Category Archives: Mexico

Travel Planning

The summer is all about gardening and hanging out in the Pacific NW. The Olympic track and field trials. A little camping. Bike rides. Ball games. Foster dogs from the shelter. Canning salsa. Golfing with friends. Drying apples. Making fig jam.

And travel planning.

Looks like we are going to spend two months in Mexico this winter and I can’t wait. It will be our longest trip to date. Yes, I get anxious leaving home for that long, but soon after the plane takes off, I put it behind me and turn toward the adventure. We are planning to start our trip near Ixtapa with some (scary for me) surfing lessons administered by an encouraging long-time seldom-seen friend. Following Ixtapa, we will take an 8-hour bus trip to Guadalajara to spend time in Ajijic, a town on Lake Chapala. That will be followed up with some more nights on Lake Chapala, either Chapala itself or Jojotepec, or the hot spring spa at San Juan de Cosala. After, we will board the bus to Puerto Vallarta and the boat to Yelapa.

Love that Yelapa place! I look forward to seeing friends, playing croquet, relaxing on the beach and eating well.  We will spend a month there and I will still be sad to leave.

After Yelapa, not sure, but likely a car rental and drive down to the Mayto/Tehuamixtle area for a few days of super-quiet remote beach time. Or a a spell in the mountains (via bus) in Mascota and Talpa. We will finish up the trip with some big-city activities in Vallarta and head home to springtime in Oregon.

It can be frustrating to try to figure out logistics — where to fly in, which places we can go by bus, what fits in before and after our Yelapa reservation, searching AirBnB and other lodging sites. It’s also fun and exciting. We enjoy our enjoy travel three ways: planning and anticipating, the trip itself, and then the memories. A way better payoff, to my thinking, than a buying a big screen TV or a fancy car or a bigger house or cable TV or more stuff.

Says the woman who bought a new dress last week …. (See prior post)…

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Cooking with Chef Diki

I had the privilege to step into the kitchen at Yelapa’s Tacos y Mas restaurant to watch Chef Diki prepare one of her specials — linguine with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and scallops in a light white wine cream sauce.

This dish was chock-full of seafood and the sauce was a creamy perfection. Diki assured me it was easy and fast. Watching her do it, I now believe it!

Diki starts with some olive and heats it up in a small skillet over a pretty high heat. She adds the clams and mussels and sautes them a bit. Next was a generous pour of white wine (sauvignon blanc), a little more time for the shellfish to open, and then a big clove of garlic was pressed into the mix.image

imageAfter cooking that a little bit (still the high heat), butterflied shrimp, calamari (small whole ones and sliced larger ones) and scallops were added. A quick toss and then additions of fresh chopped basil and parsley. And the cream. At this point the seafood was almost done. Diki moved the mixture to one part of the skillet and added cooked pasta. She mixed everything quickly and then plated the dish.

imageimageimageA big thanks to Diki for letting me watch and learn!!

And if you see this on the menu at Tacos and Mas and don’t order it, you will miss out on a great meal! (And, as my husband would say, you’re a dumbass.)image

czelazek

February 18, 2015

I find the interaction between ocean and river to be a source of great fascination while staying in Yelapa.  Each day, I take a picture from our rental unit.  Here are a few.

Also endlessly fascinating is watching people cross the channel.  We watched a really drunk guy stagger through the other day. When he was done, some beach-goers applauded.  Smart people watch the waves for a while to time their crossing appropriately.imageimageimage

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Dining in Puerto Vallarta – Romatic Zone

So lots of people come to Mexico and try to get the cheapest of everying — dollar beer, dollar taco, whatever. That’s one way to go. I’d rather spend what might be “a lot” in Mexico and get a really good meal, and somtetimes a fine dining experience. We had some good food in Puerto Vallarta and here is the roundup.

The grill at Cafe de Olla

The grill at Cafe de Olla

Restaurante Trio — our hotel couldn’t get us in on the night we wanted, but an ex-pat from a local happy hour hooked us up. He and the matre’d, Jose Luis, go way back, evidently. We have eaten at this restaurant on two prior trips and were not disappointed this time. Our ex-pat friend recommended an unlikely-sounding combination – a sea bass over mashed potatoes and house-made saurkraut… with a sauce and some carmelized grapes. Yeah, sounds weird. The salty, sour, savory, sweet combo was a winner, however. I had the house-made ravioli, ricotta and sun dried tomato. And we shared the sauteed calimari in a tomato-jalepeno sauce. Aside from the great food and interesting decor, the service here is lovely. Much better than we are used to in our college town in the Pacific NW. Your water is never empty, the waiter fills your wine glass when it gets low, and the staff seems to knonw the menu. Prices? We had two entrees, an appetizer, and a bottle of wine for about $60US.

Calamari appetizer at Trio - tender with a spicy broth

Calamari appetizer at Trio – tender with a spicy broth

No Way Jose — yeah, maybe a kitchy name but it’s another fine dining experience. It’s on kind of a sketchy street; last year, we watched a drunk gringo sleeping on the curb, getting rousted by the cops. So maybe you don’t want a seat with a “view,” but you should definitely sit on second floor. You can see into the kitchen from there and often these is live music. Pomegranite margarita? Tart and delicious. My chiles Nogado — savory and satisfying. I had the vegetarian version which are stuffted with spinach and mushrooms and cheese. And smothered with a cheesy almond sauce that I adore. Some shaved almonds and pomegranite seeds are a garnish. Fresh rolls with a choice of butter and a chipotle-peanut butter-cream cheese spread. Again, service – welcoming, polite, attentive.

Cafe de Olla — a PV standard. Mexican standards at a great price in a fun atmosphere right in the heart of the Romantic Zone. Right on the street is a huge grill where meats and seafood are grilled, with some stuffed potatoes and veggies. A line forms out front for seating and you can order a drink while you stand in line. If you want a table faster, you can agree to be seated with some other folks at a large table. We have always found this quite enjoyable — best to vet the folks while you are in line though to be sure you don’t mind visiting with them over a meal. There are special seafood or surf and turf platters that serve two or more, hot off the grill. Chiles rellenos are my favorite here. I can also vouch for the cheese enchiladas and the tender octopus. You might also enjoy the giant margaritas.image

Figueroa’s — need a quick “California style” burrito lunch or dinner? This small mom-and-pop place is the one. No liquor license, so have your beer before or after. Instead, order one of the agua frescas. Jamaica (promounded, I think, huh-mike-uh) is my favorite; I hear it’s made from hibiscus flowers. Veggie burrito will fill you up and there is a variety of sauces to choose from. I saw some local construction workers turcking into big bowls of a meaty soup. You might want to try that if it’s your thing. Flan for dessert? Porque no?

Yelapa restaurants

For a small town, Yelapa has more than its fair share of good restaurants. When we visit, we have our favorites and try to equally divide our dinner experiences among them. In fact, I draw a little calendar in my travel journal and every day I mark down where we had dinner. I will share my opinions with you, with a few disclaimers (see end of post).**

There is a system in Yelapa where restaurants have staggered closed nights. Check the signs you see posted around town. If you are planning your time to hit a certain restaurant on a certain night, make sure it’s open and avoid disappointment!

Abuelo’s — this place has only been around for a year or so. Rumor is that the chef used to cook at the fancy Ventana resort. It’s a small place located on the second floor of a building in the pueblo. When we were there, there was an older lady (the chef/owner’s mom?) making blue corn tortillas. How fresh is that? If you want something light, try the salad with goat cheese. If you want something giant (and full of fresh fish and other treats), order a burritos. I am not so big on fried food, but I hear the chimichangas are the best. The staff is friendly, the prices reasonable.

Gondo berry margaritas at Brisas

Gondo berry margaritas at Brisas

Continue reading

Yelapa – Orientation and Beach

I promised a series of posts about Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico and then promptly got distracted by our trip to Belize and some holiday baking.

This Yelapa post is about the “lay of the land,” and the Yelapa beach. Of course, all of this is my opinion! I know there is much about Yelapa that I don’t know and haven’t experi

enced (yet). Also, I have not been to Yelapa in the off season. I have been there at various times between October and March.

We bought a hand-drawn map of Yelapa years ago, and it might be a handy (though somewhat outdated) reference here.image

The first area that you will draw your attention when you round the point into the bay on your water taxi is the beach. Yelapa’s beach is small, clean, relaxing, and has some fun restaurants and bars to visit. We are partial to Rogelio’s, as the couple running it are people we have known for decades and are super-nice. Martina is also a great cook and you will enjoy your lunch selection. I recommend the fish tacos, avocado stuffed with tuna salad or ceviche. (I can share her ceviche recipe another time.) You can find great snacks and lunches at other restaurants and bars too. Find one with comfortable chairs, settle in, have a few Pacificos, and relax. The next day, try a different one. Repeat until you find the bar you like best. Continue reading

Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico – one of my favorite places

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I first visited Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico in 1995 or 1996. Yelapa is a 45 minute boat ride South of Puerto Vallarta. It is a tiny bay, not reachable by highway. I flopped ungracefully off the water taxi onto the quiet beach, saw the thatched restaurants, and jungled mountains rising right behind the bay, and felt, “I like this place.” The friendly people, lack of cars, relaxed vibe, and good food convinced me I really liked it. And I keep on liking it, despite some growth, the coming of electricity (and with it, some noisy radios, some lights at night), a few ATVs, and more tourists. Still, I return year after year, my breath catching and my heart feeling happy when the boat rounds the point and Yelapa comes into view. It’s a little bigger, noisier, and busier, but it is mostly the same place I fell in love with nearly 20 years ago.

During my first visit, my partner and I stayed at Hotel Lagunita, the only “hotel” per se in Yelapa. It is located at one end of the beach and consists of several (15?) thatched huts (palapas), a small pool, and a restaurant. In the 1990s, Yelapa did not have electricity and hot water was provided twice a day by the staff lighting a fire under each palapa’s water heater. Lights were powered by generator. Geckos wandered into your room (note: they still do). Fortunately, the lack of electricity made the town quiet and unattractive to many tourists. Unfortunately, it also made life harder for the folks living in Yelapa — no washing machines, candles and lanterns for light, running anything by generator, propane refrigerators. You get the idea.

Since my first idyllic visit, I have returned many times (10? 12? more?). Yes, I love this place, and my husband does now too. Each year, we stay longer. Since we love it so much, many people ask us about it — why do you like it? Where do you stay? What is there to do? I will do a series of blog posts to tell you, along with providing links to many of the great places we have stayed, some restaurant reviews, excerpts from my years of travel journals and other Yelapa information.

Here’s all I ask — if you go to Yelapa, be a good tourist. Be nice to people. Smile; don’t shout. Don’t leave trash around. Realize you are in a remote place where everything arrives by boat (and trash must leave by boat). The stores might not have everything you want. You might have to “make do.” You might have to wait for your food because someone is actually making it to order! It doesn’t come premade by Sysco. Don’t complain about anything. Instead, eat fresh fish at the great little restaurants, talk to folks, buy pie from the pie lady and handmade local cheese from the guy with the cooler. Sit on the beach with a Pacifico. Try a gondoberry margarita if they are in season. Watch the paragliders, go for a walk, keep track of the bird species you see. Be kind to this special place and the people who live here.