After the sheer madness of a wedding, this bride needed a haven where she didn't have to make a single decision for the entire duration of her stay. Oh...and it had to be affordable! So, I called my fabulous TA, and off we went to The Vallarta Palace in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.
Not many people know where Nuevo Vallarta is. The town of Puerto Vallarta sits on the coast of the Mexican state of Jalisco. But they're developing an area of coast just 20 minutes north in the state of Nayarit into quite the posh tourist mecca, appropriately called Nuevo Vallarta.
(Okay, perhaps I should preface...I'm a city girl. A slightly spoiled one. I'm not big on outdoors and the like, especially the "wee little beasties", as the Scots like to call them. So a beach vacation was a major change for me. Heck, "relaxing" is a major change for me! And a Mexican beach vacation was almost more than I was prepared for. My personal favorite guide warning went something like this: "The golf here is wonderful...except the crocodile. But don't worry! He runs 30 miles an hour, and our golf carts can go 35.")
Standing at the customs baggage terminal, I was surrounded by lots of already-drunk college kids wearing Corona shirts and bikini tops. A bad sign for a quiet girl that doesn't drink. Climbing the stairs to the exit, the bold frankness of the Mexican taxi peddlers and the sweltering jungle heat made me a bit edgy. I think I actually embedded some fingernails into my husband's hand during the seatbeltless cab ride, otherwise known as "dodge everything in a Chevy Nova". The only thing that distracted me from my imminent death was the lack of life in the surrounding countryside: scattered chicken carcasses, rotten trees, homes with no floors or windows. It was as if someone turned on a filter in my vision; everything was literally brown, a major contrast to my green Seattle home.
I've never felt more American than I did pulling past the security gate to the Nuevo Vallarta complex. I wondered how the security guard kept from passing out in this heat as he waved us through a very large stone gate allowing access to a huge walled community. Immediately, the grounds were impeccably lush. Everything was new, even the stripes on the roads. I didn't know whether to be embarrassed by the blatent contrasting oppulence...or downright relieved!
We stayed up in Nuevo Vallarta for most of our honeymoon, not for snobby reasons (though the idea of what I'd seen earlier was intimidating). But we were terribly broke newlyweds 20 minutes out of town, and our pasty Seattle skin could only handle so much of this proximity to the equator. Fortunately, we greatly enjoyed our resort...especially the food! I ate so much grilled steak, taquitos and fresh guacamole that week, I should have turned green. And the staff was superb; I've never met such a kind group of people. One in particular was the woman that turned down our bed every night. She didn't speak any English, and my rusty Spanish wasn't getting me very far. We kept trying charades to understand why this woman continued to request entry to our room every night. With the sweetest smile on her face, she finally brought chocolates, the international symbol for "I turn down the bed".
I was fascinated watching these people keep our hotel looking so perfect; absolutely nothing was ever out of place. I was challenged at how fulfilled they seemed with their work. I wondered where they lived, if their homes had real floors, while they came here in the 410% humidity to make sure my drink hadn't melted and my towels were folded like a swan. I was grateful for what I had back home and made a note to tip big.
You want to know what REALLY happens on a honeymoon? Yes, there are moments that, frankly, are none of your business. :-) But in truth - we slept most of the week, no joke. We were so exhausted from the wedding and the planning and the showers and the parties and the moving and the painting... One of our favorite activities quickly became simply curling up together and taking a nap. (We don't drink, remember?) Otherwise, Michael fell in love with boogie-boarding in the ocean. I discovered I love to read on the beach. And many, many episodes of Smallville in Spanish. And ironically, "Spanglish" isn't any different when you watch it in Mexico.
You'd be proud to know we did eventually venture into town. The history and architecture was just too much to pass up. It was late morning and a bit overcast by the time we hit Puerto Vallarta's beach front, so I think we completely missed the key element. But the friendly mariachi band made the heat almost bearable! We also wandered down to Mismaloya and got to see a bit of the jungle and coastline, too. By the time we were driving back north, I was glad when this area's strange beauty started to reveal herself to me.
Overall, it was different for me. I honestly didn't fall in love with Mexico, but I did enjoy myself. And occasionally I find myself wishing I was sitting on that beach with that slushy, sweet drink and the gentle roll of the waves. Oh, and the sunsets...