At one point during last year’s trip to Puerto Vallarta, I stood on the rooftop patio of our condo and, instead of staring at the ocean, gazed enviously at the hills. “Who lives there?” I wondered to nobody in particular.
“There” referred to a unique, curvilinear building that stood about one block east of our beachfront building. While I watched, a woman puttered about on the top floor, which was a setup that didn’t appear to have any windows closing it off from the outdoors; I could see straight into the place, all the way to the mineral-yellow back walls of the living room.
I was fascinated by not just the aesthetics but the logistics: What happened if it rained? Was there anything to keep insects out? There were no curtains or shades I could see, so would the lack of privacy be unnerving?
This year, I found out for myself, firsthand, because I rented it.
We had so many fellow Phoenicians interested in joining our annual trip that a second condo seemed a likely necessity, so I hopped onto Airbnb to investigate options. When I saw the shots above, I recognized my dream place straightaway. I’m pretty sure my query letter to the owner included SEVERAL SENTENCES IN ALL-CAPS because I was so giddy at the prospect of staying there.
As fate would have it, it was available during the week we’d be in town, and it was ours for the taking. I was so excited when I set foot in it that I didn’t leave the whole first day; while everyone else puttered down to the beach, I plopped down in one of the chaise longues on the balcony and reveled in my good luck.
It was the harbinger of a great week ahead. First off, I was able to return to a restaurant called Maia, which had served us an amazing brunch the previous year. The food had been delicious and beautifully prepared, but we had been the only diners in the eatery the whole morning so I had fretted about its odds for longevity. Thankfully, it was still around—and with a new slogan on the mural’s chalkboard ribbon, too.
Since our previous visit, a new beach club had opened along Los Muertos Beach, so we bought day passes at Sapphire, which included umbrellas and towels, free water and aguas frescas, loungeside food and drink service, a plunge pool and of course oceanfront views. I watched the adventurous take off on parasails, paddleboards, banana boats and even water jet packs, like the one in the photo at right, while I stayed anchored under the umbrella, with only an occasional foray into full sunlight. Thanks to my dermatologist, Dr. Shannon Heck, for striking the fear of
God aging into me during my annual checkup just weeks before this trip. (And of Mexican tretinoin cream, too: “You can’t be sure of its efficacy, or even that it contains what it says it does.”) I slathered on SPF 70 daily until the day before we left, when I downgraded to SPF 15. “You cannot come back from a weeklong vacation to Mexico lighter than you were when you left,” I vowed.
Several of my fellow Villa Blancans had never been to Puerto Vallarta before, so we did a few of the “tourist” things, like walking along the Malecón to look at the numerous sculptures and vendor booths. On our way back we decided to walk through town and found ourselves in the arts district, where one gallery owner was kind enough to give us a personal tour through the entire facility. Miguel Mayoral at Galeria Corsica walked us through the styles and stories behind Latin American artists including Diego Luz (colorfully arresting portraits) and Miguel Carrillo (almost Renaissance-style figures). He even demonstrated how the play of light radically changes the visuals of paintings by Antonio Castro, just by flicking an electric switch. It was like getting a quick but valuable lesson in contemporary Mexican artists.
Speaking of art, the sunsets were reliably amazing. Pretty much every evening we would gather on our balcony to watch the sun sink below the horizon.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t get restless in the least until the day before it was time to head back to Arizona—each year, it’s taking one additional day before I feel like I need to somehow start being productive. (“I just want to read something more than a magazine or something on my Kindle.”)
On our final day, we got up, took our last shots of the beach, and said goodbye to Villa Blanca. I certainly hope I get to stay there again next year.