We were treated to another beautiful sunrise as the ship sailed into the port. After a brief breakfast we prepared for our Shore Excursion. We assembled in the Wheelhouse Bar and were quickly allocated the standard coach worth of numbered stickers. 'Yellow 1' was our number and should indicate that as a group we would board a coach displaying that code. Not this time !! For reasons unknown, the Mexican tour operator decided to ignore the ship's arrangement and started issuing his own tags on a first come basis. This didn't go down well with a number of passengers and there was a virtual riot as three buses worth of passengers had their expectations dashed.
Eventually cooler heads accepted that there would be a mixture on each of the buses. To Jenny and I it doesn't matter but larger groups had made an effort to travel together also the attitude of the tour company representative was a topic of conversation for at least the first 10 minutes. Our tour guide did his best to quell the bubbling ill-humour and eventually won over the most aggrieved of the passenger. The last excursion after a long voyage was off on a shaky start.
First stop was a comfort stop at a fancy jewelry store. The speciality of the region is SILVER and the store was filled with many objects, trinkets and other forms of silver jewelry. The other local ingredient was 'Fire Opals' with deep and brilliant colours. Jenny indicated she preferred GOLD and in a twinkle of an eye there was a tray of exquisite opals set in gold. As a special bonus, because we were the first bus for the day, they were prepared to offer significant discounts. After a few expressions indicating that she liked the pendant but couldn't come at the price it dropped from US$1200 to a mere US$600 -done deal. But wait, it needs an appropriate gold chain. Some resistance, some hints at a package deal and the chain went from US$550 to US$350. Can't even imagine what that will be in AU$.
After manoeuvring the bus out of the narrow streets we headed out towards the hills to the Hacienda Dona Engracia where we were greeted with a delicious cold fruit drink and handed over to a local guide. Quite the character he was and kept us interested as he guided us through the process of making 'tequila'. From the history of the drink through its refinement to the polished product produced there. Next stage was the tasting and once again emphasising that the best tequila is the one that you like. We tasted three grades of the fire water, from the young rough stuff - you share with guests - through the slightly mellower style - you share with family - to the aged matured premium product that you share with no-one. He then produced three flavoured products, peach, vanilla and coffee/chocolate. These have a lower alcohol content and I liked the coffee/chocolate one best. Perhaps my alcohol free taste buds had reawakened after six shots.
We were then shepherded to our Mexican lunch featuring hand-made fajitas with an optional hot sauce bearing the warning 'add this at your own risk'. Altogether an interesting experience. We were then given 30 minutes to browse the many stalls featuring many uniquely Mexican articles. Hats, dresses, ponchos, shawls, carved items and a bewildering array of knickknacks were eagerly offered for sale. Finally back on the coach to our next destination back in the old city.
The "Tile Factory" was a mere remnant of it's former glory. Our guide had warned us that the days of these ceramic artists were numbered. He told us that this establishment was the last one remaining in the district. The range and breadth of styles and colours was bewildering and I happily browsed the two floors of stock on display while Jenny occupied her time procrastinating over the possible purchase of some locally made leather sandals, she didn't buy them.
Back on the coach the guide described the efforts of the authorities to preserve and restore the buildings in the 'old city' to recreate the look, feel and function of the colonial past. Sidewalks are being widened to encourage pedestrians and roads are being cobbled to recreate the character of the streets. The sections that have been made over certainly looked appealing.
On to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an impressive structure built of basic materials surmounted by an intricate and massive crown on the central tower. The interior of the church was delightfully simple and lacked the stained glass windows one expects. The austere interior contrasted with the elaborately decorated and gilded altar. There was some serious money spent on this focal point of the church. To me it seemed fitting that there be few distractions inside the church.
To round off the tour we walked a section of the Malecon. A waterfront plaza and boardwalk featuring beautiful sculptures, magnificent views and a reprieve from the ever-present vehicular traffic. By the time we got back on the bus, I for one was happy to head back to the ship. The tequila and 28 °C temperature had no doubt contributed to my dozy feeling. Jenny managed to find the energy to explore the dock-side 'Flea Market' and finally rounded out her purchases for friends and family.
There was time for a quick photo-shoot of the surroundings from the deck of the ship. There are some impressive hotels, resorts and apartment complexes. There is also a well-stocked marina with a significant number of very classy yachts. Our departure was delayed for some time due to the late return of one of the tour buses but we were on our way out to sea by the time we refreshed and went down for diner. Only two more after tonight, can't believe the time has passed so quickly. Don and Mary were not at the table but we caught up with them in the Theatre where we were entertained by Cary Long, billed as a "hilarious, observational comedian". He was probably the funniest 'comedian' we've had. Jemmy did observe that the acts must be sourced from the retirement homes.
It is getting seriously late as I tap my way through this. Puerto Vallarta was great and would go close to being the best destination on the whole cruise. Given the inauspicious start to the day's tour was a real highlight.
Tomorrow is the first of two sea days as we head for LA. It will be the last Formal night and we get to wind back the clock an hour as well.
If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today
Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony