“You’ve NEVER been to Mexico?!”
This is the response I get constantly when Mexico comes up. I know Mexico very well; hotel, resorts, restaurants, places to go around town, things to do, etc. But yet I have never gone. Mexico was one of those Spring Break-y places, people went to to go get drunk, and where people got married.
I’m not really a big fan of Resorts either. Mostly, because I like to consider myself a REAL traveler. I like to explore the places that I go to, immerse myself in the culture. I want to eat from street vendors and eat at the places all the locals go, I want to attempt a new language, if only ordering a coffee.
My mom used to live in Veracruz, and my parents own a time share in Puerto Vallarta. They send me pictures everytime they go, and it looks like an amazing place. So this year, I thought it was a good time to just go for a few days (and it was for my mom’s birthday, so that worked out perfectly) and see what I was missing. And so I did.
I mean who likes amazing weather in the mid 80s everyday, and clear skies? What’s there to see, palm trees–I mean, I hate palm trees. And the beaches, gross, beaches. I mean with water I could see my hands and feet through, clean sand, pretty shells. And the mountains! Ew, how could such things even exist in this world?
I was instantly sold.
From the moment my plane landed and seeing the beautiful palm trees right outside the airport. The immigration process was quick and painless, and I really liked the fact that there was someone making sure we filled out the forms correctly. There was a whole section a bunch of us didn’t fill out. Oops. We were so thrilled to finally be there!!
3 days before I was going to leave for Mexico. I called my brother and asked if he wanted to come with me and surprise our Mom for her birthday. My dad and I decided to buy him a ticket, and my dad suggested we should keep it a secret. Let me tell you how hard that was! Since my mom was trying to make plans and reservations the whole time—this was incredibly difficult! I tried to make it seem like, “let’s see how we feel when I get there”. That was only working for so long.
On Monday, my brother and I woke up pretty early to get ready, to walk to a bus stop, to catch a bus, to catch a train, to get to the airport for our 9 am departure. I should have known from the moment I slipped while walking to the bus stop, this was going to be an exceptionally long day. We got to the airport quite a bit early (3 hours–internationally), we went through security (separately, because I have TSA Pre-Check–which at the Chicago O’Hare Airport doesn’t take thaat much less of time to go through. This time I forgot my tennis shoes and had my combat boots on–and those are a real treat to take off and put back on, so I LOVE PRE-CHECK! Even if it’s just so I don’t have to take my shoes off!). We had an awesome, reasonably priced breakfast at the airport, and was able to relax a bit.
The cool thing, was there was an empty seat next to me for my brother–which booking that close to departure was pretty interesting. But hey we did it. We boarded and voila, we were on the plane. Then the plane pulled away from the gate, and that’s when it started getting interesting. Someone said Engine Number 1 was not working. I’m thinking wellllllllll that’s something. But we didn’t move, we didn’t go back to the gate, we just sat on the plane and waited. After telling my brother “I am not comfortable” (I’m only 5’5 he’s about 6′ and my knees were digging into the seat in front of me), we both fell asleep. Maybe an hour later there was another announcement saying that there was something wrong with the starter. No moving. Nothing. THEN 30 minutes later we pulled back to the gate, got off the plane and just waited with such curiosity about what’s next. We were given a new time where we would be taking off, and we changed gates and waited, for hopefully a new plane. Adam and I decided to go get a drink and relax a bit before my app notified me I got a new seat. Now we weren’t sitting next to each other, and apparently we got new boarding passes. I went to the gate to pick up our new tickets and asked if we could have seats next to each other again, and they said no. Gee, thanks.
Of course, our boarding time kept changing. The last time they changed the time, they said a seat needed to be fixed. But apparently that changed pretty quickly, and maybe 3 minutes after people started walking away, they changed it to boarding now, “and if we don’t have the doors shut by this time, the crew times out.” OHHHHH NO YOU DON’T! So then it was panic and quick to get everyone on the plane–except not everyone knew they had to change their boarding passes, so now people were in different seats, rows didn’t even exist, and somehow there was less space for peoples bags than there was on the first plane–however, these seats were much more comfortable, and I once again had leg room for my short legs.
My brother decided to be a good guy, and be someone without a seat, since a guy who didn’t change his boarding pass was the one who needed one. So he was moved throughout the cabin and people were looking at him like he was a menace. I told him, “you don’t have to be a good guy here, you actually have a seat.” So he found the empty seat towards the front of the plane, boom, doors shut, now we were taking off, getting there about 4 hours later than we originally were going to be. They even gave some perks on the plane, like we didn’t have to pay for the TV (which was a weird concept for me on a United Flight), and even free alcohol beverages. They even told us where to go to get immediate compensation. Granted, it was 2,500 miles or a $50 voucher.
Back to Mexico. I had my brother walk in front of me so that my mom would see him first. She didn’t even notice him for a second and then it hit her and she was super surprised. It felt good, and now it made sense to her why I was blatantly ignoring all her reservation questions. We took a quick taxi to the Mayan Palace Marina–this place was gorgeous. You walk in and to get to the lobby you walk through these beautiful stone Mayan totem poles raining down with water, and then you get a beautiful palm tree setting and then the desks. The people were super nice. We got our room bracelets, saw the beautiful room, freshened up, and went to get ready for dinner at the marina with my mom’s friends. (My mom had already been in Mexico for a week with some friends of hers–my dad did not go this time, because my Grandma moved in from Puerto Rico.)
We walked to the Marina from the Hotel/Resort/Time Share. It was maybe a 5 minute walk? It was not far, and it was pretty. Cobblestones! (Which I think makes cities feel super authentic, although I hate rolling a suitcase on those streets!) They were so pretty! Walking through the market place area to get to the Marina reminded me of La Plaza in Puerto Rico. We went to this beautiful restaurant that was over the water. It was an Italian place–and I had been craving pizza all day! Woo! The food was quite incredible. But I was so full of water and appetizers, that by the time our food came, I couldn’t eat anything. Adam, on the other hand was a bottomless pit–I have no idea where he was putting it all! They just kept feeding him. “Here Adam, you can finish this.” He replies happily with “Okay, sounds good!”
The first full day of this trip was a beach day. We woke up, had some leftovers for breakfast and we headed out to the beach. It was another ugly day of sunshine and heat. The ocean was just a short walk from the room and there were beach chairs. Thank goodness. Word on the street is people like to put towels on the chairs and save the chairs all day to prevent other people from using it. Not cool. Here, we didn’t have any problems! Now getting into the water was another story. It was beautifully clear water that I could see my toes. The waves were gentle and occasionally the boats nearby would give a choppy ripple. We stayed in the water for quite a bit, and then dried off back on the beach chairs before we went to the pools to grab a drink and just sit and soak up the some more sun.
For dinner we went to a restaurant called “La Palapa” which was on the beach–and I mean directly on it, we were sitting on the sand. We had the most incredible sunset directly in front of us. It was absolutely spectacular. Here, see for yourself:
We had tortilla soup. The waiters came out and served us this bowl that had the tortillas and such stacked looking absolutely beautiful, before they poured the soup in it. All in all, the food was absolutely phenomenal. The flavors were setting off fireworks in my mouth. I’ve never enjoyed every single thing as much as I did at this restaurant. My mother and brother felt the exact same. We were completely full and our taste buds were delighted. So if you’re in Puerto Vallarta, YOU HAVE TO EAT HERE!
Afterwards, we explored the area. We walked on the boardwalk and went to see La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. An unbelievably beautiful Church. And seeing it at night was quite stunning (of course the pictures do not do it justice).
The next morning, we woke up early, got into our swim suits and grabbed a taxi to the Marina. We were going to the Marietas Islands! Aka.. I was going to see the Blue Footed Booby. ❤ It was quite an adventure. We began the day by getting on the boat and as we sailed to Nueva Vallarta to pick up the other half of our group, we ate breakfast. Then we sailed to the Marietas Islands as we’re given information, jokes, and rules. There were quite a few birds flying around our boat but you couldn’t see their faces or their feet–and I was on high alert looking for them (because that’s all I wanted to see). But when these birds flew out of the water you got to see these incredible blue feet! I wish I had gotten to take a picture of them, but they were so quick and their feet were only out for a second, it was impossible.
I’ll have you know, there are only two places in the world where you can see the Blue Footed Booby. The main one is the Galapagos Islands, and the second is the Marietas Islands. So being able to see them was an impressive sight.
It was a full day of water adventures; snorkeling, kayaking, going to a beach, and SUP (stand up paddle boarding). Snorkeling was fun (like it always is). We went through these cavern/cave-like-area to see some beautiful brightly colored fish. The cave part was difficult to go through. It had an extremely strong current going in the opposite direction of the way we were headed and the coral was beautiful, sharp, and shallow. (Considering I just had an awful experience with a sea urchin, I was slightly terrified to touch one, even by accident–and I could see a few on the shallow coral.) When our time had ended, we had two options, we could either swim back to the boat, or swim to the smaller boat which would then take us to the big boat. Adam and I went through the caves again, in the direction where the current was previously going, and the current switched and decided it wanted to go against us again. As we were swimming directly to the bigger boat, Adam swam right through a school of fish! It was pretty cool. They obviously moved around him, but they didn’t move too far off their course.
When it was time for Adam and I to get into a 2-person kayak (and not like the normal kayaks where half of the boat is under the water and your feet are enclosed) it was on top of the water, and we didn’t get too far before we collapsed. We seemed to have been the only ones that did, but it was okay, it was fun for the two seconds we did it. Then we hung out on the boat with our Mom and just enjoyed looking at the islands, while trying to get a better photos of the birds that were swarming on the island. The islands are protected, so you cannot actually walk on them.
They served us lunch and drinks (included) and there were snacks on board for purchase. After we were done eating and cleaning up, there was a conga line around the boat. It was pretty fun, until all of a sudden I was stuck in the corner of the boat with this obnoxious wedding party. They were fun, but they were a little sloppy. So the dancing they were having us all do, was getting drinks spilled on everyone, and some people hitting and falling on the other people. I had my moment and I escaped back to the bar! Then there was the ride home. There was music, servers serving drinks still, and people were dancing. The announcers on the boat were hilarious and gave us more details on the Islands. Adam and I went to the back of the boat where we saw three whales in succession having their tails hit against the water. At first, we thought they were dolphins because it looked like there were more, but when the tails hit we knew. It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. There were whales everywhere, those three were just together, we had seen a single whale a couple other times on the trip. Again, we weren’t that close so the pictures wouldn’t have done justice, and they were pretty quick to do it as well, so we couldn’t have gotten a good one, unless we had the cameras up, ready, and waiting, with a high quality zoom–which probably wasn’t going to be on my Snapchat. Honestly, being able to see it was much cooler than if I was trying to see it through a lens.
By the time we got back to Puerto Vallarta, we were exhausted. It was my mother’s birthday, so we asked her if she wanted to go out. She said she was too tired, so we ordered a buffet of room service! She said this was better than going out, because she got to sit in her pjs. (Which I will agree, what’s better than your pj’s after a long day in the sun?!)
For my final morning in paradise we went to the hotel’s breakfast buffet. It was quite extraordinary! Honestly, everything I ate in Mexico, was absolutely delicious. As we sat on the patio looking out on the water, we saw a pirate ship passing. It felt like I was in a fairy-tale land, so this was the perfect ending. Afterwards we went swimming at the beach for a little bit, and then I began my journey to the airport, and back to the cold-lands of the Chicago O’Hare Airport before driving back to Milwaukee.
But! Just like going to PVR, leaving also had it’s moments.
I got the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. Those that travel often, completely understand what it means. If you don’t, it means you need additional screening. But, you take the good with the bad. With this extra screening, I was also one of the first people on the planes, and that’s never a bad thing. So no complaints here!
When I landed in Chicago, I went to the Global Entry Kiosk, got my pass, went straight through to baggage claim, gave the pass to the man at the exit, and went on my merry way. (If you don’t have global entry, and you travel internationally somewhat frequently, do yourself a favor and get it!) Then I got on the Blue Line to go further into Chicago so my brother’s lovely lady Katy would pick me up and bring me back to their place so I could grab my car and go back home. But oh no. It wasn’t that simple. The train stopped. Completely stopped. Overlooking the freeway. In between the Airport and the first stop. Apparently the electricity was turned off on the track. So 30 minutes later on this standing-room-only train before we finally made it to the first stop. After a few more stops, the train became an Express Train, so I had to get off (where the temperature just dropped an additional 20 degrees since I left the airport) and wait for the next train and hope it wasn’t an express also. I finally made my way to my stop and then I was on my way of going home.
It was an adventurous trip. Filled with good people, family, sights, and weather. It’s a beautiful place in the world that you need to experience.
…even if it was never on your list before. Put it there anyways.