Mexico Lindo travel blog

Around the neighbourhood.

Around the neighbourhood

Around the neighbourhood

The all green window is my intercom.

Alejandro Fernandez. The worlds greatest entertainer singing on the Malecon in Puerto...

I spent a little time with a map, just trying to get orientated and it didn’t take long before I realized I was staying pretty much in the middle of things. I hadn’t even thought about how we were to get around. My travelling companion Frank, was considerably older and I had some concerns, mainly for him, that we might be a little high on the hill to make coming and going effortless. The day time highs were in the 30’s (90+ F.) with considerable humidity. We had just come from Southern California where we do everything fast, and rarely without a car. The Vallarta of my fuzzy memory didn’t require a car and now this place looked so much bigger on the way in from the airport. Essentially what I had done was take a moment of joy and contentment with my surroundings and created my first tourist dilemma. Already I had nowhere to go, but it didn’t stop me from worrying about how to get there. My friend Jim, who found us the apartment, wanted to meet for dinner nearby and had offered to show us around. I studied the map and decided that we should be able to walk to find him.

Once out the door, one of the next signs that I had left the organized and manicured north country was the lack of continuity in the sidewalks. A typical block can take you over cobblestones, elaborately inlaid mosaic, bottomless potholes, high steps, low branches, protruding pipes, electrical junctions, parked cars, and of course doggy doo. In Vallarta you can not ‘run’ down the street. Rather, you walk slowly and deliberately, one step at a time. You do not look up. When I was four years old I was told to watch my step and look where I was going. Finally, more than forty years later I had a chance to practice!

The next thing to jolt my sensibilities was how to be a pedestrian in a place where the right of way is determined by size and speed. The pecking order in traffic begins with dogs and people, and then graduates to motorcycles, cars, trucks and at the top of the food chain, busses. Busses will stop for people who wish to get on and off, and sometimes when they are behind schedule, not even then. Walking downtown is not only exercise for the body, it gives the right side of the brain a thorough work out. It is possible that many tourists should legally be removed from the streets simply for being a danger to themselves. Well it is possible but definitely not probable because it is not just the traffic and sidewalks that are different here; the law is a completely different animal. In broad terms, there is nobody to sue if you fall through a pot hole, people here are responsible for their own safety.

Needless to say we made it to the restaurant without a car and managed to avoid falling through a pot hole. I can’t remember what I ordered but I do remember it came with corn tortillas, lots of corn tortillas. In fact every time we reduced the stack by half, another stack appeared out of nowhere. I cannot speak for the United States but I can tell you that if your only experience with corn tortillas has been in western Canada it has been a bad one. Corn tortillas do not keep and nobody should be asked to eat a packaged or frozen one unless near starvation. All over Mexico tortillas are made with gusto and in incalculable numbers. In most restaurants they are served fresh and hot, having just being cooked moments before. When I am at home in Canada now, I crave them as much as I crave salmon and halibut when I am away. To say that the tortilla is a traditional food, is an understatement. It is served with everything except possibly ice cream.

For me there is nothing that is more definitively Mexican than it’s music. I am certain it dates back to Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid. At any rate the distinctive sound of both mariachi and norteno music conjures up images beyond my ability to describe in writing. Even most Mexicans cannot understand my love of the sound; they see me as somewhat of an eccentric crackpot when it comes to ‘their’ music. I don’t know what they are talking about because music is everywhere here, and everybody loves it. Why can’t I? How do I know this…….. they are always singing along with every traditional song they hear. It matters not whether I am listening to traditional mariachis from the mountain villages playing their violins and guitars with missing strings or listening to the grand concert groups playing in large concert halls accompanied by a philharmonic orchestra. And then there is Alejandro Fernandez................ More on him in a future entry.

The sound is unmistakable and belongs to no other country. Also impressive is the ease at which the same sound and style appeals to successive generations.

Our first night in Puerto Vallarta seemed an endless walk between different sounds of Mexican music. I know now that I was in a dream like state, thinking this really was some kind of Mexican Disneyland designed to enhance my vacation experience. Never being one to do anything ‘half way’ I decided then that I was going to learn everything I could about this music and seek it out whenever I could. People who know me have watched me pursue this obsession relentlessly, never able to pass up an opportunity to attend a concert, festival, or even a funeral on the street where mariachis are playing. I forgive them for not sharing my enthusiasm, but I do not understand them. How can the whole world not love this sound? To this day when I go for walks at night I love to sit outside the restaurants where the good mariachi groups are playing, even if it means listening, by myself, to the same tired old songs that the tourists request. The sound of a mariachi trumpet with the beat of the guitaron (giant round backed guitar) in the background is, for lack of a better expression, music to my ears.

Something was drawing me here, and this was only my first day. Surely my mood would change over the next few days.

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