2 March 2016

Living in Old Town

We booked two different places on Flipkey for our stay in Puerto Vallarta because I couldn't get into the one I wanted for the whole time.

Our first place was in a condo complex of about 25, with two swimming pools and a heated spa. The condo had a slight Mexican feel inside and out, but so do a lot of places in California, we could have been anywhere. It was a 20 minute uphill walk from town that really got our hearts beating and our legs aching. We aren't being precious when we say it was a hard slog. The property agent's car can't make it up the hill, so she leaves it at the bottom, and walks up.  One day a gas truck was driving up the road and Lindsay was able to out walk it - that is how steep it was. I'm not going to miss that hill.

Moving next door to the locals

We have moved right into the heart of town, with all that comes with it. Kids playing in the street until 10.30pm, garbage trucks picking up rubbish around 8pm nearly every night from the corner just opposite us. Dogs bark and cats scream during night and roosters do their thing in the morning or sometimes all day. I did know all of this before we came here, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. Most nights are relatively quiet and I'm having no problems sleeping. It's loud, it's colourful, it's Mexico.

We are on the first floor (bottom being ground floor), just don't lean out over the balustrade too far, those are power lines!

A balcony surrounds our condo on two sides but as it's less than a metre wide, we can't sit out there. I tried to get the condo above us with the balcony but the people who rented it last year had the first option to rent it again. The ambiance of having all the doors open though is really lovely, which you wouldn't get if you were on the ground floor. There is a communal rooftop terrace with comfortable chairs, a couch, two dining settings and a barbeque (grill) and we look over all the rooftops, but we can't quite see the sea. We didn't have a barbeque at our last place so it's a great addition. It's only a flat 7 minute walk to get into town, add a few more minutes and you're at the beach. With the mercardo (market) only two blocks away, it's in a perfect location.

The Neighbourhood

When we hear the jingle "better, better, better gas", we know the gas man is coming. He sells LPG (propane) in large gas bottles, a bit like swap and go but he comes to your door. Less often, the big gas truck comes around that must fill up large gas tanks and the big hose gets connected to a tank inside the building. Soon after the water man comes "Agua agua" (ag-wa-r = water) he shouts as he pedals around the streets. At 20 pesos for 20 litres, it's 15 pesos cheaper than what we were paying up the road and he brings it up to our condo. There is a bread man too, he yells Pan (bread) and a few other things that I can't understand. He carries his pastries on a large wicker tray on his head, and a fold up stand on his shoulder, which he then uses to rest them on when he finds a customer. There's a lady who sells strawberries and vegetables from the back of her truck, that has what could be a radio blaring through a megaphone, which sounds more like some propaganda, it's even worse when she stops right outside our windows - it reminds me of Istanbul.

It's lively around here and life is hard. The houses in this area are dark and small as the doors are often open and you can see in when you pass. Our condo is like a palace compared to what they live in. The streets are relatively clean; there really isn't a lot of rubbish around. They take pride in what they have and you will often see people sweeping or hosing down the footpath outside their homes. They are the most helpful, courteous and happy people I have ever met. On the way home one night, we had stepped onto the road but were waiting for the traffic to pass. The cars stopped right in the middle of the intersection of one of the busiest roads in town, and waved us through. They will do this when you are on the footpath as well, usually in the side streets, not always, but often.

a rock band playing covers at the market

Mexicans love their music and it blares full bore from their cars, sometimes at one o'clock in the morning. There's always music coming from somewhere. Friday nights there are dance shows down at the Farmer's Market square. During the Mardi Gras, every float had different music at full volume. Easter is supposed to be very loud, apparently they party 24/7 so we aren't expecting much sleep that weekend.

A lady came to the door on our second day, not understanding but remembering that Raymond had said the cleaners may come around to water the plants on the balcony in between the cleaning days because it was so warm. So I said to her (with my new word for water) agua plantes, and she said si with a big smile. I made the plantes up, it's actually plantas, but it was a pretty good guess. I had great aspirations of learning a new word every day, but I don't have a flair for languages and to be honest, I haven't tried very hard at all.

When we go walking together we tend to go north along the Malecon. Left to my own devices one day, I went in the opposite direction and found some steps that lead over the rocks at the southern end of Los Muertos beach. I had thought the only way around was through the water at low tide and had walked up there to investigate. I was very happy to find a trail that leads you around the coast, through little coves with hardly anyone around.

the cove around the corner

We like to go to a bar on the beach where you can get a table right near the water but be in the shade. Sometimes we have to lift our feet if the waves come too high.

Shelly and Dale at the local Burro Bar right on the water

Massages go hand in hand with a holiday

There are many many massage places all around PV and on a recommendation from some Canadians I tried one that had just opened. You have to be careful she said, not all of them are "massage" places but this one is a normal one. They had an opening special of 300 pesos ($A26) for an hour. I wanted a relaxing massage, none of this deep tissue stuff that feels like you've been through the wringer. There were two tables in the room when I went in and I was hoping that I wasn't going to be sharing with anyone else. Which table do you want? she asked. Get undressed and put all your clothes on this (the other) one. All my clothes? alarm bells ringing. Yes, it will be better for you. Lie face down. O k a y. In the past I've had a massage with clothes on, which I thought defeated the purpose. Others with clothes off but knickers on, but never all off, so I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. I have to say, I've never had a massage quite like it. She used so much of oil on me I thought I'd slide off the table. It was brilliant with nice soft meditating music and some essential oils over my face when she did my front. So yes, I did have to turn over. And I have to agree, the knickers would have got in the way. Pretty much every centimetre of me was oiled, except for the bits that probably would have been the only places that got oil in those other massage places. Not only did I get oiled, massaged, pressed and rubbed, limbs and appendages got pulled. I just wish I could have stayed lying on the bench for another half an hour just to relax a little bit more.

One minute they are burying the little girl in the sand, then 15 minutes later...
Never trust the sea

Art, Food and Dancing

Every second Friday night during the peak tourist season, which is probably December through February there are extra activities down in old town. Our Californian friends Dale and Shelly came down for ten days, so we took them to all our favorite places. At 6pm we made our way down to Basilio Vadillo to the many art galleries. There were lots of people are around and many of the galleries offer drinks such as margaritas and wine. Lindsay and Shelly are margarita fans, so they were in heaven. There are lots of artists here and the works are very diversified - paintings, sculpture in various mediums, pottery, jewellery and ornaments. One of the galleries must have had about five large rooms that held an amazing amount of art. By the time we toured a number of them it was getting dark and time for dinner. Down at the Farmer's market there were a number of Mexican food stalls to get dinner and drinks. Lindsay even managed to find his favourite rice pudding to take home for desert. At about 7.30pm there was a live show of traditional music and dancing. The girls looked gorgeous in their colourful dresses and the boys were very smart in their traditional costumes as well.

love the pelicans down here

Our local eatery

There is a little local restaurant in the same street as us but in front of the river. They have a couple of plastic tables and chairs sitting up by the river and one outside their "restaurant". The woman who runs it is just delightful. We have dined there a number of times with both our friends and she takes photos of us with both her camera and ours. One night we went there we thought we wouldn't get a table as the other tables were obviously set up for a special occasion. No problem, the table from outside the restaurant was taken up to the river for us. There was a birthday party for a lady that had been coming to their restaurant for 30 years. She had brought many friends to dine at their restaurant and considers the owners as family and so do they. She said that they had even visited her in hospital when she had a minor operation. The owner's told her that they would not have survived had it not been for her continued patronage and referrals and are eternally grateful. Dale went there for breakfast every morning while he was here. One day he didn't have small enough notes for her, no worries, she said "pay me tomorrow". 

Eating by the river Cuale

On the corner, just underneath us a lady sits each night selling her two desserts - creme caramel and baked cheesecake. We have tried both a number of times and they are delicious. I'm sure Lindsay would have one every night if I wasn't around. Another lady sits on the opposite corner. Even though I can see directly down from our balcony onto her little "table" I still haven't figured out what on earth she is selling. It wouldn't be allowed at home.

Not sure what she is selling

La Cruz

La Cruz is a little fishing village about fifty minutes north of PV on the coast, it's a two bus trip to get there and the day we went it was quite humid. Each Sunday they have a market similar to the one that we go to in Old Town.

the breakwater
La Cruz market
Being on the marina, it's a pretty setting and it's funny to watch the pelicans sitting on the boats like seagulls do at home. There are a few other stall owners there and some different foods but otherwise it's nothing special. The market is crammed into a small space so you are constantly jostling with other people and there's nowhere to sit comfortably and eat. Our local Farmer's market is better and easier to get to, so we won't be going back.

the marina at La Cruz
Other Mexico Posts:

1. A very different place for us
2. Life's a beach
4. A seaside village only accessible by boat
5. Wrapping up Puerto Vallarta
7. Puerto Vallarta Essentials


  1. It looks absolutely delightful! Wonderful stories and photos -- makes me feel like I'm right there with you. What kind of camera equipment do you use? Your images are always so vibrant and sharp.

  2. Hi Laurel, most of these photos are taken with my new point and shoot camera because I don't want to draw attention to myself down here. I bought a Panasonic DMC-ZS50 just before we came away as I wanted something small enough that I would take out every time we went out, which I don't do with my 5D - it's too heavy. The pelican shots are taken with the Canon 7D Mk2 which we brought down to shoot humpback whales but they have gone as the water is too warm. We brought two lenses down with us, the 24-70mm f/2.8 which we used for the fireworks and the 70-200 f/2.8 for the pelicans. But I have been very lazy this holiday and just take my Panasonic most places. I take most of them in RAW and process them in Lightroom which makes a huge difference, as you have a lot more control.

    1. Thanks so much for the camera info -- my Canon SX50 is biting the dust after many years of hard use. I really need to investigate shooting RAW and learn how to work with it. I'm reluctant to take the leap into Lightroom -- the learning curve seems fearsome. :-(

    2. I used to use Camera Raw which is part of photoshop and wondered why my photos didn't look as good as our friends. So after looking at a friend of ours photos, I gave in and changed. Now I don't have to edit both my photos and my husbands because he can edit his own in Lightroom. There are lots of You Tube clips to help you, but if you need any help just ask me. I have done a post on my workflow - under my "how to" filter under categories. And I learnt a lot from Serge Ramelli, a French photographer who posts You Tube tutorials. Also have a look at Scott Kelby's You Tube clips. The power of shooting in RAW is that it gives you a lot more information to recover and Lightroom is excellent in bringing back the shadows and reducing highlights.

    3. You've inspired me to do some homework. Thanks! I'm going to check out your "how to" first. I appreciate your offer of help, too. :-)

  3. Looked like your life in Mexico is full of life, color, noise, fun and adventure. Some of the things you mentioned here we also experienced in Puerto Penasco.
    Glad you like your new point and shoot, but you take better pictures with it than i do.

  4. We are always more critical of our own work Mona Liza, you take some great pictures. Where you have been to some places after us and I think to myself, why didn't I take one like that! At least now I will have my camera with me most of the time, so I will get so many more photos of our experiences instead of just the arty ones.

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