00:43:03 Monday February 14 2011

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Christmas was a little different this year. Early in the season we attended a holiday / birthday / terrible sweater party with Sara's grad-school friends hosted by Jared and Mary Ann.

On the 17th we had an early gift exchange with my family.

For Christmas itself Sara and I were given the amazing opportunity to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with her family. This was an opportunity made possible by the astounding generosity of her grandmother.

  • 2010.12.25 : On Christmas morning we were picked up and delivered to the airport. The flight was pleasantly uneventful, but Sara did win a giant candy cane in a trivia contest by guessing the correct number of seats on the plane and the national origin of the flight attendant.

  • 2010.12.26 : After getting settled into the resort the night before Sara and I took a cab into the city proper and explored a bit. We waled along the Malecón (pier) and discovered sand sculptures as well as more permanent sculptures. We walked the markets and the island situated in the Rio Cuale where we discovered leaf-cutter ants. After making our way back to the resort we were treated to a fantastic Asian meal at Gong

  • 2010.12.27 : We awoke early on the 27th to make our way out into the jungle for our zip-line tour through the canopy. I wasn't supposed to bring my camera, but as you can see I don't always do as I am told. After spending all morning zipping through the jungle on a cable we spent the afternoon relaxing. In the evening we were treated to another excellent dinner at a beach party hosted by our resort. The most interesting treat at the beach party was the "coco loco", a rum drink served in a coconut.

  • 2010.12.28 : On the 28th the whole family got together to explore the city in earnest. We had a fantastic lunch at Le Bistro Jazz Cafe. We were seated at a fantastic table overlooking the river. After lunch Sara and I took the opportunity to explore La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe). After splitting off from the remainder of the family we explored downtown a bit more with Katie.

  • 2010.12.29 : Sara and I rented a car and decided to head north. Our destination was the Alta Vista Archaeological Zone. It took us a couple hours to get to approximately the right place and then another hour to actually find it. The signage non-existent and the roads went from bad, to worse, to impassable. At one point we ended up in dense brush on a road intended for ATVs. We eventually abandoned our car near a Soursop (a.k.a. Guanábana, annona muricata) plantation and walked the last 1-2 miles. The archaeological site contains petroglyphs carved into the rocks by an Aztecan tribe called the Tecoxquines more than 2000 years ago. The site is laid out in a very climactic way. At first the stone carvings are sparse and difficult to find. As you progress up the stream they become more common and more elaborate. At the very end of the stream there is an amazing little waterfall flowing over rock shelves that have eroded into surprisingly regular cuboid blocks.

    After our archaeological adventure we made our way to the local beach town of Chacala for a lunch on the beach. The difference between this little town and the giant beach resorts of Puerto Vallarta was striking. We saw tiny little hotels renting rooms for less than 20 USD per night. After lunch we headed back by way of Bucerías. That evening we were once again treated to an amazing meal at Tramonto.

  • 2010.12.30 : We still had our rental car, so we packed up with Charlie Sr. and Charlie Jr. and headed south to Mismaloya. I wanted to see Los Arcos (a set of arch shaped islands in Banderas Bay). The rocky beach near the town was home to crabs, sea urchins, and all kinds of interesting sea life. At the end of the beach were the ruins of the set of the 1963 film The Night of the Iguana. For lunch I drove us inland and straight up some very steep hills. Despite some concern we made it to the El Eden Restaurant. It is a tourist trap located over a beautiful waterfall that was featured in the 1987 film Predator. The food was overpriced and mediocre as you might expect, but getting seated at a table overlooking the waterfall made up for it. We explored the site, but did not swim in the pools and flat rock slides. Afterward we descended into Puerto Vallarta proper and did a bit of shopping before returning to the resort for dinner at the Havana Moon restaurant.

  • 2010.12.31 : After a relaxing morning Sara and I went into town for some Mexican food (which had been somewhat lacking up to this point in our trip). We were hoping to have some truly strange food (cricket tacos!) at El Arrayán, but unfortunately they were closed. Instead we wandered the art district a bit and found Si Señor which provided a very nice lunch out on the patio overlooking the city. After lunch we finished buying our trinkets and headed back for a lazy afternoon. I wandered the grounds of the resort and even found my way onto the roof where I snapped some nice photos. As evening fell we celebrated New Year's Eve and an early birthday party for Ittie in the hotel room. We watched fireworks displays all along the bay from the balcony of our rooms before retiring for the evening.

  • 2011.01.01 : With a new year before us we packed up and made the return flight to Chicago.