Art in vallARTa

Art in vallArta

This trip, I set aside time to really explore Vallarta’s thirty galleries.  The depth and breadth of the art scene in Vallarta should not be underestimated.  The city’s galleries feature local and international artesian/craftsman creating stunning works in many mediums – sculptures, paintings, photography, folk art and pottery.  From galleries scattered throughout the Historic, Old Town, Viejo and along the Malecon, art is literally everywhere. This is what helps to make PV not just another beach town; the cultural events here are thriving and expanding.

While walking about I found most of the galleries, including a few off the main thoroughfares, but there is another option – Art Walk!  This event takes place every Wednesday evening [October-April] in the Historic district and features thirteen galleries and a number of restaurants.  Strolling through the galleries, drinking some wine and having dinner; this was not a bad way to spend an evening out.

On the Walk, I visited Galeria Pacifico, which represents several of the sculptors, whom created the large bronze works on the Malecon, plus a selection of rising talents working a variety of Medias.  Up the street just a few doors is Galeria Caballito de Mar, who specialize in Antique Silver Jewelry and rare Textiles and Ceramics.  Their collection Deco era Silver jewelry was captivating.  I also visited the Galeria Whitlow where Still Life Realism, Realistic and the amazing paintings of a miniaturist are on display. 

After touring the galleries, I set off for dinner, stopping in at Si’ Senor.  I was intriqued by the Tampiquena and it was an excellent choice.  Perfectly seared Steak, sitting atop a grilled Nopale [Prickly Pear Cactus Leaf] accompanied by a pair of tamales, fresh guacamole and a diminutive corn tortilla filled with refried beans.  The slightly acidic quality of nopale worked perfectly with the steak and the grilled whole onions.  Between the meal and the view it was a really great way to finish off an evening.

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The following day, I visited a number of the galleries in the Colonial Emiliano Zapata part of the city.  Galeria Dante is PV’s largest gallery and their space is glorious; indoors there are a number of rooms and an open inner courtyard reveals fountains and sculptures. Creating a marvelous retreat to linger and ponder the works.  Next door is Ambos Galeria, which when I was there, was highlighting Abstract paintings and Photography.  They feature contemporary artists on two floors of wonderfully lit galleries. They also plan on offering workshops, lectures and performance in their space.

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A short walk away, in the Centro district, is Arte Popular Mexicano Galeria.  Estela Camacho features locally produced museum quality pre-Columbian replicas, ceramics and catrinas.  She calls her Galeria a shop for “Only those who know”.  Spend a while with her and your education will be enhanced dramatically; plus gain a much better understanding of the artwork offered and the lovely people of the region.

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Wander up the Isla Cuale walkway and you will find the Cultural Centre where in the morning and evening classes are offered in painting, sculpture, photography and dance.  A lot of tourists do not explore this far up, but it is a great respite from the bustle of the city, with a few small cafes nearby and the relaxation offered by the natural beauty that surrounds you here.

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On the way back, I stopped at Joe Jack’s Fish Shack for late lunch.  This is one those places that no stay to PV would complete without a visit.  It’s always very good, always very busy and always a great crowd. I had a very delicious simply grilled fish sandwich, super fresh and seasoned with a touch of Black Olive Tapenade[I added a bit of coarse mustard].  Served with crispy fires it was a great lunch.  I was tempted by and succumbed to the Chili-Cucumber Margarita that was the featured drink of the day.  The cooling flavor of the Cucumber was highlighted by the Serrano chili.  The frosty glass was rimmed with Tajin,  a seasoning blend consisting mostly of chilies, lime and salt.  My new favourite Margarita!

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On another evening out, the Plaza de Armas was taken over by artisans working with chalk.  Several dozen very talented artists were on the pavement creating vivid designs of folk, religious and environmental and political themes.    For me, the added joy of meeting and talking with these artists was such a plus. Unfortunately a few days later, an odd rainfall washed all the creations away; but while they were here, the walkways of the Plaza were vibrant with colour.

From very modern works, museum quality indigenous pieces, large sculptures, to antique jewelry and outdoor installations, all represent the Mexican heritage and culture.  The vibrancy, the intimacy, the diversity of works continues to impress me.  I find the openness and at times the whimsy in the works equally delightful.  Theses galleries are alive!

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Vallarta’s Gardens

VBG (36 of 52)Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens are a special place that definitely should not be missed. A combination of Orchid houses, nurseries, nature trails, a very nice restaurant and even a place to take a dip, await you upon arrival.  It was just what I needed to relax and escape into nature for a day.

Getting there is easy; catch the bus, bound for El Tuito, at the corner of Aguacate and Carranza streets in the Romantic Sector of PV.  The fare is 20 pesos, and you are dropped off right at the Garden’s entrance.  Now for me, on my Sunday visit, I did have an adventure getting there.  Our bus had a small calamity. The turbine overheated, filling the bus with smoke and causing us to pull over to the side of the road, the driver quickly doused the engine compartment with water and we all spread out and awaited another bus to pick us up.  The thing was; nobody got terribly upset, we all just sat roadside and waited the 20 minutes for our rescue – boarded our new bus and headed off to our destination.

After picking up a map at the entrance, I set off.  I decided to walk the nature trails down by the Emerald Pools first.  This path is rated Difficult, but with a good set of walking shoes, it is very manageable.  The clear and cool stream, the deep green pools of water along with the sound of the rushing water made it all very worth it.   I lingered for quite a bit of time there.

[Video] Vallarta Botanical Gardens – Emerald Pools.

VBG (12 of 52)

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The trail back up was well marked out and while difficult, was a great nature walkway.  The work they have done here to reforest this land is astonishing.  Much of the land here had been used for cattle and was terribly overgrazed and cleared.   The volunteers and the staff have totally transformed this place.

The trail lead me back to the Hacienda de Oro, just in time for lunch!  The building is covered with Bouganvillas and is brilliantly painted.  There is a very nice gift shop, offering many local products, including some wonderful and such fragrant whole Vanilla Beans.  Upstairs is the restaurant, where I settle in for a lite lunch of Tortilla Soup and an Agua Fresca  [Hibiscus flavoured] .  On this Sunday morning, opera arias were playing in the background and the view from up here is magnificent.  My lunch started with a little tray of fresh cucumbers, jicama and radishes sprinkled with Tajin.  This has been served to me in several other restaurants here; and is a habit I intend on continuing.  Crisp, refreshing and a bit spicy – an excellent tradition. The soup arrived in a diminutive earthenware pitcher and bowl.  A delightful presentation and delicious to boot; It was richly flavoured and topped Guacamole and Sour Cream.  The restaurant offers wood-fired oven pizzas and other traditional Mexican offerings, along with an extensive selection of tequilas.

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After lunch, I joined the tour through the Orchid house and nursery.  I would highly recommend joining this – the varieties are almost endless.  Robert Price, Founder and Curator of the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens has developed an outstanding collection of orchids and in the propagation lab, endangered species of orchids are being cultivated.

To finish my day, I headed off down to the Vanilla Trail area; a more rainforest feel to these gardens.  Coffee plants abound along with Vanilla orchids and Capomo trees.  Theses trails are a bit easier to navigate and were a great way to finish up my trip to the gardens.  I cannot over state the special nature of this place; a bit of paradise not far away for the city of Puerto Vallarta and a must visit.

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VBG (37 of 52)

My Saturday Ritual in Vallarta

Squash Flowers

Squash Flowers

Saturdays are very busy in PV.  Local shops are bustling, buses fill quickly with families heading off to the beaches and several city blocks become home to the weekly Farmers Market.  There are actually two separate markets; One is in the Paradise Community Centre in the Zona Romantica and the other market is in the Colonial Emiliano Zapata section of town, (This market is located on Basilio Badillo,  Pino Suarez streets and the neighborhood Kindergarten School) only a few blocks away each other.

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Angela’s – Delicous tacos

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Sandra of Mamma Jamma Preserves

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Cloud Coffee – Local, Organic, micro producer – a few cups a day for me please!

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Lorene, owner and creator of Artisan Bread Co.

Artisans and craftsmen offer up selections from glass work, intricate embroidery, jewelry, soaps and clothing accessories.  Everything here is locally made or grown – with 50 km of Vallarta and you are meeting the producers directly – it does not get any better.  And then there is the FOOD!!  Breads, pies, quiches, tacos, pastries, jams, fruits, meats, fresh cheeses and coffee lure you.  Bring a big bag and savour them all.  I personally grab a couple of loaves of bread, a few pieces of Queso Fresco every week along with my weekly supply of locally produced rich coffee, some fresh produce and few cigars.  [I am still using my jar of Papaya Jam I picked up a couple of weeks ago – but I don’t think I’ll be able to bring it back through customs]  The Kindergarten school has a number of eateries in the courtyard – excellent food and great prices.  In the Paradise center there are also eateries and many, many baked goods!Saturday-Famers-Market (1 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (22 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (26 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (29 of 36) Saturday-Famers-Market (38 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (40 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (39 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (42 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (50 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (52 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (56 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (57 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (59 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (55 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (49 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (47 of 24) Saturday-Famers-Market (6 of 36)

It is best to arrive early, as the season progresses the crowds are getting much larger.  By early afternoon many of the vendors are getting low on supplies.  But they will be back next week, just like me.

Walking and Eating on the Street in Vallarta

Once you settle in to your villa and go out to eat in one of the many great restaurants in town, it is now time to go try the other culinary treasures that abound in Vallarta. The Taquerias. They are the little food carts that are on every street, almost everywhere! So, make this your day three agenda in Vallarta. But which ones do you choose from? There are a couple of tour guides that offer a service, but I chose Vallarta Eats to come to the rescue. [Based on Trip Advisor and Eric is a fellow Philadelphian]
We met up and set off to eat! [Do not have breakfast on the day you go –you really eat on this tour!] I believe a good food tour is not only about sampling really good food, it should also be about the culture you are experiencing. [Full disclosure here – I was a professional Chef for over 20 years] Within the time it took us to get tour first destination – I learned that the State of Jalisco is the number two producer of Tequila, Vallarta is the second most important gourmet destination in Mexico and the unofficial name for the Isle de Cuale is Isle de Gatos!
On our first stop we sampled Birra – a stew from either Beef or Pork, cooked in a large clay pot. Besides the taco made from the meat, the broth is an essential element to easing the remnants of the night before. Even without the hangover – get a cup of the broth.Vallarta-Eats (2 of 29)


A bit later on we stopped at shop that only makes carnitas – by the whole hog. We sampled a bit of the carnitas – specifically the cheek. If you are offered this – sample it; so moist, crispy and tender. Delicious! And so we continued, visiting fabulous small eateries – stops at a local market, [the one I shop at], a bakery, a couple of great little restaurants and a tortilla factory. [Once you sample a hot fresh white corn tortilla – there is nothing quite like it] Tastings include shrimp, fish, pork, octopus and a variety of salsas and guacamoles – each were slightly different at each venue. In addition to all the food samples, we tasted a number of Auga Frescas. Memo – our guide did a marvelous job of both entertaining and informing us of local eating customs.

The kettles for the carnitas

The kettles for the carnitas

Vallarta-Eats (18 of 29)Vallarta-Eats (24 of 29)

Handmade tortilla!

Handmade tortilla!

Fried jalepeno filled with seafood

Fried jalepeno filled with seafood


Several hours later and with bellies and spirits full we set off to our final destination; a traditional Mexican dulceria. But first we had to navigate the small suspension bridges that cross the Cuale River; these can be most entertaining! But as we round the corner, the smell of the dulceria hits you – sugar, caramel and toasting pecans! And what better way to finish an eating expedition than with chocolate –dark, spicy with a hint of almond.

Memo our Guide!

Memo our Guide!

That is correct - a kilo [2.2 lbs] for $.69!

That is correct – a kilo [2.2 lbs] for $.69!