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Nuevo Vallarta Mexico

Real-life Experiences on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Please note that there are absolutely no lies or exaggerations in this account. Really.

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Dear Mom,

Thanks so much for my birthday gift! I still can’t believe you gave me a week at your timeshare in Nuevo Vallarta! The Grand Mayan is absolutely luxurious—I particularly loved the cavernous black hall with the terribly authentic holy pyramid and carvings of hideous gods.

The place was full of friendly Americans in very little clothing, sloshing drinks all over each other in the pool. It’s so nice to see people be so unself-conscious about their figure flaws! And so happy about actually being in Mexico, drinking cervezas, singing “La Cucaracha,” and calling the hotel staff amigo and amiga.

Going to an all-inclusive, self-contained resort meant that this was going to be the easiest, most comfortable trip I’d ever take—I mean, I’m the girl who went all over Japan with a Berlitz phrase book, a map, and a train ticket and didn’t have a nervous breakdown when she missed the last train to Tokyo the day her ticket was due to expire. I’m the one who spent 3 weeks in Italy, solo, with another Berlitz book and a fake wedding ring, and with no fixed itinerary except the first and last nights in Milan.

The Grand Mayan, of course, is the kind of place that caters to your every need. I really appreciated this the second day I was there, when I went blind. It seems that there is a reason you’re not supposed to go swimming with contacts in. Not that I went underwater or anything, but I guess a few chlorinated drops got in my eyes, and oh, man, it woke up before dawn with my eyes on fire. Tried to wash them with saline, but it just got worse, so I put on shades and a hat and walked down to the concierge desk with my eyes open just enough to see a sliver of floor while tears streamed down my face. The concierge walked me to the hotel doctor’s office, holding my elbow, then filled the prescription the doctor wrote, brought it to my room, offered to put the salve in my eyes and delivered my meals. All for only about two hundred dollars, plus tips. I thought of him gratefully while I lay in the room all day with the blinds closed and a cool compress on my eyes.

The next day I was able to open my eyes—so long as I wore a big hat and kept my sunglasses on—so I decided to rent a car and drive around Mexico. The plan was to run up the coast, stop at every little beach town and wind up about a hundred kilometers north to take the Mangrove Jungle Tour in San Blas.

I knew it would be an adventure because I couldn’t get a proper map—which didn’t matter because I wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway. No contacts. So I made a list of towns, in sequence, from my guidebook and took off on the excellent Mexican roads, following the well-placed and informative signage. I only missed one turnoff. I was enjoying driving on the excellent, well-marked roads in the state of Nayarit so much that I sort of went about a hundred kilometers out of my way, through one lovely mountain valley after another. And another. And another. Until I figured out from the position of the sun that I was heading for the next state to the east and turned around.

Made it to San Blas at sundown. Mangrove tours were closed down for the night. There was one tiny restaurant and I was its one customer. After dinner I took a walk around the five or six blocks of the town, where people were sitting in open doorways and partying in the street. Everyone paid lots of attention to me. It was nice to know that I was being so carefully watched.

Then I drove back south (on the correct, and clearly marked) road through all these adorable little towns. At every intersection (except one) there was a sign saying “Puerto Vallarta 186 KM,” “Puerto Vallarta 182 KM,” and so on. At the exceptional town that had no signs to for Puerto Vallarta, I went up to a guy grilling meat on the street, and said Sí, señor, estoy perdida. (Yes sir, I’m lost). ¿Donde está el camino por Puerto Vallarta? (Where is the road to Puerto Vallarta?) He gave me a big grin, gestured to the right, and said, Uno, dos, vamonos! I vamonosed.

Got back all right with only one more little incident. I had been drinking a lot of water because of the heat, and there is a lot of distance between towns, and there weren’t any rest stops and I was afraid to pee in the bushes and get caught, so I finally got so desperate that I pulled over to go into a sleazy bar.

And peed all over myself right in the street as soon as I stood up.

As an experienced traveler, I quickly tore open all the little antiseptic hand-washing towels I carried with me and did a quick sidewalk ablution. Lucky for me, it was ten thirty p.m. and the streets were deserted. But sidewalk ablutions weren’t really enough, so I sneaked up the stairs in my sopping, white, crochet-trimmed, Mexican-style dress, came into the bar, and noticed that all the men—and there were only men—were staring at the fat, dripping, aging gringa. So I turned my back to the wall to hide the state of my dress and backed into the rest room. There I spent about half an hour trying to clean and dry myself, and finally went back out to the men, who were still staring, silently, and backed away from them and ran down the stairs. The hotel was kind enough to valet the car back to the rental place. I bet they wondered why that nice little car stank of urine.

A couple days later I took the catamaran trip I’d originally booked for the blind day. It was truly splendid. Met all kinds of fascinating people—my favorites were the skinny sisters from Argentina who were enjoying what they called la vida loca (the crazy life) with a couple of very elegant Masai princes who were on vacation from college in Canada. Very handsome, tall, fit princes they were, too! The Argentinitas were singing and dancing with them, rubbing their bodies over the men’s thighs to hot Latin versions of Beatles tunes on the boat. Mi very own vicarious vida loca! We watched the dolphins ride the bow wave, and stopped at a reef to goggle the lovely marine life. I swam with a very nice family group, as the fat old auntie. Nobody commented on my figure flaws. I wasn’t the only fattie, of course.

Then we set in at a little private beach. The water was so nice and clear, and it was so nice not to be sheeting sweat for the first time all week, and the reefs and the fish were so lovely that I really didn’t mind it much when I got stung by jellyfish all up and down my right side. The experienced guides quickly drenched me in vinegar, which only sort of worked.

When I got back to the hotel, I really appreciated the little chlorinated river they’ve built around the swimming pools. It was so cool and relaxing that the stinging died down after an hour or so.

Overall, it was a lovely trip. But I’m glad to be home.


Your grateful youngest, nb