Mexico — Between Imagination and Reality

By Raseljka Krnic

Nuevo Vararta MexicoTo be completely honest I must say, as a European who has never been to this part of the world, I came to Mexico carrying prejudices, assumptions, ideas and images in my head which belong to the world of imagination. This abstract world is often created through a variety of stereotypes which are imprinted onto our subconscious under influence of various media. Movies, especially from our early childhood, play the most important role in the development of our imagination. I am sure that, in the imaginary world of an average European, Mexico is all about tequila, men with big mustaches, sombreros, and vast deserts mottled with big, green cacti.

Frankly, my own preconceptions were not far from those simple, childish scenes that I often imagined while reading comic books and watching Hollywood movies. Even though I did not expect Mexico to be a movie set of the final scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I did not know anything about its cities. Upon arriving in this huge country, I was surprised and amazed how developed, modern and urban it is. After visiting interesting cities like San Cristobal, Oaxaca and Guanajuato, I packed my bags, heading west to the small city that lies directly on the sandy shores of Pacific Ocean — Puerto Vallarta.

Paradise on Earth

I arrived early in the morning while the light was still soft and mellow, falling gently on the mountains which surround Vallarta like a guarding fortress. When I stepped off the bus I still could not see the ocean, but suddenly, for a second or two, it felt like home. It was warm, the air was salty, and I felt a pleasant breeze on my skin that reminded me of the Croatian summer wind we call Maestral. Though there were plenty of cabs waiting in front of the station, I caught a city bus which took me to my destination. The Penthouse Dolphin Dreams is a beautiful two floor penthouse situated in the heart of Nuevo Vallarta — a residential resort community about twenty minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, in the center point of the Banderas Bay.

The owner of the property was waiting for me when I arrived. From the first moment he made me feel very welcome and relaxed. Dana is an interesting man, who has traveled the world and lived throughout the United Kingdom. Eight years ago he decided to make his home here in what he calls, “Paradise on Earth.” Even though he has adapted easily to this Mexican beach life style of surfing and paddle boarding almost daily; he is still a typical English gentleman with a recognizable English sense of humor. After a few minutes in his company, I realized that those stereotypes about cold, distanced and reserved islanders definitely don’t apply to him. As we were sitting in his large first floor open living room having a chat, I observed a whole variety of exotic birds.

For the first time in my life I saw pelicans sailing through the sky in perfect formation like a fleet of army planes. Later I learned that due to its geographical position, this area is a perfect location for bird watching as it is home to nearly 350 species in varied ecosystems and habitats. Dana informed me that this area used to be a swamp, which explains its rich fauna.

The vision of Nuevo Vallarta as a luxury and spacious hotel zone was a project initiated by the federal government over ten years ago. Now, Nuevo Vallarta is a residence for luxury villas and estates with tropical gardens lining the ocean canals, each with its own private docking pier.

Penthouse in the SkyDSC_1785

After refreshing drinks and short informative chat, I decided to discover more about this amazing penthouse — my home during the next ten days. The position of the apartment is perfect, occupying the top two floors of the building which looms over Vallarta’s famous Dolphin Adventure Park. Most of the first level is a spacious living room extending outward to a terrace for its entire length. It provides a spectacular open view to the canals, jungle plants, blue mountain outlines, and beautiful sailboats resting quietly on the still water. Sitting there, I had a feeling of calm stillness as if I were contemplating someplace far away from civilization. The living room is connected to a functional, well equipped kitchen, making this whole space even more cavernous and commodious.

The design of the first level as a whole represents a modern and contemporary approach to style. A brave contrast of colors is apparent between the large white leather couch and the deep red walls. The earthy brown kitchen is aptly chosen to appease and balance those contrasts.

One of my favorite things — a small island across from the stove — is ideal for hanging around with friends and/or group cooking. Situated at the end of the hall are two cozy bedrooms with double beds. Painted in sky blue, with their own bathrooms and small balconies, they provide you with a beautiful southern view of tropical gardens dominated by tall, elegant palms.

Although I did not see half of it, I was already very excited about this place and eager to discover what was waiting for me on the higher level. We climbed the spiral, wooden stairs leading to the penthouse. I was impressed with what I saw! The living space is almost completely organized on a large, wide terrace. The only closed units are the bedroom and bathroom situated on its southern side. This space is really something unique and exceptional. I thought the view from the lower living room was unbeatable, but I was definitely wrong. This was even more stunning. There is nothing above you but a clear blue sky. You can see the whole panoramic view covering 280 degrees.

The biggest asset of this apartment’s orientation is the possibility of viewing an extraordinary attraction. Every day, just under your terrace, you can observe dolphins surfacing or watch sea lions playing in the water or lying on the rocks enjoying the sun.

I can’t explain how happy and excited this made me feel; strong memories of my early childhood surfaced daydreaming about swimming with dolphins in the vast ocean. Everything was just magical! Even though this space is unquestionably decorated as modern and contemporary, it has that rustic touch with its selection of natural materials and decorative objects like wall lamps and handcrafted articles. The roof of the terrace, supported by rugged wooden pilings and dried palm leaves, creates an exotic and dreamy atmosphere. This area is all about hedonism: you can cook outside in the small kitchen, watch herons at night while lying in the big hot tub or take a nap on the massive, wooden hanging bed in the shadow of palm leaves.

Chili Cook-off

The minute I climbed the stairs, I knew there was a big danger that I would not want to leave this apartment for the next ten days. However, Dana teased me with a proposal I couldn’t refuse. I was really lucky because a few hours after my arrival, there was an open air food presentation taking place a few minutes from the penthouse. Many of the best restaurant chefs in the nearby area gathered to participate in an unofficial competition. They were cooking different dishes using the most famous and notorious Mexican ingredient — chili. Being hungry and exhausted after a long journey, this chili cook-off appeared like a present from the sky!

During my whole trip through Mexico I was amazed by the variety of flavors and colors of the local food. Prepared in numerous ways, they all held a strong common identity specific to Mexican cuisine. I hadn’t had much opportunity until now to taste the more sophisticated versions of local specialties. Mingling among friendly, entertaining middle age Americans and Canadians who over-winter here, I tasted a bite of more than twenty different spicy dishes. I was happy to know I could find these delights every day on the menus of local restaurants and bars. After enjoying an incredible shark soup, fried peppers stuffed with tuna (a Mexican twist on paella) and different types of tacos and tostadas, I returned to the apartment and fell asleep while counting stars from the comfortable terrace bed.

Puerto Vallarta’s Love Affair39

The next morning, after my coffee in the company of black hawks circling around the apartment, I went into Puerto Vallarta. This city is a twenty minute drive from Nuevo Vallarta, however, these two places belong to different Mexican states. P.V. (English speakers call the city P.V. for short) is a part of Jalisco, and N.V. is situated in Nayarit. Puerto Vallarta was once named as La Cuidad Mas Amigable del Mundo (The Friendliest City in the World) and has a reputation of being one of Mexico’s liveliest and most sophisticated resort destinations. As I visited Puerto Vallarta a couple of times during my stay, I had a chance to verify this claim. Learning about the Mexican culture prior to my actual visit, I was convinced that Mexicans are very pleasant people. In reality I was even more surprised and amazed how accessible and friendly they are.

Just a couple of minutes after I stepped onto Vallarta’s wide, long promenade, framed by numerous palms and tropical plants, an old man approached me selling beautiful skeletons of shellfish. Even though I didn’t want to buy anything, I had a short conversation with him. I learned that during the eighteenth and nineteenth century this was a fishing village especially famous for pearl- diving. The beginning of modern tourism happened much later, during the second part of 1990s, and was connected with infrastructure development.

Probably the most interesting and intriguing story launching Puerto Vallarta into the center of the world’s attention in 1963, was the much publicized love affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Especially so was the famous movie, The Night of the Iguana, filmed in the nearby deserted Mismaloya Cove. From that moment the city emerged as a desirable tourist mecca, which today boasts a vibrant restaurant scene with numerous bars and clubs scattered over picturesque cobbled streets and a charming Malecón.

I must say that my favorite area was a small island in the heart of the city, formed between two branches of the river Cuale, which flows into the ocean over a golden, sand beach. If you walk north through the parks of this magical island, you will end up in what is called Zona Romantica with its dim, orange lights spattered on the faces of people passing by.

Images of Mexico

On my last day I decided to spend some time on the beach, just a five minute walk from the apartment. While waiting for the sun to go down (staring at the sharp line dividing the infinite sky and mighty ocean), I was thinking how Mexico happened to be nothing like what I expected. Instead of rural landscapes, I discovered a country of modern, developed cities. Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta fit perfectly into my newly discovered picture. After spending ten beautiful and relaxing days in two Vallartas, I packed my bags once again and headed deeper into the North. In spite of everything, I still hoped that somewhere in the desert, when least expecting it, I will encounter a man with a big mustache, wearing a sombrero and riding a donkey among big prickly cactuses — a picture of Mexico from my childhood dreams.

Category Placement

This property with a stunning panoramic view was selected for the Beach Area Vacation Rentals category due to the proximity to the beach. It is also located in a peaceful and quite environment. This property is also suitable for the categories of Super Romantic, Outstandingly Located, Family Focused and Value Conscious Vacation Rentals.

Mayan Riviera in Mexico

RELATED LOCATIONS: for more vacation rental options in this general area, check the article recently written about Riviera Maya, Mexico

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