The view from the tenth floor (12th if you count the lobby and mezzanine) is mostly ocean. Near the horizon there are several fishing boats, or perhaps they are whale watchers. Sheila reported seeing a whale on the day we arrived. To the south, curving around the beach are sharp green hills partially obscured by the morning haze. Between the hills and the sea is the city of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
We checked in to our room at Friendly Resort on February 17 to stay for a week with our middle son, Tobin and his wife, Gladys, their two sons, Owen and Nate, and Piper their daughter. When we left Montana, snow was falling. The winter weather back home made the balmy temperature in Puerto Vallarta seem even nicer. In fact, every time we checked the temperature in Missoula we felt even better, even smug. The high was just approaching eighty, and at night it drifted down to the sixties.
But, despite being in the state of Jalisco, it’s really not Mexico. During the taxi ride from the airport the town looks like San Diego, California. The fast food places are the same, but the 7-11s are replaced by something similar in Spanish, XOXO. The shopping malls have signs in English advertising Rolex, French designer clothing and upscale jewelry. The cars are mostly German with a few Volvos, plus some American brand pickups. Every so often an old Beetle can be seen.
Ninety-five per cent of the other guests at Friendly Resort were Canadian. It was unnerving to discover that Canadians are just as obese as Americans. Given the amount of rich food available at almost any hour, it is safe to say that no one was going to lose weight here.
And then there was the booze. I discovered the delight in taking a shot of tequila followed by a bite of lime, and after several rounds I began to feel almost clairvoyant. And since this was an all inclusive resort, I could sit at the bar and down one round after another until I either floated to the ceiling or fell onto the floor. By some accounts I did more of the latter than the former.
We visited a tequila factory here in Puerto Vallarta. The plant from which tequila is made, agave, is entirely different from what I expected. It’s not a cactus, but more like a yucca plant. The part of the plant that is used looks like a huge pine cone, about five feet long and three feet wide at the thickest part. It is hacked apart with a special axe, roasted and then soaked in water. The solution is then boiled and distilled into a wooden barrel and aged.
We learned that the agave for tequila grows at a specific altitude and area in the mountains around Guadalajara. Mescal comes from a different type of agave that is more abundant, and (this is my own impression) is turned out with less quality control. The taste of Mescal is (again my opinion) harsh, more like kerosene. Mescal is not to be confused with mescaline or mescalito, a mind bending drug (Not that I find anything wrong with that).
We also learned how to determine if a tequila is pure and not doctored with other alcohol or even methylene. That shit can kill you.
We dabbed a few drops of the drink on our palms and rubbed it around before smelling it. The first whiff was the odor of the evaporating alcohol (what a waste!), but with the next sniff one could detect a light fragrance of olive. Finally there was a delicious mixture of wood and olive. Those three steps confirm the liquor as genuine, top notch tequila.
There were attractions other than the bar at the resort to be explored later.
There are four swimming pools and three hot tubs within fifty yards of the ocean, and, at first it seemed a bit strange to have a pool next to a beach. However, after watching Sheila being rolled around in the surf, a nice, quiet pool was quite attractive.
The Pacific Ocean off Puerto Vallarta was deceptive in that it looked quiet and gentle with waves seeming to slowly move to shore. The color was not blue, nor had it the pastel colors of the Caribbean. The water was green and it was more turbulent than it appeared.
One morning, while Tobin and Nate took out paddle boards, Sheila took out a kayak. They all were successful in escaping the bounding surf and soon were happily exploring the water far from the shore. In the meantime I watched a young man repeatedly try to launch another kayak from the same point. He couldn’t even get on the kayak, and it was fortunate that he was required to wear a floatation device. The instructor tried to load this guy on, but the man was totally without a sense of balance. Eventually he had to give up and let his buddies go on without him. Later, I noted that the instructor took him out in a paddle boat.
The next day Sheila and Tobin took out boogie boards, sort of mini surf boards. Once again I declined to join them [I’d had an unpleasant experience with those horrible little things in Hawaii], but I did wade out into the water with them. I watched as Tobin helped his mom catch the waves toward shore and she did get a few good rides. The last ride took her all the way to the beach. Then, as she tried to stand up a wave knocked her down and rolled her in the sand. But the water took her with as it retreated back toward the sea. Then it rolled her back toward the beach again.
It was scary as I couldn’t even see her in the surf other than a glimpse now and again as she rolled back and forth. Fortunately Tobin was close enough he could grab his mother and pull her up to a standing position before she got rolled again.
In spite of everything, Sheila was laughing.