Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: Monaco


Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's Monaco...



The Casino - Fully accessible. Accessible entrance it to the side of the main entrance. Long pants, dress shirt, and jacket required to enter. Entrance fee charged.



Royal Palace Square - Fully accessible. Get to the top from the Place 'd Arms by taking the accessible bus. Get there before 11am if you want to see the changing of the guard.



Royal Neighborhood - Mostly accessible. The hilltop area around the palace has a lot a great shops, restaurants, and little alleyways to explore as well as the country's aquarium.

Monaco (the entire country) - Mostly accessible. The entire country gets an entry because it is so small. You could walk across the entire country in an hour or take 5-10 minutes in a bus. It's very hilly but a network of elevators and accessible buses gets you to anywhere you want to go.




Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: An Ode to a Politically Incorrect Bag


It's quickly becoming extinct here in California and, as California goes so does the rest of the country, look for a plastic bag ban in your near future, too.

While I understand the reasonings behind the bans and the environmental ramifications of keeping them around, I will miss their extreme utility.

I do have to say that I never send a plastic bag to a landfill or litter the roadside with it. It's too valuable.  Instead, I use it until there is no longer any life left to it, then send it off to recycle.

Far from just being the bag the groceries come home in, that is just the beginning of the uses this bag will endure.



Leftovers in Glad bowls get taken to work in them for lunch.  I line our hanging plant baskets with them to conserved water.


Shipping boxes get lined with wadded up bags as packing material to cushion my parcel.

Christmas decorations get stored in them so the garage dust doesn't cover them up.

Put a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fingerling potatoes in one. Shake it up and wrap with tin foil (after you remove from the plastic bag, of course). Throw it on the grill and you have a great side dish for dinner.

And, in the end, use it to line the kitchen waste basket for a trash bag (our waste disposal company sorts them out at the transfer center before being taken to the dump).

When there is nothing left, we can either toss it in our recycling bin (again, the waste disposal company says it's OK and they recycle them) or take it to our nearest supermarket where recycling bins are locating just for these bags.


We'll live with it once they're all gone but in the meantime, I've got a big container filled with a year's supply to take me through those lean times.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 16, 2015

THE HEART OF CALIFORNIA'S CENTRAL COAST: San Luis Obispo

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There’s too many to count, really. Maybe millions. Whenever I bring it up, I’m met with either shuddering disgust or local pride.


Here in this narrow alley, there is not one iota of wall space that is not covered up with a used wad of gum. This colorful fiesta of chicle and spit is Bubblegum Alley, where locals have been sticking their gum on the wall since World War II.

Welcome to San Luis Obispo.


Watch the Video!

The alley can serve as a metaphor. Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco but doing its own thing, this pretty college town lives in another California…the one not defined by big cities. Rather, it’s coastal, green, and laid-back.


While many people coming from L.A. take the coastal route up Highway 101 through Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria; our route takes us over the hills from the central valley via Highway 46, past the James Dean Memorial Interchange, and over the green hills on Highway 41, coming in to town on the rather steep Cuesta Grade from the north.

Our day will start with coffee, followed up by a quick stop to Bubblegum Alley to film the intro to our video. After that, it’s out the west end of the alley to Higuera Street and to Mission Mall on the other side.



While there are some fine shops in this little arcade, including a nice toy store and a shoe shop, it also makes for an easy, wheelchair accessible route to San Luis Creek in back of the building.

About 240 years ago, Father Junipero Serra hung a bell from the big sycamore here, rang it to call the faithful to mass, and founded Mission San Luis Obispo.

There’s still a big sycamore here but I doubt it’s the same tree. The creek still flows, however.

Steelhead trout find their way up this wide trickle of water to spawn. It’s about twenty miles or so from this point to the creek’s meeting with the Pacific Ocean in nearby Avila Beach. The fish numbers have severely dwindled. Now they’re protected and don’t even think about fishing here.

It’s serene and very beautiful to walk along the water here. Behind the mall, there’s a ramp down for wheelchairs to get close to the water.

On the other side, the massive adobe building is where Father Serra’s mission found a permanent home. Finished in 1819, visitors can now pay a small fee to visit, see the church, and its historic courtyard.

A wheelchair accessible pedestrian bridge spans the creek here.

Back on Higuera, we finish our morning stroll window shopping. We’re taking in a local Ross store, the Apple Store, a chocolate shop, and a Bath and Beauty Shop where my wife takes advantage of the after Christmas sale to stock up on lotions.




A twenty minute drive takes us over the hills, past Cal Poly University, the penitentiary, the community college, and the state’s first National Guard base to the Ocean in Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is a tiny seafront town with a giant rock. The wharf, rock, and bay have a spectacular view that is marred a bit by the big generating plant at the north end of town.


We can get by without it ruining our day, so we head to the waterfront for lunch at the Hofbrau. The star of the show here are the roast beef dip sandwiches that are hand-carved to your specification at the counter. 

We get a couple and wash it down with a cold, German hefeweisen. It’s very good, hearty, filling food under $10 a person with a million dollar view.


After lunch, it’s a stroll along the waterfront. The town has done a pretty amazing job of laying out an accessible route so wheelchairs can also roll along over the water.




We pop in to Rose’s bar, another whopper of a view, which features a completely wheelchair level and accessible bar shaped like a boat. The tequila sour goes down good with the view as we toast the end to this quick little trip up to the heart of California’s Central Coast.



Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: Exploring Without a Car

 

While we had fun in Baja, the bumpy dirt roads to the beach weren't to kind to our wheelchair lift.  Not long after we returned home, it began to make all sorts of awful noises before quitting altogether.  The local mobility dealer said they could fix it but they had to order parts and we had to wait (it would eventually take over 3 weeks).

Being stuck in the house is no adventure, even for a homebody like Tim.  The only decent restaurant within walking distance to our house is a pizza parlor (which we walked to the first week) but after 2 weeks, with cabin fever setting in and our anniversary date arriving, we had to do something.



Consulting our local bus company's web page, we found that the line by our house would easily take us to Pasadena or Claremont, both fun places to kill time. We chose Claremont and walked to the bus stop.



It's about an hour ride to the Metrolink Train Depot in Claremont, where the bus drops us off.

It's a very pretty college town. If you saw our earlier report on Claremont or it's doppleganger...Davis, in northern California...you can get a glimpse of what we're in store for.



Browsing the shops, Letty gets some custom made lotion at one of the shops and I get this mini Hohner harmonica at one of the world's best music stores, the Claremont Folk Music Center.



Hungry for dinner, we end up at the Press for some vegetarian lasagna and drinks. It's OK, but Letty is not happy with the lazy service or the bread that comes out with the hardness of a hockey puck.

She declares we will not be darkening the door of this establishment again.  No worries, we've still got Eureka!, Union on Yale, Aruffo's, and many more restaurants we've still yet to try here.



After dinner, we go with something much more reliable, dessert at Bert and Rocky's ice cream parlor.




Grabbing some candy to go, we head over to the nearby bus stop to catch our ride home.


 
Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 9, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Route 66 - Part 2

Note: this story was originally written in 2002.  I've tried to update the information for 2010.



Part 1 Here

Day 4

Today, we want to see the ocean. From Pasadena, we take the Gold Line to Union Station.  Take the Red or Purple Line to 7th and Flower St.  Transfer to a southbound Blue Line train to Long Beach. At the end of the Blue Line in Pine Square, we board a free shuttle that takes us to the Aquarium of the Pacific (from Monrovia, take the 187 bus to the Sierra Madre Villa station of the gold line; from Claremont take the Metrolink train westbound to Union Station)

Union Station
It's nice. We see plenty of sharks, rays, and watch a sea lion show. You can walk underwater in a coral reef, see divers feeding the fish, and pet lorikeets in an outdoor aviary.


Winter Warm-up Event: Savings are Hot!


A block away is Shoreline Village (and the Long Beach Convention Center...occasional West Coast home of the Abilities Expo) where you can samples hundreds beers at the Yardhouse. The other way, that same free shuttle can take you to the Queen Mary where you can tour the famed ocean liner. For a completely different adventure, you can catch a ferry to Catalina Island at the terminal next door to the aquarium.

We take a long walk on the beach where a great, smooth, paved path winds a few miles on the sand to Belmont Shore. Lots of families frolicking in the ocean, people flying kites and radio controlled gliders, and speedo-clad gentlemen looking for new friends.

After the beach, it's a long ride back to Monrovia. We have dinner across the street at Tokyo Wako, a teppan-steak house that's very good (think Benihana's).

Day 5

We're tired of traveling around, so we want to stay close. The eastbound 187 takes us again to Myrtle Ave. A three block walk north takes us to the fun and charming Old Town Monrovia district. We have breakfast at the busy Monrovian Family Restaurant where I have a delicious special of eggs and rib eye steak while my wife has heuvos rancheros. Tim has a burger.
It's a very familiar site here, the old-fashioned hardware store, the many quaint shops. Why? Because over 150 movie and TV productions a year film here. You've seen this street many times before, even if you've never set foot within a thousand miles of here.

After strolling around and talking to the friendly (well, mostly friendly) shopkeepers, we take in an early matinee at the Krikorian Theater here.

Day 6

The trusty 187 takes us westbound for a change and deposits us at the brand-new Paseo Colorado mall in Pasadena. This is a wonderful outdoor shopping plaza that makes for as good a place to people watch as it is a place to shop (much better than the Hollywood and Highland mall). Just one block west is Old Town Pasadena where hundred more shops and restaurants tempt you to stop in.

After a morning shopping, we head a few blocks east to Yahaira's, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that serves the best tortas I've had in a long time (a torta is a Mexican style sandwich). Their salads are pretty impressive too. For those so inclined, Yahaira's has a bargain priced dinner menu and you can then take in an obscure movie at the art-house Laemmle Theater across the street.

For us, dinner takes us back to the area around our hotel where we have one last meal at BJ's

And so concludes our trip along this unsung portion of Route 66. Although, we didn't do too much kitschy Route 66 stuff, reminders of it abound here with the Historical Route 66 signs greeting you often, the old downtown districts of Pasadena and Monrovia, the old roadhouses such as Pinnacle Peak in San Dimas, The Derby in Arcadia, and the Azusa Drive-In Marquee which is preserved by Azusa Pacific University. Nearby Duarte also has a Salute to Route 66 parade and picnic each September to celebrate this road's place in history. Not to forget, except for our detours to Long Beach and Hollywood, the whole trip takes place on Route 66.

-Darryl
Copyright 2002 and 2010
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 6, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Route 66 - Part 1

Note: This story was originally written in 2002...I've tried to update the information to 2010 where applicable.

This is a very low key trip, yet it is connected very well with some very major tourist destinations. It's served by excellent, accessible public transportation yet you will be hard pressed to find other tourists while you're here. You'll find yourself on possibly the most famous...and fabled...highway on earth but you won't feel you're at a tourist mecca.


Route 66 of course is that fabled route to California from Chicago made famous by the likes of John Steinbeck and Bobby Troup. Although the highway was decommissioned, hundreds of miles of it still exist.

One stretch that almost no one talks about any more is the part that winds its way though San Bernardino County into the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The past icons along this stretch are quickly succumbing to encroaching suburbia, but there is still much to see and do here.
Winter Warm-up Event: Savings are Hot!


There are three areas of lodging that are particularly good here, depending on what's important to you. Staying in the lovely little college town of Claremont gives you superb access to the area's transporation grid...even if it is a bit out of the way. It's also close to our hiking area, noted below.

Staying in Pasadena puts you right in the thick of things and gives you great transit access via the Metro Gold Line. You'd probably want to avoid it around New Year's day unless you're doing the Rose Bowl or the parade.

The third choice is my choice for the best compromise. There is a hotel/restaurant row right on the border of Arcadia and Monrovia that gives you great affordable lodging in a good neighborhood with a very short walk to dozens of good restaurants.

For lodging, you have budget (Oak Tree Inn), midrange (Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn), and upscale (DoubletreeEmbassy Suites) to name but just a few. All the hotels in this area are newer and have good handicapped rooms.

You can fly to Ontario, Burbank, or LAX to get here. Ontario or Burbank would be best.

OK, on to the report...

Day 1

Since this is our hometown, we are going to have to imagine some of the following, but...apart from staying in the hotels...all of this actually happened.

The Springhill Suites is located just east of Santa Anita Racetrack n Arcadia.  We sleep in a bit, wanting to shake off travel fatigue. Just up the street from the hotel, we indulge in an early lunch at BJ's Pizza, Grill, & Brewhouse just west of the hotel. There are so many restaurants here that the only problem will be choosing which ones to eat at.

I have a superb french dip sandwich, my wife has a pot roast sandwich, and Tim has a BJ's burger. It goes very well with BJ's own beer and cider. For three people, it's less than $25.

After lunch, the Foothill Transit route 187 bus (the 187 traces mostly along Historical Route 66 from Colorado Bl. in Pasadena to Foothill Bl. in Claremont) picks us up across the street and drops us off a minute later at Santa Anita Racetrack (for those up to it, it's about a quarter mile walk from restaurant row to the track). We enter the back entrance which leads into the infield and spend the afternoon watching the ponies and trying not to lose all of our money. We actually end up about forty dollars ahead. (Santa Anita has live racing in October and from late December through April...it is pretty much open all year for sattelite wagering)

One note here, although we had a lot of fun and met some wonderful people who work at the track, we did go up to the clubhouse restaurant (we had clubhouse passes) for drinks and ran into the rudest people who work there. After receiving very poor service and attitude, we left before ordering anything and returned to the friendlier confines back at ground level.

After the races, we returned to the hotel and had dinner at the Claim Jumper, just half a block east of BJ's. Priced moderately to expensive, you get three meals worth of food for each order. You could very easily split something, or take leftovers if you have a place to store it and heat it up.  Even better is their monday through Thursday happy hour where a pizza costs just $3.  It's all very tasty...and filling!

Day 2

Wanting to exercise some of those Claim Jumper calories off, we again board Foothill Transit's 187 line heading east right in front of the hotel. In Claremont, it's an easy transfer to Foothill's line 292 at Mountain Avenue and Foothill Bl. The 292 drops us off at Baseline and Mountain and we walk three blocks west to the Thompson Creek Trail.


This trail, owned and maintained by the City of Claremont, is a very wheelchair friendly paved path that traces the edge of civilization. On one side are the tract homes of Claremont...which progress from humble bungalows to stately mansions at the end of the trail...on the other is mostly wild area, scrubby chaparral.


Thompson Creek is really a concrete lined drainage ditch, but other than that, the scenery is wonderful. My wife, ever the bird watcher, pointed out hundreds of Cedar Waxwings, a Flicker, dozens of Robins, warblers, and the occasional hawk or eagle. I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye and stopped. Up on a ridge about 100 yards away sat a family of four deer keeping a wary eye on our progress. The two mile trail (four miles round-trip) ends up in a brushy field in the shadow of Mount Baldy. Another more primitive trail starts just north of this one. We'll save that for another trip.

Retracing our way back, the 187 westbound takes us to a true Route 66 treasure, Pinnacle Peak in San Dimas. On the menu here are big, juicy, cowboy steaks cooked over hardwood charcoal served with beans and bread. What's not on the menu here are ties. Thousands of forbidden ties hang from the rafters. They are cut off the offending owner's neck and strung up. If you do wear a tie to dinner here, just to add to the collection, be aware that they have a big ceremony where everybody in the place stops what they're doing just to see your tie get sliced. That's the voice of experience talking there...

Day 3

Today we want to expand our horizons a little. After breakfast, we take the 187 west to the the Sierra Madre Villa terminus of the Gold Line.  If you stayed in Claremont or Montclair, you would have easier access to Metrolink but be farther away with less amenities...the choice is yours.


First, a word about tickets. Metro offers no transfers, so get a day pass instead of a single ticket. We ride the Gold Line into Los Angeles where we get off at Union Station and take the elevator downstairs to the Metro Red Line.  The North Hollywood bound train takes us to the Hollywood and Highland Station. Upstairs is the Hollywood and Highland complex which includes a shopping center with great views of the Hollywood sign, restaurants ranging from hot dogs to very expensive sit down dinners, the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards), and the Chinese Theater...a true Hollywood landmark.

We grab a couple of hot dogs and compare shoe sizes with the stars in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater. The shopping center has great access from the subway and is nice if a little bland. It does make a big improvement to a very nasty neighborhood. That's a big step in the right direction.

Back downstairs, the Red Line continues on. The next stop in Universal City.

At that stop, we cross the street to catch a shuttle up the hill to Universal Studios. The shuttle pulls up and...it's not accessible. No problem, the driver radios up the hill and a lift-equipped van is dispatched to pick us up (you don't want to walk up this steep hill in a wheelchair...even if you're up to the challenge, the curb cuts stop half-way up, forcing you into a very busy street).


Universal Studios is a lot of fun. We take the studio tour, see the Backdraft special effects walk-through, ride Jurassic Park, and see the Waterworld stunt show. In between, we have a few beers at Mulligan's Pub and then out from the pub to see Terminator 3-D across the way. Afterwards, we have a nice dinner at Karl Strauss Brewery and Gardens at the adjacent CityWalk. The Red Line takes us back to Union Station where we catch the Gold Line back to Pasadena and take the 187 back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for part 2, the finale.

-Darryl
Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 2, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Puerto Vallarta, October 1998

Here is an old report on one of our favorite beach destinations, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Yes, the report's been here before but we've added a whole bunch of new pictures.  Plus something else...

Our first trip to Puerto Vallarta was in 1991. We liked it so much, we pretty much came every year during the 90's, back when Tim was little enough to carry and get over all those stairs.



On our second trip in 1992, I borrowed my dad's VHS camcorder. Recently, I dug out the old VHS tape, digitized it, and edited down 90 minutes worth of video down to 10 minutes.

23 years ago, when Tim was but a wee lad of 5, we took this video down in Puerto Vallarta. I apologize for the poor audio, but it makes a neat time capsule of a time we'd go down to this beautiful destination.


Watch the Video!




Enjoy, and then you can read the old report, below, from 1998.

Darryl

Sunset from El Set

11 years ago, we spent a week in Puerto Vallarta.  We used to go there quite reguarly before Tim go too big to pick up...the access in Mexico is not up to U.S. standards at all.  One trip even necessitated carrying him...and his wheelchair...down 125 steps so this is a trip you do very carefully although there is now a service that caters to guests in wheelchairs in Puerto Vallarta.  Here is our report for you to enjoy from the old site until we get back from our current travels:

If you looked very closely, you could see the bats clinging to the roof of the cave. The swells of the sea heaving under the boat causes a little concern as we are thrust up toward the roof of the cave, even though we've done this many times before. At just the right point in time, the skipper guns the motor and shoots the skiff, and us with it, into the emerald green waters just beyond...

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the world's busiest airports. Usually we try to avoid flying here but since we are crossing international boundaries today, our options are severely limited. One good benefit of flying LAX is that parking is not as expensive as other nearby airports.

We have been using Wally Park for several years now and have never been dissapointed. This is a private, nearby parking facility that is well guarded, indoors, and offers good rate. With our AAA discount, it was less than $7 per day. Car washing, detailing, valet parking, and padded (really!) parking stalls are also available at extra cost. Free airport shuttles get you to your gate in minutes.

The Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX is a massive place that usually is very crowded with travelers coming & going. However our airline, AeroMexico, had recently moved over to Terminal 5 where the crowding is much less severe. We check in with a minimum of problems and head over to our gate to wait.

We were to wait quite awhile as first the arriving flight was about 20 minutes late. In turn, this caused our flight to lose it's spot in the airport que and we were further delayed. Finally, after a 1.5 hour delay we were leaping off of the runway and headed to Mexico.

The pilot, trying to make up for lost time, put the pedal to the metal and we made up 1/2 hour in the air. After a 2.5 hour flight, we arrive in PV just after 6:00pm local time. Gustavo Diaz International Airport, Puerto Vallarta's airport, has been updated since our last visit. In the past, we would have to deplane via stairs onto the tarmac. This is when it would hit you...the intense, steamy heat. I would be soaked by the time I hit the bottom of the stairs.

This trip is different because there are now 4 new jetways into the terminal. We leave the plane straight into the air conditioned comfort of the terminal. Jr.'s wheelchair is waiting for us in the jetway.

Going through customs in Mexico is unique. There is signal, just like a traffic signal, with a button on it. You press the button and the light randomly lights up either green or red. Get a green light and you're through customs and on your way. A red light means your bags will be searched first. We're in luck today...we get a green light and instantly clear customs. Total time to clear immigration, customs, and claim our bags...10 minutes.

Once we're done with the formalities of entering another country, we make our way out to the front of the terminal and secure transportation to our lodging from the taxi stand. There, you are sold a ticket good for a one way trip in the taxi of their choice. Since there is a monopoly of sorts at the airport (normal roving taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers here), there is a bit of sticker shock on the cost....$27.00 US. In a week the return trip from our condo would be less than $7.00 US.

The taxi ride to the condo is about 15 minutes. We stayed on the south side of town which is the complete opposite side of town from the airport. This would be a good spot to present a few notes on lodging in Puerto Vallarta.

PV proper can be broken down into 3 distinct zones: The north end of town (the Marina or airport area), central part of town, and south of town. The north end of town is where all the really big tourist hotels such as the Krystal and the Sheraton Bouganvillas are in the Marina development. The hotels here are nice enough, but this area is really geared strictly for tourists and leaves you outside of the good parts of town and away from the best beaches.

The central part of town, downtown, is really where PV charm sparkles with the classic red tile roofs, flowering vines everywhere, and cobblestone streets. It's where the Rio Cuale meets the ocean and beauty abounds. Hotels here tend to be much more budget oriented. Our favorite here is the Molino de Agua, a beautifully landscaped paradise set on the point where the river meets the sea. Other hotels in this area are, such as the Hotel Rosita, are perfectly adequate and cheap...but by no means luxurious. The beach here, Los Muertos, is PV's most popular but the water is not clear. Rather it's kind of murky like you would find on most Southern California beaches.

The south end of town has a distinct riviera feel to it as many fine homes cling to the jungle shrouded hills over the ocean. Accomodations here tend to be small and luxurious although there are a few big properties such as the Camino Real and La Jolla de Mismaloya here too. Prices tend to be a bit more expensive here but are still a bargain compared to American prices. The beaches here are among PV's best with crystal clear, warm water and great snorkeling.

It is along this south coast that we prefer to stay, with downtown being our second choice and we generally stay away from the north end.

We are lucky enough to have a friend who owns a couple of time shares at the Lindomar Adventure Club and were able to rent a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom oceanfront condo for $500 per week. Now we realize very few people will get a deal like this but a quick research of the web reveals plenty of equally nice condos in the area renting for $400 $1000 per week. Particularly intriguing is the Punta Negra resort and the Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas.


We arrive at our destination just as the sun is going down. We're not very hungry, so we just head down to the beachside bar for some appetizers and drinks. Our first big discovery is made here...the best chicken wings in town are made right here at our condo at Lindomar. Truly delicious, we enjoy them before retiring for the night.

Our room is actually a suite of rooms with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 patios adjoining the beachside pool, a kitchen, dining room and living room. Your money buys you so much more down here. It easily accomodates the six people in our party splendidly: myself; Mrs. Webmaster; Webmaster. Jr.; Mrs. Web's mom; and her brothers Ruben and Amaury. We take one bedroom, mom in law takes the second, and the guys bunk out on the twin beds that the couches in the living room convert into.

Sunday dawns and we're ready for the beach...Mismalyoa beach. Arguably Puerto Vallarta's most famous stretch of sand, this beach is actually 7 miles south of the town proper. It was here that John Huston brought Richard Burton and Ava Gardner to film the seminal "Night of the Iguana". Elizabeth Taylor accomanied Burton here, carried on a torrid affair that lit up the tabloids...and put Puerto Vallarta on the map!

Today, it is guarded by the twin towers of the ultra plush La Jolla de Mismaloya hotel. The ruins of the movie set...now a restaurant and bar...are still there. The hotel dominates the beach, it's visage covering a good 2/3 of the bay and a healthy stretch of sand is off limits to all but registered guests. The other third of the beach, across the mouth of the little Rio Mismaloya, is home to an odd collection of mom & pop restaurants that serve fresh food & drinks to beachgoers. The lagoon at the river's mouth is home to a fleet of skiffs and fishermen. Trouble is brewing between the two sides of the river, but more about that later...

We take the bus from our condo at Conchas Chinas beach to Mismaloya. The current fare is 2.5 pesos, about 35 cents. We head down the access road along the south wall of the hotel to find that the old wooden bridge over the Rio Mismaloya has been dismantled and a new one is being built. We portage Jr. and his chair over the river's mouth to the palapa (non hotel) side of the bay and stake out some good hammock chairs in front of Arturos's restaurant. Arturo opens up a tab for us (restaurant owners here will gladly let you use their chairs and hammocks in return for your business) and we order breakfast on the beach.

After a few flap jacks and eggs, we head out into the warm waters of the bay to test out the snorkeling. We see many colorful tropical fish along the rocky edges of the south side of the bay and quickly float out to the bay's edge. The water is bath water warm. At times, it even feels a little too warm. I head back to the beach. Jr. and me play in the waves and let them crash over us, filling our trunks with sand.


This is how the day goes, snorkel a little, swim a little, order a few more Coronas, splash in the waves, and then do it all over again. Other than a burn on my back (I forgot to put sunscreen on there) and some mosquito bites, the day is nothing but fun. We catch a bus back to Conchas Chinas and get ready to head into town.

We head into town and take a long walk along the Malecon, PV's version of a boardwalk, and then head over to Cenederia Ene...a small, family run eatery that serves delicious Mexican food at bargain prices. I had a platter of gorditas (about $2), my wife had a bowl of pozole and Jr. had a burger. All about the same price and delicious.

It's very spartan but clean and bright. Your entertainment consists of spanish movies on the TV.
After dinner, it's time to go grocery shopping at the Guitterez Rizo supermarket. Since we have a kitchen, we decide to stock up on groceries and make some of our meals and drinks in the condo. Prices here are about the same as in the states. Laden down with groceries, we decide to spring for a taxi back to the condo.

This is when we notice big discovery #2...all the big taxis are gone now, replaced with small Nissans that won't hold six people. We have to hire 2 taxis to get us back to the condo. Come to find out, this is planned. The driver tells us that PV is getting rid of all the big taxis in favor of the small ones in an effort to generate more fares. PV is growing up and developing ever more each day...I don't know that I like every development though.

Monday finds us sleeping in and spending the day at Conchas Chinas beach directly in front of the condo. After a home cooked breakfast of ham and eggs, we head out to the beach. Since our condo is on the beach, we're able to just leave the patio door open for quick forays to fill up on rum punches and beer.

The water this day is a little murky and the snorkeling just adequate. We turn instead to frequent swims in the warm water of the Pacific alternating with cool dips into the beachfront pool. The heat and drinks work their magic on us an after a few hours, we switch off into siesta mode for the afternoon.

After waking, we head over for one of the highlights of our trip.

One of the main reasons we like to stay at Lindomar is that it's right next door to our favorite restaurant, El Set. This is truly not just PV's best restaurant, but one of the world's great dining spots. A meal here is superb (click on the link above to go to their web site and check out the menu). My favorite here is the Selva Negra (Black Jungle in english). This is a truly superb and tender filet mignon covered in a champagne walnut sauce. It is mouth watering, melt in your mouth, truly delicious food. It's served with a baked potato along with fresh vegetables. Mrs. Web enjoys the Mocajete Tlaloc, a concoction of pork and chicken served in a melted cheese broth in a stone grinding bowl with shallots and peppers. This is also a very delicious dish.

This great food is also served in one of the world's most spectacularly scenic spots. The restaurant is outdoors set into terraces carved into the jungle hillside, overlooking the ocean, aimed square at the setting sun...our sunset Puerto Vallarta picture that graces this site was taken from our table at El Set.

We ended up eating here three times during the week and had three superb sunsets. Tonight's actually recieved applause.

The service here is PV's best. Extremely gracious and professional waiters tend to your needs. We come about every 3 years and they always remember us.

Strolling mariachis...not the loud, anxious for a tip kind that you see too often in L.A. but the more softly playing, romantic kind...come by each table. You don't want them, no problem...they take no offense. But you should really take advantage of this tableside entertainment to cap off a perfect meal (20 peso tip is appropriate for each song).


After dinner, we walk back over to the condo and watch "The Usual Suspects" in english with spanish subtitles on a local station. It's funny to see what they substitute in the titles for the sometimes X rated language (which is played uncut).

Tuesday is an in town day spent shopping and exploring. PV is one of the best places to just walk and take in the local street scenes. It's a very beautiful and interesting place. One interesting stop is at the small archeological museum on the Isla Rio Cuale in the center of town.
On display here are items dating back thousands of years dug up in the mountains surrounding Banderas Bay. This incense burner is one of the newer pieces...only about 1300 years old!

Wednesday is our big activity day of the week. This is the day we head down to Mismaloya to hire a boat. Here you can hire a boat and it's skipper. The skiff can easily hold 10 people, has a canopy, snorkel gear, fishing gear and and ice filled chest to do with as you please. The price for all this...$25 per hour or $100 per day. This has always been our big adventure when we come to PV and today is no exception.

We find a skipper, Lino, who along with his assistant, Jose, will take us in the good ship "Night of the Iguana". We hire the pair and the boat for the day (you with calculating minds will work it out to $15 per person for the day on the boat). The area to the south of Banderas Bay is Mexico's second largest rainforest with no roads, only boats and very hardy hikers can access it's coast.

There are 3 villages along this coast that cater to tourists: Yelapa, Quimixto, and Las Animas. They're too touristy for us with too many peddlers. We prefer to head to one of the many unpopulated and deserted beaches along this coast. We head to our favorite deserted beach... Majahuitas!

Here we make big discovery #3...a kind of painful one...Majahuitas is not the unknown deserted beach it once was. For years, Majahuitas only shared it's sparkling white sand, coconut palms, jungle, and crystal waters with a cabin owned by an absent American owner who never visited her holdings here. Now there is a new resort on the beach, albeit small, the Majahuitas Resort...where you can pay big bucks to stay in one of the 6 cottages cut off from civilization.

Others have also found out about this beautiful little bay. On our arrival, a tour boat sits in the bay with about 40 german tourists sunning on the beach. We beach our little skiff and don our gear. Diving into the bay we find the water to be as crystal clear and warm as ever. The snorkeling in the bay is nothing short of excellent. Jr. and I head into the waters of the north end of the beach to be delighted by the antics of puffers, angel fish, and too many more I can't name.

Later we head to the south end to see an even more astonishing array of underwater delights including a swim through cave and coral. We crack open some ham sandwiches, beer and soda for a picnic on the beach.

Trouble is brewing back at Mismaloya. According to Lino, the developers of the hotel there and certain politicians are trying to force the local vendors and boats off of the south third of the beach to make way for more development. The most troubling aspect of this plan is that Mismaloya would become a totally private beach, shut off from the public.

This day, the boat owners are rallying at city hall to try to prevent this plan. Lino is here because he is taking care of the boat & business for his friend who is at the downtown rally. It would really be a shame if PV went this route, effectively killing one of it's golden egg laying geese.

Hopefully some saner heads will prevail.

Back on Majahuitas, Lino tells us he knows of an even better spot for snorkeling just up the coast. After lunch, we pack it up and head out. Lino takes us about a mile north of Majahuitas to an unnamed cove. We are completely alone.

The beach here is tiny, so we anchor offshore and dive in from the boat. Lino is not wrong.

Covering the ocean floor is a carpet of coral as far as we can see. The water is teaming with colorful tropical fish who eat bread crumbs out of our hands. I take Jr. for an extended swim across the bay with Amaury and Ruben. The activity never stops under the water here. Looking closely into the rocks and coral, we see eels, angel fish, trigger fish, puffers, and more. The snorkeling today is among the very best we've ever done, including Hawaii and Jamaica. Those who say there is no good snorkeling in PV need to get out of their hotel adn get down to the clear waters of the south shore.

Lino takes us to one more stop...the obigatory ride to Los Arcos. This quartet of offshore rocks is PV's most famous landmark. Wave worn caves carve through these huge rocks forming the famous arches. This is also PV's best known snorkeling spot with many boats anchoring nearby allowing divers access. Amaury and Ruben take the plunge and swim through one of the caves.

After the dive, Lino takes us on the final boat adventure for the day...a ride through the caves of Los Arcos. This is where we join the first paragraph as we wait for just the right moment in the cresting swells to gun the boat's engine and shoot through the cave. Around us we here the squeals of hundreds of tiny bats. Beneath us, the blues and greens of the clear water flicker in and out of the light. Then, it's back out into the sunlight to do it again.

Above us, clinging to the shear sides of the rocks, are dozens of pelican nests. Lino tells us that this is a protected breeding area for the birds. In April and May, the rocks explode with hundreds of pelicans roosting with their eggs.

After the adventure of Los Arcos, it's back to Mismaloya. We end the day around 4pm. Shaking hands with Lino and Jose, we hail a couple of taxis for a quick ride back to the condo.

Back at Lindomar we shower up and rest for dinner. Tonight, we make a repeat visit to El Set and are treated to another exceptional dinner, sunset, and music. We call it a night and head back to the condo to catch game 4 of the World Series before turning in.

Thursday dawns calm and we spend this day snorkeling around Conchas Chinas beach. The water is as clear as we've ever seen it here. We make several short dives plus one long one that ends up in our being washed ashore at the Camino Real hotel, about 1/4 mile down the road.

The security guards don't like the idea that we prefer to walk back from here (thus having to go through their lobby) but they eventually relent...we remind them that it's better that we're leaving rather than entering...and we walk back to Lindomar.

The evening finds us dining at Chavas restaurant downtown. The food here is delicious and cheap among some very pleasant surroundings. We are eating from a second floor balcony that looks out over the La Iguana nightclub across the street and the town beyond. Many mariachis come strolling through here, enough to be a minor bother, but we have a great dinner of frog legs and enchiladas.

Amaury and Ruben head off on their own for a night of clubbing while the rest of us head back home.

Friday, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to grow in intensity. The ladies spend the day shopping in town while the rest of us spend another day snorkeling in the warm, clear waters of Conchas Chinas. One more day on the beach, one more dinner at El Set...one more night to go.

Saturday, our last day here. Our flight doesn't leave until 9:00pm. We pack up and leave our bags with Miguel at the front desk of Lindomar (we have to vacate the room by 11:00am) and get a rental car. What we get is a VW Safari (also called a Thing here is the US) without doors windows...or seatbelts!

We head south to Chico's Paradise, one of a number of jungle restaurants in town situated along the raging rivers. We spend a little time here eating a light lunch and head down to the river for a swim. Mrs. Web then notices a small iguana drowning in the river. Amaury jumps in and rescues the little guy who turns out to be quite tame friendly.

As much as the guys would like to take it home, we instead release it back into the jungle and head out. We spend some more time driving around the countryside until we decide that the car is just too uncomfortable to ride in any more. We drop it off and head back to Lindomar.

Lindomar has one great feature, if your flight is late...like ours...you can use the hospitality suite for the day. This is a suite set aside for guests use on check out day for naps, showers, etc. We make good use of it as we rest up for our flight home.


Well, now it's early Saturday evening and time to head home. Always the saddest part of the trip, we oblige but know we will return. The flight home leaves right on time, the service is excellent, and we land on time at LAX...only to be held up by ground controllers adding another 1/2 hour til we reach the gate.

Immigration, customs and baggage claim go very smoothly and we return back to our real world here in Southern California. Until next time, we say adios to Puerto Vallarta and ride off into one of those magnificent sunsets...



Darryl
Copyright 1998 - Darryl Musick