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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Adventure begins in Puerto Vallarta

This is the first travel story I ever wrote. It was published in the News Record, the University of Cincinnati’s school newspaper in 2002.

“Get me on the next plane to a warm place,” I told a travel agent one harried Wednesday morning. The following Monday afternoon, I unlocked the door of a sixth-floor, oceanfront room in Puerto Vallarta, on the brown Pacific sands of the Mexican Riviera.

Expecting nothing more than a relaxed break, I ended up with a whetted appetite for adventure.

I stayed at a tropical, botanical, all-inclusive resort. All-inclusive means daily activities like volleyball and snorkeling and even evening entertainment are included in one price. Most important, all meals are included too. I didn’t have to go into town and dine alone.

A stage was on the pool deck, and while I ate, I saw a show. The comedies were mostly physical because hotel guests spoke different languages, and the dances were sub-Vegas quality; the girls didn’t kick as high, but they were just as pretty.

One day, the activities hosts and hostesses pulled people, mostly teenagers, off the beach and out of their lounge chairs so they could practice for a show that evening. There were some true thespians and comedians. The amateur show was the best of the four I saw.

The beach was public so vendors came with their wares. I bought a set of five little ducks carved from marble for $5, at least two Mexican blankets for close to $20 apiece, and a silver necklace-that tarnished-with a globe charm for $10. A thin, blue wrap-around skirt I got for $5 is still one of my favorites.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta offered streets and bridges, modern jewelry and T-shirt shops, as well as squat, misshapen trees that must be 300 years old.

Off the main strip, up into the more residential area are doctors’ offices, and I even saw a tortillaria, a store with an hombre pushing cornmeal paste into the top of a siphon-like device. Onto a conveyor popped tortillas of about an eight-inch diameter.

My favorite part of the Puerto Vallarta trip was meeting a family from Argentina.

The first day, I went to dinner late so I would not be so obviously solo, or sola as they say in Mexico. I sat at an empty table but was soon jointed by a 15-year-old boy of Latin descent. We exchanged greetings and then I met his 18-year-old and 10-year-old brothers and his parents. I had taken their table. They welcomed me into their tribe.

I accepted their invitation to go into town with them that night. What a fun time.

We went dancing and bowling and dancing again. Back at the hotel, the 18-year-old kissed me on the cheek [I was 24], which surprised me since he did so in front of his parents. Later I realized the kiss must be the Argentinean custom since he and I danced together most of the night.

It was a remarkable experience and so easy to schedule. One Wednesday I was so stressed and uptight, but the following Wednesday I was two days into a trip I will never forget.

That was a great vacation, the beginning of my travel lust that I have satisfied going on 15 years now. That blue skirt I bought on the beach back in 1994? I wore it to work last week; it’s still one of my favorites.