Day 2: Pour Some Sugar on Me

Mexicans love their sugar. It’s everywhere. From the street vendors selling pastries and deep fried doughy confections, to the ingredient list of every food in the grocery store. Lunch meat? Check. Plain yogurt? Check. The word “Natural” in Spanish apparently means “Naturally, this food contains sugar.” This is not the place to visit if you are following a low-sugar diet.

I woke up today to discover the beautiful view from my condo, overlooking Banderas Bay. It’s always an adventure to fly into a new city at night and then discover what it looks like the next morning. Today did not disappoint. Puerto Vallarta is at the same time beautiful and quaint, crazy and crowded, cobblestoned and touristy. After visiting Guanajuato last year it feels familiar and different all at the same time.

It’s also WARM! Delightfully mid-80s in mid-day, with pleasant ocean breezes so it never feels too hot. Mornings and evenings are in the high 60s and low 70s. You really can’t get any nicer than this. 

Puerto Vallarta is very, very gay friendly. It’s apparently the gay-friendliest place in Mexico, and the area I’m staying in (Zona Romantica — the renamed “old town”) is gay ground zero. There are many, many, many gay couples wandering around, old and young, clubs and shops specifically catering to gays, and a distinct lack of Rick Perry 2012 bumper stickers. It’s a great vibe.

The condo I’m renting is owned by (I presume) a gay couple from New York, and there there are helpful touches here like the Gay Guide to Puerto Vallarta booklet, stacks of GQ and Details magazines, and lovely decorative touches. I’m a straight guy on a gaycation!

Waking up this morning I went for a walk down the hill from the condo to the water, and then took the long walk along the malecón (boardwalk, though it’s concrete) into downtown. The malecón is one of the prime features of Puerto Vallarta, and it’s fantastic. It runs about a mile and a half from Zona Romantica, into the heart of downtown. It’s wide and filled with sculptures and benches and palm trees and giant pelicans.

First thing Sunday morning it was fairly empty, and I enjoyed a leisurely walk to the end of the boardwalk, and then doubled back home along the city streets getting the lay of the land.

By the time I got back to my neighborhood I was very hungry, and I finally stumbled onto the neighborhood tortilleria and took care of that problem with a purchase of 20 tortillas. I then ducked into the neighborhood grocery store, which has a big sign on the window that says “Despite what you may have heard, we are not going out of business.” All evidence on the inside pointed to the contrary. There was a distinct lack of actual food. I bought a funny-looking purple thing that might have been a sweet potato, but realized that I was probably going to have to search for food elsewhere.

After a lengthy siesta, it was time to go on a quest for groceries. The new, modern Mega grocery store is not within walking distance, so I strolled a few blocks to catch a bus. The bus system in Puerto Vallarta could best be described as “ad hoc.” There are apparently two bus lines (blue and green), and each has dozens of ramshackle, loud, smelly buses that run on routes around the city with destinations hand-painted on the windshield. Luckily, a bus comes along about every 30 seconds, and for the most part they all run down the main drag between town and the area where the grocery store is, so I hopped on a bus that looked plausible and paid the 6 – 1/2 peso fare (50 cents). The bus driver makes change.

It took about 20 minutes or so to wind through town to the Mega. It’s a modern grocery store along the lines of a Fred Meyer, only with slightly more chicken feet for sale and way more sugar in everything. The meat section was expansive. The vegetable section, less so. I still need to figure out where to get good fresh fruits and vegetables around here.

I caught the bus back home and took siesta #2, followed by an evening exploring the malecón at night, but I will save that for the next blog.

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