Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Getting around Puerto Vallarta, from a mobility point of view

I needed a little R&R but had trouble focusing on where I should go as I have been having hip problems which have affected my mobility.

I see a lot of gays flock to Puerto Vallarta in the winter as the weather is very nice and it seems it has become a gay haven as much as Palm Springs in the U.S. In fact, I had met a lot of people from Palm Springs who make PV their winter retreat as they follow the sun and try to get away from the cold. But how much fun could I have in PV while dealing with walking around uneven pavements and cobblestone streets with a cane and an occasional sciatic pain that would shoot up my leg? The answer: plenty.

I found a great rate on United Airlines for my visit: first class was just $150 over coach. It wasn’t the elaborate Polaris service but even extra room made it comfortable on the four-hour flight and that was worth the expense.

As a hotelier, I prefer to stay at a hotel. I also like to have housekeeping and I don’t want to mop the floors and take out the trash like many AirBNBs require. I wanted to try to feel more native and stay in something authentic but in looking around online, many of the unique places were either very small with a lot of stairs and tiny bathrooms or so opulent that they were out of my price range.

So, although I never do this: I searched on Airbnb and found this quaint apartment called Mi Casa Tu Casa PV.

All of the gays told me to stay in the Romantic neighborhood of PV because it’s very gay and near the beach. But even without hip issues, I am not a beach person. I also was taking this in as more of a relaxing retreat and should I have stayed in that neighborhood, I think the sound of fun nightclubs and bars might stay open long after my eyes have closed for the evening. So I found the Mi Casa location, which is in an area called Versailles. I found it well suited for my tastes and needs. And better yet — I could get to the beach and the bars in a short inexpensive Uber ride.

While perfect for my need to spread out and relax, Mi Casa is newly built and didn’t truly give me the flavor itself of Mexico but did put me near some great coffee shops, bakeries, shops and restaurants — one of which is one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life (more on that later).

But it was a beautiful two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath unit with everything modern so it was perfect to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. There was so much closet space and drawers that I didn’t have to maneuver around luggage in a close-quarters hotel. The bathroom was also lovely. Modern and fresh with high-end soaps and shampoos. I even liked that the handle to the rainfall shower can stay in place so that the temperature is set to the same every day.  The bedrooms are well set-up for four people. There’s the king room which I enjoyed and then a second bedroom with two beds — each with a full bathroom.

The living area was also a nice surprise — with a very comfortable couch and rocking chair, big flat-screen TV and a dining room, the perfect place to enjoy a meal made in the full kitchen or catch up with emails while enjoying the wall of windows that showcases some beautiful sunsets.

There’s also a rooftop infinity pool and area to catch the sunset in a more tranquil setting (depending on who else opted to visit the roof) and grill should you want to cook a meal in that open surroundings. Also a plus. The rules were simple and achievable i.e. I wasn’t asked to wash the sheets or mop the floors.

Further, the host, Vivian, also has a comprehensive guidebook on her Airbnb site wants to make you feel at home when you’re staying at her place. She was fast at replying to requests and questions and gave even more details in her messages, so I used Vivian’s suggestions for my whole trip.

Best Beach Pick

I did want to go to the beach even though I never seek them out any place I go unless it’s a Bear event. But with my hip problem in mind, Vivian suggested I go to the Blue Chairs Resort. And she was right. I was able to walk on the sand for just a few minutes and then was escorted to a blue chair that faced the water, the frolicking gay and straight couples while enjoying some really good cocktails, guacamole and terrific service. It was fun to people-watch and then close my eyes and drown out the background of street peddlers and feel the slight breeze wash over me.

Buena Comida

Vivian’s guide had several good options but I want to point out two — one from her site and one from her personal recommendation. Olive by Ruben, so close to her condo and celebrating its second year, is a Greek restaurant with a Mexican flare. It looks like it used to be an elaborate house. There’s a front open area that has a little pool — don’t know if people go in it, but it added to the relaxing ambiance. They had many options for breakfast and you can add to it. We each had an omelet and added a side of bacon and avocado. Yum! There are plenty of brunch cocktails options which made the meal all the more delicious. The service was beyond compare. While we may have been one of the last guests for brunch that day, they never made us feel rushed. We even added, while technically closed, a French toast, sort of a breakfast dessert that we shared, loved and savored. Even the owner Ruben popped out and said hi to us. Next time, I can’t wait to try their dinner as it looked amazing. 

Photo: Olive by Ruben

Florios was the surprise of the trip. Not having read much about it, I just knew they had great Argentine steaks! It’s something about how they prepare their meat, or maybe it’s the chimichurri sauce, that makes steaks from Argentina stand out. While people recommended the pizza, I didn’t want to order a pizza from an Argentine restaurant. But then, it was too late. I chatted with the owner, Miguel, who said his roots, and the restaurant’s as well, are Italian and Argentinian, and actually, the name comes from Florence, Italy. I am glad I didn’t know in advance, as I would have ordered pizza. But instead, I had the rib eye with vegetables.

I must say — this is one of the best meals I ever had in my entire life! The vegetables came out first on a large plate and well displayed. In the romantically dark-hued dining room, I thought the dark pieces on the plate were the steak but cut up because that plate had enough food for an entire meal. But then, a big piece of wood came out with a mouth-watering steak on it. Both the vegetables and steak were moist and perfectly grilled. (The dark objects on the vegetable plate turned out to be beets). Even vegetables I don’t normally like, were amazing on this grilled platter of food.  And how on earth did they make that chimichurri sauce? It seems simple but this was the freshest and most refreshing chimichurri sauce I ever had. 

El Espectáculo!

Of course, going to a drag show or drag brunch is a must in Puerto Vallarta as it’s one of the gay meccas we flock to.

While there are nightclubs that cater to bears, twinks, and everything in between, my fun involves a cabaret-style show, and the Palms Cabaret and Bar is right up my alley. They have 2-3 shows a night, from drag shows to concerts to comedies to spoofs. It’s a well-oiled machine when you go, as there’s a holding area, which is just an open-air bar. While waiting to enter the theatre, you can pick from a variety of luscious cocktails, and of course, you can order more during the show.

We went on a night with Mama Tits as the performer. I wasn’t expecting much really as the name didn’t reveal a lot — but I did think I was going to have a super fun, bawdy time with such a character.  But I was wrong, surprised and blown away. Mama Tits engaged with her audience. She had conversations directly with the audience and pulled them into her story. She shared real-life events, even sad moments from her past that were very personal and touching — who would have expected this from someone named Mama Tits. Then she sang. She didn’t lip-synch. She sang. And she sings well. This was one of the most amazing and surprising moments of my trip and taught me, don’t judge a book by her tits. Check out the upcoming shows and make your reservations now: https://thepalmcabaret.com/

Traveling With Mobility Problems

As mentioned earlier, I hadn’t planned to go to PV as I am having hip issues. Hopefully, my issues will go away. But as we get older or injured, we shouldn’t be afraid to travel. Uber is easy to access in PV and takes you from door-to-door. The people in service — everywhere you go — seem genuinely interested in helping and caring. I was offered so many hands to help me up that I was truly moved. 

I also want to commend all airports with their handicap assistance programs. I’ve been traveling a lot and I click on the button in my profile, that I will need help. Walking around airports is taxing on a body and it’s sometimes it may be miles from point A to B. Every airport I used, has a service company that helps you. In PV, it’s called Orion. When I arrived, they had a wheelchair ready and someone named Jonathan helped me maneuver through customs, baggage claim and into a cab. In talking to some of these workers, I did find out that not a lot of people tip which I find a shame. For someone to push me around, help with luggage and to get me comfortably where I need to be makes me less anxious to travel and more appreciative of other people.

Hopefully all of the above help you plan a nice trip to PV and not be afraid to ask for help or use services that are there for you. Getting around can be tough but there are people and ways to help you along the way. 

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, www.reelkev.com and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for Examiner.com and contributes to progressivepulse.com as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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