Sunday, May 4, 2014

We Are Not in the U.S. Anymore, Although Sometimes You May Not Know It

Relaxing with a Margarita after a long, hard vacation day.

We are in a country foreign to Americans in many ways, yet in many ways it is a lot like the good ole USA...

Almost everyone speaks at least a smattering of English. I hear more English than in some parts of South Florida.

Retail and restaurant household names back home fill strip malls on the outskirts of town. Starbucks in particular (although we have yet to venture into one) seem to be everywhere. Subway, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Home Depot, Walmart and Sam's Club...hotel chains - Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, Hyatt, Marriott...

None of these places were around when director John Huston filmed Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton, in the early 1960s. Elizabeth Taylor accompanied Burton to what at the time was a small fishing village. They built homes across the street from each other, the residences connected by a bridge.

The film put Puerto Vallarta on the map. Adventurous tourists discovered area beaches. Cruise ships (remember the TV show Love Boat) added the town to their itinerary.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Puerto Vallarta's main industry is tourism. It is the only big industry and the town wants tourists to come on down!

And a lot of Americans and Canadians are doing just that.

There is a noticeable gay population, permanent residents as well as tourists. Local publications such as Gay PV list events, clubs, and other places catering to gay visitors.

Medical tourism is a growing business. Procedures such as cosmetic surgery, not usually covered by U.S. insurance companies, are especially popular.

Senior citizens from north of the border are making Puerto Vallarta their home in lieu of at-home care or assisted living facilities back home. The quality of care is high and the cost of nursing/medical care, housing and other expenses very reasonable.

We meet ex-pats everywhere. Many start out as snow birds and eventually make Puerto Vallarta their permanent residence. Most hail from the West Coast and Canada.

We are getting around...

Few traffic lights impede the flow of traffic downtown. Good for cars and buses, not so good for pedestrians. Dashing across the street, we hope we do not get hit.

Local produce is a real bargain. At a corner vegetable stand we purchased two tomatoes, an onion, a hot pepper, two limes, one cucumber and cilantro - ingredients for a salsa -  for eight pesos - 68 cents.  

TV is much like home. Lots of stations and difficulty finding anything to watch, and no On Demand. There are English language stations with Spanish subtitles, Spanish stations without English subtitles, and English stations without subtitles. We receive the Today show from New York, CNN, and The Big Bang Theory Marathon - all in English.

Dollars or pesos are accepted almost everywhere. Many places indicate prices in both currencies, making taxing mental calculations - multiply by .08 - unnecessary. (100 pesos = $8)

One of the cafes we ventured into for refreshment, to temporarily get out of the hot sun and rest our tired feet sells coffee, cigars and chocolate. What a combination! In addition cannabis is available, a.k.a. marijuana. Initially I thought the small rectangular-shaped, carefully wrapped pieces were chocolates. Looking closer, I discovered my mistake.

One more indication we are not in the United States. Although I have not been to Colorado recently...