So today was our first of two stops in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta. The city is rather large and has a big port so we met our tour group on the pier, weaved our way through the opening tourist and souvenir shops and came to our rides for the day, 2 door soft top Jeep Wranglers. Jeremy and I were paired with a younger couple (she rather significantly younger than him) who were from the UK and Australia but currently live in Switzerland. Both she and Jeremy volunteered to drive so Jeremy took the first leg. We were given a red Jeep and set off in our caravan of 7 cars out of the city (past rather disappointingly a Walmart, KFC, Outback, Dominoes, McDonalds and a bunch of other American chain restaurants, along with a bunch of hotels along the beach) towards what our guide Jose Pepe called “real Mexico.”
We drove through some agricultural areas that were growing corn and squash, forded a rather deep ravine and “off roaded” a bit along a dirt road (granted the secondary roads in Mexico are in pretty rough shape so that was almost more offroading than the actual course) along with some smaller villages (thankfully none with McDonald’s) and stopped near a local elementary school to hear about what we had driven past. The kids in the schools were just emerging for their gym class and one of the middle aged guests who spoke Spanish talked to the kids, asking what grade they were in and seeing if they knew how to say “my name is” in English. We were brought through a “real” Mexican house which was very likely someone’s home but was also set up for folks to walk through the living/kitchen area through to the back yard where they had various fruit trees growing (they also sold bottled water and soda). There were a bunch of stray dogs of various shapes and sizes and some free ranging chickens, but oddly I have only seen one cat this whole trip, not sure why that is.
We then drove another 15 minutes to a tequila factory and little souvenir market, we forgot to bring cash with us on the excursion so even though I was tempted by an agave weave bag and some jewelry I wasn’t able to get anything as they didn’t accept credit cards.
The tequila tour and tasting were fun. To make tequila they use rather similar methods to winemaking for a lot of the process, after they pressure cook the heart of the agave plant it is crushed/juiced and then put into tanks to age and then is distilled or aged longer in oak barrels. We did a tasting of “silver” (unaged) as well as tequila aged for 6 months and 18 months (each increasing in price, although the flavor I found was best to me in the unaged). They also had three flavored tequilas, peach, almond and coffee/chocolate, these were very sweet and didn’t really taste much like tequila but were tasty nonetheless. We opted to buy a little variety pack of the regular tequilas and then after being given 10 minutes to shop the little market we were off back to town towards the beach to enjoy a “traditional Mexican snack.”
On the way back the Australian woman drove, she got stuck with a bit more traffic and city driving than we did on the way out and ended up being rather frazzled by the time we reached the beach, but we made it just the same. We parked in a side garage/alley (and all the cars were thankfully turned around when we came back to leave) and walked to the beachfront to the “Burros Restaurant” for our snack, thick tortilla chips and fresh pico de gallo, then a plate with a sampling of quesadillas, a chicken taquito, fresh guacamole and refried beans. We also ordered drinks, a margarita for Jeremy and a Pacifico beer for myself (quite a tasty beer, by the way). We only had 45 minutes at the beach so after our snack we had just enough time to dip our feet in the ocean (we were expecting a bit more time than that at the beach, but oh well), and then we headed back through the early afternoon traffic to the ship.
Since we were already in our bathing suits and had wanted to try out the pools on the ship Jeremy and I stopped back by the room, dropped off our stuff and put on sunscreen and went to try out each of the saltwater pools they have on the ship, two outside (one four feet deep, one five to six feet) as well as the “therapeutic” pool which was warmer and had various jets and bubbles. We saw Nicci and Derrick in one of the regular pools and chatted with them for a while, as well as one of our fellow hikers from the volcano climb in the therapeutic pool (the guy who in fact was the high altitude climber who got us permission to do the farther/higher hike). It’s been fun to start seeing and recognizing various folks on the ship, too bad we only have 2 full days left!
We had another tasty dinner and after dessert our waiter Adi came out with a “complements of the chef” Grand Marnier soufflé which was amazing, I could have had two. We also had our cookbook from the chefs table delivered tonight, it’s huge and has lots of beautiful photos of the food we have had on the ship along with a general overview of Celebrity cruise ships. Tomorrow we have another Jeep tour, we may have convinced Nicci and Derrick to come along as their kayaking tour was cancelled, so we will find out tomorrow.