Eagle-size hawks circle the baby-blue, skimming the highest peaks of the tropical trees. The verdant mountain-side sweeps down meaningfully to the coast and its majestic bay. To the north, it beckons to a Promised Land that towers in the most-distant mists of this stately ocean’s shores. To the south, an embroidered sequence of angelic coves lead to the infinity of Latin America’s coastline.
Directly below, nestles metropolitan Vallarta, whose historic centre now extends in all directions to occupy land reclaimed from the jungle and made accessible to the burgeoning population of locals and to the world-class resort installations, tall hotels, marinas, airports, that rival the best anywhere.
Straight ahead is the endless Pacific with its siren’s song of adventure and treasure that await its explorers. I watch as the fog rolls into the middle of the bay, tinting it metallic grey, with wings of dazzling sunshine on either side. And just in time for the main event, the fog melts into a sunset that paints this universe-of-pleasure with an astonishing range of reds and oranges, a splendiferous herald of the velvet night ahead, with its own array of unalloyed delights.
This is my view as I dine at Las Carmelitas, the well-appointed restaurant fancifully installed on the highest landing of the mountain that rises behind the city. Any higher than this and one would be in an airplane. Or, in San Sebastian.
The restaurant, which is invisible to the naked eye in the daytime, can be spotted glimmering way above Vallarta at night, like some kind of unattainable Nirvana. It can actually be attained, but with a degree or two of challenge. Getting to your table up there takes about half an hour in a private car or taxi, after which there is a ten-minute uphill climb on a steep ramp to reach the dining room.
If at all mobile enough to attempt it you’ll be well rewarded. The internationally minded menu offers all our favorites, among which I much enjoyed lively, crispy-fried calamari and butter-soft tuna sashimi.
And that view, my goodness; what a spectacle!
LAS CARMELITAS is located straight up the mountain behind downtown Puerto Vallarta. Call 322-293-3112 for reservations.