notes from the boat
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Perfect Puerto Vallarta - 1st March 05
Established in 1851, Puerto Vallarta for some reason has the cobbled streets of the 16th century, guaranteed to shake your bones, rattle your axel and break your stiletto heels. Despite that, it's incredibly picturesque and has a feel of the Mediterranean. Red tiled roofs, white adobe walls, colorful laundry hanging from balconies, terraced houses built into the hillsides. Palm trees and bougainvillea, all caressed with a warm sea breeze, indicate the beginning of the tropics.

Exploring Puerto Vallarta has taken some time and we suddenly discovered we've spent three weeks here. It's understandable however as time has been spent discovering Bahia de Banderas, the large bay which Puerto Vallarta is situated on; eating in incredible restaurants all within a few blocks of each other, the food competing favourably with some of the best restaurants in the world; and having a new tropical wardrobe designed by personal fashion designer Gavan, all in serviceable white cotton. It's been very time consuming!

We rented a car (from National this time) and proceeded to give it a good thrashing as we discovered the hidden nooks and crannies of Bahia de Banderas. The north side of the bay is relatively flat and arid, Punta de Mita at the northern tip consists of almost empty beaches with crashing waves beckoning; La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (surprisingly referred to as La Cruz) and Bucerias are small towns retaining a Mexican feel, competing ex-patriot-owned restaurants ensure the quality of food is good.

The southern side of the bay is mountainous and lush in comparison. Restaurants, villas and the occasional glimpse of an infinity pool are visible before the sheer cliffs drop away to the ocean. Following the road around, we reached Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan.

Mismaloya, now sporting large hotels and rows of striped deck chairs, was the small cove where John Houston filmed "The Night of the Iguana" in 1963. Previously undiscovered, Hollywood converged on the town as the torrid affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor made headlines and Puerto Vallarta became the tourist destination it is today.

Continuing south around the coast, we discovered the unspoiled village of Boca de Tomatlan. A cove with a river running out to the ocean where on Sundays Mexican families gather, the smell of fish barbequing over open fires; small boys playing in the water; a village clustered around the hillsides, a few terraced houses hidden along a meandering footpath, otherwise only accessible by boat. Perched precariously on the cliff, a giant palapa belonging to Le Kliff restaurant beckoned with tantalizing views of the bay. The food was excellent, the atmosphere sublime. The highlight of the meal aside from excellent pina coladas was the shrimp cerviche, some of the best we'd tasted.

Having now spent three weeks eating our way around Vallarta and subsequently having to return to Gavan for seams to be let out on the various white outfits (which do look a little like hospital scrubs if the truth be known) it's time to cast off the lines and head a little further south. A reluctant goodbye as we'd met great people and had a fantastic time. A sad farewell to the crew of Fandango whom we'd met in La Paz and waving madly to Canadian Kate running along the dock (whom we'd shanghaied a couple of days earlier and forced her against her will to participate in an impromptu dock party) we headed off to Bahia Tenacatita.

N.B: We have so many fantastic photos of Puerto Vallarta which we'll be adding to the photographs section soon.

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