Monday, March 24, 2008

Back to Business

We are back now, from a 2 week vacation in Mexico. We had an excellent time and ended up in the same location as last year. The Palladium Vallarta is a good 45 minutes drive north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. It is rated as a 4 1/2 star and was a pretty good value. They have the most awesome kids club program which my 6 yr old absolutely loved two years running now! They have a fairly organized list of activities going on through the week to keep the kids busy, but the list is flexible based on weather and the number of children who show up. It runs from 9:30am to 5pm and my boy would have spent every minute there if I would have let him. This year they did some decorative work in the kids club building and they have done a nice job of it. They put in a palm tree (fake) in the middle of the room with a circle of rounded desks surrounding it. Lots of nice jungle motif painting on the walls, and they were just making a cave like entrance way (on an Egyptian theme) into the front door as we finished our vacation. They have lots of play equipment for swinging and climbing, and have a host of planned activities like rock painting, plaster molding and painting, paper mache pinata making, beading, zoo tours, beach play time, etc. The staff running the kids club both years have been really great with the kids too. I am not exaggerating to say I had to make my kid spend time with me at the beach on this vacation, he loved kids club that much.
Aside from kids club, at the end of last year, the resort built a retaining wall out into the ocean to make a tidal pool which is perfect for kids to play in. At it's deepest, the water was about 3 1/2ft and the retaining wall was built wide enough to comfortably walk around it and even let people past you if necessary. There were beach chairs and palm umbrellas to sit under as the kids played, and the beach was perfect for castle building. This was also the best spot to find hermit crabs which Ike found very entertaining. The rocks past the retaining wall were also large and sturdy enough to walk on further into the ocean, and there were hundreds of crabs on them which would scurry away as you got near.
The main beach had some rocky sections in the water which you needed to keep an eye on if you were boogie boarding. Water shoes were quite helpful in this respect. The resort provided boogie boards, surf boards, kayaks, and catamarans all free for guests to use. Although I have never seen the sail boats in use as it was quite windy all during our stay. But it did seem to be a pretty decent place for surfing as there were almost away 6 or more people out surfing at any given time.

The main pool is attractively shaped with lots of palm trees around and plenty of shaded areas. There is a pool bar and a restaurant open from lunch until dinner serving a variety of salads, salsas and chips, hamburgers, pizza, fries, tacos, chicken fingers along with beer on tap, pop, juice and soft ice cream dispensers. There is a small wading pool for very little kids and periodic activities around the pool such as bingo, table tennis tournaments, aqua aerobics, darts, pool games etc.

There is also an adult pool which is very warm compared with the main pool which is not heated. This pool has built in seating and has an edge facing the ocean with an "endless pool" edge. From this pool you can look down onto the beach below and during the day could usually watch iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks.

While staying for the week there are 3 a la carte restaurants and one beach BBQ to choose from. You are allowed 3 dinners for a one week stay. This is a nice way to break up the sameness of eating every meal at the main restaurant. But be advised, you should book these at your very earliest opportunity, especially if occupancy is high. With a six year old kid that has played hard all day, a nine pm dinner may not be the most pleasant.

The food at this resort is more than adequate, although not at all opulent. It will not compare with fancy cruise type meals. There is quite a bit of variety, but the Mexican take on many dishes is apparent. There is always a lot of fresh fruit available and their desserts are often mostly cakes. I am not a huge cake fan, but I will say they do make good cakes. Usually torted and filled with a lot of whipped cream and soaked with syrups. And of coarse there is always the ice cream bar with toppings for the kids. They do a very nice job with pork and chicken but their preparation of beef is a little different. There is a pasta station open each lunch and dinner where they will prepare you your choice of pasta with add ins and choice of sauce while you wait. In the mornings there is a similar station for omelets. Also at dinner there is always something being prepared while you wait like pork chops, sauteed prawns, grilled chicken etc. Breakfast offers a huge assortment of hot items ranging form typical Mexican fare to the North American standards, plus yogurts, cereals, and lots of fresh fruits.

The local bus system can be caught right at the end of the drive as is very inexpensive. The ride to Puerto Vallarta is $1 or 10 peso and takes about one hour. Take the bus labeled Puerto Vallarta and it will drop you off at Walmart. The bus driver will give change so no need to worry about having the correct change if you don't have it. The Walmart was a good place to buy vanilla to bring back if that is your thing. They have some in the tourist souvenir section up front, but if you go into the grocery section they will have it much cheaper. I paid a little over $3 for a 500ml bottle but do read the bottle to make sure it's not artificial. To continue on the the downtown area catch another ATM bus this time labeled CENTRO and it will take you right down town. It will only be a ten minute ride. Here you will find lots of shopping in the huge indoor market near the RIO CUALE. I found the most lovely fabric store there on the main street with super cheap ribbon, rickrack, and buttons, not to mention oodles of fabric. I picked up 9m of ribbon and rickrack for $1.40. The process of buying there was a little different. First you get someone to cut your purchase, and they give you a sales slip. You take the sales slip to the girl running the till and she gives you a receipt which you then take to another counter where a girl bags your purchase checks your receipt and gives you your purchase. They did not speak a word of English there and it all worked out OK. Just be prepared that it might be slow going. If your like sewing supplies, it's a great little store. I will go back for sure if I have the chance.

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