In March, the husband and I took a much-needed 8 day vacation to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico as part of a non-simultaneous home exchange. This was meant to be a true vacation, which meant I told all of my co-workers that I would be ignoring them for the duration of the trip, and I am happy to report that I did not break my promise! I successfully disconnected from work for a full week. And what a week it was!
(Just click on any of the photos below to see enlarged version!)
We flew Southwest from Nashville to Puerto Vallarta. I’m so glad Southwest flies to non-American locations now!
We stayed at the beautiful and relaxing Casa Leta Suites, owned by the gracious and ever-welcoming Bill and April Miton. We met them through HomeExchange.com when they stayed at our old house last summer; staying at their B&B finished out the exchange for us (though I do think we got the better part of the swap! ha!). We got to live in paradise for a week!
Since the trip was right before I began a Whole30-esque elimination diet, we ate so much food… and it was all so good!
One of my favorite things to do when we travel to a foreign country is to collect photos of signs and English words used incorrectly. I can only imagine how WE butcher other languages!
We got in lots of rest and relaxation.
Casa Leta Suites has four sweet house pets, so we felt right at home! (We didn’t get a good pic of Marley, but below we have Coco, Walter and Fern.)
One of our favorite experiences was going to our hosts’ favorite local joint, Titi’s. Not a tourist (except us!) to be seen. To get there, we drove through a cobblestone street neighborhood making sure not to hit the stray chickens clucking about. The restaurant featured true home cooking, and not a single wall. It was all so delicious. We were happy to have the opportunity to treat our hosts to dinner and to taste the local flavor in an authentic way like this!
Nuevo Vallarta is just a 25 minute drive from Puerto Vallarta, the hustling and bustling beach city. We took a taxi into town to explore the boardwalk area for a while, and while it was beautiful, we were happy to return to the quiet streets of Nuevo.
Oh, you know, just a mariachi band. Hanging out in the street. Like any other Monday.
We rented a car for two days so we could drive about and explore some other nearby places. The first day, we drove south.
One of the best parts of the trip: Visiting the (rather dilapidated and underfunded) Zoologico de Vallarta. Though the zoo was not in great conditions and could invest some time and effort in creating better habitats for the animals, it was unique in that it’s an interactive zoo. You are given a bag of food with your entrance fee and allowed to feed all of the animals in the park, with the exception of the big cats. Then, at the end, if you pay the additional fee (which we did), you get to hold baby wild cats. This zoo breeds large cats of all types, supposedly to help with anti-extinction efforts, selling young cats to other zoos. So they always have babies available for show and tell. The day we went, we got to hold a baby jaguar, a baby tiger, and a baby lion! It was the most incredible experience. I almost cried. It was worth renting a car, the 2 hour drive and the $80 entrance fee. Seriously one of the coolest things ever. (Shh, don’t tell our cats. They might get jealous.)
This hippo knew what was up. He’s done this routine before.
To get to the zoo, you end up driving through this tiiiiiiiiiny little village. The cobblestone streets had barely enough room for one car to pass through, and we were driving behind a city bus (that had to stop and ask for directions). We took photos on the way out to show the conditions these people live in, with tourists coming through their town every day on the way to pet baby tigers. The woman in the photo below was cooking at her restaurant, a small room the size of a storage unit, that had a handwritten sign advertising her “Pollo.”
After the zoo, we drove to a small beach-side town called Bucerias which was tidy and charming.
We spent one day roadtripping north, stopping when we felt like it. We had been warned that Mexican drivers are crazy, but they weren’t any crazier than back in Nashville, and nothing compared to the drivers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We had a great time driving around and seeing less touristy areas and getting a small peek into the locals’ lives.
Our first stop was to a small town called San Francisco, which we fell in love with. We’d love to return and spend a few days there. A short main street that leads straight to the clean, white, uncrowded beach. Friendly people in every shop and cafe. Polite, well-behaved kids running around after school. And even though it was small and seemingly quiet, there were more restaurants, bars and cafes on that one mile-long road than we’d have time to try in two weeks! We enjoyed a small healthy breakfast at one of them and received the best service.
Next stop was Lo de Marcos, a VERY sleepy town. We saw no people except a few young girls collecting donations for their church. Still, I love how colorful all of these small towns are. Mexicans aren’t afraid of bold paint choices.
Finally, we ended up in Guayabitos, which definitely seemed like a fun place to come back to. Quiet but lively enough. We’d love to come back here as well.
On our last day, we made sure to stop by Mar 37, a restaurant we went to several times during the week. We always went in the late afternoon, were usually the only patrons, and sat at the bar. The servers would spend time talking to us, telling us jokes or riddles, bringing us snacks to try, learned our drink orders very quickly and made sure they were always full. They taught us a secret handshake and always greeted us with it when we showed up. It was nice to have a neighborhood bar only a 10 minute walk from our house.They were such nice guys, and we enjoyed getting to know them a little bit during our short stay. If you ever find yourself in Nuevo Vallarta, be sure to sit at the bar at Mar 37 and tell them that Justin and Ashley from Nashville say Hola!
On our final night, our lovely hosts heated up the wood-fire grill and made pizzas, as well as so much other delicious food. They spoiled us!
Our final morning….. bye bye Casa Leta Suites. It’s been real!! We’ll definitely be back 🙂