There is a magic about Vallarta that I have experienced only once before – in Delphi, Greece, at dawn, a long time ago. That same feeling struck me hard the second my foot hit the ground at the Vallarta airport in December 1986.
It is useless trying to explain that magnetic pull to anyone who hasn’t been caught in Vallarta’s seductive and lovely web. I wept all the way back to Canada after my first two-week vacation here was over. I went back to the cold, miserable weather and my only consolation was that every morning when I got up to go to work, I was one day closer to returning to Vallarta and visiting my soul that remained here without me.
Is it the people? The weather? Scenery? Food? Cheap booze? Yes and yes again. Is it perfect? In a lot of ways, it is. It is the imperfections that keep the entire world from moving here; that and the truth that the “magic” of Vallarta is very selective. If it gets you, you will have no choice but to happily surrender or be miserable for the rest of your days.
The first couple of years living here, I would cautiously open one eye every morning and glance around for a second; then with a deep exhale, get out of bed, knowing I was really and truly here and not just dreaming. Living and breathing the bloody exhaust fumes from the busses below my window, then looking through that haze into the Bay of Banderas. All real. And all mine.
It’s no surprise Vallarta is overflowing with artists of all makes and models. In our own ways we seem to have to try and manifest the magic to others by painting or weaving, acting, dancing or writing or just daydreaming at the beach watching the waves; having a drink, toes warm in the sand, sun changing the color of our skin. Moment after perfect moment. They happen to me every day.
And, Vallarta has choices. Do I walk, drive, take a bus or a taxi? If I want to spend a thousand pesos for lunch I certainly can. I can also walk into Farmacia Guadalajara buy a can of tuna, a pack of crackers and a beer, go park myself on a piece of sand with a million dollar view, and call it lunch for under 50 pesos. The freedom of going on a bus and drinking a quiet (operative word) beer is fantastic when you have a hangover. Small things that happen every single day of my life in this city.
I have seen so many changes in 26 years – an eruption of building along the entire coast of the Bay of Banderas. Many people think it’s bad, that the character of Old Town is being destroyed. All I know for sure is this: there is no amount of cement capable of covering up the magic that is Vallarta. You just need to know how to look.
Originally published December 2017.