Days 5 and 6 of our Puerto Vallarta trip: Nov 17 and 18, 2007.
We didn’t do anything much on Saturday. We could use a break from road trips, actually. The kids spent their morning at the swimming pool, then we’re heading to downtown Puerto Vallarta. Doug wanted to watch the Iowa football game and had found this sport bar in the Romantic Zone of downtown PV. Although ‘Romantic Zone’ sounded rather shady (I thought), there’s nothing to worry; just bunch of cool restaurants and bars.
Sunday, time for another side trip: to San Sebastian up on a mountain. Historic, original, and unheard of. A perfect destination. Not much information I know about this place beforehand, other than: it was the center of mining operations back in the 16th century (thus the doubled population -is now estimated to 600 people), and located up in the mountain locked in time along with the beautiful old architectures. Actually for this particular reason, San Sebastian is tentatively listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage. Here‘s the reasoning.
So, on a fine Sunday late morning, we drove from PV up to the Sierra Madre. The road condition (Highway MEX 200) is good, although some warnings applied; like ‘watch out for the falling rocks’ and ‘slippery in rainy season’. The scenery up in the Sierra Madre was gorgeous, a mix of tropical and dry vegetation. There was a military check point before we went up the mountain where we were asked whether or not we’re bringing any kind of vegetables, fruits, etc in the car. If you do, you need to give those up to them before you can proceed. I’m guessing it was done for San Sebastian’s sake? They do have a coffee plantation up there.
After a couple of hours, we saw the welcome sign of San Sebastian. The Highway then continued to a gravel road, up and down, and narrow too. After the final turn and we couldn’t go anywhere else, the road turned into a skinny narrow pavement which brings us in to the town square. The weather was cooler, although for Iowans like us, won’t require any jackets or sweaters at all. The sun was playing hide and seek with us; I had to adjust my camera setting to ‘sunny’ and ‘cloudy’ numerous times.
After we park in front of a police station, we walked in to a cute small restaurant for a quick lunch for the kids. The restaurant was colorful, artistic and has a delicious spaghetti marinara. As the kids were eating, I walked around the town square. The center of the square is a plaza surrounded by roses and a gazebo right in the middle. Vicinities around the town squares varied from an old hotel, restaurants, small local shops, ATV rental, bars, a tourist information, and the police station. The ATV is a good option to navigate this town, as its hilly roads would tire your feet quickly.
Done with their lunch, we toured the town with a fast realization that we were the only American tourists. Mostly Mexicans from other side of the island, they were all as intrigued as us the whites (well, Asian for me). The residents of San Sebastian didn’t seem too bothered by the tourists at all. They continued doing their routines; some vaqueros (Mexican cowboy) with a tequila bottle on their hand talking loudly, the elderly grouping somewhere else, kids playing soccer at the school yard.
Not much of a churchgoer myself, I admire an astonishing one. San Sebastian’s church may be old in age, but it was well kept and well preserved. Its white and light blue interior wall goes together with the gold detailing.
The paved path of the road entwined endlessly, lead us in seeing local homes with their windows open thus making us curiously peeking into it. We stopped at a local artisan’s shop and walked away with a silver ring for my daughter, which the material was locally mined. Unable to walk as far as the mine center, I later found out from my father-in-law who went, that there’s a nicer and bigger hotel at the mine center. Just another 15 minutes walking distance from the town, the mine center even has its own underground tunnel system. Big names like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were there.
What strikes me the most about this town is, its ability to somehow lock itself in time and keeping everything from the old days to stay almost the same. Most of the haciendas were still in good condition. The combination of original stone pavements, magenta-white color for the plastered mud-brick walls, archways, plus wooden and tile roofs; all of these contributed in giving San Sebastian it’s own characteristic.
I sure hope this town would get more attention from the outside world without going into too commercialized. I sure didn’t get any tacky souvenirs like annoying T-shirts or stickers that say ‘I was in San Sebastian del Oeste’.