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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkTravel & Outdoors | February 2009 

Gone Coastal: From Guadalajara to Barra with No Reservations - Part 3
email this pageprint this pageemail usJan Baumgartner - PVNN

A native Californian, Jan Baumgartner is a freelance writer dividing her time between surviving in Maine and living in Mexico.
Yes, We Have No Frijoles Today

We decided to stay for two nights. It gave us time to relax, enjoy the natural beauty of the area and explore. The hotel's outdoor restaurant, an open air palapa just steps from the sand, served up tangy margaritas at night, and a delicious breakfast each morning. The menu offered a good selection of Mexican specialties yet when Greg ordered the side of frijoles, the response was rather unexpected. "No! We don't have any beans! We ran out of frijoles!" the owner chided. "No frijoles?" Greg smiled. How could any kitchen in Mexico run out of beans? Obviously, we had been misinformed. "Beans, beans, beans, that's all gringos want are beans!" she exclaimed, unapologetically. It was as if he had asked for the Denny's Grand Slam, an Egg McMuffin and a Starbucks nonfat cappuccino. "Okay," he laughed, "I'll have the side of toast."

Following breakfast, while Greg took off for a swim, I retreated to the room to sit on the balcony and write. I heard the now familiar flap and energy of wings cutting at moist air, the huge, colorful macaw landing on my balcony ledge. Earlier that day, he had paid me another visit. He was squawking for me and as I stepped out of the room, he sat in wait on the walkway rail then hunkered toward me, stopping just inches from where I stood. Preened and shaved, he gurgled, giving me that flirtatious side swipe grin, his beady, black eyes penetrating mine. I gurgled back. He replied with a more guttural gurgle that seemed too close to regurgitation, or climax, or both. I wasn't sure. But I could tell just then, he wanted a smoke. He was stalking me no doubt, seeing just how much I might give away, and behind the back of his feathered lady friend. The quirkiness of this place was growing on me, like a sweep of Crayola-colored feathers that had been colored outside the lines.

Beware the Aqua Bar - or Flashbacks of the Kiddy Pool

Just off the outdoor restaurant area and abutting the hotel walls was the "terraced" aqua bar, pint-sized pool areas more for cooling off or a light-hearted splash or bum dip when the heat and humidity cause those from more arid climes to flock toward shared wet spots. But upon closer inspection, these Lilliputian ponds appeared not so much for splashing but for relaxing and perhaps relieving oneself even, table-side, with a cocktail while ones lower extremities were submerged and hopefully, in chlorinated waters. A Westerner's fantasy.

These public piss pots as I saw them, always empty, and rightfully so, made me flash upon my childhood days, swimming lessons at the high school pool. We small guppies would flock to the public pool, shoulder to shoulder, dog paddling and weeing our way from deep end to shallow. It was a child's paradise; to pee with such reckless abandon in a public pool amongst friends, neighbors and hopefully, the school yard bully, but really more the fact that we couldn't control our pea-sized bladders and only hoped that our playmates wouldn't swim into our tiny warm secret, to which, like fish from a shark, we'd swim like mad, dog paddle, back stroke, butterfly from the tainted hot waters and to the cool, clean end of the pool.

So at that moment of "full circle," I imagined a bevy of strange bums in the shared, still waters of an aqua bar, a handful of elderly gringos knocking back tequila shooters with the probability of weakened bladders and alcohol-related devil-may-care, and in this very small world, wondered if just maybe and unbeknownst to a few, some of the aged bar floaters had been pool playmates so many years ago. Somehow, that made all right with the aqua bar, as long as I wasn't in it.

Macaw in Love

The morning of our departure, his no longer well-intentioned, amorous gurgling and tortilla tossing were not going unnoticed by his mate/wife/girlfriend/partner/significant other or Rainbow Squeeze. She had had just about enough. She squawked and attempted to pull at the corners of the rolled tortilla held firmly in his claws. They squabbled, beak tousled, got really pissed. His attention toward me and generous offerings of his meal only seemed to fuel her jealousy and as we well know, a jealous macaw is nearly as dangerous as a flirtatious macaw. They are known to mate for life, so his obvious displays of affection for this odd ostrich-looking bird, or la rubia as I've been called, all the while rubbing his Rainbow Squeeze's beak right in it, made the hair on the back of my neck bristle.

I looked down at the bits of tortilla strewn about my feet, his sly display and coy temptation. I stepped aside and looked up and into his sideways glance, sizing him up as I remembered what my parents told me when I was just a fledgling. "Wee Baeolphus Bicolor" (tiny Tufted Titmouse) they said, "Beware the colorful bird in overly bright feathers. The macaw is really only a parrot in a fancier suit. Don't be blinded by colors that pale the sun. There are plenty of other birds in the jungle."

Aha! I thought. Finally, after all these decades, I knew what the hell my parents were talking about when they regurgitated what seemed like gibberish from the certifiably insane. They knew that someday I would cross paths with a Don Juan Macaw, and in that moment of clarity, I looked down at the scrap of tortilla that had landed smack dab in the middle of a dollop of macaw crap, and knew I deserved better.

Sometimes when we're hungry we make do with scraps. But when the real deal comes along, the full meal with all the trimmings, dessert even, we know we've found the Real Macaw, and suddenly, crumbs just won't do.

Back in Barra, Obama and Lavinia

We decided to spend our last seaside night in Barra. We splurged and stayed at the beautiful Hotel Barra de Navidad; huge, clean rooms with balconies above the sand and sea, the deafening crash of waves, swaying coconut palms offering dappled spots of shade across our balconies.

The small town was thick with restaurants, bars, tiendas and small shops selling the usual tourist items from shells to jewelry, t-shirts to ceramics. But it was the true local speciality - all things coconut - that crowded the shops and were piled high in proud displays on the cobbled walkways. This was coconut territory and from refreshing drinks of coco frio offered along the water's edge, to thousands of cellophane packages of homemade macaroons and candies, anyone with a weakness for the coconut flake could not resist.

Just outside one particularly modest tienda was a TV set. An antiquated model, barely working, had been dragged outside into the somewhat cooler air, and through a mass of tangled cables and wires, was plugged into a highly suspicious looking outlet. The owner of the tienda sat in his rickety plastic chair along the narrow sidewalk beneath a thatched roof and mesmerized, watched the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was a sight to behold.

It warranted the purchase of a bag of light, sweet coconut macaroons.

Later at dinner as we sat in the thatched rooftop dining room of a restaurant overlooking a watery sunset of coral and scarlet melting into the darkening bay, we were treated to the remarkable talent of a young local performer, Lavinia Negrete, whose smooth, sultry voice and guitar capped a perfect adventure for two, now good friends.

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