When last I left you, I was just coming to grips with maybe buying a place in Puerto Vallarta. I had just been through a very wet film production (Girl in Progress, starring Eva Mendes) in rainy and cold Vancouver.
I had started trolling PV real estate, which, with what I saw on wonderful sites and having just turned 65, was what can only be described as “senior porn.” My old eyes scanned hundreds of beautiful condos and homes in unbelievable settings, with whales and dolphins dropping by for tea between November and March. I felt saved.
I found a Canadian-Mexican real estate guy, Eddy the Realtor, who told me to “come on down” and he would fix me up, whatever my budget. With the moist movie wrapped, my wife and I West-Jetted to PV (the airline is almost a verb in Canada when it comes to Mexico) to maybe buy our own piece of paradise.
Now there are some unique adventures involved in landing at the Puerto Vallarta airport.
The good news is unlike a good deal of Puerto Vallarta, everyone speaks English, particularly the Shark Tank people. For those of you who have never been, the so-called Shark Tank is a large room located just before you reach the Arrivals area and the taxis beyond. It is a dreadful place, designed only to separate you from your money. In short, it is a time-share swamp.
That would not be so bad if they had signs up declaring what it was, but no, it works on tricking innocent visitors into buying time shares, which most of us know buys nothing. The experienced visitors just keep their eyes down and make for the far door.
Somehow I had forgotten this place from our first brief visit, so when my wife was stopped in the Shark Tank and offered a cab ride to our hotel, no alarm bells went off. A nice man with large, brown, beautiful eyes (we have since discovered that most Mexicans have large, brown, beautiful eyes) was hypnotizing Michelle with stories of lovely sunsets, wonderful neighbors and gated communities, with no more mention of a cab.
What saved us was a couple from Chicago, who grabbed our shoulders and dragged us clear of the outraged salesman. I thank them from the bottom of my heart wherever they are.
The next test: You cannot take the baggage carts past the Shark Tank. You have to use a porter. Gotcha!
We weren’t carrying much, so when a uniformed airport policewoman said “Leave the cart here,” it was not too bad, just surprising. But for others, it was awful. One elderly man was in a wheelchair with bags piled on his lap while his struggling wife pushed him and a heavy luggage cart.
The high inside fast ball was: No more available porters. No exceptions apparently, so the woman was forced to unload the bags, forming a large pile, with her husband left complaining loudly. Finally the nice manager came out from a back room and offered to help, which he did, to the great relief of the forlorn couple.
My point is, why would the airport insist on doing that, taking away the carts just as they are needed the most? Either have scores of porters or have someone collect the carts from the taxi area and parking lot. It makes no sense. This was my first experience of a cultural difference that seemed inexplicable.
Once clear we made our way by West Jet bus to the Hacienda Hotel and Spa, purported to be the crème de la crème of “The Mexican Experience” in PV. And it was. From the first instant we arrived, we loved it unequivocally. It was June 2011 and as we came to learn it was the time of year when Mexican people come to Puerto Vallarta to vacation. The place was packed and we were the only gringos. Everyone was kind and gentle as we muttered the few words of Spanish that had stuck with us.
We also came to realize what “family” means to Mexicans, as every group seemed to contain hundreds of relatives. I almost needed olive oil to get myself out of the pool, there were so many children. I can hardly name my few first cousins, much less the second ones, and don’t even ask about uncles and aunts. In fact I find most of my extended family rather pushy. But here family is everything.
We relaxed, were fed magnificently and slept like the dead, which was good as the next day we were to meet Eddy the Realtor.
My next column Oct 22nd.
Copyright Christopher Dalton 2014