According to Bill Maher, the pandemic is frickin’ over. He says it was wonderful for awhile, but now, good riddance. Now it’s time to get back to normal.
Back in the “normal” days, my wife and I went on cruises now and then. But these days we refuse to board one of those big boats until they end all the pandemic restrictions, such as proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks even if you’ve been vaccinated. We’ve been vaccinated, but we don’t like the idea of carrying that stupid, oversized card around, and having to present it to get back into the country.
What if we lose it in Mexico, for instance? Well, maybe someone named Pedro could sell us a new one, in some dark alley. Or we could just join one of those caravans, where you’re allowed to illegally cross the border with impunity.
We’re just tired of dealing with all the Covid bullshit. So no more cruises for us for now. Not that I really miss cruising. The only cruises I’ve been on have been with Carnival, and by the time this pandemic hit, I was pretty much through with them. They seem to be the Dollar Store equivalent to cruise lines. Carnival is very affordable, but you get what you pay for.
Back in 2015 my wife and I went on Carnival’s week-long, Mexican Riviera cruise. I had a different blog back then, where I posted about our excursion into Puerto Vallarta. I thought it would be nice to reminisce about the good o’l pre-pandemic days. Also, if you’re willing to brave all the Covid restrictions and you’re considering going on that cruise, then you might be interested in this post. So what follows is a repost of a post from a bygone blog:
Gringo Gulch, 2015
Maybe the most appropriate place for gringos to visit in Mexico is Gringo Gulch.
Our third and final port of call on our Mexican Riviera cruise was Puerto Vallarta. Carnival Cruise’s offerings of excursions were not as enticing at this port, as they were at Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. Most involved some flavor of swimming with dolphins, getting drunk on an island, or swinging through the jungle on a zipline.
We prefer sightseeing tours instead, but had few to choose from. Perhaps the recent carnage from the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel made sightseeing tours outside the city too risky for gringos from cruise ships. We finally opted for an excursion entitled, “The Best of Puerto Vallarta & Shopping Tour,” for $34.99 per adult.
We boarded a motor coach (euphemism for “bus”), which first took us to a century-old church called Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here we were allowed a few minutes to pray for our safety, before exploring seedier parts of the municipality.
After this we stopped in a few shopping districts established specifically for separating gringos from their money. For a fistful of dollars we could buy opal, silver, and gold jewelry. And for a few dollars more, there was an ample supply of catchpenny trinkets.
In every tienda, we were followed by anxious, overly helpful sales people, eager to be amongst the lucky few to sell their wares to us. We left 95% of these high-pressure purveyors in a wake of disappointment. And each of these abandoned shopkeepers was careful to leave us with heavy sacks of guilt slung over our shoulders, which magically dropped away within about five minutes of departing their company.
The motor coach then transported us to a scenic restaurant overlooking Bandera Bay. For about thirty American dollars, my wife and I dined on bland Mexican fare, which reminded us of our misfortunes with food on the cruise ship.
Our last stop was Gringo Gulch. This was the real, original, autentico Gringo Gulch. At least, that’s what our tour guide said. The history of Gringo Gulch in Puerto Vallarta goes back to the early 1950s, when a few artists and writers from the United States settled on a hill overlooking a gulch. These Americans happily adopted the ethnic slur, “gringo,” and decided to name their neighborhood Gringo Gulch.
At that time, Puerto Vallarta was unknown to most Americans. It did not become a popular tourist attraction for gringos north of the border until the 1960s, with the arrival of film director John Huston, and Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They showed up in 1963 for a movie John Huston was directing called, “Night of the Iguana”.
Richard Burton starred in this movie, but Elizabeth Taylor had no acting role in it at all. Apparently she just wanted to—ahem—observe Richard Burton’s performance. It seemed like a safe place for Liz and Richard to fool around because, after all, who ever heard of Puerto Vallarta? Who would be suspicious? Certainly not Liz’s husband, singer Eddie Fisher, or Richard’s wife, actress Sybil Williams.
But they underestimated the tenacity of the gossip press and paparazzi. Soon the romance of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, plus Puerto Vallarta, became international sensations.
However nothing could stop the torrid romance. They married in 1964. And together they both fell in love with Puerto Vallarta. Richard Burton bought a villa there, called “Casa Kimberly” and gifted it to Elizabeth. Later they bought a second home across the street, expanding the size of their estate. They owned these properties for more than 20 years.
Our tour guide walked us through the sylvan tropical gulch below Taylor and Burton’s villa. There we encountered a statue of John Huston, a grand staircase, and trees filled with parrots and iguanas.
And then our guide loaded us onto the motor coach and sent us back where we came from. Back to the cruise ship. And back to the good ol’ U.S.A.—that giant Gringo Gulch to the north.