Friday, January 01, 2010

Nuevo Vallarta

**NOTE**: I started this post about, mmm, 7 months ago, and refused to let myself post anything else until this one was done -- you know, as a motivator to finish. Well, I couldn't tell you where my notes are now, of the last 2 days of our vacation. Perhaps someday I will find them. Plus, I am ready to "post" on!

Overall, the week of April 19 -26, 2009 in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico was a good one - an experience I had only dreamed of. I am SOOO thankful to my grandparents for sacrificially giving us their timeshare week! This vacation absolutely would not have been possible if it weren't for them. :)

Sunday morning Grandpa and Grammy O. picked up Grammy R., Aaron, and I from Mom & Dad's house to take us to the airport. I think we left at 5:00am. Because it was an early hour and the kids were still asleep at Mom & Dad's, I was fortunate to not have to deal with telling the kids goodbye again! Whew, that's the way to do it. ;) Grammy R. was headed to Portland by way of Dallas, Aaron and I to Dallas then Puerto Vallarta. Our plane was supposed to leave at 8:00am, Grammy R.'s at 1:00pm. We got dropped off at the airport and got in our Continental Airlines line only to find out that the flight had been canceled due to bad weather wherever the plane was stranded. They put us on an American Airlines flight leaving around 10:30am, so we spent the extra time visiting with Grammy R. and eating breakfast in a Starbucks in the airport. Here we are at Starbucks, feeling empty-handed withhout our kids, yet excited for our adventure!
My Papa had warned us about all the timeshare salespeople who swarm the Puerto Vallarta airport hoping to convince us to come to a timeshare "presentation," often using free breakfasts, discounted excursions, etc. as a gift for attending the "presentation." (I had read online from previous visitors that not only were these presentations high-pressure, but that people often felt like they couldn't leave if they didn't buy!) In adddition, Papa had said that the resort had arranged for private transportation for us specifically using a reputable transportation company, "Miller Transportation Co." He said to only trust them, and that we could trust them.

So after we got through customs we found a man with Miller Transportation and he took us to a lady for a short while (until he returned) whom I thought must be a representative of our resort. She pulled out a very nice guide book with a great map and started circling for us where our resort was on the map, where the Wal-Mart was, where the bus stops were, etc. Then she started asking if there were any excursions we were interested in doing, and she would circle where those were and how much to expect to pay (so we didn't get swindled). At the end she threw in an offer to cut us a package deal to do the previously mentioned excursions for a discounted price AND invited us to a free breakfast the next morning "this week, at this resort over here." As soon as she said "free breakfast" at a resort different than ours, red flags went up in my head. Finally after we told her no 3 or 4 times, Miller Transportation Co. man conveniently re-appears and eventually we get in a minivan with some other Americans headed to a sister resort next door to ours. Whew! Up to this point - between understanding people's limited English, listening to people try to speak English through a thick Spanish accent, and trying not to be taken advantage of - this vacation was hard work!
After we got to our resort, we walked into this amazing entryway with a 40 foot (aprox.) ceiling,
and as we left it, we followed a luscious landscaped path
and eventually came upon the first desk. Behind the desk there was an American woman with blond hair who spoke English!! We were so excited, relieved, and feeling more at home. ;) She told us how our resort's (Mayan Palace) "nicer", more expensive sister-hotel next door (Grand Mayan) had some open rooms if we wanted to "upgrade" to one of them. In addition, breakfast the following morning would be served over a presentation of the 3 resorts Grupo Mayan owns, all right there next to each other, PLUS all the excursions were a percentage of the normal selling prices. Once again, I was leery of the breakfast presentation, but I was trusting of the white woman offering us a nicer room that would otherwise go unused! She kept looking at us/me as if I was crazy to not jump all over her offer. Seriously, she kept making facial expressions of shock and confusion as to why I wouldn't want to oblige. She showed us the floor plans of the rooms in the two different hotels and asked if we wanted to see the room we would be staying in if we stayed in the same hotel we had been planning to stay in. We said, "sure!"

So a man took us to a first-floor, back side, non-ocean-view room (which actually had a view of the exterior of the previously mentioned 40 foot ceiling entryway, i.e. not much of a view).
After we looked at the room

we stood alone outside

and I used my cell phone to call Papa and ask what he thought. Without any hesitation, he said to not do the upgrade. That was all I needed to hear. We walked back into the (very nice, open-air, luscious landscaped and furnished resort) lobby
and from that angle we saw a real check-in counter that we headed straight toward, walking right past the sales counter we'd first encountered! Aghhhh!

I know I've spent an excessive amount of time and detail relating our very first experiences upon arriving in Mexico, but they were quite stressful and they set the tone for the rest of our week! We felt like we couldn't trust anybody.

After we checked in and got our bags semi-put away, we went and ate dinner at one of the 5 restaurants on our hotel grounds. In fact, we chose a buffet (Cafe del Lago), we were so hungry! The sun setted and it grew dark outside, but the location and view was spectacular and was starting to feel like it was worth all the trouble!
Monday, we slept in and ordered room service for brunch. (A new experience for us, everything we purchased on the Grupo Mayan grounds (meals, water bottles, etc.) was assigned to our room number and didn't get paid for until we checked out...very convenient!) We had heard about and seen pictures of El Malecon, the mile-long oceanfront boardwalk that runs along the main downtown street, and planned to spend the afternoon there, figuring we would pick groceries up at the Wal-Mart on the way home. Our consierge tried to teach us how to use the public bus systems. He said we needed to get off of the first bus at Wal-Mart and look for a different bus to take us even further to El Malecon. However, the bus system was so difficult for us to navigate (mostly because of language barriers), that we couldn't get any further than Wal-Mart! Lucky for us, there was an air-conditioned American-like shopping mall right next to the Wal-Mart that we decided to walk around in before buying groceries! Inside of the mall was a movie theatre (we were pleasantly suprised to learn that most all of the movies (that aren't animated) are spoken in English and only use Spanish subtitles...we could deal with that!) where we watched Duplicity. Also inside the mall was a Chili's restaurant where we had dinner, overlooking a harbor.

I think we were looking for a little "normalcy" after being through so much frustration! We eventually went to a busy, un-air-conditioned, croweded with locals Wal-Mart, and it didn't even carry half of the foods it carries in the U.S.! I thought the brands would be the same, but that wasn't necessarily true either. It was dark by the time we were done shopping and were standing at the bus stop again. We looked for the bus that our concierge said to look for and when it stopped we got on it and Aaron said the name of our hotel, Mayan Palace, to the driver to confirm that we were on the right bus. He vehemently shook his head and told us, "no." We tried this a couple more times until we were thoroughly stumped. Fortunately, a local walked up to the crowded bus stop and asked us where we were headed because he had seen us there for quite a while and we hadn't taken any of the buses that came by! He informed us that the other bus stop on the other corner of Wal-Mart was on a different route and it was the one we needed to get back to our resort. Thank goodness this kind young man took the time to help us!

Tuesday morning we got a call from the kids at 9:30am that woke us up. After we got off the phone with the kids, Aaron asked me if there was a penalty for going home early! I laughed and cried, because that verbalized how we both felt up to that point, having had such difficult days vacationing! However, this day was going to be different because we weren't going to go anywhere - we spent the afternoon at the pool and on the beach!

It was so beautiful to see the beach and the mountains in one view.

Aaron played sand volleyball while I read.

Shortly after I noticed I was getting sunburned (after maybe 2 hours of being outside), we went inside, cleaned up, and relaxed until dinner time. Still feeling like we'd rather stay on the hotel grounds than try to figure out how to get anywhere in the city, we chose to eat at a fancy Italian restaurant, called Tramonto, in the Grand Mayan. It was delicious (and expensive). Later, Aaron bought and smoked a Cuban cigar...I guess it's something you can't do every day in the United States.
At 8:30pm that day, we caught the final mini-train ride of the night, that covers the grounds of the two resorts, the Grand Mayan and the Mayan Palace. (You can also use it to get from one place to the other if you don't want to walk, but we always walked.) It was mostly cheesy, but still a beautiful change of scenery from Kansas has to offer. :)

Wednesday morning I was in such intense pain from the sunburn I got the day before. It hurt and itched so badly. That morning all I could do was order french toast from room service and watch TV. ;) It hurt when I moved and when I didn't move. (I had a hard time deciding whether to include this picture of not! ;) )

As you can imagine, Aaron was growing bored from being in all morning. And we were both realizing that I would not be able to play at the pool or beach any more because of my sunburn. Therefore, we quit debating which excursions to go on (if any) and we went to the hotel Internet cafe to book some. Otherwise, our week would soon be over and we would have nothing to "show for it" (other than a wretched sunburn)! And boy am I glad we did!

We spent the rest of the day being lazy, eating lunch in our room, relaxing under "our" hut (as I coined it, since rarely anyone else joined us under the shady jewel) - me reading and Aaron playing card games on his phone,
enjoying dinner at another ocean-side restaurant on the hotel grounds - the Havana Moon,
strolling around the Grand Mayan,

grabbing a coffe drink from the rather lame Balance coffee shop inside, and finally retiring for the night in our lovely room. :) Thursday morning we walked to our Dolphin Signature Swim tour put on by Vallarta Adventures (a company I highly recommend for their professionalism and enthusiasm). For 60 minutes our group of 8 people swam and played in the water with 2 dolphins. I was suprised that the water was saltwater, because the area looked like and felt like a fresh water swimming pool! Our trainer encouraged us to reach out and feel the dolphins as they swam around us (which they were obviously trained to do),
taught us the hand signals to make the dolphins sing, dance/spin, etc,
let us reward the dolphins with a fish to eat,
let us each hug the two dolphins, get a kiss from the dolphins, and eventually ride on a dolphin around the "pool" area!
At the end of the hour, the dolphins put on a show for us similar to one you might see at Sea World.

We ate lunch at a restaurant right next to the dolphin swim area, at a place called Ocho Tostadas. We were suprised that the authentic Mexican restaurants didn't bring chips and salsa to the tables, but because this one did bring us chips, we asked if they had any sort of salsa they could also bring us. The chef chopped up some fresh pico de gallo which we were served. I'd never had such a tasty pico de gallo and was pleasantly surprised by it (and by the lack of "salsa" in Mexico)!

We took a 3 hour nap that afternoon and decided to try getting out again by using a taxi. We kept seeing a shopping mall and Starbucks each time we got close to the street our resort was on, so a bell boy called us a taxi and we ate spent the evening eating Domino's pizza from the food court inside the mall, walking around the souvenier shops, and grabbing some Starbucks for dessert! The Starbucks was long overdue and so yummy and familiar!!

1 comment:

kirsten said...

You blogged! What a welcome surprise! Fun to hear all about the trip again this much later. Now you can start blogging other stuff too :)

And I totally agree that "avoidance" of "goodbyes" is a good idea for the future, at least when I leave. I think a simple "goodbye" will suffice next time instead of "Nana is going back to North Carolina now and I'll see you in ____ weeks." That last one had to be about the worst goodbye I've ever been party to :(