And I was OK with that, actually… It was the bus transfer site, and I needed to pick up some bug repellant, being the “human of choice” for most biting insects. Armed with “hormiga”, the Spanish word for ant gleaned from a fellow traveler, and a vague notion to somehow illustrate “spray”, charade-style, I planned to pop in for the repellant and grab the next bus into town.
Wow. Wal-Mart is soooo different in Spanish! It actually generates a slight thrill in me to be completely lost. Good thing with the whims I occasionally follow… Suffice it to say that my spray motion and “hormiga” pronunciation landed me in the deodorant aisle, my blue-shirted escort smiling broadly as he helpfully repeated my spraying pantomime. It took a manager and another walk across the store to secure the desired insect repellant, but it was more like walking through some kitschy art gallery than “shopping” as most of the colorful advertising was indecipherable to me.
I scanned the splashy candy display on my way through check-out. “Hot” is to their candy confections as “sour” is to ours. It seems Mexicans will put peppers in and on about anything, which seems reasonable to a woman who carries hot sauce in her purse. How about chili-coated strawberry flavored gummies? Nothing is so odd that it can’t be perfectly normal somewhere in the world. I like that.
Crossing the parking lot by foot was slightly treacherous. Motorized traffic in Mexico always feels slightly disorganized and terribly aggressive, but I safely caught the “Centro” bus into Puerto Vallarta .
I disembarked with a huge smile in old Vallarta (Viejo), also called El Centro . After soaking it all in for maybe ten seconds, I instinctively headed east toward the lovely Banderas Bay . A waterfront promenade, the Malecon, gilded by whimsical bronze sculptures, frames the city in a splendid way. The sculptures, created by renowned Mexican artists, are more than lovely art pieces. They entertain and invite interaction as they sparkle in the sunlight.
I felt the melancholy warmth of “Nostalgia”, a bronzed couple fluidly gazing slightly behind themselves, their backs to the Bay, and photographed some wacky “chair people” (top photo).
One of my favorite encounters of the day came beneath the sculpture of a “blob” of a mom (the weight of stress or gravity of aging, I wonder?) calling to her two blob children who are escaping up a ladder to nowhere. In the US there would be a fence around the base of the ladder and a plaque absolving the city of any responsibility should someone be tempted to climb and risk probable injury or death. In PV, it’s assumed that a ladder is for climbing, and so there are rarely just the two bronze children on the skyward escape route.
I photographed a couple of brothers playing on and around the metallicized people. One of them grew extremely fascinated with my camera, thrilling to see his own image on the review screen. I had to laugh as his eagerness to see his image resulted in photo after photo of him darting out of the frame toward me and my camera.
After bartering for a handful of lovely Taxco silver bracelets and admiring some remarkable sand sculptures, I wandered inland to the Templo de Guadelupe Cathedral. Its filigreed crown commands notice, drawing devoted worshippers into a sanctuary, stunning in beauty and weighty with spiritual drama.
Groups of uniformed children savored after-school ice cream on the sidewalks as I made my way back toward the oceanfront.
Playa Olas Altas lay just beyond: a beach rimmed with outdoor restaurants as well as some on-the-beach dining. Dusk was only an hour away now as I wandered from melody to melody; enjoying the music, smells, and the lovely vivid colors of old Mexico.
I hated to leave, but feeling the need to be as prudent as I would want my daughter to be, I began retracing my steps. I did detour to see an enormous 300-year old tree, but who wouldn’t? A couple of shopkeepers helped me fine-tune my return route, one even writing down phrases for every eventuality. I was charmed by their helpfulness.
Finally, as the sun sank lower, I ran for the last bus out of town, feeling that satisfied glow that comes from filling a single day to its fullest.