow always conjures up a pleasant breeze for the sidewalk tables.

Meanwhile, the vacationers, few at this time of year, are checking their watches to make sure not to miss the next mediocre buffet at their all-inclusive resort. And, buying a t-shirt.

We have a fine 20-mile panoramic view of the giant cruise ships coming into Puerto Vallarta. Every week in August, an eleven story Carnival boat has arrived with about 3000 merrymakers from Los Angeles. They spend a few hours in port and some choose a jungle journey or a bus tour to fill the time out of the flea markets until sailing away. They check Puerto Vallarta off their list of places they visited while in Mexico. The boats look impressive, though.

Most of those cruisers never make it to Old Town. Much less to Fredy’s Tucan. This breakfast place is so popular with the locals that on Sunday’s, they have valet parking! Big and busy and efficient and delicious breakfast or brunch. And, no Snooze-like waits for your table. Hard to beat a nearby poblano omelette or huevos divorcianos con tocino, of course!

Raul (l) and Roberto of Roberto's on Basilia Badillo. Long time friends and both former teachers. Photo:Diane Huntress
Raul (l) and Roberto of Roberto’s on Basilio Badillo. Long time friends and both former teachers. Photo:Diane Huntress

We targeted a restaurant nearby for a Friday dinner a couple of weeks ago. Roberto’s has been open since 1988. Roberto also opened a restaurant in La Cruz that we were quite fond of, Xocolatl. We ate there several times because of the food and Raul, our host. Going to Roberto’s then in Vallarta seemed perfectly natural. And, when we arrived at the door, that same gentleman Raul greeted us. Hard to know who was more surprised! The La Cruz spot had closed for the season, so Raul had come to Vallarta to help his good friend Roberto. We were all good friends by the end of the evening…and a delicious seafood meal.

We, unlike vacationers, have to keep track of who is open when and who might be closing for the month of September. Gets even quieter here then, but there is the big National Independence Day celebration coming up on the 16 de Septiembre. Then things will start to return to normal. And, for many more weeks, we still get to have the real Puerto Vallarta to ourselves!

Peaceful Puerto Vallarta after a raucous thunderstorm.
Peaceful Puerto Vallarta after a raucous summer thunderstorm.