Puerto Vallarta’s International Gourmet Festival

Need an extra reason to head south when the cold weather gets cold here in the Pacific Northwest?  How about the International Gourmet Festival  in Puerto Vallarta in November?  Established in 1995, this year will be the 15th anniversary.  This 10 day, city wide event has more than 24 participating restaurants, educational gourmet programs and 20 renowned chefs from around the world. 


Every evening each of the participating restaurants offers a Gourmet a la Carte menu.  You can also enjoy Winemaker’s evenings; Cooking Demonstrations; Wine & Cheeses of the Worlds tasting; and don’t miss the Chef’s Hell Raising night!


You could even extend your stay and enjoy an escorted, food-focused package to other areas of Mexico including hands-on cooking classes and excursions to local markets and eateries. 


Just one more good reason to head to Puerto Vallarta this fall!

Cruise To Learn – Day 5

Thursday, November 8th


Today is Puerto Vallarta – our longest day in port – 8AM – 8PM.  I have vacationed in Puerto Vallarta before, so I just wanted to take a walk along the Malecon, go to the Church of Guadalupe (see, I do know the name of something), pick up a gift for my niece and her son (they were puppy-sitting for me), have a nice meal, and get back to the ship early. 


Amy and Joan accompanied me today.  We got a taxi to drop us off downtown. It had been about 5 years since I’d been to PV, it was interesting to see the Domino’s pizza with their fleet of delivery scooters, the new KFC, Office Depot, Office Max. It also seemed that downtown had a lot more of the jewelry stores and chain party bars – maybe I didn’t notice them as much when I was there for a week, but I find it to be a bit disappointing.  It seems that every port you go to now is the same – no individuality and too much American influence.


We walked the Malecon and took some pictures, we went to the church, we did a little shopping.  I found a fabulous 3 candle set for my niece with a sun/moon design on one side and a Mexican plant design on the other.  I wanted one for myself but I didn’t want to have to carry 2 of them back to the ship.  I got my nephew maracas – he has a guitar, ukulele, and I believe a steel drum from the Caribbean.  Avri can now be a one man band – every Aunt’s dream.


cruise-to-learn-mexico039.jpg       cruise-to-learn-mexico043.jpg      Puerto Vallarta Street      cruise-to-learn-mexico038.jpg




One highlight of our walk was coming across these sand sculpture artists.  I was really blown away by the detail.  I always enjoy the artwork along this walk and the people watching is always great.

Puerto Vallarta Sand Sculptures          Puerto Vallarta Sand Sculpture      


We went to the River Café (ok, so maybe I finally woke up and remember a few things) which was under the bridge between downtown and old Puerto Vallarta.  I did not take any pictures, but it was a lovely setting.  I was not overwhelmed by the food, but it was relaxing and had 2 for 1 margaritas.


We had our wonderful taxi driver stop at a liquor store on the way back to the ship so I could buy some liqueur that I like.  I’ve been calling it Tequila because my friend Lisa and I first discovered it on a Tequila factory tour, but the guy at the liquor store corrected me.  It is a very good sipping drink and the bottle is in the shape of a woman’s body.  It is called Guaycura licor de Damiana and is supposed to be an aphrodisiac.  I don’t know about that, but it is good and I love the bottle.


We got back to the ship early.  I think I took a nap, but don’t really remember, that’s my usual pattern.  I was on deck when we sailed away and ran into a lot of our group as I walked around the deck.  This might have been the evening that I stopped in the Champagne Bar for a drink with Joan, Marcia and Debbie.  I probably stopped in the Schooner Bar for a drink with my new friends including Moses, the bartender. 


One of our shipmates, Jolene, had to leave us today to fly to Anchorage, Alaska on business.  Bye, Jolene – we’ll miss you!!


Dinner of course was fabulous.  My room steward, Vince, left me another towel animal.  I can’t remember the order of these, but here are a couple of pics.  My room was forward on the ship.  I had never sailed up there before and wanted to experience it.  I had heard that you feel more motion, and I suppose you do, but I love the rocking of the ship.  It puts me right to sleep.


cruise-to-learn-mexico050.jpg           cruise-to-learn-mexico078.jpg


It was a great location, too, because there was a little turn in the hallway right in front of my cabin, so it was easy to know when I got home.  And this was on the wall right in front to greet me every time I came home.



Cruise to Learn – Day 4

Wednesday, November 7th


Today, Mazatlan.  We were docked by the time I got up and showered.  I had arranged to meet with Marcia and Debbie to go to Stone Island today.  I had gotten information off of the Cruise Critic message board. 

I probably should have warned the other ladies that going off on your own with me can be a bit of an adventure.  I had the directions on how to get to the water taxi, so off we went.  We followed the directions I was given – once you go through the marketplace at the pier, go out the exit that the taxi’s use and turn left.  Walk about 2- 3 blocks (actually about 4) to where the road turns to the right.  Then my directions said follow the chain link fence to the ticket booth.


When we got to this intersection we met a couple who said they had gone straight ahead down a dirt road and that was not right, so they were told to go left, but that was not right either.  Since I’d been told to go right, that is what we did.  We asked a guard at the port and he pointed the way were going and down around the corner.  We walked and walked, in the heat and finally arrived at a little building where the men outside said “yes, this is the right place, but the water is too rough here.”  This took awhile as we had very little Spanish and they had very little English.


Eventually one of the young men offered to walk us back to the other place where we would be able catch the water taxi.  We were walking along and I felt a bit bad for the other ladies because of the wild goose chase and the heat.  I was actually enjoying taking in the scenery –we walked past a school, could see some houses up on the hill, and even a bar up a very loooooong set of stairs – you would need a beer when you got up there!


After awhile we saw a couple of, well, you couldn’t call them tour buses, but they were pickups with benches in the back, full of tourists.  Our new guide stopped and talked in Spanish to the female tour guide who translated that he wanted us to know we were safe with him and he was taking us to where we could catch the water taxi to Stone Island.  I hadn’t been worried, but I thought it was very nice that he wanted to reassure us.  It turns out that she is his girlfriend – he was probably very relieved to see her.


We got back to the intersection where we had met the couple.  There was a sign painted on the wall (which was behind us when we turned the corner) pointing to the water taxi down the dirt road they had said they went down.  Now they tell us that they did not feel the boats were safe which is why they didn’t want to go there.  I’m sure the boats would have been the same at the other spot.  They are basically big row boats with motors on the back.  The locals take these taxis and it is a very short crossing to the Stone Island dock, for 15 pesos (or $1.50 for those of us with US dollars).


We crossed with about 6 locals and when we arrived they all walked across a sandy trail.  I had been told that we could be picked up by pickups with benches in the back and taken to the restaurants for $1 per person.  So we waited in the heat.  One passed us by and finally someone stopped – they told us all we had to do was walk across the same way the locals had and we would be there.  But the sign for restaurants pointed the other direction.  Oh, well, we walked across and there was a beautiful, almost deserted beach.  We started along and worked our way to the shore to put our feet in the water.  Ohhhh, that felt so good!




We went a ways down the beach and stopped at Lety’s where the proprietor got us some lounge chairs and an umbrella.  cruise-to-learn-mexico060.jpgWe put our things down and headed into the water for a much needed, cooling off, swim.  Then a little sun and a cold beer, more swimming, more sun – well you get the picture.  After awhile we decided we would get some lunch then head back to the ship kind of early.  We went inside and found a table, ordered some Margaritas (very good Margaritas), and some food.  Now you know, we are in Mexico, so there is a little wait for the food.  We started talking with some of the large group at the table next to us and found out they were crew and entertainers from the ship.  We knew we were at the right place if crew is there!


A couple of hours (and a couple of margaritas) later we headed back to the ship.  cruise-to-learn-mexico064.jpg       Water Taxi Dock on Stone Island

As we sailed off we could see the water taxi dock and even the beach we had spent the day at.  This was the highlight of my port visits and soooo worth the trouble we had finding it.  I probably shouldn’t have shared the secret in such a public place – the next time I go back it will probably be packed.


I almost forgot the resident restaurant dogs.  These are not the mangy, starving Mexican dogs I’ve seen on my previous travels.  Rocky turned down rice and tortillas – he only wanted meat – my dog at home would eat those!    Heck, my cat would probably eat the rice.  The other 2 didn’t show up until our plates were gone.  All three of us are dog owners and it was making us miss our pups.  Rocky - Mexican Restaurant Dog

One of the entertainers we were talking with was Martin who played piano in the Schooner Bar each evening.  Marcia, Debbie and I stopped in to listen for awhile.  He is very entertaining – if you are sailing on the Vision of the Seas, make sure you stop in and say hello!  And make sure you go to his tribute to Elton John – it was on Saturday night on our cruise and he was very good.  Martin - Piano Player


So that was it for another day!  Tomorrow we are in Puerto Vallarta.