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Puerto Vallarta, one of the destinations on our Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the HAL Oosterdam, has an interesting history. So let's first review some of the local history of the area before we get on with our shore excursions and what not.
Puerto Vallarta is the center of sweeping 25 mile-wide Banderas Bay. The name honors former governor Ignacio Luis Vallarta, and with the severe coastal mountains just a few miles inland, the town atmosphere is utter and peaceful isolation. Although it is difficult to imagine, Puerto Vallarta was once little more than a sleepy fishing village. Native American settlements date back centuries, and it is known that the kingdom of Xalisco (Jalisco) once commanded the Pacific Coast. Perhaps the earliest Mexicans passed through the region centuries before, as they moved southward from their Siberian homeland.
Francisco Hernandez de San Buenaventura (conquistador Hernan Cortez's nephew ) led the first Europeans to the bay in the 16th century. When 20,000 people greeted him bearing ceremonial weapons adorned with brightly colored flags, he named the bay banderas ("flags"). Europeans were feared in the Americas and the people were protecting their land. They did manage to block access but only temporarily.
In 1851, the Sanchez family settled on the banks of the Rio Cuale. Others soon followed and a village eventually grew- especially after gold and silver deposits were found in the hills. The riches were shipped out ot the harbor, and supplies came in. There were no roads, and the Sanchez clan knew nothing of mines, but they made a fortune by supplying salt, necessary in mining operations.
The town continued to grow, but development was slow - until 1962, when director John Huston selected a secluded property on the southern side of the bay as the natural set for his film of Tennessee Williams's Night of the Iguana. In an instant, sleepy Puerto Vallarta was the center of Hollywood's spotlights and soon it was known around the world as a tropical paradise. Burton and Taylor were enjoying a torrid romance and people were glued to the affair. Gossip columnists and newsreel cameras were busy. Burton starred in the film with Ava Gardner, but Taylor moved to Mexico to be with her lover (the affair was the biggest scandal of the day - how times change!).
Plaza de Armas, Puerto Vallarta's main square, is the southern end of the malecon (waterfront). City Hall and the Visitor Office (a reliable source for local information) are both in the large building on the northern edge. Tours of private homes are sometimes offered.
The square opens onto the bay and is a fine starting point for exploring town. ?A block away, Church of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is a local landmark. The church is not antique, but it is nicely "aged."
Casa Kimberley, Elizabeth Taylor's 9-bedroom, 11-bathroom former home, is still one of Puerto Vallarta's biggest tourist draws. It was the first villa in the hills above Isla Cuale, but it wasn't long before others followed, and the district was a haven for Hollywood stars. A pink passage arches above the street, connecting with the neighboring property. Taylor also bought that house, so the arch was necessary. The personal details of her purchase, and her affair with Burton, are gossiped to visitors.
A 445-acre resort village adjacent to Mexico's largest marina accommodates small boats. Just north of the pier its mile-and-a-half beachfront is well planned, and features an 18-holegolf course. The village has a few luxury hotels an well as private homes, condos, and timeshares. Nuevo Vallarta, is a bit further north. Beyond is the town of Bucerias set on a lovely beach. Bahia de Banderas' northern most point is Punta Mita.
Two bridges link the island in the Cuale River with the northern and southern city sections. At the center of the island, a bronze statue of director John Huston is the landmark for his namesake plaza. A small museum on the western (ocean) end displays a small but interesting collection of relics from pre-Hispanic tombs in Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit. Craft shops on the island stock locally made merchandise.
In Puerto Vallarta we took a cab to the downtown and did a little shopping, stopped for a Margarita at Senior Frogs and just wandered a bit. That night we enjoyed Rhythms of the Night, and if there is one excursion NOT TO BE MISSED on this trip, this is it!! We boarded a catamaran for a 1 1/4 hour ride to Las Caletas beach which was all lit with Tiki Torches. Beautiful setting, then there was a wonderful Mexican buffet ( in fact there were lots of them so there never seemed to be a line) and you guessed it Margaritas. Lovely cinnamon coffee with Kailua and an assortment of deserts finished dinner. Then there was a spectacular cultural show, which we were asked not to photograph unfortunately but it was wonderful. Then a ride back watching the stars and being entertained by the catamaran crew into lovely Puerto Vallarta where our ship as well as the Carnival Pride were all lit up. Wonderful day.
Beautiful Cruise Ship Food
|On the catamaran
|Arriving at Las Caletas|
|Arriving at the little dock on the island...was it an an island?||On the boat ride over to where our shore excursion was located.||Beautiful place||Lots to see|
|Bill and I having dinner before the big show. It was a buffet and the food was good.||Entertainment|
|Bill and I again ..|