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San Sebastian del Oeste: 2 hours from Vallarta, full of history, charm and magic.

On July 19, five of us decided to rent a big van from our taxi driver friend Juan (email me for his number) and escape the heat of Vallarta for a couple of nights. Our destination was an old silver mining town that once had 20,000 inhabitants. Now, with just a few of over 20 mines that once operated still in business, the town is a living history book where tourists can step back 200 years to another time. There’s one atm in town now and two local taxis. Prior to this year, not even those existed I’m told. The drive up, passing over the new Rainbow Bridge, is a feast for the senses. Tequila and Rascilla stands dot the road along with fruit and candy stands. Once you’re 20 minutes outside of Vallarta the mountain vistas are simply heavenly with lush, green valleys this time of year. A view down to the old road, underneath the Rainbow bridge, reminds carefree passengers of how hard the driver’s had it just a few years back when they had to cross the river below and wind up steep, rocky, unpaved roads for hours to to get where it took us only minutes to reach. One of my friends tells a story of passing another car on the one lane (barely that) road below and feeling the wheels of his bus start to slide off the cliff. They were saved by a quick thinking driver. Damn, scares me to think of it.

This is a bit of background on the town/area from San Sebastien’s tourism board:

With the arrival of Francisco Cortes and his Spanish conquistadors, mining first began in the area in 1524. It eventually became so fruitful with gold, silver lead, and zinc, that the town of San Sebastián del Oeste was founded in 1605. The town would grow to be one of the principal mining centers for New Spain.

Necessary for the smelting process of precious metals, salt was imported by mule from the small costal town of Las Peñas, now known as Puerto Vallarta. The silver and gold would then be transported to Guadalajara, Mexico City, and eventually Veracruz, where it would be shipped out to Spain once a year.

The prosperity of the mines continued, and by 1785, there were over 30 mines. At one point, San Sebastián was even the provincial capital of Jalisco (now Guadalajara). The town became a city in 1812, and by 1830, it claimed more than 20,000 inhabitants.

We chose the a hotel on the zocalo, or town square, called Hacienda Pepellon. It houses the old general store in front and the stables for horses and crew in back. Of course, nobody stores their horses there anymore but the grounds and buildings are full of rich history of a time when this town was booming, just before bandits took over and pretty much wiped out everything.

The old ramp from the hotel to the stables is paved in cobblestones that stay damp and slick this time of year. The town is covered in a misty haze from about 5pm to daybreak, making everything rather wet and cool. Kinda perfect weather for a mountain town. The stamp on the wood above our head in the hotel said 1855. Some buildings in town are over 250 years old.

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I have found a great driver and would be happy to organize another trip soon if anyone wants to go. The Van holds about 6 comfortably. The hotels charge 150 to 300 pesos per room. There’s an Italian Restaurant there that is quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted. Chef is from Italy and the restaurant is in his charming wife’s home a block off the Zocalo, but it feels like you’ve stepped into a vineyard cafe in Italy. The restaurant is called Montebello now but has been formerly known as Real de Vino, I think. He has quite a following and its an oasis in the middle of a charming, old Mexican mining town. We all agreed it was the best, cripsy thin crust pizza we’ve tasted, bar none! I’m ready to go again! Nearby Talpa de Allende is also on my radar. 🙂

We also stopped for a tour of Pam Thompson’s family’s place, Hacienda Jalisco. I’m really glad we stopped. Amazing stories there. If you want complete isolation, this is the place to stay. If you want to be near restaurants, stay in the town and walk 20 minutes along the river out to Hacienda Jalisco, like some locals did while we were there. It’s so cool, the walk must be a breeze. There are also two taxi drivers in town. Lionelle, is one of them. He was happy to drink with us one night in the old miner bar, which they opened just for us. On Friday and Saturday, its THE place to be in town with live entertainment and Karaoke.

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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in mexico

 

Mexico City Gay Pride

Mexico City’s Gay Pride Parade is one of the most popular in the world.  Images from my new favorite photographer Victor Irigoyen show why.  Take a look here.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in mexico, travel, vacation

 

Puerto Vallarta Bowlers strike it big with new summer league!

One of the joys of low season in Vallarta is that the busy folks like Tim Longpre of www.pvrpv.com vacation rentals can take a break and organize something to benefit the community that sticks it out year ’round in Vallarta… humidity, rain and all (ok it ain’t that bad really but it has sure felt hot these last few days!).  Last year Tim lead a group of volunteers in gathering beans, rice and other food for those in need around Vallarta.  This year, he’s adding a bit of community spirit to the mix with the first ever bowling league at Vallarta’s Superama Bowling Alley behind Collage nightclub in the Marina area.  Each Wednesday at 7pm, a group of about 50 mostly local expats, residents and a smattering of tourists share the 18 lanes for 3 games of league style bowling.  Waiters server drinks and snacks at reasonable prices and another group of about 20 onlookers watched the bowlers on the night I attended.  A huge party is planned for the final night of bowling and raffle tickets have been sold each week to raise money for the big party.  

When I heard about the leagues I thought about my Mom and since we returned to PV a few days ago for my brothers wedding, we took advantage of the opportunity before the crowd arrives for the wedding and offered to sub for any missing regular players.  Mom was a very good bowler a few years back and I thought she enjoy meeting the group that has assembled for these weekly soirees so I sorta volunteered her to be sub.  She filled in for Joanne Cimini and had a great time.  It took her a while to get back into the “swing” of it but once she did, she bowled 3 very respectable games, keeping up with her teammates (ok, not always), the “Misfits” (which was, ironically, the name of her team in the 80’s).  She did bowl several strikes and spares and her team members cheered her and each other quite well.

It was an impressive accomplishment, bringing all of us together for something different and fun.  Much of the staff at PVRPV has been bowling each Wednesday and have been amazingly well organized  (as always) putting the bowling event together for everyone.  Great job.  Hope we get to try again next week.  If you want to bowl while you’re here on vacation email the folks at www.pvrpv.com.  They will take care of setting you up to sub just as they did us.

Friday, we’re off to Karaoke night.  I’ll report back.  My mom actually sings better than she bowls.   Oh yeah, I was going to bowl but I forgot my socks.  Next time.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in mexico

 

Semana Santa in Puerto Vallarta

Here’s more eye candy from Victor Irigoyen

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2010 in mexico

 

Horse Sense – Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico (part 5 of 5)

The talented trainers in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico teach us a thing or two about handling horses and inspire us to learn more.

via Horse Sense – Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico (part 5 of 5).

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2010 in history, horse, Mascota, mexico, travel, vacation

 

Carlos, the Rock Balancer

Carlos, Puerto Vallarta Rock Balancer, along the Malecon

Along Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon, over the years, I’ve watched with amazement as tanned muscle men balance the rocks on end along the rocky shore, just under the feet of the thousands of strollers who enjoy the malecon each day.  One particular guy, Carlos, has been doing this on and off for years to earn extra cash.  We also see him at Fridas from time to time.  He’s a nice young man.  He likes to draw as well and will show you his artwork if you take a moment to get to know him.

Carlos works for tips along the malecon, amazing strollers with his skills and muscled physique. He has a brother who works with him sometimes too.

(photos: Víctor Irigoyen)

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2010 in mexico

 

Farmer’s Market in Zona Romantica! Each Saturday…starting March 27, 2010

This press release was forwarded by good friend’s Charlotte and Carol who own Xocadiva Chocolates  in Vallarta.  About a year ago, Charlotte told me that this idea was in the works and I thought it was great.  Now, here it is!  They still have room for a few more vendors if you have something to sell. 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – All of the great cities of the world have a celebrated Farmers’ Market where locals and tourists can find the freshest of vegetables, hand-crafted artisanal foods and handicrafts: London has Covent Garden, Seattle has Pike Place Market, Vancouver has Granville Island, New Orleans has the French Market and now, Puerto Vallarta, has the Old Town Farmers’ Market.  Every Saturday, starting March 27, from 10 am to 1 pm, the new Paradise Community Center located at Pulpito #127 (across from Coco’s Restaurant) will come alive with the sites and smells of a good old-fashioned Farmers’ Market.

Only the freshest and finest fruits and vegetables, herbs and plants, preserves, coffee, organic products, baked goods (including diabetic and gluten free) and crafts will be available for sale.  Come browse the colorful tables showcasing unique homemade products all fresh from the oven or field.  Just imagine the rich aromas from the lavish displays: warm baked goods, tangy fruit, freshly roasted coffees and fragrant herbs.  Now you can experience this blend of fresh shopping and entertainment every Saturday in Old Town Puerto Vallarta.

 If you have a product that you would like to sell and are interested in becoming a vendor, please e-mail oldtownfm@hotmail.com.  Please include your contact information and details about your product.

Join us every Saturday, starting March 27, from 10 am to 1 pm at the new Paradise Community Center located at Pulpito #127 (across from Coco’s Restaurant) for Puerto Vallarta’s own Old Town Farmers’ Market — a true thrill for the senses.