A half-hour bus ride from the hotel zone will take you directly into Zona Romántica, or as the locals call it, Old Town. The streets are all cobblestone, often up a steep hill with mixed architecture, most buildings are not very tall, some have different colour additions built up over time that doesn’t quite fully match how the structure started. Great street art and a few shiny mosaic walls can be seen throughout the city for all of those looking for colourful insta moments. All bars and restaurants open up on the street and you can smell the delicious food being cooked inside passing by.
Having had breakfast at the resort we began by visiting a local brewery, Los Muertos Brewing Company, PV’s first craft brewery, and pub. To maximize our experience a flight of 8 beers seemed necessary – all those available plus a seasonal Ale. The beers were a nice range from light to dark, some more interesting than others, and one very Mexican: Anillo De Fuego, aka Chilli Ale, which finishes with subtle heat that catches you by surprise and slightly sets your throat on fire. Not too far from here is a crowded city beach with some overpriced ocean-side restaurants, nice to see but advisable to skip eating at and save appetite for good authentic food elsewhere.
Walking towards the city center we crossed Isla Rio Cuale, a small inland island with art installations, a few fun pubs playing live music, and a cat shelter. A way of the island is a mosaic staircase which offers a fantastic view of the city from the top. Following the rural streets into the center, you’ll end up at the footsteps of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a beautiful old church that leads into the Plaza Principal de las Arms – the city gates. The waterfront pathway stretches quite far and is also filled with touristy restaurants, ice cream shops, street vendors, official city tour guides strongly recommending you use their services, and of course, a handful of Senior Frogs locations. In between all the common stops are a few gems: we found Tierra Huichol, a Wixarika Magic Art Shop that sells handmade glass souvenirs and some of the most stunning beadwork I have ever seen, from bracelets to large sculptures. I picked up an egg for the holiday tree and a bullhead, don’t ask why, it’ll find its place somewhere on the wall. Not too far up the hill, through the streets and blooming plants, is a small lighthouse, Faro de la Calle Matamoros from which you will find a great 360 view of the city.
All of this walking around took a couple hours and an ice cream break so for an afternoon snack we took a quick taxi to El Andariego Restaurante. A fairly large family restaurant celebrating 30 years El Andariego offers traditional Mexican cuisine, and a lot of it. Our experience included a couple bottles of cold Modelo, table-side guacamole, a couple of taco plates, which inevitably came with beans and corn, all very delicious, and some tequila on the house, it’s dinner time somewhere, am I right! The space itself is quite interesting: the upper deck has a full wall mural and a hip-high shelving unit with small square pockets – tequila storage for the regulars.
On a different night, we worked our way back downtown to a lovely upscale restaurant called Café des Artistes. The main floor is a small maze of tables covered by white tablecloths, the upstairs patio is a mystic forest buzzing with laughs and dinner chatter. Once seated, the first menu given to you is a cocktail list, the main menu is only handed after and has an option for a Chef’s menu with wine pairings, which quite frankly I wish was shown to us right away since that’s a full dinner commitment. The portions are quite generous and very filling and the cocktails are spectacular! Reservations required and dress code is in effect, this is a place where you come to see and be seen.
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoVallarta19