Travel Diaries: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Rachael here! In July my husband and I both had a week off from work, so we looked at each other and said, “pick a spot!”. We knew we wanted to get out of town, and we decided to combine it with a trip to see family as well. So off to Puerto Vallarta we flew, with just a few days notice. We tried to have a good balance between fun family time and romantic time with just the two of us. Mission accomplished. Here are some of our favorites, for anyone who is planning to visit this beautiful Mexican state of Jalisco.PuertoVallartaTravelDiaries

Lodging

We went with Air BnB, and sadly ended up with a dud of a place. The apartment and location was great, but the host was a nightmare to deal with. Job is turned off of airbnb because of it, but we’ve had many good experiences with airbnb prior, so I am willing to try again on a different trip. I won’t recommend our exact condo, but as far as locations, it really depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. As for us, we wanted close to the beach, near restaurants, culture, spas, and romantic streets to walk around. Zona Romantica was the best for our needs, and we loved staying in this area. It felt like a really good mix of authentic Mexico (i.e. not a huge resort that could be anywhere in the world), but had some good amenities and things to do for travelers. If you are going for pure relaxation and beach, and don’t care about being close to nightlife/restaurants/spas, etc, we recommend going slightly south to the Conchas Chinas area (still within an uber ride to town), or head quite a bit up North to Nuevo Vallarta to stay. We traveled to all three of these areas and enjoyed visiting each of them. Again, it just depends on what you want from your vacation.

 

Food

I could go on and on about this. We go hard when it comes to food when we travel. For the few days before we left, we ate really simple, to prepare our palates (and bellies) for all the good food we were going to eat. We also have a pretty strict rule about eating the food of the area wherever we travel. I.e., when we are in Mexico, we are eating Mexican food for every meal (we cheated a few times with gelato, but otherwise were 100%). Sure there are lots of Italian restaurants, and “American Food”, and other types of food, but we want to experience the food of the area we are in! In Puerto Vallarta, that meant a lot of seafood, some interesting local specialties (like torta ahogada), and general Mexican favorites (taaaaaacos!).

A few places we recommend trying while in the area.

El Arrayán

Address: Calle Allende 344, Centro, 48351 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

This was one of our favorite meals of the trip. It’s a tad “upscale” without being stuffy, and has an awesome environment. The staff was attentive, kind, and knowledgeable, and the food was all spot on. We loved all their salsas, and virgin cocktails, and even made room for some incredible chocolate and cinnamon cake with coffee ice cream. Our maid dishes blew us away (Duck carnitas, and chicken mole). Grab your significant other, and head to El Arrayán.

Tortas Ahogadas Toño
Address: Lisboa 136, La Vena, 48320 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Great location for this local specialty. The bread is crispy and firm to hold up to the sauce it is dipped in.
Marisma Fish Taco
Address: Naranjo 320, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Fish tacos. Enough said. BUT, also try their tamarind drink, it’s one of the best I’ve had. The cook is a spicy and spunky lady, who loves to make her customers laugh. We got lots of fish tacos, and also shrimp tacos which were bomb. The smoked marlin taco was not my fave, but that’s just preference. It was all well made.
Restaurant El Set
Address: Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad 1182, Conchas Chinas, 48390 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
 We went here for breakfast one morning and were the only ones there when it first opened. It was peaceful and lovely to have the place to ourselves. The main draw to this place is the view. It is an incredible overlook onto a white sand beach, palm trees, the works. The food is solid (chilaquiles and a fresh fruit juice is my recommendation). Have I had better Mexican food? Sure. But for a quick, tasty breakfast with a gorgeous view, this is a hit.
Address: Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 128, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

I’ll talk about visiting here later on in the post, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you to get a chicken mole tostada here. It was one of the best dang mole tostadas I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of spice, chocolate, super crisp tostone, ahhh. It’s right off the malecon, so easy to hop into for a snack. We tried a few other things here that were “meh”, but I would go back for that tostada.
Tacos de Birria Chanfay
Address: Venustiano Carranza 373, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
A local specialty. I recommend the beef taco birria, crispy style. Totes delish. Go for breakfast.
Address: Basilio Badillo 162, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
We went to the location in Nuevo Vallarta with family. That address is: Pancho’s Takos, Valle de México 113, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nayarit, Mexico
Really, really great tacos. More northern style. My husband called the pork chop taco revolutionary (and he’s Mexican). We got way too much food, and ate every bite. Tip: ask for grilled baby onions and chiles. Squeeze lime and salt over them and you are in business.
Did we order this twice in a row? Yes we did. Aquachiles is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and this guy is a legend. He makes the best fresh aguachiles from the catch of the day, and delivers it to your door. Brilliant. I love the classic green, and the mango and basil.
Cenaduría Coyoacan
Address: Calle Valle de Zirahuen 275, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nay., Mexico
This is a place to try if you are in in the Nuevo Vallarta area. It had delicious pozole, and we also tried the pambazos, and gorditas. This is a local joint, and you’ll feel like a local eating there.

Day Trips

Sayulita

This is the cutest little hippy surfer town. The beach was too busy at the time we went, but we carved out a little corner and enjoyed it for a little bit. The best part was walking around the little town, looking at all the shops, admiring the colors of the Papel Picado and pom poms made by local women, and eating churros (churros unrelated to Sayulita, I just really enjoyed them).

Nuevo Vallarta

Take a drive up to Nuevo Vallarta for the beaches, and some great food. We took uber up there several times to see family, and they would very kindly drive us back down to Puerto Vallarta. It’s about 30 minutes without traffic, 45 with.

We didn’t go to Marieta Islands this trip, but some family members have been and enjoyed it. Worth looking in to, but from all I’ve heard, go early in the day to avoid crowds.

 

Favorite Beaches

There are lots of beaches up and down the coast, and if we had tons of time and a car, we would have tried more. But we got to enjoy 6-7 in our short time there, which is not too shabby. Next time, I want to try out some of the incredible beaches that are only accessible by boat. Here are our favorites out of the ones that we did see and enjoy:

Conchas Chinas Playa

Our all time favorite. The most incredible light turquoise water, quiet and secluded (go early to have the beach to yourself), and perfectly soft sand. There are huge rock formations that form tide pools, and you can search for lots of fun sea creatures. The water was clean, and the waves were so chill, which made it a really relaxing location.

Playa Palmares

Clean, not so busy, clear water, gorgeous views.

Nuevo Vallarta Beach

This beach had great waves for body boarding and jumping in. It was family friendly and had easy parking. There was a pool for those who want to go from pool to ocean and back.

 

Things to Do:

  • Make your own food tour (see above for ideas of where to go). We interspersed our food tour with three museums.

–Cuale Museum (Archaeological Museum), free. This is on the Cuale River Island and is small, but worth a few minutes to learn about the trade industry in Mexico. It’s fascinating to see how other countries have affected Mexican culture and visa vera.

–Naval Historial Museum, free on Wednesdays, a few bucks otherwise. This was a cool museum! At first, I was wondering if we should skip it but I’m glad we checked it out. It also was a great place to take advantage of the AC during the hottest time of the day.

–ChocoMuseo, free. Calling this a museum is a stretch, but there is a chocolate shop, chocolate cafe, and a tiny area were they some plaques on the wall talk about how chocolate is made. It’s a cute place to hop into, and the chocolate is really good (see also: chicken mole tostada).

  • Walk the Malecon. It’s a long boardwalk along the beach and has lots of really cool art sculptures to see and shops to enjoy. Check out playa Muertos while you are here, not to hang out on the beach (way too busy for my liking), but to watch the sunset, and walk the pier. If you are staying in Zona Romantica, Playa Muertos is the closest beach to you. It’s nice to check out, not to spend hours at.
  • Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Check out this stunning church as you are walking the Malecon. It has a crown! It’s a really beautiful piece of architecture, and well worth a trip inside as well.
  • Palo Maria Cascadas. This is a jungle hike to some impressive waterfalls and swimming holes. Fair warning, it’s a tricky hike (and we followed some locals on a secret back way that ended up being the secret harder way). I would not suggest it for kids of any age, and make sure you are confident in your footing. Once you get to the “trailhead” (it’s just off the road, down from a little bridge) follow the fence for as long as you can, and then follow the river. Our route then took us up a steep cliff for a while to get up to the top pools, but you can also go to the bottom pools much easier, and then from the bottom pools you can climb a rope up to the top pools. Again, I don’t really know why we followed the locals, but alls well that ends well. It was very satisfying to make it to the pools, and the water was clean, clear, and refreshing. It also 100% felt like we were in Jurrasic Park while we were hiking. And that we were on the wrong side of the fence haha. We didn’t see any dinosaurs, but we did catch sight of lots of other local bugs and animals. The flora was stunning.
  • Get a Massage Job found a place close to our condo, and he got an almost 2 hour, deep tissue massage for about $50! He went to Metamorfosis. There are tons of places, so just look for one near you, and get your relaxation on.mexicophotos

Let us know if you have gone, or are planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta! We want to hear what you like!

My Relationship with Fitness (and some tips to get started!)

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What is your relationship with fitness?

Mine has been a bit fickle, off and on, and under-appreciated. That’s not to say I haven’t pursued fitness in my life; I have, and it has helped me through some really important times. I’ve been fascinated by the human body since I was a teenager, and with fitness as an adult. I’ve always wanted to see what my body can do, but sometimes don’t know where to start. I’ve played sports, I’ve weight lifted, I’ve thrown myself into yoga… and I’ve enjoyed all of those things. It’s always a matter of falling back in love with exercising, each time I “take a break”.

It’s also a matter of finding something I love. I don’t love doing push-up after push-up for an hour each day. I don’t love running countless miles on a treadmill (or anywhere else for that matter). Over the years I’ve found what I DO enjoy — HIIT workouts, yoga, weight lifting, hiking, aerobic classes with friends, biking.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a theme of what I enjoy in fitness. Things that combine outdoors with fitness being some of my favorites, and also ones that help me feel strong and empowered, such as with weightlifting.

What’s your relationship with your body, and body image?

Yikes, loaded question! This one is mostly a self-reflection question, but I also really like to hear people’s answers. Mine has mostly been positive, but as I really think about it, I’ve definitely had times in my life where I was so critical of it and disliked it. I think that’s not an unusual feeling for women and girls, and that’s so sad! I’m still not perfect at accepting my body 100%, but I have come to an appreciate my body, and what it can do, and even *gasp* think it looks pretty darn good, flaws and all. But this brings me to the point that I can accept my body, and also want to improve it in a healthy way. Accepting your body, and wanting to improve it are not exclusive.

And so, in an effort to become a stronger, healthier, leaner, me, I have some simple goals I want to achieve this month. But first, it’s important to remind myself not to expect that after 30 days I’ll look like Genzebe Dibaba. I’ve been guilty of this. Like, “it’s been 4 days of me working out, why can’t I see a six-pack?!” Patience.

My goals for this month are:

  • Lose about 4 lbs. This is an attainable goal and something that be done in a month. As I gain muscle, I expect to perhaps gain a small amount of weight, and I’m ok with that. But in a month, it’s not likely I’ll put on enough muscle to see an increase. Instead, I expect that I’ll burn some fat and a few lbs to start. As I’ve put on about 10/15 extra pounds this past year, I have something to work with 😉 Losing weight is not my main goal, but I anticipate it might be a nice “side effect”.
  • Feel more energy! To me, this means being able to get up when my alarm goes off, and not “snooze” so much. It means getting through the workday without that 2pm slump. It means being able to go out with my husband on a Friday night and staying out a little past our bedtime without feeling 80 years old. (Just a little bit though, because I’m basically 80 and love my early bedtime).
  • See definition in triceps. Firm up you little things.
  • Assisted pull ups to 50 lbs. (On my way to no assistance, but everything builds upon itself).

A few tips to help you achieve your fitness goals, whatever they may be.

  1. Set your expectations high, but realistic.
  2.  Be kind to yourself. No negative body talk. Celebrate it, thank it for what it can do!
  3. Pick a program if you are just starting out. Having something to follow, and an end to a challenge or program can really help beginners and the more advanced alike. But especially beginners, who could feel lost if they just decide to go for it and “exercise”; that’s pretty broad. Start with a 30-day challenge and build from there! I’ve enjoyed Jillian Michaels 30 day shred, P90X (90 days, not 30), Bikini Beach Body (again, longer challenge, but great), all the Yoga with Adriene 30 day Challenges, and others.
  4. Take a “during” photo before starting a new program. Let me explain. I don’t really like “before and after”, because it sometimes seems that it is saying that “before” is lesser, and that your life or body wasn’t good “before”. When in fact, your body is always in progress. It’s always “during” because we are always living our lives, and having experiences which shape us (physically and mentally). But seeing progress is so very motivating, so photos are important.
  5. I think even more important than photos, is to write a journal entry before (and during) a fitness program. Write how to feel, your energy levels, skin condition, digestion, any flare-up of illnesses, mental health, etc. How you feel is key, and improved health is the goal of exercise. Seeing a change in that area will also be very motivating. It has been for me.
  6. Last but not least, check with your doctor. I know, I know, you’ve heard this and it seems silly, but it’s important to have regular check-ups (nurse here). Do you need to ask your doctor if you can start taking walks and doing yoga if you’ve recently seen her or him for a checkup? No (in my opinion). But if you haven’t been in a while, or want to start a really intense new program, just hop in to make sure everything is running smoothly.

*Phew*, long post, but I wanted to really get into some ideas to help you start a fitness challenge! I’ll be doing my own this month, as I really want to “fall back in love” with working out and getting stronger. Whatever you decide to do, we can do it together and motivate each other. Namaste, and go lift! 😉

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DIY Gold Bedside Lamps (and some spray paint tips)

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This is not much of a tutorial, but rather a “hey, look how simple DIY can be!”. I knew I wanted lamps beside our bed for reading, and I looked at so many options. Some were too expensive, some were too big for our tiny apartment, some were good and a decent price, but I wanted a challenge *wink*. I knew I could make some look how I wanted, on the cheap, and that would fit perfectly in our tiny space. My first trip to Goodwill I came across a matching pair of lamps and snatched them up for $3.99 each. They are just basic, dorm room type lamps, but I knew that they would look spiffy with a fresh coat of gold. I love that they clipped onto the bed, which saves us precious space, and they plug in rather than need to be wired to the electricity of the house, which was essential (#renters). Here are a few inspiration pieces I used when buying and painting my lamps.

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A few spray paint tips:

  1. Get the good stuff. Pay a few extra bucks. I love Rustoleum in Pure Gold. Make sure to get the cans with the spray nozzle on top, it makes the application and clean up so much smoother.
  2. Wait the proper amount of time for the next coats. You can usually either do quick second coats within about 30 minutes of the initial coat, or wait 24-48 hours. Meaning, don’t remember in 3 hours and try to do another coat. It will glob up and make a mess.
  3. Clean up fingers with nail polish remover. If you get a good nozzle (see number 1), you shouldn’t have much finger clean up at all.
  4. Use long, steady strokes to apply paint. Overlap each layer slightly, and be confident with it as you go around! Don’t be timid; show that paint who’s boss.
  5. Make sure you are far enough away from cars, house, small children, etc when painting. It’s amazing how a tiny bit of wind can carry spray paint.
  6. Clean your nozzle after each time you use it.

Here’s the final product. There will be matching ones on either side. (Full house tour will be done later. All 400 square feet!). What do you think of the gold lamp transformation? Is DIY your thing, or would you rather just pick up a final project from the store? (No wrong answer, I like to do both depending on what it is :).

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