By Lois Ellison
Even when you live in Paradise, sometimes you take a vacation. For us that is usually a trip to the States to visit our grandkids but recently we embarked on a month long trip that took us to the East Coast for my 50th reunion (wish I could say that is a typo), followed by a 2 week tour of Spain and Portugal and finishing with 10 days in Italy visiting family and sightseeing. Now you might think that is a dream vacation and mostly it was, but it had its moments.
It’s our second night in Madrid, and we’re standing at the edge of a very narrow mostly pedestrian street perusing a menu. Out of nowhere, a large Mercedes Benz pulls by and run’s over the back of my husband’s foot! The nearby diners pause briefly, forks hovering in the air while the passengers in the car stare stonily out the window. Just as suddenly, the car drives off and the patrons resume dining, leaving us to assess the harm. Picture this same scenario here in Puerto Vallarta. The patrons surround us, offering assistance and comfort, as the passengers leap from the car to evaluate the extent of damage. No one gets back to normal until we assure them he is OK. Ah Vallarta, I’m getting homesick already.
Smoking is the national pastime of Europeans. Indoors, outdoors, everywhere, we are surrounded by hoards of smokers. Some are polite; others are not so much, blowing smoke towards others and throwing their butts all over the ground. No matter how much street cleaning goes on, these remain, filling the cracks between the cobblestones and creating a carpet of waste. At home in PV we enjoy indoor dining sans smoke and outdoor diners generally practice proper etiquette. When the morning’s squadrons of sweepers finish work, there is seldom a butt to be found. Viva the city workers in Puerto Vallarta!
The second most popular pastime in Europe’s bigger cities is graffiti. Walls, windows and doors are the favorite targets, including many historical landmarks and even old Roman ruins. We’re not even talking street art here; just tagging, and it is everywhere. The people we ask about it just shrug, as if to say “what can we do?” Now granted there is a little graffiti in Vallarta, but property owners do a darn good job of cleaning it up. It’s called pride and Vallartenses have it in spades.
The food in Europe is fantastic and the wine is unbelievably affordable, even with the Euro in such an unfavorable position relative to the dollar. Nowadays, right here at home you can find food from every corner of the globe. Dining out is an adventure, without the trials of travel.
The time flies by and suddenly it is time to head back. Over 24 hours later, as our plane touches down, my heart swells and a tear runs down my cheek. When the taxi drops us off and I see the El Nido sign (means “the nest” in Spanish) by our door, it is confirmed: we are HOME.
We may not have the Coliseum, The Prado or The Alhambra, but we have a clean city, friendly, helpful people, beautiful scenery and plenty of places to eat and be entertained remarkably well. It may not be perfect, but it is home. And as Dorothy once observed, “There’s no place like home”.