Friday, February 17, 2017

Cruising the Mexican Riveria: Puerto Vallarta and San Diego

Puerto Vallarta was the third port of call on the Holland America cruise which Bob and I took the week before Christmas 2016.  This was perhaps the destination which most resembled the teenage visions I had of a Mexican Riviera romantic tropical beach vacation.  Made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960's, Puerto Vallarta still retains a little of it's Hollywood glamour.  If we had been seeking thrills and adventure, we would have joined others who were headed off to do some zip lining.  Instead, we took a shuttle bus to the Malecon (beach boardwalk) to get a feel for the city, do some Christmas shopping, and then relax on the beach.

There were "day of the dead" statues and souvenirs everywhere - kind of cute and colorful!  Nice restaurants with crazy decorations and colorful shops lined the streets.  I can see why our fellow travelers proclaimed Puerto Vallarta as the best port on our cruise.

Near the central plaza is Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but it is referred to as the cathedral.  It is topped with a wrought-iron crown designed to resemble one worn by Empress Carlota of Mexico.  The rumor (as I have not been able to verify any truth to it), was that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor donated the crown as a gift to the church where they worshiped in the city that they loved.  The thing Bob and I couldn't figure out is why they decorated the altar with so many tacky Christmas garlands and lights!

Mexican central plazas are always a festive place.  The beautiful blue waters of the Pacific beckoned from beyond the iconic city archway. And artisans showcased their skills in the markets nearby.

Sun-worshipers on the beach are offered fresh grilled shrimp and a myriad of souvenirs, while the adrenaline seekers find their thrills in and above the water.  Bob and I lay on the beach and watch . . . content with simply soaking in the tropical paradise of Puerto Vallarta.

Then, boarding the ship one last time, we cruise for a couple of days back toward San Diego.  What a great anniversary/Christmas present!  In addition to a few trinkets for the grand-kids and vanilla extract for our daughters, we obtained a few goodies for ourselves.  Yes, charms and a mask . . . as well as a piece of artwork which was made entirely of tree bark and natural dyes.  I had it framed when we returned to Korea.

Arriving in San Diego early on Saturday, December 24, we decided to take a walk through the quaint part of town surrounding the bay.  Don't let the photos deceive you . . . it was a cold and blustery day, with gusts of wind that seriously stopped us in our tracks much of the time (but especially near the harbor.)  And we were told the weather is always perfect in San Diego!?  We walked northeast to find the "GasLamp Quarter".  After passing a "gingerbread house" and a French themed outdoor market full of vendors and their homemade food and gifts, we came to a nice district full of restaurants and entertainment venues with gas lamps lining the streets.

The fierce cold wind seemed determined to keep us from reaching the bay, so when we finally did, we stopped near seaport Village to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.  Seagulls dominated the sky as we looked out toward Coronado Island and Naval Base there.

We decided to visit the USS Midway maritime museum next to where our cruise ship docked in the bay.  The huge aircraft carrier was berthed here in 2004 and has become one of San Diego's main tourist attractions.  The carrier was America's longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, from 1945 to 1992, and has been home to approximately 200,000 sailors.  Headsets were provided for a self-guided tour which took a couple of hours to complete.  The main deck hanger displayed a bunch of aircraft, simulators, models, and a movie theater.

An maze of small hallways and stairs, bunk rooms, control rooms, command centers, kitchens, dining rooms, laundry rooms, and engine rooms formed a massive network of services for those on board.

The flight deck was loaded with more airplanes on display.  Although the deck appeared huge, it was incredible to consider it to be the relatively short launching and landing runway for all these aircraft!

Leaving the aircraft carrier, we walked past other ships on display as part of the Maritime Museum, had a late lunch of delicious coconut shrimp and clam chowder at the seafood restaurant on the bay, and took a final look at our Holland America Westerdam cruise ship.

It was time to head to the airport and fly to Las Vegas where we would pick up a rental car and drive to Pine Valley, Utah for Christmas and another week of holiday fun with our family!


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