Dear diary, I am sitting in bed, listening to the waves crashing into the rocky hill and the sand, and thinking back on how Puerto Vallarta confuses and amuses us.
1. At custom they tell you to push a button, if it’s green, you go through, if it’s red, you gotta do some checking, and from what we can tell it’s completely random. But it seems there’s more green than red.
2. As soon as we walk out of custom with our luggage trailing behind, we enter the “shark tank”: forty or more men line up on both sides calling “senoritas” to hook us up with their taxi service, and we do what we know best (from months of practice with the homeless people on Shattuck): keep our eyes straight ahead and walk like we know where we’re going (even when we don’t).
3. The taxi driver will get you to the hotel by hook or by crook, even if it means squeezing between a stopping bus and the curb, or weaving in and out between a bus and another car. I swear I heard a “thump” once, but I didn’t check to see if there’s any dent to our left side. Now there are probably too many already to recognize, seeing that the streets have no lane and the drivers have no fear. And it was a manual car.
4. There’s a Walmart, and according to our fellow conference attenders, it sells no beef jerky.
5. The moment we step off the taxi in front of the hotel lobby at Dreams Puerto Vallarta, a man comes with wet lemongrass infused towels and champagne glasses for each guest. However, someone in our group came walking on foot with a backpack and received neither towel nor champagne.
6. For $140 per night per person (conference rate), you get a hotel room with ocean view, free room service, free food (all meals at all restaurants in the Dreams Resort and ordered to your room), free minibar in the fridge, however internet costs extra, and to really make a question mark pop, the bottle opener is a little steel thing built in to the counter near the bathroom sink.
By the time we finish checking in and waddling up to our room, there’s only 3 minutes left to the end of lunch, so we order a Vallarta pizza featuring shrimp with dapples of garlic, olive oil, basil and tomato sauce. When your stomach is hungry for hours, anything would hit the spot. But the shrimps, so juicy and plump and just slightly salty, kinda hold a special place in my mind, whether I’m full or not.
A few hours after sundown we meet up at seafood-specialized Oceana for the first (and last) proper meal of the day, and we go all out on three courses, starting with a shrimp spring roll served with a tangle of crunchy airy fried rice noodle, an ample drizzle of sweet mango sauce, and on the side stands endive and sesame sprout in nori wrap.
The entrees come fluidly after: a generous portion of sea bass for Victoria and a salmon and scallop wellington for me. The fluff pastry is a bit too oily and chewy I can hardly saw off a polite bite with the knife, but the scallop cubes on the side and the mash potato under it all have just the right charred amount that helps retaining the suppleness of a calm, seasoned sea.
The banana tartine for dessert is a little sweeter than my expectation, although I don’t know why I would expect fried and caramelized banana mounted on a sugary brioche to be moderately plain. It must be the pristine night wind that numbs my senses. Bsides, when you cast your eyes out to the silver reflection of the moon on the ocean waves, the sea has captured you.